The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘book culture’

The Literary Agent of Yore (Unspeakable Rascal!)

October 14, 2014 | by

bizarre00mack_0175

An illustration by Lauren Stout for Lawton Mackall's Bizarre, 1922.

My continuing odyssey across the World Wide Web—I’ll read it all, someday—has yielded these two gems from the public domain, both early constructions of the literary agent as a type; neither, I’m sorry to say, is very flattering.

Now as then, agents get a bad rap. In the popular imagination, they’re usually seen as unscrupulous middlemen, always on the phone, insistently plying their wares. The agent, we’re told, is a necessary evil at best, or, at worst, the first in a line of craven corporate interests designed to suck the marrow from a writer’s work, making it suitable for a wide and churlish readership. In movies, writers are always seeking agents, falling out with agents, or at the very least nervously talking to agents, twisting the phone line in their fingers. And then there’s the editor-agent relationship, in which the agent never wins: he’s either part of a profit-obsessed cabal keeping subversive “new voices” out of print, or he’s a tasteless entrepreneur disturbing the delicate rapport between editor and author.

I’d thought all this was a fairly recent phenomenon—I had always imagined it came from the eighties, when publishers couldn’t conglomerate fast enough and the soul was said to have fled the industry—but these two old books suggest it’s been going on much longer than that. Which makes sense: in publishing, the sky is always falling. Every year is an abysmal year for books and a terrific year for books. Editors no longer edit, except when they do; publishers care only for their bottom line, except when they don’t; the three-martini lunch is always dead, always quietly continuing. That’s what’s fascinating about these excerpts: they’re both about a century old, documenting that same thwarted intersection of art and capitalism.

First, from Arnold Bennett’s Books and Persons, an essay collection composed of work from 1908 to 1911, the parts cited below being from 1908: Read More »

2 COMMENTS

Escapism

May 5, 2014 | by

jane eyre

Today on HuffPo books, Jay Crownover discusses the different subcategories of the “literary bad boy,” which include “The Unattainable” (Sherlock Holmes), “The Nonconformist” (Holden Caulfield, of course), “The Alpha” (Achilles), “The Lothario” (Bond), “The Misunderstood” (Ponyboy from The Outsiders), and, in a bold move, “The Anti-Hero,” as represented by Hannibal Lecter.

It is hard not to wrestle, increasingly, with the listicle-ization of lit, the too-easy shorthand of Virginia Woolf finger-puppets, cheeky pro-book tote bags, Dickens bibs, and twee-pop-Brontë mashups. There is reading, and then there is reading as signifier, in which we don’t lose ourselves in books themselves so much as turn them into easy, quotable advertisements for ourselves. Sexy librarians? Sure. “Keep Calm and Read On”? Okay. “What Would Jane Austen Do”? How about live two hundred years ago in an unrecognizable world with a completely different set of mores? How much less scary when Lady Chatterley’s Lover is not a cultural battleground but just a vintage cover on a T-shirt. Read More »

Comments Off