Tuesday’s #POSIEL (Publication of The Self in Everyday Life) class brought in an incredible guest speaker, Ryan Nadel of 8 Leaf Digital Productions. Ryan was the kind of speaker where everyone in the class sat up a little straighter and zeroed their focus in on him. He was captivating and used analogies in his presentation that I absolutely loved.
He talked about a number of different things about the book and where the book is heading due to technology. Where he completely got me hooked was when he quoted from The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schultz. The quote he read was talking about how the appearance of the bicycle at the turn of the century was a huge success, but it also felt as if people were cheating nature by using an invention that made life so much easier. We didn’t talk about it much, but it really got me to thinking about how the invention of the eReader has modernized and “improved” reading. I use quotation marks for improved because in my opinion, it hasn’t been a huge improvement, more a heightening of convenience. I personally don’t use my eReader much, unless it’s for ARC’s (advanced reading copies) from publishers, or for books with racier covers that I don’t want everyone seeing 😉 Ryan spoke about how the physical book is becoming obsolete, sort of like the candle in lieu of the lightbulb. Yet, he gave a statistic of how there are more candles being made now than ever before. The novelty of the eReader was strong when it first arrived on the scene for sure, but despite people’s fears, the physical book is as important and forcefully there as ever before. My experiences working in a book store lead me to say that I don’t think it will ever truly be gone either.
Ryan then went on to reference Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher of Communication Theory and his idea of “hot and cold media”. Hot media could be considered something passive, i.e watching Transformers, where you don’t have to really think while watching. Essentially hot media is “brain candy”. Cold media is something where the viewer/reader etc., has to interpret what they are viewing and engage and learn from it. McLuhan’s idea is basically, “the medium is the message”. It got me to thinking about how the Young Adult book genre is still getting flak from the “serious” book types, who don’t believe that YA is beneficial to the book world (p.s this is the most woefully misinformed and downright wrong article I have read in a long time and I was pissed). I find it frustrating that they consider it only “brain candy”, and certainly some of it is. But there are others that are beyond amazing. Laurie Halse Anderson wrote SPEAK and prompted thousands of people to speak up about their own sexual abuse experiences. Jandy Nelson deals with grief in THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE in the most eloquent and natural way that I don’t think an “adult” book could do it any better. There are so many more examples i’m going to cut it off there because I could go on for a long time. These books spark conversations and thoughts that are just as important as any. Rae Carson, author of one of my personal favourite series The Girl of Fire and Thorns, tweeted this back in 2013 and it’s still getting retweets because of how important and true it is. Nothing is “wrong” when someone is reading. The medium may be the message in McLuhan’s opinion but it’s not true in every sense of the word. Despite the problems some people have with the genre, other’s champion it to the fullest, myself included.
Lastly, Ryan brought up the fact that he worked on Meta Maus by Art Spiegleman. He asked us what is it about comics that have such an impact? He claimed that words are used when ambiguity is the goal, and that adding that visual element to a story adds a certain specificity. I immediately thought of Craig Thompson’s BLANKETS, a literary graphic novel that had such an incredibly strong impact on me that I hold all literary graphic novels up to that standard now. Without Thompson’s simple and clean, yet strong and brazen graphics, the story wouldn’t have been nearly the same. Comics are using “junk food” ingredients (although I don’t necessarily agree with that terminology) to make a nutritious meal. They add a “shared emotional landscape between reader and writer” (Nadel) that broke the boundaries of what a book truly is and pushed it into what it can be.
There was much more to Ryan’s lecture but I felt this was at the core of what he was trying to say. The fact that I was able to relate it to something that I know and am so passionate about in my life. The book is not becoming obsolete and the Young Adult genre is a powerhouse in the world of publishing. In the words of Ryan Nadel, “nutritious work over brain candy”, but in my opinion, anything you read is good.