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An author’s contract with his readers

Last week I went to the library and got out a couple of classics: ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell and ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck. Both are small books of about 100 pages, easily read in a few hours, and both are books I probably should have read at school. So when I saw them showcased together in my local library on one of those revolving display stands normally used to sell postcards I thought ‘why not’.

Animal Farm was exactly what I expected it to be. Not what you’d call spectacular writing, but a very interesting idea, ably executed. Basically, it fulfilled the promise of the premise nicely.

Next came Of Mice And Men. Steinbeck won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Novel Prize for Literature, so I was expecting something a bit special. It wasn’t. In fact, I came away from the book feeling pretty cheated. I felt that the author had somehow been in breach of the implied contract between a writer and his readers.

This got me thinking. Do writers really have an implied contract with their readers? And if so, what are the terms?

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