Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Government Needs to Save Publishing

Right now, on one of the major broadcast networks, there should be a weekly series called "The Nanny Diaries." It should be starring a fresh, up-and-coming actress as the lead, George Clooney as her on again/off again love interest, and as a clever bit of inside joke casting Fran Dresher as Mrs. X. We should be in season 4 or 5 by now, reaching the point where the little boy is aging out of needing a nanny and the complications that arise from that. This show should be filling the time slot that "Lipstick Jungle" wasted.

The film version of "Lovely Bones" should've won the Oscar for Best Picture last year.

There should be an action/mystery TV series called, "Plum's Level" based on the Stephanie Plum character created by Janet Evanovich.

Nickelodeon should be airing a cartoon series entitled "Petra and Calder" based on the Blue Balliett books.

"A Tale of Desperaux" should've been produced in traditional "2-D" hand-drawn animation.

The "Chronicles of Narnia" films should've been produced in the chronological sequence that C.S. Lewis intended, not in the "Star Wars" jumble format we're getting.

Dan Brown should be as recognizable on late night talk shows as Steve Carell.

Artimis Fowl should be as recognizable as Harry Potter.

Just in time for the holidays, we should be going to theaters to watch "Bridges of Madison County 3," starring Brooke Shields and that Dr. McDreamy guy.

All these things should've happened, but somehow the publishing industry dropped the ball. Instead, as the economy slides, we hear of major cutbacks and reorganizations at the publishing houses. Random House in now a house of random layoffs. Simon and Schuster is hanging on by a thread. And Scholastic still can't figure out how to make money without a Harry Potter release. In other words, the publishing industry is rife with mismanagement, corporate greed, and Peter Principled incompetence within the ranks.

All the same symptoms being suffered by the ailing U.S. auto industry.

I think you can see where I'm going with this.

What the literary world needs right now is a government bailout. Billions of dollars granted to the faltering publishing giants would save jobs within the industry and beyond.

I'm serious. Think of the domino effect if we allow the publishers to fail. Without publishers, there would be no editors wining and dining up and down Manhattan's midsection, thus hurting the business of dozens of restaurants all along Fifth Avenue. Chefs, waiters, dishwashers, and the guy in the uniform who opens the door to the Town Car and expects a twenty for doing so would be out of work. Imagine the hardship. Where else but in Midtown can you get twenty bucks for opening a car door? Plus, bailing out the publishers will shore up the American as well as the worldwide economy. After all, if an American publisher goes belly up, think of all the printing presses in China that will go idle.

And then there's that entire subculture based on hopeful aspiring writers called The Writer's Conference. Each year, dozens of conferences from Maine to Maui are held, offering a wellspring of useful information to the growing author that can't be found anywhere else. Where else can novice writers of children's books be told not to write in rhyme, only to watch Dr. Seuss continue to sell like sub-prime mortgages every year? And where else can devoted mystery writers hear law enforcement officials detail proper procedure and pinpoint the legalities of not cooperating with the law, only to return to your hotel room and read the most acclaimed mystery of 2007 with a final chapter that basically says, "And so the cops just let her go to Mexico. And, while we were at it, we made up a fictitious grave site. And not one reporter in the major news media market of Baltimore questioned any of this." You can't just pick this kind of knowledge up off the street.

So start sending those emails to your congressman today. Tell them you want a bailout plan for the American Publishing Industry. Save the economy. Save the freedom of speech. Save a way of life. And save jobs.

Particularly mine.

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