Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Massive fail

A bit of "why don't I get a $6.8 million advance?" whining, a dash of "the public is filled with idiots who don't read," and a smidgen of "things are going to hell" fatalism. Happy holidays.
But just as newspapers are dooming themselves by cutting the very thing they alone can provide--in-depth, on the spot reporting--so publishing houses are dooming themselves by trying to run in somebody's else's rat race and cutting the very thing we turn to them for: writing itself.

It's like American Airlines cutting the olives in Business Class salads. All that happens is 1) American becomes a tacky, risible airline and 2) people fly on Emirates.

Americans love bloviating about the "death" of this and the "emergence" of that. But a culture of multiplicity simply offers the inquiring mind different things for different moments. Books don't actually compete with the Internet or movies, and never did.
Oh, and a fact: most people I know around my age or younger don't know who Houllebecq and Bolano and Sebald and Coetzee are, so Osborne's nepotistic "the youth will save us" capper is not to be trusted either.

Writers have to be the underdogs. We need to be. Complacency is the death of relevance, especially in literature. Being way down on the list of Americans' favorite pastime -- judging by any given poll lately, we're hoving somewhere between macrame and toenail-clipping -- gives us something to fight that much harder for.

Oh, and by the way, looking at someone reading Stephanie Meyer and saying, "Well, at least they're reading" is like looking at overweight slobs pounding down Twinkies and saying, "Well, at least they're eating." That is all.

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