tv Discussion on Book Publishing CSPAN August 21, 2019 10:38pm-12:03am EDT
publishing with the age of political polarization we are recorded by c-span so we will introduce each speaker so let me change the plan so then i'll ask a question to have them jump in as they see fit and then we will be off and running at that point. the editor freeman's journal the leading rider from around the world and is the author of several books and the tale of two america is.
we have directly to his right michael has worked for the nexus of the literary cultural and political world between 1985 and 95 publisher and ceo of a german publishing company and then jumped the atlantic headed the new york belt publisher base he was involved of the satanic verses. in 1988 appointed commissioner for cultural affairs the chief editor than publisher since 2012 served as a director from the academy writing about cultural affairs and politics. so to his right joining the paris review as editor in
2018, before that at the southern review publishing many stories the best american short stories and her own debut novel into her right the author of numerous books including most recently as if and be thinking identity. setting president of the 2018 was on the prize jury. in teaching philosophy on three continents he was in dubai and goes all over the place currently writes the
emphasis column new york times sunday magazine and professor at new york university. on his right vp online former president of the national book critics circle and a columnist for bbc.com and contributes regularly to npr and others also the author of two-story collections and i think she reads more than anyone i know and faster. [laughter] a literary encyclopedia. to her right we have carlos who won the 2019 pulitzer prize and said it's been about 20 years that books has so we are happy to bring books into the conversation also serving as the national security editor and in addition to this
year's pulitzer was a finalist last year the national book critic citation for excellence in reviewing that his experience in the publishing world and you start with a very generous question so they can set the tone for the conversation. with your take of the industry today it is very broad. who would like to jump in? >> what if we look at recent awards quick sometimes that tells us what we read and what we value by what we are choosing. anthony was the head judge and those choices as i recall had
a new take on what literature is and the winner went on to win the national book critic circle in fiction the poetry award winner and then the lifetime achievement which is 40 years old and being honored for literature the last the bilingual editions so that is a thought on awards like pulitzer prizes. >> what was interesting that
that is tolerant of certain kinds of behavior woody allen's book has a hard time finding a publisher. if they thought if you published a book by him you could sell it and that is connected also to be a source of anxiety and then you can get into terrible trouble and then the other books might be damaged for those who boycott and publish books they don't approve.
and cancel culture there was an article in the new york times with a young adult book titled blood air and that book , the author chose to cancel the book to terminate the publication a few months before it was scheduled based on some reaction of early readers of both races their inappropriate depictions of slavery so the author pulled the book. the publisher was willing to go either way now she recently changed her mind and has gone ahead to publish the book. she did quite a bit of research on it and now ran it by sensitivity readers with deep familiarity of the experience of what is depicted. so she did decide to publish it and it created a firestorm
of response on the internet of people on both sides largely she should be able to write whatever she wants to write. of course there are issues right now with respectability politics what right do you have two write things not only outside of your experience but that could be perceived as inappropriate presenting aspects of society or characters. does anybody want to jump in on that? >> i inhabit a completely different world of reading and writing. and given my gay get the washington post with political nonfiction i come to the conversation with that kind of
focus gives me but there comes a moment when no one is safe there was a remarkable instance recently as a novel by someone who is a sensitivity reader. >> who was supposed to appear at this festival by the way. >> he himself fell victim to that culture. but what i will say from nonfiction is that i see a lot of the publishing industry following and reflecting the trends of political polarizatio polarization. on what could be bodily consider this resistance there is some wonderful work i have been impressed with what schneider has done that more
often than not, you get these anthologies by a series of like minded writers who end up screaming this is not who we are for calais understand the impulse with that kind of publishing and on the right it is a little more complicated the two large trends with writers have either made their peace with those political realities or take advantage into that moment and to those that are horrified like the trump era into the republican
party. and then grappling with her own complicity and as this came to pass. and then the journalists we do these in-depth stories of the mayhem that all sound the same. so is this a lack of courage or pursuing the market? i'm not sure. but again, doing this for about four years i have had a chance to know a lot of work coming out of this moment of polarization but a lot of it seems focused to one particular audience. >> and that crowd is?
