The Real (Literary) America

[The Millions]

Over at The Millions, you’ll find my “dispatch from the Borders-land,” where, basically, I ask a bunch of shoppers about their relationship to books. Lit blogs tend to take an isolated view of the literary world, and I wanted to push back against this (and also to satisfy my own curiosity). The week I did the interviews—this was back in December, and the story’s delay stems mostly from my incompetence—the New Yorker debuted another excerpt from DFW’s The Pale King. I remember being extremely excited to read the short story, then noticing that the magazine’s newsstand appendage thingy didn’t even mention Wallace. Different worlds, different priorities—and yet, among the people I talked to, fiction seems alive and well.

One caveat: I wanted this dispatch to be short and I wanted to devote most of it to the interviews, so if it seems like I’m totalizing “real” or “average” readers (or relegating them to scare quotes), that’s why. With more space, I would have liked to talk about the geographic and socioeconomic aspects to reading audiences. For example, Connecticut Goodwills tend to offer some pretty interesting books (in the last year, I’ve picked up an early edition of JFK’s Profiles in Courage and a paperback of William Vollman’s Europe Central). I don’t recall Indiana Goodwills even selling books.


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