did I just say: modern books are not art?
are modern books art anymore? well, they are the product of the collaboration of many people. like movies and video games. movies praise the director as if they were the only person that matters. but in video games we praise the studio behind it. even though both of them involve the same amount of people or almost the same amount. how can we call a movie the product of a single person, if it has the input and interpretation of so many? it is not the director’s vision. it has the editor’s vision, the composer’s, the actors’, etc.
shouldn’t we do the same thing with books? here’s why I think modern books are not art.
modern books are not art because they are written by many authors. even though there is only one name on the cover. but, they are also the product of collaboration. they are a product. they might begin with an idea written solely by one person. but they are then developed by many. editors, assistants, even marketers and literary agents.
modern books are not art because from the moment the publishers get their hands on a new manuscript they focus all their efforts towards creating the most sellable, likeable and accessible literary product. they only make books that will sell. we do the same thing at krizaliz. publishers make products first, books second. a literary masterpiece emerges in our days despite the intervention of editorial and marketing. and other factors such as trend-chasing.
let me ask you this. was john milton edited? In short, yes. he was asked to write a brief summary. also known as the argument that precedes each book of “paradise lost“. but he was not told to change what he had written. In fact, he edited himself when he published the second edition of his poem. he rearranged it into 12 books instead of 10. but, i feel that it is not fair to compare modern books with a poem that is centuries old. modern books are not art, we, the publishing industry made sure of this.
when editors make corrections and suggestions aren’t they eliminated and suppressing the author’s voice? when we read a modern book published within the constraints of the publishing industry, are we really reading a book? or, are we reading a product that has artistic and literary features. modern books are not art because they are not literature.
in the same way we experience and classify video games. games are not art. even though they have artistic features. but, movies are art. despite having a similar development cycle than video games. the difference between games and movies is arbitrary. nonsensical even. why is one art and the other one isn’t? movies have “autours” while games have teams behind them.
and what about books? they have both. authors and development teams behind them. an author is a publisher and a publisher is not an author. so, when we read a book are we reading the author’s original vision or are we reading the product that was made by the publisher? is it a work of art that was sold or is it a product with artistic features? modern books are not art. and yet, they are advertised as such.
because what are editors if not gatekeepers. as t ss elliot once wrote: “editors (i) have the power over what is published and what is considered good literature.” sorta. i’m paraphrasing.
the publishing industry prescribes what is good and bad literature. or what is art and what isn’t. modern books are not art. publishers make models. they rely on formulas. they sell products that are meant for mass consumption. designed to be appealing. modern books are not art, even though they are written by artists.
publishers design literary products that are meant to be bought. perhaps enjoyed. well tuned products in the same way apple releases new phones every year that will please as many people as possible. and their phones look pretty and make pretty sounds. they are made by artists. they have artistic features. but they are not art. they might be advertised as such; but, they aren’t.
modern books are not art.
they may begin as such but they don’t end up as art. the publishing industry makes sure of that. every author is made sure to comply with editorial norms. their wild styles are corrected and supplanted by the “standard practices” of literary oppression. each book is sold as a different and unique experience among thousands of unique and different experiences expertly crafted by professionals. each book is a product just like the last one. except this one is better than last year’s. it comes in blue. it comes in red. but it is always the same.
we have reached the point where books are antiquated. they have become devoid of meaning. novels are edited into submission. short stories are complied into neat categories. genres enclose the mad genius of the poet. style evaporates the freedom of the soul. for books are alive. but the publishing industry sells reanimated corpses. edited towards perfection. prescribed to be bought. planned as products. relegated to niche consumers. published; but, never written.