Sunday, March 27, 2005

Letters among the issues ...

A couple of blogs devoted usually to politics touch upon literature today: Power Line quotes Shakespeare and George Herbert (as quoted in a New York Times review of Camille Paglia's new book) and Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters comments on what Maureen Dowd has to say about the Vatican and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. And Wretchard at The Belmont Club has a very thoughtful post (which links to a most eloquent one by Donald Sensing) on the spirit of Easter. Note the literary power of the unbowlderized Biblical text.


  1. I just want to chip in with three quick comments from a middle aged community college English teacher/writer. First, Frank Wilson's Blog is terriic, probably the best focused one I'v seen. It surely deserves more frequent comment for its intellegent forthrightness and elequence. Second, Frank Wilson's 4/10/'05 Inquirer review of John Ashbury's Where Shall I Wander is not to be missed, nor is John Timpane's lament of Robert Creeley's passing and his love poems in the previous Sunday issue. Both world-class pieces, the best of mass media's power... Last, I have feelings about the Philadelphia Inquirer's non print-on-demand book(s) review policy, which I feel is out of step with current publishing reality, for vested interest of course. To use myself as an example, I have 14 trade books, and, as number 15 a print-demand grant-funded (by a community college) novel named Parade of Days (Xlibris, Dec. '04). This book also benefits a student scholarship (hence the grant). I will likely never author a book that sells over 15,000 copies (my Ishi's Journey with Naturegraph sold 10,000 over years). Am I, and others like me who have abandoned conventional cut-throat publishing, even as we have, perhaps, gotten better at our craft, to never be reviewed? The San Francisco Chronicle has recently changed its "no-print-on demand" policy. Other major papers should follow suit, letting review editors, reviewers (and their readers) have the last word. Are we afraid of literary democracy in Dana Gioa's brave new world when fewer and fewer young people read fiction, poetry or anything at all? Enough said...
    Please to excuse uncorrectable typos above...
    James Andrew Freeman
    Bucks County Community College

  2. Anonymous2:31 AM

    I would like to join James A. Freeman is lauding Frank Wilson's blog. It has been extremely refreshing to have such an open forum available at all, much less one so well attended.

    As to the Inquirer's policy of not reviewing self published books -- well, they certainly aren't alone. The policy is in place in Las Vegas, too, with the Review Journal (I call it the Won't Review/Journal,) and, as any consistently rejected unknown novelist knows, you can't get published without an agent and you can get an agent unless you've been published, and not by yourself.

    After writing six books (four novels, a collection of twenty one short stories and a non fiction book -- plus two screenplays) over the course of as many years, I guess you could say I got a little antsy. So I recycled my rejection notices and published my fourth novel myself, starting my own publishing company (Pisces I designed the cover, the interior text pages, edited the thing myself (no money to farm out these things,) and worked with a printer to get them printed (The Martyrs, ISBN 097601890X, 256 pages, softcover.)

    So far, so good. People seem to like the graphics, so I did my job there. I assembled a hefty media kit. Built my own website touting my wares. Then I went to the local acquisitions director for the Clark County Library District in Vegas to ask for an order. No dice. I contacted and mailed stuff to the local rags (free papers) and double zip.

    I presented myself, book and kit in hand, twice, to a local Borders bookstore manager, but she didn't like the way I looked -- I guess.

    I mailed books to various book editors at major newspapers around the country, including the SF Chronicle, where I lived for almost two decades, zilch. And agents like the famed Elizabeth Pomada in San Francisco -- "not her kind of book." Geez! What's a guy gotta do to get his day in the court of public opinion?

    Finally, I checked out the National Endowment for the Arts grants -- but not for self published books. The National Book Award? Naw -- if you're self published.

    And don't look to Writer's Digest to tell you things like this. If they did, they wouldn't be selling so many "How To" books.

    So here I am, sitting in my hotel room in Santa Monica alone on a Saturday night, going to the L.A. Times Book Festival tomorrow, wondering why am I spending all this time, blood, sweat, tears and moola trying to make this book a hit? Sheer self aggrandizement or is it something more? Is it perhaps that I believe in my art, that I believe that if I knuckle under and get out of art, my country will be culturally poorer?

    Americans used to like to fight for the underdog, but now the media has us so blitzed that they don't even know there are underdogs out there anymore.

    Arf arf . . . .

    Tono Rondone
    Author of The Martyrs