This cover is divisive and inflammatory. What gives you the right to bully the President of The United States?
The First Amendment gives every citizen the right to free expression. Cover artist Dominic Wilde captured the spirit of this book perfectly. There’s a lot of anger, outrage, and injustice inside the book as well as on the cover. But it’s not a Trump-bashing book, other than noting The Donald stole the term “fake news” from me.
You’re accusing the President of theft? Can you prove the term “fake news” is your intellectual property?
I can prove I used it in a 2008 essay, but I don’t own any property, intellectual or otherwise.
What is this book about?
It’s a collection of essays examining how the news media has deteriorated over the last two decades.
What do you know about it?
I’ve been a journalist for nearly 30 years. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the news business since my days as a local newspaper reporter. Things have gone from bad to worse.
Is this leftist, lib-tard propaganda?
No. I dump equally on Republicans and Democrats in these essays. My main target is the news media tasked with keeping elected officials honest. The news media has become a propaganda machine rather than an unbiased source of information.
Why should I read this book?
If you’re under forty, this book will give you a sense of journalism’s history, how it has progressed and where it has regressed. Readers over forty will find a path through the confusing maze of Info Age insta-news…and maybe a bit of nostalgia.
Is this book funny? Serious? WTF is it?
Most of the essays are tongue-in-cheek, but a couple are somber—like my 9/11 and OJ Simpson essays.
Sounds heavy. I don’t like heavy thinking. It hurts my head. I want to keep it light, and breezy.
There’s fun in Fake News and Real Bullshit. Great info, too. In addition to explaining the breakdown of modern journalism, I also explain national healthcare, gasoline prices, Big Pharma scandals, cute cat memes, and why Nancy Grace sucks.
Nancy Grace doesn’t suck! She’s awesome! I love Nancy Grace!
Come on. Nobody loves Nancy Grace except for my wife. And Mr. Grace. Maybe.
You’re disrespectful and rude. Does your book have a surly, insolent tone?
I suppose. That’s my writing style. But you’ll find a few smiles and laughs there, too. Maybe even a few ideas worth remembering.
Why is the “i” in bullshit replaced with an “*” on the cover?
My publishers at Giantdog Books were afraid readers might be offended by the word “bullshit”.
Are you on drugs?
I don’t see how that’s your business.
Of course it’s my business. It’s everybody’s business. You’re trying to sell yourself as an “honest journalist.” You can’t have secrets!
Yeah, sure. Okay. I take 10mg of Lexapro every day. It’s a life saver, and keeps me semi-normal. You can read all about my mental breakdown in Autism Dad 2, if you’re really interested.
Oh brother! Are you an attention-seeking exhibitionist?
I’m an author trying to promote a book, so…yeah.
I don’t have time to read. Is this available as an audiobook?
Not yet. The essays in Fake News and Real Bullshit only run about 500 words each, so its an easy book to pick up, put down, and skip around. I grouped the essays by theme, but you don’t have to start at the beginning—read whatever looks interesting first. It’s a great read for the beach…or the bathroom.
Yuck! You’re disgusting! Nobody reads fecal splattered books and magazines in the bathroom anymore! You look at your phone!
Ah. I stand corrected. Don’t you put your dirty phone up against your face to make a call?
Don’t get smart! You don’t know me! You don’t know who I be! Cash me outside!
Wait…when did you become a thug?
See! That’s what I’m talking about! You can’t judge me by the way I act and speak! That’s profiling!
I can judge you by how you act and what you say! That’s how you’re supposed to judge character. I’m not judging you by your appearance. That’s profiling.
You profile as a fat, middle-aged white guy.
No, you profile as a fat, middle-aged white guy!
Are you nuts?
Yes! I told you about the Lexapro!
I bet your book sucks because you suck.
The rise of social media has eliminated the buffer between artists and fans, making it impossible to separate an artist from his or her work. I may (and often do) suck on a number of personal and professional levels, but my book does not. Fake News and Real Bullshit can hold its own against anything published in the last year.
That’s a bold statement.
How do you know? What have you read in the last year?
I know a bold statement when I hear one, and that’s a bold statement.
Read the book and decide for yourself.
What’s your book called again?
You are the world’s worse interviewer.
Big fish eat little fish. That is the law of the sea as well as the law of business. Smaller companies get bought up by bigger companies. It’s happened in the telephone and cable business, and in many retail markets—giant box stores like Loews and Home Depot have put nearly all of the Mom-and-Pop hardware stores out of business. Big businesses keep getting bigger, until the government steps in and breaks them apart into a bunch of smaller companies again.
