The End of Publishing

I’ve told the story before and it’s true: One of my favorite professors at university announced to his class of aspiring young writers that Moby Dick is a novel; all the rest are just entertainments. While I agree with the sentiment of this, I might substitute Madame Bovary for the great white whale.

Yet there’s still a problem. Let’s face it, with few exceptions. all the rest are not really entertaining.

A paradox is a situation that seems contradictory. Publishing is a paradox. Publishers have strict guidelines and are highly restrictive in what they accept for publication yet every year more and more crap is published.

One way of looking at a dedicated reader is that they are the prospectors of books: grab a book based on a recommendation or a flashy cover or an intriguing title and dig in. Any gold there? Just enough glitter to keep you reading but no bonanza? Grab another book.

Last month I suggested several books I might try my luck with; anyone care to stake a claim to one of these titles?

04-01-22 – Seven Games: A Human History — Oliver Roeder
04-02-22 – Razorblade Tears — S. A. Cosby
04-03-22 – A Passage North — Anuk Arudpragasam
04-04-22 – Thank You, Mr. Nixon — Gish Jen
04-05-22 – The Books of Jacob — Olga Tokarczuk
04-06-22 – Silverview — John le Carré
04-07-22 – The Other Black Girl — Zakiya Dalila Harris
04-08-22 – Running Blind — Lee Child
04-09-22 – The Nineties: A Book — Chuck Klosterman
04-10-22 – Medusa’s Ankles — A.S. Byatt
04-11-22 – Mostly Dead Things — Kristen Arnett
04-12-22 – The Wrong End of the Telescope — Rabih Alameddine
04-13-22 – The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey — Walter Mosely
04-14-22 – You People — Nikita Lalwani
04-15-22 – The Republic of False Truths — Alaa Al Aswany
04-16-22 – The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois — Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
04-17-22 – Chevy in the Hole — Kelsey Ronan
04-18-22 – Coyote V. Acme — Ian Frazier
04-19-22 – The Every — Dave Eggers
04-20-22 – Homo Sacer — Giorgio Agambin
04-21-22 – Something Wild — Hanna Halperin
04-22-22 – Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel — Anthony Doerr
04-23-22 – “G” Is for Gumshoe — Sue Grafton
04-24-22 – La Novela Luminosa — Mario Levrero
04-25-22 – What My Bones Know — Stephanie Foo
04-26-22 – Vladimir — Julia May Jonas
04-27-22 – Monsignor Quixote — Graham Greene
04-28-22 – The Rise of English — Rosemary Solomone
04-29-22 – Tinkers — Paul Harding
04-30-22 – Mental Immunity: Infectious Ideas, Mind Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think — Andy Norman

4 thoughts on “The End of Publishing

  1. I get your professor’s idea but “Anna Karenina”, “”War and Peace”, Hardy, Trollope and others surely zre more than mere entertainments. As for “Moby Dick” I want to reread znd that will be for a 6th time. The older I get, the more non-fiction I read. At the moment I am reading Will Durant’s massive, 11 volume work on Civilisation. It is enirmously engaging. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

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    1. There are three things you should know about this professor. First, he did his PhD thesis on Melville’s Moby Dick; second, he had an extreme wandering eye and when calling on a student no one could be sure whom he selected; third, he had a firm tongue-in-cheek; and fourth (4th!), he liked my juvenile poetry.

      Back when there were book clubs and record clubs (records .. what dat?) the big Durant series was an enrollment enticement and I lugged those tomes around for years. I have no idea where they ended up but I now have a digital edition of the series and still intend to read it all. Actually I read the first book on the Far East. Published in 1935 this first volume of The Story of Civilization is best remembered because it concluded that Japan needed resources and if pushed would not play nice getting them. FDR pushed.

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      1. Your professor sounds fun. I didn’t know you’d been a poet. I remember the book and record clubs. I haven’t got to the Passage on Japan. I shall look forward to that. Thanjs for telling me about it. I hope your health is better at the moment.

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      2. He was fun. I think I took three of his classes: the only creative writing class I ever took, a survey course where we read (among other things) Faulkner’s Light In August and Hemingway’s Sun Also Rises, and one of those courses I’m sure I took but haven’t a clue what it was about.

        And yes, I wrote lots of poetry starting in High School and probably ending in Graduate School when Uncle Sam was trying to chase me off to Vietnam. Among my favorite poets were Pope, Milton, Blake, Keats, Stevens, Roethke. My stuff? Clumsy ripoffs of Wallace Stevens for the most part.

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