Thursday, April 05, 2007

Things that I just couldn't let pass

Dept of I don't believe it

Galleycat carries a report about what is, allegedly (heavily underlined), literary theft by Penguin.

Now normally I wouldn't advise any writer to get his knickers in too much of a twist about people (allegedly) stealing his work. For one thing, life is too short. For another, the financial loss of usually zero, or far less than you would like to think. And then legal fees are way too high to even think of it -- if you're tempted, just remember the da Vinci guys. No, the best way to deal with any alleged chicanery is to give it publicity. Which is what, belatedly, is happening here, albeit through a report of a lengthy court case. And as far as I'm concerned, Penguin just lost a great deal of my respect.


The Literary Saloon led me to an article in The Word which considers the fate of various first-time novelists in the light of the way they were treated by the New York Times Book Review. Read this article if you dare, but be warned that, if you are anything like me, you will end up deeply depressed if not actually suicidal.

Who, I ask you, in all seriousness, would be a writer? Being a novelist means that several years of work are exposed entirely to the whim of a handful of people, with an approximately 1 in 10,000 chance of passing from one judgemental phase to the next one. Agent, editor, critic: each one of these people can kill your so-called career stone dead. And that's even before you get to be read by the public, who also have a say in matters.

I suggest to you that no one capable of rational thought would ever get involved in this business.

Ebooks? Oo needs em?

Charlie Stross has an exceptionally well informed and well balanced article about ebooks. Mercifully it's also quite funny in places, though God knows some of the content is again depressing. Publishers are just so slow to learn. What is it about the business that closes down the thinking capacity?

You really ought to read Mr Stross if you have any kind of involvement in books, right the way through from writer to reader.

Thanks to Viktor Janis for the link.

More ways than one

Long-time readers of this blog will know that we have more than once considered the dangerous English laws of libel, which greatly favour those who consider themselves to have been maligned.

No party has more experience in avoiding (as far as possible) libel suits than the UK newspapers; and over the years they have developed a number of techniques to protect themselves.

I was reminded of all this by today's Times. In News in Brief, the Times reports that Lady Falkender has been awarded £75,000 in damages, plus costs, against the BBC. The Beeb suggested a number of wicked things, all of which, obviously, must have been untrue.

Meanwhile, in section two of the Times, we are presented with a short profile of Lady Falkender. This lists some of the wicked lies about her which have now been found to be wholly untrue, and explains how misunderstandings about the truth might have come about -- at least in the minds of those not paying full attention.

Two articles for the connoisseurs, I think.

P.S. In the Sunday Times, India Knight considers Sir Martin Sorrell's recent libel case, and a few others, and concludes that 'suing for libel just makes you look pathetic'.


Anonymous said...

As far as literary theft, I have been maintaining for some time that Tolstoy stole my idea for 'War and Peace.' It makes about as much sense.

I love NY Times critics so, especially when they dig through their thesaurus to impress me with "the modern American bildungsroman" and “[T]he narrative setup contains its longueurs.” Gosh, they must be awful durned good writers themselves, or at least sound like it at cocktail parties. Goll-ee.

David Isaak said...

It's going to be hard to explain this one to those who haven't followed the details, since it involves stealing Dorothy Parker's poems and publishing them under the name...Dorothy Parker.

I admit that if the charges are true that the editor has been ripped off; I don't dispute it. But, my, what an odd case.

bhadd said...

Business in books doesn't run on rational thought. Who wants to read what some coot wrote a hundred years ago?

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