Wild Animus

So I came back to the house where my mail is sent and, after having not been there for a year, found a stack of letters the size of a hippopotamus. Among all the various bills for services I was not provided with, and flyers for things I would never want, I found an advance copy of the book “Wild Animus” that I presumed had been sent to me for the purpose of review. I read a couple pages of it and found that it was about a guy who goes to Alaska in order to find himself; takes a bunch of acid; has sex with a sheep; becomes a Ram in his delusional, drug-induced state; and then eventually dies. This last is not a spoiler as the first scene the author chooses to show us is his main character crushed on some rocks.

This whole situation was already surrounded with enough weirdness without the bestiality, but once that came into play, my interest was piqued. I had never seen a book that bragged on the back that it was part of a 50,000 print initial run and that it had an advertising budget of 100,000$, usually that’s the kind of insider knowledge that is kept secret in case the work flops. So after reading the weird prologue of “Wild Animus” which, as already stated, gives away the ending on page 2, I checked out “Wild Animus” on amazon to see what the reader reviews said.

Interestingly enough, there are nearly 800 copies of “Wild Animus” available there for .01$ each, and most of the reviews say that even this is too much to pay. Some of the reviews make pretty good reading, here is an example of one that I will cite with generous references to its source in order to avoid any bullshit, frivolous lawsuit (Wild Animus Reviews on Amazon ):

“One night, we took the cover and walked around the downtown Seattle area hiding our faces behind it and saying "Wooo, wolf eyes, scawwy wolf eyes", while three people behind us kept asking people "Have you seen the walruses?" in Scooby-Doo voices.

One night we drank too much and began reading the worst prose we could find in voices like Darth Vader and Mickey Mouse over a microphone to loud techno music. People apparently loved this prose more than Lynne Cheney's book on lesbian sexual relationships.

The cat ate pages 123 to 127 when we ran out of catgrass for him to chew.”

Brian M. Wise Wild Animus Reviews on Amazon

Apparently, the advertising strategy for “Wild Animus” was to give away thousands of copies in four major cities. These giveaways were often accompanied by strange men in ram’s suits who ran around dueling with each other and jumping into fountains. Another reviewer on Amazon claimed that after receiving the book, he came around a corner only to find some guy with a microphone who insisted he was a fundamentalist Christian who was protesting “Wild Animus” because it was pagan.

Hmmmm, but the most interesting piece of information came from a different amazon review that noted “Wild Animus’s” publisher, Too Far Publications, is actually a company set up by “Wild Animus’s” author, Rich Shapero. This is an example of a guy who made a bazillion dollars trading stocks or something, and decided to spend a cool million or so promoting a weird book about bestiality and self-discovery which he wrote.

So I went and checked out the Too Far Publications webpage which is located at: http://www.armsofyourlord.com/ yes, that’s arms-of-your-lord.com, and found out that “Wild Animus” is now available as an audio book read by Peter Coyote (if you don’t know who Peter Coyote is, here is his web page: http://www.petercoyote.com/ ). Now, seeing the name of a reasonably well-respected actor attached to this project only increased the already improbable string of events that this whole “Wild Animus” escapade seems to have provoked.

Also on Too Far’s web page is a series of Shapero interviews conducted with Janspeak. Now, I haven’t quite figured out what Janspeak is yet. At first I thought it might have been some actually legitimate literary magazine or something that interviewed Shapero for whatever reason. That initial thought really irritated me because it was proof positive that all you needed to do to get your book some attention was throw a lot of money at people. But then, after looking closer, I’ve begun to think that Janspeak is just an offshoot of Too Far. Anyway, the interviews are just bizarre, as Rich Shapero seems to evade all the questions, or answer them with cutesy, bullshit answers. Here are some examples (excerpts from http://www.armsofyourlord.com/janspeak/interview2_2.html and http://www.armsofyourlord.com/janspeak/interview3_4.html):

“J: Do you have any special writing rituals?

R: I like to have sex while I'm writing.”

