Thank You for Not Reading: Essays on Literary Trivia

Overview

In this collection of acerbic essays, Ugresic dissects the nature of the contemporary book industry, which she argues is so infected with the need to create and promote literature that will appeal to the masses -- literally to everyone -- that if Thomas Mann were writing nowadays, his books wouldn't even be published in the U.S. because they're not sexy enough.

A playful and biting critique, Ugresic's essays hit on all of the major aspects of publishing: agents, subagents, and ...

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Overview

In this collection of acerbic essays, Ugresic dissects the nature of the contemporary book industry, which she argues is so infected with the need to create and promote literature that will appeal to the masses -- literally to everyone -- that if Thomas Mann were writing nowadays, his books wouldn't even be published in the U.S. because they're not sexy enough.

A playful and biting critique, Ugresic's essays hit on all of the major aspects of publishing: agents, subagents, and scouts, supermarket-like bookstores, Joan Collins, book fairs that have little to do with books, authors promoted because of sex appeal instead of merit, and editors trying to look like writers by having their photograph taken against a background of bookshelves.

Thanks to cultural influences such as Oprah, The Today Show, and Kelly Ripa, best-seller lists have become just a modern form of socialist realism, a manifestation of a society that generally ignores literature in favor of the next big thing.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

Charles Simic
“Dubravka Ugresic is the philosopher of evil and exile, and the storyteller of many shattered lives the wars in former Yugoslavia produced . . . This is an utterly original, beautiful and supremely intelligent novel.”
Washington Post
“Like Nabokov, Ugresic affirms our ability to remember as a source for saving our moral and compassionate identity.”
The New York Times
“Ugresic must be numbered among what Jacques Maritain called the dreamers of the true; she draws us into the dream.”
From the Publisher

"A brilliant, enthralling spread of story-telling and high-velocity reflections... Ugresic is a writer to follow. A writer to be cherished." -- Susan Sontag

Dalkey Archive Press

The Washington Post
… Dubravka Ugresic's Thank You for Not Reading is such a welcome addition to contemporary literary debate. Ugresic, a novelist and essayist from the former Yugoslavia who now divides her time between the Netherlands and the United States, records in this collection of essays her unique puzzlement over her status as an emigre writer in a borderless global economy of literary spectacle, in which market share and celebrity are the unquestioned passports to renown, and ideas and language count for less and less … Thank You for Not Reading, in short, is the ideal clothing accessory for the fool's paradise of bestsellerdom in our time. — Chris Lehmann
Publishers Weekly
In the bustling Anglo-American literary marketplace, the Eastern European exile doesn't stand a chance, says Ugresic (Have a Nice Day), herself in self-exile from Croatia. "The literary market demands that people adapt to the norms of production. As a rule, it does not tolerate disobedient artists, it does not tolerate experimenters, artistic subversives, performers of strange strategies in a literary text." Instead, it rewards the artistically obedient. Furthermore, Ugresic complains, literature has lost the exclusiveness it once had. Since the market determines what is good and what is bad based purely on what sells, the door has opened for every two-bit celebrity to hock their wares in mega-bookstores, leaving "real" writers out in the cold. The author compares herself to Eeyore, the famous grumbler, but the tone of this collection can be fickle-is the author playfully grumbling or bitterly mocking? In "GW, the Gloomy Writer" and "The Magnificent Buli," she mocks two types who have entered the global literary market: the male Eastern European writer with an inferiority complex and the genius/literary bulimic. In another piece, Ugresic playfully decries a marketplace that allows an empty personality like Ivana Trump to become a published author. At times, the analysis focuses so intently on the superficial business of marketing books that it overlooks the quiet intellectual activity that energizes English departments all across the United States, those little enclaves where Ivana Trump's output makes nary a ripple. And since an academic audience frustrated with the commodification of books is the primary target for these essays, that feels like a significant omission. (Nov. 10) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Croatian novelist and essayist (Have a Nice Day: From the Balkan War to the American Dream, 1995) now living in voluntary exile o’erglances the current literary landscape and does not care for the view. In these 31 essays (completed between 1996 and 2000), Ugresic looses a variety of arrows from her rhetorical quiver, among them a sharp sense of irony, a keen sense of humor, and an edged contempt for the banality (and pervasiveness) of contemporary American culture. Some of the pieces are crisp and concise (especially early in the volume); others proceed at a more leisurely pace. And she has a number of points she makes repeatedly. Examples: There is no longer a distinction between "high" and "low" literature (only between literature that sells and literature that doesn’t). Writers are no longer a distinct species, not when celebrities (Joan Collins, Monica Lewinsky) and criminals and crackpots can write their ways to the top of the bestseller list. (Ugresic alludes three times to Collins’s oeuvre.) Writing today has become ever more outrageous, violent, sexually explicit (she notes that the Marquis de Sade now seems, by contrast, a writer for children). The earlier pieces provide some nasty fun (Ugresic compares Ivana Trump’s Jolie-esque lips to "fresh hot dogs"), and she imagines how today’s less-than-literate editors might reject book proposals for classic titles—e.g., Madame Bovary ("And forget the suicide at the end! No one would believe that"). Near the close, the essays acquire more gravity. She reminds us more than once how the Serbs destroyed the National Library in Sarajevo and how despots use books both to preach their gospel and crush their opponents. There is apowerful piece about exile and its many meanings (and consequences), and Ugresic concludes with the best essay of all about a carpenter named Roy who helped remodel her Amsterdam apartment and who had also begun writing a novel called The Seventh Screw. Sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, always intelligent and graceful.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564782984
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2003
  • Series: Eastern European Literature Ser.
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dubravka Ugresic is the author of several works of fiction, including The Museum of Unconditional Surrender and Fording the Stream of Consciousness, and three collections of essays, Have a Nice Day, The Culture of Lies, and most recently Thank You for Not Reading.

She has received several international prizes for her writing,
including the Swiss Charles Veillon European Essay Prize, the Austrian
State Prize for European Literature, and most recently the Premio
Feronio-Citta di Fiano. Born and raised in the former Yugoslavia, she left her homeland in 1993 for political reasons and currently lives in
Amsterdam.

Celia Hawkesworth was Senior Lecturer in Serbian and Croatian at the
School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College, London until her retirement. She has published numerous articles and several books on Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian literature, including a study Ivo Andric: Bridge between East and West, and Voices in the Shadows: Women and Verbal Art in Serbia and Bosnia. She has also published numerous translations, including several works by Ivo Andric and Dubravka
Ugresic.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Los Torcedores
Literary Dreams
Book Proposal
Agents and Scouts
Low-Income Writer
Long Live Socialist Realism!
You Know a Craftsman by His Tools
Bazaar
Literature and Democracy
Engineers of Human Souls
The Writer as Literary Reference
The Aura of Glamour
Shares in Human Perversion
Eco among the Nudists
Come Back, Cynics, All Is Forgiven!
The Role of Kirk Douglas in My Life
Alchemy
Women, Smoking, and Literature
Optimism Strengthens the Organism
A Little Red Dot
How I Could Have Been Ivana Trump and Where I Went Wrong
GW, the Gloomy Writer
The Magnificent Buli
A Short Contribution to the History of a National Literature: The Top Ten Reasons to Be a Croatian Writer
The Writer in Exile
War Is War, but Intellectuals Are Only Human
Having Fun
House Spirits
Questions to an Answer
The Writer and His Future
The Seventh Screw
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