30 May 2004

It's been rather a strange weekend in the publishing business. Starting from t'other side of the pond…
  • Malise Ruthven's book on the interplay between "fundamentalism" and "civilization" may actually begin to constructively deconstruct this destructive relationship. Although it is probably too much to equate religious fundamentalism with obstinate textualism—not intelligent and informed formalism, but the "static language" crowd—it may also shed some light on the psychology behind some of the battles over legal interpretation.
  • Dept. of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies:

    It is the story of his life in the hippy culture of the US West Coast in the 1960s and 70s, and of his relationship with Virginia Good, a volatile child of that era. It is direct, funny and touching. Getting published should have been straightforward, surely. But the problem is how to market this book. Yes, he is a gifted writer, but that is a hard quality to sell. There is also the matter of precedent. In the time I've been writing about the book trade, I've come across quite a few memoirists such as Jones, dismayed that publishers have failed to appreciate their work; none of them, before him, has had any talent. It's difficult to prove yourself the exception.

    Nicholas Clee, "The Bookseller," Guardian (29 May 2004).

  • And, conversely, the Dept. of Equal and Opposite Reactions:

    Probably, it was Margaret Thatcher who saved my bacon. The Thatcher boom changed everything. Ironically, it was the most right-wing Conservative government in memory that liberated a torrent of creativity. I found myself, by accident, in the right place at the right time. Another irony: it was a philistine decade that saw the restoration of the book. The figures tell the story. In 1980 there were 48,158 new titles published in the UK. By 2000 this had risen to a staggering 100,000. Today the figure stands at a record-breaking 119,000: in the world of books, we are all Thatcher's children.

    Robert McCrum, "The Best Book Club," Guardian (30 May 2004). Now that's one "ancestor" I can do without…