Of those who buy novels, slightly fewer than 20 per cent are men, according to Professor David Booth at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.
This tallies with the figures for the United States. According to the marketing research firm IPSOS-Insight, men constituted only 17.1 per cent of the market for adult fiction trade books. And the number is going down. In 1997 the figure was 19.3 per cent.
"Boys stop reading fiction at the age of 12 or 13," Booth comments. "If they read a novel after that, it's because they've been told to in school."
The author believes there to be a gender distinction in the subject matter covered by male and female audiences. Is this true? I'm not sure. Probably, as with most things, the answer is "sometimes yes, sometimes no."
"At least" the author says "We're not in Japan, where all that men read, apparently, are "graphic novels," a.k.a. comic books."
I haven't read any Japanese graphic novels but I've read enough English ones to know that "a.k.a comic books" is not a fair statement. And I also think it is wrong to view them as lesser in quality to prose books. Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, for instance, is far superior to many novels I have read. It irritates me to read this kind of dismission of an entire genre when I suspect that the journalist has no real knowledge of the field. And however pretentious the term "graphic novel" may sound I think it is a necessary one to make the distinction between the work of people like Spiegleman and Ware and the crash and blam comics of youth.
Is it possible to like reading and like the Internet too? I was thinking about this on the tram last night, clutching Jonathan Franzen's collection of essays How to Be Alone and staring out the window. I often do this- hold a book in my hand but stare out the window for most of the journey. It is somehow just comforting to know that I have the book there just in case.
I am half way through Franzen's often-quoted essay "Why Bother?" in which he discusses the plight of the novel and the hardships and isolation of the novel writer, and his own deep depression while writing his third novel. Franzen speaks with Shirley Brice Heath- a linguistic anthropologist about how and why people become readers. There are the "heavily modelled" types, who have been shaped into readers by parents who believe it is good for them. This alone is not enough to make the habit stick, however- young readers need to find others like them who share their interest. She says:
"A child who's got the habit will start reading under the covers with a flashlight... If the parents are smart, they'll forbit the child to do this and thereby encourage her."
But there is another type of reader, according to Heath- the social isolate:
"...the child who from a very early age felt very different from everyone around him...What happens is you take that sense of being different into an imaginary world. But that world, then, is a world you can't share with the people around you- because it's imaginary. And so the important dialogue in your life is with the authors of the books you read. Though they aren't present, they become your community."
It is the social-isolate type of reader, according to Heath, that is most likely to become writers.
If writing was the medium of communication within the community of childhood, it makes sense that when writers grow up they continue to find writing vital to their sense of connectedness.
This all makes sense to me- the isolated child finds a sense of belonging and community within fiction. They feel comfortable communicating this way and grows into a desire to write as an adult. However, a few pages on Franzen again quotes Heath talking about the way that reading can give the reader a sense that they are gaining something substantive:
'Substance' is more than 'this weighty book.' Reading that book gives me substance." This substance, Heath adds, is most often transmitted verbally, and is felt to have permanence."Which is why," she said, "computers don't do it for readers."
Now, perhaps Heath means that readers don't like reading on computers, and this is probably fair enough. But to make such a blanket statement as "readers don't like computers" seems absurd to me. I suppose I have the advantage of knowing dozens of excellent websites written by people who clearly love to read- novels, newspapers, journals, non-fiction, whatever and who I suspect don't see why computers and print have to be continually held up as being in competition with each other. Apparently the habit of reading is dwindling and presumably this means that the habit of writing is also of the wane. But I don't think that this is because of computers. I rather imagine that the people who write weblogs (well, the ones I read) are part of the group who still buy and read books regularly. They clearly see writing as important to their sense of self. After all, why else would you bother setting yourself the task of daily, unpaid publishing?
MA / comic / animation
When I am King Sensei has been telling me for months to have a look at demian.5. I finally got around to it a week ago. It's a serialised comic and it's very, very good. How can you not love a story where a camel suffers unrequited love for a king? There is also a FAQ section where he explains, among other things, that the reason why the animated episodes don't happen until later is because he "discovered the possibilities of the web as [he] went along."
