Well, If You Want to Point Fingers…

The BBC asks why the blogosphere didn’t react to Fowles’ death with 6,000 word essays. Well, the answer’s quite simple. There are only so many hours in the day and I’m merely one man with a full-time job and obligations beyond this site. But I have pointed to those who have. I would like to ask the BBC in turn why it has perpetuated silly crap like this. (via Bookish)

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  1. It’s a shame if it didn’t come across as I intended it.

    I was asking why, specifically, the British litbloggers were so quiet (cf: “I sold a colossal best seller in America, and they never really forgave me”). Searching around had mainly brought up the same kind of thing as you linked to in your previous post: Jenny D is a NYer; LitKicks is a Bowery kind of place and the Elegant Variation only linked to print and broadcast reactions. Hence the question: why haven’t the UK bookblogs been banging on? An interesting question, not a dismissal.

    So my thinking was: maybe the BritLitBlogs will get around to it in time, and if they don’t, maybe it’s something to do with Fowles. Is he still interesting? And so far it seems, if the litbloggers have got something to say, they’ve not said it yet, but random bloggers (not book aficionadoes) are recalling The Magus and various special interests are quoting his non-fiction.

    That’s not a criticism of any blogger – those you linked to nor those you didn’t. I was surprised. Maybe I was wrong to be. I’d like to hope not.

    And The Big Read passed me by. I wouldn’t, ahem, presume to comment on some other pages that also happen to be BBC ones.

  2. Hey Alan:

    Thanks very much for stopping by. Sorry if I misread your article or formed the wrong conclusion. If your findings are correct, it certainly is interesting that the Brit litblogs failed to remark on the passing of someone generally considered to be a major British novelist.

    I know that Jenny Davidson does indeed share my own passion for Anthony Burgess, Fowles and many of the other great British novelists pounding out big books in the 70’s. (In fact, she’s read far more of both than me.) And many literary friends of mine here in the States are equally excited about these names. I can only liken this to either a very pecuilar American form of Anglophilia or our penchant for digging into humungous novels. Perhaps Jenny would be of assistance on this score.

    All best,


  3. Hey hey! Thanks for taking the time to read a whinging writer saying “no, what I meant was…”. (Clue to self: write it more clearly the first time ’round.)

    My hunch is that UK litbloggers will do their own thing about JF in their own time. It’s only been a couple of days, and like you say, most bloggers have day jobs.

    But as a JF fan, I have a contrary hunch that maybe he’s in a funny middlespace. All the controversy he stirred up in his prime seems like old hat… but some stuff that he’s done is still to be discovered by those willing to plough trough the Journals etc. “John Fowles” is obviously a different person now to the man he was in 1971. And the “John Fowles” of ten years’ time…? Well, let’s hope he’s not one of those ones that disappears.

    As for North American Anglophiles… the topic’s too big for my brain. But I’d love to see a list of UK writers who are loved more in the US, and vice versa.


  4. Interesting discussion…

    Surely those British writers had a semi-transgressive appeal for (I can’t with a straight face use the pretentious phrase “our generation”) American readers now in their 30s, whereas for British readers in the same age group–the big lit-blogging demographic, as far as I can tell, since if you’re in your 20s you’re more likely to blog about sex/drugs/rocknroll–they would have seemed annoyingly the on-the-parents’-bookshelf-type thing? I happily avow my passion for Robert Graves, Burgess, Fowles et al, but I think they probably have more young(ish) American followers than British.

    It is the mirror image of my British contemporaries’ enthusiasm for a lot of American fiction that may case by case be well-liked by individual American readers but doesn’t have the same cult-like cachet for Americans as a group (everyone’s list of this stuff would be different, but think Hunter S. Thompson, Raymond Carver, etc.). When something’s stuffed down your throat, as opposed to you discovering it for yourself, it comes to seem offputting: the one novel definitively spoiled for me by reading it in English class in high school is THE GREAT GATSBY (the green light! how awful!). And Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Salinger all have more of a sheen to them in Britain, as far as I can tell, where American Studies is the kind of thing you might study at university if you want to be a writer (a journalist, a novelist) or a musician. Wodehouse has a HUGE American following, for instance; I wonder whether he is nearly as popular with young English readers (and I guess I do mean English in particular).

    All right, enough of this speculation, your guess is as good as mine. But I too would be interested to see some actual numbers (or just personal opinions) on the UK/US transatlantic popularity thing.

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