House of Langham Curses House of Random

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The Langham Charitable Trust took offense at Random House's decision to scrap Sherry Jones' The Jewel of Medina, and as a result has forbidden Random House authors from entering the trust's literary competition:

"[U]ntil The Jewel of Medina is actually published, [we] will not consider submissions of any books, for any of our prizes, from Random House or any of its affiliates."…

So that's the $1,000 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction and the $1,000 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History or Biography off the table for Random-affiliated authors until 2009 at the earliest—bad news for, at the very least, David Ebershoff (The 19th Wife), David Liss (the forthcoming The Whiskey Rebels), and Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore (the also-forthcoming Blindspot), all of whom would appear, based on an admittedly incomplete reading, to have otherwise had as strong a chance of winning the fiction prize as Random House author/editor Kurt Andersen, who won last year's award for Heyday.

Also from GalleyCat, a thorough dismissal of claims that Random House "censored" Jones:

The difference between true censorship and Random House's decision to place a higher value on the safety of its proven corporate assets than on a commercially unproven work of artistic expression is, simply, the difference between "you can't do that" and "I don't want any part of that." Random House did not join forces with Islamic leaders to explicitly condemn the book, nor is it sitting on the manuscript to prevent readers from ever seeing it; they have given the rights back to Jones, who is even now working with her agent to secure another American publisher for the novel and its sequel.

While I agree that baseless accusations of censorship devalue the term, I stand by my argument that Random acted like a bunch of n00bz when they decided to genuflect to the shadow of radicalism.

Let us hope, for the sake of all those Random House writers—many of whom without the Langham prize will be reduced to attention-starved artists—and in honor of America's love of heaving bosoms and historical fiction, that an American publisher picks up Jones' book sooner rather than later.

Michael C. Moynihan on The Jewel of Medina here.

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  1. The *Jewel* of Medina? My bad, I thought it said *Jew* of Medina. I’ll have to call off my death threats. Boy, is my face red beneath my thick bushy beard!

  2. Holy obscure satire!

  3. The Jewel of Medina? Is that a historical novel about that great Arab leader, Muhammed Onestone? Just asking. 😉

  4. I guess I chose the wrong day to not do a Sarah Palin piece!

  5. I’m going to assume this is an open thread, and I’ll start by pointing out that a hot and sexy babe wants your opinion.

  6. I would kind of like to click that link Lonewacko posted, but I just can’t bring myself to.

  7. I guess I chose the wrong day to not do a Sarah Palin piece!

    Aw hell, Mike – I apologize for not taking the subject and your post more seriously. I’m sure it’s not very rewarding to expend the effort to write something and then have a bunch of wiseacres use it as a launchpad for jokes. But this is Hit and Run – seems to come with the territory.

    I assure you I went and read your previous post that you linked to and also, the one by Moynihan. Yes, I think it’s despicable that some small group of control-freak religious radicals can exert this kind of influence power in a free and relatively civilized society. And I, too, think that Random House publishers are a bunch of gutless wonders. They aren’t the first corporation to kowtow to some small segment of the population over some perceived outrage or insult. But to do so over some novel and at the threat of actual violence – well they are just asking for more of this sort of thing. And that jackass, Spellberg, at the UT ought to be fired for using her literary connections this way. Of course, she probably has tenure, so that’s out of the question, I guess. Pity.

  8. I stand by my argument that Random acted like a bunch of n00bz when it decided to genuflect to the shadow of radicalism

    They acted like pussies, not n00bz. However, that is their right and they did not engage in censorship of any kind as they are not a governmental organization. I’m glad someone is hammering them over it, because they deserve it, but it’s merely a side effect of the violence inherent in radical religion, Islam especially.

  9. This book sounds like it sucks, even outside of all religious content.

  10. Personally, I dont see what the big deal is. Sounds to me like a pretty sound decision.

    Whistler
    http://www.anoweb.alturl.com

  11. However, that is their right and they did not engage in censorship of any kind as they are not a governmental organization.

    Quibbles:
    1. I would say they did “engage in censorship,” although they were not the censors. Aiding and abetting.

    2. They don’t have to be government to engage in censorship. Action that would keep the book from being published or sold would be censorship. The example cited, for instance, would be if they held on to the publication rights but refused to publish.

    Another example would be holding a literary contest but excluding authors from a particular publishing house. Langham Charitable Trust needs to snif its own armpits on this one.

    3. And yes, LCT and RH are private organizations and can make whatever rules they want and their actions shouldn’t be illegal, yadda yadda. But an action doesn’t have to be against the law to be censorship.

  12. the $1,000 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction and the $1,000 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History

    Never heard of either of them, but if a thousand bucks (before taxes) is going to make or break a writer, maybe he should throw in the towel and take up waiting tables like the millions of “actors” out there similarly thwarted by the realities of a cruel, uncaring world.

  13. I hope Jones lands a sweet deal and pwns some of the Random House nubz~~~

  14. I didn’t used to be a conspiracy theorist. Then I realized that all of those controversial “censored” books are books no one in their right mind would read if not for the controversy.

  15. I say boycott Random House and their authors. They are all too wussy for me.

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