My old publishing buddies — Stanley Holowitz, Ernest Callenbach, Czeslaw Jan Grycz, Grant Barnes, and I — have been talking about professionialism and whether the honorific and challenge can be rightly applied to bookselling, particularly at UPB/Berkeley.
Callenbach in his thoughtful way writes:
“A sense of professionalism always, I think, involves some kind of community of colleagues—who influence, educate, and sometimes discipline each other. It is not a matter of certification, or even accumulation of an agreed canon of knowledge, but a social process. And so it thrives in societies where merit is appreciated more than connections, where hard work is respected no matter its mental or physical aspects, and where a significant public recognizes the deserved reputations of the professionals.
“But I actually like better the French concept of metier, which can include bakers, street-sweepers, laundresses, waiters, taxi-drivers, and certainly book-sellers on any level: anyone who does a job with maximum finesse, sensitivity, perfection, for all to see. . . .”
The challenging work of selecting and selling serious books to intellectuals awash in alternatives has, I maintain, potentially all those characteristics, much like publishing itself. I want my dermatologist to be a professional in every way, though what he does every six months is tediously (for him) look at the pre-cancerous spots on my face and shoulders and then zap them with liquid nitrogen. Part of professionalism is to do work, over and over again, that is repetitive for you, but highly important for each recipient. And there is a great deal of knowledge, skill, and care in doing so well. William McClung