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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Seems We Get the Publishing Industry We Deserve

Celebrity Publisher??
Do we, as well as past generations, actually get the books and culture we deserve? Or did an elite few (read blessed or cursed with more of the resources of the day) tell the rest of us what we should like or accept as 'cultured' culture (pun intended) --- Simply and probably because someone had told them what was acceptable in their time.

Never mind growing and expanding ideas and knowledge that would certainly sway concepts and complex thought/s and therefore literature and culture. I would say this applies to both the heavier and lighter sides of literature/culture/art/books/etc..  

But, back to the question: Do we actually get the books and culture we deserve? 

Hell no! (Realizing there is no one answer to this question due to no one concept of culture and good/bad books). 

But, it's not because of what we like, enjoy or desire (from the most educated among us to the least) --- It's because of what is jammed down our throats in the name of the almighty dollar from those in control of the business.  

Alexander Nazaryan, a very entertaining book reviewer and 'culture commenter' who enjoys his commentary with heavy doses of facetious irreverence and hyperbole, writes this for the New Republic:

When Celebrities Take Over Publishing Companies ...

Every age gets the publishing industry it deserves, whether it’s Babylonian scribes etching the Epic of Gilgamesh into stone tablets, medieval scribes toiling away at illuminated manuscripts or Maxwell Perkins laboring over the sentences of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Which is why, I suppose, today we have imprints from the comedienne Chelsea Handler, the rapper 50 Cent (Handler’s erstwhile beau, but I wouldn’t read too much into it), the chef Anthony Bourdain, and actors Viggo Mortensen and Johnny Depp, not to mention mystery writer Dennis Lehane and former Men’s Health editor David Zinczenko.
All these are small imprints, usually folded into publishing conglomerates and producing only a few books each year—and always announcing the celebrity affiliation with unabashed pride of the sort that must make the wise old men of the publishing world, the two or three still left, cringe. All were founded in recent years, as the publishing industry has searched ever more desperately for a solution to its chronic, worsening woes. They suggest, to me at least, that the business of discovering, editing, publishing, and promoting a book has become little more than that—a business, on par with hawking energy drinks or endorsing restaurant chains. Yes, publishing has always been about making money. The rise of the celebrity imprint indicates that it is now about little more than that.
That the publishing world—buffeted by the forces of Amazon and apathy—has turned to celebrities for salvation is not surprising. Considering how much of a premium our society places on fame—independent of how that fame is achieved, regardless of whether it is deserving—it makes perfect sense that at HarperCollins someone said, “Hey, we should have that guy fromPirates of the Caribbean edit some books.”
That guy—Depp—is apparently serious about his imprint, Infinitum Nihil, having recently published a long-lost novel by Woody Guthrie, House of Earth, with an introduction by the historian Douglas Brinkley, who is also publishing The Unraveled Tales of Bob Dylan with Depp. And Mortensen founded Perceval Press on his own—in some degree to publish his own works of photographs, but also as an outlet for what is all-too-readily dismissed by bigger publishing houses as "literary fiction," as well as works on history and art. Not too shabby, I think, for two guys who work in a town where anything more ponderous than a Rotten Tomatoes review is considered longform.

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