I own 150 books, but I have no bookcase. Because nobody will lend me a bookcase.
— Henny Youngman
Well, you can’t have mine, Henny. It’s chockablock with books — fiction, non-fiction; high class, middle class, right down to no class at all. It pains me to admit that I haven’t read many of the books that fight for space on my shelves. I’ll also confess that there’s one book up there that I never intend to read — or get rid of. I keep it because the words printed on its spine never fail to make me smile. It reads: The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush.
It was published back in 2003, before observers realized the full scale of the disaster that profoundly mediocre man and his posse of neocon know-nothings inflicted on the planet. Even so, the fact that there existed a publisher who actually put ‘genius’ and ‘George W.’ in the same sentence brings a whole new dimension to the concept of chutzpah.
The writer, Richard Brautigan, once mused “I wonder if what we are publishing right now is worth cutting down trees to make paper for the stuff?” Brautigan was Old School. He died before the phenomenon of EBooks came to dwell amongst us. No need to kill trees anymore — just lasso a few hundred thousand pixels and publish anything you please.
Exhibit A: Jerome Corsi, who just put out a book called Where’s the Birth Certificate? — referring to Barack Obama’s supposedly missing paperwork. Trouble is, Obama produced the certificate specifically to silence yappers like Corsi. Now, people who favour tin foil hats and believe Elvis is pumping gas in Wyoming are the only ones who still think Obama wasn’t American-born.
Also Mister Corsi, of course. Whose book is available at finer remainder bins everywhere.
Which is where you could also find Donald Trump’s latest literary opus — if it existed. As late as last month, trade publishing magazines were a-flutter over the news that the buffoon with the orange tsunami on his forehead was hiring a ghostwriter to publish his “policy book” — outlining the positions he would take once he was elected President of the United States.
Except that The Donald suddenly folded his circus tent and disappeared. At least the ‘short-fingered vulgarian’, as Spy magazine so memorably dubbed him, didn’t have to face the indignity of a rejection slip – which is not something Richard Wimmer can say.
Never heard of Dick Wimmer? That’s odd. He was a world record-holding author.
For rejection slips. Wimmer’s first novel, Irish Wine, was published in 1989 — but not until it had been rejected by publishers 169 times.
Wimmer was no hack. He taught English and creative writing, held master’s degrees in English from Yale and Columbia, and wrote award-winning screenplays for TV and the movies. And just to show you how perverse the business is, when Irish Wine was finally published) it got rave reviews from the critics.
“A taut, finely written, exhaustingly exuberant first novel,” burbled the New York Times.
Ah, well. Publishers are nothing if not adaptable.
During the Second World War, somebody at Random House got the bright idea to publish an inspirational book for the U.S. forces servicemen and women called The Ten Commandments. When it came time to print, however, company bean counters predicted the page count was too high to make money for the publisher.
Solution? Cut out fifty per cent of the commandments. And that’s how A Treasury of the World’s Best Commandments came to be.
If I ever find a copy I’m going to add it to my bookshelf. Right beside The Leadership Genius of George. W. Bush.