Friday, May 30, 2008

Indies get applause

This Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot is all about how much everyone, corporate publishing marketing types and all, lurves independent booksellers. Loves loves loves. If you love them, have a quick read. It's short, I promise.

I was surprised by the numbers. It opens:
Even though two recent studies have put their market share at below 10%, independent booksellers are as critical to publishers as they have ever been. In an ironic twist, the very fact that the number of independent booksellers has declined severely in the last decade makes the stores that have survived all that more important, publishers say. “Their numbers are obviously smaller, but they are a significant outlet for us,” says Matty Goldberg, v-p and group director for sales and marketing at Perseus Books Group.
10%! Good god. That's ridiculous.

I enjoyed Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock, VT, just last weekend, in fact. The state's oldest! And they are rocking a beautiful yellow color with a series of flower pots of the same color out front. I also got to pet one of the two gorgeous dogs, but don't know if it was Baxter or Zoe.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fine, I'm listening...

So I suppose I was a skeptic of this crowdsourcing concept. I fell into the group that worried we were lowering the bar to the common denominator in place of letting the brightest amongst us speak up. The idea, for those few not in the know, is that the internet has created a networked world, so now cheap data can be found by throwing a problem out to the networked masses. The linked article by Jeff Howe from Wired uses these examples:
The open source software movement proved that a network of passionate, geeky volunteers could write code just as well as the highly paid developers at Microsoft or Sun Microsystems. Wikipedia showed that the model could be used to create a sprawling and surprisingly comprehensive online encyclopedia. And companies like eBay and MySpace have built profitable businesses that couldn’t exist without the contributions of users.
And mind you, folks, that article was from 2006. So the concept is now here and common and ready to take over the world.

But my fear has always been that you remove any credibility in this equation. I mean, why trust the masses in this way?! Are you nuts? I guess it seems like just another spin on capitalism, shrouded in technology and celebrations of the ever-trendy Geek.

Having said all that, I still found the quote from Clay Shirky in today's brief BEA report on Publishers Lunch interesting. Shirky is credited as the author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization. I know, I just groaned a little, BUT the man makes a good point!

To quote The Lunch:
Shirky suggests that "the critical question for the book industry is how you deal with a world in which readers can also write and share," and finding "some way to take advantage of that engagement." He wonders whether publishers can establish more subscription-like relationships with readers, whether on an imprint basis or author-by-author--observing that "effectively, Clancy and Grisham have all but subscription models today." He asked, "Is there a way to say 'trust us on this.' Can we involve the reader in a long-term process that's about some emotional connection." As he noted, "one-off transactions are incredibly expensive and they lock the reader out of any kind of conversation."

Now I've talked about publisher subscriptions on here multiple times, referencing McSweeneys Book Release Club (which I joined) and Community Supported Publishing at South End Press. And I like to pretend readers notice publishers and build trust in them, though folks like Christopher have tried to disavow me of this naive belief. But Shirky is telling publishers they might want to think this way, and get into the game.

The email right below Publishers Lunch in my inbox is from the good folks at Alternet, and the subject line is my name and followed by "Citizen Publisher." Now hear this! They are starting to publish books, which has some potential, and they have a whacky new campaign. As the email explains,
We tried something new last week. For the first time in AlterNet's history, we invited our loyal readers to join our publishing family as AlterNet Citizen Publishers. Hundreds stepped up and are now helping us publish our upcoming book, Count My Vote.

Here's how you can help publish this book: make a donation of $10 or more and you'll immediately become an AlterNet Citizen Publisher. Your name will be listed as a publisher in the book, Count My Vote (or not, if you prefer anonymity). And if you donate $40, we'll send you a copy of the new book -- hot off the presses before its public release.

This is bringing the citizen journalism movement into book publishing, and once again blurring the lines between vanity publishing and traditional publishing. It's doing what Shirky endorses, by getting people - in this case, quite literally - to invest in the company, to subscribe, to feel part of it.

This kind of excites me, makes me reconsider the concept. Part of me is still bothered by the central conceit that American consumers, just to separate out my countryfolk for a second, need to see themselves in the products they purchase and/or endorse. Of course, I immediately think of Time magazine voting it's person of the year, "You" in 2006, putting a reflective something on the cover. That was the ultimate in appealing to a customer's vanity, no?

