Literary Criminals

“This city deserves a better class of criminal. And I’m going to give it to them.”

-The Joker

The word criminal carries some negative connotations doesn’t it? We associate the word with crooks, delinquents and thieves living in the shadows as they commit devious acts. And why shouldn’t we? The word criminal is a label bestowed upon someone who commits an action or activity considered to be evil, shameful, or wrong. From an early age we are taught that crime is vile, and therefore a criminal must be equally as abhorrent to our society.

But we live in unprecedented times where the very definition of the word has become tainted. Politicians mislead and misinform, men of faith commit shameful acts, and laws are broken in the name of freedom while outlaws fight for their civil rights. The lines of right and wrong are so convoluted that it’s becoming increasingly impossible to distinguish a felon from a hero, and good intentions from underhanded persuasion.

So let’s loosen the reigns on the whole criminal angle just a touch so that we can flesh this out a little more. Let’s steer away from crime and talk about social disorder, antisocial behavior, art and literature.

Not unlike crime, social disorder is typically defined as an action or activity that is incongruous to the best interests or equilibrium of the larger community. Whereas crime is repugnant, social disorder merely upsets. We are repulsed at crimes; yet tolerate minor misdemeanors like graffiti, despite the fact that delinquents and criminals commit both acts and they have equally negative impacts upon society.

Are you keeping up so far? Good. Let’s get to the art and literature and start blurring the lines between right and wrong. Are you ready to taste the bitter tang of social disorder?

I’ve spent my whole life feeling like a fucking criminal trapped inside a cell. I was born into an age of intellectual neglect where cheap gimmicks and slick marketing have trumped my work ethic and talent leaving me subdued and alone. Society has allowed the creative arts to die and ridiculed me for trying to save it. I’ve been labeled an outcast and immoral by the very people that I have aimed to inspire.

My crime? I care. I care so goddamn much that it hurts my heart to see brilliant and audacious artists beaten down and cast aside in favour of bullshit. I spend every single day searching for beautiful pieces of literature, art and music that will never be seen by more than a few while millions devour mass produced shit spoon fed to them by snake oil peddlers and slick salesmen.

You want to know what my crime was? I made a deal with the devil and begged to be different. I wrapped my hands around the equilibrium threaded through our society and tried to break it apart.

But it was an act of passion; an act of love that was misconstrued and seen as evil. All I ever wanted was to create a little social disorder and save the industry I love. Is that really as monstrous as I’ve been led to believe?

Creativity is dying. Shot through the heart by advertising campaigns and pseudo-celebrities who thought that fame was more important than the vision that lead them to celebrity in the first place. Now here I am on my knees with using my hands to plug the bloody holes left by their bullets. I’m covered in claret, but I refuse to let what I love become carrion discarded by a world who no longer values intellectual diversity and beauty…

…Alright, maybe it’s not quite that bad. There’s plenty of blood on my hands but the industry will struggle on, wounded by society’s insatiable lust for instantaneous entertainment. The newfound equilibrium in the creative arts places less and less emphasis on literature, meaning that book sales are on a downward spiral. Even though more authors are being published then ever before, just over one percent of them are finding their ways into bookstores, profits are razor thin, and younger generations are turning their backs on the written word.

It’s an extremely worrying trend, but the saddest thing about the industry’s current predicament is that rather than having publishers and agents look towards new and exciting authors to recapture the audiences they’ve lost and the minds of younger generations, they’re trying to replicate successes of days gone past. Imitate rather than innovate. But it’s not working. Not like it used to.

I’ve been really struggling to find my rhythm with blogging lately. While there are a few personal issues involved in my creative slump, it is largely due to growing frustrations at the manner in which society views and values entertainment. I tell myself every single day that I’m the best writer of my time and that I’m only getting better. But sometimes I feel a twinge of self doubt when I see literature devalued in comparison to emerging (and senseless) mediums. The creative equilibrium of the modern world is skewed and it’s time to set it right; even if it takes a little literary crime and social disorder to do so.

This world needs a new breed of author who isn’t afraid to engage in social misconduct, create a little havoc and breathe new life into the aching lungs of the industry choking for air. Fans of prose and fiction deserve a better class of author. And I’m going to give it to them.

I could give you some bullshit speech here about how I’ll push myself to new creative limits and try to further the industry, but you and I both know that it won’t work. We’ve been there before. I’ve spent years trying valiantly to be the man who redefines the written word and all it got me was a prison sentence when I was caught plugging up the holes of a bleeding industry with my fists. What I will say is this: it’s time for emerging writers to find rise and start smashing in the windows of ignorance, marching against the fall of literature and setting the world ablaze.

Traditionalists will call us criminals. They’ll distance themselves and say that we don’t represent the craft they love. We will be viewed as literary outlaws and delinquents who stand for something foreign. But that’s OK. The greatest accomplishment a writer can ever realize is to stir emotion within their readership, even if that emotion is discontent.