Ok, somebody tell me why you would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars writing a book, forming your own publication company, doing absurd promotional gimmics, and faking false interviews, only so you could give smart-assey, bullshit answers like this.

“J: What types of music do you like?

R: Music without a predictable meter. Music that doesn't follow predictable scales or chord progressions. Music with verses and no choruses.

J: Such as?

R: Well, there's not much of that kind of music available. But I hear it in my head.”

Cucoo, cucoo…..

“[Talking about why he writes]

R: Some people like to write because they enjoy putting their thoughts down. They enjoy the act of self-expression, the way a child likes to finger paint. You know, it just feels good. It feels good to me, too, but I don't think it's worth doing unless something important is being expressed. I liked words and I liked the power that words have to illuminate and change people's lives, but I didn't think it made sense for me to be a writer until I had something to communicate that was important.

J: And you finally found that.

R: No, I just got tired of waiting.”

This is the most hilareous thing I’ve ever seen. It starts out all pretentious and then ends with a, “never mind everything I just said, it’s all bullshit.”

And now, the final quote, which I actually do kind of respect:

“J: Too Far is your baby, Rich. Lots of readers avoid self-published books or dismiss them sight unseen.

R: Well, I don't blame them. Everything worthwhile is put out by Random House. Large corporations are your guarantee of quality.”

I guess I’m making the assumption that he’s being sarcastic, but either way this works as an inditement of traditional publishing…which needs to be indited.

So what is the lesson to be learned from all this craziness? Well, it’s really dudes like this that give self-publishing a bad name. This guy goes out and causes this huge spectacle, spending probably close to a million dollars making a fool of himself, and the end result is that all small-time writers end up looking silly. I’ve read several articles in reference to this guy that are extremely critical of all self-publishing.

Now look, I’ve published some things myself, and every book that I’ve published I’ve turned a profit on. Furthermore, I’ve used print-on-demand technology to generate review copies of books I have written so I can send them out and get feedback so I know what needs to be fixed. What’s wrong with that? Why do major magazines have to blackball self-published writers? If you make money, isn’t it completely acceptable? Aren’t you then justified? Filmmakers often put up all the money for a film they want to make, why isn’t there any stigma against self-produced films?

Rich Shapero is an example of wanting too much too fast. At first, yeah, I’ll admit it, I wanted to cause a huge splash with my writing and hear people talk about it, etc.. But since then I’ve realized that writing is just like any other profession, you have to work at it, and before I go mainstream I’m going to need to refine what I have to say quite a bit more. I’m at the level right now where I can entertain somebody who is like-minded, but I can’t convince somebody who doesn’t think the same way as I do yet. That’s a big distinction, and I’ll continue to be small-time until I learn the larger skills. Actually, I enjoy being small-time and meeting intelligent people through this site and through other publications who write to me and engage me intellectually. Every year I get a few more readers, and that slow but steady growth is all I need to motivate me to keep writing.

In the end, I don’t know what to think of Rich Shapero or this whole “Wild Animus” deal. I guess it’s just representative of the whole American mentality that if you have money you must be intelligent with something worthwhile to say, or you must be an artist and all you have to do is put pen to paper. The colossal arrogance of the whole thing is just astounding. Go and look at the Too Far Publications web page, it’s just beautiful, and I’m sure getting Peter Coyote to read the book wasn’t cheap either.

But I guess, in the end, the sad part is that “Wild Animus” despite the money spent on it, is just going to disappear into nothingness. It’s going to sink out of sight, except as a joke. That’s rather interesting when you think about it. You see, it just goes to prove that if you want your life to be linked with art, you can’t just bail out and become an artist when you’re 57 after having pursued money all your life. Shapero’s book is about giving up the artifical reality and embracing something more. HA! That’s easy to say when you’ve spent 30 years embracing something artifical and clinging to it like a baby monkey, terrified to take a step in the harsh world of creative freedom and zero financial security. The guy’s a faker. His words are empty.

No amount of money or gimmicky promotion is ever going to change that.

But in the end, he is nutty as a fruitcake, and that makes him at least entertaining, for a while.

The End

Email: dpestilence@yahoo.com