The Spring edition of the Virginia Quarterly Review contains a gob of unrelenting lit crit about the business of literature. The following are 9 great quotes from Richard Nash’s lead essay that comprehensively covers the history of book publishing and where it’s all going. Currently, Nash is doing great work with Small Demons and Red Lemon.ade. The full VQR essay can be read here.
“What we have right now is a system that produces great literature in spite of itself.”
“The universe of knowledge we have about books, literature, and publishing excludes that universe of books that were never published.”
“It’s quite clear that while we do our best, our output is as much proof of the awfulness of the system as it is of its strengths.”
“Is there a compelling reason to doubt that once again the book and the business of literature will be at the heart of disruption, as much perpetrator as victim?”
“The lack of video, the lack of audio, the lack of ways to change the forking outcomes of plot (what is rather crudely referred to as ‘interactivity’) is a feature of literature, not a bug. And as it turns out, books are interactive. They’re recipes for the imagination.”
“The skill that is commonly associated with the pinnacle of editorial talent–picking the right book–is frankly, nonsense.”
“Publishers offer the world a massive discount on what should be the true mark-up on manufacturing and distribution in order to persuade us to try something out, to gamble. To get us to risk wasting our time, they try to minimize the risk that we might be wasting our money.”
“As the pressure to have the physical book be the primary conduit through which literature reaches its audience begins to fade, the pressure to produce them as cheaply as possible also diminishes. Simultaneously the character of the retailers engaged in the business of retailing literature shifts away from one where price and breadth of selection are central toward ones that function as a hybrid of culture hub, concierge, and gallery…”
“Book culture is in far less peril than many choose to assume, for the notion of an imperiled book culture assumes that book culture is a beast far more refined, rarified, and fragile than it actually is.”
Okay, that was great, but really you should read the whole issue (or buy it!). It’s got more of this stuff including a conversation with people from Electric Literature, Byliner, and Atavist, plus a full-on dissection of the “memoir” genre by Kevin Young.
No, this isn’t a “sponsored” post or anything–it’s just that awesome.