Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nicole Richie

The publication of a ghostwritten novel by "celebrity" Nicole Richie is the kind of even guaranteed to infuriate writers, especially writers who can't get admitted to a publishing house's toilet stall, let alone through the editor's door. Miss Snark weighed in.

"Even Miss Snark needs to be reminded that publishing is a business and we ain't in this for our health when she gets all snarky about who deserves a book deal.

The only people who can stop this craziness are readers. Ain't the free market system grand?"

This is a cop-out. Does the free market drive the creation of culture or is taste made top down by the tastemakers? If publishers and media companies only offer crap, people anxious to read a book or see a movie will select some of that crap and buy it. That doesn't prove people want crap.

This argument that people exercise their wants through the market is circular logic and specious.

It's a rationalization offered by the very people who create phony media events and masscult crap like Richie's book.

Yes, there is also a lowest common denominator consumer who's taste is in their ass, thinks Richie is the cat's pajamas and might even think that her book is great and that she actually wrote it. But there are also people out there who are anxious, bored and lonely who take their clues about what to consume from the media who might actually enjoy something better if it was offered and promoted to the extent Richie's book will be.

Richie's book is a totally synthetic product, like a candy bar of the latest children's cereal or this week's fast food fad. It might sell for a brief time while it's kept inflated with promotional gas. Then it's gone and forgotten. In the long run, this kind of book makes less money for a publisher than a good book whose inherent worth will continue to generate modest but continuing revenue from the backlist.

Augusten Burroughs, Memoir Hustler

The hook used to sell most memoirs is that the astonishing events revealed really happened. Otherwise, you're left with what usually amounts to a mediocre to crappily written book about someone with no significant achievements in life. I have yet to read one of these books. I read an article in Vanity Fair in 1996 about the memoir craze and Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss. I was skeptical then and now.

007 Flameout

Agent 007 left editing for agenting. Then they started a blog. Now they have dropped the blog.

"I'm on hiatus for a bit. I'll try to hurry back. Feel free to send a little inspiration my way."

Sure they'll be back. Just like Mad Max Perkins.

I've never really understood why people in publishing start blogs. Mid-life crisis? There is no money in blogging. If there was, blogs by agents would be sprouting, not closing.

There's money in agenting though, especially when you used to be an editor and can pitch books to your former colleagues. 007 may become disenchanted with agenting too, but you can bet he/she won't quit that. Ya gotta eat.

Sarah Silverman Isn't Funny

Sarah Silverman is all over the place this week, with critics praising her concert video and twisting themselves into pretzels trying to rationalize how a potty-mouthed young woman is somehow brilliantly subversive and transgressive.

I first saw Silverman on Politically Incorrect several years ago. She's gotten more mileage out of an unfunny joke employing the racial epithet "chink" than anyone has a right to.

This letter to Salon says it all.

When I watch Silverman, I see a pretty girl mouth a lot of nasty platitudes, but I feel zero affinity with her. I don't share anything with her; her perspective is so broad I can't make any comparisons to my worldview. It's not that she couldn't be funny, I suppose. She just doesn't have the intellectual acumen to make a valid insight into everyone's closely held prejudices. Ultimately, what is most interesting about Silverman isn't her comedy; it's the apologists who bend over backwards explaining why Silverman is funny. (As if true humor needs to be explained...) I've always felt it said more about the defender than it ever said about Silverman herself. If you want to laugh at bigoted jokes, say so proudly. If you think making fun of Asians, Hispanics and blacks is great fun, have the courage to say so, but don't promote a marginally talented woman as the comedic voice of a new "ironic" generation. You only make yourselves look foolish.

-- M. Flatow

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