The End of Books Is the End of Freedom

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

A few years ago I wrote a diary which was intended to be a personal account of yet another tumultuous year in my life. I decided to publish it because it became what I thought might make a useful piece of social history.

Since it was a personal diary, and an account of my year, it included a good many facts and opinions. It wasnít one of those `On Wednesday I had lunch with Jeremy Corbyn. He had the trout and I had the Waldorf Saladí diaries. It was a diary written from the heart; it was brutally honest in a way which I found quite painful. I discussed medical, political and social issues. I even discussed our health and financial issues. I have always found other peopleís lives interesting and I thought a seeringly honest account of one personís life might prove useful to readers as a piece of social history.

I should have guessed what would happen.

A number of readers around the world gave the book a hammering because it wasnít the sort of book I usually write. (Although I have written dozens of serious medical books, I am probably best known for writing humorous books.) The blurb made it clear that the book was different but a number of readers bought it or borrowed it and then slammed it because it wasnít what it said it wasnít.

Others hammered the book because they disagreed with some of the views expressed within it. More than one reader complained (and gave the book a one star review) because they disagreed with the sentiments expressed in one sentence out of a book more than 200,000 words long.

I struggled on with another five diaries but the latest one (The Gameís Afoot) will be the last. The bad scores which the first diary received have damaged the whole series.

In a way, none of this matters very much. Iím an old geezer and Iíve been around a long time. Iím not whingeing or expecting sympathy.

But in a way it matters a good deal because it seems to me that if writers want to be successful they have to write bland books which are designed not to offend the sort of people who are likely to rush to the `one starí button if they feel aggrieved.

It is sad (indeed, rather depressing) because of the implications for the future.

Books have always been apart from other parts of the media. Because they are very individual creations, they have always been considered rather different. Newspapers, magazines, films and television programmes are all team productions. Books are usually written by one person, a wordsmith, a literary craftsman, and so authors have always been allowed a little more latitude; being free to write without too much restraint (apart from the usual restrictions relating to the laws of libel).

Most professional reviewers have, in the past, respected the authorís right to express opinions and wise reviewers have written their reviews not solely according to whether or not they approve of and support every one of an authorís opinions but how well written a book is and how successful the author has been in meeting his aim in writing the book.

All that has changed.

And itís a tragedy.

Vernon Colemanís 6th and last diary is called The Gameís Afootí and is available as an ebook on Amazon. Containing more than its fair share of irony, it is not suitable for the politically correct.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2018