confessional fiction

Richard Grayson on Print on Demand

The new issue of The Quarterly Conversation has some great stuff in it, including Daniel Green on Barthelme and an article about the man who made a metaphysician out of Borges. There's also a piece by Richard Grayson about his experience with print-on-demand.

Some of you may remember the review I wrote of Grayson's self-published book, And to Think He Kissed Him on Lorimer Street. In that review I puzzled over Grayson's motives,

Grayson's work paints a portrait of a talented writer whose ambition has washed away in a sea of middling reviews and self-pity. This is a man who has given up, and I'm not talking about going to law school, I can understand resigning yourself to not making a living as a writer when so few do. It's like he's given up on being read, he's given up on literature, and he's given up on mattering. And frankly if he thinks so poorly of his own work then why is he inflicting it on other people at all? Why bother?

In the new essay, Grayson talks about how, after a recurring piece on McSweeneys.net, sending out review copies, and paying $350 dollars for a review from Kirkus Discoveries, he sold a grand total of 15 copies of the book I reviewed (as well as 15 copies of another book, and 35 copies of a collection of the McSweeneys pieces). 15 copies. "But then," says Grayson, "I've never done this for the money. I would just like people to be able to read my stories if they want." He goes on,

Who needs unnecessary books? And what books are really necessary? Not mine, I'll admit.
...
Nearly all POD books are absolutely dreadful, published—or privished—by people who can't write much better than the students in remedial writing classes I've taught over the years. Most serious literary writers don't want to be associated with that kind of crap.

On the other hand, for an older writer like myself who's been through trade and small press publication and essentially has nowhere else to go if he wants a book published—also, recall that a major newspaper called my first book crap anyway—POD books from Lulu and similar companies seem like a good deal. (Emphasis Mine)

Once again I wonder why someone who seems to think his work belongs with "that kind of crap" would bother going through the trouble of publishing it. It's not a question of being in it for the money, it's a question of being in it to be read at all. My girlfriend seems to think he's just being emo, like publishing is a cry for attention.

Grayson seems like a nice enough guy. But if he doesn't think his books are important and if he's resigned to nobody reading them, why does he publish at all? I could probably get fifteen readers by writing a book and emailing it to friends and family. At some point I fail to understand.

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Confessional Fiction

Confessional fiction and the cautionary tale of Richard Grayson. A review.