Tuesday 14 September 2010

Westlake Week Interruptus: Comics Sales Tank/Present Tense Novels Declared Rubbish

We interrupt Westlake Week Mark II to bring you these breaking stories:

In lieu of my late, unlamented Must Be Thursday posts, a story over at ICV2 caught my eye. Their latest sales estimates for American comic books are up... and it ain't pretty viewing. For the first time in a long while, no single title sold anywhere near 100,000 copies, which is pretty tragic. Even ICV2 were driven to mention the impact that the $3.99 price point is having on comics sales. I know I've cut back my comics consumption as a direct result of the price of the things, although that's not the whole story. For a lot of comics fans I think it's a combination of cost, lacklustre material, and simply growing away from superhero comic books (not before time, some might say). My generation of comics readers is slowly drifting away from the hobby... and there aren't enough new comics readers – as in readers of comics periodicals, which are still the backbone of the industry – coming along to replace us.

Another, non-comics story that nabbed my attention was this post on The Guardian's Books Blog, wherein the merits – or otherwise – of present tense novels are discussed. Half of the novels on Booker shortlist this year are apparently written in the present tense, which just sounds really bloody annoying to me. I struggle enough with first-person narration in novels, let alone having to cope with the present tense too. As the post and the links within it point out, present tense narration isn't a new phenomenon, but it does seem to be becoming ever more prevalent. Possibly it's a consequence of magazine articles and interviews being written in the present tense, which is something I gave no thought to when I was writing them myself years ago, but which now seems increasingly weird to me. Because when you stop to think about it, it's a further, unnecessary artifice: why should an interview be written in the present tense, when in fact it's been written after the fact, i.e. transcribed and expanded at a later date from an interview that happened some time ago? And that goes even more so for a novel, where a fiction is being described: what exactly does the added artifice of pretending that the events are happening RIGHT NOW bring to the equation? Apart from annoying me, that is.

So there you go. We now return you to Westlake Week Mark II.

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