>> whichever side. there is a bunch of different crowds and they are not talking to one another very much. not to do my own pandering but anthony's book on identity does not easily fit into these different lanes there is plenty to pass off everybody. [laughter] >> but then the books that try to do that who is your audience and who will be your champions. so that is from the vantage point of someone who spent too much time.
>> talking about the mueller report and you treated that can you tell us i work with the washington post all 800 journalists are writing about it when it came out so it was posted online at 11:00 a.m. so i read 440 pages and then went home and kept reading and finished it overnight and finished one - - and wrote a piece the next morning i can only treated as a book but publicly the best of the inside the white house only because robert mueller can put people under oath which most nonfiction writers cannot do.
so that would be cool bad again but this moment in politics but it no longer surprises and all the things that we learn in the mueller report are consistent from the white house books even what you think are not so the mueller report is now the new york times number one nonfiction bestseller. >> do you want to comment? >> you should not have
reviewed that. [laughter] >> so i wrote a piece in the washington post about the character of our divisions and one way to put it if you do polling to discover into group marriage between conservatives and liberals where they were the interracial marriage if you ask people the question would you want your son or daughter to marry someone from the other party. but if i did 30 or 60 percent
chance you'll say you don't want them to mary. we cannot run a sensible republic if that's how we feel about each other. we are supposed to be running it together. and if our view is the other that were not trying to understand to say they don't make sense or that they are evil, how will we do that? so then look at what people actually believe. so it turns out there is a quite diverse group those that call themselves conservative who think roe v wade is just fine. and similarly people that identify as democrats who are
troubled by the scale of abortion in our country and would like to rein it in. now that is hard because it's not easy to see what a compromise looks like. on a lot of other topics like healthcare or reducing the size of the prison population, there is a consensus is automatically plausible but that basic structure from the heritage foundation it is a right wing organization. and that what others would propose.
what we do remember in our history and totalitarian which are a bit closer to us. what i'm trying to say is unlike what you might have suggested do not really serve the purpose of changing the reader's political lines. one book in the history of publishing that changed the. but the reality is it is true
it firmly affirmed many years ago. i'm not making this up and of course she meant if so there are those that span the ocean and how this happens is a mystery basically. i would like to point out faults in her science more copies in germany bega banned in the unitd states and hemingway was a huge bestseller and they grew up in
the belief they wrote like the miserable translator. [laughter] and i'd like to point out they are protected under the copyright and got the percentage and never quit her rights to the translations until tonight so we finally started to translate on the right way. so, if they publishing an adventure because you never really know what is going to be a hit. >> why would people be so concerned about the books that are published if they do not have an affect on readers? >> damn books. why do they banned a book if they do not believe that it will change a mind and heart in the
ways people banning don't want to have happen next >> me and a couple of others, and i also covered the iranian resolutiorevolution so i wasn'ta position to promise they never read the book. he never did. some idiot from his circle read the book and published a review in a non- islamic reviewer pointed out it's being challenged in the form of satire and they decided to go ahead. thousands were banned by a movement i was proud of being stupid and haven't read very many books. with the exception of hitler he read a lot but didn't understand
a lot. just as it is impossible to understand my lifeless changed and to come back to what's going on now in america, i promise you do you think that henry miller would find a publisher in america today or would there be a hash tag so how does this happen quite out of the attitudes change and improve it remains a mystery and put a lot of sociologists. >> i would like emily or john to jump into the conversation.
>> i've been acquiring for a year or now says it i say it ist anecdotal but i've experienced, but with every story and issue, i am thinking a historically or very historically back to 53 and a mission statement thinking for me that means taking a step away from the political moment and really reaffirming the aesthetic and creative output of every piece. but the skills have to be tipped into a creative language and an achievement in the storytelling and assembling a magazine at that to feel more necessary to.
