Last month, reporters at the Las Vegas Review-Journal undertook a remarkable investigation into the secret identity of the buyer of their own newspaper. The paper had changed hands in early December for the wildly inflated price of a hundred and forty million dollars; New Media Investment Group (formerly GateHouse Media), which had purchased the paper only months earlier, reported flipping it for an estimated sixty-nine-per-cent profit. Six days after the sale was announced, on December 16th, Review-Journal reporters revealed that the acquiring company, News + Media Capital Group, which had been represented in the sale by an executive named Michael Schroeder, was in fact controlled by members of Sheldon Adelson’s family—and that, as many had suspected, the money had originated with the casino magnate himself. “My money that the children have with which to buy the newspaper is their inheritance,” Adelson told the Macau Daily Times. He said that he wasn’t directly involved with the purchase, and wasn’t interested in owning a newspaper.
But in real life — and, ever more frequently, on college campuses — what constitutes consent is wildly more complicated. Sometimes one person initiates; other times it’s both; still other times it’s hard to tell. Sometimes one party wants to engage in part of the sex act but not all of it; other times a person may consent to doing one thing at one moment, only to withdraw that consent as the thing actually begins to happen.
DJ Taylor is far too sophisticated a writer to succumb to such stereotyping. As a self-described denizen of Grub Street himself, albeit actually based at an out-station in Norwich, he displays a good deal of fellow feeling with those in the past who lived by their writing, members of Thackeray’s Corporation of the Goosequill. But he is more concerned to recover and reanimate their literary worlds than to stack up evidence in the service of some present-minded polemic, though a certain lingering regret about what has been lost haunts his account, and he does indulge in a little familiar doom-mongering when he deals with the literary situation today.
Although it’s often presented as a dichotomy (the apparent subjectivity of the writer versus the seeming objectivity of the psychologist), it need not be. In fact, as I realized when I left the world of psychology behind to become that horror of all horrors (to an academic psychologist) — someone who wrote for a general audience — that neat separation is not just unwarranted; it’s destructive.
The high-street staple is under threat. Can a new generation of entrepreneurs save the nation’s tandoori?