Thursday Midday Links: Authors & Morals
Publishers Weekly is offering the chance at getting a review in a new issue called PW Select. The PW Select is a self publishing supplement to be released in December. It will cost $149 to get listed although if you are a subscriber, you get one listing for free. Out of the listings, PW will review at least 25 books. PW plans to release four of these a year. Expect more of this “pay to play” to come in the future.
Shannon Hale polled some of her fellow YA authors about morals and lessons in YA books. She received an interesting and varied response. One author commented that it seemed like too many books seem to encourage sex without consequences. Shelf Awareness had a small piece today on how no one seems to be commenting on the ultraviolence in the Hunger Games trilogy. One person shared with me that they wouldn’t read the Hunger Games because of the extreme violence toward children in this series. It’s certainly not a series I would want a young reader to read.
Random House has come to terms with Andrew Wylie over the books Wylie had planned to publish exclusively in digital form through Amazon. Random House will now make these books available digitally to all its vendors. There is no word on the royalty rate that was agreed to although there was some speculation that new deals from Random House would entitle backlist authors to reach 40% royalty quickly.
The PWxyz blog takes on the issue of serious readers. There are serious readers, the author of the piece suggests, and there are serious books. Serious readers are readers like her mother who reads all the time and spends quite a bit of money on books. Her mother, though, reads primarily bestsellers and Oprah blessed novels. I think it’s an interesting distinction between serious reader and serious books. Romance, for example, often does not deal with larger societal issues like hunger, poverty, war, racial inequality that say a fiction book or fantasy book does.
However, it does deal with micro societal issues. Can people of strong class differences overcome prejudices to stay together such as in Susanna Fraser’s The Sergeant’s Lady. Can someone emotionally stunted overcome his barrier to feeling to actually allow himself to be loved such as in Caitlin Carew’s Katrakis’ Last Mistress? Because these aren’t sweeping issues or big issues, they aren’t deemed to be serious and the fact that the end game is for two people to fall in love (or more) makes it even harder for critics to assign the label serious onto these books.
What remains unanswered in the PWxyz blogpost is what constitutes a serious book.
Finally, I found this article to bring up a lot of thoughtful questions with no clear good answer. What rights do people have when they invite a journalist into their home? Asne Seierstad, the author of The Bookseller of Kabul, wrote a story based on the thoughts of a female Afghan refugee with whose family Seierstad lived for three months in Kabul. Some of the book portrayed the woman’s husband poorly and hinted at darker deeds. The husband sued for this depiction and the Norwegian court ruled against Seierstad and ordered her to pay a money judgment.
Finally, after years of litigation, a Norwegian court last month ruled against Seierstad and ordered her to pay 250,000 kroner (Dh148,000) to Rais's second wife Suraia. (Seierstad says she will appeal.) The court found that what Seierstad had written about Suraia Rais's private thoughts was sensitive and concluded neither Seierstad nor her publishers "can be considered to have acted in good faith to ensure they were correct and accurate".
This issue is slightly different than when Turcottes sued Augusten Burroughs and St. Martin’s Press for publishing “Running with Scissors”. The suit alleged Burroughs defamed them and was ultimately settled out of court. It’s always, always risky to base a story on real people without a consent and a waiver. But the Seierstad issue brings up cultural issues even if true for the repercussions may be severe such as the claim that Seierstad’s book made it impossible for the Afghan woman to live in Afghanistan any longer. Further, Seierstad revealed some of the most intimate details about this family including a description of the genitals of a woman which would be verboten in Afghani culture. But the ending of the article brought to mind what some of the YA authors said in response to Shannon Hale’s questioning about morals in YA books. An author almost always leaves a footprint behind in her words:
For the truth is not a blank slate, not the mere absence of fabrication. It is, rather, always edited, always selected. We choose what to ask and what to omit, what facts to weave into a narrative, what to leave implied. All of us who try to write about other people in other cultures are also writing about ourselves: our art is a self-portrait, so we are never neutral. In telling other people's stories, we always tell part of our own.