Publishing And Diversity

On 9 June, the author, Lionel Shriver, published an article in The Spectator, https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/06/when-diversity-means-uniformity/. To give a quote from that article which does, I think sum up Shriver’s argument:

“Second: dazzled by this very highest of social goods, many of our institutions have ceased to understand what they are for. Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’être as the acquisition and dissemination of good books. Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision. Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes. We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling”.

Shriver has received a good deal of criticism. However, as a disabled (blind) poet I have some sympathy with the argument she makes (although I wouldn’t have expressed my views as Shriver does).

I wish to be judged on the merits of my poetry and not given preferencial treatment due to the fact that I am registered as being disabled. Having said that, I welcome initiatives to encourage the participation of under represented groups in the literary scene (provided that such initiatives are not prescriptive and do not entail the employment of quotas).

Amid the overreaction to Shriver’s article, one of the more balanced responses (with which I have considerable sympathy) can be found here, https://emmalee1.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/publishing-and-diversity/.

Kevin

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