My heart was wrenching as i strolled down the spacious halls of Sarajevo’s book fair. The books were piled randomly -some new, some classics, some bigger ones, some tiny ones, hard to find books, out of print ones, bestsellers; poetry books, prose books, high brow books, funny books, sad books – all of them pushed to the sides of the aisles, gathering dust at the portable fair’s shelves. From time to time some passerby would slow their pace reluctantly, for a moment they’d almost gave in to the sellers’ desperate attempts, they’d fix their gaze at a title briefly and then walk away abruptly, further between the rows of unwanted books.
I felt sorry for the abandoned books, i was heartbroken for the unread words, my heart went to the authors – the unwilling participants of this ruthless wholesale, for that’s what most book fairs come down to ( among exceptions being author-oriented Leipzig Buhmesse and in this part of the world – Belgrade Book Fair.)
Real books are painstaking labor of inspiration, knowledge, skill and endless perspiration, it’s downright sacrilegious to degrade them down to just another commercial product. There are many ways to make quick money, but books shan’t be among them… yet it’s being pushed down our throats over and over again.
I want to scream when some fool starts explaining me premises of the liberal capitalism and how books should fit into it… Hello, the latter had crashed bringing upon us wreath of economic depression and, unless it’s not already too late, it is high time to think over some premises.
Couple of publishers i met at the fair vented about low sales and poor attendance, NONE of them mentioned emerging writers they met or some new visions from the books they were promoting… And they blame it on the reader who presumably is dumbed down… It ain’t so. The good reader – who is even rarer bird than a good writer – is brought down to her knees by omnipresent greed, her buying power is diminished, her free time almost non-existent for she needs to take ever and ever more workload to keep going. So, don’t blame it on the reader – i am a writer and i am a reader myself, i know… I know it all. That being said, it’s one of the main motives i switched to blogging, i write for the people (feel free to scream all you want*) and i don’t need much more than my text reaching the audience, that’s about it. It is time consuming, more than that – it’s blood consuming… If you read Dianne Gray‘s writing – it’s clear that such writing is done by alchemically processing personal pain into the meaning of life and for those of us for whom writing is vocation it is the modus vivendi.
*As a side note – recently, i had an eminent literary critic nearing the edge of a nervous breakdown upon my mentioning that i do write for others… see, they thought writing should be both self-centered and self-indulging act where the unnoticed reader is reduced to not more than a peeping Tom… yeah, sure.
Last night we hang out with an amazing Croatian writer, Edi Matic. Edi looks like Raymond Carver at his best – tall, tanned with gray hair and penetrating gaze, he writes somewhat like him too – in short, sharp sentences which, read aloud at launches, seem to cut the air at the book fair’s hall, tearing it apart as a razor would, just above the heads of the previously lulled into sleep audience.
We agreed that we, the writers, are faced with an impossible mission – at the launches, we are supposed to promote what goes labeled as ‘high brow prose’… and that’s close to impossible. Good prose is more than entertaining – it’s like a roller-coaster ride, but one that stays with you for a long time – if not for good; the thing is that you can’t market it as you’d market a dish washer because good books are a phenomena unto themselves, they are discreet, predestined to be enjoyed in privacy and seclusion. It’s an almost monastic task – to read a good book, you need your you-time, you need reasonably peaceful surroundings, and above all, you need a fertile ground -an open mind – to plant the seeds from the book into your personal discourse. Great writers from the past didn’t have launches, it’s a quite recent fabrication and quite a controversial one. Of course that a good reader feels like godsent to a writer – and most of us are indeed looking forward to discussing our writings, the thing is that the publishing and bookselling industry pushes us into burlesque of a kind and – with due respect – you don’t get Isadora Duncan to wig a fake fur tail in a smokey night bar… these are parallel universes which can not – and, for everyone’s best, shall not – coincide EVER.
No one knows with certainty what’s the way out from this living sand of commercialization and profanation. There will always be Dan Browns and hopefully there will always be at least couple of authors of Doris Lessing’s calibre…
Last but not the least – hopefully there will always be at least couple of non-commercial publishers, such as Bosnian Publishing House Fra Grgo Martic and inspired promoters such as Bosnian Croatian poet and publicist Milo Jukic thanks to whom good readers still manage to find their way to good writers – without fanfarras and the fake fur; the rest, together with megalomaniac publishers and cheap booksellers – the powerful weapon of time will sort out and uproot.
“I hate tricks. At the first sign of a trick or gimmick in a piece of fiction, a cheap trick or even an elaborate trick, I tend to look for cover. Tricks are ultimately boring, and I get bored easily, which may go along with my not having much of an attention span. But extremely clever chi-chi writing, or just plain tomfoolery writing, puts me to sleep. Writers don’t need tricks or gimmicks or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing- a sunset or an old shoe- in absolute and simple amazement.”
Raymond Carver, Fires
Milo Jukic and Edi Matic, writers’ residence in Kreshevo, Bosnia (April 2013)
Businessman, patron of art and stud breeder, Mr Anto Stanic (front row center)