Sunday, February 28, 2016
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Monday, February 22, 2016
Sunday, February 21, 2016
작성자: Finn Harvor 시간: 12:47 am
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Brian Palmu - Critic, novelist - Feb. 12, 2016
CBT: Are the very significant structural changes taking place in the publishing industry having an effect on novel or short story writing? If so, how?
BP: I’m unpublished, so this doesn’t really apply to me, though I had a long-running reviews blog through to this past December.
CBT: V. S. Naipaul has declared there are not any important writers anymore, Philip Roth has predicted the novel will become a cult activity, Peter Stothard has asked if fiction writing simply used to be better, Cullen Murphy, David Shields, Lee Seigel, and Geoff Dyer have all stated that non-fiction is superior to fiction. The list of people of letters who apparently have lost faith in literary fiction goes on an on; it is clear that an elementary questioning of the novel is not a passing cultural phase. Furthermore, the short story seems to be under siege as well: many agents and multinational publishers do not handle/publish story collections, small magazines seem perpetually underfunded, and a YouTube-ification of text and image seems to be taking short narrative in new directions. Finally, in the 2015/early 2016, it's become common for writers to observe their audience is shrinking rather drastically – what we might call the Smart Phone Effect.
What is your opinion? Do the novel and short story have a future? If so, what kind? And will e-technology alter the very forms of them? If so, how?
BP: V. S. Naipaul would say that since he’s no longer writing fiction. Novel reading, at least in its literary guise, has always been a cult activity, though I agree that it’s lost some of its cultural import. Stothard’s bowed-head conclusion is funny: fiction writing, like poetry, has always been cyclical as to quality, and it’s a mug’s game to weigh those sweeping differences within one’s contemporary clothes-closet-on-a-manse. Siegel et al seem to be caught up in hot-button social issues. The self-promotion and justification of their stylized genre omits, by design or ignorance, the pleasant reality that fiction rests on invention and imagination. They want it both ways – the intellectual acclaim of fiction’s difficult originality with the commercial awards of popular interest. I like some of the books their team publishes, but I wouldn’t dress it up as superior to fiction, or worse, groundbreaking.
The short story came of age with its publication in well-read dailies and magazines, pre-T.V. More than a few of those ever-elusive common readers would get their one-sit dose of fiction by listening to radio serials or, more often, reading a short story. I don’t have stats for Canada, but in the U.S. there were 18,793 newspapers published in 1899. One – one! – syndicate, McClure’s Associated Literary Press, put out 155 short stories in 1885. But T.V., it seems, killed the form’s popularity. Much easier to sit down after work and dinner to a passive series of sit-com images than to spend the same amount of time reading a short story. And once women entered the work force in droves, competition – both from among different entertainment sources and forms, and for the audience’s limited time – increased further. Short story fanatics will remain, thankfully, but I don’t think we’re going back to the twenty-pager glory days.
Novels and poetry are not only not going to fall off a cliff, they’re going to thrive, in numbers if not quality. The turbulence we’re seeing is one of transmission, not declining interest. Publishers, especially the top-heavy and risk-averse Big 5 (Big 3 in Canada?), have to realize what readers not only want (in distribution options, pricing, convenience, availability), but expect. The technology has changed. Publishers can’t fight it. But, just as ‘establishment’ is currently (and justifiably) a curse word in American politics, the same identification will continue to take on negative associations in literature. This issue isn’t confined to the genre world, of which I couldn’t care less. It’ll ramp up in litfic, as well.
BP: It’s easy to say that less money means fewer chances that a publisher will take on a new writer, or a writer that doesn’t check off all the popular CanLit boxes – template realism or historical litfic. It’s easy, but it’s also true! I feel for authors who are trying things that can’t be assessed by facile comparisons to contemporaries. But the good news is there are now alternatives. After all, 98 % or more of submissions aren’t published, anyway. One may as well go for broke (though I wince at the unintended pun).
