Atonement author Ian McEwan recently told the media that he thinks very little of “sensitivity readers.” The role, which became popular in the last few years, is given to someone who reads a book in order to think of ways in which it might be offensive to people. Yes, really. 

“These mass hysterias, moral panics, sweep through populations every now and then,” McEwan said to AFP. “And I think this is one of them.” McEwan is no conservative, but he’s also not a fan of the ways certain writers and forms of expression have come under attack. 

“Demanding a little more accounting of our colonial imperial past is a perfectly good demand,” McEwan said. “But saying we can’t read Nabokov or Conrad or whatever, seems beyond contempt.” The sensitivity reader isn’t the only specter plaguing the publishing industry as authors, editors, and stories have become more obsessed with race, class, and sexuality than prose and narrative. 

The book industry needs an overhaul, if not for ideological reasons, at least for practical ones. The US publishing industry has plateaued, hovering around $25 billion in revenues from 2000 to 2020. With inflation, that’s a 32 per cent drop in revenue from the turn of the century to last year.

Read the full piece on The Telegraph