"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Friday, March 30, 2007

Publishing and Pet Food: The Connection

Thanks for this post at Metaxucafe. By now we've all heard about the poisoned pet food, and that many high-end brands are manufactured in the same plant as the cheapest brands, using some of the same ingredients. Sure, there are a lot of problems with aiming for the bottom line -- which the mass-market approach to anything ensures. Whether you're squeezing the last dollar out of books or dog food, you wind up with a similar product when buyers are expecting something unique. Is there anything unique, or are we back to Baudrillard's simulation of freedom?

Consumer products being what they are, I don't doubt that what we're getting is stamped out, endlessly, identically, cars that differ mainly in the position of the cup-holder, movies with the same stories but different actors. But publishing, like the making of artisan cheeses and gourmet pet foods, should be, and is, I hope, run by individuals, each trying to push his or her unique vision past the gauntlet of corporate sales goals. Failing that, they start small presses. It may not be too much to expect that individuals push their visions, but it may be too much to expect them to succeed more than once in awhile.

What happened to the mission to edify? Can we get back to it? Now it's all about pandering -- will the arts that are "an acquired taste" -- non-mainstream writing, music, art, dance -- disappear in another generation? Or does that very question mark me as a dinosaur? Yet, where did the money come from, back in the day, for such edifying efforts -- was it, say, corporate sponsorship? And why is that declining? As the economy tightens and the rich and powerful look down at the struggling rest of us and raise gas prices yet again, do they fear, all reality to the contrary, that they will soon share our struggle to pay the bills? What is their problem?


Anonymous said...

Well, I've just arrived home from watching a play written by a friend, produced for next to nothing, performed in a pokey old hall with a curtainless stage. It was great. Last night I went to an evening of vocal jazz, organized, performed and supported by and for love not money. It was great. What is this if not success of the non-mainstream arts? Amateurs will keep the arts alive and well, generation after generation.


Zen of Writing said...

I agree. I'm glad for small presses and small groups of individuals who act, play music, make art, out of love. I'm lucky to have such groups in my area. I wish they were more mainstream, and more people had access. Sadly, I think not all Americans would appreciate intelligent but low-budget, not-as-shiny productions, being used to shallowness and glitz.