Thursday, November 26, 2009

Books are Evil

Michael Wolff has had it with books (Thanks to Melville House Publishing via Peter Robins at the Guardian):
If there are still good books, they are largely irrelevant to a form and business that is largely about the creation of the artifact—identifier, symbol, leave-behind, brand enhancer...

...It’s not that there is anything wrong, or at least out of the ordinary, with salesmanship or promotional copy, or with even saying you wrote what your ghostwriter wrote. This is the stuff of speeches, advertising, and testimonials. What’s insidious here is that these forms, which are understood to be insincere and a confection, are now in the guise of a book, which is understood to be genuine and substantial.

And, indeed, people are fooled. And, to the extent that readers are not fooled (and reading just a few paragraphs of these books, if you do read them, ought to raise questions), the form of the book itself is undermined. Books lose value and meaning. Real readers come to understand there are fewer and fewer real books.

Publishers publish fake books because, if you have an “author” who has some larger cause to promote, the publisher gets free promotion. What the publisher has traded for such an abundance of promotion is its own brand. HarperCollins does not really believe Sarah Palin has written a valuable book—or even that it is really a book, not in the way that HarperCollins has historically understood books, or in the way that people have counted on HarperCollins to have understood a book. But, these are desperate times and real books are an increasingly equivocal proposition anyway, so almost all publishers are willing to engage in the strategic mix-up between real books and fake books.

This really isn’t quibbling. We have created a giant system of national agitprop, in which books and the book business have become one of the most effective tools...

...Literate people should boycott books.

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