An interesting – and rather disturbing – literary hoax has come to light recently here in Australia. It involves the writing of our only Nobel Prize for Literature winner, novelist Patrick White.
There has been much talk in the blogosphere about The Weekend Australian‘s sting (or stunt, depending on your point of view), whereby the paper sent 12 publishers chapter three of Patrick White‘s Nobel prize-winning novel The Eye of the Storm, changing names, the title and giving White the pseudonym ‘Wraith Picket’.
Ten rejected the submission (some suggesting Wraith join a writers’ group or buy a how-to book!) and two didn’t bother replying.
I am not sure what to think of this stunt. At first I was amused, but on reflection I was rather incensed. It is hard enough to get published as it is without one of our major newspapers carrying out such a pointless stunt. One could come to the conclusion that today’s raft of publishers do not really recognise great writing when they read it. I’m not an expert on the writings of Patrick White so can’t comment on the acclaim accorded his work.
On a more worrying note the current debate here in Australia – and probably elsewhere too – is that publishers no longer publish works of literature for the sake of publishing great writing. Most publishers work only on the “bottom line,” that is – will it make money? Market driven publishing and great literature seem to be mutually exclusive. I guess that one cannot blame the publishers for always seeking to make a profit.
Where to for writers of literary novels in an increasingly small market like Australia? The harsh reality is that writers like White probably would not get published today. Work like his just does not sell in sufficient numbers to be economically viable.
And what about the hundreds of struggling Australian writers trying to break into the published world? It must be discouraging to think that the writing of even one of the “greats” of Australian literature was rejected out of hand by today’s publishers. In my opinion, this hoax has done nothing to develop the Australian literary scene. It has possibly sent it even closer its seemingly inevitable demise.
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