Languagehat, which is more or less my favourite place, points at interview with Gilbert Sorrentino, about whom I know literally nothing. His name had not crossed my ears before today (Apparently in with that Black Mountain crowd (never really looked into them either. Maybe I’m too European.))
In any case he has this to say, which I feel is IMPORTANT.
What is most surprising to me is the number of–what can I call them?– “absent” books published. These are books that have no literary merit, no spirit of aesthetic adventure, no rough but interesting formal design, and–this is most important–no chance of commercial success! That’s what is so amazing to me–not the number of Judith Krantz-like novels published, nor the Calvin Trillin-Garrison Keillor warm and wise and witty and wonderful malarkey, but the novels that just lie there: life and love in a small town in Northern California, sexual awakening in a Baptist family in Pennsylvania–daughter flees to Greenwich Village, meets bum who makes her pregnant, discovers feminism–and on and on. Were I running these houses, I’d can all these editors in a minute. If they can’t make millions, would be my thinking, I’ll be God damned if they’re going to put out excrement that will only break even, i.e., if we want to break even, I’d say, let’s publish BOOKS. But, of course, the chances are that the people who own these houses would not know a book if it buggered them.
It does puzzle me – why put out the really, really nothing stuff? What does it do? Who does it make happy? Can’t you tell that these Laodicean mehs will lie there dead?
By the way, I’ll always be printing the word IMPORTANT in pink Comic Sans. The caps I may not stick with.