Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The System versus the Writer


Ebooks and other changes allow the possibility for equalizing the relationship between the writer, on one hand, and the system of agents, editors, and marketers employed by the big book companies, on the other. The current system doesn't serve the writer well. Even when a book is accepted for publication, the promotional backing offered, except in a few select cases like with Jonathan Franzen, is minimal.

There has to be a better way. Writers are the creators. Leverage rightly should be in their hands. In the present system they're reduced to approaching the publishing world with hat in hand. "Please publish me!" It's no wonder, when the apparatchiks see the horde of supplicants, that they don't respect them. In many cases they view them with contempt. "The Writer from Hell" becomes their topic of conversation.

You end up with something out of Gogol: a collection of bureaucrats who behave like tin pot dictators toward those who approach-- which is the case with any large bureaucracy.

Beyond this, due to the nature of the bureaucratic mentality, how you present the work becomes more important than the work itself. Are your papers in order? Bureaucrats focus on trivialities. Who/whom? Let's do it correctly, says the faceless bureaucrat. Have you followed all rules and regulations? The chief value becomes conformity-- not exactly in tune with the artistic personality. It's one reason why the face of American literature today is Jonathan Franzen, a competent but unexceptional novelist with a notably unexciting personality. And even he's balked at jumping through the proper hoops on occasion!

When the writer encounters petty apparatchiks in their anonymous state-- a situation which they greatly enjoy-- the nastiness is better revealed. One dare not criticize the system which employs them. To them, such criticism is unthinkable.

The question a truly independent writer has: Do I really want to do business with these people?

Most writers of course will do business with them, out of necessity.

The experience of the Underground Literary Alliance was the experience of encountering the system's fear and weakness. We felt these emotions: a firestorm of blowback against us that hit us with great intensity. Even three years after the ULA stopped moving, demi-puppets continue to mutilate and distort the ULA's, and my own, wikipedia entries. Fair play, as the ULA revealed when we began exposing lit-world corruption, has no room among these people. They'll work to stamp out all opposition, and shut down any criticism. It's an unfortunate situation.

Will this situation ever change? We shall see.

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