And then what happens?

13 July 2012

Excerpts from two different posts from Seth Godin:

What happens when we reach the halfway point, when most of the great books have already been published?  Just as most of the great TV shows have probably already been made, and most of the great classical music recordings have already been recorded. Golden ages don’t last forever, and it’s entirely possible that we’ve reached that moment in the printed book world.

When that happens, the backlist becomes far more important than it already is. Instead of always being focused on ‘what’s new’, we may end up thinking about, ‘what haven’t I read yet?’

. . . .

Yesterday’s post about the halfway mark got a few responses from people who thought I was selling books short. “There has not ever been, nor will there ever be, a “halfway point” for cultural achievements,” one wrote.

Let me try again, with more detail.

We can probably all agree that more than half of the culturally important cookbooks printed on paper have already been printed. From the Joy of Cooking to Julia Child to The Thrill of the Grill, there are some essential cookbooks that have laid a foundation for most that followed. Now that the original cookbook market has been decimated by TV, by free recipes online and by the growth of the ios app, it’s hard for me to imagine the pile of cookbook titles that millions read and trust to dramatically increase in size.

Or, if you grew up with science fiction, we ought to be able to agree that Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Atwood, Lem, Zelazny, LeGuin, Doctorow and (early) Stephenson are quite a touchstone, and if we look at the future of all books on paper, it’s hard to imagine a new generation of science fiction books being as widely embraced as they were twenty or forty years ago.

I’m not arguing that Scalzi and Doctorow and others won’t write great books going forward. I’m pointing out that most of those books are going to be read on ereaders, and thanks to the shifting economics, few of them will reach as widespread an audience.

. . . .

Forty years ago, it wasn’t unusual for a typical bestseller to stay on the bestseller list for months or even years. Now, the typical book lasts for two weeks. More titles, more churn means less cultural achievement.

Consider what blogs did to the magazine article. Not long ago, a Time cover story was read by everyone you knew. Today, that attention has been replaced by 500 different blogs, and no one reads all of them.

. . . .

I’m bullish on ideas, on innovation and on individuals who have something to say, saying it. But it’s clear to me and to many in the industry that we’re well past the halfway mark (given that we started 400 years ago) in terms of creating the essential library of touchstone cultural achievements that every single smart person has either read or is aware of.

Link to the rest at The Domino Project here and here

Seth’s point is similar to those political commentators who observe that thirty years ago, the mass audience in America got its political news from three major television networks and/or a handful of major newspapers and magazines. Today, there are cable news shows and a zillion websites and blogs providing political information and the old media has lost substantial viewership/readership. In the American presidential race, new web videos and daily Twitter wars between the two campaigns make news.

PG disagrees that mass cultural phenomena – items that every single smart person has read or is aware of – have gone away or will go away. Is there any smart person who isn’t aware of Fifty Shades of Grey or Lady Gaga in the same way that he/she would have been aware of The Bourne Identity or Michael Jackson thirty years ago?

The fact that there are now a zillion sources of information doesn’t mean that memes don’t spread through that network just as effectively as they spread through the much smaller and simpler networks in days past.

For one thing, today’s network is much more agile than the older networks. Think about how much faster information can spread through Twitter than it did via the traditional broadcast networks of the past. You can get all latest news through  tweets on your smartphone instead of waiting until 6:00 PM when you sit down in front of a television.

The kinds of cultural monuments of former times that Seth speaks of all had to make their way through gatekeepers. It’s PG’s opinion that gatekeepers prevented some works – books, music, video – to which the mass market would respond and which had the potential to become cultural landmarks from ever reaching the mass market. For every great book that wasn’t accepted until the 25th submission, there may well be another great book whose author who gave up after the 24th rejection.

For books at least, authors in most parts of the world can effectively publish to the mass market without pleasing a gatekeeper. For PG, that’s the optimal structure for discovering future cultural landmarks.

Disruptive Innovation, PG's Thoughts (such as they are), Seth Godin

65 Comments to “And then what happens?”

  1. I’m a Godin fan, but this is so laughably off-base that it makes me wonder if his webpage got hacked. Reminds me of those perhaps apocryphal stories of US senators a century or so ago, who wanted to save taxpayer money by shutting down the Patent Office, since all the worthwhile inventions had obviously already been invented.

  2. I completely echo what PG said. The spread of information now is efficient and quick. There’s just no comparision to what happened in the past, pre-internet. And I agree that gatekeepers slowed or blocked important information from spreading.

