Boris Kachka’s Original Notes for Article

After bribing a number of underpaid assistants with Duane Reade gift certificates (there was a stack here; don’t ask how we acquired it) and attempting to whisper sweet somethings into New York Magazine editorial interns who have been wrongly pegged as know-nothings, Reluctant Habits has obtained the early notes for Boris Kachka’s “Oh noes! The publishing industry is dead!” article. We don’t know what to make of Mr. Kachka referring to himself in the first person in these early notes, assuming the shaky provenance can be believed (and indeed we have grave doubts). But we presume that it’s the kind of casual hubris one employs when one is too embarrassed to refer to one’s self in the overused first person plural.

* * *

1. Okay, Boris, authenticity! Authenticity! Authenticity! Get the architectural details right! Employ modifiers like “drab” and “mysterious.” Use words like “demise” and “gallows.” Use Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy for reference. We need the audience to cry uncontrollably. We need to create the impression that everyone who works in the publishing industry is crying uncontrollably. And, Boris, as you sit at the keyboard to write this, perhaps you will cry uncontrollably. Never let facts get in the way of the emotions!

2. You can never use enough exclamation points! Remember, we’re pulling back the curtain. The publishing industry is dead and has no hope! Watch the end of Planet of the Apes every 200 words to get the appropriate apocalyptic feel here. You publishing maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

3. Well, if Bob Miller is setting this thing up, then he IS the story! Never mind that the imprint is unproven. If you can’t point to specific examples with HarperStudio, then go with Jane Friedman! After all, she’s the one who greenlighted this, yes? Even if you can’t figure out the precise details of her sacking, suggest authority by providing details about her post-retirement party.

4. Insert random quotes every 500 words. The quotes don’t have to match up with the text that follows. But this should create an authentic enough feel.

5. Still struggling for title for piece. Watch Burt Reynolds movies.

6. Find a way to work in Lenin reference.

7. There’s an alternative here to the standard conglomerates take over everything angle, isn’t there? Surely, it can’t be that simple. Think, Boris, think! Uh, dot com days?

8. Dale Peck angle? We need someone making low six figures here. I mean, that’s the New York readership! Surely, nobody who pays less than $2,500 a month in rent reads this magazine. Demographic will sympathize!

9. Work in “long tail” reference. Shit on Chris Anderson if you can. Still vaguely fashionable, I think, to take a dump on Chris Anderson.

10. Suggest that Markus Dohle doesn’t know what he’s doing, but focus on appearance if you can’t locate the facts. Maybe describe Sonny Metha as “dapper.”

11. Constant comparisons to the old boozing days of publishing. Things used to be better. That never fails, eh?

12. Okay, we’ll never know what happened between Richard Ford and Fisketjon. But go for the gossip angle if necessary.

13. Get sources to say that nothing matters. Need at least three quotes. Preferably anonymous.

14. Wait, how else is the publishing industry dying? Causation does not imply correlation? Fuck that. BEA attendance was down! Work that in.

15. Work in Kindle.

16. Need list of “Books Gone Bust.” Shit, only four examples come to mind. Well, that’s enough, surely! Nobody’s going to pay attention to the titles that actually sell, are they? They’re going to believe our “publishing is dead” angle because I’m Boris Fucking Kachka!

17. When in doubt of your shaky knowledge about the publishing industry, Boris, have a good wank. Or three.


  1. Dear Ed,

    Enough. I find your creepy coverage of the book industry and authors in general to be obscenely pathetic. You are a dilettante who enjoys the sound of his own voice as much as the sound of his own typing – a double threat rarely seen these days. You can only grasp at world which actual hard working and intelligent people attempt to examine – trained reporters and authors who should, in theory not give you the time of day. Unfortunately, they must – because Boris Kachka’s article is correct and the publishing world is in trouble. Alas, outlets such as yours are allowed to exist. If you adopted the same unctuousness of tone and general ignorance and flat-out geekishness in any other arts industry, you wouldn’t make it through the front door. Alas, the book industry is a desperate for attention and relevance as you are personally. I can only imagine all the authors whose e-mails you abused to ask for remembrances about David Foster Wallace, and how many probably declined, not wanting their names associated with your site on any level.

    Please know that I speak for every writer, journalist or blogger you’ve ever worked for when I say that you are endlessly offensive (not provocative, as you have surely convinced yourself, but offensive in tone and bluster) to the majority of this industry. Are you too busy convincing yourself you are part of this world to feel the eye rolls when your name is mentioned? You make Ron Hogan look suave. Congratulations are in order for that. I feel ashamed having ever read your site – or listened to your interviews in which author after author humors you out of good manners – and will never be checking back here again.

