Sunday, May 25, 2008

Time, Technology and the Market Wait For No Bod

Sorry about the gap on this blog: life has been getting the better of both writing and blogging for me in the last few weeks. Nothing like a break, though, to point up the way things move on, and today I come back to find Robert McCrum ending his 10-year spell as the Observer's literary editor with indeed an article on the stupendous changes which have occurred in the book world during those 10 ten years. Listing 10 major phenomena which have changed the face of literary culture - beginning with Zadie and allowing a towering photo of her (looking pretty superior) to dominate the page, and including Amazon, JK Rowling, the prize and festival cultures and of course the internet - he seeks to chart the way in which reading has become both commercialized yet democratized over this period.

I hope he is right that as a result of digitization 'Readers and writers may now experience the liberation of literature in ways Caxton never dreamt of ', but in view of some of the negative developments he describes (such as a ghosted novel by Katie Price outselling all of the Booker shortlisted books put together) there's a glibness, I feel, in his conclusion that 'what I have described are the birth pangs of a golden age'. His final statement that 'To be a writer in the English language today is to be one of the luckiest people alive' will draw hollow laughter from all those dropped mid-list authors or the growing number with unpublished literary novels praised and admired by agents and publishers alike but declined on grounds of 'lack of marketability'.
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