At first blush, dialastar.com appears to be a crass scheme by a former porn star to leverage the shameless desperation of attention-starved D-listers and the lower impulses of celebrity-crazed American dimwits and/or ironic potheads. And it is all that. Users pay up to $25/minute to speak to future trivia questions like Michael Lohan, Chris Crocker, and Angie Everhart.
But might it also be more?
While credible literary lights like Emerson, Dickens, and Twain supported themselves — in their day — via public appearances, something has always struck me as not quite right about returning to that model. For one thing, it will mean we have arrived at a point where each pole of the marketing magnet — the book and the tour — is supposed to pay for the other, with the result that both are given away. Plus, the idea of supporting modern media with something so 19th-century as a speaking tour is just a little too steam-punky, if you know what I mean.
But this dialastar.com, this makes sense. What Emerson, Dickens, and Twain were really selling — after all — was access. Writing was their advertisement, but proximity was their product. And for many writers, who make livings as academics, it still is. The paid speaking tour hasn’t gone away. We’ve just jacked up the price, extended it to two years, and dratically limited enrollment (although probably still not by enough.) We sell maxi-access to writers, in the form of MFAs. But what about micro-access? Where’s the model for that? Maybe it’s dialastar.com.
Imagine dialanauthor.com, a site where you can talk to Jonathan Franzen or Jennifer Egan or, gulp, David Patterson for $5/minute or $5/minute or $500/minute (respectively). Do you think people would call? Do you even doubt for a minute that they would? Can you imagine if Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon were on there?