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What authors hide about sensitivity readers Fake authenticity doesn't guarantee a good book

An engaging story is better than a real one (Alfred Gescheidt/Getty Images)

An engaging story is better than a real one (Alfred Gescheidt/Getty Images)


February 8, 2023   6 mins

Although created with good intentions, the practice of sensitivity reading has a way of tipping over into absurdity — the most recent example being Anthony Horowitz’s new book, which features a Native American character. It was dinged for two instances of ostensible offence. A description of a man as having a face that “could have been carved out of wood” was flagged for its alleged evocation of the wooden “cigar store Indians” that used to stand outside American tobacco shops in the 19th century. And a scene in which the character picked up a scalpel: the word “scalpel”, though etymologically unrelated, just looks too much like the word “scalp”.

For most people, this is obviously excessive and easily dismissed as laughable, if not mystifying (cigar store Indians are such an archaic item that most Americans have never seen one). But for those who believe strongly in editing books for sensitivity, stories like this present a conundrum: to acknowledge the inanity of this particular read would be to open the door to questions about the legitimacy of the whole practice. Hence, anyone who draws attention to something like the scalp/scalpel complaint — as I did when I stumbled across the article about it — is accused of “cherry-picking“, using outlier examples to slander an otherwise noble and useful profession.

If cherries are being picked, it is from an exceptionally well-endowed tree, to the point where it surely makes sense to ask whether there’s something about the concept of sensitivity reading — or the people attracted to it — that lends itself to this sort of excess. If these incidents are not representative of the norm, they nevertheless suggest that a highly authoritarian strain of identitarianism has penetrated publishing; even the relatively uncancellable Bret Easton Ellis came in for pre-publication criticism recently from sensitivity readers, who complained that his new novel “was not a ‘positive’ portrayal of homosexuality”.

But amid all the arguments about what sensitivity reading is, what seems far more interesting is what it apparently isn’t: there is not so much as a whiff of a pretence that this type of editing improves the literary quality of a book. One of the most common responses to those who question sensitivity reading is that they’re no different from any other subject matter expert, like the palaeontologist who reads Jurassic Park. This is an argument predicated on the somewhat crude notion that simply to be possessed of a given skin tone, genital configuration, or sexual orientation automatically conveys an unparalleled expertise in what all people of that given sex, race or orientation think, feel, and/or find offensive. The one time I served as a sensitivity reader, as a favour to a male writer who wanted his manuscript vetted for potential offences, it was not my “lived experience” as a woman that proved useful. It was my embarrassingly deep knowledge of the toxic dynamics and idiotic slap fights that periodically roil the world of young adult literature; indeed, anyone who shared a similar fascination with extremely online bullshit could have done the job.

But leaving aside the problematic nature of asking one person of a given identity to speak for all people of that identity, the idea that this is just another type of editing is belied by the way that authors themselves talk about the practice, which centres not on the quality of the story but the morality of the person telling it:

“I don’t know what I don’t know, and I don’t want to be an accidental asshole — so I’m eternally grateful for the sensitivity readers who’ve saved me from myself.”

“EVERYONE is biased, we can’t help it. We are limited to our own perspective and our own upbringings and culture and education. And so it’s so important to have those sensitivity readers. Not only did they help me not offend people (I hope), they also taught me about myself.”

“It’s not being PC; it’s being a decent human being”

It’s hard not to notice that for a sizeable contingent of authors, hiring a sensitivity reader is only nominally about accuracy, and really about ticking that “decent human being” box. The sensitivity read serves as an indulgence which, once purchased, gives you permission to tell certain kinds of stories. Whether the resulting story is entertaining or well-written is irrelevant; it’s morally good. That’s what matters.

Meanwhile, for writers who are perceived as out of step with the new orthodoxy, the conflation of getting a sensitivity read with being a decent human being can send a powerful message to capitulate and conform, or else. Nice story you’ve got there; it would be a shame if someone found it offensive. Sensitivity readers are not supposed to be censors, but in practice, the line is blurred: it is understood by authors that declining to make suggested sensitivity edits is likely to result in a book being cancelled, with all the reputational damage that entails — this, according to Anthony Horowitz, was his primary reason for not fighting the inanity of the scalp/scalpel conflation — and sensitivity readers are not above using their influence to kill a project before it’s got off the ground.

