The debate over the relative merits and character of Stephanie Klein’s Greek Tragedy blog vs. the parody blog, a Tale of Two Sisters has far deeper roots and may have far greater implications ultimately than the surface debate between the first amendment protected right to parody (fair use of copyrighted material) vs. the unlawful use and infringment of copyrighted material. (see also, The First Amendment Project)
Literary art remains one of the most undercompensated endeavors. Struggling artist is a tag which far too often applies to a great many story tellers and journalists. The rewards to practitioners of this craft are slim relative to the number of talented people in the field. Fortunately, the authors of a Tale of Two Sisters at least have the consolation of having companies like Six Apart graciously making their publishing platforms available in the face of a baseless and misguided challenge of their First Amendment rights, See Lindsayism’s, “someone’s head is so far up their own rosebud.” A great many writers, often have to leave their posts or find some more practical way of earning a living and paying their overhead to pursue their craft. Viewed in that light, it is not surprising to see the growing tension between un-compensated legitimate literary artists and the purveyors of crass commercial cliche, like Ms. Klein and her marketeers and handlers, Judith Regan and Regan Books.
Call it what you will. But, the literary classes rising up against their passive oppressors in the publishing industry cannot be discounted as mere resentment or jealousy of Ms. Klein’s success. Passive because they are too lazy to seek out, develop and promote the works of legitimate story tellers and are instead more inclined, hell bent or pre-occupied with finding the next great reality series, the next great spinoff, Part II or Part III of what has already been done before. They find complicitors in the “legitimate press” in the form of folks like Stephanie Rosenbloom who use their latest girl crush to publish journalistic reports on these alleged writers which amount to nothing more than sugar coated press releases in the guise of human interest stories.
Are these folks all evil? No Are they manipulative and lazy? Yes. Why? Was there not a time when being a Publisher meant nurturing and marketing the talents of genuine and original artists? There was also a time when being a journalist in a paper of record of which the New York Times purports to be actually meant something more than proof reading a press release off the fax machine from a publishing house, taking a few self serving quotes from one of the most over hyped, unpublished writers of our time, and running it on the front page of any section of your newspaper. See, Reader, I dated Him. It speaks volumes of a society in such artistic decline that a newspaper of record would immerse itself in such cheapened journalism but also speaks volumes about the masses who will digest it. Believe me, I have empathy for the New York Times and for Stephanie Rosenbloom, but honey seriously, eat a meal ok? Capturing the attention of the American public for more than five minutes is not an easy task. If you want to be “read” you must compete with numerous media blogs, celebritiy obsessed publications (see Star, People, Radar and Ok Magazine) as well as reality shows.
A stroll down the links column of a few random blogs (see Alex Blagg, Young Manhattanite, Industry Whore, mimi in NY, Ultragrrl etc.) however, lands you on the publishing platform of far more original artists telling entertaining and often compelling stories which are not so utterly contrived and tragically ironic pre-packaged cliche as those of Stephanie Klein’s Greek Tragedy. That is what struck me about what was most ironic in this debate. Even Heather “This Fish” Hunter (AKA “do not write a negative comment on my blog, otherwise I will report you to your employer”) has a list of links to others who are mostly far more interesting than she is. But yet, what do I know is that she is selling t-shirts of a fish on a bicycle. That is one seat that I would not want to sniff after it was ridden. (maybe nobody else does either since the blog is now mysteriously down today. perhaps the association with SK is killing her brand as well?)
While it very well may be that Art is the New Religion, from Broadway, Hollywood and the publishing industry, it seems that investors no longer desire nor may they be able to take developmental risks on good art. It may not ultimately reach or be understood or appreciated intellectually by the mediocre masses or at best would require a huge investment and press campaign to help educate them of it’s significance. Logically, it may ultimately make more sense instead to feed them a steady diet of the sure thing, formulas that have worked before. The work of Stephanie Klein appeals to that instinct.
Maybe you cannot blame the ruling classe of the artistic world for purveying the works of writers who use their “talents” to appeal to the mediocre masses or the middle of the bell curve. You cannot fault publishers with wanting to make rather than lose money. To not heed the warnings or the critiques of the intelligentsia, will ultimately doom the publishing industry and the craft of writing as whole. Ms. Regan will only for so long be able to profiteer off bad commercial art before she brings down the entire industry as a whole down by suppressing legitimate artists (through overreaching use of the copyright laws), decentivizing their original works and incentivizing mediocrity. Ms. Regan may soon come to recognize that even the American public will no longer find the Stephanie Klein’s of the world all that palatable. What comes to mind is a line from the movie the American President wherein Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepard states: