Some Personal Musings Nobody Needs to Read

The proposal for the book I’m working on was just rejected for the third time.  Not unusual, I’m sure.  But it has me thinking about the difficulty of seriously critiquing capitalist ideology in any way that would have real impact.  For one thing, I have only submitted my proposal to publishers that are avowedly anti-capitalist, and from two of them got only the stock “not for us” response; this while most of their books are not at all anti-capitalist.  

More troubling, though, is the only response that was NOT a stock email rejection.  That press at least took the time to tell me why exactly my proposal was not viable.  Their explanation was that I need to first develop a social media presence (their term), via YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram, so that my book would have a pre-existing “following” to insure sales.  I do see the marketing value here…but since much of my point in this book has to do with the troubling effects of the form in which our ideology is delivered—that is, that social media is itself a dangerous ideology—doing this seems to me problematic.  

I’ll keep looking, but it is looking increasingly like this blog and maybe some form of self-publishing may be the only option with a book like this.  I like to tell myself that this is because what I’m doing is too radical and I’m just ahead of my time.  But I’m not good at deluding myself, and so remain aware it might just be that what I’m saying is uninteresting or too obscurely presented to have any real appeal.  It might just be my failing, not the limitations of audience, that lead most people to ignore what I do; surely, in the history of literature and philosophy, this has most often been the real cause of neglect.  On the other hand, the real cause of popularity has always without exception been that one is supporting the hegemony.  My goal has always been to fall somewhere in between the extremes.

Lately, I’ve seriously considered abandoning this project.  If I’m going to write something nobody will ever read, well, frankly, writing fiction is just more fun.  For now, though, I think I’ll stick with it a bit longer.   Even if the only audience is my own kids when they get older, I feel an obligation to tell them these things, and an increasing awareness that I might not be around, or able,  to do it when they get out of college and are ready to hear them.  With only four more chapter left to draft, I might as well finish it and then see if I have the energy to go through the revision process.  

On a related note, last week was the first Marxist-Buddhist retreat, which consisted only of myself and The Failed Buddhist, out in the woods talking about Shin Buddhism, Henri Lefebvre and Sartre.  Sometime this week I’ll be posting my thoughts on the discussions.  We discussed the difficulty with inspiring interest in this retreat, and it seems to me similar to the difficulty I have getting anyone to publish what I write.  Most people want to be comforted, reassured, and told only that some simple adjustment to their personal life will make them happier.  Even the radical press seems to suggest that the change we need is mostly one of attitude, with little effort involved.  A retreat involving effortful thought, with no leader, were participants need to suggest the readings and lead the discussion, has little appeal.  Buddhism, like everything else, has to promise some reward, some reduction of effort and potential increase in income, to be a desirable use of time, in an age in which even our hobbies must develop our earning potential ins some way.

Overcoming this way of being in the world seems to me the greatest challenge to any attempt to overcome capitalism before it destroys the planet.  I suppose, then, that I need to do the same, and go ahead and finish writing this book even if there is no “reward,” financial or otherwise, for my effort.  Finding enjoyment in exactly such activities is, after all, what I am arguing for.

The revolution, I am confident, will largely be ignored by social media.  In our bizarre age of global capitalism, reading a book or meeting with others in person are the most radical acts of all. 

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2 Comments

  1. knudgeknudge

     /  August 26, 2019

    ‘reading a book or meeting with others in person are the most radical acts of all.’

    Ivan Illich would have agreed with you – his interviews with David Cayley are good – esp ‘The Rivers North of the Future.
    It took me about 4 yrs to get a book published…..one reviewer took about a yr to read it….

  2. A year for a reviewer to read a book hardly seems surprising anymore, unfortunately. I’ve been circulating an essay on Melville’s “Bartleby” for years, and have yet to get anyone to read it. Editors just wait six months and then send an email saying they are full up for the next three years, or that they will no longer consider marxist literary criticism.

    This shouldn’t be discouraging—the fact that the media, even academic media, is in the business of producing capitalist ideology should come as no surprise. It is just that I have yet to figure out how to produce any kind of oppositional ideological practice—I know it is what needs to be done, but have had little success convincing others of this!

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