Literature 2.0

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The best reading experience is to occupy your time with the worthy dead rather than the ambitious living.

Steve Wasserman

Chris’s Billboard

On the brink of Harry Potter launch weekend Number 6, you and the kids have your camp chairs ready for the bookstore line. And still we’re all supposed to be worried silly that since the dawn of the Internet, serious reading is “at risk??? and books are as good as over. Fewer than half of us engage in what’s called “literary reading,??? which is reported down 10 percent since the 1980s. Yet literary writing is up 30 percent, probably a lot of it on Internet websites, which suggests another picture entirely. What if we’re in the most promising climate for real reading, writing and talking about literature since Samuel Johnson’s London of almost 300 years ago: the links, then and now, being the coffeehouse fashion, amateur publishing (in our blogosphere today) and articulate ranks of readers, with lit-blogs now, keeping the whole game a democracy. On Open Source: your reading, your writing in a digital age.

Kevin Smokler

Author of Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times. Thinks, writes, and speaks on the role of technology in literary life. You can find him online here.

[by ISDN from Portland, OR]

From Katherine’s pre-interview notes

The web makes it easier for readers and books to find each other. Publishers are catching on to the idea of reaching the younger generation in the way they communicate (i.e., online). Literary bloggers are finding niches and reviewing books that the New York Times and other papers don’t cover. The web decreases the distance between writers (who increasingly have their own sites) and readers and allows a fan culture that didn’t exist previously in literature.

Mark Sarvas

Litblogger (The Elegant Variation), novelist, and screenwriter. Started The Litblog Coop.

[by phone from Los Angeles, CA]

From Katherine’s pre-interview notes

The internet isn’t going to make books obsolete. What it gives you that’s new is a focal point where people — sitting alone reading — can gather. He’s found that this community is hungry for literary information and connection. Litblogs can be more approachable than, say, the New York Times Book Review. What brings people to a blog is the blogger’s voice/style. Mark writes quite differently on his blog from the way he does in his novels.

Steve Wasserman

Until May 2005 the editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Literary agent at Kneerim & Williams.

[by phone from Los Angeles, CA]

From Katherine’s pre-interview notes

Despite last year’s NEA study that bemoaned the decline in literary reading in America, books aren’t going to go the way of the dinosaur any time soon. Serious reading has probably always been a minority taste here. And this is an exciting moment in American fiction, with lots of interesting new authors. Although the web is perfect for those who master the short, declarative sentence, there’s no evidence that it reduces our patience for the longer-form rumination in books. Bloggers will be judged like print writers — those who have accuracy and arguments that are sustainable over time will survive.

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