Oct/Nov 2014 Reviews & Interviews

What I Did Over the Summer

by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

Buy now from Amazon! It is a drizzly Saturday. A proper excuse for resting a tricky lower back, it might seem A friend has just filled out a Facebook questionnaire. The result: the proper director for a movie version of his life story is Woody Allen. (Last week he discovered he had the personality of Marilyn Monroe, so I can only assume that the movie will do well at the box-office.) A biography of Rilke lies waiting for another hour of attention, until it will be set aside once again, a starting gun, of sorts, for a thoughtful walk around the house.

A mere three weeks and forever ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing another Red Pine volume for this issue: The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse. How remarkable that those poems can reach me across the centuries and translation. Moreso, across the distance between a mountain hermitage and a small apartment in a nondescript Richmond, Virginia, neighborhood, filled with books somehow salvaged from a crumbling world and endless electronic patter.

In the end, it will be the patter and not the centuries that will make the likes of Stonehouse and Rilke impenetrable to us. We are helpless before it. I love the new baby pictures as much as the next person, hold out hope, even amidst the impossible clutter of jihadi YouTube accounts, pop wisdom and hidden fees, that access will create a better and unimaginable world.

The second edition of Edward de Vere was Shake-speare: at long last the proof is downloaded to Kindle and glistening on its virtual shelf. A bold, colorful new cover provides more attraction to the browsing eye. A spiffing new table of contents divides it into more easily digested chunks. It seems the proper time to reflect upon the effort thus far and to make plans for the days ahead.

The unmistakable pattern has returned. I have been queried, with a sense of perfect empowerment, as to just when I intend to pay due respect to the stockholders in the territories in which I have chosen to write.

The hints had become bolder and more persistent, for some months. Simple compliments where compliments are due is decidedly not sufficient. What would be the point to investing oneself to such a degree, of assiduously forming a social network, at the cost of so much time and personal integrity, if one sought only to be paid what anyone might receive based upon accomplishments? There are formularies to be observed, organization dues to be paid. It is difficult to imagine a continuation of sales for your little effort (What was the title, again?) without a proper respect and annual dues being remitted. When the actual direct communication came, in exasperated response to my being impossibly blind to the growing number and force of hints, it read like a somewhat vague observation on life in general. Out of context, it was just a bit of aimless mumbling. My interlocutor is a more or less sophisticated operator by contemporary terms.

Within a couple of weeks sales went to zero.

Kindle publishing has gratifyingly proven to be every bit as easy as advertised, on the front end, and remains every bit as undiscovered from that point onward. The site map should read "Terra Incognita" in every direction beyond the basic platform. Various depictions of sea-monsters just beyond the edges of the known world would be to the point.

The entire lack of procedure after the text is downloaded can only be disconcerting. It has been less than a year since I downloaded my first text, and, already, I can barely remember a time before "review trolls" were a necessary part of my calculations. "Hot topics" attract them and Amazon does not feel its time is well-spent in removing such reviews upon the complaints of small Indy publisher-accounts. Anyone with an Amazon customer-account can write a review on any book without having purchased or read the book. Of course, purchasing and reading the book before reviewing would only empower one's opponent.

There is actually a sub-culture of attacking opposition books after this fashion. The trolls can become quite famous, within their tiny enclaves, for their exploits, and this is all the encouragement that is necessary. Surely years of publishing on the Internet (or half an hour of reading almost any public comment thread on the web) should have tipped me off to the virtual certainty of this aspect of the business. An after-the-fact analysis makes clear that the knowledgeable Kindle Indy-publisher networks a large group of positive reviewers before hazarding his or her work against the Scyllae and Charybdii lurking in every strait.

It was also to be expected that an industry would immediately appear offering to provide "the secrets" to financial success publishing on the platform. Examples of the shining successes achieved through "the method" are (every bit as predictably) vague. That a modest fee is involved could almost go without mentioning. The sites and e-books rapidly assembled as part of this marketing territory may even bring the investors some small profit. It seems highly unlikely that their customers will be able to say the same in greater numbers than those who go it alone. In fact, everyone knows the key to success: publish soft porn.

Should you wander over to the Kindle Book main pages to verify my observations, you will find quite another world. There is little or no soft porn. There are probably no independently published titles at all, only e-book versions of titles from traditional publishers slowly foundering in the conditions found in the new world. You will have to drill down quite some ways in order to find the Indy soft porn blockbusters.

Well, autumn has arrived. I'm not about to allow its pleasures to be wasted. The over the air television antenna still needs a final tweak to stave off the occasional degradation of the signal. I need to develop a plan to replace the DVD player that has given up the ghost after a shamefully short time. The temperature is expected to be perfect for bicycle riding, into the satellite-foreseeable future, the chance of precipitation low. My new hometown waits patiently to be known in more intimate detail. Already it has revealed a surprising amount of character, along its tree shaded avenues, overhead railroad trestles and WPA Greek-revival architecture. I intend to reward both it and myself for our efforts by making it the locale of a novel.

If there will prove to be no self-appointed gate-keepers for Richmond novels, all of this will amount to days well occupied and the opportunity to employ skills quietly assembled over years. To choose to do a novel is in itself risky but perhaps it will be permitted to succeed or fail based upon its merits and who can ask for more?


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