In the magical, mystery book world, this week feels like a tsunami of change, and frankly, not for the better for either authors or readers.
For starters, we lost two great writers and observers of the human spirit, John Updike and James Brady. Though different in style and substance, both took great joy in being the outsider looking in, and never failed to enlighten or entertain. But their greatest common bond was that they were prolific in a multitude of venues- fiction, poetry, gossip, memoir, articles, essays, criticism, magazine columns, short stories, reporting… true word warriors who given a pen and paper could tell you something you didn’t know in a way you would never forget. Those of us who toil as authors pray that they left their muses behind.
Here is what else happened (and it’s not even Friday):
- Sara Nelson, the warrior, editor- in- chief of Publisher’s Weekly got shown the door (don’t take it personally Sara, they said. It’s not ’cause you’re not a great editor, it’s because ad sales are in the toilet and we needed a scapegoat). I liked Sara and hope she finds a new home asap, just not in the print world where magazines are beginning to resemble newsletters and newsletters are now on-line.
- My own publisher, HarperCollins, presented to US employees a voluntary retirement package for those over age 55 (and from the looks of it, the offer has been extended to us authors as well). Fortunately, the employees overseas and specifically Zondervan are ineligible. Is that because no one knows where it is?
- The Washington Post’s Sunday book review insert, Book World, was announced D.O.A. in two weeks, making the New York Times Book Review feel like the cheese stands alone ( it will be one of the last remaining stand alone sections in a major newspaper that is devoted to books). Not to worry. The Post swears it is as devoted to book coverage as ever, it’s just going to be a tad harder to find the reviews.
- Speaking of the New York Times, with the economy also D.O.A., they decided to add salt to the wound to the already fatigued publishing world by devoting a front page story to the new trend- pay to play, aka “print on demand.” Anyone can be an author now. Just write something. Anything. Then pay $99 to IUniverse to publish the first edition (and call before midnight to get your free Ginsu knives) and you can take orders for your books, even have the title listed on Amazon, just like John Grisham.
- And speaking of John Grisham, his latest blockbuster novel, The Associate, was released this week, hopefully in time to fend off the hungry creditors at Borders and Barnes & Noble, the book chains that are investing more heavily in greeting cards and board games than they are in books.
- Finally, this week, as if writers didn’t have enough stress, their one remaining oasis, Starbucks, announced they are cutting more than 7,000 jobs and closing 300 stores. Do you know what this means when Starbucks’ odds of survival as are as dark as their Himalayan espresso? It means that soon there could be less than two on any block and for a quick fix, we will have to stick a little pod in our Keurigs and pretend it’s the same.
Not saying that any of this has anything to do with why John and James took a permanent leave of absence this week, but boy, just when we need inspiration most, we have two less voices to share their wit and wisdom. RIP my dear men…. and don’t forget to write.