Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dead Author's Club

In my Book Marketing class last year, I made a statement saying that a really good way to increase your new book's sales would be to have your author get arrested right before the book came out. Nothing felony, just a barfight or drug possession or some drunken disorderly. The teacher returned the paper without a grade and called it a "joke of a homework assignment." To her credit, I gave her a list of three authors in the New York Times top-10 (Tucker Max, Slash, and some jerkoff from Motley Crue or Poison or whatever) whose book sales would receive a publicity bump if their authors got into some trouble, and I ended up with an A in the class.

Which has little to do with David Foster Wallace, who, if you haven't heard, hung himself late last week. What I'm getting at here is this: Wallace's opus "Infinite Jest" is sitting at #10 on Amazon.com's sales list right now. Not bad for a book that's more than ten years old. I'm sure the publisher will take this sudden windfall and establish a scholarship in the author's name, or donate the money to charity, and I doubt there are any John McCain supporters on the board over at Back Bay Books rubbing their hands together in a shady manner.

I haven't read a lot of Wallace. I tried out Infinite Jest in my early twenties, but I was reading it on the bus to and from work, and I couldn't get it done. My roommate has read it twice, and I've been meaning to give it another shot, but I make it a rule to avoid 1000-page books without covers. I have a collection of his short stories in my on-deck circle. I've read a few of his essays. I felt a lot safer knowing there was a writer out there who could write intelligently about infinity, sports, pornography, and seafood. In a stupid, stupid country, we'll be worse off without him.

4 comments:

krammer abrahams said...

I've come to the conclusion if I ever have a book come out I'm going to find the highest profile celebrity I can find and punch them in the face. If that means waiting outside of whole foods until a pregnant minnie driver walks out then fine. I am what I am, a whore to fame.

Anonymous said...

what about HST? how'd Fear & Loathing fair?

vonnegut i was sad about. hst was not exactly like a suicide...

Matt DiGangi said...

I checked the NYTimes best-sellers list for the weeks after HST's death and nothing of his hit the top 15. We'll see what happens with DFW this week. There's a big difference between the Amazon lists and the NYT, so it'll be interesting to monitor.

Jake Mooney said...

But, with IJ, it'll be interesting to see if the death just leads to his work being used more for the purposes of bookshelf decoration. It is 1100 pages long after all. How many of these people are actually going to read the thing?

Adult book buyers are a little bit like child puppy buyers, they'll buy on impulse and are easily influenced by what's happening in the overculture (eg movies, famous deaths). Remember how many Dalmatians went uncared-for in the years after Disney made them famous?