This Is Not an Odd Book Discussion: Stuff. And Things.

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Just talking with you guys. “I think the young people enjoy it when I get down verbally, don’t you?”*

–I had a really good entry planned for today but it required a scanner and evidently our scanner is no longer a scanner. Maybe it’s a toaster now. Maybe it’s a small space heater. It is a mystery, but we do know for sure it’s not a device that can capture an image. So Mr. Oddbooks will be purchasing a new scanner this weekend and I will have a nice discussion about death photography up on Monday.

–Think Progress had a very interesting article about how one can consume good content created by horrible people. Roman Polanski and Orson Scott Card are the focus of the article but I see this question come up a lot in regards to black metal, specifically Varg Vikernes. On the other side of the coin that I explore more often is how to ethically handle really morally upsetting content that comes from people who are not bad people – like Peter Sotos’ works. I’d love to know how y’all handle such issues. I can’t see ever giving a single penny of mine to a man like Card, who opposes equal protection under law for roughly 10% of the people in this country, but this article gives a full story of what hinges on the success of the upcoming Ender’s Game movie, issues that go beyond not giving one’s money to a bigoted man.

–There will be some changes coming here on IROB. We are going to begin monetizing the site and it makes me nervous. I’ve built up a respectable body of work over here and I don’t want to taint it but, at the same time, site ads are so ubiquitous at this point that it’s hard to claim they do any harm to a site. The problems arise, I think, when bloggers begin to engage in sponsored content. That doesn’t happen much with book bloggers, unless you consider review copies a form of sponsoring. Which I don’t.

I am also going to start accepting ads from writers who are in the position of having to publicize their own books. The cost for a monthly will be super-cheap. I will be offering ad space once I have a solid track record of posting at least two book discussions a week. I don’t have extraordinary traffic on this site, but I do have a solid readership of people who often buy books as a result of my discussions. At any rate, that is coming up sometime during the summer.

If you guys notice anything amiss with the ads, probably strictly Google Adsense, please let me know. If anything we add screws up your experience on this site, we need to know.

People have mentioned tip jars and subscriptions and the like. I feel more uncomfortable with that than ads. Some people’s blogs are like magazines and worth subscribing to, but this site is me, me only and I don’t ever see having guest or co-bloggers. I’ve also grown disgusted with the antics one sees from uber-feminist-blogger-beggar Melissa McEwan, who routinely berates her readers for money so she can get a living wage from blogging, going so far as to have one of her co-mods tell a woman with five dollars left from her child support money to fork it over to help support Melissa, a comfortable, middle-class, childless woman with a husband who supports her. I’m a middle-class childless woman with a husband who supports me and the only time any of you should part with money because of anything I said is when I recommend a book you decide you want to buy. And though I know she is an extreme example, McEwan’s antics (and the antics of others like her who failed to make a viable business plan before making blogging their source of income) have forever tainted the tip jar for me. The fact is that magazines don’t make much money from subscriptions – they make money from ads and it’s a piss-poor business plan to expect readers to pay your wages just because you think it taints you if you take corporate money.

–I got an e-mail from a guy in Croatia who praised IROB, but also told me that when he watched the video for “Ride” by Lana Del Rey, he thought of me. I watched the video and was baffled. I asked Mr. Oddbooks what part of my online persona would make anyone think of me when they watch a video about a biker prostitute with borderline personality and a daddy-complex. He watched the video and he understood immediately what my Croatian admirer meant. Though this is clearly in the Southwest somewhere, like Arizona or Nevada, this is likely how a lot of people look at Texas. Wild landscape with lots of sand, people in fringe wearing boots with shorts, lots of beer bottles, lots of guns. I replied and asked him if he meant the landscape and rather than the girl in the video, but never heard back.

For what it’s worth, here’s the video:

As melodramatic videos go, this one ain’t bad. If I was 18, I bet I’d be all over this. Sadly, the middle-aged me mentally told the pretty, drunk girl in the middle of the desert with a bunch of bikers to take off the war bonnet, put the gun away, and sober up and that would be good step toward not feeling fucking crazy. But the American cinematic and literary experience she’s grooving on was built on the backs of pretty, drunk, fucking crazy people. Where would we be as a country without attractive people who are out of their minds. So thanks, Croatian Man, for leading me to this video. It was a hoot, of sorts.

*Though I in no way resemble Lana Del Rey’s daddy-biker girl in this video, I was told frequently in my teens that I reminded people of Jordan from Real Genius, which is the movie from which this quote originates. I’m way fatter now and talk a little bit slower but my neuroses are far more Jordan-eqsue than the languid lunacy Lana Del Rey brings to the table. But ending up with the dorky genius was a far better fate for me than wearing a white dress and screaming at bikers. Mileage, as always, varies.

