Alexander Waugh

Paperback Blighters

AS A BIBLIOPHILE I have come to detest bookshops. Our high-street chains are staffed by ignorami – young goofs who look blank or injured when asked to perform simple tasks involving words like ‘Solzhenitsyn’, ‘Loeb’ or ‘trilogy’. Par for the course? A cousin of mine who is studying English at A level had never heard of Byron. When I complained about this to a secondary school Head of ~ng:iish she was not in the least survrised. Half the candidates who had recently applied to after for an English teaching job had never studied Shakespeare, nor had they, during their three years at university, been required to read anything: written before the nineteenth century.

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