No Rain On Our Parade

January 1st, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

We don’t know how the New Year is celebrated in other parts of the world, but around here (the Center of the Universe), it begins in earnest in mid-December with acres of scaffolding and bleachers along a major thoroughfare. Soon, we have the March of the Mobile Homes (this will be followed by the even more interesting Exodus of the Mobile Homes). A round of celebratory parties, beginning at 4 p.m. and ending around midnight. A fly-by at the crack of dawn by U.S. military jets. And a five-mile hike to see human ingenuity at work — we can only say that the things people with lentils gives us hope for the species.

Also, there is a parade and football game, but those seem almost incidental.

And so a new year begins. It is a time for diets and other resolutions (we’ve been toying with the idea of eliminating clutter, but keep getting stuck on the thought that if we have no junk, what will distract us from work?). It is also a time for us to reflect upon some of favorite themes of the past year:

The Death of the Novel. As it turns out, barely a week went by without the novel receiving last rites. Methuselah remained robust for hundreds of years after it was clear to everyone else he was ready to breath his last, and evidence is strong that the novel will do so as well. Because the evidence that the novel is dying is scanty and circumstantial, and, frankly, dependent on your definition of “novel”, we must reiterate our previous statement: no discussion of the death of the novel without actual, physical proof. And, again, photos of dusty bookshelves do not count.

The Death of the English Language. The decline and fall of our mother tongue has been an issue of significant importance since approximately 1066. It was about then that the powers-that-be realized people were not using language properly. In what can only be considered a coincidence, the legal profession began around this time. Slang slipped into the vernacular. Poor grammar abounded. And spelling…well, we cannot begin to describe the atrocities there. We’ve read the reports: no way would the English language survive to greet the Dark Ages.

Imagine the disappointment of French when English did not pay attention to the obituary page.

The Death of the Library/The Rebirth of the Library. We simply don’t know which way to go with this story, so you get to choose. There seems to be some sort of worry that people will confuse information with knowledge. We hate to be the carrier of bad news (knowing what happens to such folk), but this is an age-old problem. It is human nature to think we know everything about a topic, when in fact, we can barely spell the name of the topic. This sort of hubris will continue to exist with or without the digitization of major libraries.

The beauty of the issue, of course, is that most people don’t know that they don’t know things. They are happy in their ignorance, and who are we to suggest this isn’t the right approach? After all, knowing too much leads to far too many hours spent in thought, sometimes to the point where we are frozen in indecision. That cannot be good.

Do not fear that information in the hands of the great unwashed will lead to world disaster. Worry more that information in the hands of those who know what to do with it may stop the world in its tracks.

Old Ideas Presented As New and Innovative. Or maybe this should be a discussion of the gullibility of the media. Or maybe a brief rant on how research can be fun and useful. If we were to admit to a flaw (and this should not be construed as such an admission), it would be our short attention span. For example, we get very excited about a topic, but then drop it because we’ve moved on. Thus, we decided we simply didn’t have the spare brain cells to cover each and every, uh, innovation in publishing this year.

So, for the reporter who breathlessly reported that someone is serializing novels via email, it’s been done. For those who discovered that self-published authors are achieving success, that ship sailed and returned. Ebooks, cell phone books, coloring books? Time for a new angle. Thank you.

Too Many Books Being Published. Also The Decline of Western Culture. Long Live Rock! Oh, where to start, where to start? As with the English language, culture has been in decline for far too long. Though we are too lazy to discover exactly when culture began, we do believe the slow descent into mediocrity started either when Shakespeare’s plays were in their initial run or perhaps when the masses started attending opera. Our research is inconclusive to the point where we’ll blame Shakespeare because he’s dead and can’t sue us for libel.

Blogs: Your Mother Has One, Why Don’t You? Before we continue, we have to say something. It’s important. It may change your life. We hope not, but these things require delicacy. The Gawker Media Empire hires bloggers. Yes, it’s true. They pick up homeless people and offer them a pittance, plus heating oil, to crank out posts a dozen times a day. Give or take. Becaue filthy lucre changes hands (or, probably in this day and age, it’s all done electronically…this does not make it any less offensive), this is apparently not real blogging. Also, if you get paid for your writing, particularly a lot, you are not a real writer. Real writers toil in obscurity until they die. See: John Kennedy Toole.

Yes, the big story of 2004 was blogs. At last year’s South by Southwest, you couldn’t throw a PowerBook without hitting a blogger. It was like an infectious disease without the glamour. Or maybe with the glamour. We just don’t know.

We’ve long thought that maybe should we tell the truth about blogs, but then wonder what good it will do. It is enough that blog software has made it easier than ever to publish your views on the web (yes, we know, it wasn’t all that hard before, but this is even better). If you are not yet sold on the miracle of blogging, let us recount the benefits: creative outlet, publicity, chance to share your opinion with people who care (and some who don’t), community, time waster, obligation, nightmare-inducer, fun, cheap, limitless possibilities, source of revenue, way to meet chicks or guys. Also, it makes for cool party conversation, particularly if you attend parties with people who don’t already have their own blogs. This by the way is becoming increasingly difficult, so we recommend hitting the social circuit as soon as possible.

Next year, we cover the blog backlash.

Unselfishness. Yes, we saved our favorite theme of the year for last. Think of it as your reward for suffering through all of these posts. We appreciate the time both Gena Showalter and Jill Monroe spent here, answering questions and sharing their innermost secrets. Jill gets extra thanks for keeping the place open in our absence and allowing us to sleep over when we found ourselves in Oklahoma. Oh, and thanks for getting us to Texas and back. We sincerely doubt we would have found it without her.

We thank every person who’s ever written us or posted a comment — the fact that so many of you pop in day after day truly humbles us (yes, yes, it is possible). We have a lot of smart readers, and it’s very exciting to read different perspectives (hey, go ahead, disagree with us — we’ve been wrong more than once). We also appreciate the presence of the litblog community. We’ve met some great people, read a lot of great stuff, and jumpstarted many a post after reading something someone else wrote. We can only repay your generosity with more of the same, though we’re hoping new obsessions find their way to us. We don’t want to become too repetitive.

File Under: Square Pegs