George K a psychoanalyst friend used to say that the most intractable problem his patients had to face was that they had ruined their lives by making decisions based upon bad information about the world and about themselves. I often think that is why people read such crap books: that is all they have been exposed to. It begins in school when students by and large now are forced to read what is the correct political and ethnic flavour of the month. Quickly, smart kids understand that the vast majority of novels they read will be focused upon some problem one of the protected ethnic minorities are said to be uniquely faced with... and you are never to question the teacher as to why we are reading this crap instead of say Don Quixote.
The reason for this thinking was that I became aware of SHELF AWARENESS an on-line mechanism for, keeping booksellers and libraries aware of the very best crap publishers have on offer and this in turn lead to ALL OVER THE MAP the first episode of something called TITLEPAGE TV hosted--- as the announcers always say-- by your host Daniel Menaker. This episode featured (don't you like the language--- Richard Price, Colin Harrison, Susan Choi and Charles Bock...) It seems that Mr Bock's claim to fame is that he was born in Las Vegas and has a book that sells a lot. Susan Choi is--- I guess, as they say on SOUTH PARK, the token--- she is going on about some Chinese guy who was in the newspapers and is now in her novel. Colin Harrison writes about violence from the newspapers or something or other: he's married to a woman who wrote a novel about fucking her father for I guess fun and obviously later profit, and that leaves Richard Price who has written a novel about something that happened in the newspapers.
I have known Price for more than 30 years. I remember when he got into a fierce polemic with Richard M. Elman and again with Johnny Green of Green County, Alabama.. and I was aware of him as a fierce Sullivanian shuffling midst the beds of the Upper West Side and out on Long Island though most recently I ran into him some years ago when our daughters were playing softball: his daughter was on the Friends School team and my daughter was on the team from the school of The Convent of the Sacred Heart.
I watched a little of the show as Price recited the plot summary of his novel and it was as if he was reading the New York Post: could this have been his ironic celebration of Mayor Fiorello Laguardia reading the comic strips to distraught New Yorkers during a news paper strike-- for that is what newspapers really are these days: comic strips without the distracting drawings.
And that is where I stopped.
I had made that mistake my friend Eugene warned me against: you have to curb curiosity, you have to always be on guard as to what is out there wanting to get into your head. All of the above--- no matter what I have written--- love the attention: as long as I spell the names right they chalk it up to the idea: all publicity is good publicity... and i have given them some of my time...
I do wonder why Price bothers to write "novels." He writes good mainstream movie scripts that get made into movies so why all this typing up of novels... that are scripts in disguise?
Maybe only in Hollywood are novels still seen as being something real?
All the books by the people I have just mentioned as being on that show are already forgotten. I am sure you can hear them being boxed up to be sent to the remainder bookstores on the New Jersey shore.
Here are three pieces from TRACES OF INK by Robert Pinget that survived his death and will long survive all our deaths:
To know the hour of our death would be to deprive ourselves of our power of imagination.
To forget your own nothingness concentrate on that of someone else.
The only future is in the idea we have of the past.
TRACES OF INK was MONSIEUR SONGE'S last notebook. Pinget's books are available from Red Dust and Dalkey Archive.