Michael Wolff has thrown something of a Molotov cocktail at the publishing world, and I'd happily stand out on the streets with him. In this article on Newser, Wolff calls for a book boycott, because, simply put, "Books are evil."
He takes issue with the many polibrity books - I'm trying to make up a term here that combines "politicians" and celebrities, people like Palin and Beck, whom he calls out, who claim to be political but are in fact vacuous, ill-informed, and tragically too deficient in a basic intellectual sense to be put in charge of so much as an ant farm. Will polibrity work?
Anyhow, these polibrities don't write books, they just put their brand on books that are written by others, who may or may not appear on covers. Wolff rightly points out that such books have been around for a long time, but were considered vanity books and not given any serious consideration. It was understood what they were, they had their readers, and the rest of us could move on with our lives. But now, the media does not discriminate. Oprah has Palin on to discuss her book, as if Palin herself actually wrote it and as if it contibutes anything to any larger discussion at all. It doesn't. It's a vanity book. It was written by someone hoping to please Palin, and it did, and Palin signed off on it. She's hardly even qualified to discuss it. In fact, she may not have even read it - she could have just paid a political handler to check it for her, just as you would a proofreader.
And then Wolff goes after the publishers - the cocktail is lit, and time for throwin'!
Publishers publish fake books because, if you have an “author” who has some larger cause to promote, the publisher gets free promotion. What the publisher has traded for such an abundance of promotion is its own brand. HarperCollins does not really believe Sarah Palin has written a valuable book—or even that it is really a book, not in the way that HarperCollins has historically understood books, or in the way that people have counted on HarperCollins to have understood a book. But, these are desperate times and real books are an increasingly equivocal proposition anyway, so almost all publishers are willing to engage in the strategic mix-up between real books and fake books.
Absolutely true, and we should hold these brands responsible. These corporate publishers say such books allow them to publish other, more literary fare, but this is bullshit. C'mon. You have a board demanding higher profit margins, and Palin will get you there. If you drop some money on a debut novelist, you are hardly excused for the damage you are unleashing on the world with this tripe.
Well done, Mr. Wolff. What next?!
(Thanks to the ever-reliable MobyLives for alerting me to Wolff's article.)