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In a recent issue of CJR, there is a good summary article about the decline of book coverage in major media outlets. “That book coverage is disappearing is not news,” writes Steve Wasserman. “What is news is the current pace of the erosion in coverage, as well as the fear that an unbearable cultural threshold…

Goodbye to all that

In a recent issue of CJR, there is a good summary article about the decline of book coverage in major media outlets. “That book coverage is disappearing is not news,” writes Steve Wasserman. “What is news is the current pace of the erosion in coverage, as well as the fear that an unbearable cultural threshold has been crossed: whether the book beat should exist at all is now, apparently, a legitimate question. Jobs, book sections, and pages are vanishing at a rate rivaled only by the degree to which entire species are being rendered extinct in the Amazonian rain forest.”

I especially like his summary: “They know in their bones something newspapers forget at their peril: that without books, indeed, without the news of such books—without literacy—the good society vanishes and barbarism triumphs. I shall never forget overhearing some years ago, on the morning of the first day of the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, a woman asking a UCLA police officer if he expected trouble. He looked at her with surprise and said, “Ma’am, books are like Kryptonite to gangs.” There was more wisdom in that cop’s remark than in a thousand academic monographs on reforming the criminal justice system. What he knew, of course, is what all societies since time immemorial have known: If you want to reduce crime, teach your children to read. Civilization is built on a foundation of books.”

Posted by Joel on September 15 2007 • Books

Remember the Day Job

It’s not anything that writers don’t already know. The writing life isn’t as glamorus as most people (who don’t do it for a living) think it is. An interesting column from British publication, The Guardian: “By all means, write, if you enjoy it,” writes columnist John Crace. “But, if you value your sanity - and that of any readers - keep it to yourself. Keep the dream; just don’t give up the day job.”

A new poll just released says that more Britons dream of becoming writers. However, most come to the profession without considering the realities, says Crace. “It’s not even as if writing is that glamorous. You sit alone for hours on end honing your deathless prose, go days without really talking to anyone and, if you’re very lucky, within a year or so you will have a manuscript that almost no one will want to read. Your friends and family will come to dread requests for constructive feedback - which they know really means just saying, “This is far better than Amis or McEwan” - and if, by some small chance, you do land a book deal you will spend the week of publication wondering why your book isn’t piled up at the front of Waterstones and why you haven’t even picked up a single, measly review in the local paper.”

Posted by Joel on September 01 2007 • Books