The Best Book: A Modest Proposal to Save Publishing

popp_booksI’m going to save the book business.

It’s no secret that the publishing industry’s in desperate straits. In fact, two new event production companies have cropped up in the past year specializing in presenting panel discussions on the situation.  But if you ask me–and so far, sadly, nobody has–the problem is people don’t want to admit what the real problem is.  It’s not just tired and easy to pin the blame on e-readers or the new Barnes & Walmazon marketplace or our shriveled attention spans; it’s fundamentally incorrect.

If you drink a bad cup of coffee, you don’t blame the filter or the mug or your tongue.

In other words, the problem isn’t the technology or the stores or ourselves—it’s the books.

It’s not that the books are all bad; it’s just that there are too damn many of them.

Take a moment and consider the economies of scale we’re sacrificing by writing so many different books, and editing and proofreading and printing and shipping and displaying and storing so many different books. Not to mention how much time we’re wasting reading so many different books. One about this, one about that…pretty soon you’ve read like four different books!

All these books are weighing down the economy. Reporters don’t want to say it because they’re all busy writing books themselves, but they know the true reason for the financial crisis—it was all those books! Hundreds of thousands of books in print and millions more available for download. Books and books and books.  What we saw last fall wasn’t actually about real estate: it was the popping of the book-bubble.

No wonder there’s no money. All the paper’s been used for books!

And such accoutrements: book-bags, bookcases, bookends!

Enough.

We’ve already got the Good Book. You know how that happened? Gutenberg had this press and he needed a bestseller. And so it was written (well, so it was typeset). And Gutenberg saw it; and it was Good (Gut!). Six-billion-copies good!

Now we need to do better. Now what we need is a new book—not just a goodseller or a betterseller or even a bestseller, but an alltimebestseller! Not just to revive publishing, not just to save the printed word, but, lo, to grant the global economy financial salvation. (Can I get a hallelujah?)

And so I am hard at work, at work writing The Best Book.

The Best Book (McSweeney’s, $24.95) takes everything you want from a book and combines it with everything everyone else wants, producing quite simply the single best book of all time.

Set in Tuscany, and Brooklyn, and the exotic Far East and the post-apocalyptic Southwest, The Best Book is an astonishing scratch-and-sniff pop-up unauthorized tell-all historical autobiography of my rise from assisting a notoriously nasty fashion mogul to hosting my own popular reality show, “You’re Laid Off.” Pages can be torn out and folded to create paper airplanes and origami that reveal the truth about Thomas Jefferson’s torrid affairs through a full-color photo essay by Ansel Adams.

The glossy photos of Mediterranean fusion cuisine and kittens sleeping in baskets illustrate the story of Bob Dylan’s arrival in New York and his near-disastrous attempt to ascend Everest—from the heady day when he first found the cursed and powerful Ring until there was nothing left for the tree to give.

Available exclusively through this tv offer as an audiobook performed by Stephen Colbert and the Dali Lama with a special appearance by Bono, The Best Book explains how you can make your dreams your reality through the scientific magic of focused positive thinking and by keeping your chin down and shoulder tucked as the putter makes contact with the ball. This is the book the Vatican doesn’t want you to read, but which the Pope endorses.

The Best Book is a literary memoir based on my popular blog, Stuff White People and Other People Like. By oversimplifying complicated ideas, cherry-picking data, and quoting Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu indiscriminately, it retells the true, heartwarming, heartbreaking story of my forty-year relationship with Chip, a deaf, three-legged Border Collie who I was forced to cryogenically freeze after he twisted his ankle saving me from an oncoming subway train. (Profits from The Best Book go toward research for the cure for canine ankle sprains and to pay for Chip’s ongoing suspended animation—please don’t make me have to put him to sleep.)

A graphic novel drawn on my iPhone and tweeted through skywriting, The Best Book describes my life in East Berlin sharing a flat with Freida Kahlo and Diego Rivera until my wife, a Saudi queen and breast-cancer survivor, left me for zombie Henry James, who’d frequently joined us for afternoon blood and biscuits with vampire Albert Einstein. Devastated, I traveled to India with Thomas Friedman and Bobby Fischer, where we started a Bronte reading group, learned to cook with cardamom, found Jesus, and discovered the courage to love again.

The Caldecott Medal winning prequel to The Better Best Book, The Best Book is choc-full of sudoku that make it clear that I had no idea my personal trainer was shooting me full of steroids, but lists the 257 ballplayers and members of the House of Commons who I injected. I take no pleasure in naming names; I do it only for the love of baseball, my faith in parliamentary democracy, and my desire to share low-carb recipes for all your favorite pasta dishes.

The cover of The Best Book includes blurbs from President Obama, Sarah Palin, Oprah and the most popular of the Jonas Brothers. The back cover features an author photo of me in a half-unbuttoned white dress shirt on location in Kabul. A photo editor has bestowed me with ample chest hair and employed a Photoshop plug-in called Pessl-Effect.

The blockbuster film adaptation will be released before the book. Charlie Kaufman is working on the screenplay and Johnny Depp will play the lead, but he’ll die of mysterious causes before he completes the project. The Best Book will explain what happened and lay the groundwork for my election bid in 2012.

The Best Book is ninety-six pages long and consists of 144 chapters. Look for it at Amazon, Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and wherever other books used to be sold.

(Photo by Michael Popp)

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