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The Please Insert Fiction Section

Do they have 'American Fiction' sections in bookstores in the States?

I've always found the 'Australian Fiction' section of bookstores here to cause a curious mix of responses. The first is that it's usually incomplete, with Australian authors found in Speculative Fiction, Crime, Romance, and General Fiction, plus others. Secondly, if I stare at the Australian Fiction shelves long enough (and you can usually take them in with one glance) I begin to believe that Tim Winton, Matthew Reilly and Bryce Courtney are incredibly important to Australia and that they must--while fighting mutated animals and swimming in the Antarctic, perhaps--capture the essence of what it is to be Australian. Otherwise, why else would they be there while so many others are not? Eventually, however, I just shrug and tell myself that it's good that Australian fiction is being promoted, but in truth, I'd rather the Umberto Eco novel.*

In Kinokuniya, the giant Japanese bookstore off George Street in the city, there is a Japanese Fiction shelf. I find myself drawn to it every time, but rarely think about if Ryu Murakami or Koji Suzuki are incredibly important to Japan. I just get drawn. It's different. I get sucked in on that. Even now, typing this, I'd like more bookshelves that specialised in translations from certain countries. I'd particularly like an Icelandic Fiction shelf.

Yet, if I had my way, I'd kill the Australian Fiction shelf.

It's an interesting contradiction, I think. Least it is right now and, as I let it turn over, I also have to admit that bookstores are something that I visit less and less. I used to love bookstores, but now, I do most of my book shopping online, and not because most of the books I want aren't available here. They're not available, but even when they are, I order online. I'm not quite sure when this habit developed, but it has, in the last five years, and in small moments that have been motivated by the rising Australian dollar and the rising price of books in Australia, turned book shopping into a virtual shopping experience. So why, in the end, do I even bother thinking of shelves?

Weird train of thought, that. In other news, today I learnt that all medical students secretly yearn to sing and dance, but you're fucked if you think I'll pay to watch that.




* Actually, I've never read an Eco book, but I've been thinking about it quite a lot of late.

Comments

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future_conduit
Aug. 17th, 2005 10:38 am (UTC)
i find the same sorts of questions going thru my head when walking in to the local "video" store.

Why aren't all the american films in the foreign film section?
bodhichitta0
Aug. 17th, 2005 11:07 am (UTC)
Maybe because people would expect them to be good then? :-D
(no subject) - future_conduit - Aug. 17th, 2005 11:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2005 12:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - future_conduit - Aug. 17th, 2005 12:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2005 01:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - future_conduit - Aug. 17th, 2005 01:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
nick_kaufmann
Aug. 17th, 2005 12:28 pm (UTC)
We do not have American Fiction sections in U.S. bookstores, though there will usually be Local Author sections and, of course, Westerns.
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2005 12:39 pm (UTC)
there's a genre that's not big here: westerns. bit of a shame really.
(no subject) - ninebelow - Aug. 17th, 2005 12:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2005 12:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ninebelow - Aug. 17th, 2005 01:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 18th, 2005 12:33 am (UTC) - Expand
tanuja
Aug. 17th, 2005 12:40 pm (UTC)
The answer to your question is no, they merely have fiction, broken down by genre and then by author.

The UK bookstores don't have a break down by country, unless it's foreign language books (and not just the teach yourself a foreign language ones).

It is very strange why a bookstore in Australia feels the need to segregate Australian authors, unless they were having an Australian author promotion.

As for the medical students, ours usually want to go into comedy or acting, e.g. Struck off and Die, (who split up when Dr Tony decided that he was going to be a serious actor by getting a McDonalds commercial and then going off to take roles in crappy sit coms)

http://www.angelfire.com/pq/radiohaha/SOAD.html

Shame because they were a bitingly funny duo
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2005 12:44 pm (UTC)
i guess they break up the australian thing because, here in the land of aus, we are told to support australian things. it's out australian duty to support australian things. or something like this. it's a valid point, of course, but it doesn't strike you as odd when you think about--and has also resulted in a lot of people having a backlash against australian things.

some of which is deserved, of course.
(no subject) - tanuja - Aug. 17th, 2005 12:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2005 01:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
black13
Aug. 17th, 2005 12:50 pm (UTC)
No such thing here in Germany either. As mentioned above, some bookstores have segregated shelves, but only for foreign language editions.

Foucault's Pendulum is supposed to be goodI haven't read it yet, so I can't comment on it myself.

Regarding Japanese writers, I recommend Miyuki Miyabe. Fairly new writer, and writes stunningly good mysteries.

