mmost waning cultural movements have their eulogy. No one will mourn the passing of middlebrow. Well, not openly. In private, some will lament the lack of a young novelist to match William Boyd’s mid-period, the lack of new Dickens adaptations on BBC2, or the disappearance of crowd-pleasing Oscar winners like Forrest Gump. But few desire the public reputation of a middlebrow.
‘Highbrow’ conjures up a flattering image of afternoons listening to experimental jazz to pass the hours until The London Review of Books drops through the letterbox. Lowbrow can imply a solid lack of pretension. Middlebrow means. . . what? mediocrity? suburb? An unfortunate overestimation of one’s own intelligence?
Since middlebrows are generally despised, it’s their – I’d say ours – misfortune