archivo del junio, 2007

sábado, junio 30, 2007 categorizado bajo generadores de opinión, lecturas de fin de semana, web 2.0

lecturas de fin de semana [ 28 ] / ‘techcrunch blogger michael arrington can generate buzz … and cash’


TechCrunch es el cuarto blog más leído del mundo —de hecho, el de la tecnología es uno de los sectores donde funcionan más dinámicamente las plataformas tipo Web 2.0—. Como en estos días he estado hablando del papel que juegan los prescriptores de opinión, aprovecho la ocasión para reproducir el perfil del blogger Michael Arrington —autor de TechCrunch— que publicó hace unos días la revista Wired. Para plantearlo de una manera sencilla y contundente, basta con decir que la mención de una empresa del sector informático o de un desarrollador de aplicaciones en TechCrunch puede terminar representando para estos el giro que siempre soñaron con darle a sus vidas.

El texto muestra la magnitud de la influencia de Arrington y la manera como la ha alcanzado. Por otro lado, el título del perfil resume muy bien el poder de quienes tienen la capacidad de movilizar opinión: generar temas de conversación y dinero.

TechCrunch Blogger Michael Arrington Can Generate Buzz … and Cash


Fred Vogelstein

One Tuesday morning in early May, Michael Arrington was sound asleep in his bedroom in Atherton, California, when three men burst in. Naturally, he was startled. His first reaction, he recalls, was to tell them to “get the fuck out.” But he quickly realized they meant no harm. Clad in white business suits and speaking English with a Dutch accent, the apologetic men looked more like dandies on their way to a garden party than criminals. They were, it turns out, overeager entrepreneurs from Amsterdam making the rounds of Silicon Valley big shots. All they wanted — desperately — was to tell Arrington about their startup.

Over the last two years, Arrington has gotten used to entrepreneurs beating a path to his door. (His cluttered office is in his rented house, just across the hall from the bedroom.) Since he launched TechCrunch — an obsessively updated blog that chronicles Web startups — in 2005, he’s been getting at least one unannounced visitor practically every week. The drop-ins have become a distracting side effect of being among the most influential — and quite possibly the richest — business writers in Silicon Valley. Indeed, he wonders if he’ll soon need to move. “It’s hard, because in some ways I want to help these guys,” he says. “But sometimes I feel like I need a little privacy, and I end up taking it out on whoever shows up.”

To the world outside Silicon Valley‘s tight-knit community of startups, venture capitalists, and angel investors, TechCrunch is just another mouthy blog. But to entrepreneurs in the white-hot consumer Internet boom — known to many as Web 2.0 — Arrington has become a power broker. In April, after an onstage conversation with the director of Web technologies at Sun Microsystems, he looked like a groom in a receiving line: For nearly an hour, the procession of entrepreneurs was 10 deep — all wanting to give Arrington a business card and an elevator pitch. At a recent conference in San Francisco, Rodney Moses, founder and CEO of FatSecret, an online dieting site, followed Arrington around for about 30 minutes to secure 10 minutes with him. “I had read that’s just what you do,” Moses says. “You wait your turn.”

The wait can be worth it. A positive 400-word write-up on TechCrunch usually means a sudden bump in traffic and a major uptick in credibility among potential investors. In early March, for example, the site profiled Scribd, a San Francisco startup that bills itself as a YouTube for documents. CEO and cofounder Trip Adler says he had 10 calls from venture capitalists within 48 hours. “We didn’t want to raise venture capital initially,” Adler says. “But the offers were at such good valuations that it finally didn’t make sense not to do it.”

VCs and entrepreneurs read Arrington for the same reason they pay attention to any top journalist or columnist: He’s smart, sourced up, and ahead of the curve. “He has more information than any of us,” says David Hornik, a partner at August Capital and an occasional source for TechCrunch. Arrington breaks news — like his scoop about Google buying YouTube or Yahoo’s internal financial analysis of acquisition target Facebook — well ahead of the mainstream media. One day he’ll review the pros and cons of all the online photo-editing sites, another day he’ll give you the blow-by-blow on why a company like Filmloop was sold, and on yet another day he’ll rant about how Silicon Valley could use a downturn.

