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Tag: links

ReaderWriterLinks

One of the NYRB‘s free articles is a review article discussing two books and a film about libraries. I’m a huge library fan. It opened the world of books to me from the time I was able to read, first in private lending libraries in Bombay and then the wonderful public libraries of the US. I fell off the wagon for a number of years, mostly because I had access to university libraries, but a few years ago I reacquainted myself with my city and county libraries and haven’t looked back. I love this description of what libraries offer us all:

Klinenberg is interested in the ways that common spaces can repair our fractious and polarized civic life. And though he argues in his new book, Palaces for the People, that playgrounds, sporting clubs, diners, parks, farmer’s markets, and churches—anything, really, that puts people in close contact with one another—have the capacity to strengthen what Tocqueville called the cross-cutting ties that bind us to those who in many ways are different from us, he suggests that libraries may be the most effective. “Libraries are the kinds of places where ordinary people with different backgrounds, passions, and interests can take part in a living democratic culture,” he writes. Yet as Susan Orlean observes in her loving encomium to libraries everywhere, aptly titled The Library Book, “The publicness of the public library is an increasingly rare commodity. It becomes harder all the time to think of places that welcome everyone and don’t charge any money for that warm embrace.”

The article covers Susan Orlean’s new book about the LA library fire, Eric Klinenberg’s nonfiction study of libraries as engines of community, and the great Frederick Wiseman’s documentary of the New York Public Library. I haven’t seen it yet, but Wiseman’s work is unparalleled and whatever you watch will stick in your brain forever.


The Guardian has an article on the mess that Amazon’s review and recommendation systems has become. This is a general problem for Amazon, with bots and fake reviews messing up the ranking systems, but the books issue is in a class of its own:

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ReaderWriterLinks: TGIF edition

It’s almost the end of the week, I was about to say the end of the workweek but so many people have jobs that span all seven days now. Anyway, so much stuff popped up in my surfing forays, RSS feeds, etc. that I have an abundance, so here’s a batch to get us started.


If you’re on Twitter you’ve probably already seen this first one, and I posted it on GR, but it’s worth posting over and over because it’s so good and so different from the tee-hee-romance-genre stories we tend to get.

The Guardian published longread on the state of diversity in the romance genre (just ignore the 50-shades headline, Guardian headline writers are the worst sometimes). The reporter talked to a lot of people and I appreciate that she went and talked to writers in state chapters, rather than just doing the usual email and phone interviews of the names we all see over and over again in stories about the industry. There are lots of fascinating and depressing nuggets of information, including this eye-opening one about Harlequin’s treatment of a Suzanne Brockmann novel:

Marketing black love stories to black women was one thing, but publishers remained sceptical about the idea that white readers would read those same stories. In the late 1990s, Suzanne Brockmann, a white author writing a sequence of Harlequin romances about sexy Navy Seals, decided that she wanted to make a black character the hero of her next book. It was, she admits now, something of a “white saviour” move. Brockmann’s thinking, she told me, was that Harlequin simply didn’t realise the commercial opportunity it was missing by not printing more black romances.

Harlequin published Brockmann’s book in 1998, but she was shocked by the way the company dealt with its publication. She recalled her publisher saying: “You will make half the money because we will print half the copies. We cannot send it to our subscription list.” It was the same argument Harlequin had made 14 years earlier: “We’ll get angry letters.” It wasn’t just black characters that Harlequin rejected, according to Brockmann. She said she was also told they would not publish a novel with an Asian American as the central character. (Brockmann later moved on to another publisher.)

And this paragraph made my stomach clench:

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ReaderWriterLinks

Yes, they’re back. I should probably pick a day and make that Links Day, but in the meantime, here are a handful for your weekend reading.


The RITA finalists were announced this past week. Once again there were hardly any African-American authors who finaled, and I didn’t see many LGBT authors either, although I didn’t scrutinize the lists that carefully. I peeked over at Twitter and found that understandably, there was a lot of angry discussion about it.

It’s very disheartening to see these kinds of exclusions year and after year, especially when the RWA leadership has become more diverse and progressive. Unfortunately the awards submission, judging, and evaluation systems are not keeping pace (to put it mildly). I’ve thought about these issues over the years and looked at various aspects of the problem. I am sorry to say that I don’t think much will change until the overall romance readership is more reflective of the Romanceland readership that we hang out in. And similarly with the overall membership of RWA.