3 thoughts on “This Is Not an Odd Book Discussion: Stuff. And Things.

  1. – The personal experience that always comes to mind when I think of “good content by horrible people” is witnessing Peter Straub act like a monumental prick online to a fan (albeit an obnoxious one). I’d been an admirer of his work up to that point, but seeing that side of his personality soured me. I couldn’t get past my awareness of the author behind the writing, and I certainly didn’t feel great about contributing to him financially by buying his books.

    I think it’s harder to overlook these things when it comes to authors as opposed to artists in other media. I can enjoy a painting or a film by someone I know to be a hideous person, I guess because those works seem more removed from the artist behind them — or at least, I’m not as constantly reminded of that artist when viewing the work. It’s easier to compartmentalize. With a book, I’m always aware that I’m being told a story by a person.

    It occurs to me as well that there’s a moral dimension to my choice of literature that I don’t, for whatever reason, apply to other arts. Sometimes I just want to enjoy a good story, but more often I see literature as a way to inhabit, temporarily, another human’s perspective and world view. So my favorite authors, the ones whose work I deeply cherish, tend to be people I perceive as essentially humane and moral, whatever their human failings — authors like Kurt Vonnegut, say. Someone like Orson Scott Card, his behavior and positions reveal an ugly and somewhat unhinged person whose inner life I have zero interest in inhabiting, no matter how well he can construct a story.

    I think if people want to enjoy content produced by a loathsome artist, but don’t want to support them financially, they really ought to just pirate the content if at all possible. I mean if you’re in that situation in the first place you’ve already entered an ethically ambiguous area, so just do it and be done.

    The other side of the coin — morally upsetting content by good people — I don’t have a problem with, really. If I know (as much as we can know) someone to be a basically decent, thoughtful, self-aware human being, they have enormous leeway with me to explore ideas and subject matter at the extremes of morality. I suppose I trust that the artist is engaging in a good faith exploration of taboo ideas rather than just wallowing in moral depravity for self-gratification.

    – For what it’s worth, as a reader of your site I have zero problem with whatever you want to do to earn income from your work. No one could dispute that you put a great deal of time, attention, and craft into what you publish here, as much as anyone who is paid to write. You’re certainly no huckster! So I think it’s great if you can get some compensation for the work you put into this. And if it means you’re publishing more often, everybody wins.

    Just thinking as a reader what I would pay money for from your site — I don’t know if you’ve considered putting together a compilation of your reviews in ebook form, but I would buy something like a “best of” collection, or maybe even several such collections organized by theme. (I’m reminded of something I’ve seen by Chuck Klosterman where he’s put out collections of past essays grouped by topic — music, pop culture, etc.)

    Or even more ambitiously, seeing that you’ve developed relationships with many of the authors you’ve reviewed here, I think it would be fantastic if you wanted to compile and edit an anthology of odd fiction that you sold as an ebook on your site or through Amazon. A big part of why I, and presumably others, are regular readers of your site is that we like your taste in fiction, so whether deliberately or not you perform a service for us in curating content that otherwise is difficult to discover or get a good sense of. I would trust an anthology that you put together in a way I wouldn’t trust, say, Comet Press. All I can say is that I’d really enjoy, and buy the shit out of, such a thing if you ever chose to create it.

  2. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with consuming art created by loathsome people. I may look at the work differently, like Polanski’s “Repulsion” having a new and uncomfortable layer from knowing he raped a young girl. But overall, I just tend to think that whatever money they get from me is insignificant enough that it doesn’t matter.

    I can understand your distaste for tip jars. A podcaster I used to listen to recently had a hell of a backlash (rightfully so, IMO) because he gave a donator shit for only giving him $2. I see nothing wrong with trying to make money of off creating internet content, but behavior like that makes me see why some look down on it.

    I don’t have a problem with you putting ads here, either. I hope you get at least a decent reward for all your efforts here.

    I like Edward Sung’s idea of putting out an anthology of your own. That would be a big project to take on, but I know I’d buy it too. If you ever decide to put out your own book, I could see you putting together an Adam Parfrey-esque essay collection on the various odd corners of contemporary writing.

    Speaking of Peter Sotos, he’s giving a presentation next month in Chicago that I’ll be attending if all goes to plan. Anything you think I should ask him if I get the chance?

  3. I have no issue at all with you monetizing the site – you clearly spend a lot of time reading the books and posting well crafted reviews, so I think it only fair that you “get something back”, if you know what I mean.

    And, as someone who is working on a book at the moment, I love the idea of being able to pay to advertize it on here 🙂

    I also love Edward Sung’s idea of putting out an anthology of your own – I’d buy one for sure !

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