Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ban My Book--Please

We writers are always seeking ways to get noticed and have our books read.

It’s been estimated a million or more books will be published in 2014. With that kind of competition the task gets more difficult.

The advice we hear most often is write the best book you can. Right. F. Scott Fitzgerald spent nine years writing “Tender Is The Night” and expected it might be the best American novel of his time. Yet when it was published in 1934 sales were dismal and most critics dismissed it as a flop. I read somewhere his royalties for the year amounted to something like $80. Sure eighty bucks went further in those days. But considering the man made nearly $30,000 in 1937, mostly in short story sales, it was hardly a good return on his work.

Edgar Allan Poe, a classic writer if ever there was one, is known to everyone today but lived most of  his life in obscurity and poverty. For an analogy of another kind, Vincent Van Gogh, considered a genius today, sold just two paintings in his lifetime and one of those was to his brother.

So what is a writer to do to spark a little recognition?

Then it dawned on me: this is Banned Books Week, Sept. 21-27.  What could catapult a book into the limelight quicker than having it banned?

It worked for Fitzgerald (“The Great Gatsby”), along with Joyce (“Ulysses”), Jack London (“Call of the Wild”), Steinbeck (“Grapes of Wrath”), Mark Twain (“Huckleberry Finn”) and even Harper Lee (“To Kill a Mockingbird”). Why not for me?

All I need is for some irate group to call out my novels as obscene, violent or politically insensitive. You don’t even need a good reason. Shel Silverstein’s “Light in the Attic” was once banned by a school because it “encouraged children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” “Moby Dick” was banned by a Texas school district in 1996 on the claim it conflicted with community values.

Come on, gang. Get on the phone. Starting calling your library or speaking up at a governmental meeting. Condemn me. I don’t especially want to be rich. Being a little famous wouldn’t be bad, though.

Or, if you don’t want to support my cause, just read one of the many banned books. That’ll help all writers.