There is nothing more magical for me than a book. As a burgeoning lit freak, I would hunt out any quiet space in our tight four-people-livin-in-a-one-bedroom-apartment to get mah literacy on. My fortress of reading solitude was the large windowsill behind the gaudy red faux-velvet sofa in the living room that let me disappear from the household while giving me a great sunset view of the Cross Bronx Expressway, the open fire hydrant, kids playing skelsies & hopscotch, teens shooting dice & playing handball, and adults bonchinchando. The best part: No window guards! Oh yeah, before they became a law, I could dangle half my body out of a three story window soaking in the sights and sounds of Townsend Avenue while also catching up on the latest adventures of Encyclopedia Brown.
It all came to a halt the day my Moms spied me on the windowsill, one hand with some folded up Wonder Bread, Kraft cheese and mayo (yum!), the other with Where the Wild Things Are, and half my body out on the tenement ledge. Her response, “Oh, that’s where you are.” My response, “Right here.” And then she went off to the other room and I went back to reading. Then she yelled out “¡Ay Dios Mio!” It flipped me out so much that I almost fell out the window, then she comes running in with my Dad yelling “He’s about to fall!” I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, cuz you just scared the shit out of me’ (At five I was already cursing which is a whole ‘nother story) and getting dragged from the window by my Dad.
We all got it resolved and after I logically explained how reading while in a state of almost free flight was very liberating for me and helped increased my reading levels (or somthing like that) I was told never to do that again. “Read on the sofa, that’s why we bought it.” And here I thought it was to keep the beaded curtains and portraits of bullfights company. Anyways, as much as I tried to rebel and find my comfy spot by the windowsill again, it wasn’t happening no more. Adult reality jumped in and wrecked my game.
So here I am reading this great article about the realities of book tours and why fiction authors should never engage in a flame war with blogggers, especially unpublished fiction author bloggers.
Bloggers Vs. an Author: No One Wins
Thoughts on book tours, literary self-promotion, and one published writer’s blog spat
By Kevin Baker
“The state of publishing is such that you can get all these great things, but people don’t talk about the work. They talk about you,” says (Darin) Strauss. “There used to be serious critics and an audience. . . . Now, the audience is also in the critic business.” The model becomes Amazon, “where any cranks complaining about books can have the same weight as The New York Times.”
This should provide an example of Web democracy in action. But consider the fact that every writer I know nudges his friends and relatives to offset the mob rule by sending their own glowing reviews to Amazon and similar sites. The result is a culture where everything is a five-star book, and everything is fraudulent. It’s not so much democracy but a corruption of the public square, one that doesn’t so much improve writing as it forces each writer to become his own corporate PR department.
For Strauss, the result is a sort of vast, cultural “rot,” extending across art, music, and cinema, as well as writing. “We have created sort of a post-talent age,” where what began as the heroic overthrow of cultural elites has now devolved to the craven capitulation to the mob: “It’s commercial elitism as opposed to intellectual elitism.”
That’s from the end of the article and it really encapsulates a lot of the discussion Barb and I have regarding the pros and cons of the literary democracy, user-generated content and why some authors are content with being big algae in small ponds (the last one is my metaphor but you get what I mean).
Another great part of this article is the light it sheds on the realities of the nation wide book tour. How it ain’t all glamour, sales, and glowing reviews. Kinda feels like my Mom wrecking my literary paradise with me knowing full well that a three story drop would kill me but balancing out the fact that I was doing myself more good than harm by getting as much reading as I can done. You’d think that little lesson would’ve been enough to clue me in on the fact that literature alone will not make the world a better place but flash forward to me as a 31 year old aspiring open-micer and being all bedazzled by orators on stage reciting three-minute poems from memory. That by itself was some hot shit but the minute I saw someone read from their own self-published perfect bound collection of verse, I was a little kid on the ledge again thinking “Hey, I could have a book one day and that would make me an author and the world would be all right.”
That was seven years ago and even though I’ve learned that having a book (self-published, micropress, small press, university press, contest winner, etc.) is not the be-all-and-end-all of being a poet. Yes, it is a marker but it doesn’t have to be one that ends a journey. Yes, it does show you are serious about writing and getting read but a five year old risking death to is also serious about literature. Yes, it can give you access to places and voices you might not have had before but if you don’t use that access to move forward, what’s the point?
Honestly, I’m not sure the whole point. Writing a book is something I’m just getting used to. Even to this point I don’t think I’ve been writing a book of poetry but instead writing chapbooks that all have the same connecting thread. It’s the same and not the same as writing a book since I can get over a chapbook not working but saying that my whole body of work isn’t gelling like I want is almost the same as my Mom finding me by the windowsill.