This year has given me a few interesting and substantial changes in my life. The most meaningful one, which is the constant blessing and the constant curse, is my job at the book store. I got this job because my teaching part time pay check was only thick enough to pay my rent. I soon realized I had to eat food as well. So, I deal with books. And I don’t deal with books in a very cool, happy way. I deal with books in a dirty, not fun way. I deal with them as if they were live stock that needed to be herded. What I find increasingly interesting are two facts that I see every day I work there. 1. People read books. 2. The books that people read are horrible. These two pieces of information rule the publishing world. People are reading again. And when I say “Again” I mean they never stopped. But people aren’t reading good books. Some are. The other day I sold a few copies of “The Road”, which warmed me. But most people are reading bad Conservative tripe, really bad conservative tripe, romance, mystery books or cook books. Fiction, my passion, is over there to the left. You see all that dust? It is over there. Since people read the bad stuff, then publishers buy and promote the bad stuff. They’ll print a fiction book if, maybe, a movie is coming out with it. If I sell another Time Travelers Wife, there will be murders. But we have only ourselves to blame.
I like the book store job because it puts my field into perspective. I went to graduate school to learn how to write novels and to learn how to teach writing. I now see, from working at a book store, that publishing a novel from a mainstream publishing house is possible, but extremely difficult. People aren’t reading literary fiction. The people who do are few and far between, and they aren’t demanding new literary fiction because there is plenty of old literary fiction that they haven’t read yet. I’m surprisingly fine with that. But I don’t think that literary agents or publishers truly care about the fiction world, or are concerned with it beyond the aspects of teen fiction, which sells in bulk. We live in a Market based system and, if the Market doesn’t want it, there is no reason to provide it. Expect one. The Market is full of morons. And these morons wouldn’t know a good book if you handed it to them. I have handed a good book to them.
“What is it about?” They’ve asked, looking at The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier.
“Death and the problems associated with coming to terms with Death’s inevitabilty.”
And they look at me.
“Can you recommend anything a bit happier?”
That is the Market.