Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"Everybody sound the same, commercialize the game/ Reminiscin' when it wasn't all business"*

Until the early 1990s, a Canada-wide network of independent bookstores made it possible for a well-received small-press short story collection to sell 700 to 1000 copies, and sometimes more. Today the omnipresent outlets of Chapters-Indigo make it possible for a well-received small-press short story collection to sell 250 copies. But if Chapters-Indigo is the disease, the Giller Prize is the symptom. Nothing signalled the collapse of the literary organism as vividly as the appearance of this glitzy chancre on the hide of our culture. - Stephen Henighan, "Kingmakers," Geist 63

... we are currently living through the dismantlement of Canadian publishing. Evidence supporting this view is not in short supply. - Henighan again.

There used to be a time when publishers (though traditionally reviled by writers) were educated, literary people with a love for books. If they made money from their authors—and several did—it was more a question of happy chance than ruthless method. But since the 1980s, publishing companies, bought up by large international corporations, began to apply industrial methods to the making and distribution of books. Having discovered that books are sold and bought, these entrepreneurs reasoned that books could be bought and sold like any other artifact, from pizza to sports cars. - Alberto Manguel, "Idiot's Fare," Geist 63

We live in a period when, for better or worse, most of the realities of publishing and bookselling are being transformed in order to conform to the demands of money. Editorial lists appear and disappear, books are published in enormous quantities with huge promotional campaigns only to be pulped into oblivion, publishing conglomerates come into existence or suddenly vanish. The reason is always the same: money and profit. - Matt Cohen, Typing: A Life in 26 Keys (Random House Canada, 2000)

Money, and Prizes. Prizes proliferating. And along with them the manufacturing of celebrity by the manipulation of publicity budgets. Literature metamorphosing into Show Biz. - John Metcalf, An Aesthetic Underground (Thomas Allen Publishers)

Literature used to be about literature. Now it's about money. - Steven Heighton, quoted in An Aesthetic Underground.

On other hand:
My stance on huge advances is very simple: I would like one, please. The politics of money, the role of it in publishing, the effect on out literature – all of these are issues that pale in comparison to what this kind of money means to a writer. It means freedom. If it makes you a lesser writer, or creates a media tempest, or makes readers think Canadian writers are being bought and sold – these are other problems. A writer with money has the basis of a life of writing, which is the goal, I think. - Michael Redhill, quoted in The Notebooks: Interviews and New Fiction from Contemporary Writers (Anchor Canada)


* Nas, "Hip Hop is Dead"

(For more on the good old days, go here.)

1 comment:

72 km/h said...

You rock, man. You rock.

That deserved a comment, 'nuf said.