Monday, June 02, 2008

it’s the culture, stupid

Usually panels about publishing make me cringe a little. They’re either depressing because they’re all about marketing (“You have to have a platform! It’s not enough to be a good writer—you have to be Oprah’s niece and a good writer!”), or they’re depressing because they’re depressing (“Books are dying. The publishing industry is bleeding money. People only read text messages and photo captions on Facebook”).

So imagine my relief when one of my favorite novelists, Sarah Schulman, set the tone at Sunday’s lively and inspiring PEN salon on queer literature:

“Look, let’s not pretend publishers’ reluctance to put out books by queer writers is about money. That’s an excuse. The truth is that they publish all kinds of books by straight writers that don’t sell well at all. It’s about culture. People in power don’t like reading stories from the points of view of the disenfranchised because it threatens their power.”

It’s so easy to be a willing victim—to take the tone of, I know my little book is a giant burden to you, Maker of Money. So I’ll take any little scrap you want to hand me. But as Sarah and the other panelists pointed out, queer writers make best-seller lists in England all the time because the culture is less homophobic.

Of course, the U.S.’s culture problem is exactly why it’s all the more important to write, publish and disseminate quality queer books. As moderator Michael Silverblatt (who talks just like he talks on Bookworm, apparently reading from an eloquent essay being written in real time on the inside of his eyeballs) said, “Every time Scheherazade tells a story, she defeats the sultan.”

I left feeling invigorated instead of depressed, as if there were no bigger fuck-you to The Man than spending a warm evening next to a Melrose-adjacent pool house, drinking wine and talking books with my favorite writers (Noel Alumit and Nina Revoyr among them). But haven’t the gays always waged revolution with style?


In the interest of defeating the sultan…or, like, spending a nice Sunday afternoon in another pretty venue, I hope you’ll come see me and writer Katharine Coles read as part of Red Hen Press’ reading series at the Ruskin Art Club:

Katharine Coles and Cheryl Klein
Sunday, June 8 at 2 p.m.

The Ruskin Art Club

800 S. Plymouth Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90005

310-669-2369 or 818-831-0649
General admission: $10
Students and seniors: $5*

*If you want to bring your old college ID with “Winter Quarter ‘99” blacked out, I certainly won’t bust you.


Tracy Lynn said...

I think that is totally true. And not just with queer writers, either.

Claire said...

Your post made me feel better about the struggles of publishing.

And "Melrose-adjacent" made me laugh.

Good luck with your reading! If were there, I'd be there, y'know?

Claire said...

that is, if I were there...

Veronica said...

i'm coming with my school id

Cheryl said...

TL: Yeah, totally not just queer writers--same goes for women and people of color and people in categories so disenfranchised that I can't think of them right now because I've never had the opportunity to read anything about them.

C: Yeah, I don't think your school ID, expired or not, would get you much of a discount on plane tix. But thanks for joining in spirit!

V: Woo-hoo! PCC/UCLA/Cal Poly in the house!

Laura and the family said...

I wish I live closer to you, so I would support you. But my spirit will be with you on Sunday :-)

Don't forget to update your news on your next blog.

G' Luck.

Cheryl said...

Thanks--hopefully one of these days I'll make it down to San Diego!

thelastnoel said...

That was a truly exhilerating evening. Sarah threw the gauntlet down!

Cheryl said...

Right? I was ready to take to the streets!