CBT: Is the cutting back of mid-lists and a general cautiousness about taking risks on new or relatively unknown writers affecting the caliber of writing that does manage to get into print?
BP: I think I covered this a bit in the above answer. I can’t speak comprehensively because it’s impossible to read, never mind even being aware of, all the titles issued twice yearly. But it’s safe to, again, look at the economics. As money shrinks, publishers, foremost, have to look to their own existence. The bland, formulaic, dour, pretentious, narrator-flattering fiction that is a staple in Canada will only increase (or, better put, narrow) when pressures likewise increase to satisfy the reflex expectations of book clubs, ideological syllabi recruiters, and current affairs advocacy groups.
CBT: Do you have an author's website? Does it help you sell books?
BP: I’m unpublished, so this doesn’t really apply to me, though I had a long-running reviews blog through to this past December.
CBT: How do you feel about running an author's website? Do you feel its a labour of love – or an annoying imposition? Or something else altogether?
BP: My blog was a labour of love, yes. I couldn’t any longer justify spending much time on it, and rather than limp along at a post every few months – what’s the point? – I decided to close shop and let it stand for any archival interest it may garner for readers googling a title for a review. As for other author sites, I’m all for them. I’ve read others sneering at their desperation and boasting. Well, self-promoting is boasting, necessarily so. Publishers are doing less of it, and in any case, the promotional window for a book is brief. Of course, if you’re a megalomaniacal, floodposting dick about your work, that won’t help, either.
CBT: Is the selection system for novel and short story manuscripts fair? Should it be made blind?
BP: Fair for who? Publishers are only responsible to themselves for who they take on. The issue I have with the entire submissions process – and I’ve experienced this – is when editors and/or publishers are too lazy or chickenshit (more the latter, I suspect) to even inform the submitter with a simple yes or no. But it’s naive to think a publisher won’t take into consideration extraliterary matters when deciding whose work to select.
CBT: E-book sales now represent a significant percentage of overall sales. But small bookstores see them as more a threat to their survival than anything else, and a lot of book people remain print people. Are you enthusiastic about e-books? Do they hold the potential for a renaissance in literary publishing? Or are they over-rated and too susceptible to piracy?
BP: Money, obviously, is tight for print publishers. And the economy ain’t gonna recover to what it was after WWII through to the end of the tech bubble. Federal and provincial subsidies may or may not remain at current levels, though I’d suggest any movement will be downward. Publishers, as they’re now constituted, will be fewer and will publish fewer books. But I disagree that small publishers will feel the squeeze the worst. I hope small publishers can still afford to stick to quality and originality over safe choices, (the ones currently doing this, of course), and I’d hope others can start up and sustain their own visions. But the big 3 are less nimble. Big pub’s modus operandi – long turnaround time, expensive in-house talent, big city rent, warehousing, high-percentage returns on their frequently shitty products, a focus on hitting a seventeen-run homer rather than supporting their wider stable with smaller hits, increasingly unjustifiable and draconian contract terms, shrinking resources for mid-list promotion, one- or two-and-done decisions on inexperienced authors who can’t overcome the blunt mathematics from Book Scan – will be exacerbated by industry changes, and detrimental to not only their health but to their existence.
I predict the Bertlesmanns of the book world will just one day look at a fourth-quarter bottom line, shrug, say “fuck it”, and take over an as-yet-to-be-imagined, lucrative, alternate entertainment source – say, interactive stories with sexbots where the customer can select from frequent plot twists. And good riddance to them. There are many possible, positive alternatives. Micro-publishing, now a tiny niche, could take off. Community read-alouds and concerts could replace digital entertainment in an energy-compromised world. Self-publishing is the obvious, pressing alternative, but also resource-friendly online publishing, of which, surprisingly, I’ve heard little. It’s too large a question to cover here, even to a speculative sliver, as to how things will change. And impossible to predict. But I’m sanguine about the future.
