Browsing for books in France still holds the promise of discovery in the country’s three thousand independent shops—triple the number to be found in Britain. A wide range of books are stocked at their cover price, in contrast to the mountains of discounted titles filling the predominant chainstores in the us and uk. Small publishing houses, as well as the outlets likely to read and recommend their lists, are kept afloat by the exception culturelle and prix unique du livre when the industry otherwise is driven by speed and profit margins, not the originality and rigour of content. But the French model is progressively aligning itself with the market-oriented system elsewhere, in which new books tend to be catalogued months in advance, or are gap-fillers—bought already written, usually by a celebrity chef or sportsperson’s ghost-writer, and churned out immediately to meet the targets for that fiscal year. Like washing machines and cars, the aim is for the shortest possible shelf-life.
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By the same author:
A New Proletkino?
Is it possible to detect the contours of a new genre of proletarian cinema operating across the widely contrasted films of Ken Loach, the Dardenne brothers, Robert Guédiguian, Aki Kaurismäki and Pedro Costa? What does this body of work say about contemporary working-class experience and its representations on the silver screen?
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Culture After Google
Emilie Bickerton on Astra Taylor, The People’s Platform. Diagnosis of a cultural production laid low by digital consolidation, and political proposals for a push-back.
A Bonfire of Art
Emilie Bickerton on Michael Witt, Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian. Landmark reading of the director’s epic audiovisual essay, Histoire(s) du cinéma.
Emilie Bickerton on Geneviève Nakach, Malaquais rebelle. Biography of a world-wandering modernist writer.
The Mage of Lake Geneva
Emilie Bickerton on Antoine de Baecque, Godard, biographie. Life and work of Europe’s greatest living visual artist.
Sarkozy’s Fifth Column
Emilie Bickerton on Serge Halimi, Les Nouveaux chiens de garde. Polemical attack on the French media as choristers of the new liberal order. Does Sarkozy’s victory mean the electorate is finally in tune?
Adieu to Cahiers
Life-cycle of Cahiers du cinéma. The trajectory of the pre-eminent film journal, from cine-clubs of Liberated Paris to masterpieces of the New Wave, barricades to the pensée unique, tracked against broader changes in French intellectual culture.
The Camera Possessed
Extraordinary career of Jean Rouch—surrealist, engineer, anthropologist, cinéaste—synthesizing the gains of Vertov and Flaherty, to take his camera inside the taboo. In Abidjan and Paris, ethnographical films appropriated by their subjects as springboard for the New Wave.