The artist uses the sideways scroll very effectively, but also breaks the format with the occasional downwards scroll. Most episodes appear in the top frame, but then one will suddenly appear in the bottom frame. I like this approach immensely- it stops it from being too rigid and formulaic and shows that the artist is playing with the medium and not letting himself be too restricted by it.
1. make some headway with the pile of reading that is perilously balanced on my desk (especially You've Got Blog and Pause & Effect)
2. track down the latest edition of Bolter's Writing Space 3. go and talk to JJ about getting room on the RMIT server
4. think further about ways of incorporating anims into the GG strip (looking at the later demain5 strip as a model)
5. make a list of possible topics for GG and the Ant to discuss
6. start the weekly writing exercises
7. set up the writing exercise blog that *tu and I discussed on the weekend
8. add some "contemplative" panels to the GG library
9. finish the polaroid story
10. borrow digital camera and take some ref shots
11. some 1 minutes anims (even just one would be nice)
This is the thing. Each gate on the farm has a different lock. Each paddock has at least one gate, more often two or even four. You can never tell which lock you are going to encounter when you reach the gate and so you must prepare yourself for each and every possibility. Sometimes it is the type that has one flat edge on an otherwise circular prong. You fasten the gate by slipping a disk over it. The disk also has one flat edge. This is the lock that seems the easiest, but sometimes the chain seems too short and you can't seem to make the disk slip over the top. Precious moments are lost while you struggle to stretch it, while the others wait, silently critiquing your technique.
Another lock has an air of the makeshift about it- a chain with a hook of wire at the end, fashioned with a pair of pliers, no doubt. This is simple to fasten- if the chain does not seem long enough, at least you have a small amount of give in the hook. But it does not give the same satisfaction of a well-closed gate, and you may well find yourself jangling at it, just to make sure it won't swing open. You do not want to be the one who lets the sheep loose, you city-girl you.
The best lock of all is also the rarest- a metal prong with a small loop attached that you have to flick up with your thumb before sliding it over the other part of the gate. You like this one because of the way it uses your thumb and forefinger. You look superciliously at the sheep and think "You'd never be able to do this one, with your absence of a thumb." The sheep do not really seem to care, but you suspect that they are pretending.
(Later, you have a conversation with some friends about all the things animals who have no thumbs cannot do. The list is extensive, but includes:
1. cannot hitch-hike
2. cannot do imitations of "The Fonz"
3. cannot determine the fate of Roman gladiators
4. cannot indicate, via sign language, that everything is fine)
Sometimes, the gates are padlocked and no amount of fiddling will open them.
But this doesn't happen very often.
Fine - nothing new; people have been going on about Web narrative since 1994 - but the difference between the single long linear line of a novel and the Web is that we can have parallel lines; we can have layered narratives. Up a layer, we may see a map of the larger world in which our characters interact, a careful accounting of all their purchases, which can be tagged into the text, their bank accounts. This is our SimCity world, our SimCulture space. It both informs and is informed by the personal narrative; it can free the author but also show him or her the limits of their simulation, the boundaries of action for their characters.
Ford is imagining a sort of web version of a "soap opera" or a Serial- both modes are well suited to the frequently updated nature of the weblog.
One thing that Web narratives ... might allow us to do is split out a specific narrative functions across forms - that is, at one layer of the narrative a core of characters might interact in a fictional space
The notion of "layers" makes me think, in a simplistic way, of the relationship between the blog and the comments function. I'd like to construct a fictious weblog where interaction between the blogger and a commenter drove the narrative but in many ways it sounds like Ford is describing a hypertext narrative, where links can give deeper understandings as to the motivations and histories of the characters and stories.
So, four days off and I feel like I've forgotten how to do this.
It's very quiet in Melbourne today- many people have taken advantage of the Easter / Anzac Day holidays coming so rapidly after each other and done what seems to be referred to as the "3 for 10" deal.
No traffic. No one in the office.
Just me, who has used up all her leave.