After reading a post on the Overland blog, I’ve been thinking about literature and the avenues for conversation surrounding it. Many people read books as part of a diverse media diet that also consists of television, radio, magazines, newspapers and, yep, the internet. But only a certain number of people might call themselves book lovers and an even smaller number are the ones who (like me) frequent litblogs (LiteraryMinded is a good local example). These might be people who are interested in literary journals, book launches, the latest small press publications and the like. But while litblogs do skirt the mainstream, occasionally reviewing Dan Brown novels, Booker prize winners and the like, they may need to do even more for a general readership soon.
In the past, people interested in all things literary (be they writers, those in the publishing industry or just dedicated bibliophiles), might have kept up-to-date via weekly or monthly literary supplements in the newspaper. But the general public would also flip through this section. Maybe something would catch their eye, they’d decide to read a few stories or interviews and engage with the literary culture. But on the internet, you never need to even browse past topics you’re not immediately interested in. Your blog reader or your bookmarks exclude anything outside your personalised niche interests.
So the decline of print newspapers (especially if Australia follows the trend in the USA) may mean the decline of literary pages and thus the decline of the literary community engaging with the general public. Of course, if you want your literary fix, you can just go online where myriad litbloggers or alternative websites post news, reviews and interviews daily. But who’s going to go out of their way to find this stuff besides bibliophiles? Does the world of literature afficionados becomes a clique that just talks to itself? Or maybe it was always like this?
One of the great things about the internet is that you can easily find anything you’re interested in and stay updated. But does this mean people aren’t challenged enough; that they never even find out about different points of view if they don’t want to? The internet can be a browser window to the world, but it can also keep us locked in our own little bubble, if people don’t make efforts otherwise.
How does the literary community reach the mainstream? I guess it’s the age-old question for any niche or subculture looking for broader appeal.
Will The Age‘s Saturday literary supplement soon be gone? Or the monthly literary supplement in The Australian? Will litblogs continue to serve the bookish community’s niche interests or will they go beyond to claim the place of established newspaper sections? Or will the literary supplements flourish in a new form online, funded by the monetisation of online news services?
As with all things, I think it’s good to be informed and on top of whats going on, but this ponderous ramble boils down to: we’ll see!
hm, ive been a blogger for a year or so, but ive only just started to frequent litblogs. there is so much out there, and i guess we are creatures of habit, not venturing very far from home. but it is worth it when we do.
I agree, the act of turning pages to get what we want can force us to see articles we might not have sampled voluntarily. Mind you there are sections of the Saturday paper I toss out habitually (Hello, drive and My career!).
But I think that intelligent news/current affairs aggregation online can provide a bit of the editorial guidance/curatorship which newspapers provide, or used to provide. Eg – The Daily Beast or what Crikey is trying to do with its new website. Chose the site that you trust to bring you a taster of news/current affairs/culture etc.
You’re probably right on that point Sarah. The online medium can still bring us the unfamiliar, or tasters of a bit of everything. All it takes is people designing websites in a way that facilitates that kind of browsing!