Publishing is a business like any other. Local newspapers and magazines were once family-owned businesses serving residents and business owners of a certain geographic area. Eventually those small weekly or monthly publications are bought up by a regional daily newspaper. Then the regional newspaper gets bought by a state newspaper, and, ultimately, the state newspaper gets consumed by a large publishing conglomerate.
As a reader, this may seem beneficial at first. Your local newspaper is suddenly filled with a broader range of writers and articles than ever before! But, before long, readers find what’s gone missing from their local newspaper is local news. Big companies don’t want to pay a bunch of small-time, small-town journalists to cover local news. They’ve already got plenty of writers cranking out content under their corporate umbrella. Why waste money on more?
I’ve been a bystander to corporate buy-outs before. As an employee of the “little fish,” you’re made to feel about as important as an old office chair or outdated computer while the “new boss” assesses your functionality and worth. What does it do? Does it still work? Do we need it? Ah, let’s keep it around for a while until we either upgrade or scrap it altogether. My post-employment record after a buy-out is usually a year or two before the new boss cleans house. The big boys (and girls) at Gannett Media brushed me out the door in ten months.
I’m not alone. Last month, Gannett fired me, Nancy Rubenstein, and a slew of other longtime writers from its “weekly” division—TODAY Newspapers, Dateline Journal, and the South Bergenite among other publications. I’ve been writing my column “Hmm…” twice a month for the last 25 years, covering issues and events that affect Wayne, Totowa, Little Falls and beyond. Nancy’s written “Believe Me” every week for 55 years!
When Gannett bought The Record in October 2016, its didn’t just buy a bunch of newspaper publications to use as advertising vehicles. It bought a staff of writers that embody the voice of hometown news, and a readership that appreciates and trusts those voices. With those local voices gone, I expect the readership will soon follow. Why read a local newspaper that no longer features local news and opinions?
I knew I was in trouble when my contact person at Gannett was a “print planner” and not an editor. The “print planner” was more concerned with how I submitted my articles than what was in them. I’d occasionally submit story ideas to my print planner, who was supposed to pass them on to an editor, but I never heard back from anyone. I never got any editorial feedback from Gannett other than the email informing me of my dismissal. Are there still real, live people who assign, shape, and publish stories (aka “editors”) somewhere inside the giant Gannett machine?
By cutting local writers from its local newspapers, Gannett lost one of the major assets that made its weekly division valuable. Without real writers, weekly newspapers become nothing more than “shoppers,” advertising circulars without substance, and readers will view them as such, using them to wrap fish, line birdcages, and not much else. The readers will leave and the newspapers will die. Writers like me, Nancy, and the rest will try to find new markets for our work in the few remaining print publications or on the digital publishing frontier.
Like dodo birds and dinosaurs, handwriting is facing extinction. Approximately 46 states have adopted the new Common Core Standards, a set of educational guidelines that do not require cursive writing as part of the school curriculum. Many school districts around the country are already starting to phase out handwriting courses.
Some argue this is a natural progression in educational instruction.
Everybody uses computers now, so it makes more sense to teach kids how to type on a QWERTY keyboard, right?
My gut instinct is no, handwriting is still important.
Writing in longhand connects you to your words in a way typing doesn’t. Pushing ink over paper with a pen is a unique sensation, a singular pleasure. There’s nothing quite like it.
But I honestly don’t do much handwriting anymore, and, from what I gather, neither does anyone else.
I still sign checks, but most payments are made electronically.
I write to-do lists by hand, and shopping lists. (Then again, the last two times I went to the supermarket I forgot the list, so my wife texted it to me. I shopped with phone in hand instead of a crumpled Post-It.) I handwrite thank you notes and greeting cards, and sometimes I’ll leave a dirty note and/or crude drawing in my wife’s purse for her to find later.
I edit with a pen, and make lots of handwritten notes (like this one!)
And I’ll still use pen and paper when I need to write something with a certain shape or rhythm. Sometimes I’ll write magazine coverlines by hand if I need to see how the words stack up. I write song lyrics longhand. Poetry, too (hey, no giggling!)
I’m old enough to recall how important penmanship was in grade school.
It was never my best subject.
I remember my second grade teacher pacing the room while the class worked on cursive writing.
“Nice job, John!”
“Robert, your Cs are so sloppy! Stay in the lines!”
I tried, but my penmanship hasn’t improved much beyond grade school level. My mother says I have a “doctor’s signature.”
