A conversation with Joseph Harris
An excellent newsletter which I appreciate because it articulates well my own lived experience. As a children's book writer and illustrator I became fed up with hearing from editors "you use too large a vocabulary and your images are too sophisticated" so I began selfpublishing. When I was a kid I absolutely loved big words I didn't know. I made up what they meant and had such fun doing so. Eventually I discovered dictionaries but that didn't diminish my curiosity about unknown words. Also as a child I would look at complex images for hours- the more complex the better! Even simple line drawings can be complex in concept and fascinating to a kid like me. Consider the work of Richard Scary, Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak, Beatrix Potter - I wonder if they submitted work today, as an unknown, if they'd be published today.
Anyhoo- that's why I do selfpublishing so I can create the words and images I'd like to see.
I think you're right about taste being taught. A lot of people are scared off by the perceived difficulty of reading older fiction, and to be sure, it can be hard to get used to. It's much easier to stick to what you know and what's easy to digest. But in doing so, they're unfortunately missing out on some really good stuff.
Also, I admit that I hate the whole "everything must be a novel series" trend. You would think that short stories would be more popular in an era when people are starved for time. Apparently not.
Dynamite essay! You said pretty much what I gleaned the year I tried to sell my novel. I reached the same conclusions about the business side of publishing but you broadened your observations to include a bigger cultural problem as well. I think this idea of the ebb and flow of cultural confidence is an very interesting insight. I sincerely thank you for writing this. It's helpful to find out I'm not so paranoid after all.