The future of books



Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2The subject of the future of books keeps coming up. E-books, whatever media, the inevitable move to rethinking the whole idea of a book would happen anyway. It’s a bit like saying “nothing will ever replace stone tablets”.

This subject came to mind as a result of reading the saga of the demise of Gould’s Books, a big Sydney book shop where I’ve been going for decades. I met Bob Gould a few times in a “G’day” sort of way, never got to know him. He was a passionate believe in the classic “educate the masses” ideals, and he did just that, for all those years.

How books created the future

In fact, whether anyone likes it or not, that was how modern ideas spread.  From pamphlets to the Rights of Man wasn’t that much of a step, at least physically. Mentally, it was a gigantic leap. The tidal surges of progressive writing for the last 400 years or so are indicative. From serfdom to well, a complete social elsewhere, in fact.

Books have written as much real history as their writers. In China, the rise of books gave birth to the scholar class which was to dominate ancient and even modern China. China without its literature would have been impossible. In Europe, Gutenberg lit the fire which never went out. In the original Islamic world, modern science found its origins in book learned disciplines, which then spread around the world. Continue reading

Don’t read my books!


Wasp2One of the major issues for me as a writer is this necrotic global cheese dip of a “literary audience”. How do I reach out, and establish contact with this collection of failed suppositories?

Why don’t I just kill them, as I’d much prefer?

I think this skateboard of logic started in a bookstore, when I found a truly unimpressive-looking thick book, called Storylines, or something like that. In 8 point font there it was, about the size of War and Peace, “how to manage storylines”.

Oh, you cunning enema, you, whoever put that obscenity together. For those wondering, “creative” means doing something new and different. Not rehashing some damn story formula written by a fucking pedantic cockroach.

Ad hoc Threat-Hamster coverThe next event was the Sydney Writers Festival, about 10 years ago. A herd of writers. “Now, girls…” Honestly, take one look and you can tell every book they’ve ever read. To me, boring women are a contradiction in terms – Or should be. It was appalling. A few guys turned up, and were of course duly ignored. Everyone was urbane to the point of needing taxidermy. I’ve seen more personality in a palette of cinder blocks.

I’ve since been told by a friend that Sydney Writers Festival isn’t that bad, but those antihistamines are expensive, in big quantities. This was literature, middle class suburban style. Repulsive.

Then there was my interesting phone conversation with a literary agent. The minute this person found out I was a writer, I was spoken to like an unusually stupid doormat. In person, that agent would have been turned in to confetti, not necessarily metaphorically. I don’t tolerate disrespect from industry people.

Mimbly_Tales_Cover_for_Kindle(1) 300PPIDuring this wonderful series of sprinkles of brilliance, I was also reading bits and pieces in the literary media. My god; what a pack of babbling and dribbling theoreticians have come out of the sewer of hangers-on land in recent times. Everyone agrees with theory. Nobody notices actual text. It’s reading between the lines, where the actual words aren’t. This is literature? What’s the point of reading about an infinitely predictable moron who lumbers through a stale vocabulary?

A Kleenex would have more idea of the issues in writing than these Big Book of Quotes bozos. Consider 50 Shades of Grey. Anyone count them? These guys would, and say it was nice that there were 50 of them, and that they’d never have guessed, and it was wonderful to see a new writer making money for them. People make good livings producing crap like that. (And here am I hoping people get jokes…)

If you don’t write yourself, don’t pretend you know what it’s like. Theory, schmeory. The books that created the theories were written before the theories existed. Anyone tell Homer how to write? How about Shakespeare?

Wanderlaugh_Cover_for_Kindle 300PPIMeanwhile, the market, and apparently the “readers”, have turned into spuds. Apart from a few good bios, it’s Brand X all the way. “…She (adverb) grasped his (adjective)… and… (qualified verb) with a (entomological baseline physical mesalliance involving unprovoked cosmetics.)”.

Yes, entomological, not etymological, you schmuck.

So here’s the issue – To write good stuff, or just tell people where to go and cash in their evolutionary possibilities using a claw hammer and a rabid rat? The good news is that my books are far less abrasive than I am. They hardly ever exterminate populations or deliberately talk them to death.

The bad news is that I don’t want my books to be read by people like those described above. I don’t write for subhuman, backward, whimpering consumer conformists or pitiful academics hiding behind style like it’s their mother. Why would anyone?

Ads_Cover_for_KindleI’m quite used to pseudos, from ridiculous, fraudulent no-talent-no-balls “rock stars” and bacteria-like Australian “celebrities”, to media trash, and online effluvia. I’ve been meeting people like that all my life, quite literally, since I was a very small kid. I despised them at age 7, let alone now.

This “culture” and its babbling bores are a whole new level of banal, so inferior to the minimal standards of humanity, that I have to ask this question of myself –

“What if these pack of substandard corpses read my books?”

The thing is that I like my books. I don’t want them hanging around with people like that.

A psychologist might make sense of this.

  • Do I resent the idea that my books might be exposed to people who can’t tell the difference between real creative writing and accountancy? Of course.
  • Am I simply acting on my encounters with this flock of God’s mistakes and their equally enchanting associates? Probably.

Live_Lazy_and_Love_I_Cover_for_KindleSo what are the options?

  1. Write a book which is so incomprehensible that nobody could possibly survive reading it? Well, I’ve done several of those, actually. Excellent sources of compost and screams for use in game shows they are, too.
  2. Write a book as per market formula, with the last word as “Suckers!”? Only if I get to nail the book to readers’ heads. Nothing like giving septicaemia to people you don’t like, to show them that you care.

Take my word for it that a second generation freelancer never avoids any possible source of income, but – It’s a real problem.

Do I actually have to seriously consider this issue? What happened to intelligent, thoughtful readers who actually enjoy reading and get something out of it? Where did all the avant garde, try anything, writers and readers go?

Ah, good. A decision. Just write for myself, and if you bastards don’t like it, ooze back to your evolutionary dunghill. I feel better now.


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