Morning Ed: Society {2016.09.06.T}

It seems to me the causality on this may run the other way. But I could be wrong. (Or wrongness might become me.)

I dunno. We may not be China, I don’t think I would bet against American loneliness.

The only posters I had in my dorm were anime scrolls. Compared to many of my peers, there was not a whole lot of sex had underneath them.

Comic books are a business and so it’s not surprising that creators were often screwed in their (often ambiguous) contracts, but it’s interesting how often artists in particular were screwed, sometimes in favor of “writers.”

It’s all fun and games until you get retweeted by a celebrity.

Shannon Chamberlain lost some serious weight, but don’t compliment her on it.

Remember when shopping malls were worth loving and/or hating?

The case against queues.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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126 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Society {2016.09.06.T}

  1. Literary fiction: This has to be Saul bait. Another argument on why readers of literary fiction might be better at recognizing emotions is that people drawn to literary fiction in the first place might already by empathetic because they decided to read fiction that favors character over plot.

    American loneliness: Western society has some features in it that I think are going to prevent Americans or lonely people in other Western countries from going into virtual relationships. The Abrahamic inheritance is still with us and even though most people have sex out of wedlock, there is still an idea that a sexual relationship needs to be with a person you have some sort of personal connection to even if you just met at a bar. On a more secular level, Western society is much more unforgiving of people who try to escape their loneliness through means other than plunging in and trying to get into a relationship than Chinese or Japanese society seems to be. Basically the puritanical and libertine aspects of Western society are going to work against this sort of thing.

    College sex: You might have been an early millennial pioneer according to studies about young people and sex. There seems to be less of it. I actually really wonder how common is casual sex and hook up culture. It always seemed to me, at least when it came to heterosexual sex, that a relatively small amount of people were having the lion’s share of casual sex. Most people aren’t going to have the where with all to do what it takes to get casual sex.

    Comic book artists being screwed: There is nothing new under the sun.

    Shopping malls: Even the really luxurious and higher end shopping malls seems to lack the aesthetics of the old department stores. Department store owners put a lot more emphasis on making sure that their stores were beautiful to look at on the outside and inside in many cases. There is no shopping mall that I know of with a gorgeous stained glass celling in the center.

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    • What struck me about the literary fiction bit is how they determine who reads the stuff:

      The participants were also asked to say which authors they recognized from a list of names that included literary authors like Kazuo Ishiguro and Salman Rushdie

      I wouldn’t have spotted Kazuo Ishiguro, and while I recognize Salman Rushdie, I haven’t read anything by him. On the other hand I am currently re-reading Moby Dick. The criterion seems to me a poor proxy for reading the authors’ books, and even inasmuch as it serves this purpose, we seem to really be talking about modern literary fiction, which is only a small subset of literary fiction in general.

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      • I’ve read Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Satanic Verses, and wouldn’t consider his writing to promote “empathy” in the way the more traditional 19th century novelists explored human psychology, like Tolstoy. Rushdie was writing more about India in the first, or the idea of India, or something.

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  2. Yeah, I suspect that people who are less able to identify different emotions (i.e. people like me) have less patience with the greater focus on characters that is present in literary fiction.

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    • During an old thread on Slate Star Codex on the Science of Nerds, one of the commentators wondered if so many nerds are drawn to anime because the exaggerated acting makes emotions easier to identify than most American or Western TV shows.

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  3. I remember these queue guys getting some press a few months ago; still think it’s kinda dumb. And someone doing that reversal if I were in line would leave me quite peeved.

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    • I wouldn’t describe it as “kinda dumb.” I would go with “obviously idiotic.” People who line up early in a sense of gaming the system, but they also are paying a penalty in time in return for priority once things start moving. How would this work with reserve queue priority? The box office for that hot ticket will open at 9:00. You want to be last in line, so as to get your ticket first. There is a strong disincentive to forming a line before then, since as soon as you are in line and someone gets behind you, you lose. So how does this work? My guess is it would be an amorphous mob milling in the vicinity of the box office, with individuals making a mad dash to the window as soon as it opens. Yup: that’s much better than lining up and waiting your turn.

      Then there is the suggestion that this would work better for a phone queue. Currently, these work in three ways. The simplest is you are on hold listening to hold music until your turn comes up. The more sophisticated systems tell you what place you are, perhaps with a time estimate, so you can make an informed judgment whether to continue to hold or to bail out. Then there are systems that also give you the option of leaving a callback number.

      So how does this work in a reverse queue system? In the simplest version, if you call isn’t taken right away you have no way of knowing how many are queuing up behind you. If volume is high, your turn might literally never come. So in practice, if the call isn’t taken right away I would hang up and hit redial as necessary. The system telling where what number I am wouldn’t help any, as that number might get larger. If I am next in line, then suddenly I’m not, this tells me to hang up and hit redial, just like the more primitive system. If the system allows for a callback number, I would assume that this was the real purpose of the insane system: that the company is only willing to communicate with me on its terms. Given a choice, I avoid doing business with companies like that.

      All in all, proposing the reverse queue just screams “I am completely disconnected from reality.”

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      • ” There is a strong disincentive to forming a line before then, since as soon as you are in line and someone gets behind you, you lose. So how does this work? My guess is it would be an amorphous mob milling in the vicinity of the box office, with individuals making a mad dash to the window as soon as it opens. Yup: that’s much better than lining up and waiting your turn.”

