“BOOKS ARE ONE OF THE FEW THINGS IN LIFE THAT ARE TIMELESS, AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUCTED BY THE TICKING OF THE CLOCK”
The above truly necessary and worthwhile statement was written by an Arizona publisher, Tim Schaffner, and is taken from a piece entitled GOOD BOOKS ARE WORTH THE WAIT published by Publishing Perspectives on June 11 2012. It made me want to cheer.
The pressure on popular authors by traditional publishers to churn out a book a year – to fit their publishing schedules – has had a disastrous effect on the quality of the writing of many authors. Some, who naturally write short books, respond positively to such pressure; but if you are in the Big Thriller business, it is an unrealistic request. Writing a Big Thriller is gruesomely hard; and typically takes—as long as it takes.
Writing a Big Thriller is a mammoth, exhausting, emotionally draining task—which is not well served by a production-line approach. Not only is the quality of the writing damaged, but so is the quality of the author’s life. Such pressure breaks up marriages, leads to children being neglected, and is primarily based upon nothing more than pure greed—both corporate and personal (as in the corporate executives). Authors conform because they are pressured to. The language used may be indirect but the message is clear: Toe the line, or we will drop you.
Since we authors like to be published, and have to be to earn an income, we have a tendency to conform despite our ideals. One might like to write lofty works illuminating the human condition, but normally simple economic survival comes first. In short, we are human; and most of us bow to pressure; and, privately, many of us are ashamed of it.
Corporatization has been a disaster where publishing is concerned. It has shrunk the number of major publishers to a handful—thus reducing competition--and has instituted an environment where all that counts is the next quarter’s financial results. As a consequence, the careers of many fine writers—and numerous publishing employees—have been destroyed.
Currently, Random House and Penguin and are having talks about merging. If they do, the consequences will be more lost jobs, even less competition, and entirely negative effects as far as authors are concerned.
The one plus? The new name of the new organization will be cute. The name “Random Penguin” does have a certain appeal.
One of the great ironies of free market capitalism is that it invariably strives towards the elimination of the free market, and the institution of monopolies.
There are laws that are supposed to prevent this, but—especially during Republican Administrations—they are rarely adequately enforced.
Year by year, fewer and fewer corporate entities dominate this economy, our political system, and this country; and these corporate entities are, in turn, controlled by a frighteningly small number of people. Clearly such a situation is inconsistent with a healthy democracy--or, indeed any kind of democracy—yet we seem to be doing absolutely nothing about it. Again and again, those who vote (not nearly enough) vote back into office politicians who, primarily, are selected and backed by the Ultra-Rich (or their agents), and who demonstrably pay scant attention to their constituents—a fact which has been substantiated by formal research. This makes the U.S. electoral process little more than theater designed to placate the masses as far as important issue are concerned.
Why is this? Three words come to mind: IGNORANCE; FEAR; and FATALISM.
Ignorance begs the question: Are Americans deliberately being kept ignorant? Where education is concerned, I’m not sure. Where our culture as a whole is concerned, I have no doubt at all that the answer is: “Yes!” Simply put, American social conditioning—which encompasses everything from education to advertising to the media to religion to politics—is so incredibly strong and effective that it mutes both the desire and the ability to think rationally. Instead, it has become the American way to respond to myths with one’s emotions. Facts, if they do not conform to one’s prejudices, are dismissed. Such an approach does not bode well.
Fear plays a much greater role in American life than is generally admitted. This situation exists because this a highly authoritarian culture where most people are dependent on the corporate world, and where the consequences of losing one’s job—in the absence of an adequate social safety net—are severe; and can be catastrophic. In such a fraught environment, fear is an inevitable and pervasive byproduct. The U.S. is the largest consumer of tranquilizers, legal and illegal drugs, and comforting Fast Food for very good reason. Such things help assuage the fear; if only temporarily.
Fatalism follows fear; and fatalism creates a political vacuum which the Ultra-Rich (the 1% if you will) are only delighted to exploit. Check out the figures. Since 1973—nearly forty years—most Americans have seen virtually no increase in real earning power; and it has been in actual decline since the Great Recession. As for the 1%, as the economy has recovered, virtually all the gains have flowed to them.
Years ago, the love of my life and I went for a romantic vacation on Achill Island That is just off the West Coast of Ireland, in case you are wondering (near Fitzduane country if you have read my books).
Anyway, as we were meandering along after dark looking for a camping spot, we caught a rabbit in our headlights. The poor thing was so terrified it just froze. This was fatalism extended to its ultimate stage. My lover eased herself out of the car, and keeping out of the glare of the main beams, walked up to the rabbit, picked it up in her arms, stroked it—and broke its neck.
I find it hard to describe my reactions at the time. Shock, awe, and lust competed for my attention. The year was 1964 and I was twenty. She was a phenomenal woman and a decade plus older than me; and vastly more experienced. I was not a reluctant pupil. She was my Mrs. Robinson—with one difference. We loved each other.
Later that evening, she gutted it, skinned it, and cooked it for supper in cider—with carrots, onions and potatoes--over our camping stove. It was decidedly tasty.
Where financial matters and the majority of the American public are concerned, the 1% has learned that breaking necks is normally not required; and that gutting and skinning the U.S. populace (financially) is more profitable if carried out while people are still alive. It is also easy if such people are largely ignorant, fearful, and fatalistic.