“I had three weeks left to write the world’s greatest novel. If I didn’t do it, my agent had warned that I’d have to give back the Porsche and the Range Rover and the apartments overlooking Central Park and the Cote d’Azur.
I didn’t know what to do, so I got into the Range Rover and drove the hundred or thousand or so miles to rural Vermont or New Jersey or somewhere, off to the little seaside cottage where, I’d just heard, my friend and mentor and author of the Great American Novel (until my first one came out) had just been arrested for eating a coven of teenagers.
I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to support my friend even though, obviously, although he was my friend I wasn’t exactly wild about him eating all those teenagers and stuff. I wanted to find out what had happened. What had made him eat all those teenagers?
Also, was there any way he could be of help since I had three weeks left to write the great novel and I’d spent two years partying in Florida and Mars and paced around loads of rooms and hadn’t written anything at all and all I had was a laptop with a load of empty squares on it (for some reason). I’d tried buying another laptop but that didn’t work.
He was facing the death penalty and stuff but I felt sure he’d be able to help because he was a great writer in spite of all the teenagers and he’d never tried to eat me so far as I could remember. I got to the cottage, which was eleven hundred rooms long and next to the beach – a real writer’s place – and met his lawyer.
“It doesn’t look good,” said the lawyer.
“Yeah,” I said, because this is a dialogue bit and I had to say something.
“I mean, it’d be ok if they hadn’t found all those bones and recipes buried not very deeply in his back garden,” said the lawyer.
“Yeah,” I said, because this is a dialogue bit and I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
I wondered if the police had sealed off the whole house or just the back garden. The lawyer said it was just the back garden because that’s where the bones and recipes had been found. There wasn’t any evidence in the house.
I had a key so I let myself in and made a sandwich. I went rooting around for his secret author’s stash of three hundred year old Mongolian Scotch and found some evidence wrapped up inside it. It was absolutely shocking and I knew that at last I had an idea for the Great Novel …”
Any resemblance the above bears to crap bestsellers living or dead is of course coincidental. If you think you recognise something, then those are your issues, not mine. Having said that, though, when you come across billion selling muck like the above it’s hard not to expel a kind of generalised sigh for all the good work out there that won’t get within an asses’ roar of being read by a traditional publisher.
It is, I suppose, a sort of groan for the way the publishing industry resembles every other neocapitalist industry by being utterly warped, schizoid and divorced from the slightest idea of why it exists in the first place.
I think the thought formed when I read a Harry Potter book for the first time. ‘Is it really possible,’ I asked myself, ‘that this is the very best child and youth oriented fantasy universe living in anybody’s head on the planet right now?’ It didn’t matter. Harry had by then become what is known as a ‘publishing phenomenon.’
’50 Shades of Gray’ is another example. The phrase means that the book has attained a sufficient volume of commercial critical mass to render it immune to any form of criticism, and I’m talking about the very entry level of basic critical questioning, like whether the author is actually capable of writing a basic sentence without assistance or of passing a standard literacy test.
The book / story / pastiche / call it what you will has attained a form of godliness. It is a phenomenon. You don’t stand there and ask a tsunami whether it makes sense or how much thought has actually gone into it, not if you know what’s good for you.