        Yeah; that’s what I was thinking. You aren’t so much stopping there being a line, as you’re changing it from “a line” into “a bunch of people standing around”.

        The thing is presented as “shorter lines”, but that doesn’t mean shorter wait times.

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  4. All hail the coming of the sexbot, satisfying all your bizarre fetishes AND acting like a Stepford Wife. What could be better?

    Posters: I’d be curious about what having a real bonsai tree in your dorm room means…..

    Tweeting: Sigh. Western Civ continues it’s downward spiral.

    Malls: Ugh I loathe them.

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  5. Someone I know commented that one of the things that “killed” indoor malls was the cost of heating or cooling all that “dead space.”

    I don’t know. Where I live now, it seems all the rage are – I don’t even know what they’re called, back in the day I would have called them a “strip mall,” but it seems that’s a downmarket term now – a series of stores all lined up, each with their own separate entrance. In places where the weather is nice, if you have decent sidewalks between the stores, this makes sense. Where I go to shop (north Texas), it does not: it’s way, way too hot to walk the half-mile or whatever it is from one end of the mall to the next, or in the winter it’s usually raining. So you have to drive and find parking for each store (or cluster of stores) you want to visit, which is somewhat annoying. (Also, the “sidewalks” are not that good because the stores have big boxy entrances that project into the sidewalk space).

    I think indoor malls have mostly died; the last few times I’ve been in one they seemed much grubbier and poorly-kept-up than I remember the malls of my youth as being. I guess the rule is “everything turns to crap eventually”?

    I am JUST old enough to remember the dying days of the big downtown department stores and I admit I wish those would come back, though I think the “department store” of our futures is going to look more like a shabby wal-mart than it does like a Bergdorf Goodman.

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    • I think that the underlying problem of the indoor mall as a business model is that it relied on the mall being The Place to Be. You would go to the mall to hang out, and you would spend some money while there. This in turn is subject to the whims of fashion. If a new mall opens up a few miles down the road, and it has flashier amenities, then everyone will go there. Worse, you aren’t competing merely against other malls, but against any place where people might go to hang out. If you don’t keep on top of the game, and you let the mall slip a bit, suddenly the people will be going some other place. This is before the advent of social media enters into the discussion.

      Once the mall is no longer a place to hang out, it is merely a place to go shopping. And while that is not nothing, it is a lesser draw. This then brings us to the sheer interchangeability of mall stores. It’s not as if anyone has to go to any particular mall to shop at that quirky, unique store.

      My town still has an indoor mall that seems to be holding up reasonably well, but I’m not sure. I only set foot inside it once a year or so, and less than that if we exclude visits to stores with external entrances.

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      • By the time I reached my teen years, malls were already kind of dying so I never really experienced them as a teen hang out. I also grew up in Nassau County. Even though Nassau County is one of suburbia’s ground zeros, New York City still exerted an extraordinarily strong pull for shopping and entertainment. Most of my families and other families shopping expeditions were either to New York City or an upscale strip mall called Miracle Mile than an ordinary mall. What seems to be replacing malls, at least in California and Florida, are these sort of supped up strip malls that combine shopping. entertainment, residential, and office space in a somewhat more traditional city streetscape. The ones I’ve been to seem positively hopping.

        The old department stores did better as a place to be than malls because everything was under one management rather than a bunch of competing stores and chains. This meant that management had good reason to make sure that all the different moving parts worked together. They interacted with the rest of the city landscape better than a mall did.

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      • Singapore has many indoor malls. Each sub-urban centre has a train station and an indoor mall right outside the train station. Kids hang out at the mall when school is over. Working adults from nearby offices often eat at the food court in the mall during their lunch break. The city centre itself has more indoor malls, many of which are right next to one another. Most of the malls are doing well enough. Malls which are doing well almost inevitably have a food court and a supermarket. The reason why indoor Malls are not as successful in the states (or for that matter in the UK) is that a) you hardly have any proper food courts and b) you set up your supermarkets in their own building.

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        • Some malls formerly had grocery stores/supermarkets here. There is a nice old YouTube video of the “first mall” in Minnesota, it had a Red Owl grocery in it. Apparently you could even order your food and have it delivered to the curb, to your car, when you were ready to leave: southdale mall

          (The video makes me nostalgic even though it’s from over a decade before I was born. Red Owl was the grocery store in my grandmother’s town in Northern Michigan, and the mall footage reminds me of my childhood mall trips to Chapel Hill Mall (Akron, OH) in the 70s)

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          • I remember Red Owl when I was growing up! And Sentry & Piggly Wiggly. If I recall, the Red Owl closed shop when I was in High School, Sentry some time after I left home, but The Pig is still there, although in a new, larger location.

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        • The big shopping centers in Singapore did not strike me as being anything like American Malls. I suppose in some superficial sense they are by the definition of being indoor shopping centers with different stores.

          But the Shopping Centers in Singapore are pretty big compared to most American malls and the structure is more vertical. The food is also better. I guess the heat and humidity in Singapore make the indoor shopping centers nice.

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          • I’ve been to some massive brand new malls across Asia, and yes, they’re busy.

            I was amazed in Hong Kong to see one new mall next to another, next to another, all with 80% of the same stores. If you use the pedestrian walkways underground, you can go between all of them without ever seeing daylight.

