Monday, 16 August 2010

Literature and scandal

Room, by Emma Donoghue

Eddie Fitzmaurice at the Irish Independent reports that Emma Donoghue has been accused by an Austrialian critic of cashing in on the Fritzl case with Room.

Now if Donoghue had chosen to write some sort of Daily Heil-esque misery porn, high on the graphic detail, low on the insight, I might see the critic's point. But this stuff has been nominated for the Booker prize. It's hardly been set up to be a Dave Pelzer-esque cash cow, marketed to those whose interest in cases like these doesn't extend any further than masochism or having something to gossip about at the water-cooler. Accusing Room of exploiting the Fritzl case for money is as stupid as accusing Joseph Heller or Siegfried Sassoon of being war profiteers.

Literature should be left alone to get on with working out things like this at the deep level which only it occupies: some things are completely incomprehensible to a single human mind, and it's only in dialogue that we work them out and begin to understand them. And of course, literature is the best dialogue there is - dialogue with the author, with yourself, and with the myriad of influences on both.


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