(Novels) require a book world which can review, alert, display and advertise to the consumer, and dispose of and renew its stock several times a year. They require diverse network delivery systems to the end users (libraries, bookshops, book clubs). Those end users have to be habituated and habitual consumers - good for innumerable repeated orders. The consumer of fiction needs to be educated and literate. The advent of the novel, it is fair to say required a more sophisticated creation, distribution, reception and consumption apparatus than any other cultural form until the arrival in the 1890's, of the cinema. ... The novel is the product of a developed, institutionalised, and commercially advanced society. The abiltity to read a novel intelligently, I would maintain, is the mark of a mature personal culture.I post this extract from John Sutherland's How to Read a Novel: A User's Guide as a sort of postscript to the previous entry about the growth of the Indian writing community.
I think that when we ask ourselves why so few novels are emerging from Malaysia and Singapore, we tend to focus narrowly only on the writer and publisher, not on all the rest of the complicated machinery that needs to be in place to make writing a novel a viable proposition. And the fact that we need to have an intelligent readership.
Sutherland makes the point that the novel (as opposed to the poem, play, or short story) is a product of an industrialised society, which is a slant that hadn't occured to me before.
It's a whole ecosystem, as I've already said, and pondering how the parts of it might be put in place giving me much happy mental exercise.