‘…what’s really insane to me is that the publishing industry is so blind to its shortcomings. Instead of trying to create a demand in good, interesting books that people want to read, they’re hoping some overly slick device will create that interest for them. And that way they can keep publishing heaps of drivel and not deal with the fact that they’ve lost touch with reality readers and the ability to reach and cultivate an audience for books.
When you need a third party’s device—a device in which the function most pertinent to you is like the third or fourth coolest thing about said device — when you need that device, that magical device to save you from yourself, you are fucked.’
'…In the face of all the talk of crisis and decline, I’d point to the expansion, the classiness, the diversity of our reading cultures (the claim is not that they have any particular virtue, merely that they exist). And I’d want to insist on the role of the media and the marketplace in creating the public intellectuals themselves, in defining and refining a new set of niche tastes among its middle-class, professional-managerial class consumers – consumers, in part, of the products that public intellectuals produce. In this sense the market has been wiser than many of the public commentators in recognising growth rather than decline. Obviously, this is not to say that cultural or intellectual life in Australia is problem-free or even crisis-free. Far from it. Nor is it a hymn to the free market, which kills as often as it creates. With cuts to university funding and to the ABC, and with the institutional vulnerabilities characteristic of the Australian publishing, television, music and cinema industries because of their relatively small domestic market, there are on-going structural and sectoral difficulties. Australian publishers have recently been describing their worst market for book sales in at least ten years, a post-Olympics, post-GST phenomenon (Australian Author 2001, p. 4). But a description of the specific difficulties facing each sector would look very different from the general narrative of cultural decline.'
'Here in the book store (and the literary festival), the forces of globalisation and the local meet, as of course do those of commerce and culture, consumption and citizenship. The beautiful, serious, desirable books on display are the products of global badging and niche marketing; the contemporary literary novel, essay and memoir are more eroticised commodities than ever before; part of their appeal is the cosmopolitanism they embody (so airport book stores no longer stock just ‘airport novels’). But they also sustain local cultures, and local small businesses. As the store managers have learnt, their customers are the kind of consumers who expect good books and good coffee in the same neighbourhood. These are the book stores, in turn, that often produce reviews magazines and support reading groups, that other booming phenomenon of the nineties.'
“Scripsi magazine was in continual trouble for including too much ‘non-Australian’ writing, and Jacket has been dogged by the same problem. As a virtual journal it seems even more ridiculous that the arts bodies want it to be resolutely parochial (though some other Australian-based journals have gladly acquiesced).”
By the end of 2010, John Tranter and Pam Brown will have put out 40 issues of Jacket (jacketmagazine.com). It began in what John recalls as “a rash moment” in 1997 – an early all-online magazine, one of the earliest in the world of poetry and poetics, and quite rare for its consistency over the years. “The design is beautiful, the contents awesomely voluminous, the slant international modernist and experimental.” (So said The Guardian.)
After issue 40, John will retire from thirteen years of intense every-single-day involvement with Jacket, and the entire archive of thousands of web pages will move intact to servers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where it will of course be available on the internet to everyone, for free, as always. But the magazine is not ceasing publication: quite the opposite.
Starting with the first issue in 2011, Jacket will have a new home, extra staff and a vigorous future as Jacket2. Jacket and its continuation, Jacket2, will be hosted by the Kelly Writers House and PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania.
“What the aristocrat writers get for free from nature, intellectuals of lower birth have to pay for with their youth. Write a story of how a young man, the son of a serf, a former shopboy, choirboy, schoolboy and student, brought up to respect rank, to kiss priests’ hands, and worship the thoughts of others, thankful for every piece of bread, whipped time and again, having to give lessons without galoshes, brawling, torturing animals, loving to eat at rich relatives’ houses, needlessly hypocritical before God and man, merely from a sense of his own insignificance - write a story about how this young man squeezes the serf out of himself, drop by drop, and how waking up one bright morning this young man feels that in his veins there no longer flows the blood of a slave, but the blood of a real man.”—