– I’m glad I deleted my Twitter account a few years ago. Perhaps the authors now leaving Twitter will turn to blogging? I’d like that. I like reading long, thoughtful, book-related posts, although of course, blog posts can also consist of miscellaneous snippets of articles and commentary and videos …
– This is worrying. American publishers are increasingly adding “morals clauses” to their contracts so they can terminate contracts and force authors to pay back advances if the author is accused of “immoral, illegal, or publicly condemned behavior”.
As the Authors’ Guild points out,
“individual accusations or the vague notion of ‘public condemnation … can occur all too easily in these days of viral social media.
Now publishers apparently want the ability to terminate an author’s contract for failing to predict how their words will be received by a changing public. This is a business risk like any other, yet publishers are attempting to lay it solely at authors’ feet. Worst of all, morals clauses have a chilling effect on free speech. A writer at risk of losing a book deal is likely to refrain from voicing a controversial opinion or taking an unusual stand on an important issue.”
– In the UK, publishing is in a “parlous state”, writes a pseudonymous publishing insider:
“just warning people off books isn’t sufficient. The author in question needs to be punished for their crime, be it transphobia, racism, misogyny or whatever. Never mind that we can all take offence at anything or nothing; that one person from a particular group who is offended by a story does not equal all people from that group being thus offended; that a simple way to not be offended is simply not to buy the book.
No, that is no longer enough. The author must be hounded on social media, their publishers & agents must be emailed, and the sinner in question must then atone for their sins by publicly apologising, “educating” themselves (which to me is the language of the gulag) and rewriting the book to remove the offence…
To know that so many people live in fear of saying the wrong thing in an industry which should be celebrating dissent and freedom of speech is something I find deeply shocking. It has come about because a minority of people with the loudest voices have bullied their way into the publishing world and insisted that only they are on the path of true righteousness.”
– Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, five brave, outspoken speech therapists have been jailed for publishing a series of children’s books featuring sheep fighting back against marauding wolves:
“Judge Kwok said in his verdict that ‘children will be led into the belief that the PRC Government is coming to Hong Kong with the wicked intention of taking away their home and ruining their happy life with no right to do so at all,’ referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Defendant [Melody] Yeung quoted U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King saying ‘a riot is the language of the unheard.’
‘I don’t regret my choice, and I hope I can always stand on the side of the sheep,’ Yeung said.”
– Looking for Alibrandi is thirty years old this year and Melina Marchetta discusses it here. There’s also an interesting new theatre adaptation of the book, written by an Indian Tamil migrant, who grew up in Kuwait and moved to Perth as a teenager, and starring Chanella Macri, an Italian Samoan actor, as Josie Alibrandi.
As Pia Miranda, who played Josie in the film version, says,
“It’s a migrant story that transcends being Italian. And a lot of the people that have spoken to me over the years [and said] that it means a lot to them are from different backgrounds, whether it be people from Muslim or Asian backgrounds.”
– Anne Tyler has a new novel out, French Braid. I’m always happy to see an interview with her, even though I suspect she hates doing them. Here she discusses, among other things, ‘cancel culture’ and cultural appropriation and how she’s an accidental novelist:
“I never planned to be a writer at all. For years, maybe even today, sometimes I think, ‘What exactly am I going to do with my life? What is my career going to be? I’m only 80, for God’s sake!’”
– Fans of Octopolis will enjoy this update on the residents’ behaviour: “Sometimes This Octopus Is So Mad It Just Wants to Throw Something”. I highly recommend Peter Godfrey-Smith’s book on octopus intelligence (and belligerence), Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life.
– The New Yorker has a fascinating article on the creators of the Choose Your Own Adventures books.
– I’m not a fan of John Hughes films, except for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and only because of the museum scene, so I enjoyed this thoughtful article on Ferris, Cameron and the power of art museums. And yes, this IS related to books, because the painting Cameron gazes at also features in Rebecca Stead’s Liar & Spy. If you clicked on the video in that article, you’re probably now humming the lovely instrumental music from that scene, so here it is, The Dream Academy’s cover version of Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want: