It’s Not ISIS: It’s the Golden Age of Books

Uber-Agent Andrew Wylie sees amazon employees going to work.

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by Beth Wareham

When Andrew Wylie, literary agent to the stars, declared amazon an “ISIS-LIKE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM” at the Toronto Book Fair, it was the metaphorical gunshot that alerted the world that publishing had indeed gone around the bend, was no longer the sharpest knife in the drawer, or even had all its lightbulbs in the chandelier. And just months before, Mr. Wylie wanted amazon to be his buddy, selling all the ebooks that unfortunately, Random House owned. A judge – more and more an important person in publishing – said The Jackal couldn’t do that. He’s called “The Jackal” in the industry for just such moves. After the ISIS-LIKE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM comment, though, I call him The Loon.

This one man has so bullied the publishing elite it is laughable. Whole careers have been built and destroyed based on whether or not Andrew Wylie will sell you a book. But “The Jackal,” as he was known to those shy folk in sensible shoes, was always wily in the right way: he hired the best editors on Earth to work his clients books BEFORE he let a publishing company touch them. Smart man. He knows quality and he knows it sells. Watching arrogant publishers bend to his will was fine sport.

So, as I work with amazon, I dress more and more like ISIS. It just seems to happen. A headscarf to keep out dust as I post a blog. An ammo belt to wear as I upload a book on Kindle Direct Publishing.  Dirty boots to run to the photocopy shop.

What a stupid metaphor, Andrew. As if your life and your problems and your slow down of massive income had a thing to do with a terrible war on the other side of the world.

Come on, fancy commercial publishing, get your metaphors right. The world of books has blown open. The 60 (80?) million bucks you spent on lawyers and price-fixing is gone, pissed away on anything but the art of writing.  Hundreds of books did not get published: You built an empty library and to your surprise big publishing, the world went right on writing and reading.

We found a way.

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MARILYN MONROE READING

images-1                                      By Beth Wareham

(With thanks to feminist biographer Oline Ealon for the title.)

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I have a thing for Arthur Miller. Yup, “Attention must be paid!” Arthur Miller, Mr. Death of a Salesman himself. I can’t explain this crush; his glasses were too large. He was from Harlem, seemed like he knew gangsters, talked like a tough guy, WAS a tough guy and wrote great plays. His creative leap between Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee and the Salem Witch trials in The Crucible was breathtaking. His appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee more so.

His wife, Marilyn Monroe, was by his side as he testified. I never really did see what he saw in her. Not really. All pouty wet lips and whispers. Seemed to me that Arthur would like somebody who pushed back, somebody hyper-real.

Marilyn was all pink bubbles to me, impossible to visualize as the wife of a man like Miller, until, that is, I read about the 430 books catalogued in her library at her death. (Thanks, Booktryst.com)

Holy moly.

I’M IN LOVE WITH THE NERDY MARILYN MONROE.

The list is long and strange and exciting. Zola, Proust and Moliere lived with Harold Robbins (The Carpetbaggers, one of my favorites.) The poetry section was huge, as were books of prayer and spirituality. Goodness Has Nothing to Do with It by Mae West sat by Minister of Death: The Adolf Eichmann Story by Quentin Reynolds. She read many plays as well as the ancients: Lucretius, Plato, Aristotle. I list below the books that Marilyn owned and read that I owned and read and loved. And if you don’t love her for her taste in literature, you’ll love her for another title in her library: Pet Turtles by Julien Bronson.

That Marilyn, she had it all.

(Click on title to buy book.)

1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Lady Brett Ashley, love triangles, and the running of the bulls in between the great wars in Europe.

2. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
Four books, written between 1957 and 1960, exploring modern love in the ancient city of Alexandria, Egypt.

3. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
You know of this beautifully written book about the sad man with all the money: it’s America.

4. From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
There was good reason James Bond went to film. You’ll find out why here.

5. The Fall by Albert Camus
Jean Paul Sartre’s great frenemy leaves us guessing with The Fall, his most challenging, mysterious work. Camus was in the Resistance against the Nazis, Sartre was not. Rancor ruled.

6. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Here are the joys, secrets and strangeness of a small American town in the hands of a master.

7. The Little Engine That Could by Platt and Monk
Who couldn’t use a little “I think I can” everyday of their life. Her copy had a childlike MM scrawled on it and no doubt took the 36-year journey through life with her.

8. My Antonia by Willa Cather
Willa Cather’s cornflower blue eyes saw it all, including this story of one kind of love turning into another.

9. The Collected Short Stories of Dorothy Parker
From the woman who said, “what fresh hell is this?” Dorothy Parker’s sharp tongue and command of language never cease to amaze.

10. The New Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer*
A huge all-purpose cookbook, this is America at the supper table with Irma at the head, issuing orders in her no-nonsense voice. Marilyn used the 1952 edition, no doubt.

*This was long before I edited an edition of this book. Marilyn clipped recipes, wrote notes in the margins of cookbooks and cooked. I wish she’d marked her favorites.

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