Bring me the Money. Or the celebrity. Preferably both.

It’s one of those things your mother told you never to mention to the relatives: money. Scheckels, dinero, lettuce. Today, money in publishing, and in society, is topic number one. Most writers want to make money by selling their product, their writing. Because making money at your writing means you get to do more of that thing you love most: more writing. Not to mention buying baby new shoes.

What would you do for money? Personally I’d steal bread for my starving family a la Jean Valjean. But would I co-write a novel with James Patterson? Sell my body on the street? Is there a limit?

You’re not starving. You have a warm place to sleep. So when does money become an end to itself? I asked Facebook friend Steve Wolf to discuss it. Here’s Steve’s take.

Oh, Rich and Famous Me, Me, Me!

by Steve Wolf

What I’m about to say isn’t because I’m ancient. Really. My white hair just makes me look old. But am I the only person who perceives an unhealthy obsession in today’s society about owning two things: celebrity and money? Not using them to get ahead. Not doing something good with them. But owning them, coveting them. Ends in and of themselves. Cash and notoriety are often used as the only measuring sticks for self worth. How else can you account for the fact that the most profitable industry in America today involves Wall Street dreaming up new pieces of electronic “paper” that can be sold and traded, an activity designed to produce nothing but money. The second most profitable business has to be reality television.

What does any of this have to do with the writing industry? Do the names Trump, O’Reilly, Beck, or Snooki ring a bell? Trump recently attacked Gail Collins, longtime author and New York Times columnist, congratulating her for having “survived so long with so little talent.” How did he know enough to form this opinion? Because he had a ghostwriter “help” him write the “biggest selling business book of all time.” It isn’t. But that’s not the point. Wealth and celebrity without meaningful substance are on bookshelves all over the country, creating “experts” without expertise.

Why the hell are publishers giving these people a platform in the first place? The answer might be found in those classic lyrics of the O’Jays, “Money money money money, MONEY.” Or maybe in a bromide attributable to Churchill, “Madam, we’ve already established what kind of woman you are, now we’re just negotiating the price.” Good luck determining which one’s the prostitute.

———

Steven D. Wolf was a founding partner of Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf and Lathrop, P.C., an Omaha law firm specializing in products liability and personal injury. He was a trial attorney for 25 years and is still a member of the American Bar Association, the Nebraska Bar Association, and the Iowa Bar Association. Mr. Wolf is an active sponsor of the Humane Society and an active participant and sponsor of greyhound education through various rescue and advocacy groups throughout the United States. He currently divides his time between Omaha, Nebraska and Sedona, Arizona. His book, Comet: How the Greyhound I Rescued Saved My Life, to be published by Algonquin Books Publishing Company, is scheduled for nationwide release in the fall of 2011.

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