Wednesday, June 29, 2005

You are what you read

Kara has a good little blog that points out her experience of buying Venus, a lesbian-friendly magazine. It highlights a problem with many texts -- magazines or books: does buying them (or reading them) mean we subscribe to their views, support only that view, or that we have a specific identity?

It's troubling whether or not to you approach the issue academically or socially, and it's a topic that students often get worried about: can I do work on this without it being perceived that I subscribe to the views I am writing about? (A friend completing his PhD on right-wing America absolutely does not support the views but has a hard time convincing people that to interrogate those ideas and practices it is problematic to automatically adopt a negative standpoint).

Still, as I say, what about on a social/cultural matter? Why should buying a lesbian-friendly magazine identify you as lesbian (not, as Kara rightly says, that that is a problem)? What is being assumed by those who see you with such a magazine?

For me, I just get fed up with stores selling magazines desperately trying to categorise them into genres: what's wrong with having them alphabetical? If you know the title you can find it easy enough. Still, I guess the opposing view would be that without having similarly appealing titles nearby people would not be able to explore further reading.

My brain hurts:I'm thinking too much.

I need to go and join Darren for some soothing viewing.


Casyn said...

Do we also apply the same baggage to books?

Do we instantly form assumptions on the section of the bookshop someone is browsing?

The woman perusing the romance novel section; the older man browsing the arts and craft section; the weird types intently searching the fantasy novels for the latest volume in a trilogy (Hang on. That's me!).

I think it's just something people do and not just reserved for selection of reading material. People judge each other. We judge cars, clothes, hairstyle, attitude, accent, cuisine. Everything!

I don't necessarily like that it happens and wish I was less assumptive. More people need to realise how negative these judgements are.

I'm ok with categorised mag racks. Mostly because I'm lazy and like all my mags in the one place; and I don't relish the though of looking for a Buffy mag and coming across 'buffalo girls' or something like that. :-)

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I must admit that I do get quite cranky at the categorisation of fiction in bookshops: what is a classic? What defines a romance? And how these affect people buying from those sections: you can find that the only copies left of a book in stock are in a particular section rather than the general one, suggesting that some readers are not buying up all the copies because of their location.

Waterstones has a section called American Imports in the fiction section: (1) it ain't all fiction (2) whilst it's handy for nicely printed editions (often better than in the UK) it hardly seems a fair way to organise texts.

I agree I don't really want to sift through "Bedrooms and Bathrooms" to get to the Buffy mags though...

BTW have you had all the wicked willow series by Yvonne Navarro?

Skuds said...

Don't get me started on categorisation of books...

WH Smith has sections for 'fiction' and 'literary fiction'. Who decides whether a book is literary or not? And how?
(I think the rule of thumb is slightly bright pastel colours = literary)

As for being identified with what you read - I have a secret fondness for Tom Clancey & Robert Heinlein who both appear to be right-wing hawks... and if its true, someone should tell my wife about the number of gay-themed books I've got: 6 volumes of Tales of the City, 5 Michael Carson Books, Stephen Fry...

David Duff said...

I can never understand why you 'intellectuals' make your lives so difficult. Our hostess asks plaintively, "[W]hat is a classic? What defines a romance?" I haven't the remotest idea, but at least I know where to go to buy 'Vanity Fair', or the latest 'Aga Saga', so who cares?

Casyn said...

Ah, bookshop categories are a different matter. Mostly they're ok, but I find some of what they class as 'children's' fiction interesting. Or, finding children's books in adult fiction because they've not read the jacket.

I have the first volume of the Wicked Willow series, but I've not read it yet, nor bought the other two volumes. I will get to them one day. :-)

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Hi Skuds,
Yep, you're exactly right about WHS (who should know better) and their division of literary fiction and fiction: WTF?! Still, I guess there has to be somewhere to locate the Jeffrey Archer novels


And I wouldn't worry about being too identified with your reading: maybe hawkish right-ists can bring a certain paranoia and action-packed panic to contemporary fiction. And if you take these things too far you can end up identifying yourself as a hobbit (too many fantasy novels)!

BTW Michael Carson is fab! "Sucking Sherbet Lemons" is wonderful.