CBT: What do you think of literary prizes? As Jason Cowley has commented, they reduce our culture's ability to think in a critically complex fashion. Do they suggest, “this book is worth reading and all these others aren't?”
BP: My take on this seems to come from a different angle than most. The standard objection to literary prizes seems to be that the originators and publishers of prizes are debasing literature by forcing submitters into a mold, by creating inevitable ethical problems inherent in the process, by turning the focus on one winner at the expense of hundreds of still-obscure also-rans, or by turning the entire literary promotional model into a superficial contest of blurb clichés. That’s all true. But publishers are gonna do what they’re gonna do. A significant chunk of a journal’s subscription base, for example, comes from contest entrants (all entries usually receive a “free” year’s subscription). The economics don’t favour contestants. Many entries come in at $25 to $35 a pop, with the first prize ranging from $500 to $1000, usually.
So unless a submitter is cynically able to game a (say) poem to the specific and career predilections of the judge, why bother? CV value? Enter if you think you can win and make some money, or if you actually find the journal or mag worthy of financial support. But otherwise award organizers are just feeding a demand which would be stillborn without the writers’ input. As for the larger national prizes, they’re so obviously subjective and frequently corrupt, the only positive thing to mention is that many Canadians realize, with shock and for a week, that books are actually available for sale at their local big box.
CBT: Philip Marchand once stated, “Not even the most fervent partisans of Canadian literature will say that Canadians have done fundamentally new things with the novel form, or changed the way we read in the manner, say, of a Joyce, a Kafka, a Nabokov, or a Garcia Marquez.” Marchand is correct as far as perceptions go; Canadian writing is not considered formally or stylistically groundbreaking. However, is this in fact the case when one regards our de facto production? What examples can you think of (including your own work) which would suggest another point of view?.
BP: Marchand is right. He could have added U.S.-born authors to those four names. We’re a conservative country, in our political underpinnings, our cultural choices, and our literary output. Our modernist transition was delayed, our postmodernist beginnings, in poetry, a third-hand travelogue from Black Mountain via San Francisco to Vancouver (throughout BC) and third-hand French theory (in much of the rest of the country). Our current experiments in form have yielded more heat than light, and we’re still borrowing wholesale, only now we’re at least more up-to-date with what other countries are doing. I’m sure I’m missing out on original work, and there are a few novels I’m intrigued by that I haven’t gotten to yet. And we’ve had some success at crafting excellent material from traditional (as that term constantly changes) patterns. But our most internationally lauded writers aren’t game-changers. And the “we’re still a young country” excuse is getting rather thin.
CBT: You've written on the importance/difficulties of being an independent critic. (In many ways, you and the critic Dan Green seem to be of the same mind on this.) Is this sort of criticism more necessary than ever? Or is it unrealistic to expect "citizen criticism" to emerge and be sustainable? After all, economic pressure in the form of head office-determined downsizing has been a factor in your own ability to write indie criticism.
BP: First off, I make a distinction between reviewing (which is what I do) and criticism. Reviewing is a flat-out joke in this country. I’m not talking about the various publicists, blurbers, book club sites, and fan-based readers’ blogs, who, after all, are only fulfilling their mandates. I mean what passes for honest, engaging commentary in our biggest dailies. As to Marchand (again): I’ve read little by him for years. He’s mailing it in. Alex Good is good, but so many others in the Toronto Star, the NatPost, Globe & Mail, and sundry other outlets – mygawd, the howlers, the bourgeois assumptions, the lack of historical understanding, the surface nature of their conclusions. I feel for authors. Even when they do get the occasional review, it’s apt to be misguided at best, poorly thought-out and worded at worst. The Quill & Quire is sometimes good, but they have to fit the review onto a fridge magnet, and there’s only so much you can do with that super-short format. And mind, there’s no excuse here of a fear in biting the hand that feeds one. Many of these reviewers are not also authors of fiction or poetry. As to those who fill both roles, well, a lot of cross-seams show. Solutions? Reviewing – and long-form criticism – is indeed more important than ever because of shrinking spaces in traditional outlets, but there’s no reason this can’t be taken up by the reading community in one online format or another.