I’ve examined what is available of RWA surveys over the last 20 years, and they are consistent in terms of the demographic composition of romance readers. They are disproportionately Southern, Christian, white, and middle-aged. If you asked me to describe a modal (i.e., most common) romance reader, I’d say she lives in a medium-sized town or major-city suburb in the southern US, is white, in her 40s or 50s, and alternates between Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance and Amish Romances. She doesn’t read much LGBT of any type within the romance genre. And she’s on the conservative side.

That’s not the demographic that’s going to regularly pick Alyssa Cole’s books over Robyn Carr’s. Or Helen Hoang’s. Or KJ Charles’s. It’s just not.

It’s another reminder that the internet is full of silos. Twitter has remained stable over the last few years in terms of participation: about 20 percent of Americans use the service regularly. Romance Twitter and online Romanceland more generally do not represent the full range of who is buying and reading romance novels.


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Return of the links

I beefed up my RSS feeds to make up for going on Twitter hiatus, and luckily for me several of my subscriptions link me to interesting stuff.

The Awl has a terrific piece on time travel movies and books and how they are grounded in (mostly unacknowledged) white privilege:

Whether it’s Marty McFly in 1950s Hill Valley or Jake Epping in segregated Texas, the entire genre of American time-travel fantasy, with its chaos theory nerdery, butterfly-effect affectations, and desire to reshape the present, is irrevocably linked to the very real idea of white privilege. No narrative of time-travel makes this case more powerfully than Octavia Butler’s masterpiece “Kindred,” which both deconstructed and revolutionized the genre by using time travel to explore the experience of slavery and its lingering effects on the present.

Unlike Back to the Future and “11.22.63,” there is no clear mission to speak of in “Kindred,” at least not one that Dana, the black writer at the center of the novel, is aware of. The circumstances for her time travel are ambiguous and entropic and, for a while, aimless. No rabbit holes. No flux capacitors. The time travel just occurs, suddenly, to Dana, and soon, to her white husband. Butler’s point is not that we are better and more self-aware than the backwards people of the past, nor is it that the past only fills rooms with roaches and erases photographs of family members. Rather, it’s that the past can weigh on the present in devastating ways. “Kindred” reminds us that, for some protagonists, traveling back in time is the opposite of escapist fantasy. The past is alive, says “Kindred.” The past is us.

Next up, the wonderful, inimitable, invaluable Laurie Anderson in a wide-ranging interview at The Atlantic. She talks about politics, blockbuster Broadway musicals, and concerts for dogs (OMG she doesn’t love Hamilton! and is brilliant on Trump):

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ReaderWriterLinks

The semester is over, spring is sliding toward summer, and I’m trying to get organized to make the best use of my non-teaching months. So far I’ve read two books this week. That’s productive, right? Meanwhile, have a hodgepodge of links.

First, Twitter had a disappointing earnings report a few days ago, which led to a number of posts on what its weaknesses are and how it could recover from them. This piece by John Hermann makes the point that since every website wants you to stay within its confines rather than surf away and spend your time elsewhere, Twitter is becoming more inward looking. It’s an understandable process for a public company but it feels antithetical to what made Twitter so appealing in the first place:

In 2013, a month before going public, Twitter starting putting images in its feeds. It added “fav” and “retweet” buttons to the main flow. The effect was Facebook-like. The feed felt more substantial, and less dependent on the things it linked to. It was no longer a scroll of jokes and comments and headlines; it was a scroll of jokes and comments and headlines and photos and videos and chunks of articles. People had a few more reasons to stay in the feed, and fewer to leave.

The path Twitter chose then is the one it still seems to be on; each change since then—most recently, Twitter added the ability to embed tweets within tweets—has emphasized Twitter’s own feed over the things it references. For years, Twitter was largely and stubbornly centered around links, contributing to the web and providing and layer through which to interpret it; now, it is withdrawing into itself.

The new media news is also full of how companies are trying to adapt to Facebook’s push to keep content siloed within Facebook, so while I’m still horrified at the idea that Facebook should buy Twitter, I can see how the financial logic makes that idea attractive.

Next, an interesting piece from the always insightful Christopher Fowler’s blog on how blog tours are appealing from an author’s perspective. Fowler is a successful, veteran mystery and horror author who has managed to stay viable in the face of massive upheavals in the publishing industry. He makes a great point about how traditional publicity has changed and how blogs can be an improvement:

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