Erica: Welcome back to day two of “Librarians Grill Kevin Smokler, editor of Bookmark Now“. Kevin, yesterday you suggested some ideas for improving library services to authors, such as voluntary writer registrations for libraries to identify and partner with their local writers, and late hours (an idea that patrons love and sleepy librarians loathe!). Today let’s talk about literature. In the Introduction to Bookmark Now, you write a passionate rebuttal to the NEA’s Reading at Risk report, which predicts the death of reading and literature in our culture. Could you talk a bit about what made you decide to showcase next generation writers, and have them write about writing, reading, and their place in the cannon?
Kevin: At first it was anger at hearing my parents generation (the baby boomers, the rock n’ roll generation) asking me repeatedly if my generation read books. Which just seemed foolish given the popularity of Nick Hornby, Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith and This American Life. But between then and the book that became Bookmark Now, I got simultaneously more involved in working with publishers and authors and interested in blogs, rss, the next wave of online communication. Because I’m a yenta at heart and would rather have my interests in dialogue with one another, I began speaking to publishing professionals about how these technologies could help them reach readers in a hypermedia 21st century. It was then I realized how far behind this business that I love was, how left out of the cultural conversation it was making itself. And that made me sad as well as angry.
So I took what was left of the first idea–a new generation of writers who we thought were not leading literary lives and then mixed in data from the Reading at Risk report and the great flux we were all witnessing in the larger world of media. Bookmark Now then ended up as a reflection of what what it means to be creating and disseminating literature at this time in our history. I’m very happy with the result.
3 Replies to “Interview with Kevin Smokler Part Two (Son of Interview with Kevin Smokler)”
I’d agree with all three of those.
I have to disagree on the “quality” comment. I think Eggers is no more a member of the literai then Rowlings – but maybe I’m just partial. I would be careful with the what constitutes “intellectual” contribution – having just read “you shall know our velocity” I think the quality/quantity of intellectual contribution in that novel is more than questionable.
But overall – yes, i agree they should be included (at least Rowling – I cannot speak for Dan Brown having never read him), along with Yann Martel.
Authors like Dan Brown and JK Rowlings should also be mentioned, along with Hornby, Smith and Eggers. Albeit not the same standard or ‘quality’ of litterature, they show how theres an enormous group of people who actually read books. These authors have shown that books still has value as a cultural factor in their own sense. You could argue that it is not a ‘valid’ intellectual contribution, but at the same time it all boils down to the fact that these are books which are read all over the world by millions of people.
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