i want to live inside shia labeouf’s head for an hour

More than that would be too much.

I don’t know when it happened, because I still mostly think of him as Louis Stevens, because that’s who he was when I was a kid, and that’s how I’ll always remember most things from that age. But in the last year or so he’s become this sort of intensely strange entity wandering popular culture. Not that he’s doing very popular things, but he still walks those corridors, which keeps him in the public eye. It feels similar to James Franco, but only because they both seem to be doing a lot of disparate things and most of them are not what you’d expect them to be doing.

Everyone seems to hate James Franco, which I think is pretty silly. He may not be particularly good at anything he does, but I like that he tries. He aims for mountains even though he’s stuck in a wheelchair, and that’s impressive, I think, to keep fighting past your limitations. He’s not bad at everything, either. I think he’s a pretty solid actor. Just watch Milk or 127 Hours. He’s probably good in other things, too, but I can’t remember them. Oh, Pineapple Express. That was awesome.

Shia LaBeouf is different, though. He’s not so much grappling with his identity as a celebrity, which is what I think Franco’s doing. LaBeouf is seems to have fallen through this crack in media and arrived at this place where very few people exist.

This is a tremendously strange thing that’s also completely awesome.

But that’s not when I started thinking about LaBeouf, which I’ve been doing far more than I’d like to admit. I stumbled across this silent interview with him about a month or two ago. I even made a short post at Enclave about how he seems to be living in a novel written by my friend, Michael Seidlinger.

It’s all so strange, but utterly fascinating.

To be honest, I know very little of his work since he was on Disney channel. I’ve seen Transformers and I, Robot, and something he was in about an Eagle or something. He’s also in Lawless, which I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time, so I may watch it tonight. Oh, too, he was in Nymphomaniac, which is what you’d expect from Von Trier, which is to say: I hate that film.

But he as a person or even celebrity has largely not existed for me. I get that a lot of people hate him. He seems easy to dislike, I guess, but the only feeling I have towards him is one of confusion.

He flummoxes me, but in the best way. I like when famous people sort of radically unhinge themselves from who they were before. And I think it’s something that can only happen to people who are forced to be scrutinised by the world, both for their work and how they choose to live their life. I mean, a lot of people may hate my novels, but no one’s going to tell me they hate me because I wrote them, or because I choose to live my life in the odd way that I do.

But with a celebrity, they can act in a film [and that’s the biggest thing: they don’t make the film, they just show up and perform in it], and people will literally hate them forever!

It’s amusingly bizarre and deeply troubling, but that’s a different discussion.

I’m trying to tell you that I want to know what it’s like to be Shia LaBeouf. I want to live in his head for a while the way Kaufman made John Cusak live in John Malkovich’s head.

I’m sure there are far more interesting people who’d more more fun to climb inside, but LaBeouf has a certain draw to him.

Maybe it’s because I think he may be insane.

Just went to his twitter for the first time, and I think he’s writing a book a few words at a time. Or something. He’s strangely regular about posting enigmatic nothings.

This intrigues me.

I like the idea of an insane celebrity wandering around.

Though I guess we already have Gary Busey [have you seen the commercials he’s in? they’re hilarious!], so maybe we don’t need more insane celebrities wandering around our screens and popular culture. I wonder, too, if celebrity just kind of twists you this way, because, the more I think about it, the more bizarre all celebrities become to me. I mean, yeah, bizarre enough that we have a worldwide caste of people who are identified as such. But it’s especially strange that we care.

And here I am, caring.

Caring about a stranger, but in an almost clinical way, which sort of disturbs me, to be honest. He’s not really a person to me, sadly enough. He’s this entity. He’s an irregularity on the landscape of americana.

And that’s cool.

Him being an irregularity, not me dehumanising him.

But maybe living inside his skull would make me understand better.

Also, I really like this video:

It’s mesmerising and sort of haunting. It’s beautiful and vicious.

