Changing aspects of the book culture | Daily News

Changing aspects of the book culture

‘Pocket book’ happened to be a term used by the pioneer of British book publisher Alan Lane as far back as the 1920s when he geared a new method of introducing small size books to be used by commuters. The English-reading public has got the chance of holding a small pocket size book that came to be branded as pocket books. The sales of these books gradually elevated paving the way to various types of reading material.

These types include initially detective stories, love stories, adventure stories, short novels and biographies. In fact, as recorded an English translation of the biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822) by the French writer Andre Maurois (1885 - 1967). The English biography is titled as Ariel and it is known that this has been the very first recorded pocket book brought out by Alan Lane. As a reader, I found the biography as a narrative with expanding dimensions on the other aspects of the investigative writing, creative thinking and giving additional interpretations to the already spelt out areas in literary insights.

Extra liberties

With the work, the conventional writing styles of a biography have undergone several changes. While retaining the actual facts referring to the life of a person, the biographer has taken extra liberties in expression. This attempt on the part of Alan Lane has given rise to a flood of categories that went as an adventure, biography, crime and detective, fantasy, science fiction, poetry, drama and nonfictional material such as do-it-yourself cookery, music, dancing and psychology inclusive of day-to-day medical advice which became popular.

The term popular came to be adduced to the publishing market via the pocket and with books that ushered a new reading culture.

Most French and Russian books came to be translated into English in this direction are good examples in the collection of pioneer Russian short story collection compiled by the two writers D H Lawrence and Koteliansky. As Somerset Maugham, the well known British novelist and short story writer pointed out, the pocket book of ten Russian short stories made him think more about changing formats of narratology.

The narrative of Chekhov, Tolstoy and Turgenev in English opened new vistas in this direction. This is indicated by the American writer F Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940) as a broadening of cross-cultural creative perspectives via an understanding of narrative of varying types. The parallels and tales of various cultures came to be captured as studies in both communication and literature.

Creative skills

Tolstoy, thanks to the availability of books from various cultures as translated into English gives way to the study of cross-cultural creative skills. If not for the yeoman task of translation on the part of David Magarshak, the great works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky would never have appeared. As some great writers note there cannot be a development in indigenous works devoid of any foreign influence.

Most religious books like Dhammapada, Bhagavad-Gita and Koran came to be known by the common reader via the pocket books or the small books. The trend was followed by the availability of such works as Mahabharata and Ramayana, the two Hindu epic poems and Odyssey and Iliad, the Greek epic. Furthermore, each chapter of these works came to be rewritten in simple English by Alan Lane as AL Bright Story Readers. They became popular among the juvenile readers of most English learning countries around the globe inclusive of our own country from the 1940s to 1060s at the school level. This trend gave way to the study of Orientalism.

As significant landmark emerges, the two volumes of pocket books on Greek myths as translated and compiled by the well known poet Robert Graves (1895 – 1985). As a further expansion of the influence derived from the translation of myths and legends, he expanded the creative expression by writing novels and poems based on the visions in the original works. His works I, Claudius (1934) and Claudius, the God (1934) are two examples. One cannot say for certain how popular they were as examples of popular reading, but they were transformed into films, branded as popular visuals on celluloid. Classics came to be expounded via simpler expressions.

Learned classicists

As a result, classics of the yesteryear became simplified all the available Greek plays ranging from Aeschylus to Euripides came to be known via small handy books as against the volumes used by the learned classicists. Similarly more oriental came to be known by occidental scholars who utilised them as the classroom text. Later on, the collected works of particular contributors came to be gathered as library editions. The term ‘Complete Works’ came to stay. But the printing of popular small pocket books developed in most centuries, as easily accessible works, enabling the moulding of home libraries.

With the expansion of the pocket book and small book publishing process, yet another term emerged the book market. That term came to be known as the paperback edition. Most well-known books came to be transferred as paperback giving authenticity to a popular reading habit. This trend soon spread globally into to other languages as well. This we see the library editions, pocket books, small books and paper books abound in the book market.

“The use of language is the use of the message and the message comes ultimately in the form of a print, culminating in the book form,” said Marshall Macluhan.



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