domingo, 23 de noviembre de 2008

WHAT'S IN A NAME?



"...That which we call a rose,
by any other name would smell as sweet..."


When I was very young and naive, I used to think that the fact that it was always a well-known writer who won the most reputed prizes - Premio Planeta, for instance - was due to the fact that of ALL works submitted, his /her manuscript was undoubtedly the best.
One does not always turn wiser with age, but one does become less stupid.
Leaving aside the highly improbable coincidence that no aspiring author ever wins unless his/her characteristics point clearly to subsequent succulent sales, one wonders why they still bother with all this secrecy surrounding the submitting of manuscripts - the use of pseudonyms, etc

Independent.ie has a story onDavid Lassman: a writer in search of a publisher.
Mr.Lassman spent months sending his book to different publishing houses and received polite rejections time after time.
So far, nothing new. Many authors, even those who later became famous, had their manuscripts rejected several times before they got their lucky break. (I'm thinking of 100 Años de Soledad, by García Márquez, read and rejected by a publisher that is probably still regretting having missed out on a share of the spoils)
Frustrated, Mr. Lassman decided to test the literary criterion of publishing houses.
He retyped the opening chapters of three books by Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
In each case, he changed only the title, the names of the characters and obviously, the name of the author, calling himself Alison Laydee .
Need I continue?

Only one editor recognized the work and reacted in disbelief. None of the others
seem to have done so.
His work was rejected on the grounds of not suited...or as "material that is hard to place"
Penguin, that had recently republished Pride and Prejudice, did not even ask for the rest of the manuscript, did not recognize the text - or simply did not bother to read it.

Let's imagine this anecdote helps to embarrass a few publishers (Penguin!!!) and Mr. Lassman finally does get his book published. Not being one of the BIG names means his book will not make it to the top shelves - (unless publishers, in all unlikelihood, decide to use the story of his prank to promote it).

All this makes me even more thankful for small treasures like Firmin or (going back a lot further) By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept - that somehow managed to make their way through the volumes of crap that get published.

Always remember to look under those huge piles of books lined up in bookstores - there's bound to be a pearl hidden under the stacks.

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