And unlike most solo bloggers, Arrington has turned his passion into a tidy business. Revenue from advertising, job listings, and sponsorships now totals about $200,000 a month. He says he could have sold the operation last fall to a media company (which he won’t name) for $8.5 million, and he may still. But with a new top-flight CEO from Fox Interactive Media, roughly $1 million in the bank, and VCs lining up around the block to invest, Arrington talks like a man who wants to build an empire. There are lots of blogs with more raw traffic — mostly celebrity or political sites like A Socialite’s Life and Daily Kos — but few with as much business influence. Based on how many times other Web sites link to his content — an unscientific but accepted yardstick — Arrington is the world’s fourth-most-powerful blogger, according to Technorati.

By any measure, it has been a remarkable rise. Two years ago, Arrington was a nobody — a former attorney and entrepreneur who, at 35, looked as if he might never hit it big. Now, without a journalism background or media-giant bankroll, he is mentioned in the same sentence as big-shot tech journalist Walt Mossberg and venture capitalists John Doerr and Michael Moritz, two of the guys who backed Google. But Arrington is not only a self-made Silicon Valley rock star, he’s a textbook example of how to turn intelligence, tenacity, and arrogance into an Internet brand. “He’s become an icon and done it in record time,” says angel investor Ron Conway.

While mainstream media outlets have been scrambling to figure out how to make blogging work, Arrington has emerged as a blogosphere phenom. When he realized that no one was writing about the explosion in new consumer Internet companies, he began working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, to build an audience. Originally a solo operator, he now has a half dozen writers and researchers pumping out three to 10 posts a day in addition to maintaining an opinion blog called CrunchNotes, a gadget blog called CrunchGear, a classified-ad site called CrunchJobs, and a portable-computing blog called MobileCrunch. He says he has looked at, however briefly, more than 7,000 startups in two years and has written about nearly 500 of them. “I saw a parade,” he says, “and I got in front of it.”

Arrington’s longtime associate and mentor, Keith Teare, says he’s never met anyone with as much drive as Arrington has. He says it’s part of the reason Arrington has had so many employers — six (not including part-time consulting gigs) since graduating from Stanford Law School in 1995. Arrington always wanted more power and responsibility than his employers were prepared to give him, and he was never good at concealing his frustration — or any emotions, really — when he didn’t get his way. Arrington has ended many an argument with Teare by essentially declaring their friendship over. “Keith, we’re done!” Arrington will say, only to apologize the following day.

Arrington’s impatience extends to the niceties of traditional journalism as well. He sees no problem commingling the roles of entrepreneur, investor, publisher, reporter, and columnist. Most journalists work hard not to write about friends. They avoid covering people or companies that would create even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Arrington doesn’t observe any such boundaries. He’s better today at disclosing his conflicts than he was when he first started TechCrunch, but he’ll tell you that it is exactly those conflicts — and his refusal to pull punches in spite of them — that give him his competitive advantage. “One of my friends, Tom Ball, is mad at me because I just trashed his startup, Jigsaw. He’ll get over it — I hope,” Arrington says. “I’m an investor in a company called Daylife, and I shredded them.” He’s also happy to use his friends as sources. “When I broke the YouTube story, it’s only because I was online at 2 am, and a friend told me about it.”

Arrington’s four-bedroom ranch house sits on a 1-acre plot in Atherton, which is ranked number two on the Forbes 2006 list of the nation’s richest zip codes. But don’t be fooled; he’s not living large. The place is a rental — and it’s a dump. The kitchen looks like it hasn’t been redone since the ’70s, and the beige shag carpet badly needs a shampoo. One of the bedrooms is unfurnished save for a bed “where out-of-town entrepreneurs can stay if I like them,” Arrington says. Another bedroom is outfitted with a desk and a futon on the floor. His new CEO, Heather Harde, uses the room as an office during the day. His research assistant, Nick Gonzalez, often crashes on the futon on weeknights. Arrington’s office at the end of the hall looks like it belongs to a grad student: two computer monitors, papers stacked everywhere, a bottle of generic antacids.

