In an interview that appears in the Boston Globe, Croatian writer Dubravka Ugresic, author of Thank You for Not Reading, argues that in the U.S. the literary marketplace establishes literary values. She blames the market for the fact that we all read the same books even in an age when there are more books published than ever before:
we start enjoying the books we are manipulated into buying — even defending them against pretentious jerks who dare criticize them. In exactly the same way that we slowly become Ikea-people, we also become Booker Prize-people, Harry Potter-people, Stephen King-people.
Margo Jefferson, in the NYTBR, also writes about the explosion of options and wonders about the scarcity of engaged readers. In a sort of review of Gabriel Zaid’s So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, Jefferson bemoans the public’s lack of interest in reading and joins Zaid in laying the blame partly on universities and in arguing for a return to the simple joys of reading. According to Jefferson, “what matters most to [Zaid] (and us) is how technology and business can better serve readers and how readers can help define culture in fluid, inventive ways.”
Imagine a collaboration between Borges, Whitman, and your local car salesman. That’s the impression I have of the Zaid book after reading Jefferson’s review.