We live in a time of paradigm changes, which makes it a very exciting era to be in. The bishop of Truro recently gave the Church of England six years before it gives up the ghost (and I'm not talking of the holy ghost!) ; all of art in its many forms is slowly wandering out of the desert of solipsism; physics, they said in the news this week, is on the brink of a whole new Copernican revolution; the explosion of social media has really changed the game on just about any front you can think of.
I have a daughter who is tearing around the country promoting the Indie film she wrote and starred in and which has done very well on the Indie film circuit garnering ten awards, including three for best actress. I bring this up because her struggle against the old paradigm, "the film industry" is very telling. Any time an "industry" moves in to represent the voice of the artist, then you have something like the kind of totalitarian regime that we, in our "free" society, love to denigrate.
The Hollywood monopoly still stands in so far as it continues to dictate our viewing options, but there are noises now from down the ladder, loud noises that are questioning the gate-keepers and why they were ever given that power in the first place. Robert Redford put his mega-millions to very good use when he started his film fest at Sundance (quite apart from anything else, they sell fantastic clothes!) but inevitably the renegade morphs into the status quo, and though those films are still good, they have begun to rely more and more on big money and star-power.
You might wonder why I am going to such lengths to describe the film industry (apart from the obvious fact that my daughter has taken up arms against it! (http://bit.ly/ImagineImBeautiful) I'm going on about it because this kind of indy movement is happening all over the arts and not in a small way in the book industry. Independent publishers have been around for a while, and of course we all know about "the big six," one of which (happily for me!) published my own book. There are reasons of course for shooting for traditional publishing and reasons for going down the independent road. Both have their bonuses and pitfalls. But something else is beginning to emerge, a sort of half-way house between the independent publishers and the big industry ones, something that gives more power to the author (check out booktrope.com)
The truth of the matter and the impetus for change is that the voice of the artist doesn't necessarily conform to industry standards. Actually, how could it possibly? In an earlier blog I was talking about the difficulty Pulitzer prize winning Paul Harding faced trying to find a publisher for "Tinkers." He eventually went with this teeny little publishing company called Bellevue, and I am sure he must have worried for a while if he shouldn't be committed to Bellevue (on another level) for putting his hard-won opus into the hands of an underfunded company with a staff of one or two. For Harding it payed off big time. But there ought to be a larger more consistent outlet for "art" as opposed to "commercial art." Let's make the distinction, call a spade a spade. Who would publish James Joyce, DH Lawrence, Steinbeck, Faulkner, even Marilynne Robinson these days? Is it because their writing is outmoded? No. It's because by industry standards, they could not be successful, meaning, not enough people would cherish them to make a profit. But history will cherish them. The better side of our nature will cherish them. Great art is to be cherished and savoured over time, not sold for the fastest dollar.
We stand at a watershed-moment in many areas of life. All we know is, we don't need more gate-keepers. What we need, and what we are slowly getting, is a new paradigm.
Apologies to designer of this great image for using without permission