Sunday, October 3, 2010

A better world

Other Press has its suite of offices in New York City on Park Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Streets. The 6 Train stops under the building, it's a ten minute walk south from Grand Central, a twelve minute walk east from Penn Station, and a five minute walk from Herald Square. In a pinch you can make it from the Port Authority in twenty minutes and the 34th Street NY Waterway bus stops a block away. If nothing else, it is convenient, almost too easy to get to, smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. The center of somebody's universe, the publishing capital of America. You get a corner office at this address, you better watch your ego -- you're gonna wind up thinking you're a tastemaker instead of a panderer.

Best to keep reminding yourself that this town can be as provincial as a hamlet in a holler, especially when we get to talking to ourselves, those of us in the publishing racket, slurping our happy hour libations, wishing we could put the technological genie back in his effin bottle. Fat chance. The little bastard is here to stay, memory, plastic, pixels and all. It feels like we're working in one big echo chamber these days. Making it downright debilitating when you’re trying to bring books to market, when you're wanting to think positive thoughts. That's why when we get a touch of the spleen, we behave like Ishmael and take to the waterfront. There we stare at the inky river and catch our breath, imagining a bigger country than the one we inhabit, somewhere out there to the west, with miles of road winding through green hills and quaint villages where people read. We stand there and ask ourselves, where are they, the incorruptible ones, the culture warriors and keepers of the flame? Let's fire a cannon over the Hudson and see what comes to the surface. Nothing. Not even bubbles.

The effin Hudson only flows one way, south, down into the harbor and out into the cold Atlantic. Blame it on history, blame it on geology, blame it on The System. Blame it on your Aunt Hedy. The feeble-minded claim it's the end-times. Let them wait to be scooped up by Big Daddy. The rest of us are trying to eke out a living by publishing books. Heaven help us. The waterfront isn't doing any good today. This godawful wind has torn up the coast and shredded the yachtsman's pennants. Gulls huddle on the lee side of the old ship terminal as Jersey disappears behind a sudden rain squall.
If only we could turn back the clock. If only the giant media corporations hadn't bought us. If only we'd gotten on board the digital revolution sooner. If only. If only. 2010 is three-quarters over. Get a grip.

You wanna talk to these kids living two and three to a flat in the sketchy neighborhoods you abandoned years ago, starving for authenticity, already priced out of the funkier precincts, pushing to shift the center of gravity away from corporate Manhattan -- they don't put technology at the center of their experience, they just use it to find each other and stay connected. Go to them. They'll treat you with respect. They'll listen to your war stories. They'll order your books if your books are any good. Just don't tell them that they remind you of yourself when you were young -- even if it's true. They don't want to hear that shite. Instead, return their generosity with your own. They deserve your open-heartedness, for they are open-hearted. Remember: no matter how depressed you get, don't let on that you feel that way. They're gonna make a better world. Smile and horse around with them, make it genuine, and keep telling yourself,
they're gonna make a better world. Even if you didn't.

1 comment:

  1. We better treat them nice because they are gonna have to support a shite load of us baby boomers.