In connection with John McFetridge's excellent thread about who is reading our books, it might be interesting that GALLEY CAT today has a short report from a BEA event that involved a publisher-sponsored panel of authors discussing just this sort of thing. I take it from the brief summary that the three authors had little faith in their readership.
One of them stated, "All of us are writing for college-educated middle-aged white women." (A group that is predictably going to die out within the foreseeable future and seems to hang out in libraries anyway). Another complained that her comment about reading Hemingway and Fitzgerald caused a young woman to say, "I haven't read any of those Russian authors." And the third man on the panel enthused that authors were as inspired and brilliant as ever in spite of the declining literacy rates.

Clearly there is a problem. People don't like to read. In my experience as a teacher of literature that usually means they don't understand the vocabulary. It's a problem that writers try to overcome by appealing to the lowest common denominator (the young woman who thinks Hemingway is a Russian). The rationale seems to be: let's get the kids to read. It doesn't really matter about content and style, or anything brainy. If they're reading, that's the main thing.

Mind you, the three authors were literary fiction folk, but apparently even genre has to be dumbed down these day to sell.

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Nobody is trying to "exclude" you or say you're not entitled to your opinion. Of course you are. But it's a fair question, and doesn't deserve a flame. Your words on "most crime fiction" above don't show much pleasure in the genre, American or otherwise, do they?
What I really like about books is that even though "most" don't appeal to me, there are so many that do. Was it Theodore Sturgeon that said 80% of everything is crap? Or really, 80% of everything just isn't for me. With books it may even be that 98% just aren't for me, but the remaining 2% is plenty.

John D is right that "entertainment" books will never be as good as entertainment movies. The only advantage the books have is that there can be so many more of them because they're cheaper to produce. So, if you like big action movies and want more than 10 or 15 a year you can fill them in with books.

But when it comes to deeper stories with more character development and real insight, books have it all over movies and TV. So, sometimes we wish that more books would concentrate on those aspects instead of trying to imitate movies.

But maybe the market for these kinds of books really is small.
I would argue the other way since books are more expensive than movies. You can get a DVD for $19.99 brand new, sometimes less. A new hardcover is about $24.95 and the DVD has more replay value since it is quicker and requires less effort to consume. A book, unless it's really awesome, is read once, or sometimes not even finished if it's no good, and then never used again. So it's no wonder people might be weary of purchasing books.
But books have more options. Hardcover, trade paperback, mass market, e-book. And I get a lot of books form the library. I know some people here have complained about libraries, but I've always liked them. I've taken out so many books in my life that it only seems fair other people should be able to take out mine.

I do buy about one hardcover a month, but I didn't start that until the last couple of years. I've always bought paperbacks, though. I wish they came out at the same time as the hardcover and I think that's coming.

I don't reread many books, but I do reread some passages.
I wonder if there is any information about the amount of patronage of libraries these days. If we had that information it would shed some light on whether or not reading activity has actually declined.
I paid $26 to see Stark Trek on Imax. Great movie but not $26 great.

The price assumes you are buying hardcovers and not paperbacks. Personally, and it may be just me, I rarely buy hardcover.
It's not just you. A book, to me, is the words inside. I like a hardcover book, and have been lucky enough to receive quite a few for review and as gifts. I'll buy one once in a while, if I feel like I'm missing something, as I did for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. (That oughta teach me.) My general thought is, it will be the same book in a year, when it comes out in paperback.
You might think that because you didn't finish the quote. Let me do that for you: "that most crime fiction, at least that I've been exposed to" (Bold added by me)

I'm only talking about my own experiences, which I thought I made clear. You're the one who made it personal by questioning my motive for even being here rather than debating the argument I made, or anyone else's argument for that matter.
John - have you tried non-US crime fiction? I have been enjoying Scandinavian authors eg Asa Larsson, Helene Tursten, Arnaldur Indridason, et al. Then there are Italian authors eg Camilleri and Carofiglio. But there are many, many excellent crime novels being written outside of the US but available there. A good resource for these is Euro Crime run by librarian Karen Meek - There's a database of authors, books and reviews (updated every Sunday with new reviews). I've really enjoyed so many books since digging around in translated fiction.
That's very funny. Sounds a bit like an indictment of all American crime writing. There are, in fact, some outstanding U.S. authors. I just finished a recent novel by Michael Connelly thyat can stand up to anything Swedish or British.

I will confess that I relate to many of the European police procedurals more easily than to a lot of American crime writing, especially the noir and hardboiled and pulp varieties. And I dislike all the cozy stuff, but the Brits have those, too.
Are you "talking" to me? I dont indicte US crime writing, I enjoy lots of it, including Connelly, Crais, Higgins Clark, Coben et al. I was simply suggesting how to broaden horizons, if John doesn't know these authors.
John, I agree with some of what you say -- and by golly, you hit the nail on the head with the comment of going over to the "dark side." (At least with the novel my agent kept sending to the romance publishers, who kept rejecting it because it's an anti-romance.) But on one thing I disagree totally: of all the genre novels, only the mystery/crime novel allows enough scope to develop themes and characters and gives a writer a chance to produce something intelligent.

As for the influence of technology on reading: I would have put the blame on television for young people stopping to take pleasure in books. It may be that the internet poses an even greater threat. Consider texting, for example. Not sure what you mean by "pure entertainment" but assume it's the kind that requires no effort on the part of the recipient. Novels do still require reading and a small amount of thought, even though "show,don't tell" has done away with any involvement of the imagination.


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