Why literature is no longer art, a rant against what it has become:*
Now, I make no claim to know the complete span of the Hachette vs. Amazon kerfuffle, but I would like to point out that James Patterson (who is pro-Hachette) has started a laughable petition/open letter against Amazon over how they hurt authors. This is coming from a man who does not even write his own books, but uses ghostwriters. James Patterson proves that “the author” is no longer an artist. He is a brand.
Ghostwriters, too, have played their part in the destruction of literature as art. They write memoirs for celebrities and politicians who could barely type otherwise, lying to the public that “No, no, this person really IS smart enough to write his/her own book.” This is the equivalent of a self-portrait painted by someone OTHER THAN YOURSELF. Should it be called a self-portrait at that point? UM YEAH NO.
And let’s not forget about the celebrities-turned-authors who hire these ghostwriters/feed the beast. Sure, celebrities are really busy (too busy to write a whole book). But aren’t consumers busy too? If you can’t take the time to actually write your own book, then why expect us to read it? Is it that you want another title (“author”) under your belt? Have you earned that title? Is “artist” such a frivolous concept that all its facets (musician, painter, writer, etc.) can be bought? Don’t you know a trait of an artist is “starving”? If you aren’t willing to starve for it—to work for it—then it is not art and you are not an artist. Ghostwriting has led me to respect self-publishers more and more. You’re much more likely to know who wrote your book if you buy indie.
…And THEN we get guys like James Frey who just want to make literature a product—a product you can churn out from a factory. Is literature so formulaic that it can be created without artistic intention or thought?
I am surprised true authors have let it go on this long—let it belittle their work and their potential for success in the industry.
All this is without mentioning the nepotism/inbreeding within the industry itself. Not that nepotism/inbreeding creates bad artists/art, but it sure doesn’t make for a diverse gene pool of voices. For a new author to break in, they not only have to already BE somebody or BE RELATED TO somebody, but they have to get an agent to do it for them, because authors are not “smart enough” to navigate the industry itself—it isn’t safe to go it alone. Since when is art such a field of landmines? Why have authors allowed them to create SO MANY of said landmines? Why do we even want to go through their F*CKING FIELD OF LANDMINES?!?
*Takes a breath*
I am not strictly pro-Amazon, but I haven’t been pro-BIG 6 for a long while. Yes, yes, publishing is a business. But it used to be a business that also dealt in art. It used to make money ON ART. What is it that it’s selling now, really? Most isn’t art.
May the publishing gods that have allowed this to happen to the industry forgive me for my hubris, but may they also hear my prayer THAT THIS IS F*CKED UP, MAN.
*By BLA, not Gabbler. Gabbler thought this probably wasn’t the smartest career move – bashing so many people.
12/12/15 UPDATE — More interesting commentary/linkspam:
1) “The Packager Phenomena” — A section from this PBS article, on book packagers and their role in publishing.
2) “‘Was it the book packagers who really wrote the book and plagiarized my books or was it her?” she said.’ — On Kaavya Viswanathan. From here.
3) “I Could Have Been a Pretender” — Slate, on an experience with a book packager/ghostwriting.
4) “Book Packaging and Indentured Servitude” — From Author Elizabeth Fama. From here.
5) More on Kaavya Viswanathan — From here.
6) On how “most readers do not care. They don’t care where the book comes from if it’s a good book.” — From here.
7) On how publishing “chases trends, it doesn’t make them” — From here.
8) On how publishing houses don’t fact check “true stories” because, hell, it will sell either way — From here.
9) On how Penguin Random House owns the biggest vanity press that exploits writers — From here.
10) “Publishing is rotten to the core” — From David Gaughran.
11) Editor of NYT criticizes her own paper for biased coverage of the Amazon/Hachette case. — From here.
12) On “The Death Of the Artist.” — From here.
13) “Say No To James Frey: Why I’m Boycotting Full Fathom Five.” — From here. “Full Fathom Five don’t seem to have a website, so keeping track of their work to boycott it can prove tougher than it should be.”
14) “These days, writing isn’t a career. It’s a rich man’s hobby.” –From here.
15) “That said, we live amid a great sprawl of what passes for literature.” –From here.
16) The Agony of Community; On Art and the Introvert.” –From here.
17) Traditional Publication is the New Vanity Press. — From here.
18) Alan Moore on why the publishing industry sucks. –From here.
19) The Damage James Patterson, Inc. Has Done to Publishing. — From here.
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[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]