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1.15.2013

More About Baby Boomer Books and Why it's a Fast Growing Genre

English: Boomer statue by Harold T. Holden in ... 
Boomer literature is spreading on the Net, and following in the footsteps of the Passive Voice, I'll pick up the more important blog posts as they come up. Here is one (just published on January 14, 2013) from Abigail Padgett, author of two acclaimed series of mysteries, including Bone Blind . Her one Baby Boomer novel is The Paper Doll Museum (I highly recommend it!)

Here it is: 

Baby Boomer Books

Oh joy, a controversy!  78 million people now comprise, and millions more are close to, a demographic category several million others wish would just shut up.  The 78 million-plus are Baby Boomers.  Late forties and up.  The third stage of life.  Some Boomers are insisting that third-stage experience will give rise to its own literary genre, while detractors are certain that nothing interesting can possibly happen after 46 and thus no literature can emerge from the Boomer demographic.  Stories, after all, require conflict, drama, interesting stuff about which to write.  Hmmm. 

All literature is about change, about transition.  A king dies, conflict ensues, new king happens.  Boy meets girl, conflict ensues, both are changed (usually into parents).  Aliens/serial killers/heartless corporations threaten, conflict ensues, salvation lies in characters who change under threat in order to slay the beasts.  Transition, which cannot occur without conflict, is the cornerstone of stories.

Life involves four major transitions, two of which (birth and death) do not produce literature.  They are silent, since we cannot remember our births and cannot write books while dead.  The second transition, child-to-adult (innocence to experience), has given us countless myths and the currently wildly popular YA genre

Claude Nougat, a Rome-based novelist and economist, notes that sheer Boomer numbers created YA forty or fifty years ago.  Those same numbers, now mature, are creating a new genre reflecting the third transition – adult-to-sage (experience to wisdom).  But is the third transition sufficiently rife with conflict and drama to make literature?
...

Boomer Lit is about making it, about defining that shadowy divide and crossing it with style.  Boomers are beginning to write and read books about themselves in every genre, although Hollywood, ever sensitive to sources of impressive profit, got there first.  The Descendants(George Clooney), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Maggie Smith, Judi Dench) and Hope Springs (Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones), to name only three of about fifteen in 2012, are box-office hits.  Many more Boomer movies are in the pipeline, Boomerism is a hot topic in the media and there are too many Boomer blogs to count. But Boomer Literature is the turtle in this race, scrambling to catch up. 

Why?  Not because young people think older people are hopelessly stupid and out of it; that’s perfectly normal.  Every generation must define itself in opposition to what has (recently) gone before.  The life-threatening leap to wisdom from the precipice of experience cannot interest those still trying to accumulate experience.  The attitudes of the young are of no significance here, and cannot be blamed for the dearth of good Boomer literature. 

To find out the answer, go to Abigail Padgett’s blog: http://abigailpadgett.wordpress.com/ 

Yes, boomer lit is no longer a turtle...and given the size of the boomer wave, you can expect boomer lit to go mainstream, but speaking of boomers' transition to the third act in their lives, it might be more painful than expected as a result of the 2008 recession. Look at the article below reporting on recent findings by the American Writers and Artists Inc.: unemployment in the 50+ category has skyrocketed, many have to find money to supplement their income and for boomer writers copywriting could be a solution (for more on this, click here)

Warning: copywriting is not for everyone, you have to write promotional advertising material in such a way that the reader is convinced to take action and buy. And if you are an author, it is clear that copywriting takes away from your writing time. On the other hand, if you decide to self-publish, the experience of being a successful copywriter could come in handy in your own book promotion efforts.

One thing is certain: this long recession, and the pain it inflicts not only on the young but also on boomers who are stuck in long periods of unemployment should be the subject of thoughtful novels raising the issue or perhaps funny ones, turning a painful theme into a moment of entertainment. So far, it doesn't look like that theme has been picked up, though it has in the movies - but not in baby boomer books that I know of...

But I could be wrong on that. If you know of any, please tell us about it in the comments.

 
English: US Birth Rates from 1909-2008. The re...English: US Birth Rates from 1909-2008. The red segment is known as the Baby Boomer period. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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1.07.2013

Boomer Literature: What it is and Why it's Growing

Boomer Literature, or baby boomer novels, are suddenly the talk of the town. Starting in December 2012, the blogosphere picked up the story, and the birth of boomer literature was being discussed and widely commented on many heavily trafficked websites, including Boomer Café, The Passive Voice, The Kindle Nation Daily, Digital Book Today, Indies Unlimited, Venture Galleries, Gawker Media.

