Wednesday, October 13, 2010


What do the Arts mean to you?

Reading this morning's newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen, it strikes me yet again what little value this chain attaches to books. In the Arts & Life section, there was one theatre review, of a revival of Deathtrap in Britain; five stories about singers and groups in the U.S., although the regular short music columns were local; and three major articles about U.S. movie stars...that's it for the Arts.

In the news section, there was a short item about the winner of the Man Booker Prize, Howard Jacobson. Now, it may be newsworthy in itself that this item was in the 'World' section however, it was a basically a listing of authors and titles.

So, what's wrong with this picture? Many would say, nothing. But to me, a profile of the author and excerpt from Jacobson's winning novel would have been more appropriate than the half-page on actress Diane Lane not like being compared to Sandra Bullock.

What is this obsession the media has with movie stars? Often we'll find their photos and stories on the front page, no less. Have you ever seen a front page photo and story about an award-winning author? Please clue me in, if this has happened.

This is not something new, nor an adjunct to our electronics-besotted culture. This glorification has been around for decades. I believe there is as much value in a book as in a movie. That the author who has struggled crafting this work using just the right words has as worthy a job as an actor memorizing someone else's words, although they're putting their emotions and talents into the presentation.

And, don't get me started on mystery or 'genre' fiction. We all know where that places on the media importance grid.

What does this say about our culture? Possibly not as much as the reality TV shows do but, we won't go there. I'm tired of Book Sections being dropped from newspapers, of respected mystery reviewers being delegated to the web thus removing access to those of us who still like holding a newspaper, of consumers paying homage to movie stars and hockey stars but not the stars of the literary (meaning books in general) world.

I doubt this will change. Do you?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase


  1. Well said. Wouldn't it be nice if the Post or the Globe or the Citizen began a feature called "Exciting New Books Canadians Have Written"?

  2. Here, here! And you didn't even mention the Canadian angle - the disparity in government support and regulation between the music/film industry and the literary. CanCon regulations have played a major role in fostering homegrown musical and film/ television talent but no such regulation exists to encourage (let alone oblige) huge bookstores like Chapters to provide extra or premium shelf space to Canadian books. My rant, as I go into Chapters and see wall-to-wall Dan Browns etc.

  3. Love it, Joan!
    You're so right, Barbara. Yet another losing battle in this country!

  4. I asked a former newspaper publisher what was wrong with newspapers and he responded, "The business model is broken. We've lost our way."

    I think it's only a matter of time until all newspapers are out of the paper business.

  5. the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times both feature strong and continuous book reviews and articles about writers, often of international repute - in the NYT, alas, "mystery" is as usual relegated to a special page of new releases (once weekly at least), just like the occasional Sci-Fi page - and yesterday NYT had a wonderful article about both authors and books of recent Man Booker prize

  6. I complained to my daughter that for an arts and culture show Q (on CBC radio) almost never discusses books, particularly Canadian books. My daughter said, "I thought Q was a music show". For them, I guess, arts means music.

  7. Credit where credit is due. I remembered one shining exception: The Next Chapter on CBC radio with Sheilagh Rogers. She talks only about Canadian books. Yes, there is a mystery gheto in that mystery novels are discussed in a group (when I've heard it anyway). But at least they are talking about books and Canadian books.