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Frank Daniels’ Lit Riot: Take 4

by Susan Henderson on December 9, 2006

Are We WRITERS Or Are We Amoebas?

The latest celebrity memoir…this time by the “ugly” girl from 90210, Tori Spelling (can you say ’nepotism’?)…has proven once again that despite any scandals involving the memoir genre this year, the public thirst for it has not at all slaked. We must be an instrument of change in the public taste. Younger people are reading more now, they are the readers of tomorrow, and if they see that a lot of what is being written is still of interest to them…even moreso than the latest tell-all memoir…we have a fighting chance to save the life of the serious writer.

If you’ve been reading my posts here, then you know by now how I feel about memoir. For the sake of any newcomers, let me reiterate my position once again. Memoir is a bullshit genre that takes the food out of real writers’ mouths, and forces us into ever-smaller boxes where we must fight to survive, even going so far as inventing whole personas in order to maintain a fighting chance in the ever more vicious publishing world. Now, let me be clear here: I’m not saying that everyone who has written a memoir is not a “real” writer…many of my writer friends have written memoirs that I truly appreciate and in which I find great worth. Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s memoir, I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS, for example, just has some incredible, beautifully written passages within. But I think his book would have been even more effective had it been sold as a novel. When a writer is forced to prostitute himself in order to fit the latest marketing trend, everybody loses.

I was reading over an issue of Poets & Writers the other day. There was an article within by Azita Osanloo called The Pressure To Be Exotic. Osanloo asserts that, with the unfortunate emphasis on memoirs these days, many writers feel the need to ratchet up their own real-life credentials in order to be at all marketable. She says, “Current marketing trends that stress the importance of the writer’s star quality can seduce a writer into stretching the boundaries of his identity, allowing it to fit neatly into an attractive publishing niche. What’s the fallout? Little by little, as editors become marketing experts and novels become memoirs, writers will increasingly become sales technicians, and the artists themselves, along with their art, will be lost to posterity.”

She hits the nail on the head here. And what’s possibly even more interesting is that in response to this same article, yet another disgraced writer from 2006, one Nasdiij (Tim Barrus), wrote in to the magazine the following level-headed diatribe: “Azita Osanloo’s thoughtful article on the writing life is the first I’ve read that ’gets it.’ Almost everything written up to this point…especially in blogs…dealing with the ’literary scandals’ of 2006 has been so vitriolic, personal, and mean that any balance or shift toward the bigger picture has not simply been ephemeral, it has been nonexistent. All of this, with the exception of Osanloo’s article [he obviously hasn’t been reading my posts on the matter], has only reinforced my own perceptions about publishing as a business. I am not what threatens publishing. What threatens publishing is the idea that it is fast becoming irrelevant.” Needless to say, you know I think he’s right. And we’d all be better off if we started realizing this very genuine reality.

Some have approached me regarding my constant defense of these scandalized writers (Frey, Barrus, Leroy), and have asked me why I’m so vehement about defending these writers who have been defamed as “morally inferior,” writers who have “besmirched the fair name of authors everywhere.” If this year has anything to teach writers, especially those of us still trying to find footing within the establishment, it is that the current negative climate in publishing has literally bred the desperate acts of these “disgraced” writers. These writers decided to cease attempting the formally tried and true route toward getting published in favor of fabricating identities. And really, what are the alternatives? For the fiction writer, for the writer trying to break through, there is little reception with Big Publishing. Because the bottom line in this business, as in any business, is cash money. Writers are expendable. We are cattle.

As an alternative to this mess I’d like to propose a course of action similar to that of the renowned British graffiti artist BANKSY. He is the biggest thing to hit the art world in years, and yet remains completely anonymous, preferring to his let his work speak for him. He has a mythos and a mystique surrounding him, and this has increased the public perception of him, and the fervor for his work.

I’ll close with a couple of pretty poignant quotations. The first from a Washington Post article (my italics) regarding how the film industry is dealing with the critical hoopla surrounding Mel Gibson’s latest movie, the second from a scene in one of my favorite films, WAKING LIFE.

“Other studio chiefs have said they would not work with Mr. Gibson in the future but would not say so for attribution because they didn’t want to endanger their future business dealings. At least one influential publicist has declined to work on an “Apocalypto” Oscar campaign because of objections to Mr. Gibson’s views, but would not say so publicly for similar reasons.” i.e. Don’t want to publicly decry Gibson because he might just still have a few million more bucks to make ’em.


(Guy with a bullhorn is driving through the city streets yelling)

“You can’t fight city hall, death and taxes. Don’t talk about politics or religion. This is all the equivalent of enemy propaganda rolling across the picket line. ’Lay down, G.I. Lay down, G.I.’ We saw it all through the 20th Century. And now in the 21st Century, it’s time to stand up and realize that we should not allow ourselves to be crammed into this rat maze. We should not submit to dehumanization. I don’t know about you, but I’m concerned with what’s happening in this world. I’m concerned with the structure. I’m concerned with the systems of control, those that control my life and those that seek to control it even more! I want freedom! That’s what I want! And that’s what you should want!

It’s up to each and every one of us to turn loose and show them the greed, the hatred, the envy, and yes, the insecurities because that is the central mode of control – make us feel pathetic, small so we’ll willingly give up our sovereignty, our liberty, our destiny. We have got to realize that we’re being conditioned on a mass scale. Start challenging this corporate slave state! The 21st Century is going to be a new century, not the century of slavery, not the century of lies and issues of no significance and classism and statism and all the rest of the modes of control! It’s going to be the age of humankind standing up for something pure and something right!

Do you got me? Resistance is not futile. We’re gonna win this thing. Humankind is too good! We’re not a bunch of underachievers! We’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna be human beings! We’re gonna get fired up about the real things, the things that matter: creativity and the dynamic human spirit that refuses to submit! Well that’s it! That’s all I got to say! It’s in your court.”

More next time.

~Frank

*

Frank Daniels is the author of the acclaimed novel FUTUREPROOF. He can be reached at nfrankdaniels@gmail.com or on Myspace at www.myspace.com/nfrankdaniels.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Ric Marion December 9, 2006 at 3:39 pm

Good job, Frank. Tear ’em up.
Hard enough to break into this business as it is, without idiots paying O.J. millions to lend his name to a book he didn’t even write.

Ric
http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/RicMarion/

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n.l. belardes December 9, 2006 at 7:30 pm

It’s really interesting how both of us DIY guys gravitate to the controversial artist, Blanksy. He and his axiom, “If you want attention, start a fight.” I think there’s a reason we both have written about the numbness of our generation, and both have a DIY hard-working attitude. I don’t think we’re lazy (I’m the busiest person I know with a full-time job and a triple full-time blog). I just think we represent writers true to ourselves, and we’re aware of the transitioning of the publishing world… yet, though we would accept being published on a greater scale, we’re very wary of how actively seeking can skew a vision of ourselves.

So we go Indie for starters and seek a little, or not at all.

I was at a punk rock show (the Briggs, The Living End, Tripline)the other night and one of the tribal chiefs from the local newspaper, The Bakersfield Californian was in the house with a literary friend of his from Fresno named “Doc” (The Bakersfield Californian is a small newspaper and one of the last family owned left). Although the local paper here started a big social networking blog community on their homepage and niche market sites (Bakotopia, Mas Magazine) and been granted press in lots of journalism sites and magazines, and been influenced major papers with their community blog platform, Participata, he introduced me as “Bakersfield’s top blogger”. He spoke about how much I write on my blog, the books I read, yada yada…

I was blown away.

That means my grassroots tactics are getting a message out (although my blog leaps from lit topics and also covers news stories and more).

Hell, I’ve got more hate mail than N. Frank Daniels has dreads from all the small town controversy on my site. But then, so does Blanksy, right?

So what’s the next step?

I guess we (literary folks with an aggressive vision) all have to make sure we’re not preaching to the choir.

That means expanding audiences: marketing our blogs to new groups of people, not just literary folks, but people who just plain read (yes, literary folks are important!) and getting press for our blogs, and crossing over with blog articles into print.

Print may be dying, but it’s not dead by any means.

Our blogs are a form of media. I live by the standard, “Be the media”, which is really a take on Dan Gillmour’s We The Media. And so I go out and serve the community, cover events, report hard news here and there, and became a natural ally of the local online media, which is crossing over (and in some cases have already) to print.

A grassroots blog can reach into people’s homes, can connect in great ways globally. But you, as a writers, as literary representatives of sorts, and novelists, can influence the media in your own home town. You can make an impact in cities like LA and New York, but you can’t change the LA Times and the New York Times attitudes and their relationships with the vastly influential big publishers of the literary world. Not yet. But in small towns where the Borders and Barnes and Nobles reside and creep over the last remaining Independent Bookstores, there are media who will listen, and allies that can be made with someone who is a simple novelist who fits into a bigger literary vision. Bakotopia.com is going to print as an alternative newspaper. It may just be one small town in Central California of 400,000 folks, and one marginalized from the literary world, but so what?

Literally, one voice makes a difference. I’m a top blogger somewhere, a tiny fish elsewhere for sure. And that’s cool. I’m proud of my little town, and proud that a respected newspaper man said such kind words when he represents a company that has likely spent millions on developing blogs.

Everyone with a blog has the potential to be a citizen journalist of sorts. I guess you just have to ask yourself: what’s my vision and how far do I want to take it?

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Aurelio December 9, 2006 at 7:36 pm

Frank, you hit on a problem that permeates much more than just current literature. It has infected our entire view of culture: that everything must come with a price tag, and the bigger the price the more cultural “worth” it carries. It is pretty obvious where this comes from; it is driven by unchecked capitalism.

We allow the Forbes 500-types free reign; even more, we exalt them to the exclusion of all others – perhaps in the vain notion that they’ll someday count us among them?

But where is the real beauty or grace or intelligence or culture in this pursuit? Must everything be only about money? Must the actual value of a book, or painting, or person, or any cultural contribution be solely based on how much it rakes in? How it furthers commerce? How famous, meaning lucrative, it becomes?

We could all do some soul searching and see just how much we ourselves participate in the creation and perpetuation of this culture, and then ask ourselves – is this really what we want it to be? How we wish to be defined? Will our own names be on this empty legacy?

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n.l. belardes December 9, 2006 at 7:39 pm

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to read my review of FUTUREPROOF.

“Futureproof isn’t a book you read because you do drugs. You read it because you want to understand drug culture and America’s growing addiction to becoming numb.” -n.l.

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Brad Listi December 9, 2006 at 8:54 pm

“Little by little, as editors become marketing experts and novels become memoirs, writers will increasingly become sales technicians, and the artists themselves, along with their art, will be lost to posterity.”

This particular passage hit me right between the eyes. And while I sense a lot of truth in it, I don’t necessarily agree with it entirely.

For one thing, editors aren’t even close to being marketing experts (and hey, let’s be honest, most of them aren’t even editing experts).

Maybe they’re getting better at the marketing side of things, and certainly they will have to if they hope to survive in the modern publishing climate, but I don’t get the sense that most editors know all that much about how to go out and sell books.

Right now, the onus is on writers to do a vast majority of the work, both pre- and post-pubication. Hence RiotLit. Hence LitPark. Hence thenervousbreakdown.com. Hence Paperback Writer. Hence McSweeney’s. Hence Etc.

The question, from what I can tell, is not IF the publishing business is going to undergo a massive transformation, it’s HOW and WHEN, and TO WHAT EXTENT.

I think everyone can sense that it already seems to be happening. And the optimist in me believes that there are a lot of good things on the horizon.

Great post, Frank.

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Edgar December 9, 2006 at 10:48 pm

Frank, you’re scaring me again. This:

“It’s up to each and every one of us to turn loose and show them the greed, the hatred, the envy, and yes, the insecurities because that is the central mode of control – make us feel pathetic, small so we’ll willingly give up our sovereignty, our liberty, our destiny. We have got to realize that we’re being conditioned on a mass scale. Start challenging this corporate slave state! The 21st Century is going to be a new century, not the century of slavery, not the century of lies and issues of no significance and classism and statism and all the rest of the modes of control! It’s going to be the age of humankind standing up for something pure and something right!”

was absolutely amazing. I can only hope that you’re right.

