Bring on the Books for Everybody

How Literary Culture Became Popular Culture

Bring on the Books for Everybody
Book Pages: 300 Illustrations: 28 illustrations Published: June 2010

Author: Jim Collins

Subjects
Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Media Studies > Film

Bring on the Books for Everybody is an engaging assessment of the robust popular literary culture that has developed in the United States during the past two decades. Jim Collins describes how a once solitary and print-based experience has become an exuberantly social activity, enjoyed as much on the screen as on the page. Fueled by Oprah’s Book Club, Miramax film adaptations, superstore bookshops, and new technologies such as the Kindle digital reader, literary fiction has been transformed into best-selling, high-concept entertainment. Collins highlights the infrastructural and cultural changes that have given rise to a flourishing reading public at a time when the future of the book has been called into question. Book reading, he claims, has not become obsolete; it has become integrated into popular visual media.

Collins explores how digital technologies and the convergence of literary, visual, and consumer cultures have changed what counts as a “literary experience” in phenomena ranging from lush film adaptations such as The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love to the customer communities at Amazon. Central to Collins’s analysis and, he argues, to contemporary literary culture, is the notion that refined taste is now easily acquired; it is just a matter of knowing where to access it and whose advice to trust. Using recent novels, he shows that the redefined literary landscape has affected not just how books are being read, but also what sort of novels are being written for these passionate readers. Collins connects literary bestsellers from The Jane Austen Book Club and Literacy and Longing in L.A. to Saturday and The Line of Beauty, highlighting their depictions of fictional worlds filled with avid readers and their equations of reading with cultivated consumer taste.

Praise

Bring on the Books for Everybody is a lively and entertaining assault on some widely held shibboleths about popular culture. . . . It is salutary to read a work that takes the ordinary reader seriously while engaging in literary criticism.” — Andrew Hadfield, Times Literary Supplement

“[A] lively study that moves from strip mall to television to the multiplex to virtual reading communities. . . .” — Nina C. Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education

“[A] smart and funny look at this marriage of the literary and digital cultures—and an easy read. . . .” — Siobhan Neile Welch, Bookslut

“[A]n entertaining, relevant study of how people read good books. . . . Highly recommended.” — T. L. Stowell, Choice

“[A]n extraordinary book about books. . . . [T]his book is full of surprises, from a deft analysis of the true cultural significance of online reader reviews to a fresh look at how an explosion of literary reading has overtaken us from the US to the UK, via Canada, and back again, through the proliferation of book clubs, book superstores, e-retailers, literary festivals, film adaptations etc. Anyone who feels literary culture is threatened by the rise of the digital should read this book; our literary culture is on the cusp of a digital golden age.” — Kate Pullinger, The Globe and Mail

“[T]his is a book about why books matter. It is written in a way that offers a masterclass for researchers in constructing scholarly monographs that are accessible, quirky, different and defiant. To use an Australianism, this book ’issa bloody beaudy.’ Buy it. Borrow it. Download it. Now. It is a book that we will remember where we were when we we first read it. This is a game-changer for popular cultural studies, media studies and the new humanities.” — Tara Brabazon, Times Higher Education Supplement

“Collins is a smart thinker and crisp writer. . . . Collins's analysis of the way literary culture has changed and expanded taught me a lot. . . .” — Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader

“Collins maintains a nicely nuanced and authoritative perspective on his subject, and provides a commentary that offers a model for similar efforts to delineate the symbiotic relationships between traditional and ‘new’ media.” — Craig Hight, Media International Australia

“Collins strikes the right chord between the left-wing catastrophism of the culture industry and the right-wing praise of ‘the people’s preferences.’ He offers an important mapping with great clarity, and many of the questions that he raises deserve a large and critical debate.” — Jan Baetens, Leonardo,

“For those who wonder why they read what they do, for writers who want to know how to cater to an audience, for book marketers who want to know how to reach consumers, for everybody wanting an up-to-date and insightful take on contemporary American culture—bring on this book.”

— Janelle Adsit, ForeWord Reviews

“Impressively, Collins is both exhaustive in his research and evenhanded in his observations of the phenomena and its effect on literature. As a fan of both popular culture and literature, I found Bring on the Books for Everybody as entertaining as it was enlightening.” — Largehearted Boy,

“Resting somewhere between academic treatise and pop culture study, Bring On the Books For Everybody traces the development of literary culture qua popular culture: the increasing visibility of books and reading in mainstream culture, the rise of literary connoisseurship as mass entertainment, and the formation of taste communities of like-minded amateur readers through the proliferation of physical and virtual book groups. As Collins tells it, contrary to the apocalyptic predictions made at universities and schools across the world, literature is far from being an endangered species in our brave new world. Rather, reading and literary culture have moved outside the academy, adapting and strengthening using the developments made possible by digital and visual culture.” — Naomi Milthorpe, M/C Reviews

“The occasionally playful and ironic analysis, interspersed with some revealing reflections on the author’s own practices as a teacher, researcher and reader, makes for a lively and thought-provoking read. . . . As a timely starting point for a conversation about a changing literary landscape and as a challenge to the priorities and assumptions of literary/literacy policy makers . . . this book is a valuable resource.” — David Wright, Cultural Trends

“Though critical at times of “the academy,” Collins comes across as a passionate teacher, often invoking student reactions in his analyses, and the book seems to reflect his commitment to fostering discussion; because it refuses—sometimes frustratingly, other times wisely—to offer a unified argument, Collins’ project stands as an invitation for readers to draw their own conclusions based on a wealth of curated evidence.” — Kathleen Rooney, American Studies

“[A] lively take on the way traditional literary culture has been transmuted into new and sometimes only dimly recognizable forms by the powerful forces of American popular culture. . . . Collins's savvy assessment of these recent developments is informative and entertaining and, in a way that's most welcome, accessible to anyone looking for a foothold as the tectonic plates of our cultural landscape shift.” — Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness


“In this lively, always insightful but never predictable book, Jim Collins claims that literary culture is alive and well today, but that to understand it we must also understand the variety of institutions and technologies that house and drive it, its storage and delivery systems, and its new forms of connoisseurship. He makes us think about what it means to love literature, and how a cultural activity comes to be enjoyed as popular culture.” — Linda Hutcheon, author of A Theory of Adaptation


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jim Collins is Professor of Film and Television, and English at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Architectures of Excess: Cultural Life in the Information Age and Uncommon Cultures: Popular Culture and Post-Modernism; the editor of High-Pop: Making Culture into Popular Entertainment; and a co-editor of Film Theory Goes to the Movies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Digital Books, Beach Chairs, and Popular Literary Culture 1

Part I. The New Infrastructure of Reading: Sites, Delivery Systems, Authorities

1. The End of Civilization (or at Least Civilized Reading) as You Know It: Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and Self-Cultivation 39

2. Book Clubs, Book Lust, and National Librarians: Literary Connoisseurship as Popular Entertainment 80

Part II. The Literary Experience in Visual Cultures

3. The Movie Was Better: The Rise of the Cine-Literary 117

4. "Miramaxing": Beyond Mere Adaptation 141

Part III. Popular Literary Fiction

5. Sex and the Post-Literary City 183

6. The Devoutly Literary Bestseller 221

Bibliography 267

Index 271
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4606-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4588-6
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