Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time to let the public sit in judgement

Wherever we turn, there are gatekeepers in place to turn off the undesirables. They are present in the city at the entrance to ‘exclusive’ nightclubs and on the seashore to keep riffraff away from private oceanfronts; but also reviewers who tell theatergoers whether or not to buy tickets for a show; and, of course, keepers at the gates of bookstores and libraries, preventing entrance to self-published authors not sanctioned by the Establishment.

As founder and president of The indiePENdents.org, I am concerned about the latter, because they prevent so many authors from reaching their audience, blocking the writer of a book from his/her readers,

The recording indies of the have cut the shackles of the big music industry and now publish and distribute freely without the censorship based on the bias of its middlemen, being it taste or finances. The copywriters now own their works, rather than having others manipulate it.

I have witnessed a play of particular poignancy to me, closed by fiat of a big critic’s bias. That power is still bestowed to mainstream publishing executives as the power to send a book into oblivion still rests with their gatekeepers.

I was already tired of all these talking heads, playing the Almighty with other people’s creativity, when The New York Times let Christopher Isherwood shoot a barrage against a Broadway play not because it was bad, but because it ‘disrespected’ him. 

I wrote the following letter to his paper, and it wasn't any welcome than my previous ones:

As a reader of the Critic’s Notebook, looking for what Charles Isherwood thinks about the current Broadway revival of 'Glengarry Glen Ross', I was sorely disappointed. The editor who let that piece through made me waste my time for what was essentially Mr. Isherwood's hissy fit at not being invited to issue his decree on the validity of the production.

More than any theatergoer, he is able to buy a ticket on the Times allowance, but he chose to be offended instead.

Good! Maybe the producers have stumbled upon a way of not letting official critics kill a play. 

I remember great critics in the not too distant past, eavesdropping on the theatergoers views on a play before adding their own. Today, the self-appointed arbiters of public’s taste manipulate the performing arts from their Olympus, just as other Establishment powers-to-be are allowed to wield their whip over book publishing. 

I maintain that it should be up to the theatergoers to determine the fate of Broadway plays, the same as it should be up to readers to judge the value of a book, regardless of whether it is printed by  officially self-sanctioned publisher or a self-published author himself. Gatekeepers are an impediment rather than facilitators of culture.

We are calling on librarians to open the door to self-published authors. The indiePENdents.org Seal of Good Writing should be enough to assure them a book is fit for their shelves. Their readers, individually or in book discussion clubs, will tell them what they think of the author and his/her title. 

Literature should not depend on middlemen’s biases and financial interests. 

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