Saturday, April 09, 2005

Literary Blogs and the Ills of Capitalism (as usual)

Just to show how much of a lazy and easily distracted person I am, I have only recently (read: two weeks ago) jumped on the bandwagon of reading Literary blogs. Sounds boring? Sounds intriguing? Sounds... pretentious? Maybe, but it's something fun too. They're not exactly academic blogs that talk about Deconstructionism or whatever other -isms (some do). Most are updates about the literary world and/or collections of book reviews. Personally I have been searching for a good source of book reviews/recommendations for a long, long time. After so many years of being hoodwinked by best seller lists, these reviews are like a godsend. An axiom for them might be: For the readers - By the readers - According to the readers

That's the best part. These people are dedicated readers who write up reviews according to what they read, as opposed to what they were paid to read. Some days ago I talked about Grumpy Old Bookman , itself an excellent insight into the world of publishing and other literary related stuff. From there I found The Valve, which was started by my Philosophy lecturer from last semester (Flince: Yep, John Holbo has been up to some sneaky business outside class). After some surfing around and by the "Friendster law", I found a few other excellent sites - all non-profit and just plain blogging goodness. Finally I have trustworthy sources to tell me what to buy the next time I feel like toeing the bankruptcy line.

Which brings me to the second part of this post. What is the idea of a bookstore? To sell books right? Right. And that's where everything goes down the hill. At least in this fair country of ours. For example, I was looking for a copy of "Modern Criticism and Theory" (don't. ask.) and does Kino has it? Of course not! It doesn't sell! Unless suddenly all the academics in the world got into a frenzy and started raiding bookstores for academia-related literature out there. So ok, never mind, let's perhaps try Ezra Pound's "The ABCs of Reading". Nothing. Again. Ok, last try: "Collected Poems" by Thom Gunn. Well... At least I can pre-order Harry Potter #72341146... Yay.

Already many times over in the past, I found myself having to order stuff from Amazon or Alibris (an online 2nd hand bookstore) because Kino doesn't carry the books. Let's not talk about Borders since they offer no way of finding out if they carry any copies of a desired title without one having to go down to the store and search their shevles (the "hotline" takes an average of 15 tries before someone picks up).

So what happened here? Simple corporate math took over. Harry Potter sells a gazillion copies in a week. Thom Gunn sells one copy in a lifetime. I stop short of calling myself oppressed and deprived of choice in life as to what I can read (unless I'm filthy rich from say, writing a bestseller) but I don't really know how else to describe this. I'll just leave it at that. Perhaps in some convoluted way, it's already wrong to even envision a concept called a "bookstore" that is supposed to satisfy the reading needs of a community. A self-defeating construct at best.

PS. There is one big flaw with the literary blogs' reviews - a clear lack of non-American/Brit writings. Indian writers, Japanese writers, South African writers etc don't get mentioned though they do publish English stuff. Sigh, you just can't have your cake and eat it. Either that, or I am becoming more and more anal as the exam season draws close.


At 11:49 PM, Blogger Woof! said...

Hey! Is this ure first blog?

Have fun blogging!

At 6:45 PM, Blogger Carte Noir said...

No, not my first, but I like to think that with this new blog I've progressed from the "I did this and I did that and I thought this and I thought that and then you know what happened..." kind of writing. Keeping my fingers crossed... Thanks for reading and commenting! =)


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