Friday, April 11, 2008

Popular Taste

Something of an oxymoron perhaps, but it does explain why a respected UK publishing house has elected to dump all their more serious forthcoming books in preference to an output of chicklit, misery memoirs and ‘celebrity’ biographies.
Looking at the bookshelves labelled ‘biography,’ it seems the stores are stretching the definition of the word. It’s hard to see that Amy Winehouse, Pete Docherty and a good many other luminaries of the pop and sports world have had much of a life to write about so far. In many cases, ‘get a life’ might be more appropriate.
But from the point of view of the publishers, it’s not hard to see their reasoning.
Although it’s a point missed by many frustrated authors, they are in the business to make money and as such are driven by consumer demand. And a glance at the popular tabloid newspapers must be very reassuring to them.
News is buried deep in an effluent of chit chat about nonentities, most of the female variety having IQs that are exceeded by their chest measurements, and charting their unsteady progression, often recounting how hungover they are having visited x number of bars and night clubs.
It’s hardly surprising that the young have a drinking problem in Britain. And that’s in addition to racy accounts of their marital, extra marital and just plain one night stands. Great role models.
Every country has its tabloids, France has one called, rather appropriately I feel, BlaBlaBla and America has its National Enquirer, but nowhere are they read as avidly and by such a wide spectrum of the population as in Britain. Neither are they regarded as ‘news’ papers.
And so the publishing business has to go with the flow.
And a pretty dismal and sewer-like stream it is.
Joseph Bazalgette managed to clean up the drains of London and prevented a further ‘Great Stink’ in the 19th. century.
Cleaning up the popular press might be a start for Britain in this one.


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