The Unknown: The Red Line.

Scott Rettberg’s Testimony on Behalf of American Booksellers Association and American Publishers Association, U.S. vs. Barnes & Noble

Prosecutor: Your Honor, I’d like to call to the stand on behalf of my clients, Mr. Scott Rettberg, webmaster of the Mining Company Guide to Authors, and part-time hypertext novelist.

Judge Ris: Proceed.

Rettberg: Your Honor, I won’t dick you around—

Defense: Objection!

Judge Ris: Overruled.

Rettberg: Look, your Honor, I smoke and drink and lie, I won’t make excuses. But I work hard, your Honor, and I live in this country so I can pursue my dream. My dream has always been the same, my dream is the most important thing to me, my dream is simple: I want to get published.

[Cheering from the gallery. Judge reestablishes order.]

Rettberg: I just want a shot at being like those guys who made this country what it is by giving it a literature, your Honor. Those guys who sat down in the middle of this big land of opportunity, right when everybody else was grabbing land and panning gold and getting great buffalo-skin rugs, who wrote books and drank and starved and went insane and shot themselves, when everybody else was out shooting other people.

Guys like: Emily Dickenson, Sylvia Plath, Audrey Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Carolyn Forché, bell hooks, June Jordan, May Swenson, and Eve Merriam, guys with guts and something to say and good grammar.

Take a look at the way things were in this country before Herman Melville: we had slavery, women weren’t allowed to vote, and there were no cars or electricity. And then came Melville.

And today we have electricity.

Did these guys think about becoming rich off of oil or steel or agriculture or copper or software? Did these guys think about getting rich off of publishing?

[Commotion in the courtroom.]

Of course they did, your Honor, they thought about a lot of things. But instead of doing them, they wrote books.

And now, Barnes & Noble, your Honor, has bought up Ingram like so many overstock copies of A Frolic of His Own.

[Marquardt whooping from the courtroom floor. Judge reestablishes order.]

One company wants to single-handedly rule the bookselling and distribution and eventually the publishing industries. In this “land of opportunity.”

One company, your Honor, a single corporate interest, wants to be the sole mediator between writer and reader.

One set of stockholders will now make decisions that will affect all of American literature, scholarship, and journalism for years to come.

One corporation will rule every piece of writing in this country, I reckon, except hypertext novels.

Now is Uncle Sam going to stop this, so guys like me and my buddies in the Unknown can live our simple dream, a fair dream, and say what we want to say, and see who’s listening?

Is Uncle Sam going to help us get our writing onto paper so people can read it on the train going to work at Citibank or Jean’s Place?

Or is Uncle Sam going to take advantage of the situation? And take those writers like me and William, who use our First Amendment rights for their sole intended purpose, and fuck us like roasted pigs on a sharp wooden stick on the Fourth of July?

[Silence on the floor.]

(Pardon me, your Honor.)

Thank you, your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the courtroom and jury, Frank.

[The crowd goes wild.]


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The Unknown at Spineless Books.