Godsey’s Ravings


Winter 2002 (Vol. III, No. 4) Table of Contents

I have been taking a look lately at how books & booksellers are portrayed in the pop culture….and it ain’t pretty folks. If you were to pick up a remote today, you would find that only two prime time shows display the reading of books as an important part of their everyday routine: West Wing and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, [ain’t that a kick in the head?] and the only one presently portraying anyone reading for pleasure is Gilmore Girls. Oh sure, you may see a kid doing their homework on TV…but it’s always math and they are always the ‘nerdy’ kid.

Aside from Cspan’s BookTV [http://www.booktv.org/] which is about as fascinating as a college lecture, the other only non-fiction shows I could find that promote reading are either for the pb&j crowd like Reading Rainbow and Sesame Street or infotainment that blatantly cross merchandises to the mesmerized masses whatever nonsense novel Bertelsmann has bought the rights to today.

On US TV ‘Ellen’ had depicted a ‘bookseller’ in it’s natural element, but it was quite unlike any real bookstore anywhere on the planet as it didn’t actually ‘sell’ anything and no one was ever seen reading anything. BBC-4 has Black’s Books [http://www.channel4.com/entertainment/tv/microsites/B/blackbooks/index.html], featuring a foul tempered, eccentric and drink-fuelled proprietor of a grubby bookshop; apparently the British are much more familiar with the realities of bookselling. [btw if anyone has this on tape in the U.S., I will bear your children to see it]

On the big screen we are having a small resurgence of visualized reading material, technology finally catching up with fantasy enabled Lord of the Rings to recruit new followers and the 2 hour commercial for Harry P. merchandise left nothing to the imagination, however neither portray people actually reading…well except for Hermione.

In the 1930’s booksellers were always popping up on the big screen, usually in B movie mysteries, They weren’t actually selling books though, it just seems like writers used it as an indicator that the character was better educated than the average jamoke. The 1939 version of Fast & The Furious had rare book dealers sleuthing a murder, ………………………. sorry, I just flashed on Vin Diesel playing with books, but I’m back now. My personal favorite is the Big Sleep, with not one but two bookstores: one run by a pornographer and one by a lucky clerk who gets to spend a rainy afternoon drinking with Marlow.

Lately you have to look fast to find a book professional on the big screen, You’ve Got Mail was sweet but incredibly ludicrous; if a guy from a megastore killed my independent bookshop I’d kick his ass. Also not-at-all-like-reality, I’m sure Notting Hill was just some bored clerks wet dream, please note that that store owner would have had to put in 80 hours a week just to keep the doors open. And will someone please bring me the head of Roman Polanski? How can you make such a silly movie from such a fine book? Dumas Club was smart & textured, Ninth Gate was just insipid & hokey. [that didn’t stop me from buying it though…hey, it has Johhny Depp as a bookseller, okay?]

Jasper Fforde’s literary fantasy novels [http://jasperfforde.com/] where people both real & fictional pop in & out of books all the time harked back to all those Merry Melody cartoons I saw as a kid. With all the television I consumed as a child, I can’t imagine why I became a bookseller. No doubt I have spent more hours watching flickering images than creating my own inside my head. But my first collected books were those that had already been regurgitated by Hollywood. Perhaps I had tasted their product and found it lacking and gone in search of more filling material? Beats me. But every time I hear a character on West Wing quote verbatim something they had apparently read years earlier in college, I feel excluded; as if I am missing out on half the conversation. I get the urge to pick up a book I should have read and catch up with top percentile, then I turn the TV back on and the urge goes away.

Joyce Godsey
(Publisher of SIC MAGAZINE)

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