The Questionless Books Interview: Poet and Professor Darren Wershler
Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, The Questionless Books Interview gets a host of lit-types (authors, editors, publishers, publicists, designers, booksellerss, readers, bloggers, journalists, etc.) to finish a bunch of statements about the state of literature and the "future of books".
Darren Wershler (aka Darren Wershler-Henry) is the author or co-author of 12 books, most recently, Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg (U of Toronto Press), and Update (Snare), with Bill Kennedy. Darren is an Assistant Professor of English at Concordia University, where he works with the Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) group, and is also part of the faculty at the CFC Media Lab TELUS Interactive Art & Entertainment Program. He now lives in Montreal.
I am the right hemisphere of Christian Bök's brain.
I am known to not give a shit about NASCAR; turn my computer off on weekends, sometimes; cook better than your mom; understand the difference between cowboy boots and Kenneth Cole and be comfortable in either; tip well; be fiercely loyal to my friends; believe that Boston's "More Than A Feeling" and the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" rank among the pinnacles of 20th century artistic achievement; be able to get serious Asian fusion at 8 pm and where to get a decent cheeseburger at 3 am; on occasion, sing tunelessly to your pets; and finish what I start. If you can get me to start. At least, that's what my Facebook profile says, and I would never lie to Facebook.
I do this in Montreal, now. I used to do it in Toronto.
I do this because I have outsourced my creativity to Bill Kennedy and his army of robots, and it's all the stuff that's left over other than writing.
I do this when I get a moment between changing my son's diaper and brief sessions of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.
The way I do this is subject to sudden change.
At its core, a Writer is the person who sucks it up and does the work.
As opposed to an Author, which is the means by which writing is categorized, sorted and promoted, rather than being directly or necessarily connected to any given writer.
A Writer is responsible for making rent.
As opposed to an Author, who is suddenly and implausibly responsible for all of the preposterous claims that agents, editors and publishers make on their behalf.
At its core, Publishing is a public good, subvented by taxpayers, rather than anything resembling a for-profit "business," and we do ourselves a massive disservice by pretending otherwise.
As opposed to Editing, which is the collaborative project whereby a writer and an editor build documents which will eventually (and sometimes by turns) be either disowned by or attributed to an author.
A Publisher should always remember that there is no general audience, and that trying to adapt publishing so that it works according to the dictates of a celebrity economy is not only stupid, but probably evil.
As opposed to an Editor, who should always … what? When is a publisher opposed to an editor? When a publisher doesn't have the presence of mind to trust the editor? Then it's time for the editor to find another job.
A Manuscript that's ready to be read by others is probably available in bits and pieces in various locations on the Internet.
As opposed to a Book that's ready to be read by others, which is something that might have been around for decades before people realized its significance.
A Manuscript should always be open to negotiation.
As opposed to a Book, which should always be findable, accessible, and available in both print and digital versions.
At its core, Bookselling was a great way of life but a horrible way to make a living.
As opposed to Book Marketing, which, when it's done on behalf of publishers, is a noble but thankless task, because Chapters/Indigo would rather stock scented candles and cat calendars than books.
The smallest unit of narrative is the grunting noise my son makes when he wants me to do something.
To be a Book a thing must:
- contain at least 50 percent Canadian-authored creative content, text or graphic
- have at least 48 printed pages between the covers (with the exception of children's books, which must contain at least 24 printed pages)
- have a print run of at least 350 copies
- be published principally in English, French or one of Canada's Aboriginal languages, and
- acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, if produced by a publisher receiving Book Publishing Support
There is no reason to be scared of the future, unless you're a writer, author, editor, publisher, agent, bookseller or book marketer.
The biggest reason to anticipate the future is that when my son is a little older, I might once again have time to put my pants on before writing.
In the future we will all have pants on. Or maybe not.
At his/her core, a Reader is the only person on the planet less satisfied than a writer.