So is Alternet doing something similar? Is the message that a person won't buy a book unless they are in it somehow?

And if so, is it a good thing because of Alternet's (and the book's) higher purpose, trying to push a progressive agenda in a way that uses solidarity?

My skepticism is mixing with optimism, but they are slugging it out. I'll have to keep following these developments.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Are we losing trained writers?

I'm all for young upstarts bursting onto the literary scene, novelists shocking us with a new perspective or non-fiction writers picking an overlooked scab to find something fascinating and unspoken and important. Okay, admittedly I'm not the one to ask about fiction - please note the "now reading" on the sidebar. Yes, I'm going through a kind of noir phase. Just finishing The Grifters and am anxiously awaiting my next visit to the library to get another Thompson book.

But still, I have to wonder where great new writers will get their training, when there is so much garbage in the way. What do I mean by garbage? Read a bit of this Sunday Times Magazine article by blogger Emily Gould and you may understand. Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot here, people, but bloggers! Omg, bloggers. But I don't mean pinheads like me who go on here and speak about an issue - publishing, green design, fabrics for skirts, webkinz, whatever - but those who blog about themselves, their lives, their goings-on, every gory personal detail for anyone to see. Journaling, which to my mind became a verb around 1993, can be a good way to work on one's writing, that I can see. The posting, on the other hand, is a different animal.

I read the article, even though it went on and on. And Gould seems like a fine writer. She anticipates attacks, thereby in part shielding herself from criticism, but really I'm not here to condemn her personally, as others have done. (She even posts examples.) Instead, I'm criticizing the trend this article represents, which got it into the Magazine. And while I appreciate that it speaks to issues of online identities in today's world and privacy, something I find fascinating, I also fear it speaks to many members of a generation and their collective definition of a writer. A writer is one who writes.

But I have to intercede here and ask: doesn't it matter what one writes? I mean, yes I appreciate the discipline it takes to maintain a blog, even about oneself, but that's only half the battle. Take the discipline, fine, and add knowledge, research, understanding, analysis. A friend recently complained that his employees - he's very corporate and he manages others - were just giving him information right back without explaining what the data meant. They were merely descriptive. This is often the case with such bloggers. They are not just self-obsessed - the best was when my partner found a blog by someone who honest to christ reported dropping a can of veggies on his foot - but they are also simple, reporting for reporting's sake. And going from "I'm going to tell you what happened" to "I'm going to tell you how I feel about what happened" is not what I mean. Can these bloggers step back and put their experience into context?

The fact that so many cannot is particularly frustrating given the advantages of the internet. (Watch as I try to connect this point to the larger point of this blog...) The internet allows you to network, right? Great. When you write in a journal, you scribble down your thoughts about your mom, your dog, your ex-boyfriend, how annoying your homeroom teacher is, and you shut the book, maybe you share it with someone. But online, you can embed links to other sites. This ability should be used, not just to say "as I told cutiekitty29" with a link to cutiekitty29's own blog. If you are thinking about how depressed you are as a freshmen in college, google some crap and link it up! Wish you had a dog? Link it. At least if someone finds your blog and recognizes your feelings, they can click through.

So all these people talk about books turning into electronic rooms which people will enter and with which people can interact. This has some promise. But from their idealism to this reality in a generation of people so used to internet access, and I just don't know. I know it's luddite thinking to suggest that things becoming too convenient will lead to laziness, but I also worry about the next generation of writers. I worry for writing when people have 0 attention spans and are so self-obsessed.

What should I look to in hoping to assuage my fears?

I suppose MFA programs, and great literary journals, and places like Grub Street. I just want to know that people are working at their writing, and reading good writers, and learning about stuff that isn't just what's in front of them in their lives.

These bloggers got me a little de-pressed, man. Some blogs are just like horrible overheard cellphone calls typed up. What bothers me most? Some of them, due to the inherent voyeuristic thrill, are such easy reading, they go down like sugary candy. But then? You get cavities of stupidity.

Yeah, I said it. But at least my rant's done.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Reverse gentrification of the literary world"

The publisher is Akashic Books, an independent, Brooklyn-based publisher of mostly fiction and some non-fiction, started by punk rocker Johnny Temple. I knew of Akashic of course, and really enjoyed an adorable, clever, and engaging novel they published called The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno. I read it over a few bus trips back and forth to NYC one August. But I learned more about this small publisher, with just four employees, because of this article by Jamilah King, over at Wiretap Magazine. It's a nice Q&A with Temple that offers a good sense of Akashic's publishing mentality.

