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Print Culture

reference to not reverence for The Literary

One of those read-it-fast-and-set-it-aside-for-later pieces. Sebastian Mary at if:book gives a useful OV of the present state of the Web in literary (and Literary) publishing: friday musings on the literary. The Web is a cultural space where the high and low, working out their relative positions, bring the ideology of The Literary to the fore.

Mary traces a complex discussion, starting with Stephan Page at the Guardian on the ebook (“serious literature can still thrive thanks to the internet” – and can you get more patronizing?), through the literary ideology – “inseparable from print” –

People use the Web to share work, peer-review their writing, promote activities, sell books and find others with the same interests. But this activity happens almost always with reference to the ideology of the literary – in particular, to the aspirational associations of broadcast-only, hard-copy-printed, selected-and-paid-for-and-edited-by-someone-else-and-hopefully-bought-and-read-by-the-public publication. For those submitting to such magazines, the hope is that they will move up the literary food chain, get published in better known journals, and perhaps – the holy grail – finally after decades of grim and impecunious slogging, be anthologized by Faber.

to promotion of the literary (possibly a lost cause), to authors seeking feedback and validation, and publishers trying to Build Community, culminating in an all or nothing a careful dance:

Finding new writers; building a community to peer-review drafts; promoting work; pushing out content to draw people back to a publisher’s site to buy books. All these make sense, and present huge opportunities for savvy players. But […] to attempt to transplant the ideology of the literary onto the Web will fail unless it is done with reference to the print culture that produced it. Otherwise the work will, by literary standards, be judged second-rate, while by geek standards it’ll seem top-down, limited and static. Or just boring.

Read that closely: reference to print culture not reverence for.