And, of course, try to help out.

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josh kilmer-purcell December 9, 2006 at 10:55 pm

i resent the implication that i was forced to prostitute myself!

(i’ve always done so quite willingly.)

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Lance Reynald December 10, 2006 at 1:22 am

Frank- ya had me at hello…

ok, enough mush. I think I’m on record here in the park, on my blog, perhaps over at the riot and certainly all across the net as being an ardent supporter of that which I consider an important revitalization of the “contemporary literature” scene. Funny thing about contemporary literature- it doesn’t seem to imply fact or fiction, it doesn’t need to.

My personal fave was, is…remains JT LeRoy; as far as hook of narrative voice, That was one convincing and horrifing transexual teenage lot-lizard!! The fact that it was crafted by the woman that crafted it still amazes me. BRAVO!!

We have our craft, we have the challenge of creating voices that resonate with readers… fact, fiction, memoir, existential drivel, magical mystical pop psycho realism shamanistic genderdysphoric stream of consciousness…all welcome in the semantic craft.

always a pleasure Frank!

keep rioting!

xo-L.

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Frank Daniels December 10, 2006 at 2:22 am

Ric: Don’t even get me started on this O.J. debacle. As I’ve said elsewhere, they could have taken that blood money they paid him and promoted countless other REAL writers. Another example of the industry grasping at straws. They don’t know how to make headlines anymore without them being negative.

N.L.: I really appreciate your stellar review of FP, and love that there are warriors such as yourself tearing it up in small towns across the country. When all of us get together we’ll be unstoppable.

Aurelio: You’re right, we all do need to do some serious soul-searching. At times it feels like the biggest of herculean tasks, trying to figure out how we can move away from the corporate monsters that control everything. I think the original idea of it was that they could lower costs for the “common” man, but now we’re beginning to see that we had to sell our souls for pennies on the dollar. It’s going to be a long road out.

Brad: My brother, you’re right. The editors and publishing world in general are far from adept at becoming marketing experts. They promote stuff like O.J.’s book, ignore many others that would have massive audiences if they only had a set of balls on them bigger than cashews. I agree with you completely that it is not if, but when this massive overhaul takes place. We can all hear the rumblings beneath the surface already.

Edgar: Glad to hear you find wisdom in the words. Onward and upward!

Josh: You know I love you. I never meant to imply that you were forced to prostitute yourself. I just miss fiction. Sorry to have dragged you into this. :)

Lance: Wouldn’t it be funny if Smoking Gun and others went after movies like Fargo (which claims at the beginning that it’s a true story) and musicians writing songs based on their lives and tried to pull apart every nook and cranny of the lyrics? It could all just be one giant retroactive orgie of reinstating truth into American culture! Hurray for priorities! Hurray for American ingenuity. Hurray. Where’d all the artists go? Oh yeah, we locked ’em up. They like making shit up. Now off to war, (poverty stricken) boys and girls!

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Susan Henderson December 10, 2006 at 4:11 am

Frank – Thank you for standing up – sometimes in a packed house and sometimes in an empty room – to say, “Hey, something’s not right here.” Art needs to come back into the hands of artists and out of the hands of marketers.

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Mike Smith December 10, 2006 at 4:45 am

All this griping and moaning ultimately advances our writing careers not one whit.
Every blogpost, every blog comment, every moment spent wallowing in feelings of the injustice of the publishing industry, all of these things are really just a waste–wasted words, wasted thoughts, wasted time, all of which could be better spent writing another book, another article, another story.
I sympathize almost wholeheartedly with the RiotLit crowd, but is it really advancing the cause, or is it merely a way to vent?

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meika December 10, 2006 at 5:34 am

We might have to abandon the word writer altogether, its a brand and image issue of sorts, but a general term is hard to find, novelist or poet or scribe are all a bit pretentious when not also archaic, and while word artist, or artist who writes, make me chunda, they have somehign of the right spirit.

