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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Presque vu IV

Debi Alper mentioned the discovery of the Public Libraries on the Web site on her blog. It appears to list the majority of public libraries in the UK, together with their on-line catalogues. You can check how many copies of each book they have in stock, where it is located and how many are out on loan. Useful info for writers and readers alike.


Scott Stein has a piece entitled What’s So Funny? He says:

In the fall I’ll be teaching a new course I’m creating for the University of Pennsylvania called “What’s So Funny?” It’s a critical writing course that focuses on understanding humorous writing. Students will be reading essays, articles, reviews, plays, stories, maybe a couple of novels, Internet sites, whatever else I can find, and then discussing the use of humor and writing papers analyzing the whole thing. Maybe we’ll also view a couple of good standup routines or sitcoms. Toward the end of the semester I might give students a chance to do a little creative writing and construct their own short humor pieces.

I mention all of this because I am working on the What’s So Funny? syllabus and wouldn’t mind help from millions of strangers.
I would welcome suggestions about what to include on the reading list. Feel free to comment on this blog entry with as many suggestions as you have of funny poems, stories, novels, sites, essays or essay collections, anything that might fit what I describe above. Any kind of humor could work for the course, from the most sophisticated, meaningful satire to the silliest just-for-laughs comedy sketch. No choice is too obvious.


Jeff Jarvis’s blog, The Book is Dead. Long Live the Book, argues that print is where words go to die.

We need to get over the book. And then we can reinvent it. That is true of newspapers. It’s true of book publishing as well. The knowledge that is there is, of course, invaluable. That is why we need to find new ways to gather and share and improve and preserve it.


He cites a piece by Andrew Brown at Comment is Free, which uses authors like Dan Brown, Dennis Wheatley, and Robert Ludlum to bolster his belief that bad books sell better than good ones because so many people are semi-literate.


And while we’re dealing with statistics, according to Mike Stotter at Shots, in 2004, Nielsen Bookscan tracked sales of 1.2 million books in the US.
Of those 1.2 million, 950,000 sold fewer than 99 (yes, ninety-nine) copies each.
Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies.
Only 25,000 books sold more than 5,000 copies.
Fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000 copies.
Only 10 books sold more than a million copies each.
And the average book in the US sells 500 copies.

3 Responses to “Presque vu IV”

  1. the narrator says:

    As a “dyslexic writer” – one who had read zero books (outside of picture books) before age, hmmm, 22? 23? And still has “read” 90% of what I have “read” by listening (either audiobook or via computer reader), I think about the form of “the book” a great deal. And as a writer who refuses to worry about length (too short? too long?) I wonder about why we would need to keep static definitions like “novel” and “novella” and “short story.” I am not suggesting that the bound print-on-paper containing the 300-400 page novel was not a brilliant solution for the last 250 years, but technologies are different, people’s time use is different, perhaps we even have different stories to tell – so, perhaps different forms of storytelling need to break free. Back to the troubadors or senachai? Perhaps, though maybe thoroughly digital…

    jb says: I can’t imagine it yet, but I can feel it hovering there, just out of reach . . .

  2. Stephanie says:

    I just read an article yesterday about kids graduating for high school not ready for college. The statistics were depressing. And these are kids who were A students. The school system in the US is doing us a great disservice and Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” only teaches to the test. I feel so old.

  3. I like books and don’t think I will get over them. They are personal, intimate,and never crash. I have had MP3 players, computers, and the like perish quickly, but a good book sits and waits. Also, the sound of a page being turned is like heaven on earth.

    jb says: I hope I don’t get over books, either. But they don’t always sit and wait, do they? Sometimes they come looking for me and no matter what evasive tactics I employ they don’t give up. A good book will nag away, sometimes for months, even years, until I’m, eventually, forced to pick it up and take it into a quiet corner.