Aesthetes bite back

<p>The nation's literary aesthetes are running for the hills. Well, not quite, but Costa Award winner A L Kennedy used her winner's speech at last night's ceremony to voice fears over our cultural well-being. <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/51915-costa-winner-kennedy-speaks-out.... seem to be destroying our culture,&quot; she said</a>. &quot;We're in danger of losing our stories . . . if we don't have libraries, independent bookshops, coverage in the media. Do we want to lose that?&quot;. She added: &quot;I don't want to live in a country where we're destroying art&quot;.<br />
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It was a theme similar to that struck by Kennedy's editor, and published poet, Robin Robertson in last week's Bookseller. <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/in-depth/trade-profiles/51760-writing-is-no... reached a very dangerous moment culturally in this country,&quot; he said.</a>&nbsp; &quot;Writing, indeed all art, is not about success or money, though both are very useful.&quot; For good measure, he added: &quot;This isn't D C Thomson, this is Jonathan Cape.&quot;<br />
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The idea of writing as &quot;high art&quot; is one that has come to the fore repeatedly recently, most notably with the <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/arts-council">Arts Council's decision to cut its funding of a number of small publishers, many of which operate in fields considered &quot;high art&quot; but not profitable</a>.<br />
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As <a href="http://www.thissurvey.co.uk/bookseller08">The Bookseller's Salary Survey </a>will no doubt discover most people work in publishing for reasons other than making money. <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/35363-publishers-attacked-as-authors-l... authors too can barely scrape a living on what publishers pay them</a>.<br />
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Yet the book business doesn't seem like a charity-case: as this week's flagship feature shows, the major publishing houses are powering ahead (Cape's parent Random House among them), and even some of the small publishers affected by the Arts Council's decisions have turned a profit. <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/51597-noble-indies-enjoy-2007-renaissa... number of independent bookshops is rising</a> (<a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/51672-grindley-shuts-up-shop-after-61-... at the same time some notable indies are closing</a>); while even the <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/51260-cipfa-report-book-spend-decline-... of the decline in library book spending is slowing</a> (ok, this is not exactly good news).</p>
<p>It is a mixed picture, certainly, but I wonder whether Kennedy and Robertson are right: is high art really under threat?</p>