The Day “Great” Literature Died

As I ranted about in a recent post, the world is full of complainers. Satirists. Commentators. Dissecters of trends. Dissenters. Critics. But sadly, fewer and fewer supporters. Champions. Crusaders. People who actually “put their money where their mouth is.”

When it comes to politics, people complain about corrupt politicians, unfair laws, the state of the government in general…and then they don’t vote.

In the publishing world, people complain about books and newspapers dying out. Or how difficult it is to publish as a new author. How rare it is to make a six-figure deal anymore, as an agent. How hard it is to carve out a portion of a dwindling readership, as a published author. How impossible it is to make an actual living as a writer, in general.

But often, those very same people don’t buy books. Aspiring authors are some of the worst offenders, in my experience. Some have even said to me, (proudly, I might add) “I don’t read other authors/bestselling books in my genre.” Or, “I want to write commercial fiction, but I only read nonfiction.” Whether that’s meant to impress me, to show how diligently they value the precious and “untouched” nature of their own work, I can only guess. The bottom line: it’s actually the quickest way to ensure that I will NEVER take you seriously as a writer. (But that’s a rant for another post.)

Sadly, it isn’t just the writers who shoot themselves in the literary foot here. It’s also the readers, the so-called fans, who are to blame. They complain that only crap gets published, fluffy and commercial. These complaints are by no means limited by format. Movie adaptations only get made when writers have “sold out” and watered down their original message. Movies based on books only become blockbusters because of casting conspiracies and expensive special effects. Where are the classics, they cry. Why did my favorite book series flop on the big screen? Why can’t we have literary visionaries like Hemingway and Fitzgerald on the bestseller list, instead of James and Dunham? Why do all my favorite TV shows keep getting cancelled? Why do all of the top shows and movies have such terrible writing? Surely, it can’t be that expensive to hire better writers, can it?

My answer to these complaints is to ask a question:

What do you support?

Let me clarify. I’m not asking which books you tweet about, blog about, or talk about. Which books do you actually buy? Which shows do you actually tune in to watch every week, when they’re actually on TV? Which movies do you pay $20 a piece to go see on the weekend, again and again? Whose talent are you essentially investing in? Whose stock are you buying? Who are you financially supporting?

That’s the secret–but it’s not really a secret, is it?

Money talks. More money talks louder. Books that do well are being supported, frequently and generously (almost like a drug habit) by those who choose to spend money on them. The same truth applies to any and every type of art, whether written, spoken, painted, sung or filmed.

So unless you are buying the books you claim to love, and reading and sharing and encouraging your friends to shell out a measly $3.00-$5.00–even $10 is less than a cup of coffee and a donut at most places, these days–in support of the art you claim to be fighting for…let’s just call your Twitter/Facebook/GoodReads crusade what it is: whining.

And then start singing, “Bye, bye books so good that you cry. Fifty Shades and getting paid, that’s where we all really side. Though we claim to love the classics, we want a quick and fun ride. And that was the day ‘great’ literature died.”

So stop crying about it and go buy a book.

The end.