This social disorder can extend beyond the boundaries of my industry too. We can start a revolution, one man or woman at a time. I’m calling out to the wolves, world eaters and literary criminals across the globe and asking them to stand proudly beside their prose and fiction. I’m asking artists, musicians, athletes, and fucking everyone else who has ever had a passion and a dream to rise up and stake their claim.

This world deserves a better class of writer, painter, singer, musician, lawyer, doctor, mother, father, and everything else. And we’re going to give it to them. You and I. All it takes to change the world is a little social disorder.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

39 thoughts on “Literary Criminals”

  1. I stand by you bro, I’m tired of walking into a so-called bookstore and seeing crap like fifty shades being sold out while Maxim Gorky’s Mother is gathering dust.

    1. I agree. 50 Shades reads like it was written by a tween. The reason why I think it did so well is due to book appealing to the primitive impulses of women, and exploiting deep female psychology. The writer knew how to tap into what women desire and exploited it in a very dull and cheap way. 50 shades to me is nothing more than a $5 paper-porn novel your mom would pick up in the discount bin at Target to make the plane ride to Boca Vista bearable. The other issue is our society and culture today- how the masses gravitate towards the mindless, cheap, quick and the easy thrills. 50 Shades, for lack of better words, gave tingles and its sad that appealing to base human urges is all that it takes in today’s world. Everything is dumbed down, watered down (look at the educations system) and true creativity isn’t recognized because people have forgotten how to recognize it. People are lazy and will think something is amazing because they were told it was from the all mighty mainstream machine.

  2. I hear you loud and clear! Just like there are crappy movies, there will be crappy books out there. We just need to learn how to swerve! 🙂

  3. This is the best post I have read so far that talks about the dying industry. Today’s age does not only need social realization, we need to start making changes. People, those capable, must do their share. Take an act. Make a stand. An act of rebellion to stop killing this generation’s future.

    I do hope you can reach out to more people. We all need to start making changes, even the littlest ones would be significant when the time comes.

  4. Very much true, I also think people are very quick to jump to conclusions when it comes to what a person is like when they commit a certain crime. Some people don’t take into account that the environment around a person can change their decision making drastically. I’ve written my own story based on this.

  5. It’s hard, to find a place you can fit in, especially, with the outside demands about who you should or shouldn’t be, how you should, or shouldn’t act are so varied, the key to overcome this struggle is by finding that balance that’s on the inside, and i’m sure that if you keep on, working hard, striving towards that state of equilibrium, one day, you willl feel, balanced…

  6. As always, you are all up in flames as your passion speaks through your every word. You could burn whole cities down with it, haha. People like you are meant to change the world. At least that is what I always hope for when I see fire burning into somebody’s eyes and heart. It really doesn’t matter if (s)he’s a writer, painter, lawyer or a doctor…

  7. Your awesome post reminded me Herbert Blau who spoke about the same thing in theater in “The Impossible Theater: A Manifesto” (1964). He begins the book: The purpose of this book is to talk up a revolution. Where there are rumblings already, I want to cheer them on. I tend to be incendiary and subversive, maybe even un-American. I shall probably hurt people unintentionally; there are some I want to hurt. I may as well confess right now the full extent of my animus: there are times when, confronted with the despicable behavior of people in the American theater, I feel like the lunatic Lear on the heath, wanting to “kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!”

  8. I feel like this is the age old fight of artists throughout history. A lot of the time readers we love and admire today were nobody in their day and in fact many died thinking they failed but that doesn’t mean they stopped trying. Likewise artists of today can’t let themselves be oppressed by the way the world is because that is the fuel that helps us create our art. The fight won’t ever end because there are always interested parties in keeping the status quo and keeping people dumb. Be that as it may, for me writing is a way of life and I know I’m never going to stop despite the outcome or success of my work.

    Lately in thinking of trying to reach an audience I have been wondering if the medium is the thing to focus on or whether its all about the message.

    Regardless thanks for a thought provoking article and obviously I’m with you in the frontline fighting the good fight that sometimes feels consuming and never ending.

  9. And this, my friends, is what I call brain food.. It’s really sad how entertainment has become degenerate, playing to the tunes of superficial and almost stupid popular demands. People don’t even realize what is literature, or music anymore.

  10. Add my name to the growing list of ‘Literary Criminals’, please! This cuts straight across the throat of a dying human populace, right down to the artery. I felt as though you were describing me… this is how I think, this is what I feel. Please don’t feel alone in this, because, you are SO not.

