Quote Ken quoting Ken? Why not? Most denizens of the Canadian Book World are avid readers of SHuSH, the weekly newsletter produced by Ken Whyte, author and publisher of Sutherland House. He observed recently, in an offering headlined Publishing Into the Void, that for authors, “reliance on mainstream media is increasingly untenable today because mainstream media is a shadow of its former self . . . .” That truth drove me to my keyboard. I mean, who’s been looking for trouble since at least 1991 and Canada’s Undeclared War: Fighting Words from the Literary Trenches?
Ken #1 invited readers to respond and of course Ken # 2 — that would be moi — couldn’t help himself. As Ken #1 put it, Ken #2 “wrote to confirm what’s happening in conventional media.” And, yes, to share my dismay.
“Publishing into the void? That just about sums it up. Back in the 1990s, when I handled books coverage for the Calgary Herald, I built the section up to two or three pages per weekend edition. I assigned and published ten or twelve reviews per week and maybe a roundup of some sort. Plus I wrote an article or two mid-week. Every year, I would report on the annual general meetings of The Writers Union of Canada and the Alberta Writers’ Guild. I traveled annually to Toronto (and occasionally to Vancouver) for the Canadian Booksellers’ Association and the International Authors’ Festival. I caught an international Kerouac festival in Quebec City.
“I thought I was planting a flag, helping establish Calgary as the Toronto-West of the Canadian book world. A few years after leaving the city, I visited and flipped open the Saturday book section and saw that of all I believed I had built, nothing remained. And I felt a new identification: “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” A lesson in hubris. A similar story emerges, as you [Ken #1] suggest, at every city newspaper.”