The seeds of Arrington’s fascination with entrepreneurs were planted during his years as a young corporate attorney. Not long after graduating from Stanford Law School in 1995, he joined the Valley’s premier high tech law firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. He specialized in helping companies prepare for initial public offerings. He even coauthored a book on the subject. He was, by his own account, “an exceptionally average attorney,” but he always loved hanging around startups. “Entrepreneurs are crazy,” he says admiringly. “It makes no sense to quit a job as a lawyer or an investment banker making $200,000 a year to take a one-in-ten chance of getting rich.”

In 1999 — at the peak of the Internet bubble — Arrington took just such a chance himself. He left the law firm and went to work as head of business development at Real Names, a hot startup with an idea that seemed sexy at the time: Replace long, nonintuitive Internet addresses with simple, natural-language entries. Teare was the Real Names founder and CEO, and Arrington was captivated by both the idea and the entrepreneur.

The hoped-for IPO riches never came. Instead, the Internet boom went bust, taking Real Names down with it. But instead of going back into law like a lot of boom-time washouts, Arrington jumped to another startup: Achex, a service that promised to make online money transfers a snap. That didn’t work out very well either. A little upstart called PayPal swooped in to dominate the sector. The Achex founders ended up selling the payment architecture to a financial services firm for $32 million. “I made enough to buy a Porsche. Not much more,” he says.

He spent the next three years living in England, Denmark, Canada, and Los Angeles working for companies that bought and sold domain names. It was easy work for a generous paycheck, and by the middle of 2004, with a few hundred thousand in the bank, he rented a beach condo in LA and took nine months off. “All I did was work out, surf, and watch movies,” he says. “I watched almost every movie at Blockbuster — three a day for a year.” But in 2005, Teare told him he was starting an online-classified site called Edgeio. The idea was to compete with craigs­list. Arrington was intrigued, and the two again struck up a partnership.

The invention of TechCrunch happened pretty much by accident. Arrington started blogging as a way to get up to speed on new business models. “Remember, I was gone in 2004 when Flickr came out and Bloglines and all the cool new Web 2.0 stuff,” he says. “So half my day was spent researching old startups. I figured at the very least I’d use it as a networking tool.” Instead, TechCrunch became so popular, so fast, that Arrington quit Edgeio less than six months after he started working there.

To drum up excitement for the blog, he started hosting barbecues at his house in Atherton. The first attracted only 20 guests. But the second drew 100, and the third 200. For the fourth, he put up a tent in his backyard, and more than 500 people came. Before long his wild parties, which lasted into the wee hours, became a major stop on the Valley social circuit.

Of course, Arrington’s success is about more than partying like a frat boy and schmoozing like a Hollywood agent at a cast party. With the exception of a three-week vacation (during which he worked half-time) at the end of 2006, he says he has worked every day for two years straight. He gets up at about 10 or 11 am, is at his desk 10 seconds later, and tends to the business side of his operation until early evening, seeing entrepreneurs, doing phone interviews, tracking the news of the day, and writing posts. He’s often at parties or other events until 10. It’s typically not until 10 or 11 pm, when things quiet down, that he has time to think and write more thoughtful, analytical blog entries. “I’ve actually cut back,” he says. “In the beginning, I got up every day and worked until I passed out. I’ve always been like that. It’s probably why I’m not married yet.”

Arrington relishes the rough-and-tumble of online feuds, comment wars, and one-upmanship. And as an A-list blogger, he’s obliged to wade into controversy most every day. Online and in person, he can be intimidating. At 6’4″, he projects a persona somewhere between an aging linebacker and Tony Soprano — a large man always on the verge of losing his cool. Indeed, a couple of his online tantrums have become legendary.

Last fall, for example, he was pilloried by journalists during a panel discussion in Washington, DC. They trashed him for saying that a New York Times technology story was so flawed it could only have been “generated from back-scratching or lack of understanding of the product.” He blasted back with a 1,200-word rebuttal on his blog, ranting about how he’d been sandbagged and how the mainstream media was out to get him. “It’s the first time I addressed ‘real’ journalists head-on,” he wrote. “And all I saw was fear, loathing, and disdain.”

