readers vote with their feet

I have mentioned Teresa Nielsen Hayden before. She’s one of those very practical, down to earth writers who can really tell a story and talk about how to tell stories, and I like the way she does those things. So it’s no surprise that she has managed to articulate something that has escaped me for a while. You know how the lit-criterati get on my nerves with their whining about the decline of (what they like to call) serious reading? TNH looks at one such example of extended whining about the closing of an independent book store in Boston and comments thus:

It’s such a fine and mournful and elevated sentiment—Emmeline Grangerford herself couldn’t have done no better—that you almost don’t want to tell him that by our best calculations, using every scrap of reliable data we can lay hands on, at this very moment more people are reading more books, reading a greater variety of books, continuing to read them later in life, et cetera and so forth, than ever before in the history of civilization.

This was the piece I wasn’t articulating. People are reading, and reading a lot. So when the lit-criterati ask what’s happened to the relevance of the serious novel, and how can we restore it? what they want to know is, why their own books are under appreciated. The problem couldn’t be the book or the writer, of course; it must be the readers.