It has oft been said—and oft despairingly—that the book business has become more and more like the TV and movie biz, what with the corporate ownership, the philistine sensibilities, the blockbuster mentality and the focus on the bottom line. Books these days are supposed to “open” like Brad Pitt films and run like Law & Order. Most of all, they're supposed to turn a big profit.
Mostly, as I said, we lament the comparison. “They” (the TV and movie folks) are not real writers like “we” are; “they” collaborate in another medium while “we” are pure. But the truth is, they have it all over us in at least one way (and I'm not talking about how the most middling of them makes in a week what most novelists would happily subsist on for a year): when TV or movie writers feel dissed or undervalued, when they don't like their contracts, they don't just sit around in Starbucks whining into their cellphones about the unfairness of a world in which that guy John Grisham gets bigger paydays than they do.
No sir, no way.
They go on strike.
Imagine if pen-and-paper types did the same.
I can see it now. Salman Rushdie as the Tina Fey character on the picket line: outraged, railing at the system, but happy, finally, to be on the right side of a fatwa. Maybe James Patterson would show up, too—and bring his coterie of ghost and co-writers, enough to fill up the evening news and allow the rest of the world's authors to stay home. As for Dan Brown: why wouldn't he come? Standing in public support of his fellow scribes is the perfect politically correct excuse for not yet having produced his Da Vinci Code follow-up.
Imagine if they could convince Joyce Carol Oates to put down her pen, if only for a few days. Think of the trees that would live!
Definitely. A writers' strike would be good for business. First, it could draw writers and editors together in solidarity against the big bad corporations (think of Sonny Mehta channeling Eva Langoria by bringing pizza and doughnuts to the picket line).
Also, news about publishing would fill the air waves. “Are books dead?” would scream the headlines in the newspapers and magazines that just last year killed their own book review departments. Legions of readers would fill the blogosphere with worries, complaints, entreaties: please, come back to us, dear authors, they'd cry. If you don't, we're going to have to buy our fathers more ties for Christmas.
Still, we wouldn't want any strike to go on too long. The public is fickle, after all, and if they went, say, a whole month without books, they might get used to it and turn to other forms of entertainment. The Internet, say, or even television.
Now, that's unimaginable.
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