The Way Back: Blog # 7
By Gammy L. Singer
To be on top is a tenuous position—the bottom, tenuous--and the middle is mostly unrewarding. Who would want to be a writer? That’s an underlying theme of Olivia Goldsmith’s (The First Wives Club? died of complications of plastic surgery at age 54?) 1996 novel, BESTSELLER. Why hadn’t I read this book before? If I had, would I have become a writer? Oh hell, probably. For the same reason people become actors, or dancers, or artists—they’re built that way, in the genes, in the destiny. Whatevah!
I discovered the book on my weekly trek to my local library. There it was, sitting quite unremarkably on a shelf. I was of course drawn by the title. See? Titles do count. The color was eye-catching too, pink and red. What do those colors say? Pink, a woman’s book. Red, expect some spice. Well, it is a dishy book, exposing the underbelly of publishing.
When I started reading I didn’t want to interrupt to figure out who was actual and who was made up, (but it required some mind-muscle to figure out who was who, not knowing all the super-players in the book world), but the author provided an index of all names, pages of names which thudded with name-dropping regularity throughout the book. Authors, publishers, editors intermingled with fictional ones, and the revelations so dicey I figured, well, those people had to be fictional. Not true.
Underneath the title on the cover, the copy says, “Every Book Has a Story,” and that’s what the premise is. The stories of five authors, whose writings range from the literary to the profane. Five authors, five lives—oops, one is dead, but her mother pushed the book to publication, she's alive. There’s also a publisher, Gerald Ochs Davis (G.O.D.) who insists on publishing himself and giving himself a million dollar advance, and then plays with the numbers, rifling book sales from midlist as well as bestselling authors. There's also a “good” underdog editor and a crazed one. It’s wild reading, guys. You ought to check it out. Very eye-opening for this author, with publishing practices put in the context of these character's lives. Interesting reading.
Loved all the quotes heading each chapter, by writers, or about writers and writing. Had to sort out the fictional from the real there as well. For instance, this quote is attributed to G.O.D.--see above--and I had to figure out if it was a real publisher--see below.
“The year I returned to active publishing there were five varied manuscripts submitted to Davis & Dash; five manuscripts, each by a different author, each with different aspirations. All five made the enormous jump from unpublished manuscript to published book, but only one among them was destined to make the next leap to become the bestseller.”
Some other yuks, randomly chosen quotes from the book.
“Let every eye negotiate for itself, and trust no agent.” -William Shakespeare-
“The publisher is a middleman, he calls the tune to which the whole rest of the trade dances, and he does so because he pays the piper. –Geoffrey Fisher-
“A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The waste basket has evolved for a reason.” – Margaret Atwood-
“An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.” -Irwin Shaw-
“I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money.” –Dorothy Parker-
What I gleaned from the novel’s subtext. Fear operates at every level, through every human being. But each of us is in charge of ourselves, after all. We can choose to be fearful on this path, or not. I choose not. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!
I will not be fearful--on my way back!
Monday, July 13, 2009
The Way Back: Blog # 7