You'd think the publishing industry would be the first to take note that a new genre was burgeoning, yet that is not the way it happened:  Hollywood preceded publishing. Perhaps that's the nature of the beast: Hollywood has access to a much larger public (people who view films) than the publishing industry (people who read). Therefore, new trends in the general public, new tastes, new interests emerge first at the level of movies, before they are reflected in book sales.

In any case, film directors were the first to take the plunge and aim movies at a silver-haired audience, taking, as is often the case, a novel as a starting point. Louis Begley's About Schmidt inspired a hilarious film made in 2002 starring an unforgettable Jack Nicholson. Although the film is rather far away from the book, there is little doubt that its success marked an early turning point.

Suddenly  retirees were fun, even sexy. Stories about them, about the third act in our lives, had found a market.


Dame Judi Dench, arrival for the premiere of &...
Judi Dench in Berlin (Wikipedia photo)


Similar films followed exploiting the same marketing vein, some humorous and suspenseful like RED (i.e. Retired Extremely Dangerous), others more emotional and historical like The King's Speech, but all sharing a focus on challenges facing the over-50 generation.

2012 was a special year, first with  a wonderful film that came out of England, based on  Deborah Moggach's book These Foolish Things. Renamed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it was an instant success, featuring Maggie Smith and Judi Dench as part of a bunch of British retiree on a romp in India. A sequel is presently in the works. Then the trend was taken one step further: Austrian director Michael Haneke's film Amour with Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva hit the screens winning the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Festival and garnering praise in America where it is widely expected to win an Oscar for best foreign film. While it features a somber story about a couple of music teachers in their 80s (the wife is dying), it does signal a major change in the tastes of the public. Also,what is noteworthy is that the film features much older people than boomers. Indeed the boomer here is the couple's daughter, beautifully played by Isabelle Huppert.

If you haven't seen Amour yet, judge for yourself, here's the movie trailer:


This kind of film suggests that new posibilities are opening up for boomer literature: it is likely to encompass not only what happens to boomers themselves but it will also concern their relationships both with younger and older people. Also the themes will be much darker - there are some excellent books out there that do not hesitate to focus on somber content, notably Stephen Woodfin's The Warrior with Alheimer's  and Betsy Robinson's Conversations with Mom: An Aging Baby Boomer, in Need of an Elder, Writes to Her Dead Mother.


Since films are generally made from books, it began to dawn on some people (including myself) that a new genre aimed at more mature people might be in the making.

How to define this new genre? Surely not literature for the aged and the decrepit! A more neutral term was needed, one that would however describe what was happening. That's how Baby Boomer novels, BB novels or boomer literature was born!

It all started with a simple observation. There is at present in the publishing industry only one widely recognized, historic audience-centric genre: Young Adult literature (or YA lit, defined as aimed at the 14-18 age group).  Since 2009, a new audience-centric genre was added: New Adult similar to YA, but focused on somewhat older adults on the theory that maturity is only really achieved when people are in their twenties. Both YA and NA are focused on coming of age issues.  

All the other genres the industry has devised to assist readers in book discovery are content or theme-related: romance, sci-fi, historicals, thrillers, paranormal etc. And this is why YA spans across a broad range of theme-related genres and sub-genres (you have paranormal YA, dystopian YA etc). The success of YA which rose as a major category in the 1960s and 1970s was clearly due to the wave of boomers leaving their adolescence behind and providing a huge market for stories centered on the challenges of entering adulthood.

Now that boomers are getting older and hitting retirement age - at the rate of some 3.5 million every year - they are interested in stories relevant to them at this stage in their life. Thus the new boomer lit genre could be defined as addressing "coming of old age". Boomers, who in their young years were rebellious and keen to change to world of their parents, still see themselves as an active, dynamic lot. They are convinced that their third slice of life, made longer (and often better) by medical advances, is a chance for them to do amazing things, even start a second career. And it is certainly a moment when people ask themselves existential questions again: now that my work is behind me, who am I? What can I do in my remaining years?

Books, to stay relevant, need to accompany these changes in their lives, meeting the new demands and needs, putting forth characters boomers can identify with, characters who face those existential questions.

Hence the term boomer literature or Baby Boomer novels (BB novels), a neutral term that eschews the negative connotations of words like "aged", "aging" or "silver-haired audience".


Why is boomer lit going to be big?  Simply because the market for boomer literature is potentially very large: by a strict definition of boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), in 2012 there were close to 78 million such people in the US and (though certainly not all of them are rich!) they control some three quarters of GNP.  The youngest boomer is 49,  the oldest is 66. Yet as a genre, these age limitations should not be taken too literally. Give or take a few years, what matters is that the books address issues of concern to people in the over-50 generation. And while the data is only for the US, it is obvious that the genre is of interest to all people over-50  no matter where they live. And a matter of curiosity to many younger people, those who wonder where their lives will end up.