Temple is doing just what indies do best, which he sums up well in explaining why much of their fiction comes from a dark place, so much that it becomes a common theme: "it's definitely my own aesthetic taste, and we're a company that publishes things based on an aesthetic vision, not a marketing vision. I think following marketing trends is just a soulless approach to working with art. " Hurrah! Right on. In comparing the worlds of music and literature, he later says, "there are also a lot of dynamic independent companies who pursue aesthetic visions as a counter to the bottom-line mandate." And thank god for them, right?

Since WireTap is geared toward a younger readership, I believe, King then asks if he has advice for anyone looking to get into publishing, and Temple answers very truthfully:

I would say that if your main goal is to make money and a good living, then don't come into publishing. [Laughs] It's a humbling business. People need to make a living, but it's not a place for people looking to discover the next "big hit." That goes back to the reverse gentrification motto. The publishing world is in itself a socioeconomic stratum, and some of the people don't need to be making very much money.

But we do need new life, and new blood. I encourage any motivated young person to get into publishing. I love it. I feel so lucky to do what I do, but the hope of ever making "real" money isn't realistic.

Very true. And I can say with honesty that it's a frustrating exercise in watching people who don't need to make money fill the ranks. I say that as someone who has repeatedly sought out other forms of income to make due as I work in publishing, and it's exhausting.

But that's for another post. For now, check out Akashic and pick up a book. I for one, in going through my mystery writers phase, am interested in some of the noir stuff. After my Denise Mina frenzy, with all of her smart books set in Glasgow, I love the idea of their noir series:
On the heels of the stunning success of the summer '04 award-winning bestseller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books launches a groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.
I'd like to see Boston or an even more obvious candidate, Houston, but I can certainly find something in this selection I'd enjoy. You?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Buying into a Bookstore

Well this idea has reared its head before, but it looks like someone has latched onto the checks many of us received from the government to maybe, possibly... make it happen!

Stimulating Reading is the idea, from the sharp brain of one Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, keeper of the Written Nerd blog. You may remember her from such prizes as the Brooklyn Public Library prize, in which she won $15,000 to start her own bookstore. Apparently, that wasn't quite enough - which is fair.

Though the idea isn't entirely fleshed out yet, this bookseller, currently employed by McNally Robinson in NYC, wants to open an independent bookstore in Brooklyn, and now wants you to consider kicking in your recent government check to make it happen. Simple and effective! I'm most appreciative of this point, from her blog:

I don't want to twist your arm -- I'm just offering an option. And especially if you're someone who has mixed feelings about the wisdom of the stimulus rebate to strengthen the economy, this is one way to spend it more purposefully than just by, say, buying new clothes.

Well said. I don't know if this can work, but if it does, it may be a model others can follow - outside of Brooklyn, which if one reads industry blogs, websites, magazines and what-not, seems to be overrun with independent literary ventures!

(I'd like to mention quickly that the Written Nerd post also has some great links, so be sure to do some clicking while reading about this idea.)

I suppose similar things have been done, as with the Brazos Bookstore in Houston, but not on this small a level. I'll be sure to watch Stimulating Reading to see how it goes. Good luck!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Can we talk about *selling* them for a bit?

I know this is about publishing books, but I sometimes drift into bookselling issues. Blame Shelf Awareness - they have some great stories. And they included this article in today's daily email:

*******
Single Development Seeking Independent Bookseller

Here's an unusual pitch: a major suburban commercial developer is seeking an independent bookseller to be part of the mix in one of its new projects.

The real estate corporation Edens & Avant is developing a mixed-use space in Fairfax County, Va., near Washington, D.C., that's designed to emulate an urban neighborhood. Named the Mosaic District, it will be comprised of individual buildings created on a grid with shops at street level and upper portions devoted to residential and corporate use. Edens & Avant is seeking an independent bookstore to join its roster of retailers.

"We want to make it feel more like a great urban shopping street and less of a mall type environment," said Jessica Bruner, director of retail leasing. Although there will be some national retailers, regional and local purveyors will make up a significant portion of the stores, separating it in substance and style from Tysons Corner Center, one of the largest shopping malls in the country located a few miles away in McLean, Va.

