The last deep recession in Britain, a quarter of a century ago, brought rocketing unemployment, riots, rancour and rage in public life, and a resurgence of literary fiction by a “generation of spellbinders and seducers,” according to the Independent newspaper. The likes of Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes, William Boyd, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Graham Swift, Timothy Mo, Kazuo Ishiguro, Pat Barker and Rose Tremain have dominated the literary landscape ever since. Will renewed hard times bring out another innovative generation? Reporter Boyd Tonkin thinks it will, because a “sense of grave and urgent times” will “open readers’ minds to new choices of style and story.” But most of the book trade insiders he interviews think it’s more likely publishers—and writers—will cleave desperately to the tried and true as sales continue to decline.
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