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Frank Daniels December 10, 2006 at 6:01 am

I completely disagree with you, Mike. Obviously. I think you mistake the point. It is not to “wallow in feelings of injustice” at all, but rather to strike a rallying cry among those with the most to lose–writers everywhere–to do something more than just put our heads down and continue to write more books, articles, stories. If we do that and only that and don’t make an attempt to change things on the ground floor all the way to the top, the situation will only get worse. There have been too many setbacks to continue on the same trajectory. I’m working on two books now. I haven’t given up on writing, nor have any of these people who’ve taken the time to comment here and elsewhere about the state of publishing. What you are suggesting, though, is that we just accept the status quo as “the way things are”. What we are saying in response to that line of thinking is “Fuck that.” After all, what’s the point of all this writing and ignoring of the state of things if we have no hope of the deteriorating state of things ever getting better. Because I think that you’d have to have your head in the sand if you think that everything is fine and good. I want to be an instrument of change. I will never be content with getting my little book deal and making my pittance while knowing that the majority of us are still stuck in the same rut. It’s bullshit and completely unacceptable to me. I think it is up to everyone who is disgusted with publishing as it stands to try to make something change. Yes, we must keep writing as well, but to do only that is the equivelent of writing in a vacuum. And what good are any of us then?

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Maria Headley December 10, 2006 at 6:56 am

If memoir’s a bullshit genre, then what about all those cave drawings, all those stories around the campfire, all those things like, for example, Procopius’ The Secret History, a Byzantine memoir…which have often been predecessors to the art of novel-writing? What about things like The Places in Between, about Rory Stewart’s walk across Afghanistan? It’s a piece of journalism, on the one hand, but it’s also an intense and emotional personal account of a specific trip into a political situation, which serves to inform and educate the audience on the repercussions of something we have engaged in as a culture. Rory Stewart’s book wouldn’t have the same impact if it were a novel, because the information it contains needs to be factual to resonate with us as cause and effect, as reality. It’s important that it’s real. It’s a memoir, and it’s a piece of terrific, present writing, saying something relevant about the world we live in now. Dispensing with memoir as “a bullshit genre” on the basis of the evidence that there are ghostwritten celebrity memoirs out there, seems to me like dispensing with novels on the evidence that commercial fiction exists. These mass market novels sell tons of copies, and they aren’t normally considered literary. If I was to say, on the basis of my experience with mass market paperbacks, (for example, V.C. Andrews) that novels were bullshit, I’d be crazy wrong. Stories – in any genre, poetry, songs, (as Lance says) novels, memoirs – begin with our experiences as humans, and our attempts to explain the miseries and the glories of same, both to ourselves and to everyone else. It’s not just marketing. It’s something that has been part of storytelling from the beginning – and it applies to fiction too. All stories, when told well, give us windows into different worlds, as well as helping us to understand ourselves a little better – or at least feel empathy for people who aren’t like us. I write both fiction and nonfiction. So does Josh Kilmer-Purcell, my fellow prostituting memoirist friend. I agree with Josh – it’s willing. I’d do it for free, honestly. A good story is a good story. Sometimes it’s a true story, and I title it a memoir. Sometimes it’s fiction and I write “novel” on the front page. Neither thing feels less valid to me as a writer. Writing, whatever you write, is hard work. It’s structuring a narrative out of disparate elements. It’s analyzing characters. It’s working out how to make those characters understandable to people who don’t know them as well as you do, whether the characters exist, or not. The world is an interesting place, both for our actual selves, and for our imaginations. There’s room for all genres, and for respect for all genres – and I read them all.

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Robin Slick December 10, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Okay, there’s not much for me to add here at this point other than as usual, we’re on the same page here, Frank (except for that one “moment” we had where you bashed baby boomers and made me feel responsible for the state of the world today…bah!)…but I do want to say this: As the parents of what is now being called “Generation Next”, much to my happy surprise, my nineteen year old son and twenty year old daughter have suddenly, out of nowhere, become avid readers. And what are they reading? The beat generation. So it’s my job to turn them on to all of you, and they will in turn lend your books to their now also voraciously reading friends. You know what’s funny? They grew up with computers and spent their reading time on line. Now that their parents have taken over their computers, on line is no longer cool and they are reading real books and listening to real vinyl! My son broke his iPod and when I asked him if he wanted a new one for Christmas, he emphatically said NO! Anyway, when I say “real vinyl”, it’s a euphemism for real music…Generation Next has totally abandoned and trashed MTV and all popular music and are seeking out the really great indie bands who obviously cut their teeth on the masters of…gasp…the babyboomer generation and um, Frank’s generation (what label was given to you guys? Slackers? Lovely, isn’t it?).

