Literary Birthday – 9 October – John Sutherland

Happy Birthday, John Sutherland, born 9 October 1938.


  1. Unlike baked beans, loaves of breads, or Fuji apples, books, once consumed, do not disappear.
  2. For obvious reasons, the relationship between novelists, the reviewing establishment, and critics in general is chronically, and often acutely, edgy. A kind of low-intensity warfare prevails, with outbreaks of savagery. It is partly an ownership issue. Who, other than its creator, is to say what a work of fiction means or is worth? It can take years to write a novel and only a few hours for a critic, or a reviewer rushing for a tight deadline, to trash it.
  3. Patron. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.
  4. Language – particularly the language writers use – cannot be set in stone. It is a living, organic, ever-changing thing.
  5. Academic readers of literary texts, since they do it for a living, tend to think they are more scrupulous than the general public who merely read for pleasure.

John Sutherland is a British author, newspaper columnist, and academic. He is Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London. His book, Stephen Spender: The Authorized Biography (2004), was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award. Recent books are How To Read A Novel (2006), and a book of memoir – The Boy Who Loved Books (2007).

Source for quotes

 by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 8th October 2021