Saturday, July 21, 2007

A profound loss of culture in modern Britain

If even literary people don't recognize some of Britain's greatest literary work, what hope is there for the mass of the people even to know what they are missing? Education once transmitted a people's inherited culture. The only thing it transmits well now is Leftist propaganda

A frustrated author has confirmed what other unpublished writers have long suspected: even Jane Austen would have difficulty finding a book deal in the 21st Century. But what really astonished David Lassman was that only one of 18 publishers and literary agents recognised her work when it was submitted to them under a false name. Mr Lassman, 43, had spent months trying without success to find a publisher for his own novel Freedom's Temple. Out of frustration - and to test whether today's publishers could spot great literature - he retyped the opening chapters of three Austen classics: Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

He changed only the titles, the names of the characters and his own name - calling himself Alison Laydee, after Austen's early pseudonym "A Lady" - then waited for the offers to roll in. Instead he received yet another sheaf of rejection letters, including one from Penguin, which republished Pride and Prejudice last year, describing his plagarised chapters as "a really original and interesting read" but not right for Penguin. That was one of the gentler rejections. But Mr Lassman said: "Penguin neither requested to see the rest of the novel nor did they recognise a work they already publish.

"I wasn't surprised that the publishing process rejects people out of hand, but I was staggered that no one recognised the work. Here is one of the greatest writers that has lived, yet only one recipient recognised them as Austen's work. "At best their letters were mildly apologetic about declining the material and at worst completely indifferent to what they had in their possession. If major publishers can't recognise great literature, who knows what might be slipping through the net."

Mr Lassman concocted his plan after returning from the Greek island where he had been writing his own novel and found himself facing a brick wall. "I was having a hard time getting it published and I was chatting to friends about it, saying I wondered how Jane would have fared today. "Getting a novel accepted is very difficult unless you have an agent first, but I had no idea at the scale of rejection poor old Jane suffered."

The literary agency Christopher Little, which represents J.K. Rowling, regretted that it was "not confident of placing this material with a publisher". Jennifer Vale of Bloomsbury publishers turned down Northanger Abbey, renamed Susan, saying "I didn't feel the book was suited to our list."

The one publisher to recognise the deception was Alex Bowler, assistant editor at Jonathan Cape. His reply read: "Thank you for sending us the first two chapters of First Impressions; my first impression on reading these were ones of disbelief and mild annoyance, along with a moment's laughter. "I suggest you reach for your copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I'd guess lives in close proximity to your typewriter and make sure that your opening pages don't too closely mimic the book's opening. After all, there is such a thing as plagiarism and I'd hate for you to get in any kind of trouble with Jane Austen's estate."

Last night a spokeswoman for Penguin admitted that Mr Lassman's submission may not actually have been read. She said: "We don't take anything that is not agency-led, so I doubt the person would even have read it. I can't comment on this individual case but I don't think we have done anything bad." Neil Blair at Christopher Little said Mr Lassman had received a standard response. He said: "As you can imagine we get hundreds of submission each week - some from genuine writers or would-be writers, but also some from cranks. Our letter was a polite note declining representation and provided a standard response. "However, our internal notes did recognise similarities with existing published works and indeed there were even discussions about possible plagiarism. We chose an approach was designed to end the chain of communication with this person and not start a whole new one. Sadly, we have had experience of where accusations of plagiarism can lead to." Bloomsbury declined to comment.


British Labor Party politician speaks for his voters

And gets condemned for it

A MERSEYSIDE Labour MP has broken ranks by becoming the first in the country to blame the failed bomb attacks in London and Glasgow on rising immigration into Britain. Outspoken Birkenhead member Frank Field said his constituents were angry when the Government told them to be "vigilant" following last month's aborted terror scares. He said the reality was that ministers had failed to be vigilant by letting in so many immigrants, some of whom had turned to terrorism,

The manager of Liverpool's Asylum Link charity last night branded Mr Field's comments as irresponsible and potentially dangerous, as did Adam Kelwick, a Muslim-based chaplain in Wavertree. And the head of Merseyside police's community relations team said multi-ethnic and faith groups across the region had been overwhelmingly receptive to pleas for vigilance.

Superintendent Rowland Moore described any comments which undermined public reassurance in the wake of the failed London and Glasgow attacks as "not helpful". During a Commons debate, Mr Field said: "In the statements of relief that the last bombing episode had not wrought the evil on innocent people that had been intended, Cabinet ministers told us to be vigilant. "The report back from my constituents in Birkenhead market was: `What a damned cheek that they should lecture us on vigilance!' "If the political class had been a little more vigilant in the past, and responded to their regular doubts and worries about the level of immigration, we might not, they said, be listening to such statements."

Some of the suspects arrested after bombs failed to go off in London city centre and at Glasgow Airport grew up in Iraq, Jordan, India and elsewhere. During the debate on immigration, Mr Field went on to say that the Home Secretary's failure to track people leaving Britain to go to terror camps abroad would "haunt her as time goes on". And he attacked the decision to grant free movement to workers from the poorer countries of Eastern Europe, when their living standards were so much lower. He warned: "The future of the European Union is an unsure one if we continue blindly to turn our eyes away from what is now a mass movement of people within Europe."

In response, immigration minister Liam Byrne accepted there was a "social impact" as well as an economic one and pointed to the new points-based work permit system that was being brought in. He also highlighted new government systems that he said would track the majority of migrants by 2009.

Last night, Adam Kelwick, a Muslim chaplain based in Wavertree, said: "To use this kind of language is irresponsible. "He's obviously got an agenda to push, targeting asylum-seekers and immigrants who themselves are extremely vulnerable. "They would far rather live in their own countries, if there was no interference with their daily lives.

Superintendent Rowland Moore, who heads Merseyside police's community relations team, said in response to Mr Field's recounting of his constituents' views: "That may be what he's being told, but that is certainly not what we have been hearing on the ground. "The community has been very receptive to the message of vigilance - and that includes the white population of the city." Ewan Roberts, centre manager of Liverpool's Asylum Link charity, said: "I'd criticise anyone who uses emotive language and makes sweeping statements like this. "It is irresponsible and it could be dangerous."


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