Wednesday 29 April 2009

The Decline of British Civilization

I'd like to welcome back onto the blogosphere Chris Schuler, the Independent journalist and literary critic, who after a pause of a few months has resumed his wonderful blog, Notes on the Margin, a blog about books. I should point out: a blog about real books.

In one of his latest blog entries, talking about the London Book Fair, he says:

'...Perhaps the prize goes to the Russian author Dmitri Bykov who, in a discussion about the future of the Russian novel, praised that “great seven-volume work” that is "the best realistic novel about the decline of British civilisation – you know it, the one by JK Rowling.” I think he might actually have been serious.'

In the same talk, Bykov said that the best literature is produced during periods of great social and political decline, so I am not quite sure how to interpret his comment either – I just hope he was joking! He's known to have a taste for paradox.

I personally think that Rowling's books are nothing more than the froth of our times, a cultural product rather than a work of any intellectual value. Pope, in his Rape of the Lock famously had the lock-cutting Baron say:

As long as Atalantis shall be read…
So long my honour, name, and praise shall live!

When he wrote those lines almost three hundred years ago, Pope was sure that Atalantis, a bestselling scandalous novel of the time, would be totally forgotten by posterity.

I think that the same will happen to JK Rowling and a great many other celebrated writers of today, and that the Harry Potter series will be one day remembered as the Varney the Vampire of the Twentieth Century.


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