Recently I have been doing things where I am exposed to people. It is not my favorite activity but one thing has happened. Some of these people have revealed to me their love of books.
I was sitting for a passport interview with a man and we started to talk about books when he reached into his desk and showed me what he was reading. It was On The Road by Jack Kerouac. I was amazed. One of my favorite books and it was there only two feet away from me the whole time. It was such an exciting revelation that I began to think about the books people have all about me.
On buses, in buildings, people walking by on streets, many of them are carrying a book. I am certain that on a busty street in briefcases and tucked under arms, there may be a Charles Dickens or an F. Scott Fitzgerald or a Kurt Vonnegut passing by. To me this is a genuine sign of civilization, that people, citizens, average people who work for a living, are reading some of the greatest works of literature our civilization can produce. These ideas are available and accessible to all and are being accessed.
It makes me so happy so live in a place where books on any topic, not just literature, are readily available to all people. You can pick a book about economics, politics, architecture and you can put in your head the best ideas and theories available. Even the most powerful politician or businessman can never rob you of those ideas once you ingest them. It is a miracle and a source of pride that people are taught to read. To read is to give food to your soul.
Today I was listening to a radio show, (NPR All Things Considered) and I heard a discussion on what it takes to have a successful musical on broadway. It struck me that these rules were awfully similar to having a successful novel. It listed the following points about broadway success;
Word of mouth is essential. A play needs every person who liked the play to tell their friends and family that the play is a ‘must see’ otherwise the play with shrivel and die.
Good reviews and bad reviews do not necessarily dictate the plays success or failure. The musical ‘Wicked’ was universally panned by critics, it had a string of negative reviews from popular critics yet it has succeeded beyond belief.
A big name celebrity can make a difference. The introduction of a celebrity into a play can boost numbers.
Ultimately the work must be good. It must be well written and enjoyable.
This is a reality of the book world: Word of mouth is essential, reviews (good or bad) do not necessarily make a success or disaster, a big time celebrity can sell a lot of books. (Grace Helbig, an internet star and someone I have followed for sometime had a huge success with her recent book). But ultimately the book must be well written or interesting otherwise it will not survive long.