Err..speaking of that, my son is drumming next Saturday night with Fugazi who are re-uniting for one night only at The Lit Lounge in New York. Thought that might interest N.L. in case he wants to get on a plane and have a meet-up with me and any other east coasters here.

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Lance Reynald December 10, 2006 at 3:25 pm

FUGAZI!!!?

Yo Henderson, did ya hear that? Fugazi!!?

nothing like a good hometown crew!!

ha!

BTW Robin- love your input.

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Frank Daniels December 10, 2006 at 4:43 pm

I sense I’vepissed you off, Maria. For what it’s worth, I loved THE YEAR OF YES. It was awesome. But my point in bashing the memoir genre is not to say that there aren’t any books written in that genre that are worthwhile, but rather that in the current publishing environment, when that is all “they” are publishing, those of us that choose to leave some part of our lives private are being chewed up and spit out without even having been fully masticated. Memoir, regardless of how many examples anyone can site of great representations of them, are still just the flavor of the month. They are. Stories are stories and all stories have truth to them, whether labeled memoir or novel.

I assure you I meant no disrespect to you, Maria, or Josh. I love both of you guys. I just wish there was a way for you guys to have succes along with everyone else who doesn’t write memoir.

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Julie Ann Shapiro December 10, 2006 at 9:54 pm

I’m not so sure about all this anger at celebrity book deals, memoirs and commercial lit. There are so many ways to present a story, that I’d rather not see us take offense at literature that we might not write or even like, but which is published. Maybe I’m just in a more for inclusion, rather than exclusion. I see the value in all sorts of stories.

What’s harmful in all this is that the other kind of writing whether it be literary fiction or any kind of writing that doesn’t fit in a prescribed box has a tough road. I’m not so sure this hasn’t always been the case. Let’s remind ourselves something… the spirit of entrepreneurialism can actually solve this problem. If you think about anyone that is shut out and wants the “in” bad enough can do it their way by becoming an independent press and calling the shots.

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Julie Ann Shapiro December 10, 2006 at 9:56 pm

Sorry for my typos…I posted too fast. Take the anger and write, form a publishing company and exercise. Do something to diffuse the anger before it eats you up inside. Off to go running at the beach.

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josh kilmer-purcell December 11, 2006 at 2:02 pm

frank, like me, when you present an argument, you head off in one direction and don’t stop until you fall off the edge of the earth.

you raise some good points. and yes, memoir is very popular right now. but it is not all that is being published or sold. there have been tremendous works of debut fiction this year.

rather than steer the discussion about the popularity of memoir towards “them” (mainstream publishers), i would have been more interested in an examination of readers.

as maria points out, memoirs have been around, well, forever. and their popularity waxes and wanes like any genre. why is this? what is the public longing for at this precise moment in time? i promise you, this current trend of memoir will last no longer than the last one. (why do you think i’m writing fiction next? as a long-in-the-tooth professional whore, i can predict what streets the traffic will be on.)

while publishing is indeed heavily influenced by marketing and sales, this is not really new news. amusing anecdotes about writers and their editors/publishers span centuries.

i’d have preferred a look at what is making memoirs so intriguing to readers right now.

i have a feeling it has more to do with the geo-political surrealism of world events, and less to do with mainstream publishers who have always reflected readers’ desires.

(and i’d be careful of overqualifying your criticms of friends. when you hedge on your critiques because you like maria, or me, or james, it thins out your broth. don’t worry about pissing me off. that’s the kind of spark that lights artistic brushfires.)

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Frank Daniels December 11, 2006 at 2:17 pm

Point taken, Josh. It’s all learning and growing, of course. You never know when your friends are going to take offense to what you say with this kind of thing, especially when you are denied the benefit of actual vocal inflection when making points. I knew you, of all people, would be a good gamer about all of this. :)

Julie Ann: I intend to do just that. If this was merely bluster it would be a waste of time. All the bitching in the world isn’t worth shit if not followed up on with action.

