I have never read Peter Carey, but I've read plenty of Peter Corris. Does this make me a bad person? Are my intellectual credentials fraudulent? I am the proud owner of all 79 Agatha Christie books. My Christie habit started when I was about 12 and I've never quite grown out of it. Should I be ashamed of myself? I find J.R.R. Tolkien way too complex and contrived, but I love the simplicity and moral force of the C.S. Lewis classics. Should I seek counselling?Counselling? Well, maybe for the Lewis...
Tanner goes on to detail at some length his preference for detective novels and thrillers over "boring fiction", because when "you read at every available spare moment, as I tend to, you can't afford snobbery".
"Snobbery", of course, is the only reason why anybody would read anything that doesn't come with a cover blurb from Ian Rankin. Take Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh - please! "I'm afraid for me it's just pretentious drivel. Any sentence that has 22 punctuation marks in it deserves to die." Thus and therefore and thatwot, Rushdie's readers must also be pretentious. Probably vote Greens, too, when they're not sipping soy lattes and trying to steal Christmas.
When it comes to Australian writing, Tanner digs Peters Temple and Corris, but can't get along with Tim Winton's Cloudstreet. "It's embarrassing, I know, but I have to admit it." It's embarrassing, you see, because Australia's elite overlords have decided that Cloudstreet is a novel everybody must read or else be shunned - and Lindsay Tanner hasn't read it! Outrageous! But he's ready to "admit" his deficiencies because he knows, deep down in his non-bleeding heart, that ordinary Australians agree with him and are pining for somebody brave enough to step forward and confess to their crimes against high culture.
But who are these mysterious elites who demand Lindsay Tanner discard his Dennis Wheatley novels and instead spend his precious spare time immersed in the Mammoth Book of Paragraph-Free Eastern European Prose? Tanner doesn't say. Could it be that Tanner is merely indulging in a lazy strawman argument to propagate the myth of a monolithic, authoritarian cultural elite? Goodness, I believe it could! Be!
But wait, Tanner "is not a total philistine. I have read everything Tolstoy wrote, and I still consider War and Peace the best work of fiction I've ever read." Tolstoy? Wasn't he that Russian dude who wrote those big freakin' books about weighty topics like war and, uh, peace? Oh, Lindsay, you wanker.
Crossposted at Sarsaparilla