            My guess is that it’s a class and wealth thing. With mass market prosperity not coming until a few decades after WWII, Asia mostly skipped the era of downtown anchor department stores and went straight from bargaining in open-air markets to air conditioned malls. There are plenty of downtown, street-facing versions of all the mall stores in places like Seoul and HK, but the nostalgia for outdoor shopping just has different connotations compared to the US.

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            • Actually, many Asian countries have a big downtown department store tradition. Japan is famous for their big downtown department stores and many of these stores have origins in the Tokugawa Era. During the Meiji era, they evolved and grew into department stores. When the Japanese conquered Korea and Taiwan, Japanese business people built department stores. These continued after World War II.

              Chinese treaty ports also had department stores and the British built them in Singapore and Hong Kong.

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    • What seems to have killed the mall was the Internet largely.

      The stores that seem to have been popular in malls were largely the kinds that were most likely to be destroyed by the Internet. The malls (or shopping centers) that seemingly survived seem to be somewhat more upscale.

      San Francisco officially has two things that can be roughly described as malls. There is the Westfield Shopping Center on Market street. The clothing stores in the Westfield seem to be somewhat more upscale. The anchoring Department Stores are Nordstroms and Bloomingdales. The other stores are of at least the Lucky Brand/J.Crew level of mid to upper-level chain. The food court in the basement is fancier than your typical food court. Plus it is connected to BART. There is also a movie theatre.

      There is also the Stonestown Galleria which is on the outskirts of town. I have never been to this mall despite living in SF for eight years but I believe it is somewhat upscale as well. There is an Apple Store there at least (one of three in SF).

      Malls in the suburbs of Northern California tend to be more like outdoor shopping centers because the weather is generally pleasant/temperate.

      When I was growing up on Long Island, the big draw to Malls was a really big music store like the Virgin Megastore but those are no more.

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      • The stores that seem to have been popular in malls were largely the kinds that were most likely to be destroyed by the Internet.

        I question this. My critique of malls, even back in the day, was that they were filled mostly with clothing and shoe stores. Based on my rare excursions into the local mall, those are still there. And Yankee Candle, of course.

        Sure, there would be a bookstore and a music store, but they would generally be crappy examples of the genre. My local mall still has a bookstore, but it is a crappy one: fine if you want the new release or best seller, but no depth. What killed Borders and has Barnes & Noble on the ropes is that Amazon has an incredibly deep selection. If you wanted the new Tom Clancy you always could get that anywhere.

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          • I strongly recommend against Walmart for dress shirts. It will work if you are on the road and unexpectedly need a dress shirt now, and didn’t pack one. But it will be a cheap crap dress shirt. The reading material for sale at Walmart isn’t much better. I have no opinion on their selection of bird cages.

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            • Walmart clothes are hit-and-miss, but I’ve not had the problems with them people tell me I will if I get clothes there. I don’t wear dress shirts super-often, so they’re not very rigorously tested. The only problem I’ve had with the pants are buttons coming off. They also cut some corners on the pockets.

              The Faded Glory jeans are to be avoided. Their polos, on the other hand, are good enough. So it’s a bit hit-and-miss.

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          • For me, the internet is really only good for “directed” shopping, in the sense of “I need a new ceiling fan” and less the type of “My niece’s birthday is coming up, what should I get her” undirected shopping. (Yes, algorithms, but I’ve never had good luck with them).

            I find Wal-mart depressing. That may be my local wal-mart though, which is one of the “redlined” ones (I suspect) that Business Insider or somewhere wrote about – it’s always dirty, it doesn’t restock quickly, it carries “good” stuff for about three weeks and then abruptly drops it. And it’s about the only choice in town absent a few small gifte shoppe things and a small, locally-run grocery.

            The rare times I get somewhere that there is better shopping, I spend more than I should and sometimes buy stuff I don’t actually need because my sense of “scarcity” kicks in.

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            • Yeah, I agree with Fillyjonk about directed/undirected. I do think that undirected shopping requires a time investment that directed shopping doesn’t require… which makes me wonder if the Gift Card section of the grocery store isn’t adding insult to the injury already done to (American) shopping malls. You don’t even have to find the perfect gift anymore. You just need to find the perfect store. (Or, in the case of Amazon gift cards, the perfect price point.)

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              • secret confession: I hate gift cards. (Or maybe: “unpopular opinion: I hate gift cards”). I get that they’re “easy,” I get that they’re a good fallback if you don’t know the person you’re giving to well, I get that if you’re disabled or elderly it’s easier to get them than to go out and shop, but it means getting gift cards for, say, my birthday, means:

                a. I have to go out and shop, and figure out what it is I want
                b. There’s almost no element of surprise in the gift, you know what it is when it arrives.
                c. Some of the stores are miiiiiiiiles from me so I have to plan a trip or shop online
                d. if it’s for somewhere like Target, I have the dilemma of “buy fun stuff?” vs. “buy dish soap and underwear and stuff I need anyway?” which makes it not-fun then.

                Yes, I’m a spoiled brat. I acknowledge that. But I hate gift cards. I’d rather get just a nice greeting card on my birthday. A gift card is an *obligation*.

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                • Yeah, my sister regularly gave us AMC Theater gift cards and the closest AMC theater to where we live is 50 miles away. (Thankfully, Mom pulled her aside and talked to her after the third time we got one of these.)

                  And, yeah, if I get a Hot Topic gift card, then we’re looking at a situation where a guy in his 40’s ends up with a Hot Topic gift card (“Do you have any Ramones t-shirts?” “Who were the Ramones?”) and I can kinda see a Target gift card going the direction you’re pointing (“I’m already here to buy the winter thermals and replace the broken laundry basket… sigh… I can’t believe I’m spending my birthday gift on winter thermals and a laundry basket”) but an Amazon gift card is nothing but *LICENSE*.

