Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CASCADE. NOT VIRAL.

PLEASE, LITERARY AGENTS. DON'T DO US ANY FAVORS:

At an agent's site this week I read with interest that our (we writers) best bet would be to churn out a couple of trashy (my words) novels a year and forget about the literary stuff. After all, who is going to pay any attention to literature? Do you want to make a comfortable living or get a good review?

I'm not even sure I'm capable of saying what is wrong with all that. Is it any wonder we don't have any Leo Tolstoys around any more? "Hey, Mr. Tolstoy, that 'Anna Karenina' is great but what we really need for you to do it to crank out a couple of romance novels first. You've got to keep the rubles rolling in, you know."

This comes at a bad time for me. I have been trying to find a publisher for a literary nonfiction book 'American Masters' and for my novel 'The Struggle' and have not been having much success. I have also picked up working on a novel in four volumes - very literary - that I began clear back in 1996. Each volume is going to have a different literary approach to the story. The first is tragedy. The second apocalyptic (not post-apocalyptic, but true apocalyptic). The third is prose epic. (About which I will write more on Friday's post). And the final volume will be allegorical. If I can't even get anyone to pay attention to my more modest works, who is going to go for such a grand work of literature?

Then it dawned on me: A publisher is not going to take a risk on anything any more. The author is going to have to do all the leg work to get people interested and to get the word out. To 'build a platform' as they call it. But, if the author has done all that, what need do we have of a publisher? I have seen some of my work through the printing and distribution process before. So why not again?

THE TROUBLE SEEMS TO BE THIS: NO ONE KNOWS WHAT TO READ ANYMORE; AND NO ONE KNOWS WHAT TO WRITE TO MEET THE NEEDS THE READER DOESN'T KNOW ABOUT.

Does that make sense? There seems to be no standard in literature except that it be exciting and that it make money. Is anyone attempting anything more than that? I'm sure some are, but I'm not sure their voices are being heard.

Having said that, then, I have begun trying to get the word out via this blog and on Facebook and so on. This is not a viral effort, which suggests an overnight 'Flash' success. No, there will be nothing flashy about any of this. What there will be, here, is a genuine effort to discover what is missing, and perhaps to explore ways to put it back into our literature. Content is supreme here.

I can't do this alone, however. I'd like to link up with other authors and groups that have similar interests. I will be looking to those of you who read classics and who write literary novels , short stories, and nonfiction. Then, as we build a network together, I believe we will experience a cascade as friends tell friends that something real is happening among us. Once we have set this in motion, in short, it will be difficult to stop.

Won't you join with me in this effort? Spread the word that literature is not (yet) dead. We won't let it die.

Jim

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