A surge of gratitude welled up inside me this morning when I read a certain letter to the editor in The New York Times Book Review. A little background first: When I was a publisher, part of the operation was, of course, to get publicity for the books we were publishing. Sometimes it felt right to try writing a letter to an editor about an aspect of a recent news item that could be applied to one of our books. Naturally, this was often identified immediately as a publicity attempt and the letter died its own silent death (even if I did feel strongly about the point made by the letter).
One more piece of background: This summer I gave a grandson the book Damned by Chuck Palahniuk. It had been recommended to me by a writer I think highly of. I admit I haven’t read it yet, but it sounded perfect for grandson J. Imagine my dismay when I read a NYT review a week ago that referred to author Palahniuk as “another one-hit wonder”—and the reviewer wasn’t referring to Damned. Uh-oh, I thought. Did I give J. a bad book?
So, imagine my surprise and glee this morning to read a letter to the editor written by Gerald Howard, the executive editor of Doubleday. If, like me, you don’t read ahead to see who’s name is being attached to an L-to-the-E before starting to read it, it was a joyful discovery by the time I did take a peek. Here’s how Mr. Howard started his letter to the editor: “I always tell my authors, Don’t bother writing to The New York Times Book Review; it’s a mug’s game, no good will come of it. And yet here I am, ignoring my own sage advice.”
The letter goes on to defend Palahniuk (and another writer similarly dissed). The NYT Book Review’s decision to publish the letter has lifted me out of cynicism this morning in a lovely way. You can read the full letter by clicking here.
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