Don’t vilify novelists for doing their job
Standpoint Should novelists be free to write from the point of view of someone from a different racial or socio-economic background? It seems crazy even to pose the question, says Nick Cohen, yet the author Lionel Shriver was recently vilified for daring – in a speech given at the Brisbane Writers Festival – to suggest they should. Her criticism of the new fad for accusing people of “cultural appropriation” so upset the “social advocate and writer” Yassmin Abdel-Magied that she fled in tears and denounced Shriver in a blog that was “quoted with approval across social media”. Weird. These critics pride themselves on being culturally sensitive, yet lump people into categories in a way that is reductive and bossy. “Not everyone in an ethnicity shares the same identity, and it is rank prejudice to treat them as if they do.” If rich writers can only write about rich characters, white writers about white ones... and so on, we’ll end up only writing about ourselves. Such solipsism might satisfy “the social justice warriors”, but it’s “unlikely to produce fiction even they will want to read”.