Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More OJ

Sorry to do this, but there is an interesting article by Julie Hilden on FindLaw about the free speech issues surrounding the publication and subsequent boycott request of OJ's If I Did It.

I'm not entirely convinced by her argument that the publication and boycott offer a fine example of free speech at work - that the book should be published to allow the issue to be discussed, and a boycott is a good way to deal with our moral squeamishness about it. I appreciate her point that the trial and the leaking of the manuscript have allowed those with prurient interests to find out more about the murders already, but I'm uncomfortable with Hilden's casual dismissal of Denise Brown's argument in protection of the victim's children. I'm not one to cry "think of the children!" too quickly, but surely there is something to be said about good taste?

I'm conflicted. The free speech advocate in me agrees with Hilden - ultimately, I'm afraid I do think it can be published but should be boycotted - but the crassness and exploitative nature of the whole thing can't help but make me feel sick. I know the money is going to the Goldmans, but isn't this a bit like saying reality t.v. shows are okay because the people volunteered to be on them? That should not change one's opinion that something is distasteful and bad for our culture. This book is undoubtedly an embarassment to our culture.

I'd be curious to see where this book sells. I imagine there will be many online sales, and after that, chain bookstore sales, as customers will want some degree of anonymity. As we distance ourselves from the production of what we're buying, more danger lurks, it seems: more evil products get into our food, more bad things happen to make our cheap t-shirts, and more union busting occurs in car factories. What will it take for Americans to take responsibility for their consumption? I don't just mean buying less plastic or sweatshop clothes - though I do mean that - but also in terms of cultural consumption. I'm not calling for an embrace of the high brow, people, but can't we leave the OJ's and the Paris Hiltons alone, and stop watching all these VH1 graveyard shows on washed up actors?

My sympathies are with the Goldmans, of course, but I don't see this as a valuable way forward. I wouldn't vote to legally stop the publication, but I sure as hell won't secretly get online to buy the book or sneak a peek.

And I had to wonder, as Beaufort Books, the publisher of this atrocity, gets so much press, why was this news on Shelf Awareness this morning?

Effective September 17, Dave Nelson is joining Union Square Press, the Sterling Publishing imprint, as executive acquisitions editor, in which role he will focus on mind/body/spirit titles as well as health and self-improvement books. He is currently publisher of Beaufort Books, recently in the news for the impending publication of If I Did It by O.J. Simpson.

Union Square's Philip Turner commented: "I've known Dave Nelson more than 20 years, since he made a selling visit to the bookstore I owned then, and always admired his knowledge of the market and his creative approach to publishing quality authors and their books. As a senior sales executive who's created competitive strategies for marketing hundreds of notable books, Dave helped launch such bestselling authors as Garrison Keillor, Terry McMillan, Mary Karr, Geneen Roth, and Peter Kramer."

Did someone get uncomfortable with the direction of Beaufort?....

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