Some already exist: Dooney’s Café pulls no punches. Mark Sampson's Free Range Reading publishes thoughtful new reviews, plus links to his other online reviews. Steven Beattie, at his That Shakespearean Rag site, has offered an in-depth post-a-day for a month each year on selected short stories. Norm Sibum’s Ephemeris, through Encore Literary Magazine, though in part a mix of gossip and political handwringing, nevertheless comments on art, artistic shenanigans, and poetics. Numero Cinq includes reviews of various sorts. The Winnipeg Review sheds some light on new fiction releases, and I'm glad they've lately added poetry to their reviewing mix, but aside from a few stellar reviewers, the output is tame and bland. Your own site shares links and comments on the publishing industry. All of this is important, but I’d love to see a site in Canada that focusses exclusively on book reviews, or (more practically possible) that teams with other writers to create a reviewing site that can be updated fairly frequently. The Partisan is sometimes interesting, but, again, it’s a mix, and a mix I don’t find at all attractive (Daryl Hine bumping up against whatever was said on a reality T.V. show the other night). The Northern Review, the Danforth Review, and a few others have tried this, the latter notably so, but it’s defunct, and the former went dark, and now (I believe) updates sporadically. Journal reviews are important but diminished by their small circulation and limited access. Some, fortunately, allow those reviews online. All of the above is encouraging, but the driving force – reviewers willing to take on books honestly – is still lacking. As a writer-reviewer, your negative review is gonna hurt your chances for some possible future prize? Seems less a threat to an author than what’s currently on display – crappy or compromised reviewing, or total neglect.
CBT: You have a keen interest in politics, especially international politics as it manifests itself as a geopolitical force. This seems to be a relative rarity among Canadian writers these days (at least, as an explicit concern). Broadly speaking , is Canadian literary discourse too provincial?
BP. I have to laugh. I actually think Canadian literature would be better served if it were more provincial. That’s not because I think politics and literature can’t co-exist – they can, should, and sometimes, magnificently, do – but that what passes for so-called political novels or poems are often obvious and ideologically vapid. By pure chance I happened to have read, back-to-back a month ago, José Saramago’s Seeing and Pasha Malla’s People Park. Both had similar themes set in similar circumstances. Unfair to contrast a first-time novelist with Saramago? Perhaps. But it shows the gulf, and we have to remark on the novel on its own terms. The late Portuguese writer concocts a complex, hilariously satirical commentary on the ruling class, and its effects, in a mesmerizing array of emotions, (especially) on a waveringly faithful police inspector; intriguing characters are absent in Malla’s novel. The former suggests, through indirection and conflicted alliances, how political decisions are made; the latter concentrates on blunt effects among cartoon characters, and the author’s writing suffers terribly trying to navigate through the mess his narrative requires. I’d much rather read a novel with small parameters done well than an ambitious train wreck.
CBT: What are you working on now that you're excited about?
BP. I have a novel making the rounds. I’m slowly sketching out ideas for a second. I continue to write flash fiction – 500 to 1,000 words. And I’ll be writing and submitting reviews in a few months, on what I don’t yet know.
Bio: Brian Palmu is a writer living on the Sunshine Coast, BC. His long-running blog, now retired, can be accessed at brianpalmu.blogspot.ca.
작성자: Finn Harvor 시간: 7:48 am
작성자: Finn Harvor 시간: 7:10 am
Friday, February 12, 2016
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
CBT: V. S. Naipaul has declared there are not any important writers anymore, Philip Roth has predicted the novel will become a cult activity, Peter Stothard has asked if fiction writing simply used to be better, Cullen Murphy, David Shields, Lee Seigel, and Geoff Dyer have all stated that non-fiction is superior to fiction. The list of people of letters who apparently have lost faith in literary fiction goes on and on; it is clear that an elementary questioning of the novel is not a passing cultural phase.
