Our Rule of Thumb

October 27th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

If you have to ask a question about something being too obscure, the answer is “yes.” By all accounts, the finalist list for this year’s National Book Awards defines obscure. However, in all fairness, the awards aren’t that well known themselves.
We did a little reporting — biased, because that’s how we like it. We approached two radically different groups of book lovers and asked them about the NBAs. We received many responses about basketball from one list, and a lot of “hey, isn’t that cool about Judy Blume” from the other. We leave it up to you to guess the predominant gender of each list.
Yesterday, we quoted John Sayles discussing micro-worlds — those bubbles we create. If you spend much time hanging around litblogs, you start to believe everyone’s read Cloud Atlas and Madeline is Sleeping (you also start to believe everyone knows which award each book was nominated for). We see world-bubbles much like Venn diagrams — as we slid across toward another book-related bubble, we encountered a small group who knew about the awards, but hadn’t read them. Moments later, we stepped fully into “I’ve never heard of that” circle.
Later, we will ponder the beauty of crossing world boundaries without leaving our office. For now, we’ll think about the fact that major readers — people who actively seek, purchase, and (we think this is important) read books — think the NBA is nothing more than a cool gold seal on a winner’s book. Or a major sports group. By way of contrast, the Booker awards had more awareness among our test groups — a whiff of controversy does that, we suspect.
We like the fact that otherwise overlooked fiction is brought to the public’s attention (though, just as we marvel at the odds of all finalists ever being male, we are mind-boggled to see this year’s group is all female…what are the chances?). But we wonder how this attention can be brought to a wider audience. How can literary prestige translate to the general public?
Yeah, well, of course we want you to come up with solutions — if we had any at our fingertips, we wouldn’t be shy about sharing them.

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs · Square Pegs