    I also found Godin’s terms confusing, until I realized he was using the concept of “great” as equaling “impactful” (?) rather than “exceptional quality”.

    But either way, he seems to see culture as a static thing. In other words, human society remains the same, and so impactful cultural works are limited, since there is only so much to say about society as is.

    This is where I most strongly disagree with him. Humans are an evolving race. Cultural, technological, psychological and even physical advances are the norm. To use his example, the idea that Julia Child’s cookbook will even be relevant in 100 years is a real leap of faith. It may be, but it may be completely outdated.

    Things change, and new works of art will arise to interpret them. There is no limit on art.

    • He’s also missing the point that the spread of information is helping us to understand other cultures better because we can research things easier and even get into contact with people from other cultures much easier. Or with fellow geeks. Getting books has also become much easier. Twenty/thirty years ago ordering an English book in Germany could take up to 6 months.

      And from that works with new cultural impacts, but with different cultural impacts will grow. Focuses will shift as the world changes and moves into other directions.

      In Germany for example Julia Child’s cookbook isn’t relevant at all. As far as I know it never even was translated into German and when the movie came out I had to look up who Julia Child actually was. And thanks to the Internet I was able to find out. And while I enjoyed the movie I’m not that interested in getting the actual cookbook. But now I know who Julia Child is and that she had some impact on American culture.

      • Agreed! Good points. The internet is creating an international culture that has never existed, and that means new books will arise that are relevant cross-culture

      • I also stumbled across the Julia Child reference, because Julia Child isn’t even relevant outside the US at the moment. Not surprising either, since e.g. the French certainly didn’t need Ms. Child to explain the cooking techniques she had gotten from French chefs in the first place.

        In general, Godin’s post sounds way too much like those “end of history” pronouncements that were en vogue twenty years ago. Didn’t work out so well, did it?

        And of course Godin is afflicted by US-centric tunnel vision, but that’s not exactly uncommon.

        PS: I hear you on delivery times of several months for English language books. And of course, you could only order the books at all, if you knew about their existence. Casual browsing was not possible.

        • Heh, yeah, getting books was a nightmare: University bookshop and it took them six months to order a book by E.M. Forster.

          Even a bookstore that specialized in US and UK books took weeks. I finally found a tiny gay bookstore which ordered directly in the US. Book-delivery took about ten days and they were much cheaper than any of the major bookstores who usually added 100-200% to the bookprice. And weirdly enough they also always had an interesting selection of then current fantasy and SF. That’s where I discovered writers like Tanya Huff, Lois Bujold, Ursula LeGuin and Diane Duane.

  3. PG, your analogy to the news media is spot on. There are far more players in the field today so no one source has as much impact. News moves more freely, for good or ill, today than it ever has in the past and people are better informed. Each outlet just gets a smaller piece of the pie, and therefore influence, today.

    Choices! That’s a good thing. I do not have to take Walter Cronkite’s view as gospel, I can check elsewhere.

    Saying that books are past the halfway point implies that they are on the downhill slope. Again, I don’t see it that way. Not long ago, people were predicting the end of the written word as entertainment. Then along came e-books. Poof! More books being published now than ever before.

    The world is changing. There are still thousands of great books out there yet to be written. We cannot even imgaine some of the advances that will be made in the next few years that will breed subject matter for books.

    “Past the halfway point” is a linear way of thinking. Books are more circular and with branches coming off in every direction.

    Splitter

  4. I can’t really translate Seth right now. I’m preparing books for Kobo.
    Probably 13 years ago or more I went to the local cable outlet to produce a television show (It was a 30 minute fake talk show called Explosive Expose. It’s still cute and would have worked if I had ONE actor who could remember their lines.) and one of the guys there, a quiet, substantive 30ish man took me aside one day and explained how everything was going to be geared toward a niche audience. I listened carefully but nothing in the real world fit his vision then. Now he makes sense.
    Seth is lucky he has a huge audience. That will be the anomaly in the coming years.

  5. Oh, please. Spare me the “We’re past the golden era of XYZ” hyperbole. Every time something is declared dead, it seems to spring up in new form.

    Broadway died. The movie musical died. The variety show on television died. And yet, each of them is still around, albeit in slightly different formats. The variety show has become the singing/dancing “reality” contest show. The movie musical is coming back, bit by bit. Will it ever be like it was in the 40s and 50s? No, because those are bygone eras. But TV shows like Glee are bringing back an interest in Broadway, and national tours have replaced the need to go to New York to see shows like Wicked and Mary Poppins and Billy Elliot (all shows I have seen or will be seeing right here in Richmond).

