Book Promotions and War

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/Beth Wareham

I have nothing against The New York Times. I have nothing against the former New York Times reporter Judy Miller either, except both helped drive the United States into the stupidest war we have ever known. (Not that any have been that great, save the Hitler one.)

During that glorious period of American history known as “Shock and Awe,” Judy Miller wrote a book called “Germs,” pinning the recent mailings of ricin to Middle Eastern terrorists. The book’s editor was the famous Alice Mayhew at Simon and Schuster. There was little to question in the bonafides of these two women.

The New York Times and Simon & Schuster did their work as good capitalists and sold the HELL out of that book. Internal Times emails promoted the book to staffers and announced Judy’s latest television appearances. In retrospect, the two companies were working together in a symphony of misinformation worthy of Goebbels.

This was a kind of a “shock and awe” publishing and there was only one problem: the entire ricin premise was false. The New York Times embraced Judy Miller’s assumptions about the poison and helped pave the way to that sad moment when Colin Powell faced the U.N. What a shit show it was.

Later, The New York Times would excoriate Judy in print, turning their back on her the day she was released from prison for not revealing her sources. The New York Times had given Judy full reign and support to promote her germ theory: Now Maureen Dowd was allowed to guillotine her in a column unlike any ever seen in the paper’s history.

Now, Judy has joined forces with the formidable Alice Mayhew again. Judy wants “corrections” to the “narrative.” I say the only thing anyone should be looking for here is redemption, redemption for the piles of dead that litter the Middle East.

Come on, journalism, stop failing us. Stop your narcissism and do what is best for your country. You are also in a kind of sacred service and from where I sit, Judy and The New York Times broke their vows.

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WRITING CHAOS, WRITING CALM

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/Beth Wareham

A week ago, the block around the corner blew up. The blast was huge, rattled the dishes and sent everyone in the neighborhood running out front of their houses. We looked up for the planes but this was no 9/11 redo: Skies were blue and clear. We saw absolutely nothing and more importantly, heard nothing. Later, when I was told two young men were missing, I knew that silence was the sound of the dead.

Then the fire started and the neighborhood roared. At least 50 sirens moved towards 2nd Avenue, sounds growing louder and louder as ladder trucks came in from other parts of the city. People were burned and appeared to be dying. Two young men would not be found for many days. One was on a date, the other was a busboy. Neither were over 25.

Writing about a bomb blast is certainly easier than writing about that moment of silence that comes after great tragedy, that moment when the world makes no sound except to say: Look at this horrible horrible thing. Look what has happened. I always hear a cosmic disgust in that silence, God’s profound impatience that we don’t take more care of one another. After all, these boys died over a small hole in a gas line.

How to write that silence? I struggle. I once saw many bodies taken from the water and that same otherworldly quiet soaked everything. I heard the disgust in the air there too. The why. The how. The lack of care that led to this place and this moment and this scene. I could describe the victims, the noise of the boat going over, but the silence eluded me on the page then as well.

I’ve finally realized that silence is too big for me. I cannot capture the silence of the dead any more than I can know the mind of God.

But I tell you what, I am going to keep trying. That’s who writers are: People trying to understand that silence and put words to the meaning we know is there.

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Brian Williams Commuting in His Mind

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/Beth Wareham

In 1991, Esquire reporter released a book that the Last King of the Good Time, Hunter S Thompson, said, well, “Dispatches’ puts the rest of us in the shade.”

Raw and relentless, Michael Herr captures the sheer intensity of Vietnam’s battles, the violent obscenities of soldiers, the nightmares, chaos and insanity.

Crazy isn’t just squirming over those in the fight and Herr’s recounting of his conversations with other journalists were often as haunting as any conversation he had with soldiers.

One exchange sticks in my mind after all these years. (The book was published in 1991 and Michael would go on to write the script of ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ source of the unforgettable and useful ‘Me So Horny”.)

Michael is talking to The New York Times bureau chief who expresses a fear that he will “file on his nightmares.”

I will never forget that line as it told me something I needed to know about extreme stress and reality.

