Mark McGurl

Nov 4, 2021

Everything and Less

Mark McGurl on Books in the Age of Amazon

New Books Network 2021

What do you make of Amazon: The new Sears Roebuck? A terrifying monopoly threat? Satisfaction (a paperback in your mailbox, a Kindle edition on your tablet) just a click away? John and Elizabeth speak with Stanford English prof Mark McGurl, whose previous books include the pathbreaking The Program Era.

Mark faces that question squarely in his terrific new book, Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon: if you want to know even more about it, check out the NY Times review by RTB's own book-history maven, star of RTB 46, Leah Price. Mark ponders when service became an idiom for the relationship between writer and reader and how strong a claim he is willing to make about Amazon's impact on the modern novel (pretty strong!). Finally, he tackles the key question: is the genre of "Adult Diaper Baby Love" (a breakout hit in Kindle sales; google it at your peril!) the perfect metaphor for Amazon's effort to soothe, pacify and succor its infantilized consumer-base?

Mentioned in the episode:

Laura Miller, Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption

Public libraries going trashy or classy: John wrote an article about this topic, praising a compelling database, "What Middletown Read"

Recallable Books:

Walter Tevis, Mockingbird (1980)

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1853)

Anthony Trollope, The Warden (1855)

Transcript available here: RTB 67 Transcript (or Visit the Recall this Book Transcript page)

Upcoming: Mark's discussion of the history of books and book publishing inspired next week's blog post: tune in next Thursday to find out more! It also sent us back to the archives for a golden RTB oldie starring Martin Puchner. That will appear, freshly rewrapped for the occasion, just before Thanksgiving.

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Elizabeth Ferry and John Plotz

Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: ferry@brandeis.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.

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