Posted by: roamingolivia | February 14, 2011

A new political slogan


Half as many books, twice as good.

That’s possibly a weird political slogan, but it’s something I was joking about with my boyfriend tonight. I have been reading The Hare With the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, and you can expect an exuberant review later, when I’ve finished it. It does not wow me in a struck-me-over-the-head way. This is not a Nabokov, or a laboured work of genius. It’s just what I think all (or very, very many) non-fiction books should be like, and aren’t. It made me think how much better things would be if we published half as many books, but they were as good as this one is. We joked about it, but I kind of mean it.

That brings me, of course, to the sub-slogan for this: More subsidies for copy editors. I think copy editors are so important. I don’t have one, and you’ve seen the typos that can come out on this blog. Things in print should basically just be better.

Of course, it’s an unusual political slogan, but I might still write Obama. It seems odd, and very circumscribed, compared to these grand visions of change and democracy. But it could be achievable, which would be good. And we could all measure it and agree at the end.

(Okay, maybe not agree. There are lots of problems, and I think one of the main ones concerns what constitutes “good”. But read The Hare with the Amber Eyes and come back to me and tell me if you don’t agree that it is. And to have that commonality will be important for crafting our definitions.)

Any ideas on implementation? So far all the (joking) ideas my boyfriend and I came up with involve (a) nationalising book publishing (hasn’t worked so well in the past), (b) creating panels (but who will staff them? this just dislocates the problem) or (c) measuring according to popular demand. But in all of them, and particularly in (b) and (c), and especially (c), the main issue will be keeping people like Dan Brown out of publishing, and better people in. Yes, I am essentially talking about anti-populist measures.

So: any ideas?

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Responses

  1. Copy editing! Yes! There aren’t enough copy editors in the world, and they aren’t paid enough either.
    I don’t want to think about populist measures. The problem with improving publishing is you can’t objectively score something subjective – look at the attempts to improve public schools and standardized testing. But you know all this.
    Money, of course – specifically sales – is what drives the process. It is possible to write clean, correct prose and still tell a good story, but the two don’t seem to coexist as often as we’d like.

  2. sounds like the “rent’s too damn high” political slogan of some guy running for pres

    • I did not write that. Someone borrowed my address. Fred? kids?

  3. Haha! It sounds like something dad would say 🙂


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