I think it was Will Self who in the past has made several claims the novel is dead – usually when he is publicizing his latest novel. He is not alone. Many have said something similar, often for a similar reason. It’s an old rort. The look at me novelist, engaging in a little self-flagellation over his chosen craft – the novel – following up with, and here, look at my latest – you got it – novel.
I believe in the slow novel. The slow-dying novel. Perhaps the problem is not that the novel is dead, rather we are being ‘entertained’ by as good as brain or industry or novel-dead novelists or ‘deader than deader’ bought novelists. It’s not entirely their fault – they have been led down through this novel is dead garden path so long they couldn’t help but drink at the poisoned novel is dead well – lured there by you got it – money for the next novel.
We still live in an age of publishing which is owned and controlled largely by giant mixed-media conglomerates using consolidation-techniques of the late 20th century dribbling over into now in publishing that seems to have a project to kill off diversity in publishing.
Using the constricted market, the consolidated conglomerate run industry has been made easier business – fewer less diverse products, selling way more copies of each un-diverse novel, creating their ‘stars’ who weave the same old same un-diverse old rope you find in any shopwindow of limited product-range where variety is only now a word on a magazine cover.
What would happen if new-well-developed craft appeared on the front bookshop-paid-for-by-conglomerates table. Would readers have a nervous breakdown?
Instead of fewer and fewer choices by fewer and fewer voices which logically will one day be one – one publisher with one author on one table with a zillion books – the same book sold over and over and over for centuries. Sound good? It does to me. All that free time not having to say: when am I going to read a book again? I read it! Ten years ago. What a relief!
My once doctoral research looked at the period when digitisation once offered a chance at democratisation over the oldie-big-corporation-run publishing industry.
The big players killed off one such possible – Gemstar. The owner – Yuen. Where is he now BTW? He didn’t look at the history of Allen Lane – psst drop the price – Yuen didn’t look or didn’t hear.
Maybe he was too busy being cosyied up to – and cosying up himself to them of course – hearing one or more of the big players say with a smile: come in on old boy. It’s seductive – money for the new business/novel. Have a chair in our club where the good old boys and girls enveloped Mr Gemstar with ideas of ebooks and ereaders as luxury-items. Leave it to us old boy to run the market and it will flock to you… old boy.
What noise does a Penguin make? Let’s all sound like Penguins for a moment – in 1935. 6p of Penguins chanting in old money. Not six shillings for old hard covers. Allen Lane ‘the bugger that ruined the trade’ – who made the paperback boom – dropped the price dramatically. And did the paperback boom – like a thousand penguins in the snow and ice arriving at the ocean. The paperback which we all grew to love and carry around everywhere. We want hardcovers too of course – but could we as well have grown to love an ebook that stood for democratised literature?
And so with the not so new digital book in the not so great industry, the offshoot of paperbacks that once dominated the market – standing for democratisation of information – the small e-book companies that once sprang up in the 1990s became only Amazon and Apple – and bingo the digital book revolution supporting wide uncontrolled literary ideas-of-reader-choice shrivelled up – as any endangered species in any jungle, you care to roam into, will when unsupported.
The free-market e-book died from neglect – well, in truth, it was shot between the eyes by big publishers – with the e-books that remained corralled into industry-run zoos under the reasoning and guidance of ‘let’s make it all a more manageable-market old boy’, with the management-cry of more profit for the old boys and old girls culturally watching over the e-book. And what did readers get in total? An endangered and on-its-last-legs novel in control of top-down economic-political controllers, as it once was before the early market-free days of the paperback boom.