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This report is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

Bringing What to Life Exactly? Pamela Coren

Everywhere audiences are invited to pay and sit in rows while the past, the battle, the music, the book is 'brought to life'. Morticians of all kinds, teachers, museum curators, screenwriters, film producers, journalists, biographers are busy with public acts of resuscitation, the approved method being to paint a recognisable face on the corpse, complete with range of identifiable emotions.

The equivoque in 'bringing books to life' remains hidden. It may be present in the consciousness of scholars lured into the spin-off trade, but the suggestion of bringing the book to the life, as remedy to patient, resource to need, is suppressed in most commercial exploitation of unreading. In its outward sense the phrase is self-authenticating. Entertainment projects so marketed arrive with the object already silenced, as the film, TV documentary of the author's life, weekend magazine article, museum display of the writer's possessions, plot résumé in a gossipy biography or whatever draws out and repackages its entrails. Books are dead and need revival via thematic entertainments and author-based talks, all 'literary' events which do not involve reading.

To accept 'bringing books to life' without question tends to involve the distillation of books into their content, or, in the case of the dominant genre, the novel, their sequential storyline. In the world of talk about poems, letters, journals, drama, collections of photographs, even advertisements, are represented as personal narrative. The language arts are being sold, at amateur levels, as ways of 'telling your own story'. ...


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