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Roy Scranton's stories, essays, and reviews have been published in Rolling StoneBoston Review, the New York Times, Contemporary LiteratureThe AppendixLITTheory & Event, and elsewhere. He is one of the editors of Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War (Da Capo, 2013). His book Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene is forthcoming from City Lights in 2015.

24 April 2011

The Art of Puffing by a Bookseller's Journeyman

Versed by Experience in the subtle Art,
The mystries of a Title I impart:
Teach the young Author how to please the Town,
And make the heavy drug of Rhime go down.
Since Curl, immortal, never dying name!
A Double Pica in the Book of Fame,
By various arts did various Dunces prop,
And tickled every fancy to his Shop:
Who can like Pottinger ensure a Book?
Who judges with the solid taste of Cooke?
Villians exalted in the midway Sky,
Shall live again to drain your Purses dry:
Nor yet unrivalled they: see Baldwin comes,
Rich in Inventions, Patents, Cuts and hums:
The honorable Boswell writes, 'tis true,
What else can Paoli's supporter do.
The trading Wits endeadvor to attain,
Like Booksellers, the Worlds first Idol Gain:
For this they puff the heavy Goldsmiths Line.
And hail his Sentiment tho' trite, divine;
For this, the patriotic bard complains,
And Bingley binds poor Liberty in Chains:
For this was every reader's faith deceiv'd,
And Edmunds swore what nobody believ'd:
For this the Wits in close Disguises fight;
For this the varying Politicians write:
For this each Month new Magazines are sold,
With Dullness fill'd and transcripts of the Old.
The Town and Country stuck a lucky hit,
Was novel, sentimental, full of Wit:
Aping her Walk the same success to find,
The Court and City hobbles far behind:
Sons of Apollo learn; Merit's no more,
Than a good Fronispiece to grace her door.
The Author who invents a title well,
Will always find his cover'd Dullness sell;
Flexney and every Bookseller will buy,
Bound in neat Calf, the Work will never die.

Thomas Chatterton

July 22, 1770

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