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Karp on Publishing Noriega

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Well, actually this article is about much more than that. But in “Turning the Page on the Disposable Book,” Jonathan Karp discusses publishing Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

In a paragraph that amounts to both full-disclosure and also public confession, Karp acknowledges participating in some less than literary publishing efforts. “I too have sinned,” Karp writes. “In weaker moments, I’ve been seduced by tales of celebrity, money, gossip and scandal. Among my crimes: I volunteered to edit a White House memoir by a self-serving egomaniac because I wanted to learn about presidential politics. (Hint: The author’s name was Dick Morris.) I worked on a book by Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega because we thought he might be able to provide an illuminating perspective on how the United States wields power in Latin America. And, in an effort to bolster the company’s bottom line, I acquired and edited an inspirational autobiography by the pop singer Clay Aiken, written and published in about four months. (For the record, Noriega was a lot more pleasant to deal with than Aiken.)”

This article contains a number of well-argued points. But the part I most appreciate is the acknowledgement of questionable choices and the marketplace pressures in the paragraph above. I may be in the minority here, but I much rather appreciate honesty than delusion.

I don’t expect presidential candidates to be “down home” or “everyday” folks so I get irritated when heavily planned and staged press junkets show them with their sleeves rolled up, eating hot dogs and drinking beer.

I realize that college athletics is big business so I can’t stand when coaches talk about “student athletes” while maintaining a zero percent graduation rate like Bob Huggins did at the University of Cincinnati.

And I do realize that publishing is a business and that publishing companies must make a profit if they are to pay salaries and keep the lights on. So for me, Karp’s candor is a refreshing break from the “it’s all about great books” and “I won’t represent a book unless I absolutely, totally adore it and believe in it” comments that we typically hear.