Thursday, August 21, 2008

WHEN A BOOK DOES NOT GET PUBLISHED, ITS FALLING TREE CAN STILL CREATE AN ECHO IN THE FOREST

I obviously haven't read the novel The Jewel of Medina, by Sherry Jones. It was slated for publication right about now, but Random House withdrew it. Why? Well, you know, it's a novel, so they read it before signing the contract. Rumor is they shelled out a 100k advance, suggesting that they liked it and they thought it would sell. And somebody in their mighty offices edited it. And it (presumably) went to proof.

So here's why. Random House asked a UT professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Denise Spellberg, to write a blurb for their nice new novel. Instead (quoting the Wikipedia entry for Spellberg who now, congratulations!, has her own Wikipedia entry):
Spellberg became part of a burgeoning controversy when an email she sent to Random House regarding The Jewel of Medina, a to-be-published historical novel about Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, was leaked to the press. Spellberg reportedly informed Random House that publication would expose Random House employees to Islamic terrorism and that Muslims would react with the kind of violence seen in past controversies over the The Satanic Verses and the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. No actual threats were received by Random House.
Rushdie wrote an email to Random House calling them, basically, pussies. (Did you, by the way, read the last sentence in the block quote?) Then Spellberg tried to weasel out of her responsibility in an op-ed for the Washington Post, basically (brilliant argument!) reiterating what she already said in her email to RH and passing the buck to them.

On the one hand, it's nice to see that at least some folks still think that novels do matter. Wew!

On the other: yeah, right.

I've said it before, and countless others have said this as well, but here it goes again: If your religion, your world view, the moral and epistemological very basis of your mortal existence can be shaken by a mere work of art, that is, by mere words, ideas, gestures, sounds or shapes produced by a fellow human being, you should immediately revisit said religion, world view, and very basis.

And if anyone in a fancy suit, a stern cloak or a dashing bonnet proclaims you should not consume said work of art for the risk of losing your eternal soul and corrupting the moral and epistemological very basis of your mortal existence, you should tell them the same, that is: If your religion, your world view, the moral and epistemological very basis of your mortal existence can be shaken by a mere work of art, that is, by mere words, ideas, gestures, sounds or shapes produced by a fellow human being, you should immediately revisit said religion, world view, and very basis.

Additionally, you might ask them what exactly they are hiding in the pockets of that suit, whether a true heart beats inside that cloak, and if, indeed, a working brain lives underneath that bonnet.

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