In an excerpt from Daniel Menaker’s memoir about his years working in publishing, My Mistake: A Memoir, he offers a deadpan and often hilarious take on what goes on there behind the scenes. Read it at Vulture.com.
Publishing is an often incredibly frustrating culture. If you want to buy a project—let’s say a nonfiction proposal for a book about the history of Sicily—some of your colleagues will say, “The proposal is too dry” or “Cletis Trebuchet did a book for Grendel Books five years ago about Sardinia and it sold, like, eight copies,” or, airily, “I don’t think many people want to read about little islands.” When Seabiscuit first came up for discussion at an editorial meeting at Random House, some skeptic muttered, “Talk about beating a dead horse!”
To make matters worse, financial success in frontlist publishing is very often random, but the media conglomerates that run most publishing houses act as if it were not. Yes, you may be able to count on a new novel by Surething Jones becoming a big best seller. But the best-seller lists paint nothing remotely like the full financial picture of any publication, because that picture’s most important color is the size of the advance. But let’s say you publish a fluky blockbuster one year, the corporation will see a spike in your profits and sort of autistically, or at least automatically, raise the profit goal for your division by some corporately predetermined amount for the following year. This is close to clinically insane institutional behavior.
In a brief, but glowing, one line review, Barnes & Noble Review says some very nice things about my book (though they misspelled my name). Link here.
In twelve vivid stories, Ranbir Singh Sidhu paints tender, uproarious and incredibly insightful portraits of Indians living in America.
So last night the lovely and marvelous Lynne Tillman joined me in helping to celebrate the publication of GOOD INDIAN GIRLS at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We had a great crowd, and a good conversation after we both read. All in all, a really lovely evening. Thanks to all who attended!
If you’re in New York City next Tuesday night, come out to a reading from GOOD INDIAN GIRLS at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’ll be reading with the marvelous Lynne Tillman. Details here.
7 PM, WORD Bookstore, 126 Franklin St, Brooklyn.
Over at her Intermittent Visitors site, the marvelous poet and blogger Joanne Merriam has a brief interview with me up. What will you learn? That I’m a messy writer who hates getting out of bed, thinks you should ignore all writing advice, and oh yeah, still an Alasdair Gray fanboy after all these years. Take a look here. And check out her small publishing house, Upper Boot Books, here.
What is your writing process?
Messy and undisciplined, with no clear schedules. I write in bed when I can, and I often try and get away and write while traveling, where I can keep the laptop next to my head, wake, sit up with some pillows behind my back and pull the computer onto my lap and get immediately to work, often still half-asleep and remembering dreams.
Over at the New York Times today, Tim Kreider — whom I didn’t know but now wanna read more of — lays it on the line about all the bullshit editors out there who think artists drink air, eat water, and pay for their clothes in Facebook likes. As Beyonce says, editors, If you like it….
This is partly a side effect of our information economy, in which “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom, like calling people after having sex with them. The first time I ever heard the word “content” used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, “content providers” — were essentially extinct. This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called “art” — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads.
This post sponsored by Grammarly’s plagiarism detector which next time you try and whip your dick out during a press interview, will tell you for sure whether you’re being a true original or just another Johnny-come-lately.
Don’t know what it is about me, but interviewers invariably tag me fucking “mild-mannered.” Infuriating, a tad? No doubt the accent contributes. But what really galls is that it often serves as an easy way out for them to avoid talking about the stories (or in this case, to avoid quoting much of what I said, which was far more interesting, trust me).
I do want to give the writer real credit. The interview was enjoyable, and she read the book with serious attention, and was strongly affected by it. And this is really fine as an interview goes, but I just wish once I’d get to be interviewed by someone not blinded by the immediately superficial. We were having lunch, after all, in a pretty little Fort Greene establishment. And to future interviewers, hey, what do I have to do? Whip my dick out during the salad course and start rubbing it in the arugula, or just drool and spit, and maybe jump up and bite one of my fellow diners’ ears off, just so I can prove to you I have the emotional cred out of which my stories are born?
It’s hard to believe the stories in Good Indian Girls come from the mind of mild-mannered Ranbir Singh Sidhu—stories that are wildly imaginative and remarkably sordid, disturbing at their best, eccentric at their tamest and deeply intriguing all throughout.
Read the interview over at Kirkus.
[UPDATE: The writer tells me her word choice was "soft spoken," which is much more accurate, and the editor changed it to "mild-mannered." What's the takeaway from this: Editors, trust your writers!
UPDATE 2: The good people at Kirkus, at the writer's request, have changed me back to my "soft spoken" self. No more of this fucking "mild mannered"! Many thanks to the writer, Nidhi Chaudhry.]
Are there any honest-to-god climate change deniers for real, or are there just a handful boastful of contrarians with authority-figure issues and a few paid-in-full so-called scientists massaging big oil’s balls ‘cos they ain’t getting grant money any other way? Just asking.
A new study published in Nature goes into the warm details.
By 2047, Coldest Years May Be Warmer Than Hottest in Past
“Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced,” Dr. Mora said in an interview. “What we’re saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm.”
Read the rest over at yesterday’s New York Times.
Over at NBC.com, they go into greater detail on the study.
“The warming in the tropics is not as much but we are rather more quickly going to go outside that recent experience of temperature and that is going to be devastating to species and it is probably going to be devastating to people,” Stuart Pimm, a conservation biologist at Duke University, who was not involved with the new study but is familiar with its contents, told NBC News.
Take a look here.
Andrew Wylie offers his blunt and laconic assessment of the world of being a highbrow literary agent today. Happening at The New Republic. Check it out here.
The biggest single problem since 1980 has been that the publishing industry has been led by the nose by the retail sector. The industry analyzes its strategies as though it were Procter and Gamble. It’s Hermès. It’s selling to a bunch of effete, educated snobs who read. Not very many people read. Most of them drag their knuckles around and quarrel and make money. We’re selling books. It’s a tiny little business. It doesn’t have to be Walmartized.