Here's today's entry in volume two of my Occupy Journal:
o c c u p y : d e c e m b e r 12, 2 0 1 2
Publishing, which is what I know most about next to books and intellectual history, has never been mentioned in my two volumes and 300 pages about OCCUPY. When I decided to found a press and began publishing books (my first was 1953,then 1956, 1957, but I began full-time only in 1965), publishing was already part of a superficial and increasingly gross world of Capitalism. In the 50 years since, it has disintegrated just like everything else, becoming more and more commercial, commodified, and more and more divorced from the lives and needs of ordinary people. Like all the arts, it is just another entertainment industry, dumbed down and bottom-lined.
I'd like to look, first, at the language publishers (that is, editors) use, when they talk about their profession. Publishers Weekly interviewed eleven publishers, editors, authors, and agents about African-American publishing and quoted those interviewed in their December 10, 2012 issue which arrived today. Eleven different firms were represented, a cross-section of this commercial world.
Here are some of the ways these professionals refer to that world:
"issue-driven books;" biting off big ideas;" shortlisted;" "writer-platforms;" "debut novel;" "debut Haitian authors;" "projects" [that is, books]; "the celebrity books was big;" "reality TV;" "romantica" [by which she means the combination of romance and erotica, or, as she says, "steamy romance with erotica"]; "what used to work is not working anymore;" "hot categories;" "chick/lit sisterfriends;" "sexy stuff;" "Vampire-Huntress series." Listen to these people. These are African-American highly educated, serious professionals, in a world of millions of Black men in prison (The New Jim Crow world), hunger, disease, war. It's the same in whitey land of course. Here's some more of this twenty-first century literary sensibility: "Any trend that's hot eventually levels out;" "how to position [books];" "strategize;"
"pull together talent;" "teen lit;" "street lit;" "what will sell;"
"We don't publish Toni Morrison here;" "teen fiction rising star;"
"sun rights sale;" "book-a-year authors;" "I acquire middle-grade fiction;" "go-to figures;" "Christian fiction;" "commercial women's fiction;" "waves and trends;" "breakout books;" "top 100 authors."
Yes, there were one or two sentences in three pages that reflected something approaching idealism, but you get the picture. Literature this is not. It's the same in all the arts, when professional parasites get hold of us.
Forever, artists, authors, creative talented people in every century have been taken for granted and treated to the kind of commercialism and philistinism that is represented by the language the publishers and editors and agents use. Topicality, celebrity worship, searching for what they call "blockbusters." I would say such people are no more reliable than the politicians and leaders they select, and we know that less than 10% of the public trust those. Who in the world of commerce today is trusted? Why should be trust any of them? Those of you who work in the Business World know first-hand the lying and stealing, the short cuts and shoddiness that goes on in your firm; why should it be any different elsewhere in america? Or the Western World in general? Meanwhile, the West has so fucked up the rest of the world, there is only violence and reaction to Western so-called "cultural norms." These "cultural norms" are not normal; they're toxic and disgusting, anti-human and alienating. How can so many people work against people? Do they think they are immune? It's like the period of forthcoming nuclear war, when the welthy built underground shelters and the politicians incited nuclear holocaust. Did they think they would survive? And survive in what kind of world? We need a strike. A world-wide strike of people. Just saying, "We won't do it any more." What's the ":it?" All of it.
I think I'll make a sign right now and put it up in the bookshop, or wear it around my neck. It will simply say, "ALL OF IT."