Derbyshire, Jonathan, New Statesman (1996)
You were on the first Best of Young British Novelists list chosen by Granta, along with Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis. Do you regard them as your peers?
I do feel part of that generation, yes. It was a very good time for fiction. Advances were always increasing. But I think it's also true that if you look at those Best of Young British-that cohort-there were more men, and I think the men have on the whole done better, although there were people like Pat Barker who won the Booker, and Rose Tremain who won the Orange Prize.
In your new memoir, My Animal Life, you write about the changes in publishing since that golden age. What do you think the most significant changes have been?
Drastic oversimplification of the publishing industry. It is easier to sell lots and lots of one product than to have a large variety of products. It's not in the interests of consumers, though. And the power of the book chains has grown, of course. Interest in books is not what is fuelling the huge conglomerates.
It's much easier to sell books by celebrities, because the publicity's already been done for you--the image of the celebrity's face has already been imprinted in people's consciousness, so they don't have to spend much money on advertising, all those things. So the power of the text itself, of the specific words, the skill of the words, is no longer of such interest.
How have those changes affected your career?
I try to understand my own career in terms of structural things as well as in terms of personal things--some of them my own mistakes. So, for example, there was a kind of blindness in the mid-1990s when I wrote my novel The White Family. But I also think I was too early to be writing that kind of book about race. And then, when it did finally come out in 2002, that was evidently a good time for that kind of book--after the Macpherson inquiry into institutional racism in the police.
You discuss the sexual revolution of the late Sixties and early Seventies in the book. You don't think it was unequivocally a good thing, do you?
There were lots of casualties: most of us were casualties at one moment or another. …