“Book Birthing” and Conspicuous Literary Consumption: Writing and Reading Books in the Time of COVID-19

Blackburn-Daniels, Sally (2022). “Book Birthing” and Conspicuous Literary Consumption: Writing and Reading Books in the Time of COVID-19. English Studies (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0013838x.2022.2087036

Abstract

During the COVID-19 pandemic Twitter became for many a way of communicating. For those of us with more library cards than credit cards, and a hefty TBR (to be read) pile at home the lockdown could have been paradisiacal. As lockdown forced bookshop doors shut, the social media platform became a site to share news of independent businesses in need, with users rallying around and buying books in their thousands. Yet the paradise that was lockdown was only that for the hallowed few. Gender roles reverted, with women carrying the brunt of domestic and caring responsibilities around the home. During April and May 2020 women provided the sole source of childcare for 26.5 h per week (against 17 h in 2014). Yet, during this period, the number of women publishing books—and celebrating this fact—on Twitter was conspicuous. On publication day, authors birthed their books, and waited patiently for readers to consume, inhale, or sink their teeth into their textual progeny. This paper will consider the bio-mechanical terms used by anglophone authors and readers on Twitter during the lockdown, and ask are these metaphors related to our pandemic bookshelves or connected to publishing and reading more widely?

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