Tuesday, October 05, 2004

New and old

James Marcus's Amazonia is meant, among other things, to evoke the extent of late-90s internet euphoria; but it also shows the euphoria's limits, which are less talked about.

This bit is about an appearance on CNN, just before the curve turns. Jeff = Amazon's Jeff Bezos, for whom Marcus was a justly glorified blurb-writer.

"My cue was approaching. I had rehearsed my lines and knew exactly what I was going to say to the boy-and-girl anchor team in Atlanta. Moments before I went live, however, I heard some excited crosstalk in my earpiece: Jeff had been anointed [Time magazine] Person of the Year! They would be making the announcement in just a few minutes! At once it dawned on me that this little segment, which would allow me to preach the gospel of books to my biggest audience ever, was simply an appetizer for the main event: a lengthy celebration of my employer. Well, he had earned it."

In a book on the high-season web, that is, a magazine and an appearance on cable TV generate some of the greatest excitement, and offer the biggest audience. I don't think he's trying to do hindsight, either.

[Amazonia, by James Marcus (New Press, 2004). Humanist version of the rich-and-then-not story. Style nods occasionally -- the subtitle is "Five years at the epicenter of the dot.com juggernaut", which was almost enough to make me put it down straight away -- but in general it's rather good.]


Anonymous said...

Dear Jasper Milvain,

Provincial my foot. As for Amazonia, well, I was delighted to see the post on your blog, and disappointed to be bludgeoned with the subtitle, which wasn't my idea in the first place.

Very sincerely,
James Marcus

jaspermilvain said...

Dear Mr Marcus,

More delightful, I promise, to get a response from an author. Thank you. And I admit it was unfair to pick on the subtitle -- my only excuse was reflex irritation at 'epicenter', which seems to keep getting used for what my geography teacher told me was an earthquake's focus. Not a feeling that had much to do with Amazonia. Apologies.


Jasper Milvain

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Milvain,

No apology necessary. We all have our linguistic pet peeves, and I promise not to use "epicenter" in the subtitle of my next book, assuming there is a next book. In the meantime, keep up the good work in the blogosphere, where I may be joining you one of these days. My only hesitation: who will read it?

All best,

jaspermilvain said...

Dear James,

Assuming that wasn't a rhetorical question: In my case, hardly anyone. (Click on the globe logo at the bottom left of the page for the embarrassing truth.) But I've been using this thing as a reading diary, rather than making serious efforts to pull people in. You could certainly do much better -- and please let me know if you try.

Thanks again,