it's more important than ever. >> have you had a situation where you have debated the publishing something because you thought it might offend? >> no. i am reading and thinking about so many factors, but i've not said no to something because it might be offensive. >> it is a very bold magazine in terms of what you publish. >> can you jump in? >> as the concert but if resolution has been on its way for 50 years to push back on the definition of the physics society and individuals there's been a simultaneous resolution of information in the last 20 to
30 years and how we get it into the internet lets face it destroyed a lot of newspapers and newspapers used to be a clearing house for information you didn't ask for. it was presented this is what you should care about they had a whole separate supplement the san francisco chronicle had fun. the culture was broader, more in-depth, have much more context and arrived much more slowly. now as we have been speaking, there is a bit of blurring of pacific life and intellectual life. it is as if the people who are on twitter is publishing or sent to intellectual life, david
akers is not on twitter. if you go to the list of the writers he would take to an island with you why do we look to trigger a if you look at polarization why look at something run by zeros and to complain the complexity. it's absurd. the polarized political moment has a lot to do with the catastrophic and obscene amount of wealth that is being made through policy that is being driven by people who have no care for everyday people. but it's also being driven by a machine.
biography by jeffrey stewart. the contradictions -- >> 's >> argue on twitter? it is full contradictions that's full of a whole new idea of what the transnational blackness meant and i think that if we lose the plot we start looking to all the other things that sound like good twitter means because once you are in journalism with other people, when you talk to yo people about who they live with even if it isn't romantically between conservatives and liberals, there's a lot of others.
slowly and that's something that we are losing a. of the anthology books were preaching to the state choi stat one of them had one essay that i really, really liked hi and to display the novelist she expressed concern about what she called the terrifying rapidity of the use of voice is coming right now and where that ability to kind of think through the culture and have it arrive slowly isn't as present and we need to defend another way of
thinking, one that allows hesitation and ability. i have a distrust of certitude even when i agree with the position being advocated i don't think the urgency means we cannot afford uncertainty. i need to be leaving the value e of the ballot i now feel not least because it promotes thinking before acting. that is where the quote ends. now it is just me. that notion of doubt, nuance, slowness is i think what is so easily lost in the social media kind of environment and when we look at twitter and think that's dictating, it's not so much that it necessarily dictates what books get published for that kind of thing the cancer culture of boston people with big twitter followings are able to promote their work more.
they get booked by producers who are on twitter. it's easy. i was talking to a friend who is part of a political television show and he talked about the pressures they face to have big followings for the multiplier effect. when that becomes the gauge not just of influence, but the quality that's where it gets dangerous. >> it was something like this, since my favorite remarks.
so i do that from time to time. nonot as much as i used to be. i am trying to find quiet time so i can digest what's going on but i do go on to twitter to celebrate books and book culture and i do that under my own twitter handle but also on behalf of organizations i volunteer my time for it over the years that has included the national book critics circle in san francisco and other places where i'd like to celebrate the literary culture of our time.
the second is a sort of a show i had to block one person did something else that comes to mind at this festival there was a novelist who wrote a novel called a dark chapter. she's a taiwanese american who studied at harvard, went to a film producer on vacation, was raped and beaten by a teenager, changed her life, dealt with the questions oquestion of touch, ae
and then she turned around and wrote this novel from the point of view of both the rapist and women and created an organization that would allow people to come together and talk about the issues of consent. what struck me about that is making a bridge so that we were not in one place or another place but rather i interview the archbishop of the truth and reconciliation commission in south africa held we make good for justice and the woman in charge of setting up and she said the truth and reconciliation didn't work for us. we took a village approach that was a tradition in our country and we have men and women of the
village council and we had those that have been both perpetrators and we sent them together. it occurs to me if we have something similar we can find a way to make the bridge so we wouldn't have the countercultu counterculture. it was a wonderful approach to the idea of keeping us separated from each other. i find that troubling and i would like us to make bridges if possible. wouldn't it be nice if we could
reach across some of the books i've been reviewing just recently included here at the festival and it gives the story of the plaintiff view of the border back and forth and what it's like to be an immigrant on the corner of the southwest united states and mexico and it gives an incredible amount of information about what has been happening. a novel i just reviewed called the flight portfolio who went on behalf of the committee in the
30s. >> alfred bar is the on gore iso set up the committee, but this kind of lays out so they wouldn't be appointed by the camps. if you read it today or now it's too the incremental drumbeat of what was coming because now we sit and watch a change in our democracy and peace are a couple of the books i've been reading that i think are kind of a new way of thinking about what can we publish right now.
