Pub Rants

Getting It Right

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Every once in a while, the world of publishing gets it just right and a gem of book renews my faith in the whole industry.

In fact, I think we should all quit talking about the schmuck Frey and start talking about an author who deserves all kinds of great conversations—Marilynne Robinson.

Now this is a writer worth talking about and her novel GILEAD is, in a word, exquisite.

Too bad Ms O didn’t choose her book to re-launch her book club because it truly deserves a million little copies sold.

It’s easy to lament about the state of publishing—I’ve been guilty of it myself. That it’s really hard for a new literary voice to break out, that editors are gut-less and only want the next what I call “pop literary” or in more specific publishing terms “upmarket commercial literary” like Sue Monk Kidd or Khalid Hosseini.

In fact, I have two gorgeous and well-shopped literary novels sitting on my shelves right now. Lots of compliments but no offers to buy.

It’s easy to get jaded.

And then I read a book like GILEAD and I’m instantly re-affirmed that yes, we are getting it right.

Such a treasure of buried truths regarding our internal lives. When something strikes me while reading, I tend to earmark the page. I had so many post-it notes throughout this book; I finally had to give it up.

Economical too. It is 246 pages and feels far weightier than that number would imply.

This is a work I predict that people will be reading 50 or 100 years from now as they do Hurston or Hemingway now.

Whereas Mr. Frey and so many others will be long forgotten.

19 Responses

  1. Martha O'Connor said:

    I adored Gilead. It’s an unbelievable book. After I read it, I wrote to a friend about it and quoted him some passages, and he told me his sermon that week quoted from Gilead (he’s a preacher). Amazing piece of work on so many levels.

  2. Duke_of_Earle said:

    Thanks for fighting the “jaded agent” stereotype. Your candor is refreshing. Can’t believe you have (find) the time to post on your own blog… Say, it’s not ghosted, is it? (Now THAT’s jaded.)


  3. Anonymous said:

    Cynthia writes:

    Good writing always wins out. James Frey will be a footnote in history (a small one about the size of a grease-spot, hopefully), but honest, truthful work will BE history.

    Thanks for sharing. And thanks for finding a way to re-charge the batteries. It must be extraordinarily difficult to tackle the publishing industry day after day, as hyper-focused on the bottom-line as it is. We writers just have to worry about getting OUR books sold. You have to worry about ALL of your clients’ books …

  4. Teri said:

    Just discovered your site via Miss Snark. I feel as if I’m late to a great party – where the conversation is great, the guests are intelligent and interesting, and the food doesn’t matter. Thankfully, I don’t have a curfew…

  5. Anonymous said:

    I too have drifted over from Miss Snark’s blog — now I’ve bookmarked yours as well.

    I’ve added Gilead to my ‘to be read’ list as well.

  6. Jessica said:

    Hiya, another one here via Miss Snark.

    James Frey looked so much like a kicked puppy on Oprah that I wanted to take him home, brush his fur, and give him some warm dog food.

    His piddling corner would be lined with pages from AMLP.

  7. Lisa Hunter said:

    I know literary agents like to see something original, but, alas, my story is the same as several others here: I found you via Madama Snark. Great blog. I look forward to being a regular reader.

  8. Cars10s said:

    Gosh, there’s a mad rush from Snark to this site! So glad to find it–I didn’t know you were blogging.

    James who? I keep a booklist each year and read between 60-80 books per year, just because I hate channel surfing and love a good story. Gilead was my favorite for last year–

    Rosemary Carstens

  9. E. Ann Bardawill said:

    Drifted over from Snarkville.

    Always grateful to hear a good book recommendation. I will check Gilead out.

    I recommend Atwood’s ‘The Blind Assassin’.

    Her descriptive prose is dead on.

  10. Delan said:

    Ms. Robinson’s Housekeeping is another classic, and I highly recommend it. Speaking of Oprah, the December 2005 edition of her magazine contained an essay by Robinson which was so beautifully written and meaningful that I went out and bought more copies of the magazine to give to family members.

    I started reading Gilead last year while I was at an RWA conference. It was interesting to read something so objectively good, by a woman who is very down-to-earth, while surrounded by people who puff themselves up over books that’ll probably be forgotten by next year.