    Godin’s way off base on this one. So the newer generations will read, watch TV and movies, and do other things differently than previous ones. Doesn’t mean they’ll stop doing things that we’ve done.

    And then there’s a saying that seems perfect for this instance: Everything old is new again.

  6. Great works of art have been produced throughout human history. They don’t require a “golden age.”

  7. I think Godin wants people to stop writing for a few years so he can get some work done on his To-Read pile.

  8. It’s the old “saturated” argument. There’s no such thing. The market will never become saturated with too many titles because everyone wants more of the same.

  9. Am I the only one who finds zero relevance in Godin? The only thing he markets well is Godin. Any “golden” age is a golden age only to those who were 25-35 at the time. Godin is talking about the news as it was broadcast when he was in that age range. Things are different now. It’s OK old man… (BTW: I’m older than Godin.)

    My musical golden age lasted from the death of Jimi Hendrix to the dissolution of The Cure. But I’m not dumb enough to say music has disintegrated. It changed, that’s all. My 15 yr old daughter is convinced she’s at the threshold of the golden age of YouTube Music. And, for her, she is. Here’s to the golden age of ____!

    Pay attention to Godin at your own peril.

    Peace, Seeley

  10. I think we are in the golden age of books. Give me a few hours and $25 as well as a computer (which I already own) and I can produce a paperback book available through all major distribution channels that fifteen years ago would have cost $100,000 fifteen years ago.

    And what’s more there is no reason that book should ever go out of print.

    Forget ebooks, if they went away tomorrow we would still be in the golden age, the most exciting time for readers and writers in the last 400 years.

    It is brilliant living in the future.

  11. This line of discussion reminds me of the claims by medieval scientists that nothing of consequence remained to be discovered.

    I’m sorry to say that many of the literary classics have lost – and will continue to lose – relevance over time.

    They will be replaced by new classics, appreciated by a wider diversity of readers than the old guard of literati.

    The halfway point is a moribund concept that appeals to the neophobic.

    It’s arrogant and silly.

    @pauldraker

  12. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

  13. I don’t believe that anyone, even Mr. Godin, can decide what is going to make an impact for each generation. The greats he listed in this piece were ‘great’ for a certain age group, but others – my daughter and her friends, for instance – won’t agree.

    Her generation, as mine did, looks for connections. Not what’s great, because no one will agree on that, but what’s ‘mine’. She asks, what can we have that is different than my parents. For instance, as a child, I hated the tv show ‘Dallas’ for no other reason than the fact that my dad loved it.

    All this to say, I guess, that every generation will choose its own greats, and therefore it is remiss to think that ours were the last ones.

  14. Seth Godin’s point is ridiculous. Hardly worth considering. 1000 years from now, people will still be cooking, and still be reading, still be creating. Who is he to say that the next 1000 years will hold less than the last 100 years? Please. How pretentious. It’s as if Galen said “well, we’re well past the halfway point in medicine.”

  15. Michael Matewauk

    I think what Godin was trying to say was that the “Golden Age” of tradpubs selecting/anointing the NYT Bestseller list occupiers is on a downslope. Why take risks on an untested title when you can throw money at a selfpubbed book(or sequel) that’s been Ka-chinging through the Fire or Kindle?

    Or maybe I have it all wrong & he’s only working us up for his next post where he introduces us to a new “Godin Age” of publishing.

    • *groans at pun*

    • the “Golden Age” of tradpubs selecting/anointing the NYT Bestseller list occupiers is on a downslope.

      What, you mean readers will choose what they want to buy instead of having the Official Makers of Taste shove the ‘right’ books down their throats?

      Horrors!

  16. Does anyone remember all the folks who assured us that kids didn’t read anymore and there would never be another blockbuster kids book? I am sure that was at least part of the reason J. K. Rowling had trouble finding a publisher.

    Godin is making his case in a muddled fashion. And he is confused about a few things. His biggest error is the assumption that digital has less reach than atoms (books on ereaders will have less reach than printed books). This is just factually and culturally wrong. An ebook can instantly reach everyone on the planet with a 3g cell connection. There has never been a physical distribution system like that. Worst of all, his first world 1% cultural bias is in full bloom. Seriously, the ancient Greeks, the British Victorian era imperialists and the ugly Americans of the ’50’s have nothing on him when it comes to cultural chauvinism. Spoiler alert for Seth. Not everybody watches the Cooking Channel.

