Letter: Words worth subsidy?

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The Independent Online
Sir: The root question that is raised, but not addressed, by Kevin Jackson's article on Agenda ('Looking for financial inspiration', 13 May) is not whether this particular journal should receive an indefinite subsidy, but whether such subsidies are desirable for literature.

Ezra Pound, who gave his blessing - though not, surely, his imprimatur - to this literary magazine at its inception, Donald Davie, the Arts Council and many others, assumed as a matter of course that literature should have patrons. Why?

Let writers have commerce with readers and let it be acknowledged that in this field, as in others, financial intervention in the market, whether by individuals or society, should be both temporary and partial and will, furthermore, distort as well as support the production and reception of literature.

In particular, one must ask why writing in the Anglo-American modernist tradition requires subsidy after nearly a century. Let it stand upon its own feet in the marketplace, and find its readers as good writing can and does and always will, or let it return to the iron lung of the academy, where at least, Professor Donald assures us, it will not be ignored.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID BURNETT

Durham

14 May

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