One of my birthday traditions is to buy myself a new book (actually, I'll use any excuse to buy myself a book, so my birthday is just one of many!) Anyhow, last Friday (which was my birthday, in case you've forgotten) I hied myself to Barnes and Noble, fresh coupons in hand (love being a Readers Club Member) and grabbed up the latest offerings from two of my favorites~ Chris Bohjalian's Double Bind, and Jodi Picoult's, 19 Minutes. I haven't started to read either book yet, but I'm sure I'll enjoy them. I've been reading these authors for as long as they've been publishing. Bohjalian's first mainstream novel was Midwives, which I read long before it became an Oprah Book Club Selection. My introduction to Picoult came with Harvesting the Heart, which was her second novel, published in 1993. Each one of these authors has a unique way of embroiling their characters in an issue that faces all of us in modern society, and creating a fascinating, thought provoking web of actions and consequences that we can all relate to .
There's something interesting going on with these two novels, something that's never happened before with an author that I "follow." Bohjalian and Picoult have become "hot properties" on the bookstore circuit. Barnes and Noble is featuring Bohjalian's book in their new "on-line" book clubs, complete with a really cool 10 minute pod cast of the author at home, discussing his writing process, giving us a tour of his study, and talking about the book. Picoult seems to belong to Borders, who has it's own video of Jodi participating in a book group discussion with other readers (just like me and you!)
I have to admit, I feel a little wierd about this. It was fascinating to watch these videos, hear the authors speaking, see their homes, even (oh my god!) their studies, and the actual desks where they write. But I felt a little like the kid who sees their classroom teacher in the grocery store and thinks, "My gosh! Mrs. Smith actually eats food like the rest of us!" Over the many years that I've been reading and enjoying their work, I think I've put them on a bit of a pedestal. Now I see that they're just human beings, like me - Bohjalian is quite obsessive compulsive, particularly about his study, which was frighteningly organized and neat. Picoult has the most beautiful, expressive face, yet she is obviously much heavier than the picutres on her book jackets, which leads me to believe they've been "altered" to make her appear "more attractive," when she is gorgeous just as she is.
This new web driven marketing is probably a good thing for authors, at least in terms of sales volume. In some ways, it's exciting to see writer's becoming media figures, and I'm all for making reading (and writing!) more popular in today's society. I guess I'm a little uneasy about some of my favorite literary "heroes" becoming slaves to the media. I don't want them to give up their individuality, their unique way of expressing themselves, their particular art, just to serve some PR firm's idea of what will increase sales.
How about you? What's your take on the mass marketing of author's?