Salam Pax, bound

Salam Pax, bound
: Tom Coates got hold of an advance copy of Salam Pax’ book, set to be released in the U.S. in October, says Amazon (but on Sept. 5 in Britain, says Amazon there).

Coates says that in present tense, he found Salam’s weblog “essentially unreadable,” but he decrees that in hindsight, it is “an abiding – albeit small – artefact of life on the ground during the second war in Iraq.”

He also says — and I agree with this — that because Salam was a witness from there, not here, he helped us listen to new perspectives. The same can be said of Iranian weblogs, I’d say.

: I wonder whether Salam’s 15 minutes are long since over. I wonder whether his book will sell now, so many months after the war. The reason I wonder is that the buzz about him has subsided greatly recently, partly because he has had less to say online, partly because he is no longer the only witness there.

  • Rex-Pat

    And partly because, in the end, he proved himself to be little more than a rhetorical stone-thrower. I can’t recall that he ever offered a single constructive comment. I stopped reading him soon after the war ended and he inked his deal with The Guardian.

  • button

    Jeff, it also depends on some business and marketing decisions they make. I was thinking about some of these things like I don’t think I would release it initially as a hardback, but as a quality pb. And it was my idea to key it into something resembling Celine’s Journey to the End of Night (which they may also publish on backlist maybe). I’m not sure they are going to market it right. It could sell, if they do it right. And who is the copy editor? We don’t know how they’re going to “treat” it.
    I think some people would buy it just as an artifact for kind of sentimental reasons– if it’s not too pricey. It could be a boho coffee table item.
    It needs an editor with “vision” and a long distance cultural perspective. I’m not too sure there are many of them still around, since the corporate/conglomerate/entertainment takeover of the industry.
    And where are they going to “place” it? What genre will they locate it in? They could add some atmospheric photos of the interlude and place it in with the more “graphic” books. He did paint some pictures verbally so that the text had a somewhat graphic quality.
    I guess I don’t have too much faith in the way they may present it.

  • button

    O.K., so I went over to amazon uk and us. The pricing and format of quality pb looks good to me. I’m not loving the uk cover. I don’t like the us cover much either, but i like the blurb of “clandestine.” And the synopsis of the us edition looks good. But I still have reservations. And I wanted a darker cover, more nightlike for clandestine like black bag operations or noir samizdat press– in France during WWII they called it the minuit press or midnight press. And I do NOT like their selection of Fonts for the title. So far, I feel a little disgruntled.
    You know, Jeff, you have your finger on the popular pulse, but many of your readers may not be equipped to appreciate the history of this kind of literature. And one of the results of that is that if they read my criticisms, they are probably thinking that I am an awful nitpicker and way too finicky for something they consider too trifling to take so seriously.
    I envisioned it to be presented more like smuggled versions of Wm Burroughs or Henry Miller type stuff. That it should still have an edgey aura of forbidden fruit and a bit of danger and more of a quality of the Transgressive.
    LOL– ah, where is Maurice Gerodias just when we really need him?! He died a few years ago. Now there’s someone who might have packaged it with more of the allure of the transgressive!
    O.K., Boys and Girls… now back to your fun and games with The Simpsons. And just forget I said anything at all ;-)

  • Jeff’s point was a good one- the cat was only “interesting” so long as he had no real competition.
    Yeah, this is a good example of when you take a “hot blog” and try to turn it into a money-making offline franchise. When you try to take an “event” and turn it into a “brand” etc.
    And Button’s comments illustrate all the thinking that has to go behind it. Heady stuff.
    A friend of mine is an avid art-collecting freak. One of his fave artists is Rothko (who he can’t afford, but then again, who can?). Why do you like Rothko so much, I ask. “Because he’s so good at walking the line between the ephemeral and the permanent,” he says.
    Good answer.

  • jeanne a e devoto

    Remember, though, that most people have never heard of Salam Pax or his blogs. The book isn’t (at least if it’s successful) aimed at us chickens for whom Dear Raed and Where is Raed are old news; it’s aimed at people for whom it’s all new. (And people, I might add, who don’t have access to other Iraqi bloggers either. For these people, all they hear about Iraqis is funneled through mostly American and British mainstream-media reporters.)
    I’m not sure whether it will be successful but if not, it won’t be because the buzz about Salam Pax has subsided. That buzz was always among a relatively small set of people….

