Study

I came across this very insightful set of words by Max Arthur Macauliffe, who wrote (amongst other things) the immense six volume The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors (Cambridge University Press, 1909).  It resonated with me strongly, having been working in academic publishing now for over 15 years.  I must have commissioned hundreds of books in that time, and worked on thousands.  In that time, I have also published my own novel, and worked on several books of poetry.  I’m in the (long, drawn-out, possible stalled) process of writing a second novel.  I don’t think this depresses me – in fact, it reminds me that the work is important and that I have worked on books that have had impact on people’s thinking, teaching and learning (more than will be said about my own writings, and I am fairly sanguine about that).  Yet it gives me pause, and also encourages me to look within and think : what’s here, that’s truly me, and truly mine, and do I have the humility and patience to actually do anything with it?

“The preacher of old said that ‘of making many books there is no end’. For the last century their publication has increased in geometrical ratio, and prodigious must be the number which find their way into the streets and shops which sell quicquid chartis anticitur ineptis. The author fondly hopes that this work, which contains an account of the last great religion of the world which remains to be exploited, may escape the general fate. At the same time a glance at the shelves of any large library must convince a writer of the vanity of most literary labour, if haply the love of fame is dearer to him than the love of his subject. The blurred and hoary volumes, elaborately illuminated and bound, which no one now ever peruses, were often produced at the expense of years of toil–nay, of health and even life itself–and now remain sad monuments of the transitoriness of fame and the frequent futility of human effort. But there is even a worse fate than this, namely, the obloquy so often meted out to authors instead of the legitimate recompense of lives of strenuous toil devoted to literary or scientific investigation. Even under favourable circumstances the author of an elaborate work of this description, the production of which has occupied several years of his life, cannot always hope even for temporary reward in the approbation of those dear to him, those whom he would wish to please; for either their measure of years has grown full, or separation and varied interests have dulled the feelings of mutual pleasure which would result from his success.”

MAX ARTHUR MACAULIFFE

The Sikh Religion Vol 1, p. xxxii- xxxiv

MeCCSA20

Interesting few days at MeCCSA, this year being held in Brighton. Off-season seaside towns are an acquired taste but I like the vibe – foam-flecked sea and quiet contemplation.

I’m the Publisher at Rowman and Littlefield and head up the London team, myself commissioning into cultural studies and media and comms. Our media programme is important to us and we are investing in it. Lots of presentations were dealing with the problems of modern life – which is good to see. There was intelligent work presented on AI, smart tech and social media, as well as the structures and ownership of media as it stands in 2020. I think it’s fairly clear the modern media has completely failed to serve the left in any fair way and that the left, to have any chance of survival and eventually returning to power, need to invest heavily in changing the media environment.

I attended Professor Sarah Kember’s interesting keynote, which covered a lot of ground but spent a good while talking about open access. Her description of OA as accelerationist and tied to tenets of neoliberalism made sense. I personally think that it’s more libertarian than idealistic. Information doesn’t necessarily want anything, least of all to be free. (Who decides, who defines free?) In the backdrop, a commercial deal that was actually announced the next day – F1000, the OA research platform, purchased by Taylor and Francis. This is very bad news for OA. It also speaks to Sarah Kember’s point that OA is exhibiting signs that it will function just like other tech developments and enforce more and more of a platform hegemony, and replace a direct many to many relationship (academics to publishers to readers) with one where three or four OA platforms are in the middle. They will make a lot of money for a very few people – which is what tech has really been about. I left with much to follow up on, and read.

Brighton

So, an evening in Brighton. A pint of warm Deuchars at the Cricketers, which is where Graham Greene drank. Two men wander past and I overhear that Brighton has 800 pubs. I don’t know if this is true. The MeCCSA 2020 opening ceremony is at the Brighton Museum and Gallery, and we drink a few wines and then go to the pub. Before that I’m in The Mash Tun where they are stewing the mulled wine and the whole place smells of cinnamon and nutmeg. Not altogether unpleasant, but still. Brighton seems a bit shabby, maybe Winters are harsh here with the salt air. I end up eating a burger in The Ivy.