Sunday, October 23, 2011

Maybe I’ve crossed some wrong rivers

Autumn sunset, off the camera's memory card

Thinking about the future of the publishing industry today, with my guilty post of last week about my pirated music. I’d like to draw a line between myself and those who download music wholesale off the internet, but am I any better? Almost all of my music comes from actual CDs, uploaded to my database. So the artist was paid for the music. How is it any different than the books (real pieces of paper, bound together with glue) that my friends and I trade among ourselves?


The seed of this post was written two weeks ago before I realized, in vivid detail, the difference. The difference is that they all can be lost in one fell swoop, in a sweeping fleeting moment. I keep thinking about the burning of the library of Alexandria, although such a comparison may be melodramatic. I’m sure it is. But that’s how it feels at some cosmic level. I had dreams of apocalyptic fungi, white cosmic snot, wrapping the sides of my face.

I can’t help but believe that all of this destruction is karma, is my fault for not spending enough money on artists, for singing the praises of digital archives. There’s something clinical about my inherent theology that whenever something bad happens, it’s God punishing me for something I did wrong. I believe, at some level, that I haven’t cast off enough, I haven’t stripped myself bare to the bone enough. After eight months here, I’m still living off the contents of one suitcase and a carry-on. One pair of jeans, two tee-shirts. My glasses are broken.

I’ve stripped away almost everything of financial value in my attempt to live authentically, whatever the hell that means. What’s the one thing I still prize? I still rely on? I still shuffle through cold gray short days? My music.

My library connects me to everyone I love: my brother and sister, my brother- and sister-in-laws and their brothers and wives, friends from my past, from college, from the boat, from Chattanooga. I share music, yes, but I also buy music: new, from, Bob Dylan’s most recent album as a gift for my sister; used from my local CD store in Tennessee, McKay’s, Dar Williams’s debut. Do the artists get enough for that? Are they making a living? Because the writers aren’t doing so hot.


Bartleby said...

Henry Rollins says not to feel guilty about pirated music--if you want to rip off the music industry the way it's been ripping him off all these years, go for it; more power to you, he says.

I share your concern about the publishing industry. What will it look like when we're ready to publish our novels? I don't aspire to the sort of fame and wealth Stephen King enjoys, but I would like to be able to make a living from writing one day. Nowadays, it's just way too easy for any schmuck to publish a book on or something. That scares and offends me, as a writer and a reader.

Melissa, have you read any Wendell Berry? Something tells me you'd like him.

Please don't be afraid to reach out to the writers group for help, moral support, whatever. The Thoreau thing is all well and good, but there's a lot to be said for community too.

Melissa said...

Bartleby, eh? One of the advantages of this long electronic break is that I'm finally reading Moby Dick. I write this while listening to the third of my iTunes music that was backed up on my internal hard drive, so clearly I'm not too worried about the ethics of it.

Not worried enough to change, just enough to feel guilty. I haven't been able to face the new blank documents in Word yet, but when I do, I'll be back at the writer's group...