  • Alex F

    Salam Pax is so February.
    Seriously, why does this guy still get any attention? Never a good thing to say and always something to criticize.
    How about a fucking Thank You for getting rid of Saddam?

  • button

    Alex, people who are content and serene do not have anything to say, generally. It is disaffected people who are the ones who feel the need to express themselves or communicate. The fact that he was able to get a column at the Guardian means that he will continue to be a voice from that part of the world. There are many people who relate to him, especially because he lived in Europe, and he is somewhat transcultural.
    Maybe I shouldn’t comment on this subject because I am perhaps too close to it as a sort of project I helped nurse along. Maybe I am too close to it. I just hope in the long run his little book finds its appropriate historical place with other underground or resistance literature.

  • button:
    I’m curious as to why you would place the forthcoming book in the history of “underground” or “resistance” literature. If the book was merely a re-packaging of writings from his pre-war blog I could see, but now he’s writing in a country that has a free press. On his own blog he admitted that there are 70 newspapers being published. By your own comments you seem to be suggesting that the “underground” character of a publication is merely the result of various marketing and packaging strategies. I think that is quite a disservice to those who published in “samizdat press” type arrangements for fear of death. If the “underground” character of the title needs to be added later through book jacket design etc. I would submit that it’s not really underground.

  • button

    Eric, he was blogging “underground” and he was in danger while he was doing it. They had a state security police like the gestapo. Mukabarat or something. The were controlling and “filtering” their internet access and censoring them. If there was something they didn’t like, they could have dragged him out of his house and put a bullet in his head. He was just lucky in some ways.
    During this time period, one day he tried to log online and came face to face with a big sign across his screen that said: ACCESS DENIED! They tried to lock him out of his own blog. I had to run around online to find experts to help him retain access to his own blog and other blogs. And even to keep him online with the ability to surf and get information.
    It is this I had in mind. And I think I would have liked to see something evocative of that sign on the cover of the book. And a presentation that evocatively links it in history.
    You, evidently, just walked in during the middle of this movie, so to speak. You do not seem to be aware of what he went through. Many people were praying for him and hoping he would survive all this.

  • button,
    I know the story and I’ve read everything he’s ever written on his blog. My point is that things are different now. The Mukhbarat is gone. Iraq has a free press. It’s no longer truly “underground” literature. His pre-war writings were “resistance” literature. The “resistance” component of this book is merely marketing. That said, the cover they picked looks terrible. Your suggestions do sound better.

  • Alex F

    I feel dirty for having read button’s writing. For some reason it just oozes of diplomatic doublespeak slime.
    Salam is a partisan hack, and its still a question where his priorities and loyalties are (and were).

  • button

    Alex F, I am sorry you feel that way. I have spent several decades of my adult life actively suporting freedom of expression, the F.Amdmt, civil rights, and black civl rights.
    Salam is an individual. He has as much of a right to express himself as you do.
    “Freedom of expression for me, but not for thee.”
    His society needs to engage in discourse and debate. And it also needs to engage in national reconciliation, but it may not be ready for that yet.
    I do not engage in “diplomatic double speak.” You need to reconsider your ideas about you controlling whose voice may be heard in his society. Maybe only professors should be allowed to write on the internet. Fans of rock music should not be allowed to speak out. Only people who have licenses should be permitted to say anything– and we don’t have to give them a license.

  • button, you may not engage in diplomatic doublespeak but you certainly seem to have quite an ego and to be quite the dramatic and quite the demagogue. How you shoehorned freedom of speech into this subject is beyond me. No one’s advocating censorship of anyone or anything. You admitted that you were too close to the original topic to speak about it objectively or rationally and you’ve since proved that to be the case. Now you’re trumpeting your past resume for what reason I’m not sure. Of course, I disagree with you so I’m sure I’m just some kind of censorship advocating fascist spouting off again.

  • Have to say that if you’re prepared to read it – as I am – as a real perspective on the war (never denying that it’s a perspective), then it’s a much better read in print than it was online.