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n.l. belardes December 11, 2006 at 3:41 pm

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pissing someone off. That’s a good sign that what you say has struck a chord of thought. Ray Bradbury came to Bakersfield recently and I loved when he said to literally shove people out of the way who are obstacles to individual visions and dreams.

Mike Smith talked about “griping and moaning”. The reality is he is griping and moaning about a group of people with a rebellious attitude.

When I wrote, “I guess we (literary folks with an aggressive vision) all have to make sure we’re not preaching to the choir,” that means going the next step: convincing readers of a different kind of truth.

I think that has to do with marketing Indie books in a whole new way that attracts so many readers that publishers will start mimicking the Indie publishers. Sort of the same way the MSM integrated blogging into the news: a mere reflection of the rebellion of citizen journalists.

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n.l. belardes December 11, 2006 at 3:44 pm

So, I’d like to see someone like Frank start to put together a list of writers, book titles, and so on… who are the folks who need the help? who are the people who would help market and distribute such books? How many avenues of media do we all collectively hold that we can strategize and share a vision, a marketing plan, and dreams?

I see ideology on lit park. Someone take the lead and start a joint plan utilizing shared resources.

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Julie Ann Shapiro December 11, 2006 at 3:55 pm

Frank,
Great to hear. I’ve worked with mostly entrepreneurs through out my career and can tell you have the same drive they do. I probably should have said that more. I’m glad your looking into being a publisher. The world needs your alternative vision.

Julie

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Maria Headley December 11, 2006 at 5:30 pm

Exactly – pissing people off is something that happens no matter what you write. Edging away from it is farily useless. You can only say what you believe. That said, it’s good to be able to look at, and if necessary, expand your argument. The world of readers is a diverse, diverse place. There’s room in it for all kinds of writing – memoir, novel, celebrity memoir, commercial fiction, experimental fiction, just as in the print journalistic world, there’s room for celebrity tabloids, Vogue, Harper’s, and Tin House, to name just a few of the diverse varieties. Some of these things sell better than others – I’m not denying that, but I don’t think that if, suddenly, there were no more celebrity glossies, all the people who buy those in the supermarket line would suddenly transform overnight into Harper’s readers. People like what they like. You can nudge them, you can expose them to other stuff, but that is a process of sharing what you like, and being articulate about it, more than of telling people NO, YOU CAN’T READ THAT ANYMORE, IT’S BAD. Who are we to dictate what is bad? Even if we don’t like certain books, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t getting people to read, sometimes people who don’t read in their daily lives. That is a step in the right direction, from where I sit (at my desk, typing on my next book.) I’m not pissed off – I think it’s a complex issue, and that, as Josh points out, (and as Publisher’s Lunch points out on a daily basis, if you like your facts harder) there are a lot of novels being sold, as well as memoirs, as well as self-help books. George Saunders just ( very deservedly, in my opinion) got a MacArthur Genius Grant, and he is not remotely mainstream. That’s pretty exciting.

I agree that the public hunger for true stories is high right now – possibly because we can ask for certain things from art without seeming nuts. Maybe the public hunger for true stories in books is an indicator of a hunger for that in our lives. If we took to the streets (and plenty of people have, but certainly not the majority of the country) demanding truth, demanding the real story,it’d be huge, and way less manageable than demanding truth in our books, not that I wouldn’t love it if everyone in the country stopped taking bullshit for an answer politically. We’re starting to, but it seems to be a very slow process with the population of this country being enormous and divided. It’s slow for everything. We do, however, live in a world in which Thomas Pynchon’s new novel was one of the most eagerly awaited books this fall. Whether you’re a Pynchon fan or not, that is an exciting thought, because it means that there are a lot of readers for challenging fiction out there.

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Juliet December 12, 2006 at 4:34 pm

We are facing a generation of those who have no lasting histories… no grandparents, hell, no fathers, no mothers and so we reach for bits of true story to make our world make sense. In that first-person voice of the author, we are reminded that we are all tied together in this giant mess, and that on another street, in another city, in heart and soul—there are those who are our people. That we belong. That we have a space, a voice, a shared connection.
Fiction does not cross that line often.
It’s the gritty telling of one’s pain, one’s shame, one’s hope that never dies which makes us all feel somewhat together.