When experiencing one, be careful of the other.

Perhaps, then, Mr Williams “filed his nightmare’ and a terrible lie was born. But rather than jeer, there is so much to be studied and learned here.

I just don’t want him reporting news. I want to know why it happened.

Here is some more amazing war journalism if you are so in the mood…simply click on the title

DISPATCHES by MICHAEL HERR
(see above)

A BRIGHT SHINING LIE by NEIL SHEEHAN
Sheehan, a UPI reporter and later with The New York Times, spent years with Colonel John Paul Vann, a gung-ho military leader committed to spreading American fables across the world. Vann was at the beginning of America’s involvement in Vietnam and Sheehan tells how it all came to war.

THE FOREVER WAR by DEXTER FILKINs
The image that remains is Filkins sliding through a spinal chord on his way into Manhattan on 9/11. This is the best book, so far, of the endless quagmire that is the Middle East.

Cultural Wars: Hackers Harsher Critics Than Religious Zealots

/Beth Wareham

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North Korea just plunged everyone everywhere into the Theater of the Absurd with their hack attack. Heavily tanned and exfoliated executives at Sony showed how willing they were to stand up for their artists. The answer was NOT AT ALL. I mean, really, didn’t you laugh at Pineapple Express?

Let’s pop over and see some cultural terrorism in the literary department. Oh look! It’s Salman Rushdie.

Mr. Fatwah himself was surrounded by executives and artists that laid their heads on the executioner’s block before they’d let Islamic fundamentalists have Salman Rushdie. His publishing company was routinely evacuated from bomb threats, so were booksellers. Stephen King made the call to Barnes & Noble saying that if they didn’t sell Salman, they could not sell him.

No one cared that the novels of Rushdie are virtually unreadable. I’d call them crap and to his face. His children’s books are great, but that’s not the point. The point is no one cut him loose. The “literary” community fought like honey badgers for his right to publish.

Now let’s pop back to Hollywood. “The Interview” is probably BARELY watchable and pretty hilarious if you watch it stoned. It is a cultural fart. The fact that North Korea chose it to go after is even more hilarious. But the one thing that needed to happen in all this: Sony executives had a moment to make a stand for every artist, for everyone trying to achieve something creative in this world, and creativity is the only way this world might have a chance of lasting.

Sony was given a rare moment to be a hero, a defender everything American.

Unfortunately for them and for us, hero was not something Sony could be.

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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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GUNS DON’T KILL: PEOPLE WHO DON’T READ DO

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At the Florida State University Library this week, another dumb ass shot a book. Is that what all this rage is? BOOKS? Symbolically, yes.

We are at a “use your words” moment. As we look at all the pretty pictures and cat videos, our need for sharp pointed words honed by the reading of masters has never been greater. The psychological need to express yourself and be understood is a longing so deep, it cannot be separated from anything else inside of you or me. Only our words can save us.

Books were the part of a community that raised millions of Americans, all readers. Our parents were not perfect but I remember building a jerry-rigged faith via Black Elk Speaks and Seven Story Mountain. I learned about the glory of failure from Saul Bellow. I wanted to see the world because of West with the Night and In Patagonia.

The book that took the hit earlier in the week was a religious work, fine thinking from Medieval Europe. The book above that took the hit is the King James Bible. Bullets and God are the worst kind of stupid.

I’m glad the books were there to save their keepers. I hope the keepers honored their saviors by reading them and using the words inside: Those words are just so very beautiful.

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The New York Times Will Never Cover Publishing without their Dreams of Bestsellers

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/public-editor/publishing-battle-should-be-covered-not-joined.html?_r=1

The New York Times is simply not the place to look for publishing insights. First, everyone that writes for the paper has a dream that looks like the one above. That’s right, that old white guy is receiving his Nobel Prize. Folks at the Times also get riled up over such words as Pulitzer, National Book Critics Association, huge advance, Andrew Wiley, multiple book deal and of course, lunch with my agent.