    • Does anyone remember all the folks who assured us that kids didn’t read anymore and there would never be another blockbuster kids book?

      Yep. In fact, I read one of those folks moaning on about it only yesterday. Apparently Harry Potter is now part of the ‘Golden Age’ that will never come again.

  17. I’m not entirely sure what he’s trying to say but I took away something different than the people above.

    First he’s making the point of printed media, not books in general.

    Secondly, there’s only so many educational hours for kids in schools. I remember reading The Old Man and the Sea, Childhood’s End, various Shakespeare, etc. I don’t know if there’s a halfway point, but there is a limited amount of books that is presented as the base of education in schools.

    If Farenheit 451 is taught then Childhood’s End likely isn’t, etc. If King Lear is taught then A Tale of Two Cities might not get a mention.

    Those are the books that are presented as the basis of our education and while they change somewhat over generations I suspect most of you parents recognize the majority of your kids high school novel assignments from your own childhoods.

    I don’t think the above applies to other media. My childhood of Knight Rider, Airwolf, Star Trek reruns, and Rocket Robin cartoons is dramatically different than the media people before and after me remember. Same with music. Books are taught in school as classics unlike most other media. Maybe someone more into music could make an argument for it but personally that feels substatially different.

    I agree with PG that viral memes and books and other things will make splashes in public awareness. But will they be taught/passed down to future generations as replacements for Shakespeare in schools? If not then they won’t form the basis of our cultures, just a snapshot of what’s in our heads that year.

    • Oh I duuno about music. I was on a bus the other day and kids were playing “Bat out of Hell” on their mobiles.

      They looked about 13 or so.

      • They were’t listening to Chopin, though, were they?

        • I don’t listen to Chopin either and I didn’t when I was 13.

          Are we saying that NO music created in the last 100 years has any cultural relevance whatsoever. That ragtime, and jazz, and blues, and R&B, and pop, and rock, and punk, and electronica, and country&western, and folk (new), and psychedelic, and every other kind of music created in the last 100 years don’t stack up against an orchestral (chamber, symphonic, whatever the hell Chopin is)piece written sometime further back in time.

          Really, is that what you are saying.

          Look, the big difference between the way stuff is created now and the way it was created then (then being before the various recording mediums were invented) is that now we have the original version to watch (film/TV vs play) listen to (music track vs sheet music) and read (because literacy rates have risen).

          That doesn’t make things less relevant, it just makes them harder to reinterpret. Classical music as played now, does not sound the same as when it was first composed. Shakespeare’s plays are not performed in the same way as they were when he wrote them.

          Yes, I know there are people who try to recreate the original sound, using the original instruments, of classical pieces.
          And people also put on all-male versions of Shakespeare’s plays ‘in the round’.

          But that isn’t why Shakespeare is still culturally significant or taught in schools. His plays are taught in schools as a starting point. In the same way classics used to be taught in schools. You know ‘Homer’ and so on. They give a grounding in the themes and structures still being used to day.

          I was nerver taught Chopin in school so I have no idea why his work would be taught. I learned chopsticks though.

          Music, film/TV, created now is recorded for all time. You can go back and watch the Beatles playing “Love me Do” or Captain James T Kirk going boldly, or anything else.

          The difference right now is that anybody in the world who has access to the internet can hear a new music track the moment it is uploaded, see a new flic the moment it uploaded, read a new story the moment it is uploaded.

          Culture has gone global. It’s a step change. We’re at the start of a new renaissance and enlightenment.

          Gobsmacked now.

          Oh, I’m pretty much a virulent anti-elitist just so you know.

          P.S. there is also likely to be a few revolutions and quite a bit of bloodshed, because old guards to not go gentle into that goodnight.

          • do not go gentle into that good night. (It wouldn’t let me edit — and being Welsh, well…)

            • I guess I’m confused. I didn’t imply that that last 100 years of music wasn’t relevant. My take from one of the points of your articles is that you see a tipping point of where we hit a halfway point of great works. I think that is incorrect. I don’t think we are anywhere near that point if even one exists.

              How is it any harder to reinterpret now that it was years or decades ago? People reinterpret current works all the time were we have the original. Directors do it to books they turn into movies and musicians do covers of other artists songs all the time. Generally people prefer the original, but I can think of a few where I bought the cover was better.

            • Um…Yeah, @Josh…I may possibly, only possibly mind…um… overreacted just a tad.

              Sorry about that.