It makes me feel more than anything a celebrity has done in a long time. It’s oddly personal, and it drives inside me. It turns my heart over like an engine. It makes me breathe with ragged lungs and see through swollen eyes.

He reminds me more of a hulking colossus than a human in this video.

I like that.

Too, that little girl can dance. And Shia LaBeouf grew muscles and became even stranger.

And they made something gorgeous.

I keep saying that pop culture is becoming more surreal and bizarre and I keep meaning to write an essay about it, because it’s also becoming more nihilistic, which is interesting, considering how absurd the whole industry is.

But this is just another example of the perplexing way that pop culture [maybe better to just call this americanism] is developing.

But that’s all I have to say about this for now.

amazon or big publishing?

Starting this with a video so you at least have some entertainment before I talk about something most of you don’t care about. Or at least you don’t care what I think about this, and I probably have unpopular views about this. So, yeah, here’s some strange popculture phenomenon.

This debate keeps coming up and I mostly think it’s funny because both are big publishing. Amazon’s just a lot bigger.

We have people on both sides saying the other side is ruining the industry, and they’re absolutely right.

Both are ruining the book industry.

But let’s think about what that means, yeah?

The book industry is a very recent thing to begin with so is it a bad thing for it to disappear?

This is the kind of question I never really see or hear. People act like you need to choose between Big Publishing and Amazon, but both choices are, I think, destructive to literature, so why is this the debate?

It also turns out that most of indie literature is under the same distributor, which sort of defeats a lot of what it means to be indie, I think. And, as far as I can tell, the goal for most indie writers is to get picked up by a Big Publisher, and the goal of a lot of indie presses is to become an imprint of a larger publisher.

I’m speaking in generalities, of course. These aren’t the goals of every single writer and publisher, but it feels like the trend, or hope.

For a long time, industries have consisted of whales and krill. It feels like indie’s want to be swallowed by the whale.

But which whale is the right whale to inhabit?

Do you want to be in Amazon or Big Publishing?

Either way, you’re still krill being consumed and churned over.

There must be a third way, yeah?

A way for indie presses and indie writers to remain indie and reach actual readers. I, obviously, don’t have a solution, but I think this Amazon v Big Publishing is just absurd.

So is the stigma against selfpublishing, which seems to be part of why writers/publishers hate Amazon.

This is just nonsense. Some of the greatest writers selfpublished their novels. For example, Virginia Woolf [she and her husband founded and ran their press] and Edgar Allen Poe and Honore de Balzac and William Blake and almost every writer of the past.

I’ve tried selfpublishing also, and I plan on continuing to do so.

See, I don’t think we should look at literature as a place that needs to fit into industry standards. You don’t need to be an Amazon writer or a traditional publishing writer. You can do both. You can be both.

Often times people castigate selfpublished books for their editing. The simple solution is to hire a professional editor [something that no indie press does] or ask a friend who knows grammar to do it.

My first novel had no editor. There are typos in the novel, or so I’m told. I can’t read my books as books. It feels too weird to look at the words in print when I’m used to seeing them on the screen, where I can rewrite them.

My second novel had a professional editor and proofreader and they were fantastic, though that was through John Hunt Publishing, which isn’t indie in the way that most people think about it. They sell too many books.

My third novel was edited by my friend, who is also the resident editor there.

And that’s sort of the indie standard, so for them to tell selfpublished authors that they need to go through a traditional funnel is pretty amusing to me. I mean, I trust my friends in the indie community with my words and I know they’re great editors, but none of them do that for a living, which is maybe a silly delineation, but there you have it.

Also, I keep hearing that even writers who get through with Big Publishing have to do their own marketing.

So what’s the real difference between indie, selfpublishing, and Big Publishing?

