Welcome to the second instalment of The Conduit Lectures, a series of blogs where I embarrass myself by blathering about things I have no business blathering about (whilst at the same time watching the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix, which just got off to a dramatic start).
By popular demand, this rant will feature another sequence of dinosaur dialogue – or Dinologue, as it shall henceforth be known – but I will not bow to pressure to rename the series The Conduit Chronicles. So there. I will reiterate, these pieces are purely opinion and speculation on my part, and I’d welcome the comments of those more knowledgeable than myself.
Are we sitting comfortably? Then, let’s begin…Books, books everywhere and not a word to read
There have been various posts on various blogs in recent days discussing the pros and cons of chain stores versus independents and large versus small publishers. In my part of the world, the independent book store is extinct. My local supermarket has a small book section that sells current bestsellers, but other than that I have to travel to an out-of-town shopping centre to be able browse books on a shelf. And this is where I start to get annoyed…Girls and Boys
It’s clear that gender plays a significant role in our tastes in all forms of entertainment, from movies to music to books. I conform to many of the conventions; I have all the Star Wars DVDs, I have a penchant for questionable classic rock, and I’d rather eat my own hair than watch Dirty Dancing. But I also have The Devil Wears Prada alongside my Die Hard box set, and Joni Mitchell and Suzanne Vega CDs sit next to my AC/DC and Van Halen collections. While my tastes are influenced by my having dangly parts, they are neither defined nor limited by them.
Why, then, do I feel so disadvantaged when I go to my nearest book chain? In my local branch of Eason’s I see yard after yard of pastel shades, funky typefaces, and cute girly caricatures (often involving handbags or stilettos). There are occasional patches of books with moody covers with abstract photography of barren cityscapes which usually denote the sixth in a series of murder mysteries starring some hard-bitten cop or another. Such novels are no more to my taste than the pastel shades are.
The question I find myself asking is: where are the books for me? I am an adult male with (I’d like to think) a reasonable level of intelligence and life experience. Why does somebody, somewhere, think that means I only want to read techno-thrillers or worthy literary fiction? I want books that entertain me while making me think. I want challenging characters in challenging situations. I want my imagination to be fired by being plunged into places I’ve never been, by experiences I’ve never had, by people I’ve never met.What don’t I want to read about?
Here’s a list:
1. Doomsday weapons falling into the hands of terrorists/despots/mad industrialists.
2. Rugged mercenaries called Blaze McTesticle pursuing said Doomsday weapon.
3. Former-cops-turned-private-eyes with tragic pasts who…
4. Get called back into service by the organisation that fired them, or…
5. Get a message from an ex-wife/girlfriend/partner/boss/mentor they haven’t heard from in years who subsequently dies in suspicious circumstances leading to…
6. An investigation that leads the protagonist into dangerous territory, or…
7. A race against time to save some loved-one or other.
8. Middle-class, soul-searching, chin-stroking, navel-gazing explorations of the human condition with a male character aged between thirty-five and fifty who is…
9. A doctor…
10. A professor…
11. A teacher…
12. A novelist…
13. A journalist…
14. Especially not a journalist, who…
15. Has a mid-life crisis…
16. An affair…
17. A divorce…
18. A reconciliation with his estranged father, or…
19. Attends a funeral which forces him to examine the futility of his own existence.
20. Or even worse, a young academic who does any of the above while embarking on a torrid relationship with a kooky girl with unusually coloured hair.Me man. Me no read.
As I understand it, the majority of fiction bought today is by and for women. Men buy comparatively few books. And why is this? Is it because men spend their leisure time on other things? Playing computer games? Watching sports? Watching television? Drinking beer and scratching their arses?
Actually, I spend a fair amount of time doing that last bit, but that’s not the point…
Is it simply that men generally don’t like to read? Or is there another possibility? Is it feasible that maybe, just maybe, men buy fewer books because the publishing industry isn’t producing enough of the kind of books they want to read?So, where are the dinosaurs?
It’s Jurassic Analogy time. In this episode, we discover how T.Rex and Raptor view the male of the species…
EXTERIOR. DAY. NEAR A CLIFF FACE.
RAPTOR: What the hell is that thing?
T.REX: That? Oh, that's a caveman.
RAPTOR: Caveman? But we're separated by millions of years of evol--
T.REX: Shut up.
RAPTOR: But we couldn't possibly be in the same--
T.REX: Look, shut up! You're ruining the analogy.
RAPTOR: Jeez, sorry! So it's a caveman.
T.REX: Yeah, a caveman.
RAPTOR: So, what are they like?
T.REX: Well, you've basically got two types.
RAPTOR: And what are they?
T.REX: First, you've got the manly caveman. He likes hitting stuff with his club, running around a lot, scratching his ass. That kind of thing.
RAPTOR: He doesn't like anything too smart, then.
T.REX: Yep, that about sums him up.
RAPTOR: And what's the other type?
T.REX: The artsy-fartsy caveman. He's your intellectual type. Gazes at the moon and does cave-drawings. Y'know, artsy-fartsy stuff.
RAPTOR: What does he draw?
T.REX: Pictures about the futility of existence.
RAPTOR: Huh. Sounds boring. So, there's nothing in between? There are no other types? Just those two?
T.REX: Yep, just those two. They taste good, though.
RAPTOR: I don't know. I'm still not convinced by this analogy thing. I can't get past the millions of years of separation. I can't suspend my disbelief.
T.REX: Can't suspend your disbelief? Dude, dinosaurs can't talk.
RAPTOR: Oh…Join me next time when I explore the topic of genre, and how while pigeonholing books may be a necessary evil, it's just that: evil.
DISCLAIMER: The above text is the rambling nonsense of someone with no connection to the publishing industry other than being at its two extremes. All opinions expressed are more than likely the reflection of a bitter and cantankerous mind and no warranty as to their validity is given or implied. All comments are welcome, particularly from those who actually know what they're talking about. Just remember I don't.
Labels: I don't know what I'm talking about, publishing, The Conduit Lectures