That said, this is not an argument for getting rid of sensitivity readers. Sensitivity reads are less a moral signifier than a matter of craft, one some writers will find useful, and some will not. To write fiction is to write imaginatively outside the bounds of one’s own experience, and any tool that allows someone to do this with confidence — including employing a sensitivity reader — is certainly fair game. In my own books, when writing about experiences that are truly foreign to me, I tend to collect research from multiple people and perspectives, establishing a baseline pool of knowledge and then letting imagination take over from there. But I also care less that the result is authentic than that it is engaging.

Meanwhile, a cultish conviction has developed within the writing community of late: that the most important thing a novel can be is “authentic”. And yet, some of the best works of fiction are anything but: the satire of Gary Shteyngart, the lowkey horror of Shirley Jackson, the magical realism of Gabriel GarcĂ­a MĂĄrquez, the time-travelling raptures of Diana Gabaldon. These books aren’t authentic, but something far better: fantastical, or imaginative, or absurd, or terrifying, and to alter them in the name of authenticity would be to drain them of their spark. What makes a story compelling is not its adherence to reality; it’s whether it feels true, in the moment, on the page.

If anything, this is what troubles me about the push to normalise sensitivity reading: that it seems to signal a narrowing of the literary landscape, a massive cultural shift in what we understand the purpose of art to be. The new paradigm is one in which we worry less about communicating an idea than about the specific words we use. Consider the recent, viral chart suggesting more sensitive alternatives to “violent” language in the workplace, the apparent intention being to make people communicate with their colleagues in the colourless, ultra-literal style that we use to make ourselves understood by Siri. Despite their alleged purpose, these guides do not actually foment better communication; they hamstring it, imbuing every exchange with the subtextual fear of how an uncharitable person might misinterpret what is being said.

If this is a bad way to be in the office, it is a worse way to write a book — or to read one, for that matter. But of course, most people don’t read this way. One of the most peculiar things about sensitivity readers is how very far their concerns are from those of actual readers, who tend to be far too interested in what’s happening on the page to wallow in the offensive implications of this or that individual word choice. Three years ago, the New York Times review of the novel American Dirt made much of the book’s “strange, excited fascination in commenting on gradients of brown skin” — the type of thing a sensitivity reader would surely flag as potentially problematic. But when I read the book myself, even despite having been primed to notice said “fascination”, the mentions of skin tone were such a seamless part of the story that they didn’t even register. One imagines that the millions of readers who made the book a massive bestseller were similarly unperturbed.

The question, then, is: who is actually served by this type of editing? The rare reader who would actually take offence at the use of the word “scalpel” in Horowitz’s book is entitled to his feelings, but he can always read another book (or better yet, write a scathing review complaining about this one’s rampant bigotry). The implication of sensitivity reading, though, is that every book should be written with this person in mind, that his sensibilities should form some sort of literary standard. I’ve tried to imagine how this might play out in other creative fields — what would happen if, for instance, the restaurant industry employed sensitivity tasters to flag any dish that contained too much spice? Certainly, the chefs would baulk at this: why should the sensibilities of those who can’t tolerate spicy food supersede those of the people who consume ghost peppers recreationally? What greater good can possibly be served in making sure every dish is tailored to the tastes of the most sensitive, when there are so many ingredients, and the table is so very big?

Of course, some creators want to centre sensitivity in their work, and they should — because diversity, real diversity, is about there being something for everyone, including those who read books in gleeful anticipation of finding something to get mad about. But surely there should also be room for readers, and writers, who simply don’t share those sensibilities. Writers who value an engaging story over an authentic one, writers who are confident and unapologetic in their ability to imagine the interior lives of their characters. Writers who don’t want to treat their readers with sensitivity — because they would rather tear your heart out, make you swoon or rage or cry, and leave you breathless.


Kat Rosenfield is an UnHerd columnist and co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast. Her latest novel is You Must Remember This.

