Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Signs of the Apocalypse?

So, not only has Alex Good announced he's taking a year off, but now it appears that Phil Marchand is quitting books altogether (on a note of exhaustion similar to Alex's) . It's very true, what he quotes Arnold Bennett saying about reviews being too benevolent. I often find my perspective skewed by the number of dull or just plain lousy books I read; it makes a decent book seem excellent, the same way grading a series of C or D essays will make a teacher whoop for joy when she gets to a B. I've only been reviewing for four years, but I'm already embarrassed by the sheer number of books I've praised, from which I can now remember next-to-nothing--and I'm someone who's supposed to be a harsh critic. Can a book really be that good if it has so little purchase on a reader's memory, especially a reader examining it more closely for purposes of reviewing than a casual reader would? This isn't an occupational hazard restricted to reviewers, but to CW professors and publishers, too; a great deal of delusive thinking is required to keep all these funded institutions afloat. A whole lot of "culture" gets made, but the recipe for perdurable remains elusive.

In other news, Raincoast is getting out of publishing anything but Harry Potter books. This came as no surprise to me at all; it's been clear for some time that they found publishing to be more burden than profit and they've jumped on the strong dollar as a handy excuse to pull the pin. They're also cutting a number of their Canadian distribution clients. Which ones is yet to be announced. Insomniac Press, the publisher of my book, is a Raincoast client. I've been pretty pleased with the distribution of it to-date, which is to say that I've heard no complaints from people having trouble getting a hold of the book. I wonder how it'll be if/when Raincoast drops Insomniac. And I wonder what's going to happen to their backlist.

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