It seems like Big Publishing has name recognition and money on their side, though that money doesn’t seem to go to most authors, just like how most Amazon selfpublished authors don’t make much money. In fact, we’re hearing more and more how no writers are making any money. Probably why most writers I know are also professors of creative writing.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it shows that neither of these models is working for anyone, really. A few outliers in each tract make it work and become millionaires. The rest of us are sharing a tiny sliver of a large pie, because more people are reading now than ever before.

The belief that the opposite is true is just silly, and Amazon is definitely responsible for getting more people to read.

The kindle changed publishing. There’s no going back, and so writers and publishers need to adapt to it.

But there are tons and tons of readers across the globe, across the country, across your state. The problem is that you don’t know how to reach them and, probably, that you’re not writing books they want to read.

This is not a fault of the audience. It’s your fault.

If you’re writing experimental fiction, you need to accept that you’re speaking to a relatively small sliver of an already small sliver of a gigantic pie. The literary genre is a small sliver of that giant pie, and genre fiction is the real person at the table, eating all the pie.

This is not the reader’s fault.

Genre fiction is awesome and a lot of those writers give you everything a big Literary name gives you but they throw in monsters and faster than light travel and robots. It’s sort of the case of giving children a bit of sugar with their medicine. The literary genre, and experimental genre, especially, tend to just want to dose you with medicine. And that’s great. I, personally, love that, but I’m a specific kind of reader, and so is most of the indie community.

And, to be honest, so is most of the audience who reads the new Delillos and Pynchons and Roths. They’re a very specific kind of reader who do not represent the culture. These are the kind of writers who win awards, but they’re not the kind of writers who get lots of readers. I mean, Delillo, Pynchon, and Roth are fine because they’ve been at it forever and have found their real audiences, and those are a lot more people than any of us can hope for. But for newish writers who aren’t at their level, you need to realise that your postmodern retelling of A Midsummer’s Night Dream set on a Haitian plantation isn’t going to register as appealing with most readers.

That’s not their fault, and it’s not your fault.

By all means, go write that! But stop bemoaning the state of literature. Save that for your friends, who will put up with your rants.

I’m looking at you, Will Self.

This year made me realise that I may never make any money as a writer, which is a bummer, and that even hitting a big publisher won’t change that, because, apparently, they don’t help you market.

Which brings me to something about marketing.

Writers are terrible at it. Sure, there are those who make it really work, but most writers are the worst marketers the world has ever seen. It’s not out fault. That’s not the skillset we cultivated.

This is going to be an extremely unpopular opinion, but I think you shouldn’t start a press of any kind if you’re not willing to hire a marketer and/or publicist for your writers. If you don’t hire that person, then you need to make it happen for them. You, as the publisher, need to make sure that your writers are successful.

I get why no one does this. It’s difficult and time consuming, and most indie publishers are also writers who have their own career as a writer to keep in mind. I also understand why they want their writers to do all the promotions themselves. Native content works best. I get that.

But most writers don’t even have the slightest idea how to market. That’s partly probably why they’re writing books. They’re not very good at communicating with people what they feel and what they want. If a love letter takes a writer 300 pages to write, do you really think they’re going to know how to convince other people to read it?

Maybe this sounds ranty or like a complaint. That’s not my intention, and I imagine this will be an unpopular opinion, but I think picking sides between Big Publishing and Amazon is just plain stupid.

Neither of them are your friends. Neither of them care about your art. Neither of them care about you.

Amazon loses nothing by you not selling anything, but they gain from your success.

Big Publishing loses a lot if you’re not selling. For them, the bottom line is the driving force. And they also gain everything from your success.

So let’s do it without them, yeah? Let’s find a way to cut out the executives. Maybe the real first step there is creating an actual distribution channel that works for small presses. Let’s get some syndicalism in publishing, yeah? Let’s help one another move around these whales and find some open water without them.

Or not.

But when you fight for Amazon, don’t pretend like you care about all writers, publishers, and books.

And when you fight for Big Publishing, don’t pretend you care about all writers, publishers, and books.