OK. I’ve been in London less than 72 hours and I can already see how much more literate this country is than the United States.
I don’t mean literate in the sense that every person on the street is carrying around a copy of Salman Rushdie's new book.
I mean literate in the sense that book news is everywhere, on a par with the amount of movie news in the United States.
The Sunday Times culture section is a mini-magazine. This week it had a two-page spread on the “Richard and Judy” Summer Picks, which number 8 books. (more on them later)
The section also had 12 major reviews of hardbacks, 12 mini reviews of paperbacks or audio books, and one feature on what it was like to be selected as one of Richard and Judy’s picks. Gosh, on a good day the Sunday Chronicle Book Section has review of 5 books.
This must mean that people are reading. And consider books to be worthy cocktail party conversation. Otherwise, why would London papers waste the ink`?
Speaking of newspapers, the scene here reminds me of the good old days of American journalism. When you go to a newsstand, there are five or six daily papers to choose from. Granted, London has a population of 7 million, so a lot of views are needed, but still, there’s no monopoly here.
I have been reading about Richard and Judy in literary blogs for years but I never had any idea who they were or why they were so influential.
They have a daily talk show, sort of like Regis and Kelley Ripa. One incredible difference is that the Brits don’t seem to emphasize looks over talent. Judy must be in her 50s with plenty of laugh lines and flesh, yet she is incredibly popular. She would never make an appearance on American television.
Richard and Judy are like Oprah’s Book Club, only on a larger scale. They have selected a bevy of books for this summer, but there is no secrecy. They announced the selection a few days ago and will discuss the books on the air in the next 8 weeks.
I have never heard of any of the books. Rebecca Miller, the director and the daughter of Arthur Miller and the wife of Daniel Day-Lewis and the author of Personal Velocity, has a book on the list called The Secret Life of Pippa Lee. The others are all British authors I have never heard of. Oh, goody. Isn’t that the fun of traveling?