What is your opinion? Does the novel have a future? If so, what kind? And will e-technology alter the very form of the novel? If so, how?
TM: I have to agree with you that an elementary questioning of the novel is not a passing cultural phase – I’ve been seeing the question since I was in my teens. The big writers loomed large in front of me, geniuses, while papers I respected, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, The Village Voice and so on, would run these articles asking if the novel was dead. Could it be? I wondered. Had the novel died before I could fully discover it?
I bought into the crisis back then, but forty years later the novel seems to be doing just fine thank you. It’s fashionable to wring one’s hands that the boom in technology adoption will finally bring the great experiment to a halt. I don’t buy it.
People are experimenting with applying technology to narrative fiction. I’m all for the experiments, whether anything comes of them or not. The novel seems to function well – the form succeeds as constituted today. If you embed a 90 minute video in an ebook (which can be done with the new EPUB 3 standard) have you created a movie with an accompanying program, or a book with a movie to illustrate it? Does it matter?
CBT: Are the very significant structural changes taking place in the publishing industry having an effect on novel writing? If so, how?
TM: The structural changes in the publishing industry don’t necessarily impact how novels are written, with the exception of commercial fiction. Perhaps even the most classically literary of authors still keep one eye on the bestsellers lists and so may make some sort of adjustment to the explosion in teen fantasy and adult S&M fiction. But most of these impacts are short-term trends of interest mainly to commercial writers.
CBT. Is the cutting back of mid-lists and a general cautiousness about taking risks on new or relatively unknown writers affecting the caliber of writing that does manage to get into print?
TM: This question cuts to the heart of what I see as a major challenge in the analysis of the future of publishing: acknowledging that the New York and London school of publishing is not the only possible model for the conduct of a successful publishing business.
The “cutting back of mid-lists and a general cautiousness about taking risks on new or relatively unknown writers” refers mostly the “big six” publishers. Small publishers have been chugging along taking risks with mid-list and below authors for years.
I say to my writer friends that the only significant impact thus far on book publishing has been striking fear into the hearts of publishers wed to what has become a significantly more shaky publishing model. If you had your heart set on Knopf publishing the follow-up to your unsuccessful first novel, you may be disappointed. If you stop thinking that Knopf publishing your next book is the only way to validate your talent, you’ve got a whole new world of opportunity.
CBT: Do you have an author's website? Does it help you sell books?
TM: I have an author’s website for my books on publishing technology, www.thefutureofpublishing.com. It does help me sell some books, although that is far from its main purpose. Mostly I use it to publish ideas about project in progress, as a way of connecting my ideas to others in the publishing community.
My books wouldn’t be bestsellers even if I ran ads during the Super Bowl. There’s a limit to what any promotion can do for books with small targeted audiences.
CBT: How do you feel about running an author's website? Do you feel it’s a labour of love – or an annoying imposition? Or something else altogether?
TM: I believe that authors have two choices when it comes to web sites: jump in feet first, or skip it all together. Readers can spot a half-hearted effort a mile away, and it’s more of a turn-off than no site at all. Running a site doesn’t have to be as big a chore as it’s sometimes made out to be. Nor is it effortless.
Ideally authors find ways to blend their online world with their world of writing. It is a natural, but not all writers are naturals. For those writers I say: no blame. Get back to writing.
CBT: Is the selection system for novel and short story manuscripts fair? Should it be made blind?
TM: I don’t really understand this question. What alternative is there than the judgment of professionals within a publishing company? If they don’t select your work, take it elsewhere or self publish.
CBT: According to media reports, e-book sales now represent a significant percentage of overall sales. But small bookstores see them as more a threat to their survival than anything else, and a lot of book people remain print people. Are you enthusiastic about e-books? Do they hold the potential for a renaissance in literary publishing? Or are they over-rated and too susceptible to piracy?
TM: After several years of hype ebooks are settling down for most titles as but one format of several. As publishers we used to fret about the transition from hardcover to paperback. The ebook is the third format in this equation.
