Thursday, April 28, 2005

Oprah and contemporary authors

On April 20th an association of woman authors called WORD OF MOUTH delivered a letter to Oprah Winfrey pointing out the remarkable things her book club did for the reading public and books in general and urged her to consider enlarging the scope of her book club to include contemporary authors again. You can link to their site and read the letter in its entirety by clicking
  • Word of Mouth letter

  • To date no answer has been forthcoming, but these things take time.

    When I found out about this marvelous idea, I was so enthused I became a supporter of WOM's objective and signed on, too. However, in my opinion, this should just be the opening shot in the war to get more and more people reading books. Publishers and fiction authors writing in every genre must form more loose associations like the WOM association and work diligently to help readers rekindle the joy of reading and also help them find the kinds of books they like and would read.

    Currently, there are so many different forms of entertainment competing for our precious leisure time. As an author, I feel this same pressure. There are movies, TV, sports, socializing with family and friends, etc....all are in competition with books. Sometimes I ask myself, how can books--the oldest form of entertainment--survive in a world that requires instant gratification? I'm an avid watcher of reality shows, shows like Survivor, American Idol and lately The Amazing Race, though only because I desperately want Rob and Amber to lose. These shows cut into my reading time and provide nowhere near the same degree of satisfaction and stimulation. It's tantamount to the difference between eating processed breakfast cereals and slowly cooked oats--that's porridge where I come from. I actually will myself not to watch the telly for a few hours at night and, once I've committed and got into my book, I don't care anymore whether its droning on in the background. But it's hard to do this initially; it's just the same as going to the gym--I don't want to do it but know it's good for me.

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    gayle said...

    Hi Damian!

    I signed the Oprah letter, too--I think it is an utterly fabulous idea. I agree, though, that Oprah can't singlehandedly save contemporary fiction. We need to find new and fresh ways to bring books back to the forefront of people's consciousness. It makes me sad that I don't read as voraciously as I once did--I used to read just about a book a day, but now that I'm teaching more and reading tons of student work, and reading a lot of online stuff, and getting sucked in (like you!) to American Idol and Survivor (my guilty pleasures), and trying to find time to write, and dealing with other daily and publishing related things, I find that I don't have a book in my hand as often I used to. When I do have time to get swept away by a book, it always feels like such a revelation now, such a deep pleasure. My kids just about always have books in their hands, so at least the reading tradition is continuing in this house!

    Damian McNicholl said...

    Yes indeed, Gayle--time is the enemy and fresh ideas are definitely needed. Thanks for your comment.

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