There are too many unnecessary books in the world. The culture is saturated. Walking into chain stores such as Borders or Waterstones is like entering a meat-rack of hyped titles, the stacks on the tables waiting to be thumbed before joining the list of publishers' returns. If the author does not network or promote a book, it is as good as dead. Unless they are in the know, how does anyone differentiate the good from the bad? How do you find Anna Kavan? Jeremy Reed A Stranger on Earth - The Life and Work of Anna Kavan.
How did I find Anna Kavan? Those Picador titles, so popular for advancing non-mainstream or cult novelists back in the 70s and 80s, probably. That's when I first read "Ice", maybe 30 years ago. Unclassifiable. Or Robbyn M., one of the girls at work with me then, was a friend/acquaintance of novelists (who knew about novels, duh) - rumour had it (she spread it, no doubt) that she knew someone who was in the house that Helen Garner's "Monkey Grip" (another heroin threaded novel) documents - she may have mentioned Kavan to me. I DO recall her saying that I should read "Julia and The Bazooka", Kavan's only work to dwell on her long-standing drug addiction. I still haven't read that.
Too many books.
As I stood amongst the stands in Kinokuniya in Siam Paragon the other night, I had quite a Kavanesque episode. Jaded old fart that I am, I was looking, as I always am, for something new. Unlikely, hey? What's the chance there is something significant in the World Of Big Literature I haven't heard of by now? I don't mean some brash new FOTM author, all smiles and handshakes, YouTubes and viral marketing (not that I won't stoop to that myself). I mean something substantial.
The secret, as it was for me back in the 70's, is to go by publishers. Picador, Calder, New Directions, Black-Sparrow Press then. New York Review of Books, Serpent's Tail, Hesperus (Peter Owen, Kavan's publisher obviously, others I can't think of here) now.
Then a swelling sensation of contact knocked me aside. From the shelves came a wave of power, desperate strength, as I felt all these excellent NECESSARY books actively vying for my attention. I had visions of the heroes and heroines reaching out to me; effete hands in velvet fluffy sleeves, and coarse nails and stunted fingers on the end coal-dust filthy arms, arms extended from drawing rooms and factories and beetling towers and up out of dank, night-time caverns. Pick me, E@L, pick ME! Don't let my discoveries be forgotten, don't let my message go unheeded, my story untold for another aeon. Don't let others make my mistakes again - I documented them for a good reason... Don't let me sink into oblivion. I have value, I answer your questions or I pose them again in illuminating ways, I offer sanctuary, I blow fresh air into sticky places... Read me, pick me, E@L.
I really did sense this. I really fracking did.
It was overwhelming and I was forced to stand aside to let others browse past me. What would they think of me if I burst into tears of frustration, of insanity? I had the urge to tell them of my hallucinatory epiphany.
A leather vested tough guy with tatts stood absorbed in the poetry section, a woman balancing a baby on her hip browsed gay and lesbian section.
I took a depth breath. I take a deep breath now.
Buy the good books people, buy the good ones. No matter how old or young you are, there is such little time, we have precious little time left. Read and assimilate the best of what there is. Set your chin and nod with the best of them.
Good stuff - read it.