I'm also one of those who do their book shopping online. It's faster and cheaper. Before online, I took one afternoon a month to dash through the bookstores and see what's new. It was always a hectic experience. The I switched to mail-order book buying (offline), and then to online book buying. It's usually cheaper. Online offers me a chance to compare prices without having to run from store to store and back, and I sometimes save five or ten Euro per book. (I usually save three or four Euro by buying from a certain UK online store, instead of any German store, online or off-.)
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)
hey, thanks, i'll keep and eye out for miyabe.

like you, online purchasing is just cheaper. especially for a hardcover. it's like fifty/forty five bucks for a mass market hardcover over here, and i've seen them go for as much as seventy when they're not as mass market. picking them up from the states adds that cost for postage, but get a couple of things and you're breaking under, still.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 17th, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
categories
It does seem an odd thing, Ben. I mean, we have African American sections in our bookstores, the point of which is to celebrate a particular type of culture, but that doesn't even make sense because "African American" is not some kind of monolithic entity. It begins to seem more and more like a protected class. And that almost seems to be what an Australian fiction section is--at least, that's how I'd read it if I saw such a section.

JeffV
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 12:36 am (UTC)
Re: categories
i would have thought that an african-american section would fall into those motivations of positive discrimination and giving a minority a voice. in the same way that some bookstores here have a gay and lesbian literature section.
mariness
Aug. 17th, 2005 02:56 pm (UTC)
I've never seen an "American fiction" section in the States. Florida bookstores do have, however, subcategories of either "Local Authors" or "Florida fiction" and "African-American fiction" and very occasionally "Cuban fiction." (I think the last category is just one store.)

The Florida fiction part is problematic, since Florida shelters a number of authors who are here for tax and creditor purposes (the state has no income tax and generous protection versus creditors, much more so than any other state) which means that the vast majority of Florida authors are not writing "Florida" fiction at all. Sure, Carl Hiassen does "Florida fiction," but I think the bestselling author living in Fort Lauderdale is Amanda Quick, who writes Regency romances that fail to mention Florida at all. Quick's books clearly belong in the Romance section, and taking her out and putting her in "Florida fiction" is a disservice to everybody -- and yet it's done because "she lives in Florida." Geesh.

On the other hand, an utterly crap book called Jane Austen in Boca, which I urge you not to read, was put in "Florida fiction" by another bookstore, even though its author lives in New Jersey and did not bother to get simple, basic, easy to check facts about Boca even remotely correct, just because, "The setting's Florida."

I rant.

I also don't get the "African-American fiction" sections -- just because the stuff there never seems to me to be especially African-American, just regular fiction that happens to have black characters. Maybe this is because I'm white, but I haven't figured out the point of segregating this fiction. Wouldn't it be easier just to shelve it in the regular fiction section? Also, I can't figure out how they select "African American" authors -- Alice Walker and Tananarive Due usually end up in general fiction, for example. Which is really really odd since some of Due's stuff should be in the horror or the sci-fi section.

Maybe the whole classification system is just ridiculous.
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 12:40 am (UTC)
yeah,t his sort of dividing is ridiculous. i mean, in the australian section you can find the lian hearn books, which are young adult samurai novels, with (to the best of my knowledge) no australianism in them at all. kinda odd.

kinda pointless, too.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 17th, 2005 02:59 pm (UTC)
there's some unspoken need amongst all australians to become patriotic and support all australian arts whether it be films, music or books. this unspoken need is relevant and understood from all levels, from your suppliers, retailers, and in the end, average consumer.

redeye music also has an australian artists section for their cds...

of course this may be a cunning marketing ploy (i.e., a load of crap) or something that's dreadfully sad - there's no other way for a native artist to survive besides being labelled "an australian singer/author/filmaker".

john

benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 12:42 am (UTC)
i think it's a mix of marketing and patriotism, that whole, 'buy australian' that was jammed down our throats for a while there. it's less now (possibly because of free trade agreements that threaten australian industries...) but for a while there we were all being urged to buy with the green and gold sticker like it kept the country afloat.
artbroken
Aug. 17th, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC)
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is really goddamn excellent. I'll probably post a full review on the weekend.
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 12:43 am (UTC)
i await.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 18th, 2005 06:43 am (UTC)
You'd better be careful, Ben; you don't want to be UnAustralian (ah, how one has to love a word with two capital letters). This bogus pro-Australia-rah-rah-rah is pretty damn' concerning, as far as I'm concerned. Almost as bad as that Moighty-Moite fake vegemite stuff.

I guess I've just accepted that mainstream bookshops are fucked. Seriously, if I go into one more Angus and Robertson and have to read a 'staff recommendation' sign that reads something like, 'David Eddings is cool, and he has elves and stuff, and quests! You will also like Raymond E Feist', I might just have to disembowel myself.

Steph C
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 07:25 am (UTC)
yeah, i often wonder about the staff recommendations. i think to myself: what do i care what... er, billy... has to think about this book. billy might be an illiterate slob who jerks off to romance novels. clearly billy is no use to me.

though if you disembowled yourself over a feist novel, that'd be a recommendation :)
(Anonymous)
Aug. 18th, 2005 11:03 pm (UTC)
Just let Dr Death know how I want to go. :)

Steph C
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