Are millennials really driving ‘cancel culture’ - or is it their overcautious critics?
Older generations argue that young people’s insistence on equality in all things – including books – threatens to stifle free speech. But is that always true?
I wouldn’t normally air my dirty literary linen in public, but here goes. When I finished writing my novel Putney, about a 13-year-old girl who has a “love affair” in the 1970s with an older man and realises decades later that it was actually abuse, my previous editor at Jonathan Cape chose not to publish it. The reasons emerged this year when he was interviewed in the Spectator. “If Lolita was offered to me today,” Dan Franklin said, “I’d never be able to get it past the acquisition team – a committee of 30-year-olds, who’d say: ‘If you publish this book we will all resign.’” He pointed to #MeToo and social media as fundamental factors: “You can organise outrage at the drop of a hat.”
Fortunately, Bloomsbury’s acquisition team – overwhelmingly female and mixed aged – were brave enough to take on Putney, which was described in the Observer as “a Lolita for the era of #MeToo”. Whether there was any truth in his words or not, Franklin’s position reveals how much fear now exists in publishing.
‘It’s only about not being an arsehole,’ my daughter said. ‘That’s not so difficult’