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

Sensitivity reading has nothing to do with art, it has nothing to do with sensitivity. It’s all about power and authority. You will bow to the will of your progress rulers or risk their wrath. It’s like taking the knee for writers.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Exceedingly well said.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I demand ‘Sensitivity Strokers’ be hired! Ones who Insert positive references to minorities; Like change the white guy who runs into the burning building to save a kitten from white to a Native American Woman – or the male surgeon who makes trips to Sudan to reverse hair-lips as a charity – make him a trans her –

Make people feel positive about minorities…. Maybe a blue check on the cover if a sensitive reader was used, and a purple check if a sensitivity stroker was also used – so one would know it was a Good book, instead of just a ‘book’.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

John: ”I notice this book about life in the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital had No White Men in it.”

Elsa: ”Yes, they have a very good sensivity stroker working for the publisher now; I highly recomend you read the book on the American Revolution which has just been printed”

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

I always take pains to refer to “Native Americans” as Red Indians.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

John: ”I notice this book about life in the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital had No White Men in it.”

Elsa: ”Yes, they have a very good sensivity stroker working for the publisher now; I highly recomend you read the book on the American Revolution which has just been printed”

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

I always take pains to refer to “Native Americans” as Red Indians.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Exceedingly well said.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I demand ‘Sensitivity Strokers’ be hired! Ones who Insert positive references to minorities; Like change the white guy who runs into the burning building to save a kitten from white to a Native American Woman – or the male surgeon who makes trips to Sudan to reverse hair-lips as a charity – make him a trans her –

Make people feel positive about minorities…. Maybe a blue check on the cover if a sensitive reader was used, and a purple check if a sensitivity stroker was also used – so one would know it was a Good book, instead of just a ‘book’.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

Sensitivity reading has nothing to do with art, it has nothing to do with sensitivity. It’s all about power and authority. You will bow to the will of your progress rulers or risk their wrath. It’s like taking the knee for writers.

Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
1 year ago

Stop reading anything published in the past ten years. Which self-respecting reader would voluntarily read a novel that has been vetted for them by some twenty-something media studies graduate?

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

I’m inclined to agree, but I wouldn’t dismiss novels by (some) small and self-published authors, as well as translated works.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago

That would be a shame although I am somewhat sceptical of the need for sensitivity readers. As a reader of 30-40 novels a year, I have not noticed any diminution in the quality of writing compared to those I was reading over ten years ago.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Reviews are your friend, Philip!

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago

They certainly help with writers that are new to me but I have a long list of those authors I would read irrespective of the review.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago

They certainly help with writers that are new to me but I have a long list of those authors I would read irrespective of the review.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Reviews are your friend, Philip!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Exactly. In fact, some months ago I decided only to read novels by white men.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Me too!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Delighted to hear it. I think there are probably quite a few of us.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

You can’t be serious. Why deny yourself the opportunity to read some of the best modern novelists out of sheer stupidity or even worse blind prejudice.

Last edited 1 year ago by Philip Burrell
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Because white men aren’t allowed to publish literary fiction any more.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Really! I have the following authors on my list to read who had novels published in 2022. Julian Barnes, William Boyd, Douglas Stuart, Ian McEwan, Andrew Sean Greer, Jonathan Coe, Cormac McCarthy and John Irving. Mr reading so far this year includes novels by Richard Powers and Anthony Doerr which were published in 2021.

Last edited 1 year ago by Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Really! I have the following authors on my list to read who had novels published in 2022. Julian Barnes, William Boyd, Douglas Stuart, Ian McEwan, Andrew Sean Greer, Jonathan Coe, Cormac McCarthy and John Irving. Mr reading so far this year includes novels by Richard Powers and Anthony Doerr which were published in 2021.

Last edited 1 year ago by Philip Burrell
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Because white men aren’t allowed to publish literary fiction any more.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

You can’t be serious. Why deny yourself the opportunity to read some of the best modern novelists out of sheer stupidity or even worse blind prejudice.

Last edited 1 year ago by Philip Burrell
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Delighted to hear it. I think there are probably quite a few of us.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

That is obviously your right, but I think that you will miss a lot of very good books by other people, and frankly there is a lot of dross written by white men, too.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

I would very much like to read Wole Soyinka and Chimanonda Adichie, but I’m not going to unless and until the legacy publishing industry gets over its repellent woke misandrist and racist interdict against the white male voice.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

I would very much like to read Wole Soyinka and Chimanonda Adichie, but I’m not going to unless and until the legacy publishing industry gets over its repellent woke misandrist and racist interdict against the white male voice.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Me too!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

That is obviously your right, but I think that you will miss a lot of very good books by other people, and frankly there is a lot of dross written by white men, too.

