Wednesday, July 26, 2006

An 'ordinary' post

Grumpy Old Bookman is especially grumpy over the success of Sam Bourne's novel The Righteous Men:
I have a well documented antipathy towards Mr Bourne and his book [he explains] based on the old-fashioned idea that there are other writers out there who deserve this kind of success far more than he does.
Well that's something to which we can all relate!

He goes on to provide the detailed background to Mr Bourne's success, all of which one could sum up as old-fashioned snobbery and professional jealousy. Surely his popularity is well-deserved having done a good professional job for the reader? Alternatively, one could sum it up as a passionate concern for good literature. But where would that leave GOB's familiar disdain for "literary" writers who write it?

GOB also introduces us to best-selling author Susan Hill's new blog which, she explains:
came about because several books-and-reading Bloggers feel that the review pages of the major newspapers - with honourable exceptions - do not cater for the enthusiastic 'ordinary' reader and book buyer, but for a small, minority audience, or perhaps series of audiences according to the often obscure subject matter of the books under review. And the book prizes, too, are not judged by the general reader and often bear no relation to what they admire and enjoy. Only Richard and Judy choices seem to relate at all to the mass of readers who are often keen members of book groups and blog regularly about books.
Notice the almost complete lack of any examples here. Why do these low-to-middlebrow types trade almost entirely in impressions and stereotypes? Perhaps because they rely on self-perpetuating prejudice rather than fact. (I've noted her literary prejudices before by the way). Of the dozens I subscribe to, not one book blog discusses Richard & Judy novels.

When I read the book pages of newspapers, I prefer to be surprised, to learn something new, to discover new writers. An old-fashioned desire perhaps. But I'm not an ordinary reader. I realise that. I don't know any one else who hangs from a trapeze holding the book upside down.

Going back to the beginning, GOB is frustrated by Sam Bourne's success because it has more to do with connections and marketing than the writing of a great book. Ironically, one of the reasons Sam Bourne is so successful is due to Richard & Judy promoting his novel, prompting large numbers of 'ordinary' readers to decide that they want to read it. Presumably they didn't invite Michael Dibdin to discuss the book. But it seems that literary criticism isn't congenial to 'ordinary' admiration and enjoyment, yet - and this the heart of their resentment - the 'ordinary' readers still crave the prestige and "recognition" offered by literary awards and coverage in book pages. Why else do they complain?

Rather than complain though, book bloggers need to champion specific books and argue why they rate them. The rest is business.


  1. Anonymous4:45 pm

    Great entry.

  2. Anonymous8:56 pm

    (fixations with inferiors notwithstanding); yes.

  3. Anonymous8:57 pm

    (I may have mentioned you here).



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