How Well Do Books Compete with Your TV set?

As Covid-19 struck, did the amount of books Americans buy go up or down? The options in this pop quiz are a) down 10%, b) flat, no change from 2019, and c) up 10%

The correct answer to this week’s quiz is number 3) because sales rose 8% compared to 2019 book sales.  That’s the “good news,” as people were generally stuck at home while the pandemic raged. The bad news, if you’re a bookstore owner or employee, is that bookstore sales were down 23% versus 2019 given that they were either shuttered or often had limited operations. The bigger picture “bad news” for the book industry is that the percentage of people who read a book on a typical day has declined from 26% to 19% from 2003 to 2017. In comparison, TV / streamed viewing is an activity consuming 10x more of people’s time than cracking open a book. The fear that books may become less relevant in a world driven by TV et cetera was, Joanna Scott says, one of the underlying concerns motivating her latest book, a collection of short stories about the often blurry line between fact, fiction, and the fantasies that play in our heads.

Released today: a pair of podcasts. Episode #56 of my podcast series “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” features Joanna Scott, the author of Excuse Me While I Disappear. Click here to get to the new episode. While on the web site, slide over into the Biography channel to listen to my episode with author Nelson Johnson regarding his book Darrow’s Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America’s Most Famous Trial Lawyer.

Joanna Scott is the author of 12 books, including Arroganceand Various Antidotes, both PEN-Faulkner finalists, and The Manikin, a finalize for the Pulitzer Prize. Her awards include a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She teaches at the University of Rochester.  

Nelson Johnson is a retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge and the author of four previous books including Boardwalk Empire, which inspired the HBO series about Atlantic City.

Image of New Books network and Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast logo

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

The Internal Rhythms We Live By

Sharon Olds from Arias, quote: “My mother beat me to the meter of “Onward, / Christian Soldiers.” She speeded up / the tempo which dragged, in church.”

Among all the damage the Biden administration inherited and is now trying to un-do is its efforts to reunite the children separated from their parents at the country’s southern border. How long will the affected children’s psychological wounds endure? If the writing of Pulitzer-prize-winning poet Sharon Olds is an indication, the answer is forever. In interviewing Sharon nothing struck me more than learning about her use of enjambmentof words spilling over line-by-line so urgently, as a way of wrestling control over the very rhythm of her life and craft.

Released today: episode #40 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Sharon Olds, the author of AriasListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode via the New Books Network website.

Photo of poet Sharon Olds, and the cover of her book "Arias" for Dan Hill's EQ Podcast episode 40, titled Intimate Truths about Embodying Joy & Pain"

Sharon Olds is the author of 12 books of poetry, including recently Arias (2019), which was short-listed for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize. Her 2012 collection Stag’s Leap won both the Pulitzer Prize and England’s T.S. Eliot Prize. She’s the Eric Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University’s Graduate Creating Writing Program.

Dan Hill, Ph.D., is the President of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Did the Civil War Ever End?

Quote by the American novelist William Faulkner who wrote about how the past shapes the present in Requiem for a Nun  "The past is never dead."

On January 6th, a participant in the mob storming the Capitol was seen inside the building carrying a Confederate flag defiantly. The ghost of novelist William Faulkner might have smiled at such a sight, not in support of the Rebel cause but because Faulkner believed the past gets repeated endlessly—that what was is never over. That reality applies to nations and individuals alike.

Released today: episode #38 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Michael Gorra, the author of The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil WarListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

The author of Portrait of a Novel, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Michael Gorra is the Mary Augusta Jordan Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College and the editor of the Norton Critical Editions of As I Lay Dyingand The Sound and the Fury.

This episode touches on two of William Faulkner’s novels in particular: The Sound and the Fury as well as Absalom, Absalom! It considers the role of memory and history, Faulkner’s alcoholism, the sexual exploitation practiced by plantation owners, and the greater presence of Nathan Bedford Forrest over Robert E. Lee in Faulkner’s fiction writings. Ties to today’s reckoning for racial justice is a part of the episode, too.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.