>> quickly, can i read that quote? without reflection, sorrow, shame i sit here now in despair this consumes my mind because i had so many things to do out there and -- >> do you want to comment on that? >> they played no part in designing, walls that block the vision and obstruct the way, that will not let in fresh and
enlivening air. >> good stuff. >> it is one of cultural appropriation which is such a contentious topic right now thinks the distinction of what is offensive is disrespect and exploitation, not the fact of borrowing elements of culture because that actually has civilization that's been developed. in many of the moments people complain about the cultural appropriation, i agree that something has gone wrong but i don't agree that has gone wrong in the skillful appropriation because that's how all the things i most care about were made. even in some of the places we don't remember this comes to one of my favorite examples is a
17th century japanese poet and haiku master. he's a buddhist and his writing a script that was invented in china. without china and india, one of the greatest of the japanese poet disappears if you don't allow. how much would survive if you were not allowed to take from other places where other times? if it is to imagine the voice of a woman or depending on whether you think that he was straight, to imagine the life -- but
people steal, stealing is wrong and i think copyright laws are useful and important but that is a useful question to. you are allowed to remarks because. he is protected rightly under the copyright understanding. so i think when people create things together with material from other people there something wrong in the relationship between the people doing it then that is obviously a problem, but i never think it is the problem somebody took something that was in some sense dot there's. i can't imagine how boring the
cultures of the world would be if they have that attitude and they don't. my mother and i collected proverbs in my father's language and the word occurs in the lot of them does that mean it's not a tree proverb and because it is derived from english is that a reason for us to reject bread or give it a new name this is the sort of thing that went into a kind of purification.
>> that the disrespect of certain cultures and groups in twitter there's finally an opportunity for some of these groups to speak, so that's what's going on. >> there are lots of contexts it would be quite inappropriate to use it whether you are jewish or not. >> you have been trying to say something. do you want to jump back in? >> i want to go back to basically contradict myself, which i also love to do. i mentioned in the beginning that it's so hard to discern how books make a political classifiable difference. it is very hard. they spend a lot of money sometimes finding out how this or that book. can you derive from a., b. or c.
how did it happen? but actually, books made an enormous difference but pretty much unforeseen. my publishing house it is an absolute miracle that it's written out of jail and they made him the president of a pretty fascinating fairly new country and the state of czechoslovakia. however it was done by books and he's not a superb writer.
what he really is is anti-totalitarian. he was able to convey to other folks through written words the state of the country was living in under truly suppressed system to crumble next to germany but he was able to show and think freely about life and freedom and i would like to point out that one day he was arrested in the death of his best friends wife and the rest of the nation laughed at this on the bridge of
the backbones and quality. these people changed the world of their nation through written words. i don't know any other writer at the moment in the 20th century who had such a huge success. but the quality of the existence as a writer was so pure and enjoyable the whole nation followed him so that is one of the greatest examples of how books can change the world. the nation that he created excess so there i there's an exr
the committee. >> we are going to take some questions, so there's a microphone. the man over there to your left. feel free to go over there. let's just jump right in because there's a lot of questions. >> i wanted to know what the panelists thought about the firestorm at the review last year and specifically is that something that happens because in the culture no nuance world that we live in today, or is it because of the power of everyone speaking that had specifically given women a voice in our culture that hasn't been there until now? >> anyone want to comment?
>> i'm trying to remember. it was an interview by the editor that sealed the fate of the story and i think what was interesting there wasn't just the article published in the new york review, but the manner -- but then in the eyes of many the manner in which they explained the decision to publish, and i thought of that when you mentioned we haven't made a decision to not publish something because we were afraid it would offend.
but presumably, you go through a thought process to decide what to publish something, and here it is a combination not just of the article in question, but the bug description by the editor of the not tremendously rigorous process they went through to make the decision to publish. >> it sounds like too many people. i would imagine a universe where the editing structure had not changed if the subsequent explanation for the publication of the piece had been more thoughtful and nuanced.