The privately-held Edens & Avant has built 130 shopping centers in the Northeast, traditionally anchored by brand-named merchants. "We always try to put together the best merchandising mix for the project we're developing," said Bruner. "For the Mosaic District we'd like to go in a different direction and bring in more urban concepts and more unique retailers. We feel strongly about having a local bookstore that brings in local crowds and gives it a different bent."

Consumer spending power in Fairfax County should support the endeavor: Forbes reported earlier this year that it's the richest county in the U.S. "This area of northern Virginia, based on its wealth and education, is really missing a niche bookstore," said Bruner, "We've been approached by Barnes & Noble, but for this project specifically we'd like to have an independent."

Along with 600,000 square feet of retail space, the Mosaic District will feature restaurants, a movie theater and other entertainment venues, parks and other community space, and a hotel. "Different spots will be active at different times so it will really feel like a city grid," said Bruner. A full-time marketing person will coordinate events in the Mosaic District, including jazz and movie nights in the park, a farmers market and fashion shows. The location and size of the bookstore space is flexible, noted Bruner, although she envisions it along one of the parks so that a newsstand can also be operated. Either a brand-new store or an outpost of an existing business would be considered.

Edens & Avant expects to break ground on the Mosaic District this fall, and development will take place over a three-year period. Will an independent bookstore be among its shop fronts? Bruner hopes so. Local and independent retailers "are keys to our project and establishing our identity," she said.--Shannon McKenna SchmidtJessica Bruner can be contacted at jbruner@edensandavant.com and Bryce Baschuk at bbaschuk@edensandavant.com.

*******

Pretty cool, no?

Part of me is thinking, do we need another shopping center of any kind in the world? Part of me is hoping they build as "green" as possible. And part of me is happy that people still associate independent booksellers as necessary to create a sense of community.

For myself, I didn't buy anything - please note my shame - but I did stop into the Cornerstone Books in Salem last night, and it was a wonderful, clean, well-designed space - with cafe. Just wanted to give it a quick plug.

Have to go write a very long editorial letter now...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

You can love books or you can loooove books...

I'm a bit behind, admittedly, but Shelf Awareness included a link to this light, fun article by David McKie from the Guardian (UK) about one man who loved books too much. Sir Thomas Phillips, apparently, went from bibliophilia to bibliomania over a lifetime in the 19th century. To be more precise, "Vello-mania, he called his condition, because it ran as much to the purchase and hoarding of documents as it did to books." Surely this sounds awkwardly familiar to some of us: "The books and documents took over the house. The family - two wives, three daughters of the first marriage - knew their place: second best to the books and to boxes, some of which stood for several years waiting to be unpacked."

I was intrigued by a comment left about a writer named Al-Jahiz. There seems to be some question as to how he died, given that it was in the year 868, but one theory, on this essay by David Tschanz and elsewhere, is that his passing came "as a result of an accident in which he was crushed to death by a collapsing pile of books in his private library." Consider yourself warned!

I went to a new library in a new neighborhood yesterday and it was perfectly dusty and the books were charmingly out of date - only just - and I grabbed two Dashiell Hammett books, ones I've been meaning to read for awhile but have not, so I'm actually in a non-hoarding mood. Big into borrowing. But I know we go through phases, right? I'm sure I'll start itching to own again soon.

Of course, the question on this blog always falls back on the same point: will anyone ever feel this way about e-books? Is this kind of coveting, which involves so much waste, really something to preserve?

But then I feel slightly less remorse when reading something like this that gives me an out... should I ever actually sign up: "Eco-Libris wants American readers to put something back for all their bookworm pleasures. It’s encouraging them to donate a dollar for each book they read, so trees can be planted to offset all the paper consumed." This is definitely something to consider as we move forward, books in hand, or in pocket, or in bag, etc etc...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Let's hear it for The Red Wheelbarrow!

