Friday, February 27, 2009

Literary Death Spiral?

In an NPR story (Literary Death Spiral? The Fading Book Section), Dick Meyer comments that "the disappearance of professional, edited book sections" is a "heavy symbolic blow to readers, writers and publishers. And it is an injury to our collective literacy and, thus, to our wisdom and intellectual agility." Meyer ties the death of book review sections to a general " aversion to long chunks of sentences," which Meyer thinks "are still the best way humans have to express complex thoughts, intricate observations, fleeting emotions — the whole range of what we are."

Meyer has plenty to good things to say about the increasing online coverage of books (including amateur reviews on blogs), but he argues that the decrease of professional reviews in newspapers signals a "a cultural devaluing of books and even formally written words."


Nicole said...

Hi Gwen,

I just came upon your blog, quite by mistake (I don't remember how). I've been here for a while now checking out all your posts.

Thanks for leading me to this NPR article, it was very interesting.

As a book blogger, I have mixed feelings about this topic. On one hand, I like that so many reviews are now available, thanks to the blogging "community". On the other hand, I really like to read longer reviews from time to time, and I hate doing that on the computer.

There's also this capitalist part of me that says "why am I doing the advertising for these books for free?". A question I can't answer...

Anyway, love your blog. I'll be back.

nan said...

OK I haven't listened to the story yet. But I've certainly read/heard a lot about this subject already. And I have decidedly mixed feelings, as someone who loves print book reviews and has written a few -- I subscribe to the Sunday Times in hard copy in large part for the Book Review and I'd be bereft without it. But. I also have WAAAAYYYY more access to interesting well-written literary criticism of all kinds, both from journals now available online, intelligent blogs like this one and social networking sites like LibraryThing.
And I have to admit I get tired of the Chicken Little/End of Civilization breastbeating that characterizes so much of this kind of piece. The world is very different now and people are using different ways to get their information. Not to be all social Darwinist adapt-or-die about it, but if you are determined to be a Luddite and only want to get your information and entertainment between hard covers with long sentences, there are plenty of books out there already to fill several lifetimes. I work in a (small) library and I frequently comfort myself with that thought.

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