27 January 2009

Abridged Sausages

Just a short, highly edited link sausage platter this morning.

  • In the good news department, Neil Gaiman won the Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book. Thus far, no confirmation from disinterested observers on whether he echoed the opening of his acceptance speech for a Hugo a few years back...
  • In publishing-industry news, the EIC of PW has been laid off and there has been a staff bloodletting at Variety shortly after mutual parent Reed Business Information was withdrawn from sale because the offers weren't good enough. Compare this piece in Salon on book industry economics, which just might benefit from some actual knowledge of economics... such as understanding how distribution monopolies distort results, and might also benefit from at least considering these seven publishing myths of varying accuracy.
  • Last for this morning, news of a colossal art "forgery" has some interesting implications for both the arts in general and droits d'auteur in particular. The first, and perhaps most obvious, question is whether this is actually a forgery... or mistaken identity? One of the real problems in the art world is determining the actual provenance of works, particularly from those artists who had students (or, in contemporary usage, staff assistants) producing works during the artist's lifetime. So, then, was the Collosus ever passed off as a Goya by Goya? By someone authorized by Goya to do so? Or, as it much more likely, by a gallery owner or other dealer trying to sell something in his stock for more money?

    This also, however, opens up an interesting inquiry into the practice of undisclosed ghostwriting. For example, everyone knows now — and the public record is so full of references that it's hard to believe that none of it will survive for a couple of centuries — that both of Wayne Rooney's autobiographies were ghostwritten. Shocking, I know: An uneducated athlete in his late teens/early twenties hires a wordsmith. Things get much darker, and more interesting (especially when it comes time to write a final exam question... hint, hint), more deeply into the bowels of publishing industry practices. For example, it's so well known that it's not even an "open secret" that James L. Patterson does little more than dictate outlines. Does that make the latest Patterson novel a "forgery" in the same way as the Goya? How about [name deleted to avoid an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit], another bestselling "author" who does the same... only his/her outlines are about six pages long for a blockbuster-length book? Just what does this extended metacritical musing have to do with the previous bullet point on the publishing industry's economic woes?

    And the less said about "A Film by..." the better.