This always happens. It’s my birthday and I’m driving to Home Depot to pick up some caulk and tar to patch our roof (what a birthday!). NPR’s media show is talking about publishing and I’m getting more and more depressed. It’s all about how writers really need to market themselves, to find a niche and strategy, to come up with clever ways to gain notice, fans, and bandwidth.
Shit, that’s marketing. It’s not writing.
So trust me, I’m not going to make a comment that publishing should go back to the way it was, that as a writer, I should study the great works and develop my craft, that I should meet and shake hands with my agent, that I should chat with the publisher, that I should know my editor and work with him. It will never go back to that. In this, I am like the plains Indian on his worn pony, looking off the bluff at the town that has sprung into being, the railroad, the telegraph wires. Just like the Indians, there is no way I’m ever going to gather a war party big enough to sweep the palefaces off my land.
Ain’t going to happen.
But it’s depressing to listen to critics talking about self-publishers playing their shrewd games, making millions by producing a number of attention-deficit-coddling short books a year, none of them well written, working the angles on a stunted reading populace. Or Pottermore, part of the Potter Empire, doing all sorts of clever things to thwart the Amazon dragon. Or fifty-shades, which is nothing but fucking vampire fan service.
Yeah, I’m bitter.
Me no likum palefaces.
This new publishing world comes down to dung selling, those people who collect urine from the horse stables, who collect shit and entrails and everything else, who make a fortune at selling crap to a Inumb population. And then there are the ones who ship it in gigantic five-star ox-carts, where beasts are whipped to drag their overloaded wagons of sludge. And over it all hangs a stench of foulness. It can’t be fought. Used bookstores fold. Potters become parks. Online sales (with their manufactured and bogus reviews) flourish. And away from all this shit, this foulness, this degeneration of art is the lowly writer, still hammering out his ideas, searching for a shared human truth that will carry those few honest hearts to a higher human order.
Yes, so I’m pissed that I’m not recognized. That’s fine. I’ll accepted the doomed Indian motif and play it that way.
But there is a thought that there will come a future arrangement of publishing, one that will sweep away the crummy exchange of bad books to Eslobs. The victors will in turn be defeated. Imagine that the doomed Indian could see what was to come, where the railroads fall to airlines, the livery stables to gas stations, the brave little towns to sprawling suburbs. And here will live millions of palefaces, all turning their sad faces to the charcoal, starless sky, all suffering the anguish of living with a dead soul.
“Told ya’ “, the Indian will think with a wrinkly smile.