Thank You For Not Reading:
Essays on Literary Trivia

Dubravka Ugresic

translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth
Dalkey Archive Press 2003
A book review by Danny Yee © 2005
Thank You For Not Reading is a sparkling collection of short pieces on literature, literary culture and the book industry, as seen by an ex-Yugoslavian writer in exile. Dubravka Ugresic is obviously not entirely happy — she writes in a brief foreword that one of her masks is that of "an Eastern European grumbler confused by the dynamics of the global book market" and she prefaces many pieces with quotations from Eeyore — but her tone is light, detached and ironic, and never the least bit sombre or preachy. Most of the pieces are based on personal experience and some are more stories or anecdotes than essays.

The collection begins with pieces on writing, publishing and the book industry, on book proposals, agents and scouts, the explosion of books on how to be a writer, and so forth. One describes a bazaar where academics and others with unpublished manuscripts were given fifteen minutes to make a pitch to editors and agents.

Turning to broader topics, Ugresic writes about parallels between socialist realism and the contemporary marketplace for books, the breakdown of the division between literature and popular culture, the shock faced by protected Eastern European writers confronted with the literary marketplace, and so forth. "Nowadays the notorious Marquis de Sade reads like a children's writer."

There follow pieces on being an Eastern European writer, the final resting place of Yugoslavian literature in obscure Slavic Department libraries at universities, and "The Top Ten Reasons to Be a Croatian Writer". Ugresic writes about "The Writer in Exile", intellectuals and their role in war, the dominance of the media by the fast-thinking, leaving behind the old Yugoslavian culture, globalisation, and "The Writer and His Future". She concludes with a story about the renovation of her Amsterdam apartment and the literary ambitions and fantasies of one of the workmen.

The pieces in Thank You For Not Reading are accurate and precise, not just clever and witty, and have hints at more depth, with some analysis and scattered references to cultural and literary theory. They are simply too short to be substantial, however, and are often too playful or too ironic to be effective as more than entertainment. The Culture of Lies, Ugresic's collection of essays on cultural and literary changes accompanying the dissolution of Yugoslavia, was less polished but more powerful.

February 2005

External links:
- buy from or
- review and links at the Complete Review
Related reviews:
- Dubravka Ugresic - The Culture of Lies
- more Serbo-Croatian literature
- more literary criticism
- books about publishing
- books published by Dalkey Archive Press
%T Thank You For Not Reading
%S Essays on Literary Trivia
%A Ugresic, Dubravka
%M Serbo-Croatian
%F Hawkesworth, Celia
%I Dalkey Archive Press
%D 2003 [2001]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1564782980
%P 221pp