              As to it being harder to reinterpret. If you can look at an original version of the West Wing (for instance) it is harder to reinterpret it. But Julias Ceaser can be set anywhere. The BBC just did a version set in an African state going through civil war.

              Music is not quite as hard to reinterpret because if it is played by a musician then they are automatically adding something of themselves to the playing. Actually, yeah, music does get reinterpreted all the time.

    • First he’s making the point of printed media, not books in general.

      That in itself is enough to invalidate the point. He might as well be lamenting the demise of movies on VHS, because these here newfangled DVDs can’t possibly count as the same art form.

  18. Aye, the dystopian era of books is on the horizon…Gosh. I’ve heard that about lots of things. And I have never heard of Seth Godin. Seriously. What has he written?

  19. I don’t think we’re misunderstanding him at all, not when he says things like this:

    “Or, if you grew up with science fiction, we ought to be able to agree that Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Atwood, Lem, Zelazny, LeGuin, Doctorow and (early) Stephenson are quite a touchstone, and if we look at the future of all books on paper, it’s hard to imagine a new generation of science fiction books being as widely embraced as they were twenty or forty years ago.”

    I don’t agree. I think there are authors out there who have yet to publish that are going to knock my socks off just as much as Ray Bradbury did.

    It really is pretty condescending to declare to the world that you have determined what the golden age of xxx is, and then demand that we must all agree with you. I gotta say, there are some people on that list that I don’t think belong there. So now, we don’t all have to agree.

    • (Not to mention he’s missing Norton, Cherryh, Bradley, McCaffery, and Bujold there… Pfeh.)

      • Girl cooties, ABeth. They’ve all got girl cooties. Of course, Atwood and LeGuin have them, too, but maybe Godin missed that little bit of information.

  20. Oh, thank goodness. I misread the intro and thought (with mild horror, as I read) that the excerpts were from comments here from one of the regulars (I recognized the name, but I couldn’t figure out why, so I assumed it must be a semi-reg).

    What I would have otherwise said has been said here. I’m just glad I was mistaken.

  21. I’m finding this “400 years” number really strange. Is he saying that before 1612 people didn’t write books that had cultural impact? And still have a cultural impact? What starting date is he using to say we have reached a halfway point.

    I mean people today still read Homer, Ovid, Chaucer, Malory, Shakespeare, Marlowe and many other writers. Or the Bible, Luther’s writings. Or Thomas More’s Utopia. Even the fragments of Sappho’s poetry are still read and appreciated.

    And that’s only Western culture.

    Today it’s much easier for me to get into contact with fellow geeks and to find out if some of my favourite writers have published new books. I don’t have to wait until they maybe are getting translated (some of my favorite writers never made it past the gatekeepers in German publishing houses). And ordering books has become so much easier.

    Today by reading blogs I’m learning about new books that in pre-internet days I never would have heard off because they aren’t making it past the gatekeepers in German publishing houses.

    I also find it interesting to read about one topic from different POVs, especially political issues. This diversity of information can lead to a much more rounded view of things, instead of being limited to one (maybe biased) source of information.

    And for a translator knowing about US, UK, or Australian culture is important. Today, getting that knowledge, learning about the culture is much easier than it was when I was in school. And I’m embracing it fully and gladly.

    The (international!) success of say Jamie Oliver would negate his argument about cookbooks. Oliver has been translated into German – and impacted German cooking culture quiet strongly-, Julia Cook as far as I know, hasn’t.

    I think that new generations of SF writers will tackle new ideas and subjects that are now becoming issues and impacting our world. They will explore new worlds and new concepts and new problems. Jules Verne wrote about people travelling to the Moon, Burroughs send his hero to Mars and after that people had the whole universe to play in. And the universe is still expanding.

    So no, we haven’t reached the halfway point yet and I doubt we ever will.

  22. One big difference today?

    It’s a lot easier for me to read the old great books, including medieval ones.

    Seriously, though, Godin needs to get some scope. Ireland has always been notoriously heavy on writers, such that it was estimated that 7 out of 10 Irish people had written and published something. There were lots of small presses and lots of enthusiastic readers and lots of good writers. And people’s friends were knowledgeable pre-readers, which probably was why so many good books by new writers were published. And still are, in Ireland.

    But somehow, in America, we’ve got no more good books in us. Surrrrrre.

    Now, I think there’s a legitimate argument for saying our educational system isn’t what it should be, and that therefore many writers and readers probably don’t demand as much of themselves as they should. But that’s where having more reading going on is very beneficial. Reading educates you to the possibilities of reading, and most people’s tastes broaden over time. If folks didn’t learn this stuff in English class, they can learn it now.

