Book Watch: 'For the sake of the book'

Hebrew Book Week is the time when books published domestically get the most exposure.

By SUZANNE SELENGUT
May 31, 2006 09:20
4 minute read.
book week 88 298

book week 88 298. (photo credit: )

The "people of the book" just won't stop reading, according to Shay Hausman, chair of the Book Publishers Association of Israel. And, they never read quite so many books as during Hebrew Book Week, the annual event featuring reduced prices on books, as well as cultural events for all ages, to take place this year from June 7 to 17th. "After all these years of being involved in this, I can say that the event has become a part of Israeli culture. Although other countries host trade shows or shortened book sales, nowhere else in the world is there a week-long event which is just for readers," says Hausman. And luckily for Hausman, those happy readers transfer into sales for publishing companies. Heavy competition has forced the book industry to focus on discount pricing, but the actual number of books sold has gone up, he says. Hebrew Book Week is the time when books published domestically get the most exposure. Although 90 percent of those books are in Hebrew, most of the rest are English books published in Israel. Hausman recommends looking out for quality books that had a short shelf life at book stores and will make their reappearance during the week. It has been 80 years since the first Hebrew Book Day, when Bracha Peli of Masada Publishing Company had the idea of setting up some book stalls on Sderot Rothschild in Tel Aviv, with signs that read: "For the sake of the book, we will not be silent." The gimmick worked and over the years the day evolved into a week, culminating in the first Hebrew Book Week some 45 years ago. Now, the draw of the event is more than the discounted books all over the country. Artistic events, often with a literary theme, are an anticipated part of the week. Jerusalem will host meetings with authors, word games for kids and adults, browsing stations and street theater. Tel Aviv will welcome a range of shows for adults and kids as well as ubiquitous food stalls. Peripheral towns will not be forgotten this year. Although cuts by the Ministry of Education threatened to downsize the events in those areas, the event's organizers have decided to team up with the Office of Development of the Negev and Galilee, headed by Vice Premier Shimon Peres, in order to keep the event going in that region. This year, the book week's fair will be held in the Old Railway Station in Jerusalem, in Ganei Yehoshua in Tel Aviv, in the Haifa Grand Canyon mall, in the Big Center in Beersheba, in the City Square in Kfar Saba and in the Moshava Park in Rishon Lezion, among other locations. For more information, visit www.sfarim.org.il Love it or hate it - but don't dismiss it The Da Vinci Code, the Ron Howard movie based on the best-selling book by Dan Brown, was released Friday in theaters across the United States to a loudly mixed chorus of critics and fans. University of North Dakota pop culture scholar and English professor Kathleen Dixon observes that The Da Vinci Code - love it or hate it - is a cultural phenomenon. "People study this industry, the text and the audience," says Dixon, who has a broad expertise in other cultural icons. "You find out how the industry regards the work that it's doing and how it produces this kind of book [or movie] even before it becomes a blockbuster. We're talking about the pipeline production mechanics of a popular novel." And the key fact - often lost in the heated debate about the book's merits and defects - is that the book is, and was intended by its author to be, a novel. Notoriety - the controversial and even bad press that Dan Brown's magnum opus is getting in some quarters - adds to that blockbuster energy, says Dixon. Whatever else may be true or not about the novel and what Dan Brown's message might be, it's now into mega-sell. "That's what Dan Brown is in now, so we want to see things from the perspective of the producers. I mean, you now have a book touting The Da Vinci Code tour. That's for fairly upscale readers. You've got many readers who could never afford to travel to see the Louvre - a focal point in the novel - but you also have readers planning vacations based on The Da Vinci Code." Publishers - and now the moviemaker, Ron Howard - soon realized they had a cash tiger by the tail. Dixon says looking at The Da Vinci Code for what it really is should relieve some people - especially the many who may not have read the book but are critical of, or worried about, its "message" - of the burden of being so serious about it. "It's popular culture," she says. "I love popular culture because, really, it's just so fun, so playful." (University of North Dakota)


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