The cluelessness and arrogance of major media outlets is a favorite talking point. Arrington is especially enraged by journalists who follow in his wake without credi­ting him. He keeps a mental list of such offenders. “Two weeks ago, I broke the news that Microsoft and Tellme were in acquisition discussions,” he says. “Yesterday CNET writes a post. I know the writer reads TechCrunch. She didn’t even mention it.” He vowed never to link to another CNET story, but he has since said that he was exaggerating.

Earlier this year, while attending DEMO, the annual tech conference for entrepreneurs, he announced on his blog that he planned to create a competing conference — this while he was sitting in the audience connected to the Wi-Fi network. “They stole one of my writers, so I was pissed at them,” he says of the DEMO organizers.

He even lost his cool over this story. In April, two of his friends — Jason Calacanis, who started Weblogs Inc. and sold it to AOL, and Dave Winer, who is considered the father of RSS — blogged about my emails to them seeking phone interviews. Titling his post “With friends like these,” he scolded them for blowing a great opportunity for him. He was worried that Wired would kill this story because of the advance publicity.

Arrington readily admits that he’s prone to excess and uncontrolled outbursts — of temper, partying, and work. But it’s that very quality that has helped make him one of the most compelling Silicon Valley heavyweights in a long time. He doesn’t deny that some of the fits of anger are for show, but he also insists that he’s just a passionate, emotional guy. “I’m human. I’ve put my entire life into this blog, and when I’m attacked, it’s emotional,” he says. “I’m going to react sometimes — that’s just me. Does that mean I’m flawed? Yeah. Does that mean I’m not being 100 percent efficient about business? Yeah. But it really hurts when people attack me, and I think people who don’t respond aren’t very human or very interesting.”

To bring some balance to his enterprise, he hired Harde, a former mergers-and-acquisitions specialist for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. He says she is as steady as he is volatile. And if he’s going to make TechCrunch into the media empire he envisions, he knows that he needs someone like her to run things.

Already, he’s laying the groundwork for a whole stable of clued-in, hard-driving news blogs: MusicCrunch, SoftwareCrunch, TelecomCrunch. “The goal is to have 15 to 20 sites 18 months from now,” he says . He plans to hire popular bloggers and create a home­page with the best news from each site to draw readers. From there, they could drill into each topic in more depth. His aim is to become the premier technology news site on the Internet, one that goes head-to-head with CNET and potentially with other technology news sites, including Wired.com. Arrington figures he can get by with just a few dozen employees. “With 25 to 30 paid writers against CNET’s huge cost base, they won’t be able to compete,” he says.

It’s a crapshoot, to be sure. But there is some precedent for turning a string of blogs into a business success. Calacanis sold his blog fiefdom two years ago for $25 million. And based on pageviews, it’s estimated that Nick Denton‘s Gawker Media — which includes Gawker, Lifehacker, Valleywag, Gizmodo, Wonkette, Defamer, and a half dozen other blogs — could fetch more than $100 million.

Arrington is clearly in that league, and he’s counting on Harde to help him win. “If we need to make acquisitions, she can do that in her sleep,” he says.

But it’s one thing to be an opinionated entrepreneur with a platform. It’s another for Arrington to replicate his investor- entrepreneur-journalist model at dozens of sister publications.

Some TechCrunch readers, like Reid Hoffman, founder and former CEO of Linkedin, believe that Arrington may need to decide whether he wants his new blogs to be stocked with journalists working from the outside or players working from the inside. When you combine the two roles, Hoffman says, no one knows how to behave around you: Are you a journalist or a power broker?

Arrington says it’s a false dilemma. He and his new bloggers can straddle this line forever, he says, as long as they disclose their conflicts. “I strive to be fair and say only what I believe the truth to be. But that’s where it ends,” he wrote last year in an 800-word post on his companion blog, CrunchNotes. “Human interaction is simply too complex to pretend that we are all objective.” Like the capitalist he is, Arrington trusts the market to reward or punish him as it sees fit. If readers and advertisers keep coming back — so far, so good — what’s the problem? And if the market shifts, expect to hear it from Arrington first.

la influencia de los prescriptores de opinión

Quisiera retomar el tema de mi entrada de ayer trayendo a colación dos anécdotas simples pero significativas acerca de la manera como los prescriptores de opinión consiguen dirigir la atención de esa masa amorfa que se conoce como “la opinión pública” hacia los temas sobre los que manifiestan sus puntos de vista.


