There are many talented writers in the world, as well as many stories that need audiences. Which get heard? Tempting as it is to imagine that the publishing industry and its gatekeepers care only for the literary quality of works, or even their potential likeability, of course in reality their considerations are not only commercial, but also shot through with all the pervasive barriers of class, race, gender and other prejudices. (To say nothing of the fundamental inequalities that determine why some people learn to read and write, or have the time and energy after eking out a living in order to exercise that learning, and others simply don’t.)
Our latest fiction review looks at Quartet, the debut novel of Jean Rhys, a writer whose route past the gatekeepers and out of her own marginalisation relied in part on the patronage of power – in the form of the support of Ford Madox Ford. Reviewer Zoe Apostolides argues that the novel itself explores the very issues of poverty and dependence that were so deeply entwined with its genesis and its entry into the public eye.