En un artículo publicado en The New York Review of Books, “A novel kind of conformity”, Tim Parks afirma que hoy día está creciendo entre los novelistas la resistencia a tomar riesgos en la escritura, un tendencia que se empareja con el deseo incesante de recibir comentarios positivos sobre cualquier cosa que se escriba. Una necesidad de ser aprobados.
La atención a las cifras de venta, más que a la calidad literaria, se han intensificado recientemente gracias a los medios electrónicos y la inmediata interacción que ofrecen. Publicas un artículo en Facebook, por ejemplo, y puedes contar, al correr de las horas, cuántas personas lo han visto, lo han compartido o les ha gustado, etc. Lo mismo pasa con la exhibición de un libro en Amazon. Todo conspira para que estemos al tanto, minuto a minuto, de las respuestas y reacciones a lo que hagamos. Queremos saber si la gente está hablando de nosotros o no, obsesión que eleva el miedo a la falta de popularidad y de dinero.
Para Tim Parks, más allá de las ventas y la seguridad financiera del escritor, el camino es otro: cuando trates de escribir algo serio, nuevo, no se lo muestres a nadie hasta que esté terminado, no hables de ello, no busques comentarios. Cultiva un retiro silencioso.
Les comparto unos párrafos del artículo:
What happens when a multi-million dollar author gets things wrong? Not much. Take the case of Haruki Murakami and his recent novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. The idea behind the story is fascinating: What do you do when your closest friends eject you from the group without the slightest explanation? But the narrative is dull throughout and muddied by a half-hearted injection of Murakami-style weirdness–people with six fingers and psychic powers–that eventually contributes nothing to the very simple explanation of what actually happened. The book received mixed to poor reviews from embarrassed admirers and vindictive critics. Nevertheless, millions of copies were quickly sold worldwide and Murakami’s name remains on the list of likely Nobel winners.
How many times would Murakami have to get things wrong, badly wrong, before his fans and publishers stopped supporting him? Quite a few. Actually, no matter what Murakami writes, it’s almost unimaginable that his sales would ever fall so low that he would be considered unprofitable. So the Japanese novelist finds himself in the envious position (for an artist) of being free to take risks without the danger of much loss of income, or even prestige.
This is not the case with less successful authors. Novelists seeking to make a living from their work will obviously be in trouble if a publisher is not confident enough in their success to offer a decent advance; and if, once published, a book does not earn out its advance, publishers will be more hesitant next time, whatever the quality of the work on offer. Authors in this situation will think twice before going out on some adventurous limb. They will tend to give publishers what they want. Or try to.
The difficulties of the writer who is not yet well established have been compounded in recent years by the decision on the part of most large publishers to allow their sales staff a say in which novels get published and which don’t. At a recent conference in Oxford–entitled Literary Activism–editor Philip Langeskov described how on hearing his pitch of a new novel, sales teams would invariably ask, “But what other book is it like?” Only when a novel could be presented as having a reassuring resemblance to something already commercially successful was it likely to overcome the sales staff veto.
But even beyond financial questions I would argue that there is a growing resistance at every level to taking risks in novel writing, a tendency that is in line with the more general and ever increasing anxious desire to receive positive feedback, or at least not negative feedback, about almost everything we do, constantly and instantly. It is a situation that leads to something I will describe, perhaps paradoxically, as an intensification of conformity, people falling over themselves to be approved of…
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