Bogotá, abril 8 de 1999


En la columna ‘Contraescape’ que publica en el periódico de su familia, Enrique Santos —quien es uno de los tres líderes de opinión más influyentes de Colombia— escribe una elogiosa reseña de una novela que ganó la Beca Nacional de Novela del Ministerio de la Cultura y que acaba de sacar la editorial Plaza & Janés porque el ministerio no dispone de los fondos necesarios para publicarla. Se trata de Rosario Tijeras, cuyo autor es un desconocido escritor de la ciudad de Medellín llamado Jorge Franco Ramos —que ya había publicado el libro de cuentos Maldito amor y la novela Mala noche—.


Un par de semanas después de la publicación de la columna de Santos —titulada ‘Un libro para leer’—, Rosario Tijeras es el libro más vendido de la Feria del Libro de Bogotá. Al cabo de unos meses la editorial Norma publica el libro, que debe reimprimir una y otra vez. Ahora todo el mundo habla de Franco y de su novela —después de la cual vendrían un par más y la adaptación cinematográfica tanto de ésta como de Paraíso Travel—.


Rosario Tijeras es una novela corta que explora el mundo de los sicarios a través de una historia de amor —dos elementos que producen una combinación explosiva—. Aunque su argumento es flojito y cursi, la novela tiene las virtudes de estar escrita con una prosa muy pulida y de tener un ritmo narrativo bastante dinámico. Claramente los elementos “tema”, “extensión” y “estilo narrativo” son el complemento perfecto al push de Santos para que la novela funcione comercialmente.


Tras la euforia de Rosario Tijeras se reeditaron tanto Maldito amor como Mala noche y Franco publicó Paraíso Travel —novela en cuya dedicatoria le devuelve el guiño a Enrique Santos— y Melodrama. Años después del fenómeno Rosario Tijeras los detractores de Franco siguen llamándolo “el escritor aguacate” porque dicen que lo maduraron a punta de periódico.


***


Bogotá, octubre de 2001


Para mi trabajo de grado sobre tendencias y hábitos de lectura de narrativa contemporánea entrevisto a Luis Fernando Afanador, el comentarista de novedades editoriales del semanario más importante de Colombia. Le pregunto si tiene indicios de que sus comentarios tengan alguna repercusión sobre las ventas de los libros a los que dedica sus columnas y me cuenta que tras haber reseñado un título que había salido un par de años atrás, éste se agotó en Biblos y otras librerías del norte de la ciudad.


La anécdota que me cuenta Afanador es bastante sugestiva porque normalmente en las revistas generalistas de actualidad sólo se comentan novedades editoriales. Sin embargo, cuando él se toma la licencia de comentar un libro que no es novedad las ventas de éste se comportan como si sí lo fuera.

decision making: leer tal o cual cosa

¿Bajo qué racionalidad escogemos los libros que leemos? ¿Quiénes y qué circunstancias influyen sobre nuestra decisión de leer una cosa u otra?

Normalmente soy más o menos consciente de las motivaciones que me impulsan a leer o a querer leer cada libro: la simple curiosidad, un comentario de alguien, el nombre del autor, el título, la editorial que lo publica, el nombre del traductor e incluso el diseño de la carátula. Muchas veces podría resumirlo todo de la siguiente manera: ‘voy a leerme este libro porque se me da la gana’. Sin embargo, si me pusiera en la tarea de encontrar la explicación última la mayor parte de las veces llegaría a las sencillas pero misteriosas motivaciones de siempre.

Como me gusta muchísimo pasar con frecuencia por las librerías y quedarme horas curioseando entre las estanterías, tengo un listado largo y en constante crecimiento de libros que por una u otra razón quisiera leer. Y claro, luego están también las páginas Web de las editoriales, los blogs y los suplementos culturales que leo casi a diario.

