Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"And the fail, it faildeth every day": How Henry Bemis Books fumbled the Dog Days.

Quentin Crisp (1908-99), the Anglo-American character, once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.”

In his 1927 novel, Ulysses, James Joyce wrote, “Come forth Lazarus! And he came fifth and lost the job.”

At Henry Bemis Books, the first of each month means it’s time for the chairman to slink out and apologize for another month of abject failure. If you’re new to Henry’s page- like a new congressman wondering when the next vote to repeal health care will be- *I* am the chairman.

On my bony shoulders all responsibility rests for letting you down the whole damned month of July.

I failed at offering a single book a single viewer wanted to buy. As failure goes, that’s pretty Olympic Pentathlete- existential, even. Do that too many months and you will not have Henry Bemis Books to come give negative feedback to.

I chose even worse than last month in presenting book-related materials for your reading pleasure. Henry Bemis Books put up 75 posts on Facebook last month.

You didn’t like eighteen of them, clicking “Hide.”

Five more were so dreadful, you clicked “Hide All.” That’s a Facebook Follower’s death sentence.

And six went the whole hog and unliked the page: one percent of our fandom.

I have learned from my mistakes, and I am sure I can repeat them exactly,” comedian and actor Peter Cook used to say.

He’s dead now.

Among the mistakes I have learned not to make again is posting any Kafka jokes; biographies of romance novelist Barbara Cartland; scientist Oliver Sacks; artist David Hockney; philosopher Iris Murdoch; poets Pablo Neruda and Hart Crane; futurist Buckminster Fuller; philosopher Eric Hoffer; crime writer Raymond Chandler; and fantasy writer J.K. Rowling.

No more mentions, either, of parodies of young adult novels; the illustrated books of Nick Bantock; the online archives of the PEN writers’ organization, or the BBC’s annual Reith Lectures.

Several offenses are dead certs never to recur; they have temporal sell-bys. Never again the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death; the 90th anniversary of Dr Seuss’s first sale of a cartoon; or the 85th birthday of a college professor. That last one got 1 Hide and 3 Hide Alls, which suggests my memory of being a lonely politics major in classes full of atrabilious Pound scholars and Cavafy translators was accurately etched.

38.6% is Henry’s July- and highest-ever- negative feedback rate:

The graph looks suitably Sisyphean, no? And now it is August. Until month’s end, as the BBC host Graham Norton says, “Don’t call, we’re sorry already.”

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