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Do books belong with the 'rubbish' on TV?

October 13, 2008 | 11:25 am

Jonstewart_dailyshow

Top German literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who hosted a literary TV talk show for more than a decade, was recently presented with a lifetime achievement award by German television -- and his response was highly critical. From the report by The Guardian

"I don't belong here among all this rubbish," the 88-year-old critic and author said from the stage of the annual German Television Awards gala in Cologne. "I have been given many literature prizes in my life, but I don't belong in this lineup. If the prize was linked with money, I would have given the cash back too."

The program's startled host invited Reich-Ranicki onto his own show, which the critic accepted. He also took the award with him when he left.

In America, book coverage is only a fraction of what gets seen on TV, but throwing around words like "rubbish" would be a mistake. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart may host fake news shows, but they consistently include authors among their rosters of guests.

This week, guests on Stewart's "The Daily Show" will be a comedian, a former White House press secretary and two economists. Amity Shlaes, Bloomberg columnist and author of  "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression" is tonight's guest; on Thursday, it'll be Robert Reich, former Labor secretary and the author of "Supercapitalism."

"The Colbert Report" has categorized the types of guests that have appeared on the show. There have been 79 celebrities, 97 journalists, 128 experts, 148 political figures and 254 authors. These aren't just the politicians and political observers you might expect; there also have been novelists (Junot Diaz, Salman Rushdie) and scientists (Janna Levin, Jared Diamond). And of the hundreds of author videos that have been archived, cultural critic Clive James' is the 10th most watched on the Colbert website. Not rubbish at all.

--Carolyn Kellogg

After the jump: Sarah Vowell, author of "The Wordy Shipmates," on "The Daily Show." She'll be appearing in Pasadena on Thursday.

Credit: Comedy Central / Viacom

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