Saturday, January 01, 2005

1. The Making of Lists

So where do you stand on these ubiquitous End-Of-Year round-ups? As the clock winds down, the lists pile up; everywhere you turn, folks smart and dumb weigh in with their "BEST BLANKS OF 2004" lists. Best Book, Best Movie, Best Theater Experience, Best Album By A Teenage Girl Wearing Imitation Punk Rock Jewelry, Best Massage Parlor, et cetera...

It drives me crazy--so little variation, generally, in any category--so, naturally, I wanted to get in on the action. Nothing like conformity/unanimity to make a fella feel snog as a bog in a blog in such uncertain times....

You may say, ENOUGH with the g.d. lists already! Spare us, Max! Besides, look at the date! It's 2005 already--you missed your chance! Leave us be! To which I respond, Hey, brothers and sisters--do not constrain me with your bourgeois notions of linear time! Genius answers not to the tyranny of the clock!

No, indeed, brothers and sisters, there's a far BETTER reason for me not to weigh in on the BEST BLANKS of 2004. Like, for instance, the fact that I have no basis for forming any opinions about the quality of any of the cultural product the previous 365 days hath produced. Opinions of this sort require one to have imbibbed in some of this product... And the sad truth is, I was rather too much the teetotaller in toothousandfour.

Is it literally true that the ONLY books I read in 2004 are the ones I published? Nearly so. And while several of those really were, in my humble opinion, among the best books of 2004--
[several of them actually DID appear on "Best Books" lists put out by ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, and KIRKUS REVIEWS--demonstrating once again why never to underestimate the benefits of end-of-year payola...]

--the real reason you didn't get a BEST BLANKS list from me (and I'm sure you were waiting w/ bated breath...) and won't hear my opinions on the merits of books by Phillip Roth, Bob Dylan, Margot Livesey, Stephen Greenblatt, Jenna Jameson (and so many others I'd have expected to include on my list), is simple. I didn't read 'em.

So, OK, Max: what do you have for us? Any delightfully off-beat recitations of idiosyncratic punctuation? Predictions about the five Scandinavian novelists most likely to appear (in translation) on the New York Times bestseller list in 2005? An opinion, perhaps, about the spinetingly-ness of the newest Clive Cussler novel?

Alas, no... (Though I will say, with the unshakeable confidence of one who has neither seen the movie nor read its reviews, that MEET THE FOCKERS is surely a piece o' shite, regardless of what $46.1 million in opening weekend boxoffice receipts might say to the contrary. Cripes a-mighty, folks--do we as Americans really miss DHARMA & GREG that much?!)

Nor do I have anything perky or encouraging to predict for the year ahead (2005) in publishing--except (again) to crow that a number of my own books, coming soon to bookstores near you, have been getting wonderful starred reviews in the usual prepub venues, have been chosen by the kind folks at BookSense (not that I've ever seen evidence that being a BookSense pick translates into more than a six-pack's worth of additional sales...), and so on. Trends? Predictions? Hell: I just want my own books to sell lots of copies. The rest of you be damned.

Ahh, but enough about me, darling: how do you like my dress?

A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]

"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."

PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]

"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."

PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]

"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."