Friday, December 19, 2008

Think on it

Not much time but I wanted to post two links, with a bit of commentary.

First is the fantastic Citizen Reader offering something to cut through the syrupy and stupid sweetness offered by magazine year-end top ten lists. Yes, CR has instead posted The Worst Books of 2008 - with nice summations following each title. Scott McClellan's a weenie, Thomas Friedman's a jackhole, and that person creating so called "buzz"? "I'm thinking he and I don't share the same taste in books." Well done!

Second is this rather irritating but often right-on op-ed from author Lawrence Osborne (*not* actor Laurence Fishburne), in which publishers are given the what-for. Osborne makes some good points. For one, he lists the problems editors are reporting, with his own critique of their reports:
Industry insiders provide a depressing catalog: a failure to acquire the kind of franchise authors now topping the bestseller lists, a lack of editorial insight and supervision (resulting in longer, sloppier books that bore readers stupid), extravagant author advances, agents all too happy to sacrifice the long-term interest of authors for short-term profit, incompetent management at the top and a lack of books that have commercial impact.
Then he offers some nice feedback, often in blunt form:
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.

Amen! The problem is in fact commercial publishers who are not even going after "the next big thing," but instead are chasing "the big thing to follow the last big thing."

He ends by suggesting publishers reach the post-college, literate folks like, oh, the author's son.

My son and his friends, who are in their early twenties, read Houllebecq and BolaƱo and Sebald and Coetzee without any problem at all. Those writers speak easily to their anxieties and concerns. And yet none of these writers would have found American publishers if they hadn't first succeeded in their countries of origin.

We the readers, the people, are not dumbed down media serfs obsessed with celebrities, dosh and movie rights. You are.

This man has the leisurely tones and metaphors of a posh English dandy lazily blabbering in a hotel tea room, but his points are true. I fear they may not reach the needed audience, however - especially seeing as this was published by Forbes!

1 comment:

Citizen Reader said...

Thanks for the link to the Osborne--I love the excerpts you posted and can't wait to read the whole thing. I think he's got a point: come on, publishers, try harder.

I'm glad you liked the worst books list. I was a bit surprised not to find more such lists. I love best lists myself but can only read so many before I need a palate cleanser. I'll have to use the Osborne article for that!