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February 16, 2009


Great question and I think a telling result that book reviews end up in the style section. Everything has become fashion.

Politics is fashion (nascar dads were hip for a while)and Stephen King has always been fashionable (boogie man books,fear, and slasher movie cults). Romance novels are part of the Oprah-fication of America. It just seems to me that what is on the NY Times best seller list (by and large and not always the case) is driven by fashion - much like the music industry.

Which brings me to my second point - the good stuff is still out there - the great books and music that don't get any press... drum roll because they are not fashionable. Unknown authors and musicians churning out quality work exist in abundance but it's up to each one of us to use our instincts and dig below the surface, and take chances on the unknowns.

Jimmy Buffet has books in Barnes and Noble because he has name recognition and therefore sells. Jimmy while being a buoyant personality has written some good yarns and some over inflated pretentious blech. If his name was John Q. Public he would have to use a vanity press and his work would never see the light of day.

So yes book reviews in the style section because after all "dhharling" you have to be up on the current trends to have self validation. Which of course is a huge load of bull and sarcasm from me but you get the idea.

This includes readers and listeners and all this applies to movies as well. Spurn the big marketed aimed at the lowest common denominator efforts and become more investigative about all your book, movie and cd purchases. The richness, diversity and joy of discovery is fulfilled there. Finding a new arist, musician, author who rocks your world and then sharing that with your friends and family is a form of adventure. Buying what the big boys are selling is just manipulation. The major marketing campaigns are ingenious in how they reach people.

They attack (the perfect word for it) by land, air and sea. They sneak the tune onto a hit television show, plug the band on the radio until it seems like that's the only song the stations play, get the song out on a movie soundtrack, get it reviewed by People magazine and our print friends in the Style section of course, do a layout on the artist in Vogue or GQ - heck even plugging away in the free magazines on an airline.

When big business is pushing something the tentacles reach you from a hundred different outlets in a hundred different ways.

I'm a contrarian when I see that coming I run the other way. Heck the same applies in the art world. If it speaks to you it's awesome. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

Paul Burke
Author-Journey Home

Thanks for such a thoughtful response, Paul! I definitely hear you about the joys of digging beyond the headline books and exploring the wealth of writing out there. Especially with media conglomeration, you can't help but be mistrustful of what is being endorsed by any particular outlet.

On the other hand, I think it's important not to swing so far that we're suspicious of anything that's popular. I thought of this during the Harry Potter era. I love those books. But I had more than a few friends who took great pride in NOT having read them, almost entirely because they thought anything so popular couldn't possibly be high quality.

That thinking feels downright undemocratic.

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