One-Minute Book Reviews

March 5, 2009

Imprint Blight in American Book Publishing

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:16 pm
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The colophon of the respected Margaret K. McElderry imprint.

On this site I focus on the quality of the writing in books and generally avoid reporting on unrelated publishing news or gossip. But an article in today’s New York Times involves a trend that’s been on my mind for years: the proliferation of imprints at major publishing firms.

Many of the new imprints bear the names of their editors. And — to oversimplify a bit — they allow the editors to go out on a limb and buy books that reflect their tastes even if others at their firms dislike them. That freedom is in theory a good thing, because it allows editors to acquire worthy books that may be too narrow to appeal to staff members who might otherwise have to sign off on them. And some imprints have a longstanding reputation for high quality, such as the Margaret K. McElderry children’s imprint at Simon & Schuster.

But named imprints can also remove some of the checks-and-balances at publishing firms. And recently they have produced at least two books so tarnished by questions of credibility that they should never have been published in the form in which they reached stores: James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces (from Nan Talese Books at Doubleday) and Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone (from Sarah Crichton Books) at Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

I won’t belabor this point here, but if you’re interested in imprint blight in book publishing, I’ve put up a series of tweets about them on my Twitter feed. Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

Muriel Spark Satirizes Bad Writing in Her Poem ‘The Creative Writing Class’

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:56 am
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“Read this!” the critic emoted. “You’ll like it!” she opined. “And laugh!” she chortled.

Muriel Spark is better known for her novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie than for her light verse. But the 73 poems in All the Poems of Muriel Spark (New Directions, 2004) show how well she mastered this and other forms of poetry.

In “The Creative Writing Class,” Spark satirizes the pretentious overwriting often found in the work of bad novelists, amateur poets, and students in MFA programs. This 20-line dialogue poem begins: “’There is,’ he declared. / ‘Really?’ she grinned. / ‘Undoubtedly,’ he stated. / ‘Tomorrow,’ she burbled.” The poem goes on in the same vein, with an alternating male and female voice, through a last line that suggests the frustration of a teacher who has had enough: “‘Silence!’ she sneered.”

Each line in the poem ends with a word ending in “ed” (a variation on the device known as epistrophe, the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of a line). And “The Creative Writing Class” could be a great poem to read aloud in a writing class: Students with a flair for drama could raise this one to a much higher level of hilarity even than it has on the page.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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