The Hatchet Job is dead — long live the Hatchet Job!

Remember the Dale Peck years? Sigh. So much outrage to write about. Well, fear not! They’re back, says this guy. I guess it’s finally tiime to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside. Next book we see, you guys hold the arms, while I work the body.

If the hatchet job ever died, it is — like Gawker — back with a vengeance. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the hatchet job is now the dominant mode of literary criticism for the internet era, tailor-made, as Larissa Pham writes in The Nation, to “make the rounds, dropped in DMs and threaded down Twitter timelines.” The market logic of the contemporary book review, like the rest of journalism today, is the logic of virality: clicks equal revenue. How do you get clicks on a book review, the most marginal of media? You write a shocking critical assassination of a revered author or, depending on your perspective, a long-awaited takedown of an overrated hack. These reviews are retweeted, en masse, with a sarcastic eye roll or a thumbs-up. Either way, engagement is up. If we take the hatchet job seriously, and examine it as a literary-critical genre, we can begin to unpack its critical strategy. This latter consists, essentially, of ad hominem elitism: the hatchet job is a personal attack on the author, and one which espouses highbrow ideals over middlebrow ones. This strategy is so effective, and the hatchet job so central a cultural force, that it has shaped a correlative form of contemporary writing: the literature of painful self-awareness.

Thursday news roundup

Is reader’s block a real thing?

For me, yes… Especially with fiction. Poetry is my “job”, as it were — the writing, editing, teaching, and judging of — so I find it easier to plow on through texts that don’t jazz me. But I’m a slow reader of fiction to begin with, and because it’s more mysterious to me in terms of how it’s working, I get more absorbed in a good book. That said, I sometimes come off a book that knocked my socks off (Klara and the Sun last year and Piranesi this year) and find myself unable to choose what to read next. It’s like when you take a perfect bite of dinner and then don’t want to eat more because that last forkful was so tasty you don’t want to spoil its memory in your mouth. Anyway, it’s not just me, apparently.

It’ll happen to you……

Reader’s block. The struggle is real. Or at least it is for me. I can see it in my reading log. I’ll read a book that I fall in love with so completely — something like Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Dial A for Aunties — and the experience will give me a sort of high. But then it will end and I’ll be at a loss. I’ll read at least seven books I only feel meh about, DNFing god knows how many others, before finally picking up a book that gives me a fraction of the joy that last awesome title gave me. God, I hate reading slumps.

And these past two years, the reader’s block has been even worse. Pandemic-related stress and anxiety have torpedoed attention spans. Our cognitive load — the amount of information our working memory can hold at any one time — has shrunk. “Previously, you might be willing to put that little bit of effort in because you get that extra reward from reading the book,” neuroscientist and psychologist Oliver J. Robinson told the folks at Refinery29. “But if you don’t care about the reward anymore because you’re anhedonic or you’re miserable or you’ve got other things on your mind, then you’re not going to bother.”

Sound familiar, anyone?

Tuesday newsday

Publishing continues to wait for a new normal

Good luck, publishing. Get in line. We’d all like a new normal, but the new normal might just be constant change. In a weird way, I suspect this cultural brushfire will make the entire sector finally wake up and realize the world has changed around us and we need to adapt. It just did it slowly for about 100 years and now it’s really ramped up. I’d like a new normal as well, but as much as the “old normal” benefitted me, I don’t want it to be that. Adversity has always yielded something exciting from the arts sector. Let’s just be thankful that this time it’s not war, oppression, or the Black Plague. Oh, wait, it’s the Black Plague. More of a Dark Ochre Plague, really. Peuce? Something like the colour of the fingertips of that shop kid who wore the Led Zeppelin 3/4 sleeve shirt in high school and who had a whole section of the parking lot for smoking in.

New Normal vs. Old Normal | Lead Read Today | Lead Read Today

The supply chain, an aspect of publishing that is generally overlooked by most in the industry, was the focus of intense interest in 2021. Stories began appearing in early summer detailing how forces connected to the pandemic were causing severe supply chain problems in virtually all industries, especially those that depend on overseas vendors.

Publishing supply chain issues were first brought to the fore in a July 6 BISG webinar, which said truck driver shortages, widespread port congestion, and skyrocketing container costs had already begun to put pressure on the industry’s ability to deliver books in time for the holiday season. Exacerbating the situation were widespread labor shortages that made it difficult for Amazon, Ingram, and other companies that operate large warehouses to find enough workers. The book manufacturing industry was also confronting its own long-standing problem with finding skilled workers, while also dealing with paper shortages, all of which combined to result in capacity issues at printers in the second half of 2021, and experts believe the printing crunch will spill over well into 2022.

To confront the immediate problem of getting books on shelves for 2021, publishers engaged in a juggling act, focusing on timely delivery of their big frontlist titles while delaying the releases of other books. Publishers also looked to move more printing back to the U.S., while also using print-on-demand more often. Speakers at an October 6 PW/Westchester Publishing Services webinar said that the long-term solution of addressing supply chain issues was more automation.

What-year-is-this? news roundup

Welcome to 2022, which is a good year for Soylent Green. It’s hard to believe the pandemic is almost a toddler now. Boy is he ever really getting around on those fat little legs. Please leave the basement door open on the off chance he makes a dash for the stairs.

bonfire & fireworks | Setting things on fire all night long.… | Christine |  Flickr