1.22.2006

Ghoulish timing

Ambulance chaser or not, do literary agents feel any moral obligation to delay the publishing of books in instances like the WV miners?I'm interested at times on what happened, and to whom, but not so anxious as to read a book on the subject before all of the details are even in.For the sake of the (widows), can't we just let them be for a little while?

Literary agents don't control publishing schedules. That's the publisher's SOLE domain.

I didn't read a single thriller for six months after 9/11.
The publisher of a book about bombing in the London Underground was horrified to be new on the shelves the same week there was that bombing there this summer.

It's a tough call. People like to read about events in the news. Are we ghouls? I hope not. I know when I want to understand about a disaster I always read the Times coverage. Is that ghoulish?

I was glued to the coverage of Diane Downs when she killed her children, and I read Ann Rule's book about it. Am I a ghoul?

Is ghoulishness a function solely of timing?

Carole Radziwill talked about "tragedy whores" in her book What Remains. She described them as the people who were ever present at tragedy, eating up the energy of a crisis and taking almost a delicious pleasure in being in the center of things. Is that ghoulish? I'd say yes.


Is it ghoulish to make money from tragedy? Well probably but stand in line, we're not alone.

6 comments:

December Quinn said...

Did you see Diane Downs on Oprah (15 years or whatever ago)? Fascinating.

I think Small Sacrifices is one of the best true-crime books ever. The first time I read it I was so creeped out by Diane's big stare-y eyes I hid the book in the pantry when I wasn't actively reading.

Anonymous said...

During the work days immediately following 9/11, I was the lucky publicist instructed to write the press release announcing my publishing house's instant illustrated book on the subject. Talk about writer's block. What does one say in the heat of all that ongoing raw emotion about a book filled with photos of people jumping to their deaths and others running for their lives?

"Ladies and Genltemen: Step right up. If you haven't had enough of the incessant instant replay on your television screens of those fiery towers falling to their knees, here -- for the first time ever! -- in 'one single' volume -- is the ultimate way to NEVER FORGET what happened on that 'horribly tragic' day in our nation's great history!

"But wait -- there's more! If the images of those screaming soon-to-be-splattered bodies falling from the sky as they jump from mile-high windows isn't seared into memory enough already, now you'll have the chance of a lifetime to witness all the glory in still frames, page by page by page! If you buy one coffee table tome this year, this is THE edition of all collector's editions you'll want to share with your children, grandchildren, and even their children if the world is still around then. Isn't it glorious, Ladies and Gentlemen...."

Miss Snark said...

yikes.
yikes.
yikes.

Bernita said...

Sometimes readers simply seek knowledge, to understand, to determine for themselves if horrible events are random, preventable or escapable.
Likely, not a few people read accounts of 9/11 with a mental template geared toward gleaning details they might use should they ever be caught in a flaming highrise.
Sometimes it's about facing down a deep-seated fear with concrete examples: Is my daughter-in-law/son/baby-sitter acting strangely? Do their actions parallel those of this sensational case?
To describe everyone who reads about tragedies as ghoulish implies a prim and faulty moral disdain.
It's not always and only an urge for pseudo-drama.

December Quinn said...

During the work days immediately following 9/11, I was the lucky publicist instructed to write the press release announcing my publishing house's instant illustrated book on the subject. Talk about writer's block. What does one say in the heat of all that ongoing raw emotion about a book filled with photos of people jumping to their deaths and others running for their lives?


Marvel Comics did a graphic novel of this nature as a benefit project-it was about loss and pride, not about bodies falling or death.

Not all projects like this are capitalizing on tragedies. Some are trying to help.

(If I knew how to remove my picture I would. But since I write erotic romance it fits in with my blog. If someone tells me how to keep it from showing in comments I will happily do so.)

-December.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Hmmm...I watched a History Channel program recently regarding Adolf Hitler's mental stability. Portrayed from a psychiatric stance, it provided a different slant on things. The images were there, concentration camps, piles of corpses, Krystalnacht, just as horrifying as they ever are.

The images still turn my stomach. Does that exempt me from Ghoul status?

Even from a distance of sixty years, horror is horror. Matthew Brady's photographs of the Civil War still resonate. The 9/11 images will repel and attract forever.

What time lends is perspective, the ability to view the events in a new light, or with understanding beyond the shell-shocked reactions in the immediate aftermath. Books that make instant capital of tragedy are rarely good, tending to be slipshod efforts which lack depth.

Unless horrific events are recorded and available, people will forget. As with any bit of history, the option is always there not to watch or not to read.