Another sad addition to our “Evidence Why Print Deserves to be Dead” section. Once again the American publishing machine takes another swipe at our culture by contributing to the dumbing down of America with this latest effort to push Snooki onto the bestseller list.
Anyone who is interested in books is, knowingly or not, interested in publishing, and this debate featured in The New York Times about the future of publishing is both intriguing and important. We are, after all, talking about the future of the way human beings relate to and understand each other, our art, and the universe around us. For book lovers like you and me, books are everything, and our hearts break every time the industry publishes a piece of shit by some celebrity or media idiot when they could spend their resources developing real writers and readers who are interested in something meaningful. I honestly believe that everyone in the book industry enters it with this love of books. What happens from there, I have no idea, but it’s very, very weird. The publishing industry is like a very slow version of Jonestown, where a plane full of technology is about to land to check out what is going on.
But thanks to that technology, writers who have always been on the outside looking in can self-publish their work and at least have a chance–however infintessimal–of finding readers for their writing. And this is a good thing. Here’s why: It gives writers hope. A tiny crack in the door through which they might find some modicum of literary success, whether that is four or forty thousand readers. And for an endeavor as difficult as writing, hope is sometimes the best and only thing in the world that can keep you going when everything else is telling you to quit. Now that amazon is courting writers and cutting much of the publishing industry infrastructure such as agents and editors, the playing field is becoming level. I published Dead Animal People via amazon and Smashwords and do a little dance every time I sell a copy. I wrote a good book. I’m proud of it. It deserves a chance to be read. Sure, it will never be featured in the windows of bookstores beside Snooki’s latest tome, but I’m cool with that. It shouldn’t be. I don’t want my book to get herpes.
The Genslers were never coming. The youngest one, a freshman in high school, had fractured his toe during soccer practice. They called Joe two days ago and cancelled. Joe knew this was an opportunity, if not an outright sign, that he had to return to Vietnam. The bones were calling him. The finality of death he experienced had left his own life in Vietnam unfinished.
Prior to his departure, Joe spent two days and nights shopping, organizing, and loading provisions on Margaret for his month-long journey to Vietnam. With the proper weather and wind conditions, Joe calculated he could journey from Oregon to California, California to Hawaii, Hawaii to the Philippines, and from the Philippines to Nha Trang, Vietnam, in about 36 days. There, he would trek his way to that jungle road and revisit and then dispose of what remained of the young man – of the young men including his former self – that he left behind more than twenty years ago.
The mechanical and maintenance supplies were hidden under a blue plastic tarp on the aft of Margaret’s deck, and every crevice throughout her 35-foot-long hull was used to store something useful, from grease and bulk nails to a spare generator and aspirin to sunscreen. The food was spread throughout the boat. Potatoes wrapped in garbage bags in the bait well. Canned mushrooms, peaches, red beans, and coffee lined the small kitchen’s shelves, bungee chords pressed containers of rice against the wall. Peanut butter, crackers, boxes of pasta, and spices – salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, and paprika – were stacked in pantries with knobs held together by rubber bands. Powdered milk, grated Parmesan cheese, a dozen boxes of Corn Flakes, and a half wheel of Swiss cheese (wrapped in a vinegar-soaked rag) were stored in crates in the port bow bin. Carrots, eggs, tomatoes, bananas, spinach, oranges, lemons, and beef jerky were arranged in cardboard boxes in the starboard bow bin. Strapped next to the coiled mooring lines were several containers of bleach to mix with water – one tablespoon per gallon – to kill mold that would grow just about anywhere in Margaret’s wooden hull. In the forward bow, fifteen gallons of fresh water to start with, to be refilled along the way, and two rain catches to collect drinking water at open sea. As the seagulls squawked overhead, Joe shoved four fishing rods into their PVC pipe holders, and carefully swung the hook shanks – the hook points covered with pieces of a broken Styrofoam cooler – through the eyes of the rods. A bent snow shovel, used to dispense fish guts and push entrails through the transom door, hung from a steel hook outside of the wheelhouse.
As with most controversial and complicated topics of our day, the truth doesn’t belong to one group or the other, but lives somewhere hidden in the middle like an undiscovered species of field mouse. But as writers bemoan the bloated infrastructure and valuation processes of the established publishing industry, Amazon is taking advantage of its powerful platform to pillage what is left of a confused, in not dying, industry. But as everyone in the publishing industry knows, it’s nothing personal. This is a subjective business and we wish the publishing industry the best of luck in finding a home for their way of doing things. Like the 1970s.
For more, read this article in The New York Times.
Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form. It is a striking acceleration of the retailer’s fledging publishing program that will place Amazon squarely in competition with the New York houses that are also its most prominent suppliers… [more]
This beautifully written book by Patrick Süskind is my recommendation for the month of October. Sure, it may be difficult to write words that make readers laugh, cry, or fear what’s around the corner, but in these pages Süskind accomplishes something truly extraordinary: opening and educationing one’s sense of smell to the point where the actually smell better. Seriously, your sense of smell will improve from reading this book. A rare feat indeed.