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Thursday, 4 August 2005
Perspective and Perception
“Evil Corn” arrived in the yesterday's post. It's a collection of poetry and prose poems by a “half-breed” (his word, not mine) poet living in Montana, Adrian C. Louis. He emailed me after I sent an email announcing the new summer edition and a call for submissions. We exchanged a few emails, and he accepted my offer to publish a poem of his in the fall issue of SNReview.

During the exchange of emails I wrote:

"Probably harking back to my Irish heritage, once dominated by persecution but now buffeted by American comforts, I have a fondness for the voices of writers not from the mainstream, meaning in America white and middle class. As the novelist/playwright/activist Sarah Schulman noted, people not in the mainstream and sometimes marginalized possess at least two perspectives, their own and that of the mainstream. That gives playwrights like Schulman, novelists like Toni Morrison, and poets such as yourself a perspective I can gain only from reading. It was there so clearly in 'That Indian I Hate Arrived,' which I just re-read at www.hanksville.net/storytellers/ALouis/poems/thatindian.htm. I found a similar voice in the works of Susan Power in her "Roofwalker," published three years ago by Milkweed Press. It was also such a perspective that had me publish two coyote stories by Native American Jeff Lockwood (www.snreview.org/0205Lockwood.html) and one of his poems www.snreview.org/0205aLockwood.html)."

Perspective fascinates me. That which one brings to an incident—history, emotions, ethnic background, education, the entirety of life—shapes and colors what is seen and believed, making it appear as The Truth. Unfortunately the garnishes that we cover perceptions with rarely yield a truth, and much of life therefore rarely yields a truth because of the distinct limitations of perception.

The simplicity of perspective and perception surround us, especially at the check-out counters of supermarkets. It's not subtle. It screams at us from the cover lines of publications such as “Us,” “People,” “National Inquirer,” “TV Guide,” “Soap Opera Digest,” and “Star,” to name only six. These publications display a varnished perspective of pop culture, primarily as provided by the agents and public relations specialists found in the entertainment industries. They take the inconsequential, elevate it, and then let it bask in the glory of its momentary notoriety. It has all to do with perspective.

The unexamined perspective prevails in pop culture, which is dominated by needs and wants of young viewers, listeners, and readers and by commerce. Commerce and youth rarely invited circumspection. I have begun to wonder if circumspection today is only the purview of literary poetry and prose, as found in the writers I mentioned earlier.

My perception, or maybe more accurately my drive to write about it, was propelled by the essay “The Loss of the Creature” by Walker Percy. He writes about Garcia Lopez de Cardenas stumbling through the mesquite and seeing the Grand Canyon. More than four centuries later, Percy imagines a group of Terre Haute sightseers:

"Why is it almost impossible to gaze directly at the Grand Canyon under these circumstances [those of a sightseer] and see it for what it is—as one picks up a strange object from one's back yard and gazes directly at it. It is almost impossible because the Grand Canyon, the thing as it is, has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer's mind."

The writer and the poet, the painter and the photographer, the playwright and the screenwriter must make the impossibility to gaze and to see it for what it is possible. Otherwise what is the purpose of art?

Posted by snreviewct at 8:00 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 4 August 2005 8:09 AM EDT
Wednesday, 3 August 2005
Publishing Opportunities?

Thin, dapper George Borchardt sat on the edge of a table in lecture room 243 of the West Side building on Western Connecticut State University. Never moving from his post, the famed literary agent talked for ninety minutes about publishing. He was funny at times, possessing a impish liking for double entendres. He was sad at others. He recounted, for example, walking from publishing house to publishing house in the early 1950s representing an Irish writer who lived in Paris and wrote in French. After many rejections, he found a publisher who paid an advanced of $1000, $800 for two novels and $200 for a play. The writer had entitled the play "Waiting for Godot."

I doubt that if any publisher today would accept "Godot." During the past two decades the publishing industry has changed. One buyout after another has transformed America's major publishing houses into imprints for entertainment conglomerates where success is measured primarily in the size of the imprint's profits. Gone is the luster of publishing literary works. So when a senator writes a painfully pedantic and tardy rebuttal to Senator Clinton's book, it gets published. Senator Santorum called the book: "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good." The book is unique. Its title is as unimaginative as it is oxymoronic. He received a $20,000 advance and then complained about the princely sum during an interview on the radio talk show "Imus in the Morning."

Publishers are not to blame. Not a single one would publish the senator's book if the public did not buy it. Publishers are reacting to a reading public captivated not by challenging ideas but by ideas that reinforce entrenched beliefs. The success of these books parallels the success of reality television.

"We allow halfwits [starring in reality television shows] to become celebrities precisely because there is no great gap separating them from us. That consoles us, because it makes us think that we could be famous if we had a bit more luck, or if we tried a bit harder. We can't bear the idea that some people might be better than us, so much better that we could never be like them, no matter how hard we tried. That upsets our democratic ethos, our belief that all people are born equal." (David Evans, The Guardian, [www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1532882,00.html]) The same is true of many books, especially non-fiction books. We like the notion that our ideas are publishable, and it does not matter if the author is a halfwit or not.

Books, therefore, pander to the proclivities of readers. For example, publishers are marketing novels that cater to fears rather than exploring them. For example, a sub-genre of action-adventure novels has emerged. Their plots pivot on the notion that an Evil will destroy our God-loving world. I have managed to turn this demand to my advantage as a writer.

I have developed a unique story called the "Divine Fantastic Four." My Legion of Decency will be composed of Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, and Buddha. Vishnu will coordinate them. My heroes will fight the armies of Satan, infidels, and the monkey-king. Since I could not ask my godly figures to partake in sex, I will provide a steady dose of sexuality through the actions of Satan, infidels, and the monkey-king. The book will also include a video game. The players will pick their heroes and battle the others. The winner will be declared God Almighty.

Once the hardcover copy hits the market, I will convert it into a cartoon book for those markets where the ability or the desire to read is low. Sales of the picture books should be high in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and the United States. Producers from Hollywood, Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Tehran, and Bangkok could develop five films. Each film will differ only in that that the main protagonist would shift from Yahweh to Jesus to Allah to Buddha and to Vishnu. The movies will be shown in the appropriate markets.

That's a marketing plan any agent or publisher would love.

Posted by snreviewct at 10:07 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005 3:15 PM EDT

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