Diversity in Publishing

My MBA thesis, finished in 2019, was inspired by a dispute between author Lionel Shriver and Penguin Random House UK about diversity. I submitted it almost two years ago, so my views have evolved, but this is the first time I have shared it online.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/n0xzr1q5yhucs3v/Kevin%20McGeary%20MBA%20Thesis.pdf?dl=0

It begins:

Mass media, including publishing, now rival the state and religion in their ability to introduce new ideas and shape public opinion. This power can be used for good or ill.

Publishing is the business of telling stories. In his seminal essay, “Story”, screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee cited story as the world’s most trusted medium, writing:

“Traditionally humankind has sought the answer to Aristotle’s question (how should a human being lead their life) from the four wisdoms – philosophy, science, religion, art – taking insight from each to bolt together a liveable meaning. But today who reads Hegel or Kant without an exam to pass? Science, once the great explicator, garbles life with complexity and perplexity. Who can listen without cynicism to economists, sociologists, politicians? Religion, for many, has become an empty ritual that masks hypocrisy. As our faith in traditional ideologies diminishes, we turn to the source we still believe in: the art of story.

The world now consumes films, novels, theatre and television in such quantities and with such ravenous hunger that the story arts have become humanity’s prime source of inspiration, as it seeks to order chaos and gain insight into life.”

McKee’s assertion is backed up by the history of the past century.

In 1915 “The Birth of a Nation”, one of the most influential films ever made, stigmatised interracial mating and glorified the Ku Klux Klan. This preceded the most successful period in the organization’s history. The director’s follow-up, “Intolerance”, tried to address some of the criticisms, but by then, the damage had already been done.

Among media, publishing can have a particularly strong impact on the way people think. Studies have shown that daily news is relatively ineffective in changing people’s views or guiding decisions. By contrast, published books have been known to inspire major social changes. The World Economic Forum has cited Robert Tressell’s “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” as an ‘integral part of the drive for social reform at the start of the last century’.

Beyond the Wings, April 2021

Post-Covid life has ostensibly begun here in England. I have been able to finally schedule my album launch for November 30th this year, but I will hold the same event in different venues on several occasions.

Activities

I continue to run the Mandarin Club in Manchester and have published another review with the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing.

On Wednesday May 5th,  I will give an online introduction to Chinese characters. This comes at a time when my tutoring business has been dwindling. English tutoring is going fine, but I am down to just two pupils for Mandarin, and no regular pupils for the guitar or creative writing. I am setting about rectifying this.

Since lockdowns may be ending, I have finished for now with the weekly miscellaneous covers, with one recent highlight being ‘Unchained Melody’.

Output

I have finished writing my next English album, working title ‘Problematic Is My Middle Name’. New songs include an attempt at a modern pop song

And a mournful one about so-called ‘cancel culture’.

Wider World

There’s a lot I don’t understand about the universe. I had long assumed that for anybody to have a glittering career, or rise to the top of an organisation, they must be brilliant. However, the past year has shown that so many people who run the world are deeply mediocre.

Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron has become embroiled in a scandal. His memoir is said to lack ‘a single arresting thought or amusing anecdote’. Former director of public prosecutions and current leader of the Labour Party Kier Starmer has also shown himself to be – like a lot of the most outwardly impressive people – somewhat disappointing.

The same review of the David Cameron memoir makes this observation of much of the ruling class:

Behind presentation there is no substance: just more presentation, so that public relations is the queen of the sciences and opinion polls must be consulted as Roman soothsayers consulted chicken entrails.”

So many people are schooled to mistake status-consciousness with ambition, affectation with sophistication, and accolade with competence. For this reason, so much of my recent work is studiedly anti-pride, grandeur, and self-esteem.

Beyond the Wings, March 2021

With a world-leading vaccination program, people here in the UK can almost taste life after lockdown, but the pandemic is still far from over. I am as yet unable to schedule a book launch, or an album launch but am working to make sure those nights are as good as possible.

Output

In March I completed a new satirical English song

A non-satirical English song

And a new Chinese song.

I have also kept year-long habits like the Mandarin Club and the weekly covers.

Activities

As well as tutoring regularly – guiding two pupils to exams – I have been writing a lot, including some professional copywriting. There are now two Amazon reviews of my book, and my strategy for getting reviews in newspapers and magazines should pay off later this year.

Wider World

With vaccines being rolled out all over the world, there is much cause for optimism. This illness that has killed over two-and-a-half million people worldwide has created another challenge for those of us lucky enough to survive – to not die inside.

For me, being better off than I was a year ago, through sheer luck, it is difficult not to have some form of survivor’s guilt. Some days ‘Fitter Happier’ by Radiohead captures my mood:

Beyond the Wings February 2021

This month, two of the biggest moments of my creative life happened within a few days of each other. On February 6th, I held a Zoom concert to showcase my Chinese-language song-writing. Also, my first book was released.

Output

‘The Naked Wedding’, my first short story collection, is now available as an e-book and in print. I have started soliciting reviews but have heard nothing back yet. Reviews are a hard sell; they take a lot of time and tend to pay zilch. I still hope and expect that some will have materialised by the end of the year.

Also, this month I held a Zoom concert that was a risky mixing of professional life and personal passion project.

Hopefully, this will inspire new Chinese songs, an artform on which I have been quite unproductive recently. The English songs however seem to keep flowing out. This was an attempt at a romantic salsa song written for Valentine’s weekend.

Activities

The Mandarin Club continues to thrive. As well as the Zoom concert, this month there were two literary events with well-known Chinese authors, and the February edition of the China Book Club was ‘Factory Girls’ by Leslie Chang. In March it will be the post-reform & opening masterpiece ‘Life’ by Lu Yao.

Another regular Zoom event I host is the Castle Music Group, a music, poetry and comedy group open to everyone. The March events will be on the afternoon of the 14th and the evenings of the 20th and 31st. This helps to fuel my weekly recordings of miscellaneous covers.

In February these have included ‘The Best’ by Tina Turner, ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ by Radiohead, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ by Bon Jovi, and ‘Radio Ga Ga’ by Queen.

Wider World

As relieving as it is to be rid of President Trump, the honeymoon is already over with Biden. In late February he launched military air strikes in Syria, continuing a decades-long trend of American military intervention in the region.

Trump’s obnoxiousness was often a distraction from the genuine intractability of the problems facing the world. Here in the UK, there is genuine optimism that life will return to something resembling pre-coronavirus normalcy by the end of 2021. Still, the social and economic fallout has yet to be understood.

With the Conservative Party, whose disastrous governance has led the UK to a world-leading death toll and the worst recession in three centuries, leading in the polls, I am reminded of this poem by Erich Fried.

What Happens

It has happened

and it goes on happening

and will happen again

if nothing happens to stop it.

The innocent know nothing

because they are too innocent

and the guilty know nothing

because they are too guilty.

The poor don’t take notice

because they’re too poor

and the rich don’t take notice

because they’re too rich.

The stupid shrug their shoulders

because they’re too stupid

and the clever shrug their shoulders

because they’re too clever.

The young don’t care

because they’re too young

and the old don’t care

because they’re too old.

That’s why nothing happens

to stop it

and that is why it has happened

and goes on happening and will happen again.