BY: DANIEL WATERBOURNE
There is a trend that is shifting the values of the 21st century. In the world of food, nutrition has been traded for convenience. In the world of love, long-term satisfaction has been traded for momentary ejaculation. In the world of words, slow-cooked creativity has been traded for clickbait and Cat GIFS. And while one determinant of demand might say that people’s tastes have simply changed, it is also equally true that man shapes his environment and then his environment shapes him. Writers and creatives don’t have a responsibility to reflect popular tastes—they have a responsibility to define them.
Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck certainly had some strong thoughts about the encroachment of commercialism on creativity. Following his rapid rise to fame he believed that success was beginning to sour his perspective. Steinbeck believed that honesty was the cornerstone of long-lasting art. The bottom line is that beyond publications sacrificing their duty to the minds of the public, or their loyalty to a generation of young creatives, many modern publications are sacrificing their own self-worth by chasing profit instead of chasing a dream.
Do you ever dream of getting letters? I used to a lot but haven’t lately until last night when I had one very clear and sharp. I can even see the stationery. It was from Otis Wiess and it said, “We would like very much to print your book The Short Reign of Peppin IV and think we can do it in two large installments. There are, however, certain changes we would like you to make in order that our readers will be more interested. The pace must be considerably speeded up and many of the historical and literary allusions must be removed since they will only confuse our readers. We should also want you to add three new characters and several episodes, which are too long to put in a letter. I should like to meet with you to tell you of the changes we will require. Will you please let me know when this will be convenient?”
It was all perfectly clear. When the clock went off this morning I was busy typing an answer and had got as far as “Dear Otis: I have your letter and am deeply pleased with your interest in my book. I would like to suggest to you that rather than put in new characters and episodes, that you get new readers—.” And I woke up thinking this was funny as hell and just laughing at my own cleverness. Isn’t that an odd and perhaps prophetic dream?