Evidently my horrendous handwriting is now in style.
Autograph seekers have found that younger stars like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, have barely legible signatures, while older celebrities have a more practiced hand.
“With stars ages 30 and above, they generally have a much more full, legible signature,” says Justin King, a Toronto-based paparazzi and independent autograph seller. “When you deal with these new people like Elle Fanning, you’re lucky if you get an E an F and a heart for her signature.”
My script is sloppy, but I write fast, a skill I acquired covering town council and school board meetings as a Today reporter.
You had to get the quotes right, along with the facts and figures. I even know a bit of shorthand.
Not too long ago my wife and her sisters were cleaning out their deceased father’s old office records, boxes upon boxes of ledgers filled with neatly-scripted dental records.
That’s something you’ll never see again. I felt a bit strange feeding the pages into the shredder, like I was destroying a bit of history.
Because history is written in longhand, from the Declaration of Independence, to the old tax records down at town hall, to the love letters your grandmother keeps in a box in the attic.
I suppose there comes a point when a culture needs to let go of an old-fashioned way of doing things to make way for new technology. Cave walls gave way to stone tablets, which yielded to paper, the printing press, and now, the computer screen and memory chip.
But if schools decide to no longer teach cursive writing, I hope they still teach students how to read it.
My new collection of rock-n-roll horror stories, Songs In The Key Of Madness: New Variations on Hangman’s Jam, is out! Here’s what it’s about:
Hangman’s Jam never dies! A song crawls through time, shredding holes between the dimensions, and spelling doom to all who fall under its undeniable sway. Throughout the ages, lovers and losers, the famous and the infamous, have been consumed by the “song with a thousand names.” Chaos, madness, and monsters lurk behind every note and phrase. You’ve heard this tune. You know it by heart, and it knows the dark secrets that lie in yours.
I was eager to download a copy of Salinger’s classic novel onto my Kindle. I’m a firm backer of the digital publishing revolution, since ebooks let you:
Change the size and style of the text.
Look up word definitions and background info on the spot.
Highlight, makes notes, and export chunks of text.
These features are incredibly helpful when I’m writing book reviews (bobsbookblog.com), and must be a major timesaver for students working on school essays. (Back in my day we had to write out notes and quotes by hand on index cards, whippersnappers!)
But The Catcher in the Rye isn’t available on Kindle. You can’t get it on your Nook or iPad either. J.D. Salinger never allowed any other editions of his novel other than the one published by Little, Brown and Company in 1951. The breakout success of The Catcher in the Rye spooked Salinger, and he retreated to his rural Vermont home after the book’s publication. Salinger produced three additional books, but didn’t publish again after 1961.
Salinger died in 2010, but his estate still closely guards the copyright on his work, and had never allowed any adaptions. Film directors from Elia Kazan to Steven Spielberg have been turned away, and the Salinger Estate still hasn’t sanctioned audiobooks or digital editions.
If you want to read The Catcher in the Rye (or Salinger’s other work) you have to order the same Little, Brown and Company mass market paperback (now in its 98th printing) that’s been kicking around classrooms since forever. It’s got the original 1951 orangey cover art by E. Michael Mitchell — an ink sketch of a carousel horse and the NYC skyline — on both the front and back. Besides the title and “a novel by J.D. Salinger,” there is no other cover text, no sales copy, no About the Author copy, no blurbs from other authors or academics, and no “New York Times bestselling author.” Nothing.
The interior of the book is equally sparse. There is no forward or afterword. No advertisements for other books, no offers to join Little, Brown and Company’s Readers Club. There is no About the Author page here either. The Catcher in the Rye is 214 pages of Holden Caulfield’s inimitably cranky narrative, presented exactly how the author intended, and it’s been this way, unchanged, for nearly fifty years.
Salinger’s over-protectiveness guarantees his work is uniformly consumed. I experienced The Catcher in the Rye the same way, in the same font and format, as nearly everyone else who ever read the book. I dog-eared pages, underlined in pencil, and scribbled notes in the margins, the same way lit students have for decades. Salinger’s format constraints demand it.
According to a new documentary on J.D. Salinger, the late author left specific instructions for five books to be published between 2015 and 2020. I don’t know the Salinger Estate or Little, Brown and Company’s publishing plans, but launching new Salinger titles is an ideal time to bring all the author’s work into the digital realm. Contemporary literature should embrace contemporary formats, and ebooks are here to stay. Salinger’s work needs to be readily available, brought into the digital realm, and forever preserved in binary code.