Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We're all a little relieved

I apologize for not posting for a week - this said as if anyone's noticing.

Well I leave for a few days, and OJ has a book deal! No, not really, and it's all yesterday's news already. I'm kind of glad about that, as I don't want to discuss details. I think we can all look at the situation now and see just how low some chose to stoop - and yes, of course I'm looking right at you, Miss Regan. Honestly, you actually stooped too low for Fox, a network that I believe has made shows out of people like Dustin "Screech" Diamond and Tanya Harding boxing other d-list celebrities. This is a network that is proud of Bill O'Reilly, one of the most dimwitted commentators on television.

So Publishers Weekly reported on Judith Regan's future:
Robert Gottlieb, chairman of Trident Media Group, said "it's hard to say" what impact this turn of events will have on Regan's reputation and career. Gottlieb said that whatever happens, Regan's track record can't be overlooked. "Judith has brought in a lot of money through her imprint and is a major publishing player for News Corp., and has to be given her due for all her success. I do think it was poor judgment to publish a book of this nature, though, and I'm glad that it's coming to a swift conclusion."

She's a capitalist hero, even if immoral and perhaps off kilter mentally. Well, don't empty that desk yet! Nice to see publishing execs can be as baseless as the leaders in monopolizing corporations in other media. Keep strong, Jude!

So Rupert Murdoch of all people cancelled this trainwreck. Now that is astounding. This is a bit like George Bush realizing that maybe Henry Kissinger shouldn't lead the 9/11 Commission. But now we're all breathing a collective sigh of relief. Independent booksellers the country over are happy that they didn't have to deal with the awkwardness of not wanting to lose business, but also not wanting to sell this OJ Simpson trash. Borders, again not exactly the standard beacon of hope in an unethical publishing climate (mom and pop who now?), even took a stand, reports the NY Times (and many others): "Last Friday, Borders announced that it would donate the net proceeds from sales of Mr. Simpson’s book to a nonprofit organization for victims of domestic violence." Some independents were preparing to do the same, offering any income they earned from the book to local charities.

In another PW piece, PW editor-in-chief Sara Nelson editorializes that this cancellation is good for book publishing. After quoting Rupert Murdoch, she says:
Finally, a big city, big publisher had made the right decision! By canceling the project, News Corp. showed that it indeed has a heart, and maybe a soul: there are some things, after all, that are simply beyond the pale.

Wow. Our standards are truly low, people. She goes on:

While it could be argued that pulling the book because of public pressure is just a reverse sort of pandering—"Give the people only what they already want" turned "Don't give them anything they don't want"—it also just might help reverse the disturbingly prevalent opinion that publishers, especially big publishers, are soulless gatekeepers only out for the money. "The people spoke and shunned the book," one executive said. "That means that books matter."

It used to be that publishing declared its morality, its values, its world view by the books it chose to publish. Now, it seems, the business declares itself by what it refuses to publish.

I admit it's a weird turnaround. But, hey, I'll take it.

Thanks for that, Sara. And you know what? I won't.

Judith Regan and her type are foul. That's that. It's tough days for books, I understand that, but appealing to people's basest desires and getting paid big money to do so, until you are publishing books that openly glorify actual killings, murders, is truly twisted and pathetic.

And I am not prepared to forget that this is all being done under the publishing umbrella of HarperCollins. That's not to say I am boycotting all of their books by any means, but I think authors - especially those with some clout - should keep this in mind when they are seeking to publish their latest books. Anderson Cooper did not need to publish his book with the same company that tried to do this. Francine Prose could have found a better home. And it's just a shame that books like Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, not to mention things like Howard Zinn's A People's History, end up under this umbrella.

I hope authors do some research when they're ready to sign.

But this OJ incident brought into light the precarious situation of independent booksellers. I had a man once hand a coworker a book by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, when I worked at a Borders, telling her to take it off the shelf as it was offensive. We of course could not do that. As an editor, I'm fortunate enough to work at a house that doesn't publish anything I find offensive, but what would I do as a bookseller, if I were there trying to eek out a living? I appreciate the difficult call - especially since this particular book was sold into stores blind. And unlike Murdock and the other monkeys at Fox, I admire that unity so many store owners - even Border! - showed in refusing to profit off this book. I won't give the publisher credit here, but I salute the bookstore owners who stood in solidarity with the victims' families.

And may Judith Regan scuttle under a rotting log for awhile and stop publishing trash.

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