In Praise of the Paperback (extract)For me when I was growing up ‘the novel’ primarily meant the paperback bestseller. The bookshelves in my bedroom were full of my older brothers’ paperbacks that they’d left behind when they’d left home – The Exorcist, Jaws, Papillon, Catch-22, Deliverance, Midnight Cowboy, Looking for Mr Goodbar, The Godfather, The Day of the Jackal, Love Story. Most of these titles had been turned into popular movies and were embedded deep in contemporary culture. So, from a young age I connected the novel with a vast readership and with the movies. I also connected it with variety as each new blockbuster seemed to have a very different setting and plot to the last. What I loved about these books as a teenager (apart, obviously, from the sex scenes and the general anything-goes raciness of many of them) was their modernity, the directness of their style, the freedom of it – unfussy, unpretentious, liberated from rules and precedent. It was a long way from Lord of the Rings, Treasure Island and Around the World in Eighty days, the ‘classic’ literature that they were trying to teach us at school.
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