Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Dependable Readers

Browsing through the latest collection of Paris Review Interviews (what a wonderful thing the Paris Review is! Shame it’s so expensive in the UK) I found this exchange from the interview dated 1977 with the great Kurt Vonnegut Jr:

VONNEGUT
. . . Since publishers aren’t putting money into first novels anymore, and since the magazines have died, and since television isn’t buying from young freelancers anymore, and since the foundations give grants only to old poops like me, young writers are going to have to support themselves as shameless hacks . . .

INTERVIEWER
. . . If you were Commissar of Publishing in the United States, what would you do to alleviate the present deplorable situation?

VONNEGUT
There is no shortage of wonderful writers. What we lack is a dependable mass of readers.

INTERVIEWER
So–?

VONNEGUT
I propose that every person out of work be required to submit a book report before he or she gets his or her welfare cheque.

What a good idea! I would vote for a political party that had such a proposal in its manifesto. I think every person who is IN work should also be required to provide their employer with a book review as part of their annual appraisal or pay review. I would also support:
- Travel discounts for passengers reading books
- TV licence discount on proof of purchase of at least four books per year
- A Winter Book Allowance to all pensioners
- A Summer Book Allowance for all holidaymakers
- Applicants for passports to recite from memory at least one poem

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