GUEST POST, PT 4: Lisa Dierbeck

In this installment of Lisa Dierbeck‘s guest blogger series here on the Happy Ending blog, Lisa brings you the Four Horsemen of the [Publishing] Apocalypse, here just in time for the holidays.  Four harbingers of hardback doom that double as reasons the small, independent publisher is both wholly necessary right now and possibly staring down its own demise–shared with you, after the jump!

“We brought four cartons of books to a used bookstore in Brooklyn and tried to sell them. We also filled
up a box of CDs. The owner of the bookstore said: ‘I’ll take the CDs.'”



The holidays arrived, but my red flowers all turned brown. Might an Aktionist feel forlorn and a little 

frightened right about now? Clues are everywhere that the buoyant, feisty, snarling soul of American

literature is struggling.
Four Dramatic Warning Signs that the Book is Dying
THE FIRST SIGN
Recently, Good Witch and I had the following conversation.
“Lisa, we own too many books. We have almost 2,000 of the things.”
“Well, that’s because we’re writers. We collect books because we love them, right?” Logical enough.
“But print is obsolete. It’s gone the way of illuminated manuscripts. We could just download all these as
e-books, now.”
“We don’t have enough space anymore. Do we? The new apartment is too small for so many books.”
A tense, thoughtful silence falls.
“We need to get rid of some. How do we choose which ones to go?”
“It’s like a museum de-acquisitioning its paintings,” G.W. said, stroking the cover of The Trial. We 

have duplicate copies. The paper is yellowing and old.

“It’s like drowning puppies.”
“It’s like choosing which one of your children you have to kill.”
It’s like ________ (select appropriate metaphor.)
THE SECOND SIGN
G.W. said: “How many boxes full of your diaries and unfinished manuscripts do you have again?
Fourteen?”
THE THIRD SIGN
We packed up the books that we have to part with, the ones that we don’t love as much as the others. It
felt evil and ugly – also, perilous. If we booklovers are giving our books away, what will happen to ours?
I mean, the ones we will write? The ones we have already written.
We brought four cartons of books to a used bookstore in Brooklyn and tried to sell them. We also filled
up a box of CDs. The owner of the bookstore said: “I’ll take the CDs.”
He gave us money for the CDs. Forty dollars. For the books: zero. Less than zero. He said: “No one
will buy these.”
We brought the books to another used bookstore, on Atlantic Avenue. Inside, the light was dim and 

the room had a pleasant sandalwood scent. The owner stooped over our books, gravely, like a diamond 

merchant, examining them with care. He ran his index finger along their spines.

He would not look us in the eye. “I’m sorry, I can’t help.”
THE FOURTH SIGN
On December 11th, Scarecrow said: “You shouldn’t read at your reading.”
ME:  Er, it’s a READING.  Wasn’t reading from my new book the point?
SCARECROW:  No.  Let’s do something surprising.
ME:  Like what?
SCARECROW:  Let’s play a game.
ME:  Which game?
SCARECROW:  How about the dating game?
ME:  ?
SCARECROW:  We’ll auction off a dinner date with Jonathan Ames.
ME:  !
SCARECROW:  









You can be the M.C. for the evening.

I do not want to be the M.C. of The Dating Game. I want to be the author of a novel entitled The 



Autobiography of Jenny X. I want to be a writer, which I am. Et tu, Scarecrow? The Book is limping, 

hurt; the Book is my life; I’m howling, but I don’t say anything. I pour a bit of scotch into a glass made

of cut crystal.
Scarecrow says, “Baccarat.” Baccarat crystal – the sort of glass that a novelist shouldn’t possess, that a
novelist wouldn’t ever be able to afford. Scarecrow has a weakness for it.
“I’m a princess, “Scarecrow confesses. “I’m a bourgeois hausfrau. Listen.” He touches my wrist. 

“You’re uptown — half a block from Central Park. You’re right down the street from the Dakota. You

bought your place from Mia Farrow or someone and you’re practically neighbors with Madonna.” He
smiled conspiratorially. “I like nice things. Tell the truth. Don’t you, Material Girl?”
No, no! Noooo. I am a writer, an embryonic actionist, a publishing revolutionary.
Or am I? If I were a bona fide actionist what action would I take?


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GUEST POST: READ IMMEDIATELY, a message from Lisa Dierbeck

Urgent updates on the state of publishing, from the author of the novel The Autobiography of Jenny X, Lisa Dierbeck.  Waste no time: read on, get excited, take a risk.  For those of you who don’t know, Lisa is a member of the brand-spankin-new but long-needed publishing outfit Mischief + Mayhem, and neither she nor they are kidding around.  Clearly! (read on after the jump):

Action for a dying book biz on the verge of bankruptcy:
True tales of Mischief + Mayhem, a new alternative press
determined to rescue the spirit of the Book
and publish daring, edgy, surprising novels (by crazy people with delusions of grandeur.)

Welcome to My Top Secret Diary, taking you behind the scenes of Mischief + Mayhem to chronicle the inner workings of a small, shadowy enterprise poised to overturn the publishing industry. We are a raggedy band of Outsider artists sassy and delusional enough to battle for the soul of the American novel and fight Goliath!

Are we on drugs, you ask? No, and yes. Just two months old, Mischief+Mayhem is a band of five grandiose, battle-scarred authors, published by fancy places like Farrar Straus, Knopf and HarperCollins. Renegades in a quest for greater artistic freedom, we just up and started our own publishing company. Instead of an office, we have a kitchen table. Instead of a business plan, we have vodka. Instead of cool-headed professionalism, we have heated arguments, cursing loudly in public last week in a snooty private club in Manhattan (me) and (me again)

Despite our drama-queen ways, we share one belief: publishing in 2010 has gotten horrifyingly conservative. Today, editors and agents are interfering in the creative process – capitulating to commercial pressures so extreme they’re crippling. Instead of succumbing, writers are defecting to launch an underground resistance movement.

For your reading pleasure, Mischief+Mayhem has staged a revolt against formulaic plotlines,  homogeneity and business as usual. We’re tired of writing for The Man. In the digital age, we’re resolved to resurrect the Glory of the Book – the novel as a colorful organism full of spikes, warts and edges, not a sleek, predictable commercial product.

Join us for our Action for a Dying Book Biz on the Verge of Bankruptcy, inspired by that über-daring, risk-taking art group, the Viennese Actionists — the most outlandishly anti-war and anti-commercial artists in history. On Tuesday December 7, at 6:30 p.m. SHARP, we Mischief-makers are gathering inside the fortress of the Enemy – the Union Square Barnes and Noble.

We’re staging a guerilla reading. To take part, you need only to show up. And signal that you’re a publishing revolutionary by wearing a red flower in your lapel. You’ll find founding editors of Mischief+Mayhem strutting around like Outlaw peacocks, supported by a crew of talented, if inebriated, authors, interns, and bloggers. Our mission? It must remain a secret.

We are plotting to take on a corporate ogre whose policies have harmed the Book we love.

(Kidding…)

Please wear a dashing costume if you’re so inclined. Black hats with red feathers and ski masks perhaps?

You’ll find my freshly published second novel, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JENNY X, cradled to my bosom like a fragile infant in a hostile, wintry landscape. The poor creature is being born at a moment when books are seen as candidates for the Endangered Species list. What will happen to little JENNY X, just one week old and already “psychologically taut…beguiling…shy and sharp” according to the New York Observer? Will she live or die, fail or triumph? After years as embattled, bohemian writers, what will happen to us, and, um, to me? We’re poised on a precipice here, pal. To find out, tune in to My Top Secret Diary. And check us out on www.mischiefandmayhembooks.com.

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