We are all cultural appropriators (or potential filters through which human experience passes) I am an amalgam of the past experience and understanding of generations +my present experience + my predictions and biases.
There seems to be an inability to understand that what is being fought here is the presumptiveness of a system that allows certain people the ability to speak for many others’ experience, whether with skill and persuasiveness or not, validated by sales and systemic approval alone, partly won by achieving “authenticity”. And alongside that there is an unfortunate arrogance of opinion, demonstrated here by Lionel Shriver (who seems to play the role of misanthrope/polemicist: a literary Katie Hopkins) that comes from mass market access/success.
Through the publishing industry there is a sort of negative censorship -through inertia, through the profit motive, whatever… it can happen along the lines of, ‘we already have “the” novel on e.g the experience of Syrian refugees’, publishing ‘copycat versions’ would reduce the impact/dilute our brand/be a road to diminishing returns when readers are thought to crave “authenticity”…or quick, get an ‘authentic syrian refugee experience’ out while it’s selling.
Warhol and his mass-produced art/15 minutes of fame was asking the right question about consumer society and whether in fact art can/should be sold. Or weighed and measured, made exclusive by profitability. Do we have an entertainment industry that closes the doors on truth for profit reasons? If so, is it a problem? At the level of the author, I imagine no-one is happy with the idea that their version of life/ of events is preventing a more honest version from getting through, but they need to be aware of the potential for unintentionally collaborating with this gate-keeping.
I think that this is what this debate is about.
If art is emotionally resonant it is because it is true and, above all, true over time.
The lucrative literature-as-product industry is a different matter- ersatz experience, curated versions of the truth, with an obvious value as potent cultural influence. It has the tendency to provide cheap (also in the sense of cheapening of human experience) holidays in other peoples misery. Fake is what it is. Bullshit is the nature of the industry. Some readers do want art, most just want entertainment. Escapism not witness.
The danger is that the time and especially the quality of time and attention spent in this sort of escapism is a source of moral hazard- empathy is partly a function of the skill of the author and there is a special vulnerability of the reader to persuasion…
Why, if not, did they ever burn books??
For me, personally, some writing is art- in the sense that it demonstrates precisely the human struggle for empathy and communication, and some is art because it is true testament. (e.g Guernika: a German officer asked Picasso -an earlier cultural appropriator- if he had done the painting and he answered “No, you did”…) and some is just for taking a trip.
But influence is a different beast. That is the issue here, who gets to be witness and how come?