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Grumpy Old Bookman

Academia is all very well, but it overlooks the real stories, says Michael Allen

Every summer my local church has a book sale, and this year I bought A Reader’s Guide to the Contemporary English Novel. It was first published in 1963, and the author, Frederick R Karl, was an American professor of English literature.

It so happens that my own first novel was published in 1963, so this was certainly the sort of book I might have read then. In those days, finding any kind of useful information about the technique of writing, let alone the structure and workings of the book trade, was a hard task. That being the case, many a young writer might well have grabbed this tome with both hands, and taken it all very seriously.

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