Selling books to the public is like feeding roses to a dinosaur. Individual people are smart, canny, sensitive creatures, endowed with an olfactory nerve that sniffs out bargains and treasures from miles away, but the public is a different critter. Massed together as a crowd, people feed as one, think, feel, move in the manner of a primeval beast of the forest, ponderous, slow to advance, governed by habit. The networks of synapses that flash signals along the individual’s spinal column and cerebral cortex in only microseconds, enabling homo sapiens to adapt to new circumstances in rational leaps of the imagination, so that you and I can evade the snapping jaws of a predator almost at the same instant as we skewer dinner for tonight (and your synapses have already worked out that I am exaggerating your abilities in the wild) – these rapid connections just don’t happen in the public’s nervous system. It lumbers along the paths it has always followed, generation after generation, never really varying ancestral routines, feeding where it always fed, seeing what it always saw, thinking what it always thought, or, if it does change, it is only in externals and only by imperceptible degrees, inch by inch, aeon by aeon.
Thus we always find ourselves reliving history.
“Stop the world!” you often say. “I want to get off.”
Sorry but there is no getting off this ride, at least not while you can still contemplate the possibility. It is your fate to be dragged along in the public’s wake from the moment you are born to the moment you die, an insignificant molecular cell in a long, long, long tail, neither known, nor loved nor mourned by the enormous host you are part of. It is the tragedy of being you, and the comedy too.
“But what has all this got to do with books?” I hear you complain, because your synapses can’t help firing on all cylinders, you inquisitive little creature.
So I’ll tell you.
Books are the foliage that the dinosaur devours, the same leaves, the same stories, with just a few differences between, a slightly serrated edge here, the suggestion of an interesting colour there, a minutely raised vein on this side, something like a polished surface on the other – it is all one to the dinosaur. A rose might be a rose by any other name but it’s just greenery to him. Ten miles down the track, it’s poo.
“So, you are an author!” you say.
Does it show?