Friday, December 12, 2008

The More Things Change, They More They Stay The Same

"Back in the mid-19th century, literary magazines promoted themselves by putting the nastiest reviews they could get on their covers. Both the targets' friends and their enemies rushed to buy them, to pore over every word in Village saloons and coffeehouses. A century later, there was Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal, Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman battling it out on Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson. Now that the novel is, in Strauss's words, "a much diminished thing," the Internet might just have to take up this promotional slack."

Ah, those were the days.

That's probably my favorite paragraph in Bloggers Vs. an Author: No One Wins , by Kevin Baker, in The Village Voice. The article describes the "Net reaction" to author Darin Strauss's description of his experience on a 22-city book tour, which he, himself, blogged about.

People really don't like to hear writers say anything negative about the writing life. A few years ago, a young woman wrote an anonymous article in Salon about her disappointment because her very well-received book didn't sell better than it did. She took a bit of a beating on the Internet, too.

I think many people, whether they hope to become writers themselves or not, have a fantasy about writers--a fantasy that involves fame and fortune. They just do not want to hear that the general public barely knows who the vast majority of writers are and that most writers can't support themselves with their writing, forget about taking care of a family. Those are facts of life, but to voice them is viewed as complaining because, damn it, J. K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer are rich and famous so why don't you other writers stop whining?

While reading how Strauss found himself getting drawn into a pissing match with other bloggers, I kept thinking about all the advice that moms have been giving out for centuries. Mainly, "Ignore them, and they'll go away."

They may have been on to something.

On the other hand, as the article's author suggested in the paragraph quoted above, these days an Internet pissing match may pass for book promotion.

2 comments:

Sam said...

Nice reviews = naughty sales figures...

Okay, when our next books come out, let's start a flame war where we savage each others books...

"What most sickens me is that Gauthier's scrawlings earn her buckets and buckets of money and a vacation home on the Rhine."

We'll fire shots at each other and try to suck in every other blogger we can to fan the flames. Then maybe I'll sell a few books next time around.

gail said...

Well, I don't expect to ever have another book published because I'm going to be working on the one I'm writing now for the rest of my life. But I'd be happy to say nasty things about you at as many blogs as I can.