Reader, it’s official. Former respectable publishing bodies can no longer afford to publish radical, topical, progressive literature, because easy crap sells better.
Second to this, if you don’t play the game, you don’t get published.
And it’s really as simple as that.
In March I worked on the WEM conference, and was lucky enough to hear Sophie Hannah gossip her way through a list of agents and publishers who tried, god love them, to convince her that her books should only be about motherhood and babies, rather than the thrill of dangerous detective stories, which included motherhood and babies but, nevertheless, had a bit more going on, such as criminal injustice, adultery, and the twisted nature of modern society. Thankfully for Hannah, good crime – encompassing all if not most of the above – sells. Novels on ecology, human vitality, the planet, and mythic bear-like creatures, might take a little more persuasion.
Or should it? Why are books bound by a tireless desire to bringing us closer to the issues and concerns that we create, so hard to publish? Perhaps it’s because we don’t want to read them. Or perhaps the publishers don’t want us to? It’s more likely the former, because as most of you are probably aware, the ghastly state of the publishing industry means that, publishing is no longer about believing in your writer – it’s about what sells. If crime sells, publish it – if vampires, or five-legged woolly mammoths from a newly discovered secret ice-age that make babies with vampires, sells – publish . No matter how diseased the idea or shit the writing. If it makes a publisher money, and lots of it, it’s the next best thing, ordained as excellence – the new era of progressive literature. Books that readers of both young and older generations alike can enjoy again and again, in paperback, hardback (ding-ding!) and of course readily available for kindle download (grossly under-prices and setting the barre incredibly low and therefore making it harder and harder for writers to demand sensible percentages for their creative copyright.)
But there are some publishers out there who rail against this – not in the traditional sense of simply believing in poverty. Crowdfunding publishers Unbound claim to have found a dignified method for seasoned and respected authors, to bring their work to the mind of the reader.
But I’m not here to talk about that (if you’re interested, here is a link to the steps you can take with a chance to be considered for Unbound publication) – the reason I’m writing this blog is to bring to your attention a book that, I believe to be far ahead of its time, not only because of the genius in the writing, but in the topics and issues it concerns itself with. Where descriptive passages of wonder and beauty are equal in measure to contemporary topics that undercurrent, and indeed drive, the ebb and flow of the story and its characters. A book of myth and ecological disease, spurred by probably the greatest of the seven breeds, The Quest, with a central voice you believe in, a landscape your subconscious conscious will undoubtedly recognise, and of course, a great big grizzly bear.
‘The Hunt for the Great Bear’, by David Calcutt, which I have been fortunate to read in raw form, is without doubt a work of fiction come non-fiction leaps and bounds ahead of most new works being pumped from the publishing houses as we speak.
Concerned deeply with matters of human interest, ecology, our ever decreasing understanding of the vital intellectual minerals that drive us, and of the planet we inhabit, it’s almost necessary to make sure this book comes alive “within the mind of the reader” by 2018.
It isn’t an easy book – but why are we so uninterested in art that challenges us? More and more the single celled hub of humanity, and it’s depleting mind power, seems unable to process works of art that make us look into ourselves, and question our behaviour. Not just in the immediate self, but as a conscious collective. The human history that has brought us to a world of war, poverty, and stale ignorance, truths that are now only being further distorted by the white wash of self interested internet garble – is becoming a lesser known truth. The wave of social media, projecting the perfect image of ourselves, that we created, back to ourselves, allows us to pretend to a cyber audience (including the remanded ‘I’ by the way) that we are ‘concerned’ with this or ‘outraged’ by that, simply by typing the word. Typing it into a non tangible outlet, sparking discussions from which we can remove ourselves so quickly we may as well not have said anything in the first place.
More than ever we need a book like this – at least to bring our eyes back from inside our own heads, and look outwards. ‘The Hunt for the Great Bear’ (and a few other books like it) do something that only things like walking and gardening do – bring us back into a thinking breathing reality. When you smell the earth, the salt – feel your body doing something real, like breathing. It’s a novel full of death – but more-so, a celebration of life:
“The deer stood watching them and they saw it as they rose and they froze then lowered themselves slowly until they lay flat again on the ground. It was standing just beyond the line of trees, sniffing at the air, twitching its tail and in the evening light the curve and arch of its back and the smooth sides of its flanks shone a deep and glossy red. It was a large buck and its antlers too caught on their tips the glow of the setting sun so that they seemed branched with flame. It stood with head erect and gazed across the landscape for sign of movement but there was none. Then it bent its head and nibbled at some tufts of coarse grass beneath the surface of the snow then looked up again and turned and walked slowly back into the forest. The brothers rose to their feet. They looked at each other then made their way to where the deer had stood. They could see where its hooves had pressed into the hard snow and one knelt and touched his fingers to a crumbled print while the other gazed the way they had come, as if to see the land as the deer had seen it, to crouch in its skull and look out through its eyes, each in his own way laying claim to the creature”
I urge you to pledge and support this book. If nothing else, it’s a darn good read. I won’t say more about it now because I’ve gone on long enough. But please visit this page to find out more about how Unbound works, and for a detailed overview, with links to further extracts from the book itself.