The Surreal Writer

Who reads books these days? We’ve been joking around about it for years now… the demise of the written word. At first the thought was that people would stop reading because of films and television, but with the Internet there is an entirely different concern. Now, we know people are reading, but we aren’t sure that the attention span is enough to hold everyone’s attention when we are used to reading Facebook status updates, Blogs and Tweets. Who has the time or energy to slog through 400 pages of novel? I mean, really…

I think this concern is best described by the video “read a book” – I don’t feel like re-categorizing my blog’s content rating right now so here’s the clean version:

So to quote the song, “Not a sports page, not a magazine, but a book [bleep], a [bleeping] book.” I’m pretty sure it’s funnier without being censored, but you get the picture: Beyond this there is the question of who reads books for entertainment?

When I mention being an author of horror fiction, I will get the set who says they do not read, and there will also be a set who begins to discuss Sun Tzu’s Art of War or even Tony Robbin’s self-help books and let me know that they do not read for entertainment. Some of them read heavy and dusty tomes regarding the law, business, science, or whatever field they happen to be in, but reading is for work, study, or self-improvement, and most certainly not for entertainment.

That’s a thousand times better than bragging about not reading at all – but there’s often an insinuation there (and by certain people who only read “the classics”) that people like me are writing trash and garbage. A long time friend of mine recently told me that she stopped dating a man for many reasons one of them being, “the only books on his bookshelf were like, Stephen King and Dean Koontz.” I blinked a few times and said, “You know, I write books like that.”

Sumiko Saulson holding a copy of her book Solitude

Sumiko Saulson holding a copy of her book Solitude, which may or may not be intellectually compelling.

So there is a thought that this kind of writing may be too plebeian. That is not a new thought: H.P. Lovecraft in his lifetime was a writer of low-brow pulp fiction for the plebes. The writing probably is plebeian – I’m probably part of the literary equivalent of the SyFy channel. I may never make a broad, sweeping political indictment of society and its war on women like Margaret Atwood did with “A Handmaid’s Tale,” and I may never evoke the controversy that Alice Walker did with compelling portrayals of violence against black women from within and without our community in “The Color Purple.” I am a woman of color in a genre where women of color rarely write, but I may never be much noticed, and for that reason alone, I might never shock anyone the way Emily Bronte did with her brutal portrayals of male female relationships in “Wuthering Heights.”

But I still have to answer a question: Who is my audience? Who really reads this stuff?

Lately, Young Adult Fiction is coming up, and I don’t write Young Adult Fiction – certainly, “Solitude” would never in 100 years pass as such as far as I can tell, although you never know. J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” became known as Young Adult Fiction, but it wasn’t written as that. However, my books embrace a lot of adult themes (even without adult sexuality) and they are violent and with foul language, so I guess I see them as firmly adult.

I would go on but I need to get to my day job.

Here is a nice link to some statistics I never got around to studying and blogging about.

~ by Sumiko Saulson on April 2, 2012.

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