A morose Frank Moorhouse has written a series of features for The Australian on the country’s literary landscape – sort of. His conclusions are mixed, but there’s some interesting analysis:
“There is a literary logjam. Many doomed books, especially novels, pass by unnoticed in ghostly procession, never reviewed, never mentioned in the media, often barely stocked by bookshops, hardly selling a copy.
In their 1994 survey, Throsby and Beverley Thompson found that among the writers surveyed, 47 per cent had published a book but only 7 per cent had been reviewed.
Research I had done for the CAL showed that, among other things, in the Sydney Morning Herald in November 1964, 142 books were reviewed or mentioned: in November 2004, only 88 books were reviewed or mentioned.
While a review is not the only way to find out about or to evaluate a book (there are also word-of-mouth and browsing, although I’d hate to depend on these alone), it is the primary way. Furthermore, book reviews are the intellectual news of our society.”
I think that makes me feel better – and yet…