Let’s get something straight, right off the deck. I realize that “number of published books” and “artistic success” may in fact have no real positive correlation. For instance, a number of literary giants are known for one great book—Ellison, Plath, Harper Lee• and John Kennedy Toole, for example—and the fact that they had not written another prestigious novel doesn’t really seem to diminish their stature as unquestioned masters of the art form. And, on the other end of the spectrum, David Baldacci and his stable of squires have written 20 nauseatingly unmemorable novels (Stephen King is somewhere in the middle, adhering to a Billy Joel-ian quality to crap ratio).
*or, for literary conspiracy theorists, the ghost of Truman Capote who traveled back in time by using a portal in Nikola Tesla’s subterranean bower, edited by Frankenstein Shakespeare.
But, something about the notion and mere existence of Lauren Conrad’s three books of fiction—Conrad, of course, being the the “star” of MTV’s “The Hills" who is living proof that having a discernable personality isn’t necessary to write a bestselling book—just bums me out. And, I know it’s not a contest; I’m not grinding tally marks into the concrete wall of my cage (or my one bedroom apartment, for that matter). But isn’t it kind of a competition? I just want some measuring sticks, people.
It’s that usual mental battle, that whole “Is this really the world we live in?” conundrum, where you’re just so unwilling to look at the realistic landscape of fiction or art and grapple with what is “pop” and what is not. But, who is buying this book, and who is buying it enough to make sure it’s firmly atop the NY Times bookseller chart? Did every single mom in America buy it for their disengaged female child, for all the daughters in the world that resemble an Aubrey Plaza character?
Trust me, I know what goes into an unsuccessful book pitch. I’ve written dozens of them. Apparently there’s not a market for books of bad baby names*, image-heavy coffee table books with abstract short stories, or anything inherently speaking to a tiny population of people like my "Indie Rock & Baseball" idea. But, in the off chance I did have a good idea for a book, what are the chances of it actually getting made? I guess I'll have to let you know when that happens.
*”Liquor” is a hilarious baby name. So many applications. “Honey…I’m going to get Liquor!” I would never get tired of that. I suppose Beer would work too, but that’s just a little too easy.
But, the worst part for me is that Conrad’s books are works of fiction, not memoir-ized recaps of whatever we’ve been seeing on MTV*. As someone who aspires to be considered a fiction writer (but with little published evidence of this inclination), something about that stings. And man, I refuse to look at how old she is on Wikipedia. I’m sure that would put me into a new low rung of bummerdom.
*Conrad has one of those called Style. Four books total. Kill me.
Listen, I don’t claim that I have a really tangible answer to what form fiction is taking, especially since everything has been made hazier by the infinitely-expanding tendrils of le Internet. But, can art for artists be pop art again? Was it ever? Is the notion of a successful book now, and forever, shackled entirely to its sales potential?
James Franco recently published a book of short stories, and I’m still not sure how to feel about that. I realize he’s got the grad school cred and he’s got the chops— but had he not been such a precocious actor, would any of the other stuff, the art shows, the short fiction, ever have happened? I doubt it. And I say that as a big fan of Franco's. He has my dream life.
I guess I’ll need a casting agent if I want to get a book published. If you're a casting agent, you know where to find me.
Meditations on the Mundane: A Slightly Stylized Rant About How Lauren Conrad Has More Books Published Than I Do And Why That Bums Me Out