Thursday, October 14, 2010

There is no reason to buy my books


There is no reason to buy my books. Really. I have made such a large quantity of my work available online that books containing it have no real value except to a handful of souls who see a relationship between books as objects and the imagination that gives them spirit and life. Also, I am alive — both in the electronic sense of the Web, and as breath and flesh and blood. It’s all so easy: as long as the disease of existence is gnawing at my body and mind, I will seek a cure through my work, and part of that cure is sharing what I do. Bury me, though, or reduce my sinews and bones to a nickel’s worth of ash — cure me, in other words — and suddenly the system breaks down: no more William, no more work, nothing new to share — no hunger, no revelation, no failure, no despair. Maybe the books will have some value then. Maybe I need to die, so that my spirit, or imagination, or whatever it is, can more fully inhabit their pages. Many times, in fact, I have asked myself if my death would not be a good thing for my work, if it would not, in a very real sense, set it free; for it is true, and not necessarily a contradiction, that the same force that brings it about also weighs it down, like a parent who is unable, or who refuses, or who is afraid to see that his child must be free to stand on his own. I want or expect more of it, perhaps, than it is able to give. I place on it unreasonable demands. I expect it to save me from myself, to lift me up, and give me a sense of worth that I have possibly yet to earn, when all it needs is to live its own life and die naturally of its own accord, today, tomorrow, or several hundred years from now.

And yes, I know this assumes a value in my work that might simply not be there. Its relative unimportance is a possibility I recognize, a likelihood that embarrasses me, and something I live with every day. And all that proves, really, is what an egotistical wretch I am.

Ironically, while I’ve been writing this, I’ve received several messages from people who have no desire to know me, telling me that I should buy or promote their work. This happens every day. And so I ask: if an artist has no interest in communicating, if he doesn’t want to understand, listen to, and walk as far as possible in the shoes of those to whom he wants to sell his work, why on earth is he here? Is he an artist at all, or only one more self-centered, greedy, failed human being?

This Web we are participating in, this grand electronic experiment, will not outlast the stars. It will not put an end to myth or legend, or to our needs and fears. I don’t know what it will mean for the future of publishing, or the future of books. All I know is that it allows us the chance to meet and converse. The technology is new, but the model is old. We cannot be other than ourselves, forever hungry and in need of shelter, clinging to what little we know. There was a time when books didn’t exist. Maybe that time will come again. And as for “progress,” we have, over time, forgotten how to do a great many wonderful things, proudly and foolishly unlearning ancient crafts in favor of convenience, so that we might be more easily entertained.

Between the lines, I carve my epitaph. I scratch my name in stone to show that I was here, even as the stone itself erodes. Wireless signals whiz past my ear; I hear my fingers on lettered keys, imitating the birds outside.

11 comments:

Two Tigers said...

Dear William, I come not to bury you, but to praise you. Don't be in such a hurry to die and bestow upon your work some posthumous brilliant allure they may now lack huddling in the shadows of your vast living self! They will outlive you, yes; they will not be forgotten by future readers or that is a future to which I don't want to leave my own works! At any rate, by then, you and I will be in another, maybe better, place. We will finally join the timeless continuum of wordsmiths that we now feel occasionally connected to as we write. Cyberspace has introduced you to me, and thus proven its worth to a longtime skeptic. Keep writing, keep making books, my friend. It is the best thing I can think of doing to pass the time before the inevitable knock on the door. Reason not the need, the value, the purity of motive, etc. "Buy one of William's books" has now risen to the top of my list of things to do with the spare money I don't have. It may very well move to the list of "Essentials" right after Air and Food.

William Michaelian said...

Dear Gabriella, you break my heart with your beautiful, kind words. I’m in no hurry to die, but should it happen tomorrow my departure would be that much easier to face because of what you said. And how well I understand the need, sometimes, to choose bread over books; and yet that allows us more days in which to read! Best wishes to you, and thank you again.

vazambam said...

William,

There may be no reason to buy your books, as you so eloquently state, but there are myriad reasons to have your imagination illuminating us, as do the countless millions of stars on a crystal-clear night.

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, friend. Thank you, brother. Here’s to you, with a twinkle in my eye.

Caio Fern said...

i don't even know fron where to start ... or if i should start .

no, there is absolute no reason to buy your books . Or anything art related. You must to be a fanatic naive to do something like that. I thnk about this constantly . I have a collection of albuns and look at this trying to really understand . Why ? Stupidity. Salvation . Self improvement . All this are vaiable alternatives.
i believe art will save me fron existence and save my existence at the same time .
is this a kind of paganism ? I am Christian and believe that Jsus is the only Truth, Way and Salvation. So what am i wanting with art ?
Maybe i am that self-centred, greedy failed human being.
maybe this is the only correct answer.
What are we doing on line ? i believe that w are doing exactly the same we were doing off line ... as we were doing this before internet have taken our lifes. The Net . In my opinion, the same Net described on the Apocalipse book.
the same thing of before but now it is wilder... with more possiblitys of changing experiences.
The real value of this? i don't know .
am i wiser today than when i was totaly isolated fron the world ? maybe not .
Yesterday i was talking with a rock musisian that in the 80's was a huge maisntean success and today he is an alternative atraction . He was criticizing the internet and the independent market because it is very confortable . you get your small audience , get satisfied and don't fight to reache real horizonts for your carrier. He isn't totaly wrong . Sure that for many ones internet is the only alternative to show what has produced and meet people with similar interest. It is unfair, but at least is an alternative that didn't existed before .
ahhh... fuck off.
maybe it is all a big ilusion. how could be diferent . it is all virtual.
maybe to hld a book is one of the very rares sensations of reality you can have in life after all. Fiction is the faster link to the real . more than biographys and documentaries.
Maybe buying your book is the only chance to remember that the world exists.

Two Tigers said...

Damnit, now I really have to buy one of your books! Any recommendations, Oh Most Prolific? Not to force you into a Sophist's Choice...

William Michaelian said...

Caio, that’s it exactly, we don’t know, and that’s what keeps us going. The people who think they do know are the frightening ones, because their blind confidence breeds real pain and suffering in the world. To me, your thoughts and questions here show why your art is so powerful. And of course this is just a short answer; I think we could talk for hours about the things you’ve mentioned, and maybe someday we will. Ha! And we’ll see who falls asleep first....

Recommendations, Gabriella? Yes, I think you and Brian should stop by and have a couple of drinks. Beyond that, my best advice is to live dangerously.

Woman in a Window said...

Today I cleaned my bedroom. Dusted shelves. Moved bricabrac. Bedside I have a pile of four books. Without your book where would the fourth book rest? It would unbecome and then be only third. How would it feel then? Now, that's not fair. There is indeed great reason to buy your books.

xo
erin

William Michaelian said...

Erin, what a nice image. Maybe it’s no coincidence that your description reminds me of my own four kids.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

.

For You Not Yet


As I write, right now, your mother
is the size of a pea.
She will grow and be born
and not hear of me.
You at this time
do not even exist and only
by luck and grace will you be
if your mother survives
and gets married.
But I write not for your mother
or even right now.
Now knows nothing of me.
Now knows not what I do.
I write for tomorrow, for they
not yet here.
I have written for you.


Copyright 2010 - Ponds and Lawns - New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

William Michaelian said...

Hello again, Gary. Beautiful. Thank you.

“New and Corrected.” I like that.