Song of myself
Sir: As a disabled writer, I thoroughly despise the idea of being the beneficiary of a publisher’s tokenistic diversity initiative (‘When diversity means uniformity’, 9 June). If I’m going to achieve success, I’m going to do so on merit alone. In spite of the added challenges I face as a man on the autism spectrum, the notion that I might be treated differently from any other writer is an affront not merely to my dignity but to everyone else’s.
Lionel Shriver is absolutely justified in her condemnation of what appears to be a thinly veiled attempt by Penguin Random House to enforce equity dogma in the publishing domain. It’s important to note that equity is not the same as equality of opportunity. In fact, it inevitably means the unequal, disparate treatment of individuals based on their category membership in order to ensure equality of outcome. Potentially restricting the high achievements of some to ensure the representation of others who happen to be from minority backgrounds is not only deeply unjust, but also an insanity that will end up stifling creativity in the publishing industry. It’s a terrible precedent to set.
Bishop’s Stortford, Herts
The heart of the matter
Sir: The CEO of Penguin Random House, Tom Weldon, says (Letters, 16 June) that his ‘diversity’ goals are needed because ‘some authors face more barriers than others in getting published’. Coming after his assertion that talent is the first and foremost consideration for a publisher, the most obvious barrier is surely a lack of it. Rather like a penguin itself, no other publishing yardstick can fly.
His dark materials
Sir: Helen Jackson’s criticism of Rod Liddle for habitually ‘putting [his] hatred on display’ (Letters, 16 June) seems unduly harsh. For one thing, however biting his columns may be, they are unfailingly funny. Second, whatever his target — the ineffable self-righteousness of the #MeToo movement, Labour anti-Semitism or the simple stupidity of the proposed badger cull (a ‘Hard Brocksit’, as he memorably puts it), he has an enviable knack for being able to hit it. I never finish his column without having both laughed and groaned aloud.
Frant, East Sussex
The custom of the country
Sir: Rod Liddle laments the absence of right-wing festivals, and deplores the leftist self-congratulation of Glastonbury-style events (‘The stupidity of good intentions’, 16 June). But if by ‘right-wing festivals’ he means non-political gatherings of people celebrating place, tradition, home and belonging — which is largely what is at stake in the confrontation between right and left — then they exist all around us. One of the most important occurs here three times a week during the hunting season and from that and similar sources spring all the game fairs, hound shows, hunt balls and other assemblies of the people whom Rod Liddle disparages, in the rare articles when he lapses, as leftists do, into class resentment. He could even attend the Peterborough Festival of Hunting, which occurs each July. Despite his opposition, he and his family would be entirely welcome — welcome extended to the opposition being the principal matter, in my experience, that distinguishes the right from the left. He would also encounter a festival that leaves no litter, and is attended by people who, thanks to the Countryside Alliance, are now actively trying to rid the countryside of plastic.
Sir: Reading James Delingpole on driving lessons with his daughter (‘Girl is teaching me the art of walking on eggshells’, 16 June) reminded me of my dad’s catchphrase as I drove at a timid 20 mph around Oxfordshire. ‘And… accelerate,’ he’d say on straight stretches, in calmest satnav tones. I passed my test on the ninth attempt. In life, as on the road, the advice holds. Retake the test. Go for promotion. Ask for a raise. And… accelerate.
This sporting life
Sir: Vic Richardson (grandfather of the Chappell brothers) and C.B. Fry surely rival A.B. de Villiers as the best all-round sportsman (Spectator Sport, 16 June). Besides captaining the Australian cricket team and the South Australia Australian rules football team, Richardson represented Australia at baseball and South Australia at golf as well as winning South Australia’s tennis title. Fry captained England six times at cricket and scored 94 first-class centuries. He played football for Southampton and was capped by England in 1901. In addition to making three appearances for the Barbarians, Fry also set the British record for the long jump in 1892.
Hove, East Sussex
Sir: There is an upside to Stewart Dakers’s paean of resentment against urban incomers (‘Another country’, 2 June). While there’s no doubt that young low-earners may be priced out of the housing market, the decay of villages and towns is reversed by the high-quality renovation of properties. Without this influx many builders, decorators, electricians and handymen would be out of a job — not to mention the army of cleaners and gardeners. Furthermore, many of the wealthy contribute disproportionately to local fundraising. Not all bad, then.
Dr Andrew Bamji
Rye, East Sussex