Image by warrantedarrest via FlickrWe seem to live in a sensationalist age, when things come to our notice only when they have become famous... or notorious. Celebrity watching is super popular, and books seem to become instantly famous if they contain some controversy that brings them to the notice of the media.
Why is this? What is happening really - are people losing interest in themselves in favour of celebrities? Are books becoming mere channels for discussion and debate? Perhaps this is simply a fashion or fad. It certainly has been going on for some time. There is a morbid interest in the general public for things that contain some sort of controversy.
Biographies of controversial figures have never sold better. Gossip magazines are the vehicles of sensationalism. Books with some sort of issue or argument can cause a storm and sell millions of copies. Everyone wants to know what the fuss is all about: everyone wants to share their opinion, and buy in on the debate.
Perhaps it is because we live in an argumentative age. Perhaps it is because news travels so far and so fast it's not enough for it to be just news... it's got to raise dust, in the form of an argument. Look what happened to The Da Vinci Code. We look back now and wonder what came first: the media hype, or the debate and discussion? Were the publishers poised for the disputes and discussions, or did they know from the outset they were creating the environment for them?
These questions are interesting ones, and they continue to show their heads every time some stimulating book hits the bookstores. These sensations either last a month or two and disappear, giving place to others, or they live on and tantalise with their staying power to make people talk. Some of this is generated by the PR arms of publishing companies. Some of it is extended by the general need for a sensation. It's a fashion, perhaps. It is certainly food for thought and fodder for conversations.