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A kind of elitist persona

Modern tomes

In this long and fascinating NYT article about thriller writer James Patterson comes a remarkable statement by one Larry Kirshbaum, former CEO of Time Warner Book Group:

“Jim [Patterson] was sensitive to the fact that books carry a kind of elitist persona, and he wanted his books to be enticing to people who might not have done so well in school and were inclined to look at books as a headache,” Kirshbaum says. “He wanted his jackets to say, ‘Buy me, read me, have fun — this isn’t “Moby Dick.”’”

Good for Patterson! Who the hell wants to read Moby-Dick anyway? Or at least every day? But, you might mumble-quibble, how can books have a kind of elitist persona? Merriam-Webster offers for persona “a character assumed by an author in a written work”, “an individual’s social facade or front”, or “the personality that a person (as an actor or a politician) projects in public”, so perhaps Kirshbaum means that books project an air of not being for everyone. It is true that, willy-nilly, many books project an air of not being for people who have not yet learned to read, but I’m not sure that people who can read yet count as an “elite” in the United States. Then again, Kirshbaum refers not to an elitist persona exactly, but only a kind of elitist persona. Books are sort of forbidding objects, right? Do I hear you mutter that books are, for all that, easier to use than an iPhone? Bloody elitist. We don’t want your sort round here. Not in our massive publishing conglomerate.

Lots of people, who probably wear tweed and have dandruff and squint myopically if they ever emerge into the daylight, are worried about the publishing industry these days, but I for one am confident that the future of the book is safe in the hands of executives like Kirshbaum, who are heroically willing to recognize that the public at large hates and fears books.

I think I have never read a book by James Patterson. Have you, readers?

  1. 1  Roger Migently  January 29, 2010, 11:49 am 

    Ooh, you are so snooty, using, like, “words” and shit. Ooh, look at me! “My-o-pic-ly”. Ooh, la-de-dah! Whose a clever boy then?

  2. 2  Matt  February 1, 2010, 4:31 pm 

    This points towards a new trend in trick book jackets. In the old days the joke was about a chap on the tube ostensibly reading War & Peace but inside the dust jacket it was Mickey Spillane or Mad magazine. In the future we shall have “red-blooded male” non-elitist covers to allow the cowardly intellectuals to read their Thomas Mann without fear of being beaten up.

    PS have never read James Patterson, but only because I judge books by their covers :)

  3. 3  Richard J  February 2, 2010, 12:56 pm 

    I have read, once, a James Patterson book. Readable (despite being 600 pages or so) in an evening, and quite gripping at the time, but if you’d asked me anything about it, even just immediately afterwards, I couldn’t remember a thing about it. Possibly a crime was involved?

  4. 4  Dr. H.R. Goetting  February 4, 2010, 5:19 pm 

    Who the hell wants to read Moby-Dick anyway?

    Yes, my Dear, here is a summary about worldwide C.I.A. university espionage!

    “University Spy – A True Story”

    The C.I.A.’s covert action arm has ended up as America‘s extra-curricular Education Ministry and universities around the world have little recourse!

    Behavioral science teaches that small changes in a heterosexual man’s sex-life can have large and unsavory effects on keeping horrific secrets!

    These all-out investigative interviews will plunge you, the reader, into the murk of the abnormal psychology and mind boggling career of W. B. Paterson from hell-bent taxi driver to hysterical C.I.A. Chief-of-university-spies!

    Malicious Chief W. B. Paterson is the inheritor of American multi-billion dollar conglomerate Paterson Inc., a globally operating university supplier which doubles as a C.I.A. espionage contractor. Never, ever trust an American!

    This emotional zeitgeist-book is scripted on man-to-man pillow interviews with the coarse Chief Walt Blair Paterson, a source of untreated and disease-laden sewer language and behavior, stranger than fiction. The fat-cat attacks academics with racial and religious hate-speech as if suffering from multiple mental illnesses!

    Not even my diplomatic skills were able to put an end to his temper tantrums. Let‘s go for an audio-visit to one of the Chief’s great moments – and I promise he never used more lofty cross-references: “University people are late-term abortions who crawl out of classrooms“, he screamed with all the subtleties of a rhino!

    As is becoming for an objective reporter, I use the method of dramatizing and narrating each authentic quotation from the Chief, reflecting the ugly history of Paterson Inc. and America – the Can’t Do Nation!

    The disgusting behind-the-scenes tales are based on ‘embedded’ rent-boy reporting at its best, serving up from the bedside the whole truth about the C.I.A.’s university espionage brigades. It’s scary, very scary!

    The unvarnished truth was spilled while the Chief wobbled back and forward like a drunken tip-over doll – his insufferable lips loosened by gallons of whisky!

    The juicy revelations of the Chief going anal are off the record; Walt Blair Paterson’s real name, gonzo company, position and location were changed and rendered anonymous – to protect my ’deep-throat’ for legal reasons!

    Paranoid and violent U.S. university espionage is closely related to institutional brutality. Haunting American abuse of power has reached a critical mass and is the central theme of this book. Will it come to the point that battered students call for ’social unrest’ at beleaguered universities in opposition to the academic waterboarding by Paterson Inc.?

    Every Paterson Inc. product sold at universities bears the chill of a torture whip on the back of a kidnapped victim in a secret C.I.A. jail anywhere around the world. Saddam‘s torture chambers were multiplied, put are under new U.S. management and staffed with perverted, sex-starved male and female Americans!

    C.I.A. espionage contractors such as Paterson Inc. are NOT SUBJECT to the Freedom of Information Act!

    An obscure law allows the C.I.A. to block all congressional and public inquiries into the secret files, the budget, the number of agents and the entire power structure of the Pater$on Shadow Company, the recipient of vast amounts of U.S. government money!

    Who are the Chief’s unpredictable Washington masters? Their names read probably like a Who is Who of instable American corporate and political power. The world’s biggest borrower is busy scrounging around the world for more billions of dollars and cannot get above water!

    Who are the shameless American ’scholars’ and at which benighted U.S. universities do they work, these dim-wits who helped dreadful C.I.A. & Paterson to conceptualize the hellish ‘intellectual’ framework for global university espionage?

    If the burly men from beastly Paterson Inc. tilted the global academic playing field in favor of U.S. scientists, and if this helps explain America’s unparalleled share of Nobel prices during that curiously energetic U.S. ’research’ period of the past five decades, synchronized with the C.I.A.’s university espionage history, then so be it!

    All this I took in like a spy, interrupted only by the emasculated Chief’s demonstrations of affection and while his hands fondled among my pants!

    This compelling study shows Paterson Inc. is unfit as a university supplier! America’s university espionage is on trial. The undeclared U.S. doctrine of large-scale targeted research theft has to be stopped with a cool ’nyet’!

    As a spot of shit the ugly bedside interviews with the talkative Chief are positioned to hit the proverbial fan to spread his vulgar whispers fast and far!

    Yours, Truly
    Dr. H.R. Goetting

  5. 5  flight the plougher  February 7, 2010, 11:56 pm 

    I’ve read a couple of his books. I was struck by how the central character, always in their mid 40’s, was always in excellent shape for his age, ran 5 miles every day, was always right in their hunches, and could kick seven shades of shit out of anyone. It read like wish fulfilment.

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