On Learjets and Liars
Somebody's husband was once laid off in the same year that the president of the company was awarded a $30million bonus. Another lady had her pension stolen by embezzling crooks and has to wait tables in her retirement years. You hear about stuff like this all the time. One person's lust for more-more-more robs opportunity and peace of mind from other people.
We all have a mental picture of these Gordon Gekko guys. White, middle-aged and dressed in an expensive suit. Me, personally, I picture them stepping off a Learjet, with the breeze ruffling their distinguished manhair. The Crooks. The Guys Who Stick It To The Little People. The Little Guy From Monopoly.
I spoke with another writer on the phone this evening. This writer was dejected, discouraged and depressed. Which, for a writer is par for the course...but for a writer with an agent?!? Yes. My writer friend (let's call him Charlie) has achieved aims 1 and 2 of all serious authors. He's finished his book and found an agent to shop it, saving his pearl from the sandy dross of the slush pile. But then here's the kicker. After years of labour on this book, after an finding an agent who was proud of the material and eager to sell it, he's lost his bite at the apple. He'll probably, if the book is to see the light of day, have to self-publish. That means a huge chunk of change and absolutely no distribution channel. See, the agent called him Friday with the good news. She can no longer rep non-fiction memoirs like Charlie's book to any publishing house anywhere. She's repped NF for years, but thanks to the junkie who didn't think the truth was as interesting as his fertile, pot-soaked imagination, the market for memoirs is apparently gone with the wind.
We've had this discussion before, and I'll probably have it with myself again. But there is a reason that truth is important. When you are selling the truth you have to be telling the truth. People don't like to be lied to, no matter who's telling the lie. The big guys at Enron or the dude shilling his book on Oprah--it's all the same. They're asking you to trust them, their word and the information they give you. Sure, James Frey didn't bilk investors but he has robbed a lot of people who had a story to tell. Right now there's a writer who can't sell a once-saleable book and a literary agent who may be out of a job. Granted they're not factory workers or pensioners. But broke is broke. And I now picture Frey stepping off that Learjet.
[In the spirit of this post, let me add that the anecdotes about the bilked workers were told to me in the Weight Watchers General Discussion forum and not verified. I have also changed pertinent details about "Charlie".]