Monday, June 25, 2007

Gone to the Litblogs: Back from ALA & Notes on Writers's Blogs

Last Saturday morning, I signed books--- the new paperback edition of Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico at the Milkweed Editions booth at the American Library Association bookfair at the Washington DC (gulp) Convention Center. Having seen that ginormous multi-acre hive, well, mangoes to anyone who says reading is dead. Thousands and thousands of librarians shlepping shoulder-breaking bags full of books--- with enthusiasm! Well, can there be a crowd more enthusiastic about books than librarians? I saw Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners! And heard Naomi Ayala read her glorious poetry. And said hi to E. Ethelbert Miller (who read his poems at the ALA inaugural event), novelists Anosh Irani and Donna Leon, not to mention scads and scads of childrens book authors... and Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle and Washington DC's Underground Railroad historian Mary Kay Ricks... Books are a big business, so it's strange, really, that there are ever fewer book reviews. This is well-documented phenomeon--- in fact, the National Book Critics Circle has a campaign to "save book reviews." A fascinating conversation with one publisher's marketing director there--- how getting a review in, say, the Washington Post, is like winning the lottery, so she's been aiming more of her pitches at the litblogs. As I've mentioned many times (most recently here), I am intrigued by the so-called "litblogs" as an emerging literary genre. She mentioned Book Slut, I mentioned The Happy Booker... I think we both said The Millions at the same time... Maud Newton is one of the best... The Old Hag has been around quite awhile... But I believe, rather than generalist litblogs, we are going to see an increasing influence of individual writers's blogs. Some of the abovementioned litblogs are by writers; what I mean by an "individual writers's blogs" is that the focus is primarily on the writers's own work, or what the writers, qua writers, find of interest. These may or may not offer book reviews, but they do often mention books they like, or don't like, in effect, providing blurbs and sending readers to new (and old) books--- in short, assuming more of the function of print reviews. An excellent and early example is Laila Lalami's Moorish Girl. Another example: Leslie Pietrzyk's Work in Progress, which just started up this March. Tod Goldberg and Jim Kunstler blog voluminously, as do The Naked Authors... Ken Ackerman, author of, most recently, Young J. Edgar Hoover, has started his blog, Coffee With Ken with some essays on related current events--- but how often will he post? Is his heart really in it? More anon.
---> Read my other posts on "Gone to to the Litblogs" here.