Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Publishing is Celebrity Obsessed! .... Jules Verne


Jules Verne wrote Paris in the Twentieth Century in 1863 when aged 35, then it was locked away in a safe for 130 years. He couldn’t get it published. His feelings about the publishing industry were contained within the novel.
We see Paris of this dystopian future through the eyes of Michel: ‘“A poet, my friend! And I wonder what in the world he can be doing here in Paris, where a man’s first duty is to make money!”’ Poor Michel ‘hopes, he works, he loves good books, and when Hugo, Musset, and Lamartine are no longer read, he hopes someone will still read him! But what have you done, wretch that you are—have you invented a utilitarian poetry, a literature to replace compressed air or powered brakes? No? Well then! Gnaw your own vitals, my son! If you don’t have something sensational to tell, who will listen to you? Art is no longer possible unless it produces a tour de force! These days, Hugo would have to recite his Orientales straddling two circus horses, and Lamartine would perform his Harmonies upside down from a trapeze.’
Michel’s uncle, locked in a small book-lined room, senses the perils facing his nephew in the sterile yet powerful workplace. ‘The old scholar sought to smother just those tendencies he most admired in the young man, and his words constantly betrayed his intention; an artist’s situation, as he well knew, was hopeless, déclassé, impossible… “Literature is dead, my boy.”’
Desperate for recognition and the start of his writing career, Jules Verne would file this novel away for his lifetime. Set in the future, it spoke of the present, the eternal present, in which ‘true artists’ follow a ‘vocation’ and bewail the cheap successes and acclaim won by those who wield sensation rather than insights.
So celebrity culture has come to dominate publishing? What’s new?

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