By Abby Moss
In my opinion, there are two sure fire litmus tests for two distinct types of people. The first is for self-important wankers. This test is: are they rude to waiting staff? If the answer is yes, you're dealing with a bonafide dick head. The second test is for ignorance and all-round intellectual snobbery. The test is: do they think children's books are worthless? If the answer is yes again, you're dealing with an ignorant snob. One who probably knows a whole lot less about literature than they would have you believe.
A recent article criticising JK Rowling has attracted a great deal of undue attention - to the tune of over 600 comments and 4,160 social shares. The opening gambit of said article includes the writer's lame disclaimer that she has never "read a word, or seen a minute" of Harry Potter because: "there's so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds." I'd recommend Collins English Grammar. A writer capable of stringing a decent sentence together would probably try to avoid blunders like "there is so many". The assumption that children's literature is somehow wildly inferior to 'adult' books (whatever they are) shows a sad underestimation of children, as much as anything else. I'm not going to waste time arguing the literary, and intellectual, merit of the vast and rich collections of children's literature. Most thoughtful people don't need convincing.
Ms Shepherd must be too engrossed in reading Marcel Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu in the original French, to set foot in a book shop because if she did, she'd notice that JK Rowling has not in fact "crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile". Last year's Man Booker Prize was won by Eleanor Catton for The Luminaries. Eleanor is only 28 and yet has somehow managed to shoehorn some shelf space next to Rowling. Probably by being a good writer, that'd be my guess. Kate Atkinson won last year's Costa Novel Award, Donna Tartt's eagerly anticipated third novel The Goldfinch appeared after a 10 year hiatus and received rave reviews. As for the newcomers, the poor underdogs forced to take on the "Goglomath" that is Rowling: Alissa Nutting, Gavin Extence, Nathan Filer, Sathnam Sanghera and Adelle Waldman to name just a few out of many who managed (miraculously, if Ms Shephard's grim outlook of the publishing world is to be believed) to get debut novels not only published, but overwhelmingly well received.
Getting noticed as a writer is hard. This is not news. But it isn't JK Rowling's fault. Nor is it the fault of any other writer fortunate enough to enjoy runaway success. Publishing houses need money. Best-selling novelists ensure a steady, large and reliable stream of income. Some of this income can then be used to find and support new talent. New writers will find it much harder to get noticed if all the publishing houses go bust. For industries to continue, they need money and money comes from poplularity and success - even a children's book could tell you that.