IT’S COME TO OUR ATTENTION while looking into the National Book Awards, whose lavish awards dinner at Cipriani Wall Street is November 15th, that no one covers the established publishing business. NO ONE.
Oh, there are articles. A host of back-slapping herd-following articles. But no one looks beneath the surface of the manufactured glamour and glitz unless forced to– as in the Daniel Handler fiasco at the NBF awards dinner three years ago.
Where the publishing industry is concerned, what we have in New York City and elsewhere are not journalists in any sense of the word, but cheerleaders writing puff pieces.
AN EXAMPLE of the tame coverage given PR productions like the National Book Awards is this Los Angeles Times blurb from Michael Schaub. The operating principle: Make No Waves. Note the “see no evil” treatment of Daniel Handler. Schaub is the typical go-along-to-get-along personality type which permeates today’s literary scene. Don’t look behind the accepted version. Give the Big Boys of letters what they want.
There’s no need to single Michael Schaub out– though we have. Hundreds are like him– interchangeable cogs. Throw a rock in Brooklyn and you’ll hit a dozen of them. Michael Schaub clones, proceeding obediently along prescribed paths like workers entering Metropolis.
They don’t exist to question. They are not paid to think. Learn the doctrine and the script. “Established lit is wonderful. Our novelists are the best!”
(Book Awards venue.)
Available stories for media:
-How much is Cynthia Nixon being paid to host the National Book Awards? Is the amount more than the awards themselves?
-Is it conflict of interest for those funding and running the National Book Foundation to in effect be nominating for awards their own books? Does this correspond with the proper actions of a nonprofit charity?
-Would there be a less costly venue for the awards than Cipriani Wall Street– so that more of the money raised could be given to the authors themselves?
-Does the extreme ideological slant of the nominations, and the propagandist nature of several of the books, violate strictures of the 501(c)(3) law governing nonprofits– “no substantial part of the activities which is carrying on propaganda”?
AND, one unrelated but topical question:
-What kind of buyout did Harvey Weinstein receive from Hachette Publishing when they dissolved his imprint?
The questions are out there, but don’t expect answers. No one looks into such matters. It isn’t done. Sports reporters, of all people, have more an adversary relationship with the subjects of their coverage than does anyone covering the publishing world.
The National Book Awards aren’t about the writers, and never have been. They’re a celebration of New York publishing. Of the monolith itself.
Book reviewers and critics on proliferating media sites play the role of affirming chorus to the National Book Foundation’s stage show. One can picture it. Power people at tables in tuxes and gowns applauding as various winners enter the spotlight like vaudeville performers.
Cynthia Nixon, soprano, host: “We’ve gathered here to celebrate.”
Baritone chorus: “We here are all so won-der-ful.”
Soprano Executive Director: “We’ve done this year a smashing job.”
Chorus: “We here are all so won-der-ful!”
This is not a gathering of peers. In the New York publishing pyramid, power is strictly tops-down, with writers at the bottom.