    But I expect that if the good Lord spares our world a few more years, there will be many great books coming along.

    And that’s just the English-speaking world. There are probably any number of great world books that we’ve never even heard of. They say Bengali literature is amazing, for instance, but we don’t get much of that here. Another land overrun with poets, like Ireland and Wales.

    • Ireland has always been notoriously heavy on writers, such that it was estimated that 7 out of 10 Irish people had written and published something.

      Off topic, but that reminds me of the joke about Weimar a couple of hundred years ago, as reported by Goethe: it was a town of ‘ten thousand poets and a few inhabitants’.

  23. When the robot apocalypse comes and human civilization comes to an end, the new robot overlords can look back and calculate the halfway point of human cultural achievement.

    • I bet the shipping wars then will be awesome.

      • “My processors calculate a 51% compatibility rate between those characters. It may be canon, but using the formula below, you will see that my favorite character and the main character are as much as 74% compatible, and are more likely to reproduce.”

  24. Seth Godin wrote: “But it’s clear to me and to many in the industry that we’re well past the halfway mark (given that we started 400 years ago) in terms of creating the essential library of touchstone cultural achievements that every single smart person has either read or is aware of.”

    Because our trusted experts and leaders know what they’re talking about and that mankind’s tastes never change, and they can see what the future will bring, we’ve listened to their wisdom throughout history:

    200,000 B.C., Oonga, chief fire starter of the Gamah tribe: “Mibee oom geebee po, am soonee imbo hom nee. Gib noos eem?”
    [Roughly translated, Oonga said, “Look, fire starters have been controlling fire for the past 200,000 years. Trust me. We know everything there is to know about fire. We can cook food, keep warm, light up the cave at night, and scare away bears. What more could we possibly learn about fire?”] (His daughter then waved a smoking tree branch in front of a beehive until all the bees evacuated. Then she harvested the honey without getting stung.)

    June 25, 1876, Brevet Maj. Gen. George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn: “Hurrah boys, we’ve got them! We’ll finish them up and then go home to our station.” (The Indian warriors then slaughtered every soldier.)

    1888, Simon Newcomb, Canadian-born American astronomer: “We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy.”

    Jan. 2, 1939, Time magazine: “Adolph Hitler, Man of the Year, 1938.”

    March 1949, Popular Mechanics magazine: “Where a calculator like the ENIAC today is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh only 1 1/2 tons.”

    1969, William H. Stewart, Surgeon General of the United States (testifying before the U.S. Congress): “We can close the books on infectious diseases.”

    July 11, 1995, William H. Gates, Chairman of the Microsoft Corporation: “This antitrust thing will blow over.”

    July 13, 2012, Seth Godin, American entrepreneur and author: “We can probably all agree that more than half of the culturally important cookbooks printed on paper have already been printed.”

    2022, Solomon Roth, New York City scholar, after slamming his front door: “I hate these door-to-door salesmen. He’s selling 17 cookbooks in 64 languages published this month alone for the latest bioengineered foods, including three for those new high-energy plankton wafers. What are they called? Soylent …”

    Robert Thorn, NYPD detective: “Green.”

    • This an awesome comment. Thank you!

      • Thanks. (I wasn’t sure anyone would get the cultural reference at the end.)

        I was thinking “How could more than half the culturally important cookbooks possibly have ALREADY been printed?” Sure, we have the Donner Party Cookbook, but no one’s written a Soylent Green Cookbook or any of the cookbooks featuring the human-manufactured foods we have yet to dream up. Our culture is still gaining momentum.

  25. I think Godin is feeling his personal “past the halfway point” and thus nostalgic for the touchstones of his own cultural education. I note that his birthday was on July 10, and he just turned 52.

    I like to think that Shakespeare will always be with us. I like to think that many people will always appreciate Mozart, Bach, Puccini and Verdi. Perhaps there could be a graph — measuring longevity to date vs. likelihood of staying power. Will people always know of “Yesterday” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Time will tell. How much stickiness will Harry Potter have? Edward and the werewolf guy? 50 Shades of Grey?? I don’t think the latter two will manage to be literary cultural touchstones for as long as Austen, Hemingway, Fitzgerald (that F. Scott guy, not me… though I can dream).

  26. Sparkly Vampires will live forever in fandom, as “VAMPIRES SPARKLE FOR A SPLIT SECOND BEFORE THEY BURST INTO FLAME” t-shirts.

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