  11. Hi Chris, we’re definitely stuck in a Post-Modern inter-textual loop when it comes to art. There’s a kind of collateral, rather than cultural capital in knowing the ‘in joke’ – I lament a lot of the time that we know the references before we’ve seen their original source. I might not share your zeal, but I salute your enthusiasm for originality. ~ P ~

  12. Hey Chris…really enjoyed reading your essay and I respect your fierce passion for the written word and other art forms. I think you’re dead on about the current industry standards. The erosion of quality and content, I think has a lot to do with the dichotomy that exists between the profit motive and pure undiluted creativity. Those that control the purse strings want to get the most bang for their buck….and market entertainment and art for the masses. The dumbing down of the marketed art form is coinciding with the dumbing down of America as a whole. We really do need a revolution of thought and process not only in the arts, but in all areas that affect our society, and it’s individuals. Viva la revolution!!
    Oh and thanks for stopping by my blog site. I’m by no means a prolific or seasoned writer. Writing is my therapy, a way of releasing pent up emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Most of my stuff is very much a stream of consciousness that I don’t take time to shape better Hoping I improve as I do it more. Didn’t work with sex for me, but what the heck, perhaps I’ll end up being more proficient with writing. 😉

  13. “Now here I am on my knees with using my hands to plug the bloody holes left by their bullets. I’m covered in claret, but I refuse to let what I love become carrion discarded by a world who no longer values intellectual diversity and beauty…”

    What a vision of zeal.

    Onward then!

  14. Touched me. I was already sold when you started it with a quote by The Joker. And it just kept getting better. You’re one of the most excellent writers I’ve encountered on WordPress. And I totally stand by you. This world deserves better and we’ll give it to them.

  15. I appreciate your post and your point of view. Honestly, I’m not much of an activist. I think the industry is driven by those who are willing to buy the books. I believe Romance is the highest selling genre. Need I say more?

    Young people are reading text messages, not literature.

  16. This is one of the most inspiring pieces I have read in a while. I’m always finding myself drawn to literature and music that really stirs something up in me.
    A bad song, for instance, I can listen on repeat and have the lyrics memorized. A good song, though, one that awakens something in our soul is one that I can listen to on repeat and still discover new meaning every single time I listen to it. The same goes with a wonderfully written book. Most books I will not read more than once, but, there are a few here and there that I could read for days on end after reading it from cover to cover. It is time for us all to start doing our best to make it so that every book read will be read more than once by at least one person in this world.
    This can be applied to everything, like you said. The world can use someone better in every profession and role in life, and we all have the potential to better ourselves.
    Thank you for writing this, and forcing others to really think about this issue (myself included).

  17. Great post ! It is a shame to see creativity and imagination being ignored and undermined.
    The most important inventions, paintings, music, poetry, writings etc were created by people who think outside the box.

    The world needs more crestors but the narcissists running things feel threatened by people who can think and see past bullshit , so they will fight us.

    Anyway, lets fight the system. It’ll be a fun ride some of the time. 💖💖💖💕💕💕
    Annie 💕

  18. Excellent thought process and pitch perfect delivery. You’ve just made yourself a new fan. I’ve recently had a similar conversation. If I were to publish celebrity gossip or transcripts of people committing crimes I’d be a much more successful writer. Instead I try to create a more profound awareness with my work – I interpret science, nature, politics, religion – you know, the things that matter. Even friends and family tend to look away from those articles. People don’t want the truth. They want entertainment. I refuse to give in. I’ll keep making noise whether anyone listens or not. Otherwise what kind of person would I be if I didn’t listen to the urgings of my soul? Not a person I could be proud of for sure. Keep doing what you do. If we keep rattling cages eventually those that live in them will have to take notice. I truly believe that.

  19. Hmmm, once again I find your writing style a little different to the norm, and I guess that’s what makes you you!
    My business name is heart of equilibrium. I would say we are all in some way looking for that balance and harmony. Hugs Paula xx

  20. The more that each and every one of us addresses social deviance from a counseling and treatment standpoint, the better off our streets will be. I work in one of the most dangerous cities in the US currently, directly with the most dangerous deviants of all.
    Do I want acknowledgement for the risks I take daily?! No, all I wish is; that every person stops, to talk to a kid who you feel out of place. We discourage bullying, admonish misbehavior and punish those who refuse to adhere to rules.
    But we dont stop to promote positivity through mentoring and communication with children, teenagers and young adults. You cant change them, but you motivate them to make their changes. If you can, talk with them before it’s too late.

  21. Chris, I share your attachment to good writing, good stories, and just plain old good literature. However my gusto to learn and produce work that will appeal to a lover of good writing is my target. Nevertheless, I’m willing to work on improving my craft by reading good writing such as yours and practicing. Finding and audience and my voice is an impossible task for me. Now, your writing caught my attention right off from the beginning. You are saying something. Good work, Chris.

  22. Great post… Lots of food for thought and obvious discussion.
    Writing, as any craft must come from a passion, the energy can not be matched by otherwise constructed work..
    Writers have to eat to live but without the feel of the fire that drives you, you are already dead…
    Here’s to the warrior writer in all of us!

  23. I must say that love writing, but so many times someone has come to me and say “you need to make appeal to more people” which means dumb it down, make less cleaver, less weird. Be more normal, be more quite and silent, fallow the crowd

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