Via The Globe and Mail, a column by Russell Smith: Why would a novelist stop reading? Excerpt:
Philip Roth caused a minor Net storm last week after he was quoted in the Financial Times as saying he didn’t read fiction any more. He wouldn’t explain to the interviewer why not. All he would concede was, “I wised up.”
This is odd for a man whose prodigious output of made-up narrative is so clearly seamed with the history of 19th- and 20th-century novelistic prose, so refinedly articulate, so thoroughly literary that it could have evolved only from proximity to other books.
The highly artificial and conventionalized art of fiction doesn’t emerge ex nihilo from a totally original brain; no art works that way. Art is spawned by other art. You don’t decide to become a landscape painter by looking at a lovely landscape, but by looking at paintings of lovely landscapes.
The subsequent online discussion revealed a few more interesting authors who also made this bold claim to non-literacy. An insightful article in Salon, by Laura Miller, on non-fiction reading by fiction authors, quoted both Will Self and Cormac McCarthy as saying they couldn’t be bothered with anyone else’s novels any more – for no convincing reasons.
I see the same attitude in myself: For every novel I read now, I must read two dozen nonfiction books. Nonfiction is simply more interesting than reading yet another novelist's take on some well-worn genre...especially science fiction and fantasy, which have, so to speak, degenerated into the kind of "prolefeed" Orwell foretold in Nineteen Eighty-Four.