Supongo que en principio la notoriedad de un libro que acaba de salir depende de su presencia tanto en las mesas de novedades y en las vitrinas de las librerías, como en los espacios dedicados a los comentarios de libros de los periódicos, de las revistas y de la televisión. Y supongo también que la oficina de prensa de las editoriales debe hacer un trabajo estratégico para que los libros que éstas publican empiecen a moverse en estos escenarios. Y bueno, después están las páginas Web dedicadas exclusivamente a un nuevo libro y uno que otro aviso publicitario que de vez en cuando se ve por ahí. Claramente todo es mucho más fácil cuando el autor del libro es una figura cuyo nombre vende casi por sí solo o cuando se trata del relanzamiento de un long seller.

Sin embargo, creo que una vez un libro ha recibido este push inicial todo empieza a depender más del famoso “boca a oreja”. Entonces es allí donde empieza la dinámica de tipo ‘ayer en una comida un amigo me habló sobre este libro que se llama…’, ‘mi papá me recomendó que leyera…’, ‘¿si has visto que todo el mundo está leyendo…?’, ‘en mi cumpleaños me regalaron…’, ‘tienes que leerte…’ o ‘¿leíste en el periódico del domingo el comentario que hizo nosequiencito sobre…?’.

Y como el relevo en las mesas de novedades y en los espacios de comentarios de libros va a una velocidad cada vez más vertiginosa, a partir de entonces la cosa sigue caminando más o menos sola hasta que alguna circunstancia especial —como acaba de suceder con Cien años de soledad— dé pie para hacer un nuevo push.

miércoles, junio 27, 2007 categorizado bajo dictadura, editores, exilio, franquismo, guerra civil española, literatura latinoamericana

artistas e intelectuales inmigrantes

A menudo se dice que los tiempos de crisis son un terreno fértil para la creación intelectual y artística. En el plano tanto individual como colectivo las crisis suscitan reflexiones y reacciones que se cristalizan en todo tipo de expresiones concretas que dan cuenta de percepciones y opiniones con respecto a lo que está sucediendo.


En medio de la Guerra Civil y de la represión del régimen franquista, muchos españoles consideraron que la única forma de conservar su libertad e incluso de sobrevivir era dejando su país. Si en la España de aquellas décadas no había un lugar para que afloraran muchas ideas e iniciativas tanto intelectuales como artísticas, países como México, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia y Francia fueron un caldo de cultivo para éstas. Así lo demuestra el trabajo que hicieron durante su exilio figuras como Pablo Picasso, Luis Buñuel, Rafael Alberti, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Francisco Ayala, Pedro Salinas, Paco Porrúa y muchos otros.


Estos intelectuales y artistas fueron bien recibidos en los lugares a los que llegaron, donde propiciaron un diálogo entre las ideas que traían consigo y las que encontraron allí. Esta experiencia fue tan enriquecedora tanto para los exiliados como para las sociedades receptoras, que su balance no podría ser mejor.


Años más tarde un puñado de escritores latinoamericanos que tenían poco o nada que ver entre sí encontraron en Ciudad de México, Buenos Aires y Barcelona las condiciones que no existían en ese momento en sus países para publicar su obra y darla a conocer más allá de las fronteras de éstos. De hecho lo que se conoce como el boom latinoamericano es en gran parte una consecuencia de la complicada situación política y económica de los países latinoamericanos, que en su mayoría empezaban a caer una vez más en manos de gobiernos dictatoriales.


Los mayores reconocimientos que recibieron figuras como Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, José Donoso, Alejo Carpentier, Julio Cortázar, José Lezama Lima, Carlos Fuentes o Juan Rulfo durante su vía hacia la consolidación como grandes escritores no vinieron de sus países de origen, donde muchas veces apenas se publicaban sus obras. Debido a circunstancias diversas muchos de ellos se vieron obligados a dejar sus países y a buscar la manera de abrirse campo en otros lugares donde sus ideas y su trabajo fueran mejor valorados. Y lo lograron.


El resultado de ambas experiencias debería servir como punto de partida para cuestionar la manera como actualmente se está satanizando la inmigración.

martes, junio 26, 2007 categorizado bajo Sin categoría

lector de pruebas

Casi siempre que le cuento a alguien que trabajo evaluando manuscritos para una editorial, recibo un comentario entusiasta del tipo ‘¡qué envidia que le paguen por leer!’. Mucha gente cree que leer manuscritos equivale a devorarse todos los libros que uno siempre se quiso leer. Y no es así. De hecho, puedo durar muchos meses sin tocar un solo libro al que le tenga ganas.

