We are not in New York. Our gaunt hosts have sallow eyes, aquiline noses, and have muttered some nonsense in Gaelic. I heard one of the footmen mutter the words “kill humanity.” So far, they have only asked us for three pints of blood. The damp stone steps wind downward into a cool cave, with a small gust of stale air providing ventilation from a crenelated crack. We have been informed that various guests have been sacrificed over the past few centuries, but we have reason to believe that we will make our way back to New York in safety, and have tipped one of the gnomes with a slab of raw meat to ensure that we stay salubrious. Amazingly, there is wi-fi, proving indeed that you can get a wi-fi connection just about anywhere — even in the ninth circle of hell. So while we await our fates, we’ll still continue to keep you posted on what’s going on in culture.
Word on the street is that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will not be acquiring new books in the future. This has been described as a “temporary freeze,” and some agents are dubious. One literary agent referenced in the above linked Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s article has remarked that she has not seen a freeze before and that she doesn’t know how such a model can sustain itself if there isn’t new product. This is a very reasonable question to ask. Traditionally, publishers move at a glacial pace when it comes to shifting stock and making the necessary internal developments necessary to keep abreast in a fast-changing technological age. But should the “temporary freeze” continue beyond Q1 2009 — presumably, a period in which Houghton is expecting some profits that will keep the operation afloat without having to axe any employees — then one must ask how this publisher can remain even remotely current and competitive.
Holt Uncensored has thankfully returned in blog form, and Pat Holt has some very interesting ideas about online royalty accounts. Given the extraordinary rights that a publisher seizes from an author during the course of publication, it seems only equitable for the publisher to be transparent about how it is doling out its author royalties. Of course, most authors are especially keen to leave such inquisitive niceties about whether or not they are getting screwed to their agents. So I don’t think we’ll be seeing authors storming Midtown with pitchforks anytime soon. Agents, on the other hand…
Details on the new Pynchon novel. I’m wondering if any hard-core Pynchonites will be legally changing their surnames to “Sportello.” Someone should record the explanations to the judges for posterity, and perhaps a grad student might run with this further in a thesis project.
Dan Green quibbles with the “certain facts” about writers that are apparently “buried there.” Yes, novels have been known to express certain truths about the world around us. But who knew that Joseph Bottum read novels to psychoanalyze the author? Well, to take Bottum’s amazing skill set and apply it to the essay in question, here are “certain facts” about Mr. Bottum: (1) Mr. Bottum would really, really like to visit Buenos Aires, (2) Mr. Bottum has not yet heard of the Power Exchange sex club in San Francisco, but would likely become a regular if he were to pay good money on one daring night, (3) Mr. Bottum is arrogant, and in his arrogance wishes to declare anybody who is smarter than him “arrogant,” and (4) Mr. Bottum, during weak moments, barks at small children and tells them that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are dead and that they are mere fictive constructs fornicating and doped out in a ratty motel in Akron, Ohio. Now how do I know these “certain facts?” Well, because they are “buried there.” I need not cite any specific text to prove my point. This is prima facie, my friends. And should Mr. Bottum (a most suspicious name, don’t you think?) come to these pages to dispel them, then his denial will almost certainly reveal that the “certain facts” are truer than he ever intended! My keen literary analysis will no doubt hold up in a court of law. Now pardon me while I go hypnotize a rabbit.