Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh, no ...

... not the comfy chair (though in this case there isn't anything funny about it): Diary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is not to say that the book is doomed. But publishers will surely have to change the way they do business. A system that requires the trucking of vast quantities of paper to bookshops and then back to publishers’ warehouses for pulping is environmentally and commercially unsustainable. An industry that spends all its money on bookseller discounts and very little on finding an audience is getting things the wrong way round. Following the strictures of their accountants, the large houses will intensify their concentration on blockbusters. High street bookshops will abandon deep stockholding, becoming mere showrooms for bestsellers and prize-winners. Ever more people will read the same few books. The future of much of the industry will be dominated by electronic distribution, internet marketing to niche audiences, and reading by print-on-demand or hand-held electronic devices. There is opportunity as well as challenge in this model. The roles of editor and publicist, people who can guide the potential reader through the cacophony of background noise to words they’ll want to read, will become ever more important.

I think publishing, to a large extent, has the same problem that art museums and galleries have: They have lost the peculiar talent of the connoisseurs who made them in the first place. Most curators simply don't have the eye or the sensibility of a Duncan Phillips or and Isabella Stewart Gardner. Most publishers these days don't come close to Alfred Knopf when it comes to powers of literary discernment. The same is true of newspapers. The people running them these are distinctly inferior to Pulitzer and Hearst.

1 comment:

  1. It's really very simple, from my perspective. Art is dead.

    That isn't to say it can't be resurrected. Art can and will be lifted from the grave like a Lazarus at the hands of the Almighty. But it will take someone powerful, god-like. How did impressionism trump academic art? On the shoulders of geniuses.

    Speaking of the visual arts, which I have studied for two decades, there is a pattern that repeats itself every hundred years or so. We're in that pattern now, at the tail-end, waiting for the greatness to show itself again, ready for the cycle to start anew. Put another way, the art of the 20th Century, whatever the -ism, has been burned up, sapped of all its energy, used, the smoldering remains of a forest after a forest fire.

    But what grows out of that desolate but strangely fertile landscape? New growth, new trees, freshness. New life!

    Take a look at 19th Cen. French art. Neo-Classicism was a great style until it became officially accepted and marketed (for lack of a better word) through official salons and exhibitions to the middle class. I think what the salons were doing then is analogous to what corporations are doing now. Corporate art is, practically by definition, exempt of any value, at least to anyone with real taste in art. Corporate art is singed and burned, it's for the soulless, for the ignorant, for those that find value in the superficiality rather than value in the inherently valuable; corporate art is the charred remains of redwood trees teetering in burnt-out rows across a scorched earth, the soul obliterated, ready to collapse under the pressure of new life germinating under the bleak surface.