One can expect boomer literature to grow rapidly for the same reasons that made YA lit the success it is. History will repeat itself: once again, boomers are behind it. In that sense, boomer literature or BB lit is a real pendant to YA across time - it just happens to be on the other side of maturity. But the similarities don’t stop there. Like YA lit, it is a vast and flexible genre that can accommodate all kinds of sub-genres, from light comedy to tragedy, from romance to thrillers and more. Beyond novels and graphic novels, it also covers poetry, short stories and non fiction, memoirs, guidebooks...And like YA, boomer lit is likely to attract the interest of younger people, both as readers and writers (there are already some younger writers who have produced BB novels, like Beate Boeker and Sofia Essen).

In the fall of 2012, a number of writers became interested in the new genre. In September, a thread was created in the Amazon Kindle Fora for authors to list their BB novels and it immediately began to grow. In November, on Goodreads, the largest online reading club in the world, a group was created to discuss BB novels. By year-end, with a contantly expanding membership (now over 150 members), the group has some 50 titles on its bookshelf, including many from NYT bestselling authors. Every month, the Group reads a new BB novel (democratically selected through a poll) as a hands-on practical way to explore the confines of boomer literature (it is currently reading A Hook in the Sky).

A definition has already been put forward by two writers, Stephen Woodfin and Caleb Pirtle on the Venture Galleries site: “Boomer books reflect fundamental human issues and can be any genre, but they are character-driven stories centered around those who have the experience to understand life: its trials, its tribulations, its triumphs, and its contradictions.

What do you think of that definition? Do you agree with it? I note it is somewhat broader than my own definition of it as a genre centered on "coming of old age" (a touch of irony is included!). Your ideas?


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12.29.2012

Did You Have Nougat for Christmas? Secrets of An Old-fashioned Sweet

English: Montelimar's Nougat. Photograph taken...
Montelimar's claim to fame: Nougat. But was it really born there? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Did you have nougat for Christmas? If you have, you've renewed with an old tradition that is widespread in Europe. You've treated yourself to a moment of joy in a world that, as the year 2012 comes to an end,  is increasingly sorrowful, with reports of people in Mali getting their hands cut off for alleged thieving or stoned to death for adultery, a young woman in Delhi dying after having been raped on a public bus and horrendously massacred with a metal rod, of Afghan policemen killed in their sleep by their turncoat colleagues who then run to the Talibans for safety...

Which is why I wanted to tell you about something pleasant that helps to reconcile oneself with human nature, a simple, magical sweet made from honey, roasted nuts and whipped egg white. Called nougat in most northern European countries, Russia included, it goes by many more names in Southern Europe: turròn in Spain, turrò in Catalan and torrone in Italy, all three terms referring to the toasting of the nuts it contains. In Sicily, the best variety is called cubbaita  from the Latin cupedia. In Malta, it's qubbadj (close to the Sicilian term), in Greece, it's mandolato (a reference to almonds). And it even exists outside of Europe:  called Gaz in Persia, it's been produced for centuries in Esfahan and Boldaji located in the central plateau of Iran. But it's also been made in Iraq where it's known under another name: Mann al-Sama. However Gaz is different in one fundamental way: it uses the sap from a local plant, a species of Tamarix that is not found in European nougat.


Benevento: Teatro Romano
Benevento: Teatro Romano (Photo credit: rossamente)
There is little doubt that nougat as we know it was born somewhere in the South of Europe and everyone tried to lay claim to it. Chances are however that  it originated in Roman times, a sweet the Latins called cupedia, a term meaning delicacies or fondness for delicacies - the perfect way to call a sweet!

For centuries, it was made  across the Italian peninsula, from Sicily to Benevento to Lombardy. The nougat destined to become the most popular variety in modern times first appeared in  Cremona in the early 15th century: this is the one you've probably had, it is white, a concoction of honey and beaten egg whites. Brown nougat appeared later and is called mandorlato in Italy and nougatine in France. The difference? It doesn't contain egg whites. After those two come all the other varieties: with chocolate, hazelnut, candied fruit - whatever. No doubt, all very good but further and further away from traditional nougat. In Australia and the US, nougat can even become an ingredient in other types of candies.

The French, not unsurprisingly, claim that nougat originated in the ancient Provence city of Montélimar that predates Roman times, and that this is the real "capital of nougat". It certainly was a big production center starting in the 18th century but nowadays Montélimar, a pretty sleepy town off the Rhone river, finds itself by-passed by a new highway (the A 7 Autoroute). Tourists no longer come as they used to and many nougat factories have closed down...