                  Hey! I’ve been wanting that documentary! Hey! I’ve had that skinny tie set on my wish list for two years now! Hey! Roland Orzabal has a solo album! AWESOME! Crap. I went over the gift card by $28… wait… no I didn’t… it means that I’m getting $48 worth of stuff for $28!!!! AWESOME!

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                  • an Amazon gift card is nothing but *LICENSE*.

                    Does buying a gift off of an Amazon gift list make all of the difference in the world, or is it all just a slippery slope to hell?

                    (I think gift cards are situationally appropriate — distant relatives, acquaintances, closer relatives that one only sees for an hour or two on Christmas each year)

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            • I can do quasi-directed shopping online… “I need new shirts. Let me see what the Gap has.” I’m not necessarily looking for a specific shirt (“I need a blue pinstripe oxford.”) but I’m also not just browsing aimlessly.

              I’ve tried to do the, “Let me poke around Amazon for a gift for my friend’s kid,” thing and found it similarly fruitless. I either need to figure out what I want or I just bring the lil’uns to the store and let the big lil’un pick something out (usually a soccer ball).

              Also, you seem new here . If so, welcome. Keep bringin’ the good stuff as you have.

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            • I agree. I largely use the Internet for shopping when I know what I want or sort of what I want. Amazon is still not as good as browsing in a music or book store. Clothing shopping on the Internet is okay if it is a brand I know and I know how it fits.

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            • Like everything, it’s best for Internet shopping to know what you’re looking for. But if you’re just looking for something, like a gift, you can cover a lot of ground quickly.

              So when it comes to my brother, I plug his alma mater into eBay and see if there’s anything that pops up. If not, then something to do with space. If not, then… that sort of thing.

              Walmart is definitely not pleasant shopping, but it’s very time-economical. I need some cheese, toddler socks, and box fan…

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            • I would classify a new ceiling fan as exactly the sort of thing that I still buy in a bricks and mortar store. It is trivially easy to run down to the home improvement emporium, they will have an ample selection, and I can fondle it before buying. Internet shopping is great for long tail stuff. This is why Amazon so thoroughly wiped out Borders. But a ceiling fan? That is nearly the platonic ideal of something I would buy in person.

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              • That presupposes one has a decent home center carrying decent brands near one. I’m going to TRY the local place but if they don’t carry a good brand, I’m gonna go online rather than accept whatever cheapjack solution they offer. I’m not replacing this ceiling fan again in two years. I’m done with buying cheap crap that breaks fast.

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        • The whole thing of walking down an aisle and flipping my fingers through albums, half of which I’d never even heard of, was nice. I miss it.

          Youtube is kinda decent at “Oh, you like Tears for Fears? You’ll love Roland Orzabal!” cross-referencing what hundreds of thousands of people before you have searched for…

          But it’s not the same.

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  6. Yeah, I’m kinda surprised that they didn’t even *LOOK* at causality running the other way. Now I have visions of the wrong technocrat getting zher hands on this study and instituting a new required reading list for a particular high school or college.

    Then wondering why things aren’t improving. (Maybe the teachers are subtly trying to undercut the new program? Administrators not giving enough support? Parents doing what parents do and wondering why kids aren’t reading what they had to read 40 years ago?)

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      • Results indicate that exposure to literary but not genre fiction positively predicts performance on a test of theory of mind, even when accounting for demographic variables including age, gender, educational attainment, undergraduate major.

        I’m reading that and thinking “somebody’s going to say we need to expose more people to literary (but not genre) fiction!”

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      • I think has the right of it, that fiction which focuses more obviously on character than on plot/story is more appealing to people who are strongly empathic.

        For me, the obvious criticism is that the differentiation between ‘literary’ and ‘genre/pulp’ is less of a clear line, and much more of a gradient, but that is not how such things are marketed.

        E.G. 1980’s BSG was pure Glen Larson Sci-Fi pulp. The 2004 BSG was still Sci-Fi, but built up character and story complexity in a way that approaches literary. Likewise, there is lots of written fiction that gets slotted into genre that is much deeper into character development than it gets credit for.

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        • I agree with the idea that the dividing line between literary and genre/pulp fiction is often very blurry. There are several factors that come into play when determining whether something is literary or genre fiction. Besides the focus on character, there is how the authors plays with language. Literary fiction others usually experiment with language much more than genre/pulp fiction authors. They want to have prose that stands out. Another factor is how indulgent an author is to the fans. The more bones thrown to the fans by an author, the more likely it is to be genre/pulp for me. Literary fiction authors tend to write without regard to their audience.

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          • This seems to violate practically everything I remember being taught about writing: Being mindful of your audience, clarity of language etc. It seems strange that literary authors violate these rules more than genre authors.

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              • I am told that baseball books typically sell about a thousand copies. The contract for my upcoming book is structured that way, with the royalty percentage ticking up after 1000 copies sold.

                I am not expecting a healthy income from this. It is a hobby that might bring in a little extra cash on the side.

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                  • It is on the evolution of the rules of baseball. That is even the working title, though I suspect the publisher will want something snappier for the final title. I haven’t been talking it up mostly because the manuscript isn’t due until May of 2018, with actual publication probably late that year. On the other hand, while I haven’t been talking it up yet, it isn’t any sort of secret.

