Sunday, December 19, 2010

When is a book not a book?

Novel immersion, article-writing, starting to clean dust-filled house for Christmas guests: I can't believe it's nine days since I tended to this blog. One thing I was moved to write about last week but simply didn't get time for was John Harris's article for the Guardian, in which he reports on his serious effort to read several of this year's Christmas celebrity-memoir bestsellers to 'take the national pulse', presumably to find out why they are so popular. It's a witty and enlightening article which comes to the conclusion that these books are generally infantile. However, the response he gets when he questions Waterstone's John Howells indicates that he was wasting his time, since these are not books for reading:
...he suggests I stop thinking about all this stuff in the same context as what industry types call "range" – ie the books racked in the back of the shop – and realise what I'm dealing with.

"These books are a part of mainstream entertainment," he says. "Cheryl Cole has got a book out this Christmas, she's also got a new album out, and she's all over the telly. The book is one part of a general programme for somebody like that. You could make the same argument about Gok Wan, or Paul O'Grady. Or Michael McIntyre. It's all part of a brand. These are people with a huge amount of fans, and they want to buy product." [my italics]

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