So the other day I was surprised to see an interview with one of my favorite “writing teacher” writers in a bookish newsletter I get. I don’t want to say who she is, because I’m weird like that. But after reading the interview, I’m really soured on her, in a really disappointing way.
When I was in college, I stumbled across one of her books during my library job. I took it on a week’s vacation with me to the family cabin, and the writing exercises and advice in the book seemed simultaneously profound and practical. I was so moved by the book, that I bought my own copy and then her next two books.
The whole interview made me a little edgy somehow, but then the part that really got to me was when asked what writing books she likes to read, she said she doesn’t read writing books, she reads “literature.” That those writers are her writing teachers. Am I wrong, or is that really snooty. Like, “All y’all need to read my writing books, but I read literature.” I mean, if you expect people to read your writing books, shouldn’t you at least throw a bone to the people who write books like yours and cite some good ones?
Ah well, another “hero” down the drain.
The Huffington Post recently had an article on “A Brief History of Book Vending Machines.” I’m not really sure what I think of this.
Part of it really doesn’t make sense to me. In an airport or other places, I’d hate to see this usurp the books in convenience stores and newsstands. But in a subway or some place where there is no kiosk or storefront, great. What if I was stuck somewhere for a long time with (impossibly) no reading material with me—I might be desperate enough to download a John Grisham paperback. But then again, so many people have mobile devices now, they’re more likely to download a book than buy one with a click than process it through a physical machine. Me included.
But the other part of me loves it, and it’s all because of the vending machine itself. You say vending machine and I think of the old-school cigarette machine at the bowling alley where my aunt worked when I was a little kid. So I immediately think it’s charming. I’m charmed. This means I’d probably buy a book just to use it. For the novelty.
I think this quote sums it up:
Although vending machines have long been considered acceptable for newspapers, they’ve never really caught on where books are concerned. Books aren’t disposable items like cigarettes or candy. As a result, there’s something counter-intuitive about buying a book from a device that dispenses soda pop. Bestselling titles may help to diminish this disconnect, but do little to improve reading’s perceived intellectual value.
The hotel I stay at, connected to the convention center, for an annual trade show has a vending machine that dispenses the miscellaneous things a business traveler might have left at home: batteries, cables, etc. We always laugh at the iPod in the machine, just waiting for someone to vend a $400 product.
The Rumpus has a recurring review “column” I love called The Last Book I Loved. Recently they posted The Last Book I Loved: House of Leaves. As this piece describes, I did find Mark Z. Danielewski’s book to be such a chore to read. I loved it. It is my kind of book: things are not what they seem … and in a very surreal way to boot. But I felt like I was working my way through it. I’m surprised that I didn’t make the connection that the process of reading the book is very much like working through a maze. I also took the cover design to be just a nice design touch; I totally missed its connection to the structure of the house. These make me love the book even more.