No two ways about it, the famous editor was fried. Doing too much phone had finally done in his brain. No big thing normally, but his reader was sick this week, and his famous author had to have an answer, but ye gads, he couldn’t read his meal ticket’s writing anymore! Matter of fact, he couldn’t read the letter he got from his mother the week before, or the article in the famous magazine that quoted him talking about his famous meal ticket. But at least he had the good sense to have the article scanned for his name, so he did catch the sentence illuminated in yellow magic marker where he was glibly quoted explaining that sales were down because, “People just don’t read anymore.”
He was now a testament to his own testimony. Counted among the growing number of people not just in the publishing business, but in the entire infotainment industry, who have dyslogia, which, for the uninitiated, is a mild, yet quite serious eye to brain reading (listening-viewing) dysfunction which is on the verge of literally becoming an intellectual epidemic.
Caused primarily by infomania, which is the obsession to collect more and more information without making any distinction in its value, the untalked about downside of the technology boom is that everyone in the content end of the Biz has been forced to overload their poor unprepared human hard drives without being taught how to download what they’ve already taken in and are no longer using.
Right now, for instance, a lot of people are going through dyslogia without even knowing it, because it happens gradually, not suddenly, which is the main reason it’s so difficult to detect. And once they have it they don’t talk about it because it’s too embarrassing, and they think it’s them, not the effects on them of the system in which they’re working. So just like the Peter Principle explained how people are naturally promoted out of their competence – as one moves up in the Biz, the amount of germane duties they actually have to perform move down, reading among the people who actually make decisions about books and movies, is something their underlings do. Executives do phone and they do lunch and they do fine.
It’s a well known fact that people in decision making positions in the Biz have readers who read the work and write coverage on it for them so they can talk about the scripts as if they actually read them themselves. Certainly in the movie business, as novelist Gerald Green’s famous Harry Cohn story testifies, it’s always been a cretin’s picnic. Green was of course accorded the whole nine yards when Cohn bought his novel all those years ago; flown out to Bimbowood, put up in what might be considered tres-tres ostentatious digs, he was immediately wisked to the studio and ushered in to meet the mogul himself. The moment Green walked through the door, Dirty Harry leaped up out of his chair and embraced him, then began pounding him on the back, as he oozed, “Young man, young man, I actually cried, cried real tears when my secretary read me the synopsis of your novel.”
Is this an exaggeration? I’m not sure, but probably not. I talked to a lit agent in New York recently who quite openly boasted “I read everything I sell, but not until I sell it.” Then not long after that, a once famous but now somewhat fading editor-in-chief who I had read for at the height of his career, asked for a novel of mine. Six months later, when I hadn’t heard from him I started calling him. He never returned my calls, but one day, probably while his secretary was in the bathroom, he answered his own phone. I identified myself and asked him whether he had had a chance to read the novel yet. “Uhhh, I don’t know,” he stammered. “I’ll have to ask.”
Is this an exaggeration? Definitely not. My first experience with dyslogia was even more moving & pathetic. I was in an agent’s office in Beverly Hills, in the early 90s. The woman had had a screenplay of mine sitting on her desk for close to a year. It had been given to her by her lawyer, who had recommended she take me on as a client. Unfortunately, even though she knew three months in advance that I’d be in town on this preordained day, she hadn’t been able to read the script. Of course she could’ve given it to her reader, but she couldn’t give it to her reader, she explained, as she looked around at the wall-to-wall piles of manuscripts stacked from the floor, 12 feet up to the ceiling, surrounding my chair on three sides. I noticed the only place there were no manuscripts was in back of her desk, where there was a window that dropped six floors down to a parking lot. I suddenly imagined the agent hyperventilating, which wasn’t difficult to do, because as she explained to me that she had found out her reader was filing false reports, she started gasping for breath. She stood up, turned and faced the window – for a moment I imagined she was going to jump. Later, she confessed she did too. But it was merely transcendental hyperventialtion, a malady that is much like momentary rapture of the deep, and has become the new Epstein-Barr Syndrome of the Infotainment industry.
When she turned around the agent started crying. Her reader, she confessed, was telling her that scripts submitted to her were no good, then taking them to a studio on his own, and claiming he was the agent. From what she said, I gathered it was starting to happen all over town. Ambitious young sharks were cutting the legs out from under their mentors, and there wasn’t a damn thing anybody could do about it other than take six months off, and hope the dyslogia cleared up and they had enough flour left over in the barrel to open a Burger Chump franchise when they got back to hell. Because once you’re out of the Biz, you’re out of the Biz.
Ask any agent trying to beat the cost of postage down that long winding hall to development hell, and what you’ll see is not a pretty picture. And like the news of the day, it never ends. Deals go down where even chumps fear to tread, but words, ah words, they just keep going across the page until they go out of focus, and the eyes roll back in the head for a little siesta. . . Then the phone rings, and it all starts over again.
Mike Golden is editor-publisher of Smoke Signals and the now dormant “countervoid” SoHo Arts Weekly, and he has written for Rolling Stone, The Paris Review, The L.A. Weekly, Spy, Ducts and elsewhere. He is the author of The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle (Seven Stories Press) on the art-poetry and mysterious death of the last poet in America to be put on trial for his language, d.a. levy.
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