                    The elevator pitch is that were you to jump in your time machine and go catch a game in, say, 1916, the rules would be perfectly transparent to you, with only minor differences from the modern rules. But go much further back than that you will start seeing differences, more extreme the further back you go, until you eventually find yourself watching a schoolyard game with unfamiliar underlying assumptions. The evolution from the schoolyard to the modern game took a half century or so through the latter part of the 19th century. The book will trace the various changes made and why.

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            • That’s the difference between “telling a story” and “creating art”. Most literary artists have a sound grasp of all the basics, and can/could do story telling just fine. That’s true for most artists in most media.

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          • It helps to be clear about what we are talking about in terms of “literature.”

            Sometimes its meant as the old stuff, some of which was basically “genre” work when it was produced that has stood the test of time as quality work.

            Other is modern work self consciously created to be considered “literature.” Frankly, I considered this to largely be a genre on to its own with its own conventions, including a tendancy towards the things Saul is talking about (prose and characterization focus over plot etc.). I’m somewhat skeptical of claims that modern “literature” is inherently superior to other works and I’m deeply skeptical of the claim that literary fiction authors write without regard to their audience, it seems to me that they are writing for a particular kind of audience, perhaps not the largest, but reliable book buyers, and ones very well serviced by the critical apparatus.

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            • In the new book sales world, Literary Fiction is indeed a genre, as heavily marketed and demographic driven as Mystery, Sf, Romance and Horror. Specialty endcaps, author tours, and all the rigmarole involved is carefully put together to get the sales up and into the right hands as carefully as the naming of a new car and how that effects sales. See Johnathon Franzen, Audrey Niffeneger or Jennifer Egan for perfect examples of how they are pushed through NPR, signings at bookstores with track records of sales to college educated women, reading group guides in the back of the book and so on.

              Oprah books are similar, but slightly different maketing stratagy (no NPR, different cover marks, etc.)

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            • I’m personally in-between Saul’s position that literary fiction is not a genre with its own tropes or conventions and the position that literary fiction is genre that favors prose and characterization over plot. The lower end of literary fiction is like that. When I started reading literary authors, I did notice that more of them were willing to take risks or really fine tune their writing more than prose authors and explore themes more.

              Hesse, Joyce, Doblin, and many others really experimented with writing and the use of language in a way that I can’t recall any genre author doing. Literary authors are also more willing to break society’s taboos and write on subjects that would create controversy and draw ire for the powers that be or society at large than genre authors.

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              • Why not just define “literary fiction” by exclusion then? It’s any fictional writing which doesn’t fit neatly into an existing genre?

                My guess is that defining it that way would be viewed as insulting by lovers of that genre… :)

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                • The best way to define literary fiction might be by exclusion. Anything that does not fall under a particular genre fiction is literary fiction. Saul is also right to emphasize that literary fiction readers have a much more differential relationship with the authors they like than genre fiction authors.

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                  • By your definition, and Saul’s, “The Bridges of Madison County” is an example of literary fiction. But there was nothing literary about it. :)

                    Personally, I’d just call all that non-genre stuff “fiction” – and judge any particular piece as having literary merit or not – and be done with all the academic hairsplitting nonsense.

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                  • Lee,

                    Here’s another interesting analysis I agree with. From Wiki:

                    Neal Stephenson has suggested that while any definition will be simplistic there is today general cultural difference between literary and genre fiction. On the one hand literary authors are nowadays are frequently supported by patronage, with employment at a university or similar institutions, and with the continuation of such positions determined not by book sales but by critical acclaim by other established literary authors and critics. On the other hand, he suggests, genre fiction writers tend to support themselves by book sales

                    I agree.

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                    • Its much more possible to support yourself by book sales alone as a genre fiction author than a literary author these days. There is no disagreement with me there. There are still many genre fiction authors that need a day job to get by. For every mega-selling author earning big bucks through their books in romance, fantasy, or mystery, there are dozens of others struggling to get by. The number of literary fiction authors able to earn a living through book writing alone is much more limited but that means nothing.

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                    • I am not so sure. There might be more genre authors that support themselves through booksales but it seems like the genre market is also flooded and there are many would be science fiction, fantasy, and mystery authors out there who need day jobs too.

                      The whole debate seems to be largely about butthurt. I knew a blogger who used to argue that the Academy Awards should only be based on box office success. This seems to mistake popularity for artistic merit and quality.

                      Fandom is not satisfied with being financially successful. They want to destroy any idea of literary merit or artistic merit and replace teaching Edith Wharton or Shakespeare with teaching the Game of Thrones or those damn confections about the English Nurse who goes back in time and marries an 18th century Highlander.

                      I am not a populist when it comes to art.

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                      • It’s possible to carry that too far and conclude that just because something is popular, it can’t be art. I’d go even further and suggest that popularity can be an indicator of artistic merit. Not always, but sometimes and in some ways.

                        In part, I’m warning against making an idol of unpopularity, of appealing to that which others won’t understand and saying that it’s therefore art. In part, I’m also suggesting that people like what they like for reasons, and sometimes those reasons are deeper than it’s an exciting read or brain candy.

                        Not that you’re suggesting anything to the contrary. But I am suggesting there can be a positive correlation between popularity and merit.

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                        • I agree but we can have conversations about what it means to be popular in today’s niche driven economy. What was the last thing that was popular among numerous niches and demographics? Game of Thrones? Harry Potter?