    Please do find another industry to leech off.

  2. To the anonymous coward from Random House who left the above comment:

    Actually, just about every person I contacted for the DFW tribute responded. The tribute was intended not to service me, as the “Written by the Literary Community” byline indicated, but to collect a number of thoughts about a writer who just about everybody (including me) thought was exceptional. If you don’t like what I do, by all means, fuck off. Some people like me. Some don’t. But I never asked for a rose garden. If you don’t believe that books can matter or sell, or wish to remain completely negative about it, no, YOU find another industry to work in. I work 90-100 hours a week to offer in-depth interviews that nobody else is doing, comprehensive reviews for various print and online outlets, and alternative coverage. I earn less than minimum wage doing this. I’m hardly in this for the money, and I certainly do my best not to leech off the industry — something that certainly isn’t the case with Ron Hogan. (I attend very few literary parties. I maintain strict ethics when it comes to conflict of interest. I try to keep things honest around here.)

    So you don’t like my manner (the post here was clearly satire). Well, I don’t much like yours. People of your type, who wish to go on maintaining a play-it-safe status quo that HURTS literature, are the pox upon the publishing industry that I am quite happy to fight. And you have only yourself to blame for this. You can’t even be bothered to leave your real name like a grown-up. You’re a coward, and I’m guessing here that your cowardice comes from simply being scared by Kachka’s article.

    But manner is not the issue here. What’s at issue here is that you swallowed the uninformed codswallop that Kachka was working from here. In other words, Kachka’s article had the desired effect upon you. Congratulations. You’ve been hoodwinked. You have only yourself to blame for being duped. Not me. Feel free to enlighten me upon how dwelling upon the appearance of publishing people or describing architecture supports how Kachka is “correct” about the industry. If you cannot support Kachka’s claim with very specific correlations, then again, YOU get the hell out of this industry. Some of us are doing our damnedest to make literature matter. And I assure you that there are many things I do that I don’t announce on this blog.

  3. As to the claim that I like the sound of my own voice, this can likewise be dispensed with. Writing is an act of self-indulgence. Is there a single writer out there who doesn’t write because she enjoys it or wants to matter or indeed enjoys the sound of her own voice? As Andre Gide once wrote, “It is better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for something you are not.”

    I am most certainly a dilettante, in that I am a passionate lover of the arts. But I think my record has demonstrated that this love is far from superficial.

    The fact that you use geekiness as a pejorative likewise tells me that you are the one here who is this dilettante of the second type. Someone who probably ignored Thomas M. Disch’s suicide earlier this year. Someone who thumbs her nose up at anyone who is vaguely misfit or misunderstood. If only you’d be troubled to use that organ in your head called a brain, you might not be duped like this. You might not be disheartened. You might not be willing to supplicate to the Boris Kachkas or the other fearmongers of this industry. It’s the fearmongers of our world, whether Boris Kachka or John McCain, who are the true opportunists.

  4. Some detective work reveals that you are the same frustrated, impotent, and powerless male who commented here a year ago as “renaldosnipes.” Regrettably, because MOST of the people at Random House are indeed good and reasonable, I cannot possibly ban the IP address. This would be a disservice to the many good and reasonable souls who weigh in here from time to time, and help the community as a whole to understand literature and the publishing industry. So in the end, Mr. Anonymous, you are the flaccid solipsist here. A man who wishes to chew the scenery at the expense of others because he feels terrified of his own possibilities. A textbook example of a man who has NOTHING going on in his life, wishes to drag others down, who feels the need to lash out at anything remotely controversial, and who cannot be bothered to ken what so many of this blog’s audience get. Your presence will NOT be missed. The true dilettante, the genuine wastrel, is you.

  5. Here’s something that going to literary parties–conflicts of interest be damned–might do for you. You might, say, talk to people in the industry, get a sense of what they feel about it, what worries them most, and yes, also what makes them feel optimistic. You might have a look at someone, so you can briefly describe their appearance in a story–something that might help a reader (you know, the one you’re supposed to be writing for, not yourself) understand that this is a person you’re talking about, not some abstract concept of a human. This might also give you a sense of sympathy, common humanity, make it harder for you to take cheap shots. You might actually, also, want to visit a publishing house, maybe even find out what street it’s on. Maybe even what floor they place certain imprints on, to get a sense of the corporation’s priorities. You know, the architecture of the real world. Then you can look at quarterly reports, spend months talking to, say, 100 people, check out leads–some of which go somewhere, some of which go nowhere, and report on what you find. It might help you write something of value instead of self-indulgent drivel.
    Your sleuthing might, say, actually uncover the correct sex of an anonymous poster–something you can’t necessary do by futzing around on a computer because you’re experiencing some dark night of the soul brought on by their speaking the truth about you (albeit under anonymous cover, sometimes required when you actually want to find out something true and not just PR copy).
    Or, alternatively, you can stay firmly rooted at your computer, stewing in envy and self-pity, and mock the whole effort with ad hominem attacks that show just as little awareness of the editorial process as they do of the distinction between journalism and parasitism.

