Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyUsed Books of the Future II

  • Sun, 30 Sep 2012 10:47:40    Permalink

    Up in Cape Breton all week mowing my lawn (with a chainsaw) and working on my walking book  I did not, I swear, buy, sell, or catalog an antiquarian book for the duration of my stay. So this weeks blog will be about old books in a once-removed sort of way. (See my blog entry of November 27, 2011 for Used Books of the Future I )When I wasnt writing or chainsawing, I was reading a wonderful used book called In the Hand of Dante , a novel by Nick Tosches published by Little, Brown in 2002. Nick, a devotee of Huberts Museum  had helped me with some research for my book Huberts Freaks  so, when a friend sent me a copy of the novel, I jumped right on it. The story revolves around the discovery, by a modern gangster aesthete, of the original manuscript of Dantes Divine Comedy. Of course, the thing is of incalculable value, and Tosches takes us through the many steps of its authentication, evaluation, and sale in a most convincing manner. So theres your rare books component. This theme is woven in with a dense, rich, thoroughly entertaining narrative thread - from Dantes point of view - of the poet's struggles to produce his masterpiece. The biographical and literary insights are magnificent, proving that Tosches, the Homer of American deviance, is also a learned and insightful scholar. But what I most enjoyed about the book, apart from his funny and spot-on fuck you rants against modern society, was his analysis of the publishing industry. (I should mention that the gangster aesthete, aside from killing his first man when he was six years old, is also an author.) A few high spots "In thirty years, I had seen the publishing racket reduced to a drab, unimaginative, and unsuccessful form of corporate salesmanship that grew every day more devastating in its mediocrity Random House, Knopf, Pantheon, Crown, Vintage, Bantam, Doubleday, Dell, and others were now all owned by Bertelsmann of Germany. Viking, Penguin, and others were now owned by Pearson of Britain. Simon & Schuster, Scribner, Pocket Books, and Atheneum were all owned by Viacom;  Warner Books and Little, Brown were now owned by AOL St. Martins, Henry Holt & Co., and Farrar Straus & Giroux were owned by another Kraut conglomerate Rupert Murdochs News Corporation owned Harper Collins, Lippincott, Morrow, Avon and othersI had been a shylock; I had been a bookie; I knew my way with figures The arithmetic here was quite simple. AOL Time Warner was valued at more than two hundred billion dollars Time Warner Trade Publishing had revenues of about three hundred million a year. These book publishing revenues equaled little more than one tenth of one percent of the value of AOL, Time Warner a mote in the eye, a minuscule morsel between the teeth of the Moloch of mediocrity that was the worlds largest entertainment and media conglomerate." It gets worse from there. But youll have to read the rest yourself. ViaLibri shows 447 copies available, ranging in price from $1 to $73, so there should be enough for all of you. As a closing commentary on this wonderful trade of ours, the $1 copy is a hardcover which appears to be new. The $73 copy is a paperback.

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