This year’s BEA confirmed what most writers and book reviewers already knew: that the publication of serious literature, and particularly of literary fiction, has been abandoned by the big publishers to the small or medium-size independent presses.
The article then turned to a discussion of Book Bloggers. According to the author, Book Bloggers
are mostly women between 20 and 50 years old, often known as “mommy bloggers” because they are housewives who blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories and paranormal novels.
She goes on to state
The main difference between the new book bloggers and the old book reviewers is that the former don’t have any literary “prejudices.” They are children of pop culture and the mass media, and have transferred their interests onto the realm of books. Their electronic chatter will soon cover whatever is left of book reviewing.
First of all, even it the situation at BEA was as dire as she stated (1/3 children’s books with garish colors, and 1/3 e-readers intending to replace print), that doesn’t mean the publishers have abandoned all other projects. It just means they didn’t choose to feature them at BEA. The death of print/literary fiction/etc. has been predicted before, and will be again. I don’t think it is true, but that’s not what I want to talk about here.
I want to talk about who blogs, why, and what our impact is (and can be).
At a first glance, I fit the description given above. I am between 20 and 50 (closer to 50 than the 20 year old “girls” the author says she met). I am a “housewife” (although I don’t usually use that word to describe myself). I blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories, and paranormal novels. I also blog about cozy mysteries, hard-boiled mysteries, woman’s fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, general fiction, non-fiction, and even (gasp) literary fiction and translated works. I’m even a “mommy” that mentions my daughter at times in my blog.
However, I will object to the label mommy-blogger. Mommy doesn’t describe what I blog about. It doesn’t describe my audience. It doesn’t describe me, as it pertains to the work I do on my blog. I dismiss it as irrelevant.
That dismissal is not just on my behalf, but on the behalf of all my fellow book bloggers. (If any of the children’s book bloggers want to keep that title, they are welcome to. It might make sense in some cases). If the label doesn’t fit me, how much less does it fit the older/younger/employed-parents/non-parents/men/etc. that make up the book blogging community?
More relevant is the second quote above. I’ll argue with the assertion that my interests (and those of most bloggers) were formed more by pop culture and mass media. I’ve always been a reader. I do enjoy pop culture as well, but it isn’t a primary influence.
On the other hand, I’m still struggling to figure out what it means to not have any literary prejudices.
I think that’s probably true of me, or of my reviews. My goal in reviewing a book is to discuss what I did and didn’t like about it, and hope that will help my readers make a decision about what books they are interested in reading Honestly, literary merit isn’t what I’m looking for. In many books I read, I am looking for mental stimulation of some sort. In others, I’m looking for an emotional connection. Sometimes I just want to relax and have a good laugh.
In other words, I’m just your average reader.
Sure, I read more books, and in a wider variety of genres. But I’m not trying to be an expert, telling you what’s good for you. I’d like to encourage you to read, maybe more than you would have otherwise, and maybe a wider variety. I’d like to encourage you to talk books with me, and with your other friends, whether in book clubs, on-line, or in casual conversation.
Because that is how books will survive. Not by experts that talk about the books that their “literary prejudices” say we should appreciate, but by every reader that picks up any kind of book.
I’m happy to be part of that future.