Cobrar por leer manuscritos puede llegar a ser lo mismo que cobrar por probar los platillos que hacen en su clase de las 8.00 p.m. los vecinos que se apuntaron al curso de cocina que organiza la viuda del tercer piso a la que la pensión de su marido ya no le alcanza para llegar a fin de mes o por leer lo que escriben los estudiantes de un curso de guión para principiantes de un cineasta fracasado.

No obstante, cada día al despertarme y antes de irme a dormir me siento afortunado por tener este trabajo. ¿Cómo explicar lo que significa para mí sentarme a leer un libro del que no tengo ninguna referencia para examinar su estructura de arriba abajo, detectar tanto sus aciertos como sus fallos y, finalmente, valorarlo desde un punto de vista literario y comercial?

Independientemente de que me toque leer una novelita romanticona, un thriller, una novela histórica, una saga familiar, una novela juvenil o una buena ficción literaria, la idea de estar enfrentándome a una sensibilidad y a una forma de entender el mundo particulares me produce por sí sola una emoción que me cuesta trabajo describir. Los libros que llegan a mis manos dan cuenta de las preocupaciones, de los intereses, de las necesidades vitales y de las expectativas de cierto tipo de autores y lectores del común de nuestro tiempo. Sin lugar a dudas cada uno de ellos puede resolver las preguntas fundamentales que alguien se planteó alguna vez, ser el dolor de cabeza del estudiante cuyo paso al siguiente curso depende de una comprobación de lectura, atenuar el tedio de un adolescente en la sala de espera del odontólogo, ayudarle a una ama de casa a conciliar el sueño o simplemente ofrecerle a su esposo la distracción que necesita para evitar pensar en la fila que tiene que hacer al día siguiente en el banco.

Mientras leo lo que me pasan en la editorial se me vienen a la cabeza preguntas como: ¿por qué ciertos lugares comunes son tan recurrentes en la mala literatura? ¿Qué hay detrás de estos clichés? ¿En qué tipo de lector estaba pensando el autor cuando escribió tal o cual cosa? ¿Cómo hace este autor para introducir los giros narrativos siempre en el momento preciso? ¿Por qué resolvió tal situación de esta manera y no de esta otra que parece ser más coherente con el planteamiento del argumento? ¿De qué artificios se valió el autor para articular una historia tan consistente? ¿Por qué si esta historia me atrapó desde el principio siento que hay algo en ella que no funciona? ¿Será que no habría descartado esta novela si el relato hubiera abordado mejor ese argumento tan bueno? ¿Qué me sugiere que esa novela que me gustó tanto no les provocaría mayor efecto a muchas otras personas?

Cada libro que me da la editora es un caso distinto y cada vez que me siento a leerme la primera página de una historia me da un miedo terrible porque sé que estoy ante la posibilidad de perderme en una selva de la que nunca nadie ha salido vivo. Pero de repente todo empieza a fluir y cuando voy en la tercera línea ya tengo varias primeras impresiones, unas cuantas preguntas y un par de hipótesis con respecto a la trama que me animan a seguir adelante. Y entonces sólo puedo parar cuando llego hasta el final.

Mi trabajo como lector de manuscritos me resulta satisfactorio porque de cierta manera siento que está hecho a mí medida. Para mí es secundario si muchos de los libros que me llegan son escritos tanto por aprendices o imitadores de Dan Brown, de John Grisham, de Paulo Coelho, de Maurice Druon o de Ken Follet como por autores cuyo modelo de calidad literaria obedece más a lo que proponen grandes escritores contemporáneos como Cormac McCarthy, Rubem Fonseca, John Banville o Martin Amis. Al fin y al cabo en cualquier caso el ejercicio que hago es el mismo y cada libro me da herramientas para entender un poco mejor el funcionamiento del mercado editorial a partir de la identificación de tendencias en los intereses de los agentes literarios, de las editoriales, de los autores y, por supuesto, de los lectores del común.