not to be read
not to be read
not to be read.
Increasingly, I have given up any thought that my manuscripts will ever be read and then published. From everything I know about publishing I no longer believe that there are editors capable of reading and publishing what I have written. I am sure there are editors who know how to read but they are no longer willing to go through the necessary motions of preparing the way for the publication of my manuscripts. Most editors defer to either the sales force or their imagined sales force when deciding on the possibility of publishing a manuscript.
An editor when considering a manuscript is always dealing with the thought of filling out the projected sales figures for the book: copies advanced, first month sales, three months, six months, year one sales, year two sales...
Of course these figures are all imaginary and they are closer to the reality of the lottery where it is more likely you will be hit by lightning than winning one of the big lotteries... as they say in New York a dollar and a dream...
As we all know lotteries are a wonderful tax on the poor who are the biggest suckers for this form of gambling. And so you might say the sales projection form is a sort of tax on the imagination or maybe better it is the closing of the imagination.
And do not think that there is any hope in the smaller independent presses. They now operate along the same lines and in many cases are even less adventurous than houses like Knopf or FSG. They are even more given to suppose trends and all too often gone over into the multi-cultural sham as they know it is way to squeeze money out of the government or foundations.
Agents are not much better. When my books were published and well reviewed across the country, including the all important New York Times,I made the rounds agents with a list provided by Sam Vaughan then a senior editor at Random House and the former publisher of Doubleday. The most honest agent simply said, I can not eat lunch off of you... and that is the bottom line with agents.
Of course there are still accidents and that is how they have to be characterized when actual literary books are published today. If you have been reading this blog you know what I mean by literary books. I am not talking about fake books by Paul Auster and Don DeLillo... and the list of these is too long to go into... again.
Truth be told: some of the impetus for these thoughts came as a result of driving last week to and from Nashville where I returned my daughter to her third year at Vanderbilt. The poverty of Vanderbilt in terms of literature is legendary... the academic bookstore is more interesting in selling t-shirts and water bowls for dogs... but Vanderbilt is not as awful as Harvard as it lacks the actual hatred of the imagination which is the hallmark of Harvard and the city of its location, Cambridge.
As we were driving along 40 we saw the signs for the Book Cellar in Crossville, Tennessee. Located in a down-at-the-heels mall, the shop is a huge barn of a building with a vast collection of mostly mass market paperbacks. A large section of Christian Fiction and self help books that were of help another year. There was a stand alone bookcase with multiple copies of all of Danielle Steel books. A daughter was calling her mom on a cell phone while standing in front of the James Patterson collection. She did not know if they had read this title and her mother thought they might as well read it again as she also had forgotten if they had read it...
I could go on and make lists of the various collections in the shop... but it was the tiredness, the ache of what could be that tore at me.
I think it would be better if there was more illiteracy in the country. Remember some time ago I mentioned Albert Jay Nock noting that the best bookstores in Europe were in Portugal which at that time had the highest rate of illiteracy: there was no market for books geared for the semi-literate.
In Virginia just off 81 we were drawn to the Green Valley Book Fair which is open for a week or so at different times throughout the year. Again a vast size and all the books are newly remaindered. Stuff that doesn't sell... and in every category... last season's self help books and it was nice to see a very big pile of the last novel by Rick Moody but of course that will not stop his stupid publisher from printing more and more books by this guy... of course seeing these piles you realize that those wonderful sales figure projections must not have worked... it was a shop as testament to the fallibility of these editors... yet they continue to be guided by them when it comes to the sort of manuscripts that I have produced...
not to be read
not to be read
not to be read
AND A TINY PIECE OF GOOD NEWS
Finally I found a copy of ISLANDS by Jean Grenier published by Green Integer in 2003. Of course it was not much talked about. Grenier (1898-1971) is unknown in the US thanks to the genuine stupidity of American publishing.
ISLANDS is a book essentially of essays introduced by Albert Camus. Camus writes in his introduction about what this book did to him, "Suddenly a great theme of all the ages began to resound in us as a disturbing novelty. The sea, the sun, the faces from which we were suddenly separated by a kind of invisible barrier, removed themselves from us without ceasing to fascinate us. In sum ISLANDS initiated us in disenchantment; we had discovered culture... (Grenier) prefers to speak of the death of a cat, of a butcher's illness or the fragrance of flowers of passing time. Nothing is really said in this book. All is suggested with incomparable force and delicacy. This nimble and agile language at once exact and dreamy has all the fluidity if music."
And so the opening line of ISLANDS in the chapter The Attractions of the Void: "In each life, particularly at its dawn, there exists an instant which determines everything..."
A little later, " I was one of those men predestined to wonder why they live instead of actually living or at most living only on the margins."
The second essay Mouloud the Cat begins, "The world of animals is made of silences and leaps."
The death that will eventually come to this cat is the stuff of the most awful nightmare that any horror novel you might have ever read... pales by comparison.. while I had to read Grenier's words, and as you must, and not for a second regretting reading them, I do not know what to make of this new understanding... the only consolation is that I still have more pages of Grenier to read...
I hope you will find ISLANDS and also be on this voyage.