For many authors the ease of self publishing of ebooks has made this a viable alternative to a world of painful rejection from brand-name publishers. In some cases books are being published that had slipped through the cracks and deserve to be read. In other cases self-published ebooks are about as durable and engaging as a 3-minute YouTube video. But at $1.99 that’s not a bad thing.
Ebooks are an exciting new format, offering lots of opportunity and very few drawbacks as far as I can see. The big thing is choice, and with millions of books now published every year, added to the many more millions in print, choice is not an issue.
CBT: What do you think of literary prizes? As Jason Cowley has commented, they reduce our culture's ability to think in a critically complex fashion? Do they suggest, “this book is worth reading and all these others aren't?”
TM: I understand the argument regarding the distortion that the prize system introduces into making the public aware of worthwhile books. But it’s not like the alternatives are a smoothly-functioning critical engine.
As far as I’m concerned anything that celebrates books in a lively manner is good news all around.
CBT: What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
TM: After nearly 40 years in publishing I’ve decided to move on. I’m exciting about taking my knowledge of the digitization of information and applying that to the challenges of health care.
I’ve greatly enjoyed working in publishing. It’s a marvelous industry, both challenging and rewarding. But I’ve decided that “the problem of publishing” has in fact been successfully addressed. We’re fretting about very small issues and painting them large just because that’s what people do. They take their small problems and use them to fill the available space.
There is no crisis in publishing. Book sales are holding up well in the West, and growing by leaps and bounds in the Third World and other less-developed nations. Sure there’s disruption to some of the existing players, but overall literacy continues to improve worldwide, and the access to the written word has never been better.
Health care, on the other hand, is a mess. Information standards in health care are probably three decades behind where they are in most industries. Most medical records are still on paper, invisible to the physician currently treating you. I’d love to see more people from publishing take their talents to health care. They could make a far greater difference to the quality of life than publishing the revised edition of Feng Shui for Cats.
Bio: Thad McIlroy is an electronic publishing analyst and author, and president of The Future of Publishing, based in San Francisco and Vancouver, BC.In 2006 he launched www.thefutureofpublishing.com, a Web site nearly a decade in the making, and the most comprehensive source of information on the present and predicted outcomes of all sectors of the publishing industry.
Also in early 2007 he affiliated with The Gilbane Group, and in 1988 he founded Arcadia House, a consulting firm specializing in implementing electronic publishing technology in the graphic arts and publishing industries. In 1990 he co-founded (with Miles Southworth) The Color Resource, a publishing and distribution company devoted to books and training materials on color design, imaging and prepress.
McIlroy’s latest market reports are a 2012 study of the future of Barnes & Noble as well as Adobe’s Designs on Web Analytics: The Omniture Acquisition (2009). He contributed the Composition, Design, and Graphics chapter (with contributions from Frank Romano) for The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing (Columbia University Press, 2003). He is the co-author of Using Color Management Systems for Push-Button Color (1993: Smart Color and The Color Resource), Inside Photo CD: Market Opportunities in a Leading Edge Technology (1993: The Color Resource), The Color Resource Color Desktop Publishing Product Annual (1992/93: The Color Resource), The Complete Color Glossary (1992: The Color Resource), and eight other books.
작성자: Finn Harvor 시간: 11:44 am
작성자: Finn Harvor 시간: 7:02 am
Monday, February 08, 2016
[Interview conducted in October, 2012]
1 V. S. Naipaul has declared there are not any important writers anymore, Philip Roth has predicted the novel will become a cult activity, Peter Stothard has asked if fiction writing simply used to be better, Cullen Murphy, David Shields, Lee Seigel, and Geoff Dyer have all stated that non-fiction is superior to fiction. The list of people of letters who apparently have lost faith in literary fiction goes on an on; it is clear that an elementary questioning of the novel is not a passing cultural phase. Furthermore, the short story seems to be under siege as well: many agents and multinational publishers do not handle/publish story collections, small magazines seem perpetually underfunded, and a YouTube-ification of text and image seems to be taking short narrative in new directions.
