"Gia danced around a little, shaking her peaches for show. She shook it hard. Too hard. In the middle of a shimmy, her stomach cramped. A fart slipped out. A loud one. And stinky." -- James Joyce, Ulysses
By Steve Weddle
People of Earth: Quick. Stuff your tweed jackets with the Great Literature -- Tropic of Cancer, Yevgeniy Onegin, Mrs. Dalloway -- you've left undusted on your IKEA shelves and head for the hills.
The publishing world is collapsing. Gnash your dentures. Wet your adult diapers. Reverse your mortgages!!
Some people you've never heard of in Alabama are taking a word out of a public domain book. I KNOW!! To quote Marlon Brando in Martin Sheen's novel, Apocalypse Darkness, "The Horror!!"
If they take the N-word out of Huck Finn, will racism come back?
Worse than that, a wacky person on the TV has her name on a book. (Orange you gonna say "bananas"?)
The sky is falling. Sanctity of the novel. Blah blah blah.
Chillax, folks. They aren't taking your precious Huckleberry Finn from the shelves to replace it with the N-word/I-word free copy. And they aren't replacing that crapass Middlemarch or anything Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote with Snooki's book. Oh, if only they would. Honestly, "Young Goodman Brown"? Allegory? Holy crap. See, his name is "Brown." Not white for good. Not black for evil. See, Faith's ribbons are pink. Not red for passion. Not white for innocence. See, her name is "Faith." See, his name is "Goodman." Which means "good man." You'd have to lobotomize an unwatered fern to find a dimmer book. Or, you know, visit the set of a reality show.
Could I find redeeming qualities in Snooki's book? Sure. Could I work it into a lesson or two about current literary tastes? Heck, yeah. I'm not, though, because I ain't on the clock.
I've seen that done, though. When I taught college, one professor devoted 10 percent of the final grade to students' bringing in a contemporary song and discussing the lyrics as poetry. That was one of those classes in which the kids who showed up got an "A," while the kids who didn't show up got an "A-." (Yes, and I've seen great classes and great professors and everyone farts flowers, so whatever.)
Some folks took a couple of words out of a public domain book. Honestly. Big friggin whoop. You want to take words out? Fine. Here it is. Some dude already took the N-word out and replaced it with "hipster." You can buy it on Lulu for about $16, I think.
Honestly, it ain't that big a deal. Folks take the Jane Austen books and throw in vampires or zombies. Did everyone get pissed about that? No. Oh, but that was fun. It added something to the original. Adding zombies was a satirical parody of our hermeneutic [insert French word]-fraude. Feh. I didn't read the zombie version, either. (I did see the BBC P&P with Ms Ehle and Mr Firth and found it quite lovely. The father cracks me up.)
And Snooki's book? Either it sells or it doesn't. They gave her $3.5 million for an advance? Well, that seems like an oompaloompa load of cash, doesn't it? And why did they give her this money? Why did they sign her to the deal? Because they think they can make money on the deal. This is business.
Why has no one bought my 156,000-word space opera? Are they afraid of my one-armed, hermaphrodite, yodeling Jesuit priest with a slight lisp and a penchant for juggling? At first, that's what I thought it was. Then, as I re-read one of the scenes -- the one in which Hermunculus the transgendered monkey learns to power the intergalatic transport machine by pouring liquified goat feces down the shaved back of the priest's blind man servant -- I began to wonder if perhaps the book isn't that good. I mean, the entire first three books of the series (of which there are 17 so far and 13 more planned) take place during Pseudo-Normalous Prijantian ritual. (You'd have to have been on the Campaigns of Elder World with me and my college roommates to understand, but it's friggin awesome.) So this space opera isn't for everyone. Maybe the publishers think they can't make money on it. If they thought they could make their money back, they would certainly buy my books. It's a business, right?
The problem is, of course, that they don't always get everything right. Remember a couple of years ago when whatever house it was had to get rid of folks because Dan Brown was late with a book? They'd written their budget counting on the uptick in revenue coming in a certain quarter. When he was late, well, they had to cut expenses. Couldn't afford those folks. I remember NPR and the NYT book folks going on and on about it. To me, that's a more serious concern. Budgeting. Because that shit is serious. If you're planning on revenue, if you're so nailed down that one late book is going to force you to shitcan a bunch of folks, you've got some problems in how you make a budget. But you know what? They'd basically planned on hiring Christmas help for a season, right? Then Christmas came late. Big, fat lump of coal. But that's what happens. It's a business, right?
Publishers invest in books because they think they can make the money back. It's business.
For some reason, folks still think of books as works of beautiful art. Yeah, some are. BUY THOSE BOOKS. I read Out Stealing Horses and thought it was magnificent. I have no friggin clue how it got published. Some old dude is in his cabin for a couple of hundred pages and remembers when he was a kid and some kinda interesting stuff happened. But it was great. Won awards. Did they make back their money? Heck if I know. I hope so.
Are they making their money back on James Patterson? John Grisham? Jodi Picoult? Er, yeah. I'd bet they are. See, if they make their money on Patterson, they have money to give me, right? That's one argument. The other is that if they give all their money to Picoult, they don't have any left to buy my space opera.
But this is a business. Book publishing has to make money. Big House Publishing doesn't owe me a damn thing. If they want to spend their profits on a Snooki cookbook, they can do that. And if I want to spend my money on Per Petterson, then I will. Or if I want to spend zero dollars and just load up my Kindle with Mark Twain and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, then I'll do that.
So when Janet Evanovich gets $50-million for her next books and Snooki gets $3.5 million for Jersey Whore, we can (oh, sorry. Jersey Shore Thing). OK. Where was I? Ah, yeah. Sticking up for publishers. Wait, why would I do that? Where's my check?
Buy books you like. Buy two copies. Buy from Tyrus. Mulholland. Minotaur. New Pulp Press. Night Shade. Akashic. [EDIT: And Switchblade. Thanks, Michelle.] (And whoever is still considering my space opera.) Any number of publishers that are doing good things.
Buy authors you like. Buy multiple copies. Saturday's Child from Ray Banks is Under. Two. Bucks. I just bought a handful of copies. Yeah, I know. Big spender. But lemme tell you this. Comment on this post and I'll randomly pick someone and send them a copy. Maybe I'll pick a couple. Then you'll love Cal Innes and buy more books. Spread the word.
And shop at stores you like and tell them what you want. I live fairly close to Richmond, so Fountain is my favorite indie. Find yours. Tell them what you want. Tell them what you hate. And, if they're good, they'll tell you what else you might like and hate.
You don't like the new Huck Finn? Don't buy it.
You don't like the book by that Jersey trollop, don't read it. Read the Trollope from the UK. I hear his stuff is free.