  6. And you might do all of those things you suggest, Mr. Kachka, and still not have a clue what you are talking about.

    But I’ll let the opening paragraph as written by one Michael Cader, who has done all of those things as well (and whom I should disclose I have pinch-hit for the odd time or two) speak for itself:

    “It’s changing times in the book business for sure, but NY Magazine applies the cliched journalistic formula to make that into End Times. Random House’s new ceo may be more business-focused and energetic. Borders is in trouble. Books sold to stores are nonreturnable, and sometimes publishers have to pay display fees, the same way every other manufacturer deals with retailers. A prominent author left his old publisher after decades of support to get more money somewhere else after his sales flagged. The tooth fairy may be apocryphal.”

    Or perhaps Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny will save publishing?

  7. Because of course the reader will thrive upon a journalist’s utterly inept failure to get at the facts and the emotions of a situation more complicated than his entirely uninquisitive and unjournalistic brain might fathom. Because of course the reader will mistake Boris’s failure to take chances, to ask tough questions, to enter uncomfortable areas of inquiry — in short, to do the work of journalism as it has been practiced for so long, that he just might MIGHT help others to comprehend an intricate situation — for some kind of truth. Because Boris has been working so long at a magazine for so long a time at so long a position that the initial rush of exhilaration that he might have felt once and that he longs LONGS to feel again is gone, and he can’t find it. But there’s that last opportunity at so late a date to attempt to stir things up. Oh dear, what was that slipping sound?

    Because you might feel humanity if you actually had more than a cartoonish grasp of the subject. Because you might not assume that the critics haven’t visited a publishing house, or talked with people, or otherwise communicated with others on the inside of the process. Oh, those goddam bloggers! They do so make the gatekeepers’s lives miserable!

    Because you might actually come up with a hell of a lot more than this sham of an article after sitting on this “research” for several months. Because you might actually use your noodle or have a sense of the bigger picture. Because you assume that the sleuthing in question is final. Because you assume that in speaking of the anonymous, you are supposed to be gender-specific, because you abandoned Strunk & White so long ago and haven’t looked at the bookshelf in so so long. Because being anonymous is mistaken for courage. Because being Boris is mistaken for being a journalist. Because being Boris involves not listening to criticism, accusing the other party of envy and self-pity, and stewing so long in a lazy sinecure that feels something like a grand dream! Oh yes. That warm smell of the Hot Pocket coming from the corporate kitchen! Surely, it will be like madeleine!

    Because you’re Boris, you’re on staff, and you forgot what it meant to be a freelancer, which actually involves using every spare bit of time to support one’s self, rather than loafing around writing a comment signifying nothing.

  8. And what is your truth, Ed? I’m dying to hear. Really, I’m curious. What have you learned? What is the truth behind the publishing industry? Do you not recognize the cartoonishness of your own characterizations? Do you not recognize this debased, grasping mockery you call satire for what it is? Describing a building–really, that’s your beef with my article? You think everything’s just fine in publishing? You know, I actually thought parts of your initial post were funny, but these persistent rants are just so far beyond ridiculous. You are inventing enemies left and right. Get out of your fucking head.

  9. You still haven’t answered my questions, Boris. Evading the issue may work in a dumbed down presidential debate or an office setting. But it doesn’t work in a logical discussion.

  10. I think Boris hits at something about your satire Ed, it being directed at a person rather than an idea. By attacking the person rather than the idea your weapons are firing on the wrong target, which makes your attack seem pointless and reckless.(and frankly bush league)

  11. Have been busy with real work. No, Boris, I presented a number of observations that you sidestepped in lieu of these unmagnificent seven queries. Again, address what I have presented. You clearly could not in your piece, which I understand you spent several months on.

    Chris: You’re the most reasonable person here in the thread. The problem is that some readers often confuse an attack on an idea with an attack on the person who came up with the idea. And I would rather not constantly offer warm milk and cookies to those who have failed miserably, when they really need to, in the words of Beckett, fail better. Then again, if we’re going to pat Bush on the back for eight years of incompetence, I suppose we should likewise do the same for Boris.

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