Monday, February 01, 2010

This diverse city life

The new year has turned hectic, perhaps the lost week because of snow has compacted everyone's activity. Anyway, tonight I'm at Social Media Cafe Manchester, debating the yet-to-be-released iPad amongst other things. All last weeks hype about the device is settling down into a period that seems more sceptical than expectant, as, perhaps unusually for Apple, the penny drops that the market for this device might not be the Apple-obsessives but their mums and dads. With the exception of the iPod, Apple's always missed the mass market by a long way. One of the key reasons for buying the iPad remains the least sexy, to be the best eReader on the market. Bigger and better than the Kindle and Sony eReader, and not as niche as either of them, it could get a decent market share just from that market alone. (At least in the UK, where the Kindle was notoriously slow to appear.) The devil, as always with Apple, is in the detail. The web's full of stories of e-book pricing, with publishers falling over themselves to say that the physical cost of a book is actually hardly anything, hence no price differential with the e-book version. Really? Then maybe an enterprising publisher should bundle the 2 together then. Pay an extra 1p and get the physical version as well. Anything that increases the e-book market has to be good thing, I think, as without a viable market the chances for innovative electronic books being developed will be somewhat small.

Small publishing is alive and well of course, (or as well and alive as it ever is), and this week's The Other Room at the Old Abbey Inn on Wednesday promises to be a treat. I'm on a panel at the other end of town the week beforehand, so I'm hoping that finishes in time for me to make it.

I've a piece published in Arts Professional magazine this week, for any arts professionals reading this who subscribe to it. Its a piece co-authored with Hannah Rudman about the ethnographic evaluation that we undertook on the AmbITion project I managed last year for the arts council.

Just a reminder that the music I've recently put online is available to listen to or to download for free. Both my recent LP "You Want to Know Something?" and previous E.P. "Popular Songs" are now available on the site, and I'll add some other older music over the coming weeks.

One other thing before the new Martin Amis book comes out and dominates all rational thought for the rest of the month: a fascinating article on American literary magazines I found via Arts and Letters Daily. 

I've always felt that our lack of literary magazine culture to match America has been a disadvantage, but it seems that this particular American jewel is disappearing under a mixture of university cutbacks, mediocre magazines, and the retirement of editors - never mind the continuing perplexity of a culture of "creative writers" who don't, apparently, read themselves. Though the literary magazine is problematic even here in the UK. I like the idea of the magazine more than the magazines themselves. They tend to too narrow a definition (whether defined by editor or readers tastes I'm not sure), or drift too far from the literary (reportage, memoir et al.) Few concern themselves with both poetry and fiction, for like the farmers and the cowmen in Oklahoma, the novelists and the poets can't be friends. Newer, younger magazines haven't quite shed their desire to be edgy (where edgy seems to mean stories derived from a pantheon that runs all the way from Bukowski to Irvine Welsh), whilst odder ones are so often tastefully unread. So I like literary magazines, but can't seem to find one that I particularly like at the moment. My general rule would be that the smaller and more scruffily produced they are, the better they might turn out to be. There's something about the neater magazine that seems to mitigate against the messiness of the best literature. Just a thought. 

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