Thursday, May 16, 2013

For what it's worth

Gutenberg Bible: a complete first edition is worth
US $25-$35 million (from: Luxist)

What's a novel for? A short story? A poem? And what are they worth?
     In an age where stuff is cheap — in the 1976 Eaton's catalogue (like Sears in the U.S.)  the cheapest colour TV (14") was $399.99. That's $1,270.14 in today's dollars; on March 19, 1984 a Proctor-Silex toaster was on sale at K-Mart for $22.88; again, in todays money: $39.82). A toaster at Walmart now costs about $15.00.
     Life is cheap, too. We are all too familiar with the lot of factory workers throughout the developing world and here in North America (Bangladesh is in the news right now, finally); the resurgence of slavery and human trafficking.
     And then there's the factory in China, Foxconn, that makes iPhones and other high-end electronic goods banning their workers from committing suicide.
      In Honduras, "There is a violent death every 74 minutes... and the country has a murder rate more than four times higher than Mexico." according to an article on the BBC News Magazine website.
     In an age where everything has been devalued, except for the absolute essentials like food and fossil fuels, is it any wonder that authors of fiction can't make any money?
     Never mind poets, and writers of so-called "literature." Granted, some novelists strike it rich and become millionaires, billionaires; but these occurrences are as anomalous as winning the lottery or gazing upon the proverbial blue moon.
     So, to answer the question... questions: Entertainment, then that's why we do it; we're like court jesters — distraction, that's what we're for: the slaking of humankind's craving for escape, to suffer along with some made-up character: catharsis.
     But, you say, TV shows, computer games, the Internet, music, the theatre and movies do all that. Look at shows like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," and movies like "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," and "The King's Speech," to name a few. That's where the money is — for people who want to tell stories in this day and age. We must all become screenwriters and cast out lot with hordes of taxi drivers and waiters and dog walkers in L.A. who live their lives waiting for the "ka-ching" of success.
     All things considered, especially in light of the heart-warming news in the first few paragraphs of this post, I guess we should count ourselves lucky even to have the opportunity to write.
     Now I'm really depressed; or at best, just lost for words.
— Michael Hale

No comments:

Post a Comment