By September 12, 2007 0 Comments Read More →

What's Right and What's Fair

Found this via The Elegant Variation, labeled “Bitter Author Alert!“–Peter Sacks, author of Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education (Univ. of California), confesses that he is underappreciated:

Meanwhile, a thousand splendid authors, working in relative obscurity, have written a thousand splendid books that you will never hear about. We splendid authors dwell on the dark side of the publishing world, clinging to our precious bones of good news — a possible review coming up in a small magazine, a publicist who continues to answer our emails, a slight bump in our Amazon rankings. We wonder what it might be like to live on the light side, where A Thousand Splendid Suns shines so brightly that few inhabitants of American culture could possibly be unaware of it. For those of us on the dark side, however, we endure, hoping for just an ember of that warmth. That would be enough. That would keep us going.

I’m sympathetic to much of what he says. I, too, am disturbed by the constant dumbing down of discourse. I, too, wish more people wanted to read smarter books. And I think writers deserve to be paid at least as well as plumbers. But I question his implicit assumption that Writers of Serious Books have ever had it much better.

Right now I’m reading Blue Heaven (St. Martin’s Minotaur) a new thriller by C. J. Box, a writer whose commercial prospects are probably a bit brighter than those of Sacks. It’s an entertainment, but a damn good one, and, as usual, Box has a few nuggets of wisdom thrown in with the thrills.

In this scene, a 12-year-old girl asks a grizzled rancher about his work:

“You do all of this ranch stuff by yourself?”

“I do now,” Jess said. “I had to let my foreman go a couple of days ago.”

“What if you get sick or something?”

“Then things don’t get done.”

“That’s not fair.”

“It’s plenty fair,” he said. “Why wouldn’t it be? Folks aren’t entitled to a living.”

“It just doesn’t sound right,” she said, a little more unsure of herself.

“I’m not saying it’s right. I said it was fair.”

Earning a living by writing books is just as tough as earning a living by reading them. But to have time enough for either is a luxury–a point ironically lost on a guy who just wrote a book about the class divide.

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

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