March 22, 2020

LIONEL SHRIVER: Why Hachette were wrong to drop Woody Allen’s memoir.

Second, procedural precedent. Contracts mean nothing. Publishing is now a bottom-up, populist industry in which an army of 12-year-old editorial assistants enjoy a veto over the catalog. They may jettison at will any author deemed to be a Bad Person, evidence to the contrary be damned. So the fate of my work rests with the wokies fresh from Ivy League re-education camp who post my proofs. I’ll have to start emailing: ‘Dear Biffy: I realize your favorite book is still The Gruffalo, but could you please check that nothing in the attached first draft offends you or your little friends? Meanwhile, I promise never, ever to wear a sombrero! And I apologize to the sisterhood for marrying a man seven years my senior. The marriage is obviously an abuse of power, and he’s been grooming me for 20 years.’

The employees who walked out of Hachette should all have been sacked. Plenty of surplus arts grads could fill those open-plan desks, and they’d get the message about who’s in charge. Instead the tweenies are emboldened. Good luck to management taking that authority back.

Yet another reminder that as Ray Bradbury predicted in Fahrenheit 451, that books will be burned to protect everyone’s feelings as much as to block the content within them.

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