after groveling and publishing its phone there is an in between other thoughtlessness and i don't care what this person did or didn't do in his or her life and the other extreme. >> i don't know all the details. i will say in the compounding effect it was on yom kippur i came back and i was in seattle visiting a sick family than her and so just the idea of sitting outside of literary twitter to do something that felt important or not and it was gone.
it was over and that was staggering. >> i don't know the names, i should but it allowed the publishing of an article which told the stor story maybe someoe knows a specific name of a man had been accused of sexual harassment and there was a perception that it was sort of allowing the perpetrator to speak and think you said you should allow him to speak that some people thought it was very inappropriate that they did it was presented. >> it was a poorly written article, not very well defended, casually published with other dealings of what their role was meant and abusers, accused of what they would be doing when
they had lost their platforms and this article was basically describing what it was like to suddenly be invisible. and i think there was an understandable reaction why do we even need to know this, isn't it much more important to know what it's like to be on the other side of your abuse. i don't have a strong -- i'm not going to defend or not defend, but shortly after that, david had invited steve bannon to be at the center of the new yorker festival and it almost cost him his job. he responded very quickly and wrote an article not defending his decision, but apologizing and explaining why he made a decision to invite him to the festival. i think you can be completely on the side of justice and decency
and also say that the speed of the reaction. >> david remnick reported he is an extraordinary journalist i thought he made a huge mistake i think that all said that the new yorker has done extraordinary reporting t disorder playpen awy from what was a very bad decision that he quickly corrected and i think it would have been an enormous loss for journalism. in both cases it is very simple, the freedom of the press. it implies and possibly even means freedom of the press to decide how they like and that is the dirty secret of my professional journalism and publishing there is always some
way that also has a taste and the taste may be very badly reasoned. >> it's like who are the gatekeepers. >> but there's a protest against that right now, there is a push for how we define and we listened to in terms of what gets published and what the discourse is >> i think this question com, ts example shows books are just one battleground and at these broad cultural wars can be hosting a television show, it can be any number of these arenas where these battles take place. >> we should go to the next question.
>> systemic blindness, can you raise your hand, the matrix, can you raise your hand if you know that annie oakley of 1910 through the media 55 times and won 54 times. the documentary we've been brainwashed by to sue. okay, so the question is did you know about systemic blindness that might cause discomfort to all of you and all of them. the state of california court system provides free mediation with an 80% success rate. >> anyone else want to comment on that? >> there is a controversy in the
publishing world about the morality clause that going to a writer's contract if the writer strays past certain boundaries so to speak where there is a public outcry over how the author has seemed to trespass to where the buck is killed in a publisher had invested quite a bit about it. >> i'm just going to guess. it needs a form of mediation between each other and if what you are saying is california courts allow free mediation with high success rates between individuals and parties and
disputes, there needs to be places where this kind of thing can happen and i'm not going to turn to hard on the internet, but we did have much more local culture before we started using the internet. the businesses or local, we went to local churches, we didn't stay at home and sit in front of our gadgets and i think we need these clearinghouses to disagree with each other in person. it doesn't work well when it is done face to face and if we do everything including reading which is a very private and intimate and emotional experience removed from each other only leads to further disagreements which may not exist.
>> first of all, thank you for speaking today. we have heard a lot about the council culture and how fast you have to come to market with your review and help drive sales. do you think this deadline would have written a different review if it were days away do you think that is changing our expert opinion of books that we have to make a decision about this but because we have to get it out there because that is the moment that was published? >> yes. and take a moment to think about what you have to be.
[laughter] >> i often wish i could go back and reread books that i've reviewed already and see if i feel the same way about them, because a book comes out in a certain moment in time and i may feel about it one way and it can be a month or year or two and i can look back at a bookshelf of reviews and i look at the spine and i have deep feelings about it and know where i was and how i fel felt concert "-end-quotest other books and i have no memory of it even though i wrote a review about them and hopefully it was interesting.