Christina Dalcher
Christina Dalcher
1 year ago

But then you’d miss my books — which still include all the stuff I want them to include because I respond to any editorial comment that looks like it was made by a ‘sensitivity reader’ with four letters: STET

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

I don’t read any novels written after 2003. If something written in 2023 is any good, then I might get round to it in 2043.
It’s not like there is a shortage of books to choose from between the dawn of the written word and twenty years ago. And it not only avoids the woke nonsense described in the article but it is also a good way to cut out the dross – only the best books stand the test of time.
Currently alternating between CS Forester and Anthony Trollope. Happy to skip Anthony Horowitz’s latest (whatever it is he writes).

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

I’ve just finished Nostromo, and am presently about a third of the way through Madame Bovary, which I’m reading in the original French.

Richard 0
Richard 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Nostrum is brilliant. I’ve read it twice – last time many years ago. I often think about it. Due for a booster, I think, along with Madame B.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard 0

It was my second time reading Nostromo, as it happens. Even on the second reading the plot is still a bit confusing, with all the flashbacks, in which connection I recommend the BBC serial adaptation, which is available on YouTube. It takes quite a few liberties with the script, but preserves the essence of the work.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard 0

It was my second time reading Nostromo, as it happens. Even on the second reading the plot is still a bit confusing, with all the flashbacks, in which connection I recommend the BBC serial adaptation, which is available on YouTube. It takes quite a few liberties with the script, but preserves the essence of the work.

Richard 0
Richard 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Nostrum is brilliant. I’ve read it twice – last time many years ago. I often think about it. Due for a booster, I think, along with Madame B.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

I’ve just finished Nostromo, and am presently about a third of the way through Madame Bovary, which I’m reading in the original French.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

I’m inclined to agree, but I wouldn’t dismiss novels by (some) small and self-published authors, as well as translated works.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago

That would be a shame although I am somewhat sceptical of the need for sensitivity readers. As a reader of 30-40 novels a year, I have not noticed any diminution in the quality of writing compared to those I was reading over ten years ago.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Exactly. In fact, some months ago I decided only to read novels by white men.

Christina Dalcher
Christina Dalcher
1 year ago

But then you’d miss my books — which still include all the stuff I want them to include because I respond to any editorial comment that looks like it was made by a ‘sensitivity reader’ with four letters: STET

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

I don’t read any novels written after 2003. If something written in 2023 is any good, then I might get round to it in 2043.
It’s not like there is a shortage of books to choose from between the dawn of the written word and twenty years ago. And it not only avoids the woke nonsense described in the article but it is also a good way to cut out the dross – only the best books stand the test of time.
Currently alternating between CS Forester and Anthony Trollope. Happy to skip Anthony Horowitz’s latest (whatever it is he writes).

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
1 year ago

Stop reading anything published in the past ten years. Which self-respecting reader would voluntarily read a novel that has been vetted for them by some twenty-something media studies graduate?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Do hospitals in the US employ sensitivity staff to prevent surgeons from accidentally asking a member of the team of native Indian ethnic origin to “pass the scalpel, please”?

This must be especially traumatic if the surgeon is about to conduct brain surgery. And never mind post-surgical trauma for patients, what about the poor staff? One would hope that councellors are on hand in the changing rooms to salve the offended; preferably trans to provide for both sexes.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Hello again. Your comment, I think, is a sort of jokey exaggeration of how things could be. The bad news is that they are already there as you describe. In our NHS fat (unfit) staff can carry around stools to sit on if they get tired when they are walking. And many, many more things every day.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Oh i can believe it, having had to squeeze past many of them in narrow corridors.
They weren’t carrying stools, but may i enquire (since i no longer work there), do they carry those stools around in a bedpan?

