Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Book Marks: Being Opinionated, Fifty Shades Banned

John Scalzi thinks "you won't sell books if you have an opinion a reader doesn't like" is "terrible advice".

It’s terrible advice in part because it's simply not true — there are best selling writers in every genre who express opinions that outrage and annoy whole packs of people, and have since before they were best sellers, and yet they sell books nonetheless — and in part because it's reductive. It's an argument that posits that once a writer enters the stream of commerce, the most important thing about that writer's life is their ability to sell books. Everything else about that writers' life suddenly takes a back seat to that single commercial goal.

So what if a writer is or has written or said something that's "polarizing"? Big deal, Scalzi seems to suggest, and not just because he feels that writers are supposed to have something to say.

To write publicly is to be judged and to be criticized and to be polarizing. If one avoids speaking on public issues in social media only out fear of alienating readers, all one does is possibly delay such judgment. Judgment will happen for what you say and also what you don't say. Judgment will happen for what you write in your books and what people assume you meant when you wrote those words, regardless of your authorial intent. Judgment will happen based on who people think you are based on the fantasy version of you they have in their head, which is almost always more about their own fears and desires than anything that has to do with the actual person you are.

So you might as well say whatever the hell you like, if you like. If nothing else, then the fantasy versions of who you are might be closer to the person you actually are.


After much has been made about the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey - both the books and film - is now banned in Malaysia.

Note that it has been several years since the trilogy was released in the country, where dozens of households might have read or owned at least one volume. That's like closing the barn door after the horses have bolted, headed for the hills, grazed and sired three generations.


  • H is for Hawk: A Q&A at National Geographic with Helen Macdonald, who also sat down with Salon for a tête-à-tête.
  • The longlist for Bailey's (hic!) women's prize for fiction is out. It's a strong one, according to The Independent. The Bookseller has a bit more about the selection and notes that, among other things, half the books are published by Penguin Random House.
  • A conversation with author Hanya Yanagihara and her editor Gerry Howard about author-editor relationships.
  • Peter Hessler went on a book tour in China with his censor. It's just like you'd imagined it.
  • If I get to read Cat Out of Hell I won't review it; after Ron Charles's take on it, who could do better?
  • Jeffrey Archer accuses Bollywood of stealing his bestselling storylines ... which Bollywood tends to do on occasion.
  • Kazuo Ishiguro on memory, censorship and why Proust is overrated.
  • Bill Bryson's new book, The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island, is coming soon.
  • Mein Kampf to be reprinted in Germany for first time since World War II as an annotated historical document. Of course, not everybody's happy.


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