Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: "Thank You for Not Reading"

One great thing about getting back out in the blogosphere is that I've reconnected with Patti Abbott, whose blog features weekly "Forgotten Friday books," a great place to discover – or rediscover – great, but not best-selling reads.

Maybe it's my mood. Maybe it's the latest rejection for my Dogs Don't Lie (a good rejection, but still...). Maybe it's Mercury still being retrograde. Whatever the reason, I found myself looking through my bookshelf for Dubravka Ugresic's spot-on skewering of the publishing industry, Thank You for Not Reading, and choosing it for my Forgotten Friday book.

Now, TYFNR isn't that old - it was first translated into English in 2003 and I found it as a Dalkey Archive paperback the year later. But it never received the attention it deserved. I guess that's what happens to small press authors without a country (Ugresic writes about feeling at loose ends ever since the dissolution of Yugoslavia) unless they fall into one of two recognized categories: the Gloomy Writer (an Eastern European we welcome, because he confirms our stereotypes) or the self-styled Great Man (as in "The Great Bulli"), one of those self-important, macho types (think Saul Bellows, I did) whose existence depends on subservient women. Ugresic herself is not at all gloomy. Despite the depressing subject matter, this is a laugh-out loud book, at least for those who have lived through the rejections, the silent (or missing) agents, and the general foolishiness of this industry ... and still keep on writing. What kind of world is it where Joan Collins can open a book fair? A very dark and silly one. "Come back, cynics!" Ugresic concludes one particularly sharp essay. "All is forgiven."

This is a great book for days like today, when you get a rejection and are able to think, "Well, at least it's a good rejection." You know who you are.

On a serious note: "The literary market does not tolerate the old-fashioned idea of a work of art as a unique, unrepeatable, deeply individual artistic act. In the literary industry, writers are obedient workers, just a link in the chain of production..." Yup, what more needs be said?


Todd Mason said...

Cool. I wonder if the original title was so close to Amis's, which might've hurt the commercial prospects in this country.

Clea Simon said...

I don't know Todd, but I suspect that being a collection of essays on a tiny press didn't help. Glad they translated it, though!

Andreea said...

Hey there, I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I like it very much:) Great picture (the cat)! I also have a black cat:)

Clea Simon said...

Thanks, Andreea!

Katha said...

I was sorry to hear that "Dogs Don't Lie" was rejected because I really liked the idea. Hope you won't give up on it now!!!

Clea Simon said...

Not to worry, Katha. "Dogs Don't Lie" is being sent around now!