Reading Eric’s and some other comments on Madonna’s literary enterprise has helped me see that there are so many people who share my concerns. The problem is that writers are isolated, and not exactly in the mindset of conglomerates, which makes it easy for the last to act by “Divide and Rule.”
What we can do as individuals is still a lot, and can make a difference. As teachers and professors we can teach how to discern, maybe create a new form of Comparative Literature, that will compare real books to the nonbooks polluting our culture.
As reviewers we can create this kind of review, in which a new book of value is presented along with a nonbook from among the “best sellers.” Compare a “how-to” book to passages in literature which deal with human dilemmas in lasting and forceful ways.
Those among us who are successful literary writers can pressure the houses that publish them to devote a percentage of their budget to literary works chosen for their literary value alone, and to invest in their publication the same resources invested in the selling of a commercial book.
We can also demand from the newspapers that, along with and on the same page as, their list of the weekly “best sellers,” they publish a list of “best books.” Even if many newspapers belong to the same owner-publisher, they cannot exist without their journalists’ co-operation.
We can patronize independent bookstores and consider the slight difference in price as our individual contribution to the sustenance of culture. Being creative by nature, we can devise innumerable ways to have our concerns voiced and heard, create change. And since writing is our common language, we should strive to make it the real global language, by opening up to the rich diversity of the international spectrum. This applies especially to the insularity of the U.S.A.
As for the nature of change we’re witnessing – the second law of thermodynamics applies only to Time, not to what we do in time. Of course the past cannot be changed, but our actions as a society or as individuals can be changed at present and in the future. I am encouraged by the model of the Green Movement. It has built awareness and brought about a reversal of actions: threatened with the possibility that people won’t invest in or patronize companies that do harm to our environment, conglomerates as well as small businesses go out of their way to manifest that they are acting ecologically. Maybe we should enlist the Green Movement’s support. After all, pollution is pollution, be it intellectual or physical.
I was also thinking that, left to their own devices, big businesses do not find it in their interest to support independent thinking. An intelligent and culturally well-informed reader is not the type of consumer or laborer easy to manipulate. Therefore, I think it is in the interest of our society and democracy, not only in that of the writer, to reverse the tide.