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Not quite. But I am aware of requests to the NHS for powered scooters because walking is so tiring.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Not quite. But I am aware of requests to the NHS for powered scooters because walking is so tiring.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Why is it that so many in heath care are obese? I’m struck by the number of nurses – many quite young – who are enormous. The 20-something taking my blood pressure last week sat down on a stool to do it and her thighs disappeared.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

I hope those stools are in plastic jars with the lids well screwed on.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Oh i can believe it, having had to squeeze past many of them in narrow corridors.
They weren’t carrying stools, but may i enquire (since i no longer work there), do they carry those stools around in a bedpan?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Why is it that so many in heath care are obese? I’m struck by the number of nurses – many quite young – who are enormous. The 20-something taking my blood pressure last week sat down on a stool to do it and her thighs disappeared.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

I hope those stools are in plastic jars with the lids well screwed on.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Hello again. Your comment, I think, is a sort of jokey exaggeration of how things could be. The bad news is that they are already there as you describe. In our NHS fat (unfit) staff can carry around stools to sit on if they get tired when they are walking. And many, many more things every day.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Do hospitals in the US employ sensitivity staff to prevent surgeons from accidentally asking a member of the team of native Indian ethnic origin to “pass the scalpel, please”?

This must be especially traumatic if the surgeon is about to conduct brain surgery. And never mind post-surgical trauma for patients, what about the poor staff? One would hope that councellors are on hand in the changing rooms to salve the offended; preferably trans to provide for both sexes.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago

Although created with good intentions, the practice of sensitivity reading …

Absolutely sure about that?

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

It could have been good intentions, but good intentions without thinking them through is not enough; you have to think about the effect on others of your proposals. The best way is to ask people if what you are propsing is what they want or need. In the case of “sensitivity readers”, if an author wants this let him have it, if not, just leave him be.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

It could have been good intentions, but good intentions without thinking them through is not enough; you have to think about the effect on others of your proposals. The best way is to ask people if what you are propsing is what they want or need. In the case of “sensitivity readers”, if an author wants this let him have it, if not, just leave him be.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago

Although created with good intentions, the practice of sensitivity reading …

Absolutely sure about that?

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

Sensitivity readers are a waste of money, too. The profit margins on publishing are already slim and most authors do not make a living from it. Spend those hundreds on marketing, a higher advance, etc.
Also, there’s little evidence that sensitivity reading helps sell books, too.

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
1 year ago

Does anyone know of any publishers who refuse to go along with this nonsense? I should like to see if they publish the sort of books I might like and therefore buy as a priority.
Maybe they could employ some sort of ‘kitemark’ which could simultaneously act as a trigger warning to the perpetually offended minority and as a quality mark to the rest of us

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Elgey

Very good idea.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Swift Books, maybe?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

I know not of them, and will check them out. Thanks.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

I know not of them, and will check them out. Thanks.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Swift Books, maybe?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Elgey

Very good idea.

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
1 year ago

Does anyone know of any publishers who refuse to go along with this nonsense? I should like to see if they publish the sort of books I might like and therefore buy as a priority.
Maybe they could employ some sort of ‘kitemark’ which could simultaneously act as a trigger warning to the perpetually offended minority and as a quality mark to the rest of us

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

Sensitivity readers are a waste of money, too. The profit margins on publishing are already slim and most authors do not make a living from it. Spend those hundreds on marketing, a higher advance, etc.
Also, there’s little evidence that sensitivity reading helps sell books, too.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

Any publisher who employs a sensitivity reader to do the publisher’s job will probably go out of business, as nothing will be published. One of the more delightful features of the woke movement is that it is actually a suicide cult.
Invest in popcorn.

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

Any publisher who employs a sensitivity reader to do the publisher’s job will probably go out of business, as nothing will be published. One of the more delightful features of the woke movement is that it is actually a suicide cult.
Invest in popcorn.

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

All hail Flashman (and GMF), as sensitive as a bull (cows may also be inserted (no sniggering at the back there), lest I be accused of sexism, especially given the ‘modern’ trend for ever larger cows (small cows are equally valid, lest I be accused of the udderly ridiculous notion of size-ism) in a China pottery shop, and all the better for it !

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Hear, hear!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Hear, hear!

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

All hail Flashman (and GMF), as sensitive as a bull (cows may also be inserted (no sniggering at the back there), lest I be accused of sexism, especially given the ‘modern’ trend for ever larger cows (small cows are equally valid, lest I be accused of the udderly ridiculous notion of size-ism) in a China pottery shop, and all the better for it !

