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Publisher suggests writers take a year off

1 of 1 Will Self - spot of hiking, sir?
Will Self - spot of hiking, sir?

In a mischievous piece in a recent edition of the Guardian, publisher Colin Robinson suggests that well-known writers should take a year off.

As Robinson sees it, there are just too many books, and too many readers seriously distracted by the proliferation of it all, as they do the equivalent of channel surfing with good and bad reads.

"According to Google, some 130m titles have been published since the first books took form on the desks of monks," writes Robinson. He cites the fact that that nearly 1.8m new titles were published in 2012, an increase of half a million in three years.

"As the constant thrum of laptop keyboards in coffee shops across the nation testifies, nearly everyone, it seems, wants to be an author. And, according to The New York Times, 81% of Americans feel they have a book in them."

The writer realises that marvellous work might be lost during the 12-month moratorium, but there would be great compensations in return.

"We could all kick back, take stock, and get off the spinning carousel of keeping up with the latest offerings. Just think what could be done with the free time: books we've loved could be revisited; philosophy or poetry could be afforded the time they demand; tomes of previously forbidding length could be tackled with languorous leisure."

He imagines how the late John Updike - who actually wrote a book about golf - could have spent more time on the golf links and done us all a favour, as it were. Updike certainly was prolific, with all those novels, essays, short stories and book reviews, which were in turn dutifully collected between hard covers.

"The writers would survive a break," argues Robinosn. "They could devote new-found free time to hobbies: Will Self could pull on his hiking boots, Martin Amis sharpen his tennis serve, John Updike could have headed for the links."

Bad writing slips into publication too easily, he argues. "The self-assurance that coaxes many writers into seeking publication is irrigated by the supportive words of family and friends, as well as publishing professionals too busy, or lazy, to offer a critique." Ouch.

Robinson is aware that his argument may in theory be counter-productive, as regards his own career. He is himself a publisher, as co-founder of the New York-based independent publisher OR Books.

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