The Book is Dead

Posted on January 20, 2011 by

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Snooki could be a bestselling author. Seriously. We might as well stop reading now.

by Tommy Morgan Jr.

An early cover design for “A Shore Thing.” (Photo from howstuffworks.com)

No one thought the novel would last.

Rising to prominence in the 17th Century, novels were a form of reading directed largely at the common person. Authors like Horace Walpole and Jane Austen (the ancestors of Stephen King and Danielle Steel), wrote ghost stories and romances that they initially published anonymously, as the novel had yet to curry much favor with the critics and patrons of the day.

That all changed as novels came into acceptance, and countless writers from Dostoevsky to Hemingway have used the form to produce some of the greatest literature the world has ever seen. The novel became the primary medium of literature, a means of artistic expression that lasted for over 300 years.

Then this happened:

If we’re not living in the end times, the above tweet indicates that we may at least be living in the end times for the novel.

Snooki, posing in front of more roughly the amount of books she sold the first week. (Photo via cbsnews.com)

Snooki’s book, “A Shore Thing,” dropped earlier this month to the exact kind of reviews that one would expect a book by someone who calls herself “Snooki” would receive. Stephen Marche of Canada’s National Post wrote “‘A Shore Thing’ courageously avoids narrative conventions like plot arcs and character development.” AV Club’s Nathan Rabin called the novel “curdled cotton candy of a beach read.” And those are some of the nicer reviews. It appears that, even compared to the worst bestsellers, “A Shore Thing” may reach a new low point.

Nicole Richie: A true literary titan. (Photo from thehollywoodgossip.com)

Of course, Snooki wouldn’t be the first pseudo-celeb to find a home on bestseller lists – she joins such esteemed literary company as Hilary Duff, Lauren Conrad and Nicole Richie in this regard. And she obviously didn’t write the entire book (if any of it) herself, instead utilizing the talents of a ghost writer. (No, not that Ghostwriter)

“A Shore Thing” may not even be a best seller yet. The only person saying that Snooki has hit the New York Times’ Bestseller List is Snooki herself. While the vaunted list for the second week of the book’s release is not yet available, it is no where to be found on the opening list. Initial reports of sales figures indicate that “A Shore Thing” is not a sure seller, despite the press surrounding Snooki, her drunken antics, and “Jersey Shore.” As of this writing, it ranks at #789 on Amazon.com’s Bestseller List, proving that Snooki is not the next Abraham Verghese, and she’s certainly no iclicker Classroom Response System.

Bestseller or no (I’ll believe it when the New York Times actually reports it), Snooki being any kind of novelist doesn’t exactly bode well. Especially when she’s signed to a book deal with a major publishing house like Simon & Schuster. While the company has been busy spending money on things like this, the eventual 2010 Pulitizer Prize-winning novel, Paul Harding’sTinkers,” was published by a largely unheard of medical press.

Ernest Hemingway was also a drunk, but he could write a coherent sentence. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia.)

Publishers have to make money, sure, and Snooki is more popular than a relatively unknown writer. But when literature slips away while the ghost-written fluff of reality stars garners major deals, a blow is struck against the validity of the novel. (Post-Pulitzer, Harding did sign a deal with Random House, but for all we know that just means “The Situation” decided not to write a second book.)

There will always be bad books, and publishers will most likely always chase the quick-fix celebrity tie-in to try and capitalize on fame. But if Snooki’s book actually is a bestseller, and paves the way for more like it, maybe we should go back to poetry as the primary means of literary expression. The novel will be dead.

– Tommy Morgan Jr.

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