Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Celebrities and books

So there was an article in the Evening Standard about authors being pretty annoyed at celebrity books outselling real writing. (article) I can't blame them, what with me an aspiring writer myself, I can understand the sheer frustration at these 'books' outselling something of worth. I guess it's another sign of society's degradation, when the art of storytelling no longer matters, we just consume nonsense about others' 'lives'. Television has gone all 'reality' on us (ironic really because there's little actuality in much of reality shows); a lot of films are devoid of much heart and let's not get into music, shall we? So of course, the book market is going to have its huge share of worthless text.

I will add an aside here by saying I do fall into the category of people who want to appear all intelligent and informed when I have been contemplating reading 'L.A. Candy', the book Lauren Conrad wrote(?) based on her experience on The Hills. In my defense, at least that's one celebrity who isn't undignified or (dare I say stupid?!), not to say that all celebrities who have written something are undignified, it just appears it's an excuse to air their 'issues' and 'life' when really who even cares? I mean Katie Price is on every low-brow mag around the country, do we really want to read more of her from her? Clearly the public do. And there's Hamilton's book: 'My Story'. No offence to the guy, he works hard and all that but seriously? You're like how old - how much of a 'story' can you have? And we all know that these celebrities canna write so they get someone else to. Or worse still, they do write it, like Chris Moyles and the first page induces a moan of despair. It appears to be some sort of necessary rite of passage, as well as selling your 'own' perfume.

So as long as the public seem content to settle for lesser storytelling (if you can even call it that), then authors of substance are going to feel it. It's not up to authors to have to market themselves over the celebrities. It's up to the public to open up their eyes and consume good story and writing. How though, right? When I worked at Ottakar's and Foyles, I couldn't help myself from involuntarily judging anyone who bought the biography of a celebrity who was famous for no real reason - even Stephenie Meyer would be alright in comparison. Right behind them was a sprawling section of decent fiction; so why, why would they pick this book up? I told myself they were buying it as a gift for someone else. I knew I was kidding myself, I knew I couldn't very well slip their copy of Jade Goody's book under the counter and replace it with some Virginia Woolf or Stephen King even while putting it in the bag.

But books and publishing is a commercial market. Just like films, it is about the money. Why else does Hollywood keep churning out comic book hero movies when we're already tired of the formula? Because like drones, we traipse to the cinema and pay the ridiculous amount for ticket and then again like drones, we traipse to the bookstore and buy whatever is on the first two tables. Somehow we've convinced ourselves that short-term 'entertainment' that doesn't make the head hurt is worth it.

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