A few years back my mom gave me a book for Christmas that for me, really summed up the vacuous state of mainstream literary consumption.
It sat around my room for months before I touched it because I just knew it had arrived with me not on the enthusing lips of a trusted friend and artist, but flanked by socks, sprouts and the clattering of a steel cage. The cover was cheap and showy, like the old Point Horror series, seemingly conceived from the start as fodder for a supermarket bookshelf. I wasn't Presented With so much as I was Marketed At.
I don't think I even read the blurb until the first time I opened it. It went something like this:
"Paul Smith is a struggling author with a bad case of writer's block..."
(Now that's fucking ironic.)
"who locks himself up in a remote log cabin determined to finish a new manuscript before he leaves. Each morning he wakes to find more pages miraculously completed, but as the story unfolds Paul is surrendered to the fantasy of the book... Or is that the real reality?! OMG."
Okay. This is the shit Stephen King pulled at the start of his mid-career slump. (One assumes he's still mid-career since it's fairly conceiveable that he'll write several more books post-apocalypse.) What an obvious and fucking bone-idle thing to write about. That's barely pulp fiction. To top it all, the second page was a quote... From fucking Papa Roach. You know, that one song about mutilating your bad self? Man. That's heavy.
I could quite easily make a living pissing out books like that. I guess there's a reason I don't and it's really a matter of pride and principle. Because I do want to write. But in the realm of pure fiction - without a concept or an argument to advance - everything revolves around Holden Caulfield archetypes, or philosophically savvy, angry vagrants. Those books have been written. Maybe there is space in the arena for books with a Point. I have a couple of points to express.
I'd also like to think that, should I produce something less than inspirational, I'd at least make sure it was entertaining.
"Struggling fucking author," I muttered.