In Deborah Brandt’s “The Status of Writing” and “How Writing is Remaking Reading”, she discusses her belief that there is a moral economy of reading and a social economy of writing. She argues that reading is done so that people may obtain a certain level of social/cultural capital, information and perspectives into things they may not otherwise care/know about; reading, as she states, is not a sustainable process that will pay the bills, however.
On the other hand, she believes that writing should be/is done strictly for financial gain and societal notoriety/fame. In watching the season premier of one of my favorite shows, Shark Tank, on ABC, there is a perfect example of this as NY Times best-selling author Michael Levin pitches his publishing company, called “BusinessGhost”, to the show’s “sharks” (prospective investors). The premise of this company is that ordinary people can got to BusinessGhost and describe a story that they’d like to have written for them; this story can be an autobiography, a memoir about their career/professional experiences, a novel, etc.. Once the initial information gathering process has taken place, the team of authors, or what he calls “ghost writers”, at BusinessGhost writes the story to the customer’s exact specifications and the work gets legally published and printed under the customer’s name. By having the writing process of one’s own life done by a professional company, for $25,000-75,000, one can become a published author without making a single keystroke or picking up any sort of writing utensil at all. In other words, writing, even to a highly-acclaimed, award-winning author, is thought to be produced in the interest of financial gain rather than enjoyment and personal satisfaction.
For me, I do not write for financial gain or to attain fame; I read and write because it is critical to my success in school as well as my understanding of life and the world around me. Though reading and writing will play a critical role in my future career in law, I do not do so solely for the purpose of satisfying my academic, social and professional obligations.
I think it is interesting how Brandt says, “there is no reading without writing and no writing without reading.” This claim is absolutely true and I completely agree as I can see such a distinction in my own life. At the same time, I wonder if society’s perception of reading and writing is going to tilt more towards that of a BusinessGhost-like model or if reading and writing will ever re-establish themselves as art forms to be practiced, crafted and enjoyed. What do you think?
Watch the full Shark Tank Episode here.