Is class a form of diversity in publishing?

Idk about this. I come from, originally, the poverty line, then increasing fortunes all the way up to the working class and then middle class before I left home and chose to become poor again for a while. We did okay. Just fine in fact. I had to pay my own way through school, but it never even occurred to me things would be otherwise until I got there. My dad never spent a day not covered in machine grease and bruises from wrench slips, but eventually he got a union job and the pay increased well over time. My relatives are poor Irish and poor Quebecois, some who have had arrest warrants out for them, and some who drank themselves to death. Would I call myself diverse? Maybe among White folk in hair-colour, handedness, and blood type, but that’s it. So, no. Until I encountered the arts scene, I always assumed that more people grew up like me than didn’t. But this young woman says that given how the publishing system works in the UK, she’s considered diverse because she went to a state school and doesn’t have a trust fund. I…. Well… You see…. It’s just that given what’s going on in the world right I wouldn’t… Uh…. So… Thoughts?

“It’s insane,” she says, of this perception. “Ultimately, I’m a white woman who grew up relatively comfortably and is university-educated, and yet, because I went to state school and I’m from the north-east and I have a regional accent and a working-class background, I’m diverse.” She had a similar experience when she finished school and went to Chelsea College of Arts: “I went from being in Newcastle, and being fairly privileged compared to lots of people, to going down to London and being like – ah no, I’m actually rough as arsehole. None of these people have ever set foot in a working men’s club.”

In Clark’s eyes, the north-south divide has become more of a metropolitan-rural one, partly because every city in the UK now has its own big university. But the lack of funding and opportunities in the north, and particularly the north-east, is still a problem. “There are these amazing, scrappy DIY scenes all over the UK, but national and international success is preserved for a privileged handful of people who have connections.”

Who knew the world of translation was so exciting?

What a fascinating look into the seedy underworld of rogue translation. It’s like if James Bond were reedy and pastyfaced and possibly had a sinus cavity condition that forced him to sniff after every sentence.

Close-up view of computer keyboard with national flags of world countries on keys and translate button

What Defert and Delporte describe is one publishing house’s attempt to solve an age-old problem. For as long as our modern notions of copyright have existed, publishers have attempted to slay the multi-headed beast of leaks and outlaw translations, which can be financially disastrous for highly-anticipated new releases. Brown’s Italian publisher, Mondadori, devised an intricate solution entailing collaboration with the American publisher Doubleday to fix a global release date with simultaneous publications in English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Catalan. Eleven translators, under strict confidentiality, worked long hours over the course of two months in an underground bunker in Milan. Brown’s manuscript, along with the drafts of the translations, never ventured outside the room or the watchful eyes of the armed guards. Comings and goings were recorded diligently and access to the internet was restricted to a single computer provided for double checking vocabulary. The translators were advised to keep a low profile when outside and to have an alibi for being in Italy, as journalists were reportedly attempting to track down scoops on the novel. These harsh conditions proved successful for the publishers who, in May 2013, released the book simultaneously in dozens of national markets. 

On book reviewing in a time of no books

What’s it like to be a book reviewer stuck at home and unable to come into the office? All the books you’re getting are being sent digitally, or arriving in packages at an empty office, and so you’ve lost your connection with the physical book, not to mention your editors and colleagues at the paper. And then there’s the book room. I remember visiting Martin Levin at the Globe, back when it had an actual book review section that I reviewed for, and he let me poke around in the book room. It was like a library of forgotten dreams. All those books, stacked to the rafters, with no one to review them. I wanted to take them home like puppies at a pound. Anyway, the NYT is the gold-standard in American book reviewing, so let’s see what they have to say about the whole thing.

Every time I post this image, I think it’s Carmine

Before the coronavirus, the Book Review would receive hundreds of books and galleys (a printer’s uncorrected proof) in the mail every week. Books were entered into a database and divided between bins and shelves for preview editors, who look over galleys more thoroughly and decide if they warrant a review or some other form of coverage. Specific genres were set aside for columnists, like crime novels for Marilyn Stasio. The rest would head to a big blue dumpster.

Whether the galley was sent from one of the big five publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster) or a small press, every book passed through the hands of at least one editor for consideration.

