Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I would add the bookshops to Orwell's list (by implication he is already referring to the strange unaccountable court of judgement which decides if a book gets a good or bad review or - worst of all - no review at all). Even if it is well-reviewed, a book's success and influence depend greatly on how and where bookshops display it in the crucial weeks when it is in the public eye. The difference in the influence of the book that's piled in heaps on the table at the entrance, and the book which you have to ask for, or which is concealed on a back shelf in a basement, is colossal. Yet nobody ever classifies this often completely unfair treatment as censorship or bias. It is odd how so few people are conscious of being manipulated by bookshops, whereas I think most people are aware of the way in which supermarkets try to manipulate them. And so the huge responsibility of deciding whose book gets prominent display goes unexamined. Often it's a matter of money. But I think most bookshop staffs are left-wing, in that boring default way which afflicts most graduates, and they let their prejudices govern their display.