                          What strikes me about the current media moment is how a lot of things that get talked about are aimed at a small (but highly marketable group of people). Shows like Mad Men and Girls are watched (or hate-watched) by a very small slice of the population but one that marketers crave. Upper-middle class and with disposable income.

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                          • Game of Thrones and Harry Potter count as being popular among numerous niches and demographics.

                            But, you’re missing the scale of the world, if you must define popular by how many demos of America you get.

                            The new Ghostbusters crashed and burned, as movies go. Not because of feminists, nor anti-feminists. Because of China. To put it simply “They Were Afraid of Those Ghosts”

                            In this vein, there are many, many extremely popular movies. Many with big explosions. (Though do recall that Lemon Popsicle and the Simpsons are also big hits worldwide).

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                      • When the academy awards stop giving people oscars for freaking powerpoint, i’ll listen to “we know something about artistic merit”

                        We won’t even get into how many academy awards have been given for “being buttmonkeys” (and yes, I’m using tvtropes here).

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              • “Hesse, Joyce, Doblin, and many others really experimented with writing and the use of language in a way that I can’t recall any genre author doing.”

                Those authors all escaped from the trap that is Lit Fic and moved into the realm of Classics. IE lit fic that stands the test of time. And as for genre authors who experimented with language, look to Iain Banks, Octavia Butler, Gene Wolfe on the SF side and Dashiel Hammett and to a lesser degree Raymond Chandler on the Mystery side, not to mention James Elroy.

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            • I largely agree with this.

              The issue with the idea of writing with regards to an audience is that it feels like a very loaded phrase or concept. I think people have images of something being decided by a marketing committee or pandering when they hear the phrase “write towards an audience.”

              Most people do not do this that overtly. The ways in which authors write towards an audience are probably more subtle and psychologically part of the unconscious.

              The thing about “literary fiction” is that audience expectations are broader because the field is more wide based on focus on characterization and prose. There are lots of literary fictions. There is a variant that strikes me as being basically genre and this about the trials and tribulations of upper-middle class borgeois bohemians or those who would want to be those in America’s coolest cities. Think books like Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers (she basically apologized for writing a book that takes place among cool middle-aged urban liberals in Brooklyn with a “I know. I know.” The Interestings by Meg Wortizer also is in this category.

              But literary fiction contains everyone from Michael Chabon to Amy Tan to Robertson Davies to Jon Irving to Haruki Murakami to Rachel Kushner and these authors have nothing in common except maybe an overlapping of fans sometimes.

              Another way is that readers of literary fiction generally seem to have and expect a more formal/distant relationship with the authors that they admire. I don’t go reading Irving’s blog (if he has one). I might or might not go to a book signing by an author I admire.

              In contrast, a woman I know from college became a romance writer. The author-fan relationship seems intense and likely to turn bad at any moment. She has a pen name but promotes her pen name using her real name and if you google her pen name and her real name, the same picture comes up (which makes the use of a pen name odd to me.)
              Through her I have seen how romance authors interact with their fans and it seems to involve what I would consider an overshare of information on the part of the author. The whole thing seems like a false friendship but prone to strong senses of heartbreak if things go wrong.

              I suspect that there is a consumer profile for literary fiction as you put it and authors do go for what that market wants.

              The big issue seems to be that it is a small section of the book market and one that provokes a lot of rage because they are considered the more desirable customers.

              Vox published this a while ago.

              http://www.vox.com/2016/8/7/11950648/fandom-shipping-social-justice-ideological-warfare

              I gotta say that the intensity of fans and shipping freaks me out.

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              • But literary fiction contains everyone from Michael Chabon to Amy Tan to Robertson Davies to Jon Irving to Haruki Murakami to Rachel Kushner and these authors have nothing in common except maybe an overlapping of fans sometimes.

                So it really is defined by exclusion!! (Well, except for the self-conscious disinterest readers have regarding their favorite authors, obvs.)

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              • What I guess I meant by writing for the audience is putting something in there because you know the fans would like it. Towards the end of my anime and manga fandom period, I grew increasingly annoyed when very serious scenes were being interrupted because of fan service or some dumb joke and than reverted back to serious. These things were put in there because the fans wanted it but it seemed to me that the series would plot better if the creators could tone down the need to put in fan service of different types.

                I also agree that fans of literary fiction tend to have a less personal relationship with the authors they admire than the authors of genre fiction. Literary fiction fans basically accept the choices that the authors makes and do not challenge them. They might discuss them or criticize them but they don’t flat out say that they wrong and can do better via fan fiction. It is a more differential relationship.

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                • The end of Sexual Instinct and the Hydrogen Bomb War is about the exact opposite of “we’re doing fanservice” breaking the tone.
                  (Which… is to say… “trolling is fun!”).

                  You could certainly say that manga counts as literary fiction.

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          • My library follows the convention of a general “fiction” section, and various genre ghettoes – western, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, historical fiction, Canadian fiction, spy, horror, “teen” instances of all of the above, etc.

            I usually go looking for authors I’m interested in, in the various genre ghettoes (Well the setting has various technologies not available today – must be sci-fi. Nope. But they’re also Canadian, try there. Nope. I guess the book I’m looking for does centre on a missing person – maybe it’s a mystery. Nope.)

            Eventually I go into the “fiction” section and there they are. Unless of course I started in “fiction” – then inevitably their books have been relegated to one of the genre ghetto shelves.

