Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wall Street J.

I picked up a newspaper on the way home. I see one section starts with a half page splash saying "A Book Lover's Summer" and a picture of a woman on a hammock. The review section itself is only one page. Are these things shrinking (well of course, they are--the real question is: why?).
This 'summer reading' page starts with the line "If we ever needed a healthy does of escapism, this sure is it." But what, exactly, is the Wall street Journal's idea of escapist reading....

* Non-fiction, 5 reviews (escape from reality with... books about reality?)
* Literary fiction, 4 reviews (escape from reality with tales of pathos, ambiguity and suffering?)
* Murder/thriller/crime, 3 reviews (okay, fictional death and mayhem is some people's idea of escapism)
* Followed by cross-genre, horror and saga with a review each.

Here are some snippets from the reviews of three of the fiction books....

* "the melancholy of a man looking ahead to his own death..."
* "...a park avenue matron mourns the death of her soldier son..."
* "His beloved older brother committed suicide at the age of 13..."

In short: escapism, you're doing it wrong. Is one to assume that....

1) ...present company excepted, romance and erotica reader do not read the Wall Street Journal of represent less than 6% of the escapist book readership so as not to show up in a selection of 15 books,
or 2) those readers who do enjoyed romance and/or erotica should be ashamed and not expect a great newspaper to sully it's pages with such trash (although books about people being killed by "rats with knife-edged arms" is fine).

But as to that who "why are the newspaper book review pages shrinking thing; I have a theory about that....


Zot said...

Well, you've got to take into account that it's the Wall Street Journal. They're a business paper with a few frills that are mostly there to cater to the sense of entitlement that most of its readership has. They're not, in any way, a general-purpose paper and don't normally make much of a pretense of that.

It's best to approach their book reviews the same way as you might approach reviews from, say, the late, lamented Weekly World News. (Though perhaps a bit more pretentious and a touch less amusing)

Anonymous said...

Wall Street Journal probably has a mostly male audience (I've picked it up upon occasion and did find some insightful reading, but it wouldn't be my go-to choice for news).

The non-fiction you think isn't escaping reality? Well, a lot of guys LOVE non-fiction. Whether it be computer manuals or biographies or history texts. We might not see that as escapist, but plenty of people do.

I will go with the idea that they know most of their readers are not women, so why waste a mere page of talk on books with romances?

veinglory said...

I read the Wall street J. regularly and I suspect their female readership is above the 6% mark I mentioned. I think they may be stereotyping their audience. Also, reading a book focussed on the extreme suffering caused by Stalin's regime may be many things, but could it be called "escapist"?