The Atlanta History Center's book sale last Saturday was disappointing, with just a few interesting books among the usual selections seen at such used-book sales. Will Durant's "History of Philosophy" anyone? I did find a couple of tempting tomes from the Adams brothers, a coffee-table edition of Henry's "Mont St. Michel and Chartres" and Brooks' study of Massachusetts history. I did purchase two books, a biography of Ring Lardner and a copy of Wilfred Sheed's "Essays in Disguise."
Ring Lardner and Wilfred Sheed, two fine American writers who can be seen as minor/major. Lardner wrote "You Know Me Al," the baseball classic, and was part of the early New Yorker set that did so much to set the tone of American culture. Sheed wrote fine novels, criticism and personal essays. His study of "American Songbook" composers is one of the best books I've read.
Both writers were products of the healthy U.S. magazine and publishing culture, now under siege by the Internet and blogs (like this one). But news of publishing's death might be exaggerated, as the tablet market continues to grow. Just today, Barnes and Noble announced two new models of its Nook for a niche not covered by Amazon's Kindle. Also of interest today, the Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins had the message "content is king." Jenkins was actually talking about Apple's efforts to show TV shows, claiming that TV would withstand Apple better than the music industry, but his point also applies to the Tablets and reading material. Books and printed magazines might be obsolete, although they continue to chew up many, many trees, but the written word will continue to be disseminated in e-formats. (Although James David Kunstler points out that they deplete resources such as rare earth minerals and might be doomed as well). While the Internet gives a forum to ranters and nutcases, well-reasoned thought and artistic excellence eventually will find an audience in the marketplace. That might require a reorganization of the publishing industry, but good writing will always find a prominent place.