            The problem is that all those things are true, but the shelves hold physical books, not hyperlinks to the books. I should probably skip wandering the stacks altogether and just go straight to a catalog computer, but that seems wrong – there are all these shelves full of books set up for walking and looking through.

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  7. it’s interesting how often artists in particular were screwed, sometimes in favor of “writers.”

    Most of the link though is about Kirby, and thus Lee, who AFAIK never sought any ownership of any of the characters he helped create as a Marvel employee, and he wasn’t simply a writer anyway, but at various times: editor-in-chief, art director and publisher (i.e., management). When Kirby (and Joe Simon) had their own comic publishing company, they used the same work-for-hire arrangements that “screwed” the talent. And arguably by claiming creation of Spider-Man, Kirby (or his heirs) were the ones trying to screw over Steve Ditko.

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    • That’s partly why I focus on the writer/artist dynamic. The publisher/creator thing is more murky, in my view. It’s not clear to me why the publisher shouldn’t retain the copyright. That’s not always how it works, but it’s often enough. At the same time, the outcomes are rather frustrating for the early participants. (creative talent now, when working at a big publisher, are mostly building on company IP, so it’s more straightforward. “Screwed” might be unfair, but it’s not pretty. And it’s not surprising that Kirby was on both sides of the table at various points in his life.

      It’s kind of found its equilibrium. By default, the big two retain the copyrights, and writers withhold new creations so both end up relying almost exclusively on properties that are fifty years old and the new creators are created elsewhere.

      In any event, it seems like if anybody held the cards, it’s the writer. In the Lee/Kirby dynamic we can say it was the publisher. In the Kane/Finger dynamic it was… harder to pin down. Largely it seems to be because writers simply get more respect than artists, even when they don’t actually write much, which does things like put them in editorial positions. Which can reinforce the dynamic. Which itself is kind of backwards, as writing talent and ability are far more distributed than artistic talent.

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  8. Retweeted: Interesting how “online harassment hate-mob” stories change when it’s a good, kind, loveable person pointing the hate-mob at people.

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  9. The poster article is a fine example of free-form stream-of-consciousness snark.

    Find a list of “Top X (whatever)”. Go down the list and say something snarky about each one.

    I just put “Top Ten Alternative Songs of 1997” into the google. Here’s what it gave me:

    SMASH MOUTH – Walkin’ On The Sun
    DAVE MATTHEWS – Crash Into Me
    JEWEL – You Were Meant For Me
    THIRD EYE BLIND – Semi-Charmed Life
    SUGAR RAY – Fly
    FOO FIGHTERS – Everlong
    SUBLIME – Santeria
    MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES – The Impression That I Get
    CHUMBAWAMBA – Tubthumpin’
    MATCHBOX 20 – Push

    Come up with a catchy hook… oooh! “You’re talking to a cute boy and you ask him his favorite song… here’s what you know about him!”

    SMASH MOUTH – Walkin’ On The Sun
    He’s got a closet full of Che t-shirts and is going to complain about the system cheating people until the second he gets his first job offer from his frat brother’s dad’s company, at which point he’s going to start mocking the kids who wear Che t-shirts.

    DAVE MATTHEWS – Crash Into Me
    Cries after sex.

    JEWEL – You Were Meant For Me
    Cries during sex.

    Come up with your own lists! What you know about her when you see this book on her nightstand. What you know about him when you see this Blu-ray case next to his PS4.

    You really only need two, maybe three, really quality zingers to elicit a snort because, let’s face it, the people reading this list remember the guy who wore the che t-shirt and listened to Smash Mouth and now is wearing a tie and listening to… well, he’s probably still listening to Smash Mouth. That tool.

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    • Especially since their credits don’t transfer.

      Wow. I’d heard they were doing that in California. I guess they just decided they were done.

      My parents had to talk me out of going to an ITT-like school. Back then they were mostly vocational, which vocational is good! As with non-profit schools, things seemed to go awry when they started trying to be something that they weren’t. Either that or they were crap all along.

      The latter is a risk whenever we’re dealing with colleges that have little in the way of institutional reputation to wager. James Joyner has talked about when he was at Troy State University when they were expanding their online offerings and they reached a point where they had to decide whether to trade their reputation for money or not. They didn’t, and I suspect part of it is that they had an entire university to look after, and the State of Alabama to report to.

      The University of Phoenix is not so hindered. ITT Tech did have something of a reputation as an alternative to college, but they found more money in being a college.

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      • As I’ve said before, I started at a Herzing College Campus, which while a non-profit now, was very much for-profit in 1992. I was not a satisfied student when I left after the first semester and I’ve largely considered them a scam school ever since.

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    • A nasty, vindictive part of me wouldn’t mind seeing DeVry go down. In Deseret, I took a lot of *crap* from DeVry graduates who actually looked down on those of us who went to state school.

      On the other hand, one of the local employers where I now live is a for-profit school. I do hope they do okay.

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    • This seems to be a trade off in short term v. long term. In the short term, it is a wrench. In the long term, the students can be saved from taking on tons of debt for a degree with questionable use and merit.

      IIRC the real student debt crisis is among people who accumulate four or five figure debt from for-profit colleges or VoTech schools and fail to graduate or even if they graduate, find that their degrees don’t lead to decent paying jobs.

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      • On the plus side, the students who had federal student loans for ITT can get those forgiven. That is probably not the case for private loans, and any veteran who burned part or all of their GI Bill at ITT is screwed.