The New York Times is also full of reporter/writers who do not necessarily make a huge amount of money. Their platform – The New York Times – gave many a chance to add  $50,000, $100,000, $500,000 – to their annual income, if they could sell a book proposal to a large publishing company. Many could. Publishers scooped them up like chocolate almond ice cream: They bought houses and sent kids to college on publishing advances.

Alternatively, The New York Times was hugely disrupted by the digital revolution. The New York Times has done a magnificent job of wrapping their heads around what must be done. But that doesn’t mean their hearts are there yet.

So, get your publishing information from somewhere else for awhile. Or, better yet, go write a great book while the whole thing blows over.

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FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY STUDENT SAVED BY BOOK: “THE OXFORD CONTEXT OF WYCLIF’S THOUGHT”

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http://nbcnews.to/1F7xu30

Can books save your life? Seems for Jason Derfuss, the answer is yes. Caught in the crossfire at Florida State University’s shooting, his copy of “The Oxford Context of Wyclif’s Thought” took the shot. Literally. The other two books in his bag slowed it down.

Because this said Mr. Wyclif, author of the book that stopped the shot, was a writer on religion, Mr Derfuss believes that God intervened, not the books.

Perhaps Mr. Derfuss is mistaken: God lives in books and just stepped forward as required.

Remember, it’s all just Point of View.

DON’T LOOK FOR PUBLISHING REPORTING IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

Book publishing, the world’s slowest, strangest business has gotten a lot stranger with the injection of crime. Crime, you say? Yup, crime. That’s what price fixing is – white collar crime. Just because no one goes to jail didn’t mean it didn’t happen. Just look at your 401K from 2008 to say 2012. You was robbed.

Five publishing executives got together at a semi-okay but overpriced restaurant across the street from Lincoln Center (or so urban legends goes) and set prices for this new fangled thing called “ebooks.” These “ebooks” – despite the fact they required no physical manufacturing – should be priced at the exact same level as a physical book. This would keep the publishing income stable and their jobs more secure and rewarding. The only problem? Anti-American. Illegal. Anti-captialistic. Stupid. Wrong.

The Feds caught ’em. The New York Times did not report it. As Federal Judge Denise Cote sifted through the case, she came to the conclusion that publishing executives were telling lies on her stand. WHOPPERS. The New York Times did not report on it. The New York Times never ONCE reported on the devastating effects of price-fixing on the publishing industry.

Most New York Times reporters have day dreams of sugar-plums and book deals dancing in their heads. Don’t look to a NY Times writer to diss a publisher: It’s probably THEIR publisher. All New York Times writers active in books have a large corporate publisher behind them.

Don’t be fooled. The New York Times reporter want the truth only to a point: What he or she really wants is a book deal. Six-figures, please.

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GIRLS AND GUNS: Not Always Sexy

Old people and guns do not mix. How do I know? Well first, just look at this picture. Her upper arm fat will begin wiggling to the reverb on that weapon and destroy her bones, if not her helmut hair. Second, I think I saw my Grandma trying to shoot a crow and when I took the crow’s side, that was it for me. Her punishment was always the same: she’d catch you unawares and sit on you. 280 lbs, at least. I do not like what guns do to old people. Grandmas in particular.

A woman, a mother, a woman old enough to be a Grandmother, gave a mentally ill young man guns that were used to kill 20 5-year-old children in Sandy Hook. Her too, but there is a symmetry in that. In the most repressed or suppressed of minds, she simply could not have believed giving him guns was the right thing to do. It just feels impossible.

I do not believe that any citizen of the United States should have an auto or semi-authomnatic gun unless they have been trained within an inch of his or her life. That training should focus – as all gun training focuses – on how not to shoot somebody. Cops, military, etc. excluded.

I still witness the needs of guns in rural America: Two shotgun blasts sent bears running from a neighborhood where kids were out playing. Little different use than Granny is thinking about in the picture.

Shotguns, hunting rifles, six-shooters….Hey, the ammo belt is soooo sexy slung low over the jeans….are all fine by me.

Because really, Grandma, if you need as many rounds as that gun you are clutching holds, you are a lousy shot.