Thursday, 12 November 2009


Another quick post, as I'm away from the homestead - I thought I'd draw your attention to an article I've been reading called 'Brute-Cult'. Well, it's quite long, but I'm just going to reproduce bits of it...

‘I am, I suppose, the average Anglo-Saxon male. I mention [this] because I wish to show where I stand before I proceed to denounce what seems to me the new cult in ultra-highbrow literary circles. (If it isn’t actually a cult now, it’s on the edge of being one.) This is the cult of brutality in fiction.[…] It seems to me a bad sign when cultivated people begin to praise fiction that reads like a police court black list. I am not, you must understand, referring now to the popular sensational or crime novels. I am referring to much more ambitious works of fiction, whose authors are rapidly acquiring big reputations among the ultra-ultras. […] We are suffering just now from a “face-the-unpleasant-facts” snobbery in the criticism of fiction. A novel with a rape in it is like life, we are told; whereas a novel with an ordinary love story in it is simply a shirking of the issue.’

It all seems rather pertinent to me, in the storm of issue-led books which abound today. But… this article, by J.B. Priestley, was written in The Book Society News in 1931. Hmm. Does that make us both right, or both wrong?


  1. Wow. Well done JB Priestley. Just goes to show we haven't come all that far...

  2. Well it is all a matter of degree don't you think? The issue may be the same (or at least similar) but the baseline for acceptable vs. unacceptable is wildly different than what it was in 1931. Priestly talks about "a novel with a rape in it". Contrast what that would have been in 1931 with, for example, Brett Easton Ellis' American Psycho. The most graphic, violent thing I have ever read in my life.

  3. I love JB Priestley, especially for this post.
    It's just another philosophical question to answer. There is no right or wrong judgement.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. It's surely a matter of context and the quality of the writing? Inappropriate and poorly written romance is just as out of place as poorly written and inappropriate violence and sex.

    It is probably true that to read good writing about sex is a rather rare experience and I often wonder quite why that should be.

  5. Excellent post. most excellent.



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