Previously we have provided a brief overview of the shennanigans surrounding the small press publisher, 8th House of Montreal.*
We examined the curious militant refusal of the publisher, Emery Moreira, to engage with the media and what can only be described as his near allergic response to any attempt by writers associated with 8th House to get him to act on their behalf, and generate some buzz.
We also examined the extraordinary slipshod, or what some might characterize as either incompetence or negligence, efforts at securing reviews. In particular we examined not just that 8th House had submitted an Advanced Reader Copy of a novel to 50 of the wrong reviewers, but that when confronted by the author about this spectacular fuck-up, Moreira’s response was avoidance, and accusations that he could not be held responsible for failing to get the author’s work reviewed by The New Yorker and The New York Times.
Needless to say, the author had no illusions about securing reviews in those establishment rags, and was more concerned with the fact that Moreira had taken a Pynchon-esque post mod literary romp, and submitted it for review to people who review vampire romances, and vampire romances set on space stations.
Except for the reviewers Moreira sent it to who it turns out, have bogus email addresses and don’t review anything no matter how existentially tormented or bored the vampires are.This last point deserves some extra attention and not because we think there’s a pressing need to address the crisis among existentially tormented or terminally bored vampires.
What we mean is that if you were laundering money, and the excess cash was generated by any number of nefarious enterprises, and you had a small network of assorted sociopaths and morons working for you, and you needed to invent hours of work in order to have a spreadsheet that you could show to the tax man, and wouldn’t look like it was a cut and paste job put together by a gang of bong chewing elves, you could do worse than to outsource submitting manuscripts to some pinhead, who you pay in 8ths.
On the other hand, as is often the case with such enterprises, the pinheads, being pinheads, and the air being thick with reality altering fumes, mistakes are made, and the mistake in this case, is, perhaps, that said pinhead, invented a list and forgot to cover their tracks. And unless you’re the government saying, yes mistakes were made, while you point resolutely into the future and present a combination of off the shelf humility and arrogance towards the cameras, you are, often, completely fucked.
But, we digress.
After all, under the heading of Occam’s Razor and Shaving Cream, for all we know the simplest explanation is the best explanation, and 8th House of Montreal is not engaged in anything untoward, and is instead just catastrophically stupid.
And to be clear we’re just spit balling. We are not saying that Emery Moreira is a crook or that he’s laundering money. We are an opinion blog devoted to speculating as in, for example, our recent consideration of whether or not Mitch McConnell is the spawn of a rabid weasel and an amoeba, hatched in a bunker and involving a petri dish and the fossilized or cryogenically frozen head of a German camp doctor.
After all, no one in their right mind would actually believe that about McConnell and instead would believe the far more simple and thus likely notion that he’s a lubed up, slithering jape of a man, with the conscience of a sadistic plantation owner, who enjoys nocturnal visits to the slave quarters.
In other words, a reactionary aristocratic southerner.
But we again, digress.
The thing is, that however incompetent Emery Moreira is, however sketchy his publishing house is, what strikes us is the extent to which there appears to be an epidemic on the loose in which everywhere you turn, everything and everyone is crooked, and or just being run with the attitude that it’s normal for big ships to collide with icebergs, space shuttles should explode, cities should vanish beneath the waves, and that complaining about any of it means you’re some sort of malcontent, and if you don’t shut up, you’re going to fall down a long steep flight of stairs, six or seven times in a row, and when you’re family or your friends ask how that’s possible, the authorities will say, maybe you’re friend was just clumsy and besides, what’s wrong with running a ship into an iceberg or turning New Orleans and Miami into aquatic theme parks.
Small presses in this context are curiosities. They sprang up for two reasons. First because home computers and printers became relatively inexpensive, and secondly because the religion of deregulation resulted in morbidly obese entertainment empires, consuming independent publishing houses the way out of control diabetics consume boxes of donuts.
At the same time universities desperate for cash opened MFA factories, that crank out useless know nothing pieces of paper the same way “culinary schools” crank out desperately poor white people who all think they will be the next celebrity chef, and reach escape velocity and magically leave their dead end post industrial waste land behind, along with a mountain of debt which has them shackled to the company store the way a crack addict is shackled to their pipe.
In other words the same rickety con job that is the rest of Capitalist Realism sank its greasy tendrils into publishing and the result is an ocean of small presses receiving tens of thousands of submissions of mostly crap that they can’t read, don’t want and will never publish. It means contests that are rigged by definition because five readers can’t possibly read the equivalent of twenty copies of War and Peace each, in the time allotted and the ratio of writers to venues is like trying to squeeze your balls through the eye of a needle. You might succeed but at what cost?
Into this fetid swamp and self-sustaining echo chamber, are injected desperate literary agents, terrified every minute of every day they might lose their jobs, and therefore utterly unwilling to take any sort of risk, corporate hacks, soulless accountants, and a handful of writerly egos so massively inflated that they could double as parade floats, and given the line ups at most literary festivals, they often do just that.
The result of all of this is not just the boilerplate faux reviews that have all the literary substance of what you can read on the side panel of a cereal box, but are in fact cardboard cutouts that have nothing to do with actual literary criticism, but act as generic ballots, that are part of a conveyor belt of bought and paid for reputations because the “writers” are products being manufactured and sold the same way large corporations sell everything else.
And lastly, the final ingredient in this vapid and toxic bilge, is the insistence among all of these swine that publishing remains a small batch, artisanal endeavor in which talent rises to the top like a fine cream, when in truth it floats like a dead fish in a toxic algae bloom.
One of the side effects of this kulturkampf is the proliferation of small presses who are just big enough to be useless. To writers.
The growing consensus that it is the writers job to write, and work some other job where they are barely making enough to pay the rent, and that then they should also work as the publisher’s unpaid PR hack to sell their book is nothing more or less than an extension of the non-union slave labor ethos, that dominates the world of the corporatocracy which advertises for “unpaid interns” or offers artists the chance to “network” while providing skilled labor for no pay.
Craigslist which carved out a hole inside the advertising revenue stream of newspapers and left them as burnt out husks, has itself become a cesspool of moral termites.
Thousands of listings offer photographers, painters, and other artisans the “opportunity” to be exploited by jackals at non-paying gigs and who dangle the prospect of meeting someone who will pay you for your work. Except of course what those prospects see is someone desperate, who is available for free, has no bargaining power and can safely be told, take it or leave it. Because the debt factories, aka, the art schools, are cranking out debt slaves like Lucy at the chocolate factory and the conveyor belt is cranked to maximum.
And so, it should surprise no one that Emery Moreira and 8th House of Montreal are essentially no different than a thousand other small presses who have a budget just big enough to ensure the writer is fucked. And that in turn should surprise no one who understands that every corner of the system is infected with the rot of the cult of the free hand of the market.
Caveat emptor should be on every dollar bill, and every coin.
And instead of some long dead president the money should show Alfred E Newman on one side and P.T. Barnum on the other.