In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the Antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the Four Horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world …
But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels?
As fewer and fewer readers are able to find their way, amid all the noise and disappointing books and phony reviews, to the work produced by the new generation of this kind of writer – I’m thinking of Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, Adam Haslett’s You Are Not a Stranger Here, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s Ms. Hempel Chronicles, Clancy Martin’s How to Sell – Amazon is well on its way to making writers into the kind of prospectless workers whom its contractors employ in its warehouses, laboring harder for less and less, with no job security, because the warehouses are situated in places where they’re the only business hiring.
Jonathan Franzen, The Kraus Project (2013)
Actually, Bezos is The Antichrist. Perhaps you are following the latest nonsense whereby the Amazon monopoly is strong-arming publishers. I am not exactly sure what is going on there, but a lot of authors are really angry at Amazon over it.
Bezos, of course, is a Libertarian. What else could he be? He has positioned himself as one of these Web 2.0 hipsters, but he is just a corporate goon like all the rest of them. These Net billionaires are no different from any other corporate POS’s, and in a lot of ways, they are actually worse since so many of them are monopolists and because of the way that they have destroyed things like customer service, refunds, actual humans answering telephones, and the like.
Bezos, as might be expected, exploits the Hell out of his workers. His warehouse workers are worked nearly to death like field slaves in overheated warehouses where they are paid a pittance with few or not benefits. He prefers to hire elderly men because he can treat them crappier and get away with it.
Bezos is a slimy little turd of a man.
P.S. What do you think of Franzen? He is supposed to be one of our greatest new writers, but he has his critics who say he is an overrated, arrogant, annoying little twerp. Granted, he probably does have a lousy personality. He’s a Jew, not that it matters.
Of the books listed above, Kushner’s The Flamethrowers is supposed to be very good.