choose your own adventure

March 28, 2011

My friend Larry posts a lot of weird stuff to his Facebook page. Not weird as in “how unusual” but weird as in “seriously? how can that be?” yet sadly far from unusual these days. The other day he posted a recent news story link – one on an Alaska politician who believes people who have sex outside of marriage should be criminally prosecuted by the state (a politician who, of course, belongs to the party of small government) and I responded that I wanted to wake up from this dream because it’s getting too weird.

And that’s so often how it feels; like one of those dreams you have in the hour before the alarm goes off, the nightmares that feel so real and so very wrong, the ones where normal life has become warped and looks just like normal, only totally off kilter. It’s scary precisely because everyone else in the dream seems to think it’s how things should be. Because it feels impossible, but inevitable.

I felt the same way this morning, reading two stories from the publishing world, courtesy of Shelf Awareness. One fit neatly right next to the recent story in the New York Times that pointed out G.E. has paid no taxes in the past two years, even though they made $5 billion in profits in the US (and over $14 billion worldwide.)

Here’s the book world business-as-usual weirdness: Apparently top officials in the failed Borders bookstore chain stand to earn over 8 billion in bonuses if the company pulls off its latest fantasy business league restructuring plan. These are not people of the book. They are businessmen who jumped aboard a sinking ship and pretended to steer as it broke up. Yet an unnamed publishing executive at a major house thinks they should get that bonus, telling a WSJ reporter “I want to see Borders come out of this. If they don’t have these guys, I don’t see a chance.”

Reader, with these captains of industry steering the ship we don’t stand a chance.

But there are alternatives. Here is one – and sweet, sweet irony, it’s temporarily occupying the shell of a Borders store in Pittsburgh. Karen the Small Press Librarian points out that Fleeting Pages will move in for a month to provide alternative and indy books, book arts events, workshops, and projects. You’ve heard of pop-up books. This is a pop-up book future, DIY, hand-on, and without executives who require big bonuses. But feel free to volunteer. This may not be the future, and it doesn’t pretend to be. But it sure as hell is better than the current Billionaires in Bizarro World storyline we’re living in.

Because there’s one thing that transcends money, big salaries, business strategies, and corporate goals. It’s simple, and it’s been around for a long time: people telling stories to each other. People creating. People sharing. As the captains of industry squabble over who gets to hold the wheel of the ship, not noticing that an iceberg of greed has already ripped a hole in your hull, we’ll keep sharing our stories.

This intriguing picture comes from a Wreck This Journal set by The Shopping Sherpa. In fact, there's a whole Wreck This Journal group at Flickr. Beautiful!