I see via Jilly Dybka’s Poetry Hut Blog that Keyhole Press has published what it calls “a collection of texts based on the works of Calvin Trillin.” But this is no Trillin anthology. No, Questionstruck is a “compilation of interrogative texts based on Trillin’s first twenty-five published books” generated by “[m]aster contextualizer William Walsh.” (The book’s cover states that the book is “by” William Walsh, but one could as easily argue that the book is “by” the printer who produced it.) Bottom line: texts stolen from other writers can be published under the thief’s name as long as the thief is identified as a “contextualizer”—you know, one of those people who are so danged innovative that they can’t put together ther own sentences. The folks who dreamed up “enemy combatant” and the “Clear Skies Initiative” would be proud. And I have to wonder: What will Calvin Trillin have to say about Mr. Walsh’s interrogative compilation?
UPDATE: Keyhole Press’s publisher Peter Cole notes in a comment below that Calvin Trillin gave William Walsh permission to leverage his work for Questionstruck. I feel better now, especially since—again as Peter Cole points out—Walsh has put together sentences of his own in other publications. But my main objection to projects like Questionstruck stands. Many years ago, when I was in the book business, we used to cringe over the popularity of “non-book books.” Perhaps my attitude is simply a hangover from that period. Maybe there is so little of interest being thought and written by individuals these days that some readers would rather spend their time with contextualizations rather than original works. I just can’t count myself among them.