Thursday, May 4, 2017

a jar in Tennessee

My inbox is flooded these days with appeals from PEN, the Authors Guild, all sorts of people who want me to agitate against (among other things) cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts.  I have mixed feelings about this (quite apart from the cluttered-inbox factor), because many of the things that bother me most about the forms taken by support for the arts are off the agenda of every single one of the entities availing itself of my e-mail address.

Having said that,  I was moved and impressed by a piece I read today by Margaret Renkl on LitHub. Renkl talks about the virtual collapse of (what shall I call it?) a public books culture (a hideous phrase, so I wish I weren't settling for it) during and after the recession - newspapers cutting book coverage, bookstores going bankrupt, and the role of the NEH and Federal Government in turning this around. 

Renkl has done such a splendid job of sketching out the importance of regional reviews, of local independent bookstores, and how these fit into the bigger picture (national press, publishers' support), that no isolated quote can do it justice.  It is hard not to warm to a piece, though, which includes the following:
The publication Humanities Tennessee dreamed up is called Chapter 16: A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby. (The name is a reference to Tennessee’s history as the 16th state to join the union.) They built the site in-house by reading a book called Drupal for Dummies, and they hired me to run it.
The whole thing here.

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