Unlike the real literary marketplace which is peopled by giants with 3 for 1 tables and websites with a zillion hits, the blogosphere literary reviews marketplace is peopled by elves.
Book elves, that’s us folk who love to read and who do an awful lot of it and some of the books we love we hope and pray that someone else may love as well. And even if they don’t or they can’t get to it right now well, there’s still a conversation to be had.
Sometimes I think there is too much ‘should this’ and ‘should that’ around reading.Too much of the latest thing, the big hype. Happy the writers who are on the beneficial end of being the next big thing but that is a small number of people.
Meanwhile there is the rest of us.
At a time when we are sharply being reminded of the porous nature of our national borders have chosen I would like to share something from one of Philip Pullman’s essays ‘Children’s Literature without Borders’ from his collection entitled Daemon Voices (David Fickling Books). The His Dark Materials trilogy writer talks about the art of storytelling and why children’s literature ‘shouldn’t need passports’.
Can we read the wrong things or read things for the wrong reasons? There are those that will say we can.
Reading for the wrong reasons is something that the guards on the border never do, but which other people do all the time unless they are supervised.
What Pullman is referring to is the reading of adult books by children or vice versa. This is different, he points out, to feminists writing books for other feminists, or gardeners writing books for other gardeners. Children’s books are written by adults and most usually bought by adults.
When we categorise books and reading we are more likely shutting folk out than being inclusive. He likes to imagine the literary marketplace as if it were precisely that.
A busy place with lots of people buying and selling, stopping for a gossip, a cup of coffee, or to watch a juggler or stop to listen to the storyteller…
The real literary marketplace is not like that. There are many intermediaries who come between the storyteller and his audience, who come bearing gifts or influence, or gifts of influence, advice, marketing, ticket sales, book signings.
When Pullman wrote this in 2001 we were pretty much pre-internet. But to me the blogosphere has become the nearest thing we have to that bustling market place that Pullman envisaged – unlike the shop with its regulated shelves for this age group or that age group, books specially for women, or specially for men, cookbooks for those who like to eat, diet books for those who like to diet, books on politics for clever people.
A book blog is not a place of commercial influence, or very few. I guess that’s not why people do it. It’s certainly not why I do it. So why do it? Do I hope to make a fortune? Hah!
I blog to be part of a community. Because someone may stop by for a chat or a virtual coffee, agree or say I’ve read that book too and it was amazing (or total rubbish). At other times people may rush on by. And that’s fine too.
Meanwhile, excuse me, I need to go and watch the juggler and listen to that storyteller over there …