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

Sensitivity readers are just contemporary censors, all that has changed is what is deemed offensive. As to the moral character of the author, like great actors, the work of great authors is independent of their character, which is not to say they do not draw on aspects of themselves and their lives: their work is a study in human nature.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

Sensitivity readers are just contemporary censors, all that has changed is what is deemed offensive. As to the moral character of the author, like great actors, the work of great authors is independent of their character, which is not to say they do not draw on aspects of themselves and their lives: their work is a study in human nature.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Any author worth his salt will deliberately set out to offend sensitivity readers as much as possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Craven
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

One of my grandchildren discovered ‘Sven Hassel’ and hasn’t looked back since.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Haha! I read most of his at prep school half a century ago.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Haha! I read most of his at prep school half a century ago.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

One of my grandchildren discovered ‘Sven Hassel’ and hasn’t looked back since.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Any author worth his salt will deliberately set out to offend sensitivity readers as much as possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Craven
Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago

If your job is to find faults with books before they are published and you don’t find any faults, eventually your job will be deemed surplus.
As authors see what gets rejected and self-edit these things out of their work, it gets increasingly hard for the sensitivity mob to find fault, so they have to get more extreme and go to the Nth degree.
As with most things like this, it’s all just job justification in the end

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago

If your job is to find faults with books before they are published and you don’t find any faults, eventually your job will be deemed surplus.
As authors see what gets rejected and self-edit these things out of their work, it gets increasingly hard for the sensitivity mob to find fault, so they have to get more extreme and go to the Nth degree.
As with most things like this, it’s all just job justification in the end

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

“Cherry-picking” is obviously reminiscent of “cotton-picking” and thus of plantation slavery. Strike it through please.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

“Cherry-picking” is obviously reminiscent of “cotton-picking” and thus of plantation slavery. Strike it through please.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

You mean to say writers are the ones hiring these “sensitivity” readers? I assumed it was their editors or publishers. What kind of writer submits his or her work to such lunatic scrutiny? Why, it’s like giving the hired reader a scalpel.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

You mean to say writers are the ones hiring these “sensitivity” readers? I assumed it was their editors or publishers. What kind of writer submits his or her work to such lunatic scrutiny? Why, it’s like giving the hired reader a scalpel.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 year ago

A great analogy with the culinary arts. It could also apply to music, architecture – even photography. Lord knows the field of theater and cinema is already neutered by this pedantic censorship.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 year ago

A great analogy with the culinary arts. It could also apply to music, architecture – even photography. Lord knows the field of theater and cinema is already neutered by this pedantic censorship.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

These conversations are becoming everyday things and have become part of our culture, whether we like it or not. The issues seem funny but, day by day, the freedom of the majority is being curtailed. Clearly, we don’t have democracy. In fact, I suspect that we have never had democracy but today it is beoming clearer.
Surely democracy means doing what the majority wants but with the majority deciding what should be done to protect minorities from harm. Our democracy through intermediaries means that we trust pliticians to work for us. We should not trust these politicians.
Crook or not, populist or not, silly hair – but only Donald Trump will set things right. We tend to follow everything done in the USA so we will see the trickle-down effect.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris W
Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

These conversations are becoming everyday things and have become part of our culture, whether we like it or not. The issues seem funny but, day by day, the freedom of the majority is being curtailed. Clearly, we don’t have democracy. In fact, I suspect that we have never had democracy but today it is beoming clearer.
Surely democracy means doing what the majority wants but with the majority deciding what should be done to protect minorities from harm. Our democracy through intermediaries means that we trust pliticians to work for us. We should not trust these politicians.
Crook or not, populist or not, silly hair – but only Donald Trump will set things right. We tend to follow everything done in the USA so we will see the trickle-down effect.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris W
Sophy T
Sophy T
1 year ago

I wish an intelligent take-no-bullshit- type interviewer like Andrew Neil would interview one of these publishers

Sophy T
Sophy T
1 year ago

I wish an intelligent take-no-bullshit- type interviewer like Andrew Neil would interview one of these publishers

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago

Adore the picture, love your article. Thanks.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago

Adore the picture, love your article. Thanks.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

Yes indeed, Kat. Though I have to wonder, in parentheses, if “fair game” is another of those phrases that means the opposite to Americans that it does to the British.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

Yes indeed, Kat. Though I have to wonder, in parentheses, if “fair game” is another of those phrases that means the opposite to Americans that it does to the British.