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This review is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

COURTEOUS BRIARS Marius Kociejowski, The Machine Minders (William Hoffer/Tanks, Vancouver): available from Bertram Rota Ltd, 30 Long Acre, London WC2, £2.50

Marius Kociejowski quotes from Notes towards the Definition of Culture one of those diagnostic sentences which show the penetration of Eliot's mind at its critical best: 'Culture is the one thing that we cannot deliberately aim at.' Kociejowski comments that 'this is exactly what has been attempted' and goes on:

The literary festivals funded by the Arts Council have degenerated into 'people's carnivals'; poetry contests with lucrative awards abound; the Booker Prize for the best novel is in substance little more than the provision of the yearly reading list. Arts organisations throughout the country operate on what is necessarily the lowest common denominator, a pandering to what a select minority thinks the majority needs. The responsibility for the mess must be widely shared. There has been, at all levels, crass stupidity, the indulgence of good intentions and the connivance of the innocent.

Like all large accusations this one can hardly be proven to a majority to whom the facts that these things go on, and are in accordance with the general sentiment of the age, are sufficient evidence of their value. 'Culture' is supposed to be a good thing; 'minority cultures' are fashionable, provided that the 'minority' concerned is one that enjoys popular tolerance: the confusion is so great that perhaps the best course would be for everyone to abstain from using these terms for the next ten years. Since, like most best courses, this one is unlikely to be followed, ...

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