Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Quantity? Quality? 

Having written two books thus far (and not about to write another), I was intrigued by this story from the UK with the statistic that UK publishing firms launch 175,000 books a year now. If that isn't throwing a mud at the wall, I would like to know what qualifies.

The writer was sanguine about survival of good works in the mountain of paper heaped on shelves, but I'm not. Years ago, I worked part-time as a book reviewer, and some stuff sent to me wouldn't qualify for the printed page. It was wretched writing and worse plots. But, I do remember a wonderful novel that arrived on my desk one day, just one. I praised it highly and never saw it again. I'm sure it was remaindered more quickly than I can type this sentence.

Serious work does get lost in the rush to publish something, anything to see what flies or falls. Most PR books I have seen, for example, are the same tired advice repackaged in different formats. Apparently there is a market for repetition. Original work is rare. But then, PR is not a field much given to original work.

The same is true for most trade business books I see. They trumpet deep insights into how companies operate, succeed and are led. They don't say much beyond what one can get from a Management 101 text. As a result, I have given up reading them. I have shelves full of text books anyway.

I spend most of my time with history because the lives of others and past events prove more interesting and real. Who knew that stoic George Washington had a fierce temper and would take it out on young Alexander Hamilton? Who knew Jefferson, that romantic democrat, would support the horrors of the French Revolution? Who knew the Hessians at Trenton were not drunk the morning that Washington attacked but worn out from guard duty while waiting for the Americans to show up?

The past tells me much about the future. What it says is that in spite of all the books that tell one how to be successful and distinguished, life is imperfect and some of us will never be successful or great. I appreciate that.


Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?