Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Dear reader, I was not going to post this, since Barrus is not talking down to children, but then I changed my mind. You've heard these words before. You've even heard these ideas before.

Prairie Mary

* * * *

Random House and Houghton Mifflin loved the paradigm where they send the writer on the typical tour.

It was the most absurd thing I have ever done.

I did it because, quite simply, they make it very clear that if you don't you get put into the "difficult writer" category, and committees of publicists who are the real powers at publishing houses loathe difficult writers and are not likely to publish them again. So you do the tour or else.

This paradigm is about to get buried six feet under in the graveyard it so richly deserves. The fundamental assumption is that one develops a readership from interacting with one's public in bookstores where the public buys its books.

Let's see a show of hands for those of us who hang out at bookstores because the authors who arrive are so captivating.


It goes much further than Barnes and Noble.

There was a time when culture revolved around the spoken word. Most public education remains stuck in this mode. Rote memorization, reciting blahblahblah and rhetoric (Our Country is a Great Country Because) instilled in societies a reverence for the past, the ambiguous, the ornate, the subjective, and tradition as tribal ritual. Then, about 500 years ago, the oral universe was overthrown by the anal universe of technology.

Gutenberg saw a vacuum and he filled it. Metallic movable type elevated writing to a highly-placed position in the cultural hierarchy. By means of cheap and perfect copies, text became the engine of change and the foundation of stability. Once it was in print, it had to be true. The same bullshit goes for the Internet.

People don't think. Other people do that for them. A consumer isn't supposed to think. All he has to do is buy. For the moment, the Internet is a shopping mall and red-light district. Most people come to the Internet to see pornography, and it has been innovation in pornography -- new ideas as to how the Internet might work at selling porn -- that has driven innovation everywhere else. The people who don't mainly come for porn shop.

From printing came what we think of as journalism, science and the mathematics of libraries and law. The distribution-and-display device that we call printing instilled in society a reverence for precision (of black ink on white paper), an appreciation for dull linear logic (in a sentence, in a paragraph, in a narrative), a passion for objectivity (of printed fact) and an allegiance to authority (via authors), whose truth was as fixed and final as a book. In the West, we became automatons of the book as the word of god.

Let us wipe all of that off the map. Let us now worship invention.

Today, there's a lot of vacuums and a lot of filling going on. The dominant media is being besieged.

Moving images go stage center.

We are now the automatons of the screen. The fluid and fleeting symbols on a screen pull us away from the classical notions of monumental authors and authority. The new authority is how well can you snark in a computerese designed to bring you hits.

On the screen, the subjective wins again. Only this time, everybody has a contribution. The past is a rush of data streams cut and rearranged into mashups, while truth is something you assemble yourself on your own screen as you jump from link to link.

Wikipedia has it right because somebody else said so and Wikipedia can link you to where whatever bullshit you think is true sits somewhere else.

The scene shifts.

The media wouldn't be the media unless it shared certain attributes. It is easier to read a book than to write one. It is easier to listen to a song than to compose one. It is easier to attend a play than to produce one. Movies in particular are a collaborative work. It's easier to watch a movie than to make one.

Publishers have been betting that they can keep interactive media marginalized because the public is lazy. They're passive and eat whatever is served to them. That tens of millions of YouTubers have been making their own movies has stunned old media.

Millions of people can be reached. The software to do all of this has only improved.
Hollywood will always be Hollywood. When you consider how much digital is out there, it's Hollywood that is marginal.

If you want to see the future of motion pictures, you need to take note of the creative food chain — YouTube, indie films, TV serials and insect-scale lip-sync mashups. The bottom is where the action is, and where screen literacy originates.

Publishing's dirty little secret is that this, too, is how authors work. They dip into a finite set of established words, called a dictionary, and reassemble these found words into articles, novels and poems that no one has ever seen before. It is rare that an author invents anything really new. What has been done with words for a long time is now happening with images.

Last year, four billion digital-display screens were manufactured. That is how many people there are on the earth.

The thrill comes from the power to create realistic fantasies spontaneously. Hollywood cannot do that. It's about as spontaneous as a dead horse beaten with an old whip.
In the past, they could kick me out of publishing for heresy and there would be nothing I could do about it.

Revenge is also sometimes called survival.

I am still here and they are so utterly annoyed. Tough titty.

I am basically dealing with the visions of males who have always existed at the sidelines. They've been kept out of it as I have.

No more.

We're not going away. We failed high school English. We were behavior problems, drug dealers, sluts...

We're making images that move. That have sound. We were supposed to go away.

A whore is supposed to stay a whore.

Colette's revenge was her character Cheri.

It was Cheri who turned heads.

Whenever he walked into a room.

Cheri was fond of silk pajamas and pearls.

The French had never read anything like Cheri.

In the end of the Cheri books, it is a woman who survives. Not Cheri. Because Colette made her women tough as nails.

Collete incorporated a kiss with her Lesbian lover in the act she brought to the Moulin Rouge. This literally caused a riot in the streets and the military had to be called in to quell the riot.

Colette was banned. Poor Colette.

She turned to opera and the Parisian opera produced her work. In a word, revenge.

Revenge is when the principal kicks us out so we open up our own school down the street and it's hipper, more endowed, and a lot more fun than their school. Revenge is getting away with it.

Real revenge is in the discovery you have worth and that fucks with their power as the people assigned to dishing small portions of worth out to boys and girls who follow the rules and keep straight lines.

In the old days, the adolescent boy hid his porn from Grandma and only got it out to jerk off. Today, he's making his own porn because he is his porn and Godzilla is not alone. He's jerking off online with everyone else in the sexual global community and so is Grandma.

And so is Colette.

Revenge is coloring outside the lines and redefining the lines and erasing the lines and substituting pixels which are round little motherfuckers versus lines and revenge is when the screen lights up, Mister deMille, and it's time for your close-up.

-- Tim Barrus


Art Durkee said...

I'm torn. I can't say that I disagree with Barrus very much; I think he's right on many points. But the details put me off. Factually, pixels are square and Gutenberg used wooden type (metal type didn't come in till some centuries later), and there are six going on seven billion people on earth (my dad was a doctor with a degree in population). You know. Picky little details.

I get the sarcasm, and the anger comes through loud and clear. His points about Colette, and Do It Yourself culture and attitude are right on target. So is the point about self-empowerment with the new digital tools, making this all possible, so that smart kids can bypass all the traditional authoritarian channels.

Publishing is no longer in the hands of the traditional publishers, and boy are they scared.

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

Yeah, we don't even know what publishing "is" anymore, let alone whose hands it's in.

One of Barrus boys was beaten up yesterday. Probably his fault. The other boys are coming down on him hard. They are hard boys.

We figure Barrus writes the Dionysian defiant stuff and I write the Apollian dictionary stuff. Thanks for the details.

I listened to your music last night though it takes me a half-hour to download. (No broadband.) Piercingly beautiful, Art!

Prairie Mary

Art Durkee said...

I guess that makes my writing mode the Orphic, since you two have those other modes well-covered.

In terms of publishing, there is currently a raging controversy about whether posting a poem on a blog, or even on an online poetry workshop, constitutes "publishing." Some journals who won't accept "previously published poems" have expanded their definitions of that to include anything online, anywhere, anytime. Most of these are print journals, rather than online journals, but some online journals do it, too.

It's an interesting situation, and it's still developing. My own position is to not worry about it. The ocean is very large, and there are plenty of fish in it: if one editor turns out to be weird about publishing, there are plenty of other journals. Again, Colette's example is a good one.