View Rhone river near Montelimar, France
View Rhone river near Montelimar, Franchttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nougate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Still, what Montélimar did  manage to achieve is pass on the term "nougat" to the rest of Europe: the word comes from old Occitan pan nogat (in Latin: nux gatum) which means nut bread.

But the habit to eat it for Christmas, was that also a French tradition? The French love to make you believe that anything that has to do with food comes from them. But in this case, it's highly unlikely. The link between a sweet originally made in Italy and the Christian festive occasion seems to have a completely different origin: the Bourbon Kings of Naples and Two-Sicilies were the ones to promote nougat. It seems there were several centers of excellence in Benevento (a region under the King's purview) for example Santa Croce del Sannio and Montefalcone di Val Fortore. The "cupeta beneventana" (again that reference to Latin cupedia!) was so famous that it was sent to Rome and given to prelates as a special holiday present, earning the name "torrone del Papa"  (the Pope's nougat). Soon enough - by the 1800s - the habit of eating nougat at Christmas spread across Europe.

Which kind of nougat do you like best? It comes in all sorts: soft and gooey, hard and crunchy, with different kinds of nuts, all white or covered with chocolate...Our modern food industry in the US and UK has taken the nougat recipe to another level, adding sucrose and corn syrup to it and throwing it into all sorts of sweets and candies, creating with marketing inventiveness new candy bars, from Mars to Milky Way and many more.

Nougat is versatile, is everywhere and makes you happy... one reason why I picked it as a pen name. There's another, more personal reason too but I won't bother you with it for now (If you're curious, you  can find it here, in the first post I wrote to introduce this blog, back in 2009...)

Have a fruitful, nougat-full, prosperous 2013!


Nougat sold in Perth, Australia.
Nougat sold in Perth, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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12.24.2012

2013 Will Be The Year of Baby Boomer Novels, Merry Boomer Christmas!

That's my prediction: boomer literature will be the Big Discovery of 2013, as the publishing industry, and not just Hollywood, realize there is a market out there of 78 million boomers in the US alone and many more in the rest of the world. What the boomers did for YA (Young Adult) literature 40 years ago, they will now do for BB lit. History repeats itself!

Merry Boomer Christmas!

For news about boomer lit around the Net, including articles and posts on the Passive Voice, Boomer Café, Digital Book Today, the Kindle Nation Daily, Venture Galleries and more, check here

For great Christmas gifts for the boomer in your life, check the bookshelf of the Goodreads Group discussing BB novels here, there are some 40 BB titles, see here

Or go to the thread in the Amazon Kindle fora, here.

For the next great boomer film, QUARTET, featuring Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon and directed by Dustin Hoffman, check here. In the movie trailer you'll see the setting, it's just amazing! Look here: 


 

It's coming up in January 2013, don't miss it! 

Yes, boomer films and boomer lit have arrived! And it's not just about BB novels: there are BB short stories, BB poetry and, why not, BB non-fiction...

2013 will also be the year of Readers! Just look at this picture I took yesterday in Rome in my neighborhood bookstore:



These are people queuing up to pay! Such a long line, much longer than any you see in other stores in the area - we're in a deep recession in Italy, people aren't buying anything but they're buying books! Whoever said that Italians don't read...And whoever said that women read more than men? Just look at the number of men in that line...

Have a Successful and Happy 2013!
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12.19.2012

When Music Meets Poetry...

The international poetry anthology edited by Oscar Sparrow, FREEZE FRAME (published by Gallo Romano, UK) is to be accompanied by music and I wondered what music could ever fit the different voices of 6 totally different poets. Well, now I've stopped wondering and I'm amazed!

Listen to it, tell me what you think:

I find it hauntingly beautiful...Even if you're in a bad mood for some other reason, listen to it, it will change your mood for the better! 

This music has the power of poetry - that ability to operate on one's mood which is poetry's greatest appeal, regardless of the theme. Just let the music and the poems work on you and for you...

NEWS UPDATE: FREEZE FRAME, a poetry anthology, together with audio book, has just come out, click here to purchase.

Also on December 21, there will be a Google+ hangout on 21 December, 6 pm GMT. Click here to join and meet the 6 poets, Paul Tobin, Jefferson Hansen, Jo VonBargen, Candy Bright, Oscar Sparrow and... me!

Freeze Frame - Stop Time - Carpe Diem - Catch the vanishing moment...Let the Mouth of Truth talk to you...

And with my personal warm thanks to the anthology's editor, Oscar Sparrow, tireless and indomitable, and to author and poet Emma Calin (regretfully she didn't participate in this anthology but she is giving us selflessly her time and support). 

Roma-bocca della verità
Roma-bocca della verità (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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