Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bring On The Books For Everybody How Literary Culture Becomes Popular Culture by Jim Collins

Bring On The Books For Everybody How Literary Culture Becomes Popular Culture by Jim Collins.

Jim Collins is a professor at the University of Notre Dame. This book is published by Duke University Press in 2010. Jim Collins is writing for a popular audience. The word choice is quite interesting and wonderful. He uses terms like lit-lit, bibliotherapy, adaptation film, and superstore. There is melding of the academic with the popular. Jim Collins easily moves between subjects like Ladies Home Journal and modernist literature. The juxtapositions are striking.

The writing is at times funny, ironic, and witty. The author is describing how literature is transformed into a popular medium and taken out of the academy. He describes adaptation films (films adapted from literary works,), the New York Times Book Review, Oprah's Book Club, and chick lit.

Jim Collins explains how literature is treated as both a form of self cultivation and self actualization. Many people read the classics to be better people. We get a of an Oprah Winfrey episode of television where Oprah encourages people to read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, the classic Russian novel. It is at times appalling, fascinating, and poignant.

I espcially liked his sections on books to film. Two of the books which he spends quite a bit of time on are The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje and The Hours by Michael Cunningham both of which were turned into excellent films.

Jim Collins is describing the packaging of books into a complete line of products; books, films, furniture, and other products. Books become a brand unto themselves. This is an article that explains the phenomenon with the book, Eat Pray Love.

Classic literature becomes swept up in the process as well. Shakespeare becomes books like Shakespeare In Love and Jane Austen becomes The Jane Austen Book Club. This marketing is exploited by companies like Target, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other super shopping sites. Henry James and other writers become commodities.

I am not completely comfortable with this. I find some of it goes too far. For example, books like The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger are clear attempts at romantic consumerism; a mix of buying the right stuff, sex, and relationships.  Sex and the City for literature.

This is a very interesting book. It is quite topical for librarians, booksellers, and people interested in books. It even mentions Nancy Perl and her segment on books on National Public Radio. The book is well indexed and has an extensive bibliography. I highly recommend reading this book.

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