my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

May 25th, 2012

A Girl In Publishing: The Things We Take For Granted

Yesterday, a dear friend dropped by because she was in the area, and upon entering my “cube,” said, “It must be so nice to come into work and see a bookshelf full of books everyday.” And to be perfectly honest, I actually rarely even look at my bookshelf–two of the shelves have shoes on them, another is full of gadgets and cords and other ereading paraphernalia, and I’ve pared my work books down to the bare essentials (really just signed copies from visiting authors). I think, for the first time in my life, I have gotten to a place where books are no longer a romantic part of my life–I appreciate them, I feel they are inherently important, but as objects, well, they’ve utterly lost their hold on me.

For years, I carted around boxes and boxes of books, piles of them that remained unread, half-read, and collecting dust, like the sentimental attachment I had to many objects in my life. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s the transience of stuff, maybe it’s the fact that we are trying very hard not to be utterly consumed by, well, consumption, but I no longer see books as mythical objects. Maybe it was finally reading Naked Lunch, and wondering why I carried that book around with me for twenty-odd years. Maybe it’s working in digital books that’s allowed me to see why and how words need to be protected and pushed out into the world in many different formats. Maybe that’s just a lot of maybes.

I’m not violently opposed to ebooks. I’m not vigorously attached to print books. I exist somewhere in the middle. I like to read on my iPad, particularly short fiction and nonfiction. But I still like to have a novel cracked open when I’m curled up in bed at night or early in the morning. Like anything, reading is a habit, but like anything in life, sometimes aspects of that habit need to be broken. There’s a balance I need to strike between obsessively wanting ALL the books I might somewhat be interested in at some point (hence my insanely drooping shelves at home) and having a very real understanding of how much I can actually read in a year.

But I’m getting away from my point. Work, as with anything in life that becomes somewhat tedious and repititious, has beaten some of the awe right out of me. Before I landed, luckily and extremely happily, in this industry after being let go from my fancy job in television, I was so thrilled to finally be somewhere that I could love. And I do love so much about working in publishing. I love the fact that I no longer have to spend thousands of dollars a year on books (yes, I know there’s a library). I love being a part of culture. I love technology and all of the problems that need to be solved around a growing business. There’s a lot to love. But, there’s a lot of reality too–it’s a low-paying industry (as compared to what many of my friends are making now), it’s full of heartache, and it’s full of the stress and complexity of any organization in or out of the arts. There’s office politics. Of course. There’s a lot of frustrations about things not working right (any time you deal with data, external companies, files and all kinds of other stuff, lots of bits and pieces go wrong) and, often, after a long week I’m no longer enamoured by the written word as I once was.

In the back of my mind, I think that maybe I’d like to go back to school. That I admired the reading that I did then, it was intense, sometimes angry, always enlightening and ever-changing. In the mean time, I’m going to try and reclaim that sense of wonder about being able to come into work everyday and look at the lovely books on my shelves that represent the very hard work of an author who has trusted us to do a good job by the products of their imagination. Maybe, and this is my last maybe, I need to stop taking it all for granted.

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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