There was an interesting article
in the Guardian Review this past Saturday by the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy on the merging of books with software applications. It made me think that for anyone today wishing to be a successful writer, they should probably start thinking of their work in terms of online applications that can go with it. The way the article described Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall
for example, with interviews with the author, links to historical facts she used in her research, etc, had me curious to check it out on the iPad. Or Alice in Wonderland
, with the original drawings come to life when you touch them, leading you into interactive games - the reading never the same when you restart the story. It just sounds so immersive and full of new potential for the reading experience. (The people in my bookclub were horrified though.)
I've been swept up by the marketing campaign behind new horror novel The Passage
, by Justin
Cronin. It all started in the Guardian Review last week when one of its reviewers described it as the best beach holiday and horror read of 2010. Stephen King thought the same because he felt compelled to call Good Morning America
when the author was being interviewed and gush over the phone about the book. On Sunday, I discovered that Waterstones has the first six chapters available for free as a broadsheet (with two extra ones online). I've read them all and the book is indeed very good. The posters for it are all over town, often nudged between Eclipse
and True Blood
ads, and you have to ask yourself why we are so obssed with vampires (The Passage
has them set in post-apocalypse America). We are all suckers.
Some years ago, I was at one of sushidog
's tea parties and the topic of horror came up (I think because of cult splatterhouse author C.J. Lines
being in attendance). Two of Sushidog's guests disagreed with me that horror would make a comeback on the trail of sci-fi. I got the impression that they were heavy into spaceships, that it was sacriligeous for them to think of any genre doing better than sci-fi. But they have been proved wrong: horror is popular again today, in all shapes, sizes and formats. We have the inexplicable popularity of tepid stuff like Twilight
as well as the gory Saw
franchise and its imitators; we have the rise of werewolves now that vampires have been done to death; we have spoof in literature like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
as well as translations of dark stuff like Let the Right One In
thanks to the film adaptation's success. The examples go on and on. And a quick look through any big store's horror section is an eye opener too: what had once nearly disappeared is now growing with re-releases and new authors. Even the covers look more "literary", like traps to catch the curious venturing where they've never been before (a good example being a re-release of Poppy Z. Brite's Lost Souls
with the new cover line "the original sophisticated vampire novel" or something rubbish like that).
Bookshops are still badly organised and don't cater fully to horror fans. Cormac McCarthy's The Road
, for example, should be in a horror section as well as American Psycho
and a whole bunch of graphic novels. The Secret History
should be in crime. And so on. If I owned a bookshop, I would separate books by their content and not by what publishers perceive to be worthy of awards, literary merit or genre ghettos. I would do it like that bookshop in Covent Garden dedicated to travel, where books are arranged by country. Like those software applications for the iPad, it would make life more interesting for readers.