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Frank Daniels December 12, 2006 at 5:33 pm

I respectfully disagree, Juliet. GOOD fiction crosses that line every time. My problem with memoir, aside from the publishing stranglehold already discussed, is that it very much limits an author’s abilities. How can you write while be constrained to so-called “facts”? It’s far more exciting, from a writing perspective anyway, to be able to use real life as a jumping off point to greater stories, stories that expand on “real” life. The largest truths, for me anyway, lie in the exaggerations.

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Juliet December 12, 2006 at 6:30 pm

Yes, Frank, you’re right. I wrote too quickly, and didn’t think through my statement.

Good fiction does cross that line (slapping my own face here, as I write fiction that I think quite crosses the line). If you look back to our Frey-day regarding memoir, you’ll see that I quite agree with the box-statements.

Thanks for correcting me.

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Tim Barrus aka Nasdi April 6, 2007 at 10:29 am

From NEWSTATESMEN, UK

In a word: revenge. Most of my compatriots at YouTube would be offended to hear that their work is graffiti.

Their work and my work is graffiti.

I work with young artists in a film collective where posting video to YouTube is very definitely creating public art. Yesterday, the Museum of Modern Art in New York posted one of our videos to their channel at YouTube. This is the third time this has happened to us. We find the interaction exciting. You can’t get around the fact that what we do is art. You can’t get around the fact that it’s very public. You can’t escape the reality it’s a form of graffiti.

We love graffiti.

Why.

Because everyone can see it? This is too simplistic.

One of the reasons we do what we do has to do with revenge. The art world, the publishing world, and the film world have all been conquered and ruined by the middlemen who produce absolutely nothing. Yet they make the rules. To benefit themselves. They have become what these worlds are all about.

The artist is ephemeral.

What makes a work of art valuable is the recognition that it is valuable. This recognition is not automatic and intuitive; it has to be constructed. A work of art has to circulate through a sub-economy of exchange operated by a large and growing class of middlemen: publishers, curators, producers, publicists, philanthropists, foundation officers, critics, professors, editors, and so on. Without these grand poobahs the whole thing collapses of its own heavy, dull weight. The prize system, and the award system in terms of who gets to make public art, with its own cadre of career administrators and judges, is one of the ways in which value gets “added on” to a work. Of course, we like to think that the recognition of artistic excellence is intuitive. We don’t like to think of cultural value as something that requires middlemen—useless people who are not artists themselves—in order to emerge. We prefer to believe that truly good literature or music or film announces itself.

Folly.

But graffiti is different. Its value is not connected to your contractual relationships that assign worth. It is in your face. It exists outside the structures you have created that historically keep us out. It exists because inclusion is valuable even if inclusion is spit on and exclusion is the norm. Our art is out there with the great rabble of the crowd. Because we want revenge and we shall have it. In the form of pointing out with (le small dolls) that you do not SEE. In the form of announcing a gang’s turf. In the form of pointing out that some intellectual property must exist in the public domain. Our work is original and yet challenges the notion that anything can be original. It confronts the idea of ownership. It confronts the idea of exclusivity. It ESPECIALLY confronts the idea that the heirarchal aristrocracy’s place is to control the flow of creativity. The aristocracy might distain it, but it can’t control it. And most of all, it isn’t corporate. It does not exist to enrich you. It exists to enrich you. It is ironic and a contradiction. It is revenge. It is a part of the world. It exists alongside the chaotic and the tumultuous. You cannot control it and we are compelled to the secrecy it evolves in. It is in this place our art is art. Not a commodity to be picked apart by percentages. You scoff it has no value. But it speaks to us like nothing else does — especially the cultural garbage pushed by the middlemen — in knowing ourselves. And knowing yourself is the final and ultimate revenge. Tim Barrus, Paris

GEISHA HOTEL
RE: GUERRILLA GIRLS: MOMA
http://www.myderelicthotel.blogspot.com

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