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New Left Review I/41, January-February 1967

J. G.

‘The Novel and Society’

Diana Spearman: The Novel and Society. Routledge and Kegan Paul 40s.

The only motive for reviewing this book, which, with its illiteracies, its nonsequiturs and its total lack of any basic critical skills, should never have been published, is that people might be misled by the false pretences of its title. So here is the core of the last paragraph: ‘For example, it seems clear that too close an identification of literature and society must be an obstacle to its wide enjoyment. If people are told that in order to appreciate a great writer it is necessary to understand the society in which he wrote, many busy scientists and technicians may decide not to bother, and many housewives and factory workers may feel that it is all too difficult for them.’ Admittedly this isn’t a conclusion, because this is the first we have heard of all those busy scientists and so on; it’s just tacked on as an afterthought. But it does show the general banal level of argument, and the pervasive complacency of the assertions (it would never dawn on Mrs Spearman of course that there might be grounds for dispute, that it could be said that all those busy scientists may regard literature as a frivolity they can’t afford).

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J. G., ‘'The Novel and Society'’, NLR I/41: £3

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