10.05.2004

As you know, I think that Paris Hilton's contribution to the literary canon is really special...so special, it belongs in special ed.

Star magazine delivers today's hilarious culture smackdown, in the form of Hilton vs. Tanenhaus:
"Star People isn't sure which is more surprising: The fact that party girl Paris Hilton is now an author, or the fact that her memoir, Confessions of an Heiress, will debut at No. 7 on The New York Times bestseller list for the week of Sept. 26...

"She's debased herself enough to be rewarded on the best-seller list," New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus told Star People. "No one ever said the best-seller list is like being short-listed for the Nobel Prize. It's no literary distinction. Which isn't to say her book is a literary masterpiece."
Er, no, it certainly isn't. Having just watched my boyfriend go through the insanity of bestseller-list-panic-attack-amazon-ranking-hysteria, which comes with the territory in publishing these days, I find it sort of amazing that those numbers have credence at all.

Basically, the only reason that people drive themselves crazy over rankings that, at best, can only show part of the picture, is because there isn't one tool that measures comprehensive sales. Can you imagine another industry -- say, banking -- hunkering along with no accurate way of figuring out what is actually successful? This is how you end up with chick lit, people.

Just as I was thinking about a little rant on the importance of craft, and the more important question of where exactly, fiction and related aspects seem to be headed these days, I checked in on a few sites as part of my daily browsing. And of course, Maud has the much more eloquent discourse on this very subject today. To wit:
British publishing columnist Robert McCrum recently argued that the promotion of terrible books is immaterial in the long run. Twenty or thirty years on, McCrum said, the standout literary works of our time will be remembered and forgettable ones like Pamela Anderson’s Star will have fizzled completely...

Yet even if we accept that the worst books will not last, there is no evidence that the converse is true. No one can guarantee that the very best literary novels will rise to the top of the historical consciousness when so little effort is made to publish and promote good fiction and so few people are reading it.
Snap! On the one hand, I have a lot to say about the masses and their distaste for fiction (have I mentioned lately that I don't own a television?), but on the other...with the hoops I've jumped through to get -- and hold onto -- health insurance in the past couple of months as I've been contemplating a career change, I'll just accept that it's something of a luxury to talk about literature as if it's the most important thing in the world.

More on Hilton vs. Tanenhaus as (if) it develops.

-Lauren
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