Literary purists – JM Coetzee, Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, myself – like to argue that the writing of fiction is a solitary, often anguished, occupation. Increasingly, though, the idea is taking route that writing can be a social, even larky pursuit.
The Quill and Quire blog has picked up a story suggesting that 18th century literary salons are on the way back. According to Giles Foden, quoted in the Guardian, the modern salon has “simultaneously the atmosphere of a library, a bordello and a boxing ring”.
Worse follows. It turns out that one of the hottest salons is held down the road from where I live in Norwich. There, I read, many of my friends gather to read (boastfully, I imagine) from their latest brilliant work in progress, before engaging in some light bookish banter with Giles or Louis de Bernières or Geoff Dyer, rounding off the evening with an affair with some doe-eyed young would-be writer.
Martin, JM, Zadie and I will hold the line against this kind of authorly behaviour, but I fear we are fighting losing battle.