Saturday, April 6, 2013

The New Cultural Paradigm in Publishing

The last vestiges of ice are making a final stand around the back steps. I love it when it gets to this. I was taking up the sheep fence yesterday to move them onto new pastures in time for the lambs. The ground was soft and mushy and down by the woods there was still some banked snow and when the wind picked up it felt like March again, but it was the old, cold weather's final farewell. Now, of course, there is a rush of work for the next few months in the garden, and on top of that, planning the release of a new book. I decided to skip the writer's conference today because I'd rather be outside working on cleaning out the barn. But then I got roped into driving to a lacrosse practice, so there goes most of the morning. Just barely time to squeeze in a few sentences on the blog before I run. When do we get a time to just reflect? Hardly ever. Still, I love my weekends.
I met a writer the other day. He'd had a big success in the seventies with an experimental, literary kind of work, and then his second book was turned down by all the major publishers and he went into making educational video scripts, and it seems his more ambitious work took a back seat. And maybe we're the poorer for it. Here's an argument in favor of the cultural importance of the new publishing paradigm. People like to complain about the deluge of crappy books hitting the market, and of course many of the novels being written and self-published are the reflex scribbling of barely literate people or the fandom exercises of sheep-like followers of literary fashion. But how is that so different from the piles of slush being published by the big six, oh sorry, now big five, mainstream presses over the last thirty years, most of my adult, reading lifetime? Not much, in my humble opinion. I say: let the self-determined presses roll and let the writers' work find its level. This is my libertarian ethic for a new American literature. Get out of the way, all of you so-called judges and aesthetes. The people will educate themselves, and when they are sick of the vampire love stories and the button-pushing elegies to the known, they will turn to the work of the risk-takers, the writers who today are ignored because they work with character and voice and themes that are implicit instead of calling out to the mass delusions of the day.
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