Howdy. Two posts in a row...I'm taking over the joint, eh? In today's Shelf Awareness "Quote of the Day," Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit among many others, has a quote from her Times of London article this past Friday about Shakespeare & Company, public buses in Britain, and Sartre. Suffice it to say that we here at S.O.T.B. are really only interested in what she says about the bookstore (Sartre be damned!). Surprisingly, Ms. Winterson seems never to have heard of, nor visited, the famed shop on rue De La Bucherin in Paris. Enamored of the whole "lost generation" of it all she writes:
Sometimes you just want to live inside a book. In Paris this can happen quite literally, thanks to what might be the world's most exciting bookshop: Shakespeare and Company. Originally opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, who published Joyce's Ulysses and bankrupted herself in the process, the shop in its present location, overlooking Notre Dame, was revived in 1951 by a romantic American bibliophile called George Whitman. George is still alive at 94, but the shop is now owned and managed by his powerhouse 28-year-old daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman.

The ethos is as it ever was - two floors of books of every kind, new and second-hand, and a library for browsers, along with a piano if you feel like playing it. The books are all English language, and the place is open every night until 11pm, staffed by fresh-faced and optimistic twentysomethings from around the world, who work in the shop for a few hours a day, and undertake to read a book every day too, in return for a bed every night. No need to sleep with a book under your pillow when your book is a pillow; there are 11 beds hidden in the bookshop itself, like secret finds in a child's puzzle. By day they are neat and discreet, by night, not just ZZZZs but all the letters of the alphabet swarm above the heads of the hard-working dreamers.
I agree! It would be wonderful to live in historic bookshop. Especially in Paris! (Though I could do with a real pillow...neck pain, you know.) However, I am convinced that if I could pick one shop in all of Paris to live in it wouldn't be Shakespeare & Company. I've got news...there is a new kid on the block and that kid is The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore. Located in the uber-cool Marais district of Paris and conveniently near the St. Paul's Metro stop on the One line, The Red Wheelbarrow is the new haven for books in English in Paris. On my trip to Paris last month I was enchanted by the close quarters, the stacks and stacks and stacks of books, and the delightful staff led by Penelope Le Masson. They are welcoming, well read, and in love with the printed word. There is not a hipster attitude anywhere in the store. Just books. Oh so many great British and American books. Sure, Hemingway never hung out here but he would were he around today...certainly, at least, you would practically trip over of F.Scott Fitzgerald in one of the corners of the store were he still kickin' it live (p.s. Zelda, call me!). I love the store and, while it doesn't quite yet have the reputation of Shakespeare & Co., it is a better all around bookshop in a great part of town. You can thank us for the insider hookup after your trip. Just sayin'.



The Red Wheelbarrow is located at 22 Rue St. Paul, 75004 Paris, France. (That's Arrondisement 4 for those of you going to Paris for the first time.) The Metro station is "St. Paul" and they are open everyday: Mondays from 10 am to 6pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to pm and Sundays from 2 pm to 6pm.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

It's called "hubris" (in the parlance of our time).

For a while now Brian (and to a much less degree I) have been keeping you up to date on what is happening in the world of fake memoirs and manufactured narratives. There have been so many recently: Kaavya Viswanathan's How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, Margaret B. Jones's Love and Consequences, Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments, the Laura Albert/JT LeRoy fiasco, as well as half a dozen other suspects I don't feel like mentioning again. Sometimes we have commented on the goings-on as they unfolded and sometimes we responded to things shortly after the fact. Invariably, however, we have only been able to comment on all the phonies until they all had the good sense to go away and feel perpetual (and well deserved) shame...until now! In an interview that will run in the June 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, James "A Million Little Lies" Frey has returned to the public eye.

The piece, written by Evgenia Peretz, sheds some new light on what happened to James Frey after his public flogging by Oprah Winfrey but what most interested me is how goddamned arrogant he still is and how thoroughly unlikeable he was then and still remains to this day. He simply doesn't care that he lied to millions of readers. I think he would like all of us just to shut up about the whole affair.
“Frankly, I don’t even care,” he says, exasperated, after I pushed him on the subject of the scandal for the 16th time. “I don’t care, if somebody calls [A Million Little Pieces] a memoir, or a novel, or a fictionalized memoir, or what. I could care less what they call it. The thing on the side of the book means nothing. Who knows what it is. It’s just a book. It’s just a story. It’s just a book that was written with the intention to break a lot of rules in writing. I’ve broken a lot of rules in a lot of ways. So be it.”

