Of course sometimes the hippie with his feet up on the desk actually does have good taste — the example is too often used, but, well, Gordon Lish. (There must be others; good books do still get published.) Still, up until all that “Punker” and “tennis” business, right, right? And allied to this brand of toybox-tyrant naivety is a penchant for pushing lots of little piles into one or two rather large, rather capriciously chosen piles. I’m thinking especially of the whole Mark Z. Danielewski serialized-novel business. I liked House of Leaves fine, but I couldn’t help but think: why not buy 50 books with that $1 million? (And yes, I realize that Pantheon got 10 books for their Publishers Clearing House-sized check.) Now that the ink has dried, it doesn’t much matter whether the cigar-chomper in question has made a good bet or not — Pantheon will be throwing money at the book(s) regardless. Is it significant that so many of the “Biggest Box-Office Bombs” were produced after 2000? Are we getting worse at this? When Plan 9 from Outer Space bombed, J. Edward Reynolds despaired of losing $60,000, got out of the movie business. When Cutthroat Island bombed, Carolco lost almost $140 million, went bankrupt. Too big to fail? Not in art, I guess.
[Video shamelessly stolen from Shane Jones’s Facebook feed]