Thursday, February 16, 2006

Remind me -- do I have memory problems?

Crumbs. Golly. And all like that.

A day or two ago I wrote about Michael Dibdin's review of Jonathan Freedland's novel (written as Sam Bourne), The Righteous Men. And I had clean forgotten that, back in 2004, I expressed a few views on the contract to write same, which was awarded by HarperCollins with the traditional six figures attached.

It wasn't until I read the Literary Saloon's outrage at the Guardian's behaviour in this little kerfuffle, and found myself being congratulated on my prescience, that I even knew that I'd mentioned Jonathan Freedland and his book before. And it seems that I had quite a lot to say on the subject, too.

Crumbs, as I say. Perhaps you can get pills for this kind of thing?


Anonymous said...

Now I know where I'm going wrong; I'm a novelist.

Anonymous said...

This comment should really appear at the GOB's original Dibdin posting, but I guess more people will see it here.

What the Freedland/Dibdin business reveals is that the literary world is much more incestuous than almost any outsider ever realises.

Remember the Amazon reviews scandal of 2004? The shock and horror of the more upright literati was wonderful to behold. How dare writers anonymously plug their own work or that of their friends! The truth is that this kind of thing has always gone on, and it always will. It's just that the Web has made it that much easier to do.

Literary insiders know perfectly well that Cyril is a friend of Cynthia, and that his review of Cynthia's work may well be biased. Or that Cynthia has just praised Cyril's last work to the skies, so he is in her debt.

But the great majority of outsiders -- the people who actually buy the books, and thus keep the whole gravy train on the rails -- don't know this at all. As far as they're concerned, all reviews may as well be anonymous.

It's not quite the same thing, but back in 2001, the pseudonymous Chris Lewis revealed some interesting facts about the marketing of books.

The literary world does not exist in a state of innocence or anything like it. Of late it has pretty well sold out to some of the most rapacious beasts in the jungle -- huge multinational conglomerates which will do absolutely anything for money and power.

It doesn't mean that good books are no longer being written, or that no review is now worth reading. But your nostrils should at all times be sensitive to the smell of rat. Caveat emptor. And caveat lector.