Too Much Time on Our Hands (and A Really Good Pavement Song on the Stereo)

October 4th, 2004 · 4 Comments
by Booksquare

We cannot match Beatrice’s review of the always-puzzling Bookbabes’ review of the revamped New York Times Book Review (which we read online this past weekend, and have assumed the changes have more impact in real life — and yes, if you guess the correct number of times we said “review” in our first sentence, you win a prize or something), but we can add our always useful thoughts about their column. We realize making fun of the Babes is easy, but, darn it, shouldn’t there be some things in life you can phone in?

We’ve read the Babes’ interview/analysis, and have just a few thoughts and questions:

  • Books have always been news about culture. That’s pretty much the definition of art. Think Chaucer. Shakespeare. Dickens. Kerouac. Atwood. Gibson. And the list goes on. So this isn’t a revelation.
  • Kurt Cobain and Woody Allen — not the height of hip. Some (the husband) have been declaring for several years that Nirvana were overrated. As we’ve developed a (surprising) appreciation for Pearl Jam (yes, truly shocked the heck out of us as well), we’ve had to agree with him. It’s okay to admit that here — he never reads our stuff. Also, while we’re not good at math, we think Woody Allen was last considered a risky publishing choice in 1966.
  • Print circulation is a good figure. It says a lot about how many copies are delivered, but not so much about what’s being read. We, for example, get lots of ads and a car section in our paper ever week, but we don’t read them (we’re not especially into ads or automobiles). Those of us who don’t have access to the New York Times, or who don’t want the extra paper/clutter in the house, access the section online. What are those figures? It would be really interesting to see an analysis of what articles are most accessed by online readers — it shows interest and initiative. Not to mention that cool statistics tools even give a hint of how long people are online, where they go, etc. kind of actually gives you a good idea of what’s capturing your readers’ minds.
  • Sex is not low culture. It crosses all social and class boundaries. Or so we’ve heard.
  • Is there really that much tension in the book world? Are the literati and the non-literati (what are readers of mainstream fiction called?) meeting in dark alleys? We only have our little Center of Universe for sampling, but we’re not seeing it. Yes, we personally agitate for increased, intelligent reviews of genre fiction, but there isn’t really a war brewing. Perhaps we should spend more time at the bookstore. Yes, that’s what we need to do. Good idea.
  • We totally do not get the writing/Gwyneth Paltrow thing. Is the implication (MargoBabe is paraphrasing Sam Tanenhaus) that people flipping through magazines are so mesmerized by Paltrow that they won’t read the words in an article? Eventually, you stop staring. We hope. We don’t get this or the point being made. We admit it — we’re slow.
  • Finding women and people of, uh, color is easy. If you’re having trouble, Sam, you’re looking in the wrong places. Contact us. We can help.
  • What is this intellectual elite of which they speak? Where can we get us some of that?

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs

4 responses so far ↓

  • Brenda Coulter // Oct 5, 2004 at 6:28 am

    Is there really that much tension in the book world? Are the literati and the non-literati (what are readers of mainstream fiction called?) meeting in dark alleys?

    I move that we call them the illiterati.


  • bookdwarf // Oct 5, 2004 at 8:43 am

    I think the Book Babes like to talk about the supposed ‘divide’ between cultures. I am not arguing there is or isn’t. They just like to talk about it a lot I’ve noticed. ‘How literary the NYT and book people are! How on earth can they relate to regular folks?’ I agree with your analysis and with Beatrice’s. The Book Babes just puzzle the hell out of me.

  • booksquare // Oct 5, 2004 at 7:09 pm

    Hmm, I thought they existed for my amusement. Is that not right? They are truly a puzzling concept, but at least I get to have a good time.

    Especially since it’s possible I’m one of the illiterati.

  • Susan Gable // Oct 6, 2004 at 8:44 am

    I went and read all the articles, including the one by Dan who said that reviewing Nora Robert’s book fulfills ” the promise to review more trash” in the revamped NYTBR.

    Ggrrrrrrr. ’nuff said. (I’m too busy gnashing my teeth.)