Tribal loyalty

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JK Rowling versus AS Byatt. The author of literary fiction criticises the author of children's fiction as derivative. It sounds a little like a classical composer accusing Sir Paul McCartney of using chord changes that have been used before.

Choosing between Ms Rowling and Ms Byatt is a task that would defeat Solomon. Yes, on the one hand, we know that sales are not a lasting measure of artistic merit. On the other, mass-market success does not automatically debar an author from the pantheon of the greats. On the one hand, the Harry Potter series is not so much better than its competitors as to justify its winner-takes-all hyperbole. On the other, did someone say sour grapes?

We are prepared to take the plunge and reach a definite conclusion. Ms Byatt and Ms Rowling both write books that some people like and others don't.