With the new look comes a slightly revised blogging schedule. As such, The Weekly Reader will now be delivered to you every Friday, with an update on the week’s literary news, upcoming events, and the very best in book fetish.
So settle in with a cup of tea (or two) and enjoy.
‘The Novel Is Dead (This Time It’s For Real)’ – Will Self, at The Guardian
“There is now an almost ceaseless murmuring about the future of narrative prose. Most of it is at once Panglossian and melioristic: yes, experts assert, there’s no disputing the impact of digitised text on the whole culture of the codex; fewer paper books are being sold, newspapers fold, bookshops continue to close, libraries as well. But…but, well, there’s still no substitute for the experience of close reading as we’ve come to understand and appreciate it – the capacity to imagine entire worlds from parsing a few lines of text; the ability to achieve deep and meditative levels of absorption in others’ psyches.”
Although disheartening in many respects, Will Self’s article on the impending death of the “serious” novel makes for truly interesting reading. Opinion pieces abound wherein critics and authors decry the decline of the printed word and predict a bookshop-less, digitised literary world. Seen in that context, Self’s article represents just one more stream of pessimism at a time when literature is actually at its most globally accessible.
Yet the article raises a number of interesting and troubling points. Self’s central argument is that the turn to digitisation of the novel, and the inter-reader connectivity that comes as a result of this, means that the literary world is turning its back on the serious novel. For Self, reading serious works (think James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and F. Scott Fitzegerald) requires an element of private thought and independence that readers now lack. Instead, we live in a world where our Amazon purchases dictate market survival, and our social networks ensure that serious works receive proportionally less public acknowledgement.
So, what does this mean? According to Self, the serious novel will continue to exist. But it’s audience will become increasingly minimised, leaving it as “an art form on a par with easel painting or classical music: confined to a defined social and demographic group, requiring a degree of subsidy, a subject for historical discourse rather than public scholarship.” Self, as a novelist, claims that this vision does not depress him. For those readers among us who value a diversity of literary work, and the ability to engage in public discussion on all types of literature, the picture is perhaps a little more troubling.
‘Jump Into The #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign, Help Change The World’ – Jill Guccini, at BookRiot
On a more positive note, readers around the world are marshalling a campaign to promote the importance of literary diversity. While hashtags may not be the most effective way of communicating the details and complexities that characterise issues of injustice, they certainly do the job of raising awareness where popular knowledge is lacking. The Diverse Books Campaign points to the lack of diversity in literature – an underrepresentation of those who do not conform to the standard line of ‘normality’. Race and sexuality are only two areas in which the literary world appears to lack the ambition to represent diversity.
The campaign runs over the course of three days – May 1st through May 3rd. Tomorrow’s action focuses on recommendations and suggestions for diversifying your bookshelves. So click the link and get involved!
‘Author Sue Townsend’s Funeral Is Held In Leicester’ – BBC
As many of you will be aware, the author of the Adrian Mole series, Sue Townsend, passed away on April 10th. The bestselling novelist of the 1980s, Townsend enjoyed enormous success through the series’ comic value and the global adoration that Adrian Mole inspired.
Townsend’s death was met with true sadness on the part of the literary world, with tributes pouring in from both authors and readers. My own experience with Adrian Mole came at an early age. Too early – as I discovered when, many years after reading The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4, I finally learned that Adrian Mole is not, in fact, a mole. This reason alone is enough for me to feel true sadness at Sue Townsend’s passing.
‘Foyles Grand Opening Festival’, 11 June to 5 July – Foyles Bookshop, 107 Charing Cross Road
My devotion to Foyles Bookshop is reaching new heights. To celebrate the opening of their new flagship store on London’s Charing Cross Road, the bookshop is playing host to a series of fantastic literary events. Featuring talks from the likes of Hilary Mantel and Sebastian Faulks(!), the festival promises to one of the year’s most important set of dates on the bibliophilic calendar. I already have my tickets for a conversation between Michael Palin and Marcel Theroux on June 11th, and a talk by Sebastian Faulks about his novel Birdsong on June 14th. If you are interested, I would suggest booking as soon as possible. I have little doubt that many of these events will be sold out before long!
Top in Book Fetish
I’m currently in the process of considering a little domestic redecoration. As such, this week’s Book Fetish feature is a little self-motivated. Enjoy the best in literary home decor!
‘Classic Book Cover Coasters’ – The British Library
A set of 8 book cover coasters. Perfect for that afternoon cup-of-tea-and-reading break.
‘Matilda Pocket Cushion Cover’ – PocketCushions
I love Roald Dahl. And I love anything multifunctional. So this Matilda-themed cushion, that also provides a little book storage, is top notch.
‘Grand Wind Back Chair’ – Kelly Swallow
No house is complete without a truly magnificent reading chair. I am still on the hunt for mine. And this beautiful patchwork chair certainly fits the bill. A little Mad Hatter-esque in its look, the chair comes in at a mere £2,100. I can dream, right?