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Friday, February 24, 2006

David Kipen

Mark Sarvas has an interesting interview with David Kipen, the former Chronicle book critic who now serves as the director of literature for the National Endowment for the Arts. Kipen says the anti-NEA forces that once ruled Congress have quieted and funding is steady. Kipen just wrote his first book, The Schrieber Theory: A Radical Rewrite of American Film Industry, in which he argues that screenwriters, rather than directors, are the real auteurs of film.

Sarvas, who runs the blog The Elegant Variation, out of Los Angeles, posted the interview at the LitBlog Coop, run by a dozen literary bloggers who banded together to draw attention to under-appreciated books. They run a competition four times a year, with a number of the bloggers selecting books they think deserve more attention. The bloggers read the various books and then vote. The first book selected was Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories. This winter, the book is Garner by Kirsten Allio.

The LBC is an interesting experiment; can a group deliberately set out to improve a book’s sales? The LBC does its best to stir up interest and their activities have helped books rise in the Amazon rankings, but so far there has been no breakout book. It’s clear literary bloggers have limited influence.

Honestly, I haven’t run to the bookstore to pick up any of the books recommended by the LBC. I am sure they are worthy, but I am somewhat suspicious of books selected by committee. I’d rather read a single lit blogger’s recommendation and go and get a book. I’m influenced by the blogger’s personality and often know other books he or she has recommended, so I have a compass to guide me.

1 comment:

ed said...

Frances: I think you misunderstand the concept. The LBC is not "a competition," nor is it a group which "deliberately set[s] out to improve a book's sales." We are not a marketing team. The whole point is to draw awareness to overlooked authors and titles. Indeed, some of the discussions have poked holes in the books presented or challenged the authors. And besides, you have the personality of each blogger who nominated each book. The LBC isn't groupthink. It's a convergance point for many independent voices to talk about literature.