What is your opinion? Do the novel and shortstory have a future?
There’s two affective things going on here. One is the imposition of the marketplace over all cultural and educational activities, which has transformed most fiction writing into arid exercises in conventional behavior—trying to please novel-reading little old ladies who want to escape their lives with Robert McKee-grade mechanical nonsense. The other is a “natural” degradation of the importance of written literature in the face of more technology-driven forms of narrative—television series drama (which is approaching a golden age), motion pictures, the Internet, and really, the nightly news, which has writers making up arbitrary narratives about how human reality is unfolding, and at a minute-by-minute speed that authenticates it as fact to the unwary.
All the evidence suggests that what we thought of as literature—the novel and the short story—will end up as a minor heritage activity with little or no cultural impact. I’m probably closest to the position David Shields has, which is that both fiction AND non-fiction are epistemological absurdities, and that the boundary between them was always a cultural illusion.
I think there IS a way of writing that does have cultural relevance: it’s that tiny edge of postmodernism that never got far beyond the experimental and the precious, but which I still think holds allpostmodernism’s valuable mineral core, where writers seek a paratactic depth and transparency at the same time that allows readers to move as quickly as the human mind now naturally moves while being completely candid about where the materials are coming from and how they’re being deployed. I’ve probably written about 15-20 passages across my various books that succeed at this. It’s really hard work, but its also a huge amount of fun. The Spanish writer, Javier Cercas, is probably the most successful writer who regularly achieves this, most recently with Anatomy of a Moment.
If so, what kind? And will e-technology alter the very forms of them? If so, how?
I think I answered the first question. The second question really isn’t very interesting. E-technology is here. It works, sort of, and will get better, maybe, and will end up with 50-70 percent of the book trade. The danger lies in Google and the text mash-up crowd, who are going to, if they get what they want, undermine the evidential/referential systems upon which Western civilization is based. So what’s at risk here is the rule of law and the judicial systems. What happens to individual authorship is a crucial element in this, even if literature isn’t. How e-books will change conventional novels is relatively speaking, not very important. Literature might be, because it remains the most effective device for long-form thinking that exists outside research collectives. And long-form thinking is what got human beings most of the good things civilization has created.
2 Are the very significant structural changes taking place in the publishing industry having an effect on novel or short story writing? If so, how?
Of course changes are occurring. It’s winnowing out everyone who isn’t terminally conventional or independently wealthy. And it’s contributing to the general dumbing down of readers.
3. Is the cutting back of mid-lists and a general cautiousness about taking risks on new or relatively unknown writers affecting the caliber of writing that does manage to get into print?
Probably. But there are lots of nuances here. It’s been a big boon to young writers coming out of the creative writing factories, because they’ve been taught how to market themselves, and how to be acceptably conventional. Publishers are looking for “new, fresh writers” because that’s a prime marketing category. And really, if, as a writer, you’re just trying to get laid by the market, why not go do real estate, where there’s real money to be made?
4 Do you have an author's website? Does it help you sell books?
No, and no. It’s sort of like having a Visa card. If you don’t have one, you lose elements of full citizenship. The test of this is simple: can you find an author’s website that isn’t so crudded with bullshit and self-congratulation that you feel like barfing after 20 seconds?
5 How do you feel about running an author's website? Do you feel its a labour of love or an annoying imposition? Or something else altogether?
I don’t have one, so I can’t say. But I’d think it would be an ongoing humiliation for any writer who isn’t completely stupid or fixated on the market (which is more or less the same thing.
