Thursday, April 27, 2006

It looks like the real thing. It tastes like the real thing

There's a big hoo-ha going on at the moment about a highly-marketed (heck, even I've seen the adverts in the tube stations) 17-year-old Harvard author being found out for plagiarism. Full details on the Harvard Crimson website which broke the story. And there's a lot of interesting online debate about this as well. If interested, head for your favorite book discussion site and follow the links from there.

Anyhow, since I've commented about this elsewhere, I don't feel the need to go into the details here. But what I find really depressing is that it highlights the patronising assumption that readers will buy any old steaming pile of literary excreta, written by a committee to a market-researched blueprint, as long as it's marketed right.

It also reminds me of the incredible let-down I felt when someone I know who works for a small publisher's was chatting about his work. He's a nice person. He loves books. He gave great poetry. But then he nearly broke my heart. You know those little hand-written tags that get put up on shelves to recommend a particular book? They aren't always written by enthusiastic bookstore employees with a love of reading. They're sometimes written by marketing people who pay bookstores to put them up. Really. And this actually makes me want to cry.

The thing is, I think books are lovely. And because I think they're lovely, I've always believed that the people who deal with them love them too. That bookstores and libraries are a kind of magical place where things are just a little bit better than in the outside world. I've always thought that if people didn't actually like books, they'd just not bother with them and go off to watch the telly or eat cheese or something. So it's really upsetting to find out that what I thought was genuine enthusiasm and love of the written word could actually be faked.

For some reason, seeing these tags now makes me more sad about cynicism in the publishing industry than any number of cars driving over the pulped Mills & Boons in the M6 Toll road.

But in happier news, at least Dumpier A. Cramps of International Pharmaceutical Corp hasn't given up on me and my seemingly limitless desire for herbal viagra.


Candy said...

You've pinpointed an interesting aspect of advertising: we feel lied to when we discover that what we thought was a sincere endorsement turns out to be something bought and paid for. We feel manipulated. The thing is, people have become more resistant and cynical to many types of traditional advertising, so many companies have resorted to masking their advertising efforts. The bastards.

Karen Scott said...

Hey EAP, are you a Brit?

EvilAuntiePeril said...

You're right Candy. Oddly, this sort of marketing doesn't bother me so much when it comes to products that need some kind of branding to distinguish themselves, like T-shirts. But when it comes to things like books that I see as the unique result of a creative process, the idea of this really disturbs me

Hi Karen, thanks for stopping by. I'm a naturalised Brit by virtue of living here since my teens. So Brit by adoption, perhaps!

Karen Scott said...

Ahhh... I knew there were too many Brit references for you to not have at least lived here, lol.

EvilAuntiePeril said...

Karen, was it the telly or the M6 that gave me away?

McVane said...

No, it was your username that gave you away. It's either that or this:

08:43: Humidity high. Fur v frizzy. Nutter with a beard came round offering free cruise tickets. Sounded like one of those timeshare scams. Who’d want a trip in the Med this time of year? Cold callers - scum of the earth.

11:43: Bloody rain. Hate wet feet.

Enuff said.

Karen cott said...

What Maili said, plus the Mills and Boon reference of course (g)