it's often the news books you have the least amount of time to spend with them. my review would be published about 27 hours after the book was online. after the report was online. and that doesn't make any sense. often what happens this is way too much in the weeds of my daily frustrations, but the books that are a big deal release early copies and they have the luxury of waiting and sometimes they published a review of hillary clinton's what
happened like a year afterwards, and it's great and it authoritative and shows everything that happened since. do you remember that existed at that point, i don't know, but i read it and so yes, i do think that the imperatives of the deadline and the industry at a place like the "washington post" where we publish something every day and every moment makes it harder. i try to kind o of organized by time aroun around what ideas doi think are important to grapple with and then okay. when i reviewed the book i read it with seven other books and identity that have come out over the course of a year so i read them all and spend some time with them to come up with something that would be useful. whether it was fair to each and every book i don't know and frankly i don't care because my
a sponsor of the us and to the office of the features of the readers of the post. so, that is one way to kind of break free of that there are moments when you can't, and it is incredibly frustrating. >> on that point you mentioned above review had a different timescale. it may take me months and months to get back to all this stuff. and he said you know us. [laughter] there are people operating on different time scales so i think that there is a case. it's important that it was read in that way at the same time that it was being read by the other guys. but then people will reflect
upon it and tell me other discussions of it into there will be classes where the history of literature is reviewed against the background and other things. that's okay. i don't think there's anything bad as long as you know the culture is going to have these other takes as well. >> i hope it does because they are hardly in the bookstore six months after. >> that gets back to michael's point as well about the influence books have. sometimes the influence is not going to be immediate. there are books that have a lasting influence and not just books but any kind of cultural product that have had lasting influence that came later people would realize it's changed the way we thought about an event or about an idea or any movement or
a moment. so, it seems now like if it doesn't hit the bestseller list right away sometimes folks can linger in our minds a lot more than we imagine in the immediate preview. >> they are important to the news organizations today and do not reflect the conversations we all have. the total attention the books are getting. >> i think the tim we have timee more question. >> it seems to me as an outsider
it forces a kind of moderation that is impossible to and the reason is being outside of the box you have a better view of the players were some of the majority can have by virtue. it will always laughs into the triable bias. if this is true, what do you think about the argument in favor of social harmony item model and more freewheeling model the fact remains that they
have still an open model. the question of how a society implements what is now the universal obligation under the declaration of human rights to embody the regime of the expression has to take account of the history of each country into the kinand to the kind of m that has. we are used to all sorts even though we are proud of our first amendment protections so lots
and lots of useful information about what's going on is not available for anybody because anybody that leads signed a nondisclosure agreement. that is a limitation of the expression and one that we permit but in other places those can be overruled by considerations of the public interest in a way that is rather hard to do here. generally speaking in favor of the freedom of expression regime in the united states but it's not unlimited and it has someone that others don't have. i think it's okay that yo it isn be fined for insulting a racial or religious group? since they almost never do do i
think it is a tragedy you can't, not really. protagonist very proud and put a huge burden on all kinds of publishers and try to just publish the truth about the end of low people to make it less likely the truth will be published, so i think that there are lots of ways in which the reality of the regime is more complicated so it is against the background of thinking like that to explore with you exactly which pieces of the system we might want to reform and what
reform we might want to encourage another places. i do think that it is a privilege to have a place as an outsider, but also inside the privileges as well with being fully embedded in one place which i have never been a. i grew up in two places and have parents and so on so i would hope that we can teach knowledge it's hard to come it isn't easy to get things right and you are more likely to get it right if you listen to people that have come at the world from many different directions.
just look at the world from one place to. that is by cutting people off into the worlds of their own if the pricthe puzzle about the pre possibility of learning from each other. it is an easy story to tell and they come. my life was changed to a. and actually, for me the most useful this one i was coming out
and it was one of the few novels so that changed my life. not usually by being switched from the liberal side of things, the conservative side of things that i think in a way someone had is going to change that is a little bit unstable. it should take time to get from one place to another on the political spectrum. thank you to all of you and you will have an opportunity to hear both anthony and carlos and a half an hour from now. they will be speaking
interviewing and rethinking identity and we have a panel on the paris review the recent issue in the art of poetry and we will have a tribute to him and emily will be moderating that and michael will be around. we have a german civilian together and there's a lot of german literature and culture that is talked about there and i think that's it. are you going to be around? [applause] thank you so much. books will be signed by over