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            • Notme is right, the GI Bill is kinda like an education grant mixed with a forced savings plan with exceptional returns. Once the money is spent, it’s spent. Personally it’s one of reasons I think the program should at the very least warn veterans to be very discriminating when selecting a program. When I did Voc Rehab , the VA was very active in helping me pick a good school & program.

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          • I actually didn’t think they were eligible, but looking it up they are.

            Nonetheless, ITT is likely a tiny player among those that have really pushed for getting a piece of the post 9-11 GI bill action. Phoenix is a sizable player – but some people I know have given it decent enough reviews. The ones that really bear watching are any of those with ‘Military’ or ‘National’ or ‘American’ in their name. (Except the actual American University in NW DC)

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      • Since we’ve basically agreed to have a fairly expansive public education system, shouldn’t we have a portion of the fairly expansive public education system fill this need? (Instead of just military OJT for some trades)

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        • I would think so. We could call the classes something like “shop classes”. We could have wood shop, metal shop, even something like auto shop where the kids could learn how to use one of those computer thingies that plugs into your car’s computer and learn how to diagnose different car maladies. Hell, not every class necessarily be “burly”. We should have classes that focus on the science of doing laundry, the science of cooking, the science of writing checks, the science of getting a mortgage, that sort of thing.

          Now, of course, to do that sort of thing would be an opportunity cost and the kid learning something in metal shop would necessarily not be learning something that schools like Amherst or Oberlin would say “that’s the student for us!” but if we’re willing to say that some classes in high school shouldn’t focus on prep for a humanities college degree from schools like Amherst or Oberlin, I think that that would be a cracking idea.

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        • Some states do.

          After the Navy, I could no longer be considered a freshman at the UW and I had to attend the Madison Area Technical College in order to earn enough transfer credits to start as a transfer student at the UW. The school was very professional and exceptionally affordable. It was also a no-frills kinda place. I loved it.

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    • How about this?

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-new-50-state-poll-shows-exactly-why-clinton-holds-the-advantage-over-trump/2016/09/05/13458832-7152-11e6-9705-23e51a2f424d_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_50statepoll-720a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

      “It is among college-educated voters, however, where Trump faces his biggest hurdle. In 2012, white voters with college degrees supported Republican nominee Mitt Romney over President Obama by 56-42 percent. Romney won with 59 percent among white men with college degrees and with 52 percent among white women with college degrees.

      So far in this campaign, Clinton has dramatically changed that equation. Among white college graduates, Clinton leads Trump in 31 of the 50 states, and the two are about even in six others. Trump leads among college-educated whites in just 13 states, all safe Republican states in recent elections.

      Across 49 states where the poll interviewed at least 100 white college-educated women, Clinton leads Trump with this group in 38 states and by double-digit margins in 37. Averaging across all states, Clinton leads by 23 points among white women with college degrees.”

      National polls are basically meaningless. State polls show more likely outcomes:

      “Trump’s strength across some of the states in the Midwest is one potential bright spot for the Republican nominee. Clinton’s biggest lead among the contested states in that region is in Pennsylvania, where her margin is just four points. In Wisconsin and Michigan, she leads by a nominal two points, while Trump leads by four points in Iowa and three points in Ohio.

      Recent polls by other organizations have indicated that Wisconsin has tightened over the past month. A recent Suffolk University poll in Michigan shows Clinton leading by seven points, and the RealClearPolitics average in Ohio shows Clinton ahead by three points. Overall, among the quintet of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania, Michigan has been the Democrats’ most reliable of the group, always one of the 15 best-performing Democratic states over the past five elections.”

      Trump’s advantage is among states with older, whiter, and less college-educated populations. This can turn Iowa. But so far 538 still has Clinton as the likely winner in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and PA. Virginia and North Carolina are also in the Democratic camp.

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        • I think they were trying to do what 538 does — adjust for a pollster lean. (I vaguely recall reading somewhere that there was a rather weird R/D mix for their likely voter screen in that CNN poll, so they might have trying to correct that).

          Using poll aggregates would be better, or at least having a pre-election methodology for determining pollster leans.

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    • The CNN poll is a Data Point guys, nothing more, nothing less. This is why you should look at averages if you want an overall picture. MSNBC isn’t unskewing anything, they are simply disagreeing with the weighting. Neither of them did that good with picking the R candidate if I remember, so…

      (That and it looks real bad, in an optics kinda way.)

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  10. As a youngster I occasionally visited malls as hangouts, but it was hard to do because I didn’t have disposable income. At 16, I got my first job (at a fast food place in a mall), and then I had disposable income but didn’t want to hang out there because while I now had disposable income, being there was too much like work. And it was easy to see through the razzmatazz to the consumerism and the drudgery.

    But it’s weird the things one gets nostalgic for. (And by “one,” I mean “me.”) I kind of miss the malls in a weird way, even though I also kind of hated them, too. There’s something nice (sometimes) (at least for me) about being around all sorts of commercial activity. “Bustling” can be fun to be around. So the photographs from that link make me miss malls, too.

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    • I miss malls and I wasn’t even a mall-rat, by virtue of one not being in my town. (We had a v. posh, v. expensive “downtown” of little shops that mostly sneered at – and sometimes harassed – unaccompanied teens).

      But yeah. Being around bustling commercial enterprise CAN be fun. Too bad there doesn’t seem to be that much left.

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