This is a point of pride on the desk. “It didn’t matter what publisher the galley came from, how big, how small, whether you’d heard of the author or hadn’t, the book was going to get a fair shake,” said Tina Jordan, the deputy editor of the Book Review.

The Times closed its office to most employees in March. Now, editors work from home and don’t have the cues of the Book Review’s physical layout.

“In the first week that we left the office, 167 packages of books arrived on the desk that no one was there to open or look at,” said Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book Review.

Canada Seethes

You’ll note there were no links to the CBC in the news wrap-up below; that’s because there were no articles that weren’t about Canada Reads, the ludicrous reality-tv-like radio show in which anyone, even a dude from Nova Scotia who now dresses like a rodeo clown from Alberta, can vie to direct the course of Canadian fiction sales for the next few months. Normally I ignore the whole maddening affair, in part because it’s a lie — it’s NOT “Canada Reads”, it’s “Canada Reads Prose” — and in part because I always find at least one, more like more than one, of the contestants either vile, facile, or annoying (sometimes all three).

But this year marks an interesting shift — the prize has never gone to a book by a woman that was defended by a woman (because, you know, patriarchy), but this year it will, despite the best efforts of the two guys on the panel. They tried to vote off Megan Gail Coles’ searing and unforgiving book twice now, but were stymied both times by the women — who, I should note, have provided a level of discourse that makes the guys look like they’re comparing cold cut hoagie preferences.

So regardless of who wins this year, it will, FOR THE FIRST TIME, be a book by a woman that was defended by a woman. What a time to be alive.

Even better, two women outside the whole thing — authors Sharon Bala and Jael Richardson — have provided some great post-episode commentary. Richardson has been nailing her analysis daily on Instragram, while Bala went off yesterday on her blog about Bucky McCapgun’s misogynistic “Girls, girls, girls” lament as his book was voted off (presumably, more because people were done listening to him than the book itself). Once again, women of colour for the win when it comes to parsing the shitshow in which we live.

How’s a young writer supposed to stay afloat?

Answer: have richer parents. Or don’t go to school. Or take advantage of the lockdown. Or something. Ah, so THOSE are the things I did wrong… Will have to remember that for next time. Full disclosure: I was 14 in 1985.

I am used to working and living precariously. There is a numbing sensation that comes gradually with scaling one’s living standards down and down until the basic elements of roof, roughage, bicycle and broadband come to seem like wins. It’s possible to live like this for brief period when working intensely; otherwise, it’s not. A person, especially as they age, needs security. But entrapment in eternal adolescence has long been a condition of making art, and is now also a condition of having been born after 1985.

Is it cheating the system or gaming it?

An author in the UK bought 400 copies of his own book to push it onto the bestseller list. Brilliant idea or dirty pool? I’m asking this question sincerely. I went to a literary festival many years ago and had a killer reading of my book of aphorisms that resulted in hundreds of sales that night (and into the rest of the week) and an unexpected appearance on a bestseller list was my reward. Seriously. Poetry on the fiction best seller list because there was nowhere else to put it. So I my publisher now calls me a “bestselling poet”. Debatable, but sounds great. But could I crow so easily if I (or hell, if my rich family/the Republican Party) were the one who bought them? Personally, I couldn’t sleep at night. But bestseller lists don’t make or break poetry books. I mean, because, you know, they’re all pre-broken, in terms of sales. Any takes on this?

Mark Dawson, a British writer who just over a week ago hit No 8 on the Sunday Times hardback list with his thriller The Cleaner, released by the independent publisher Welbeck at the end of June. This is a great achievement for any author or small publishing house, but Dawson had done something remarkable: he bought 400 copies of his own book, at a cost of £3,600, to push his sales high enough to make the top 10.

Tuesday Newsday

Quelle surprise. Canada Reads is a shitshow of uneducated opinion and polarized ideology (which are, I believe, the base ingredients for a whole host of reality programming recipes). For those of you keeping score: OF COURSE the men, including one who wears a hat from 200 years ago, don’t get/believe Megan Coles’ book and immediately tried to vote it off the island…It’s like a masterclass in frat boy denialism… “Nope. That chick is CRAZY, man! Didn’t happen like that! Lalalalala! I can’t hear youuuuuu!”

Oog… It’s Monday, time to get back to banging your head against that wall

Mrrphlbrrfph. (Translation: “Don’t look at me, I’m hideous.”)