Huh? So, it's "just a book." The printed word, which represents the dawn of the age of reason, the repository of man's knowledge, is just a thing. "Get over it, dude," I can hear him saying to me. I am sorry, but that just doesn't cut it. Unless I miss my calling, the author (and the publisher for that matter) has a responsibility to their reader to care about what they put down on the page. Every word, every page need not be earth shattering (or even honest), but it has to be important to the writer otherwise why bother? It is a tacit contract between the author, editor, publisher, and reader, no? Well, not according to Frey. In Frey's version, he had some misgivings about his book being called a memoir until 1) the manuscript was rejected by all 18 publishers it was submitted to and 2) the money started rolling in once it sold to potential buyers as an "electrifying" memoir. Call it whatever you'd like, dude, as long as I get paid. In light of his misgivings based on his own knowledge that half the book was bullshit, did he try to remain humble or sincere or the least bit reserved since he was, in effect, peddling lies? Nope. He just pulls up his sleeve and:
brandished his many tattoos for reporters: the FTBSITTTD on his wrist meant “Fuck the Bullshit, It’s Time to Throw Down.” He said about [Dave] Eggers, one of the most celebrated literary figures of his generation, “Fuck that, and fuck him.”

Classy! And incredibly stupid. Most authors would've just tried to reign it in but he couldn't help himself. He was the bad ass…the modern day Jack Kerouac (who also kinda sucks). When confronted with the evidence that he needed to revise his story to reflect, you know, reality, he brashly said “let the haters hate, let the doubters doubt. I stand by my book and my life, and I won’t dignify this bullshit with any sort of further response.”

I think between having the author just slink away permanently disgraced—Stephen Glass, Misha Defonseca, Kaavya Vishwanathan, Forrest Carter, Margaret Jones—or stand up for themselves and try and fight back—Frey and JT LeRoy—I prefer the quiet, perpetual ignominy. Frey just continually reminds me of the ugly side of the book business: that it is bottom-line oriented just like The Gap or Newbury Comics or Whole Foods Market. You can dress it up any way you want but in the end an unrepentant asshole like Frey just wants the money and the fame…and so do the publishers. So much for the survival of the book, eh? For the love of all that is good, shouldn’t someone have told him before doing this piece that maybe going into print and appearing less than gracious toward (in order) his former editor, his former agent, The Smoking Gun, and Oprah is—perhaps, just perhaps—a STUPID, SELFISH thing to do? It shows that he still really doesn’t give a shit. Well, who do you turn to when you just don’t give a shit and feel hated by the world? Who comforted him during this dark time when he was receiving hundreds of mean email messages from cheated, enraged readers? Got a Guess? Stumped? Wait for it…Norman Mailer!!!

What does Mailer said to young Frey? “Damn, you got yourself into a spot of trouble now son.” Nope. “What the fuck were you thinking, Jimbo?” Nah. Instead, he tells Frey that “a writer writes his memoir, to tell a lie and create an ideal self. Everything I’ve ever written is memoir, you know, is an inflated vision of the ideal Platonic self.” Delightful. Just what a known liar needs to hear: “it’s not your fault…all writing is fictive.” Postmodernism can be fun! One thing you can count on is that there is always someone out there who is a bigger jerk than you are and by standing in their light your heat doesn’t feel quite so warm.

Finally, what is written above turns out to be prologue. The cynical view is the the Vanity Fair article is actually HarperCollins publicity department driven since who the hell was really wondering what became of him anyway? Still, Frey is back. He has a new book coming—one that HarperCollins paid $1.5 million dollars for—and he is still his old self. Sure he screwed the industry (not to mention millions of readers who saw an inspiring story in his “memoir”) but, a la Mailer, he has been reincarnated as a prophet:

“The enduring myth of the American memoir as a precise form is bullshit and needed to go away,” he says. “Although the experience was a nightmare, if I started the process of ending that myth, I’m perfectly fine with it. I’ve said all along that I never wanted my books published as memoirs.”

Whew! I am so glad that he was able to help provide a corrective to all those overheated memoirs that were coming out. Only someone with an overbearing sense of pride and presumption could actually turn such a sordid story of lies piled upon lies into a triumph…and that is called hubris these days. It reminds me of the great quote from Jules Renard: “The profession of letters is, after all, the only one in which one can make no money without being ridiculous.” Indeed.

Sociable