so I guess I’ll figure it out as I go along. I’m going to be in a great mood this evening. Apologies for my brief absence, by the way. Life, honestly, so unpredictable.
So, anyway, on Saturday we went to the library to pick up some books we’d placed holds on. One of the books I’d placed a hold on was Lloyd Alexander’s The Gawgon and the Boy. Started it after we got home, finished it the next day.
Cue the book hangover, stumbling up the stairs to flop face-down on my bed and burying my head in my pillow.
The Gawgon and the Boy is a really, really good book, one of the best I’ve ever read, and possibly the most personal childrens’ book Alexander ever wrote. I have no doubt that David, or The Boy, is based on himself.
I sat on my bed for a few minutes, wallowing in the depths of despair and thinking about maybe crying a little bit. Then I changed my mind and started thinking.
The Gawgon and the Boy isn’t a terribly old book. But it is only just hanging on to In-Printedness (Because I don’t know the proper word). Amazon does have an edition available, but only if you are buying it for a library or school.
Another favorite of mine is Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Sawdust in His Shoes. I don’t think it lasted nearly as long as The Gawgon. It was published in ’56, probably did okay for a while, then went out of print. Copies, when available, sell for 500+ dollars to the few who know about it.
I haven’t done the research on this one, but probably the same deal as Sawdust: It’s The Tune is in the Tree, by Maud Hart Lovelace. I haven’t read it in years, so I don’t remember much about it except that it is as good as any MHL book still in print.
Lastly, I haven’t read Mistress Masham’s Repose by T. H. White all the way through, but I know it’s a good book, and I’d bet you ten dollars that its death followed the same tune as Sawdust and The Tune is in the Tree.
The cause of death for these four wonderful, under appreciated books? UNPOPULARITY.The teens weren’t interested in the adventures of a rosinback rider or a girls’ discovery of the Lilliputian race, the middle-grade readers weren’t interested in a boy’s adventures with his amazing tutor in mid-1930s Philadelphia, the younger readers weren’t interested in a little girl’s visit to a birds nest. Largely, today’s teens, middlings and younger kids still aren’t interested. Instead, they are reading the Secrets of Droon, Twilight, Twilight knock-offs, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter. Now, boys, Evelyn, don’t kill me for bashing The Secrets of Droon and The Hunger Games yet. I’m sure they’re very nice books, and I’m sure the same goes for Harry Potter. Hear me out, okay?
Overall, the Big Five and Amazon control the book-selling industry. The Big Five are the royal family, and Amazon is their court. They analyze what has sold and what hasn’t and make predictions based on past sales to figure out where they should place their loyalties. When Twilight became a big hit, it was probably werewolves, vampires and ditzy girls with no brains to speak of everywhere. When the Hunger Games became popular, the already expanding dystopian sci-fi market exploded. Any books that aren’t what’s popular at present get forgotten. Lost in the mix.
“You’re clever… You might end up being an artist – though I’m not sure I’d wish that on you. It can break your heart. It usually does.” -The Gawgon and the Boy
The artists whose hearts are broken are the ones who write/insert other thing here something really good, really worth reading, but are dumped because they aren’t what’s wanted.
Think about it.
We buy the books.
Publishers analyze the data based on the books we buy.
They make the decision not to expend money and time on books that have failed.
Publishers figure out what we like.
And they provide, regardless of what the cost is to everyone else.
We buy the books.
It’s an endless loop, that buries the hopes of unsuccessful authors, both for themselves and their stories, their characters, their ideas, the authors’ name, a piece of the authors’ very soul, until they’re just a page in a book, or an article on Wikipedia.
How is this okay? How is it okay for today’s youth to be reading trashy romances about a girl who can’t decide between dating a zombie or a dog? How is it okay for good writers reputations to be ground into the dust until their names are no longer remembered in the context of their unsuccessful books?
“You should always remember authors’ names. Out of courtesy; poor devils, they haven’t much else to hang on to.” -The Gawgon and the Boy
The worst bit of all this is, there are still plenty of good books in the world, remembered and thriving. This doesn’t sound bad, but when you add it all up, it kind of is. As I said, the books we buy one year govern the books that we buy the next year. Even if these are good books that everybody loves and will maybe always love, each book we buy makes the chances of an out-of-print book being brought back into print smaller and smaller.
They are being smothered, and choked.
I find this sickening.
We buy books that we love, and tell our friends about them, and they buy these books, and the love of these books is spread, but ultimately, we are the executioners, the murderers of books we could love just as much, while at the same time, we are like a child dragged along with his parents during the French Revolution to an execution, too short to see what is happening, just knowing that the grown-ups are cheering, so they must be happy, so everything must be good in the world.
We are unknowing executioners of everything authors put into their books. We are killing their hopes, and their souls. And we don’t seem to know it.
May God have mercy on our souls.