Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Our High-Dollar, Low-Brow Economy


I recently saw an ad on a New York City subway car for a novel by someone named Sandra Brown. The title itself was not the least bit memorable to me, which did not help Ms. Brown’s cause, at least in my case. But what did catch my eye, and what really made me not want to read the book, was the one-line pitch that, I can only assume, was pored over and debated and twisted and reworked by a highly-paid, grammatically-challenged pack of baboons entrusted with goading me into buying this book. Or maybe it was some influential person’s idiot nephew who decided on the following spine-tingler:

‘She’s on the hunt for a killer…unless he finds her first.’

Wow. With zingers like that who needs barbiturates?

I understand that advertisements are supposed to elicit an emotional response. And, truth be told, this trite bit succeeded in evoking a visceral response in me too – namely, ‘That’s all it takes to be a highly-paid baboon? Where do I apply?’


I’ve not read any of Ms. Brown’s books. Maybe she’s brilliant. She must be doing something right if her latest effort is being advertised on the NYC subway system – though I suppose I could advertise mine if I wanted to, all I’d have to do is ante up the cash.

Success isn’t a measure of quality, but rather a matter of marketing. Billions and billions sold, but does McDonald’s really have the best burgers? Who would pay fifteen hundred dollars for Louis Vuitton handbag if it didn’t have that logo all over it? Without the monochrome posters of half naked young and beautiful people tangled up in themselves and the rough-hewn lettering hastily stitched onto their forty-dollar shirts an Abercrombie & Fitch store would look just like a second hand thrift shop. But people pay out the nose for their stuff; consequently more posters go up, and then more people buy these rags, and on and on, chicken and egg, which came first, I like mine scrambled someone get me out of here.

‘Religion is the opium of the people,’ Marx said, though he uttered these words in an era when more people spent their Sundays in church than at the mall. So perhaps we should update the sentiment and say the opium of the people is packaging – sensational shells designed to excite; bright colors meant to blind us to what is or isn’t on the inside; stupid one-liners masquerading as intellect so people can feel smart without having to try.

The title of Ms. Brown’s novel, by the way, is Low Pressure. There’s something ironic in all of this.