Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stop the Presses. Please.

In yet another smoke signal heralding the end of civilization as we know it, Simon & Schuster -- yes, that's Simon & Schuster -- announced this week that they've committed to publish a hard-hitting contemporary American novel called A Shore Thing, described by that eminent publishing house as “the story of a woman looking for love amid big hair, dark tans and fights galore on the coast of New Jersey."

This hard-hitting, cat-fighting modern update of An American Tragedy will be written in its entirety -- one hundred percent, every word, even the really really  long ones -- by Nicole Polizzi, an extraordinarily ordinary young woman better known to people on the lower rungs of the Nielsen TV ratings as Snooki.

Using phrases reminiscent of Philip Roth, Snooki said, "I'm pumped to announce to my fans a project that I've been working on for some time. This book will have you falling in love at the shore. It's 'A Shore Thing!'"

While I have nothing against falling at love at the shore, I have no doubt that comment is just as authentically from Snooki's lips as the book will be.  Although "pumped" sounds about right.

If anyone needs another reason to stop bewailing the fate of so-called traditional publishing, surely this announcement will provide one.  Forget business plans, forget ineptitude, forget the fact that they don't know how to sell a book.  Arrest them for pandering.  This is pandering so blatant that it should be illegal.  Once upon a time, books were one of the things that divided those who can think in sentences from those who can't.  Reading books was widely accepted as the way to move from Group B to Group A.  Now, books are what you read when television gets too challenging.

Where's the international Communist conspiracy when you need it?  There must be SOME kind of Grand Unified Theory to explain the hydra-headed beast called the dumbing-down of the West.  Failed educational systems, the complete defeat of common sense in favor of political correctness, TV news so truncated it takes several stories to make up a single sound bite, politicians who will say literally anything and promise literally anything to get elected, and voters witless enough to vote for them.  And now Snooki.

I have a proposal.  Let's close all printing presses and all television networks Monday morning at 8 o'clock.  Let's put all the media execs on the street with some apples to sell, and let the screens go dark.  Let's allow Americans to entertain themselves for, say, six months.  Use some of the money not being spent for broadcast and publishing to keep libraries open 24 hours a day.  Subsidize the sale of books, getting prices down to what they should be, until all the current trash is sold out and people have to read, you know, books.  As opposed to subliterate, television-spawned drivel with a shelf life of 18 months -- 18 months, by the way, that it's crowding out something that might actually be worth reading.  

Impractical?  Okay.  I give up.  Oh, and if Snooki winds up being compared to, say, Edith Wharton, I'll apologize.


  1. A brilliant analysis, but if its a choice between James Paterson and Snooki I'll take Ms Polizzi as long as there are plenty of photos.

  2. Thank you. My sentiments exactly but your writing is (much) better.

  3. Tim--

    Great title. Heartflet rant. Nailed the zeigeist.

    Since Reagan my catch-all phrase for the era has been The Stupiding Of America.

    First time I used it I thought I was making a joke.


    PS. Anybody wanna start a betting pool on how fast A SHORE THING sells 100,00 copies?

  4. Thanks, Uriah -- maybe the New York Times best-seller list will start printing author photos to the left of the rankings. Or USA Today, where they could be in color. Give us a better chance to make an informed choice.

    Hi, Naomi, and thanks. I doubt I write that much better than you do, but I was in that zone you only hit once in a while (and that's probably a good thing) where you're simultaneously pissed off and laughing.

    Lenny, I didn't think of the "please" in the title until I'd already posted it. Had to go into edit and make a fix. By the way, thank you for some nice things you've said about my books that have been reported to me by readers of my other blog at You've been very kind. And it'll ship 250,000 copies because it will be released just as Snooki's spin-off series hits the air.

  5. You're right, Tim. When you're right, you're right. Am I right? So right.

    And I've got the inside scoop on the title for her spin-off series: "Totally Nude, For Shore."

  6. At the risk of sounding antediluvian, parents should not allow their children to have televisions or computers in their bedrooms. Not only can unsupervised time on the computer be dangerous, it prevents parents from parenting. In order to protect them, parents have to know to what dangers they are exposed.

    Bedrooms should be filled with books. Chewable, washable books should be in the crib along with the stuffed animals. Reading in bed should be a reward for getting to bed when told to do so.

    As soon as a child can print his name, it is time for a library card, the ultimate golden ticket. The weekly trip to the library should be recorded on the calendar along with the soccer schedule.

    Reading should be seen as entertainment. Parents need to be seen reading by their children. On that weekly trip to the library parents need to be checking out books for themselves, too. Kids need to know that parents value their reading time as much as they say they do.

    Parents can limit their children's access to television. If a parent believes that a middle-school aged child should have a cell phone (for safety reasons, I wish they were as ubiquitous when my kids were that age) they can provide a phone that just works as a phone.

    My girls watch Snooki and company. They think of her as a sociological experiment: how far will someone allow themselves to be humiliated in order to receive their fifteen minutes of fame? The real issue about Snooki and the young audience, female, who follow her exploitation each week is that she is seen as something of a role model for the young who didn't get much grounding in values.

    The dumbing down of America began with television and with the people who gained fame without doing something productive for society. Before there was Snooki there was Paris Hilton. The television schedules are filled with "reality" shows that glorify the worst traits of human beings. People humiliate themselves for money. How can someone have so little self-respect that competing to be on THE BIGGEST LOSER seems reasonable?

    Now that's a block of time that should be given up to a good book.


  7. For all intensive purposes, the 'A Shore Thing' sindrome reflects currant depth of thought about such miner issues as education, helth inshurance, and politics. Sad.

  8. Thanks, Stan. You have summed up the thoughts, and spelling, of those who believe the problem with the United States is that it is led by an intellectual.

    Only in the US can it be thought that being led by someone intelligent and well-educated is a negative.


  9. Well, this seems to have struck a chord. There was an absolutely hilarious piece in the NY Times a month or two back in which her father tried, and completely failed, to explain her appeal. Which, I suppose means that Snooki's father and I have much in common.

    Dumb? We've still got a way to go, and lots of people are smoothing our way.

  10. Tim--

    Kind? Kind? I'm getting really tired of laying in bed night trying to read, and having to tell my wife "No, you can't read me your favorite 'graphs of Patpong."

    I may have to go to Leighton's macumba site and arrange for you to suffer some of that semen flooding.

    At least until I get to read the damn thing myself and start sending you fan mail.


  11. I speak as a member of the poor, benighted breed, but...

    Won't someone think of the ghostwriters!?

  12. Len, don't get into a fight over it. QUEEN is in favor of solid marriages, not opposed to them. Glad to know she's enjoying it, though. (Just don't let her tell you the ending.)

    Awwwww, Dan. You're right. I didn't think it through. On the other hand, I think it might be more fun to be a veterinary proctologist than Snooki's ghost-writer.

  13. Tim, you certainly hit the proverbial nail on the head. I wrote a blog article several years ago about the dumbing down of America. An 1880s 8th grade test required for graduation was found in a Kansas library. The test questions could not be answered now by college grads.

    Sooki? Don't get me started.