Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Book ’Em, Danno

Abby Zidle, over at the impeccably titled Hey, There’s A Dead Guy In The Living Room, picks up on an ABC News story about reading habits in the U.S., to wit:
“Did you all see that poll about readers in the U.S.? That 25% of American adults haven’t read a book in the last year? And that the average number of books a single adult reads in a year is four? This is why the publishing industry is forced to cater to blockbusters. It’s simply too dangerous, bottom-line-wise, to trust that brilliant writing will reach enough people. Especially people like this guy, who won’t read fiction. (I’ve got news for you, buddy – lots of movies are fiction, too.)”
Abby? We don’t want to fall out with you, but we’re not so sure that this is a bad news story – when you factor in illiteracy, poverty, access (or otherwise) to books and the time required to read them, 25% of adults not reading a book, and an average of four books per year, aren’t exactly catastrophic figures. Besides, it’s easy for bibliophiles to forget that a book is just one more way of telling a story, and it’s the story that matters, not the method of delivery. Movie fans, theatre-goers, web surfers, tabloid junkies, computer gamers, et al – it’s all about the right words in the right place. If the publishing industry has plateau’d (“The publishing business totalled $35.7 billion in global sales last year, 3 percent more than the previous year, according to the Book Industry Study Group, a trade association. About 3.1 billion books were sold, an increase of less than 1 percent.”), then it’s incumbent on the story-tellers to find a new way of getting through to their potential audience. The customer, after all, is always right. No?


Peter said...

Hmm, you have an interesting take on a news item that seems designed to horrify all who read it.

I'm not certain Web surfers are looking for or finding stories, though.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Declan Burke said...

Hi Peter -

Consider me officially bonkers in this regard, but as regards web-surfers, well, I reckon they're just piecing together the narrative of their lives in the way anyone who picks out a book or movie or play or song or newspaper article (etc., ad nauseum) does. I believe books - given that we make a conscious decision to read a particular book - have as much to tell us about ourselves as they have to tell us about themselves ... I don't know if you keep a record of the books you read, but if you do, and you read back over the list once in a while, it's like re-reading the story of that period in your life ... in shorthand, perhaps, but there's definitely a narrative.

Apologies for the outbreak of geeky nerdishness. Normal-ish service will be resumed as soon as possible ...


Peter said...

I used to keep a record of the books I read, but now my blog does it for me, at least for most of my books.

By Web surfing, of course, I mean the almost mindless following of links, and not the reading and writing of news items, blog posts and other content. In a sense, I suppose, any activity can tell us something about ourselves, but Web surfing of the more mindless kind seems too passive, too much a rejection, more like drinking too much than like reading.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Kristy said...

Hmm, as an American reader living in the U.S. I am surprised that the figure isn't higher. I know very few people who read. First things I look for when I walk in a house are the bookshelves (or books stacked in corners, on dressers, nightstands, top of the refrigerator, whatever). Rarely see any. There are always a few really big TVs though.

I clearly need to get out more to find the elusive 75%.