March 21, 2006

Hilarious excerpt of a not so funny book

Without trying to impinge on Aqumada's blog territory, I want to share a humerous excerpt of a book I'm reading called Foucault's Pendulum. The author, Umberto Eco, I think must be a pretty funny guy who takes a somewhat amused look at the world. Not that the book is funny - it covers mostly the occult and a bunch of other stuff I have yet to understand. By the way, George Will, editorial writer for the Washington Post, despite your oft-cited verbal capability, you are absolutely no match for Umberto Eco. I have never seen so many 3-4 syllable words combined into meaningful sentences time after time.

Alas, I digress. The excerpt. The story follows the lives of a few employees of two publishing companies as they try to unwrap the mysteries of the occult. The two publishing companies are run by the same man, but for different clientele - one for serious academics and the other for what the author describes as Self Financed Authors (SFAs).

SFAs are wined and dined, told that their works are 50 years ahead of their time, and then asked to pay for the publication of a minimal print run, which the publisher is well aware will never be sold. In fact, they only print a handful of author's copies - maybe 500 - 1,000 - because the contract doesn't stipulate a minimum. Another part of the contract stipulates that the publishing house can pulp all remaining copies after one year.

The SFA is shown other authors, introduced to awards and recognitions invented by the publisher. S/he then agrees to publish and predictably, no copies sell. A year later, the publisher calls the author and says that, "Like I suspected, you are 50 years ahead of your time. Sorry, but as agreed, we will have to pulp all remaining copies". The author is devestated at the thought of the destruction of his work, so he scrapes together money from family and friends an buys the remaining copies.

Thus, the SFA pays for the initial publication and buys the books back to prevent them from being destroyed.

I was cracking up as I read this and I recommend the book a) because it's great and b) for this small passage.


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