6 Is the selection system for novel and short story manuscripts fair? Should it be made blind?
No, and No. On the first question, no, because it can’t ever be fair, because human beings are social, and thus gossip and sleep with one another and talk and think and do elementary detective work. No to the second question because the last thing we should do with literature is put it in the hands of bureaucrats and their systems. I’ve been on a jury in a blind manuscript selection procedure. The reality was that all the jurors knew who 2/3rds of the writers were, because good writers write distinct sentences. I went out of my way to point that out, along with who most of the writers in the competition were. That got me permanently blacklisted from literary jury duty, but it did get the best manuscripts on the table.
Rick Salutin once remarked that there are only about 900 people in Canada, and they all know one another—or should. He was talking about Canada as a cultural entity. You can froth at the mouth about how shocking and appalling this is, but it won’t change it, and if you erect a bureaucracy aimed at preventing it, you’ll end up in Stalin’s lap with a bunch of tight-assed dickheads telling you what to do.
7 According to media reports, e-book sales now represent a significant percentage of overall sales.
They’re lying about this, but it’s coming.
But small bookstores see them as more a threat to their survival than anything else, and a lot of book people remain printpeople.
The independents are going to be wiped out by it. And print people are going to get old. There’s no pleasant future to any of this.
8. Are you enthusiastic about e-books?
No. But not for the reasons you might guess.What worries me about the e-book industry is that it will put an end to the editing of books. And that would be an intellectual catastrophe, because most e-books right now are really just blogs, which is to say, they’re mostly unedited. You can see the effect of this already in the U.S. where publishers—even the major ones—are demanding that books arrive already edited.
9. Do they hold the potential for a renaissance in literary publishing?
Only if you believe in the old Kerouac “Firstthoughtbestthought universe, which I think may have been the greatest disaster to have befallen intellectual life in the 20th century. I happen to love being edited, for the simple reason that two minds are always better than one.
10. Or are they over-rated and too susceptible to piracy?
I don’t care about rating or piracy. I care about the demise of editing. That’s a cultural catastrophe.
11. What do you think of literary prizes? As Jason Cowley has commented, they reduce our culture's ability to think in a critically complex fashion? Do they suggest, “this book is worth reading and all these others aren't?”
That isn’t the problem with prize culture. The problem with it is that prizes always reward conventional behavior. And that has led to a situation where books being published are run through the prize mill, and if they don’t get nominations or wins, the publishers abandon them, and the morons who run the chain bookstores, people who have expertise in marketing, don’t order them. Meanwhile, the books that win prizes nearly all disappear within a few years, because they’re mediocre. This is, by the way, more true in Canada than in any country in the English-speaking world, and it’s utterly toxic. We need to worry less about prizes and more about the stupidization of the public realm that this is part of.
12. Philip Marchand once stated, “Not even the most fervent partisans ofCanadian literature will say that Canadians have done fundamentally new things with the novel form, or changed the way we read in the manner, say, of a Joyce, a Kafka, a Nabokov, or a Garcia Marquez. Marchand is correct as far as *perceptions* go; Canadian writing is not considered formally or stylistically groundbreaking. However, is this in fact the case when one regards our de facto production? What examples can you think of (including your own work) which would suggest otherwise?
I’m guessing you never saw Gender Wars: A Novel & Some Conversation about Sex and Gender: 1994, Somerville House. If you want radical with the novel form, that has it, in both content and graphic representation. It may not succeed as prize “fiction”, but it’s as crazy as it gets and travels at 4 times the speed. I also thought that Ondaatje’s “Coming Through Slaughter, George Bowering’s Burning Water, and Barbara Gowdy’s We So Seldom Look on Love were ground-breaking by any International standards. Phil’s beef is with the Jane Urquhart/later Ondaatje universe, along with every nominee/winner of the Giller since it began, of which his description is accurate. What he doesn’t say (even though he knows the truth) is that conventionality is what literary prize culture begets.
12. What are you working on now that you're excited about?
The Epic of Gilgamesh According to Enkidu, where the issue is whether or not I’ll ever know enough to finish it. The truth is that I do know how to finish it, but I'm just not a temple priest, and they’re the ones who wrote all the other versions.
작성자: Finn Harvor 시간: 5:05 am