paper trail

Katherine Morgan on selling antiracist books to performative “allies”; Remembering Dalkey Archive Press founder John O’Brien

Katherine D. Morgan. Photo: Cait Pearson

The founder of Dalkey Archive Press, John O’Brien, has died at the age of seventy-five. The press’s backlist will be kept in print by Deep Vellum Publishing. Dalkey, which was started in 1984, was committed to keeping important international and experimental literature available, and published more than one thousand works over the course of its history, including books by Flann O’Brien, Danilo Kiš, Ishmael Reed, David Markson, Anne Carson, and many more. John O’Brien won a lifetime achievement award from the NBCC in 2011, and was appointed a Chevalier in the order of Arts and Letters by the French minister of culture and communications in 2015.

ViacomCBS is selling Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for over $2 billion. The deal will establish the first megapublisher and dramatically alter an increasingly consolidated, “winner-take-all” publishing industry.

At Literary Hub, Katherine D. Morgan reflects on “countless hours helping irate customers cancel their orders of popular anti-racism books” during a summer of high demand for such books, and talks with booksellers about performative allyship. Danielle Mullen, owner of Chicago’s Semicolon Bookstore, told Morgan that white customers would “(literally cry about the work they wanted to do on themselves but were completely uninterested in buying titles that were NOT trending.”

Applications to the New York Times Student Journalism Institute are open through December 7.

At a town hall on Monday, employees at Penguin Random House Canada confronted management over the publisher’s choice to release a new book by “men’s rights” proponent and psychologist Jordan Peterson. “The company since June has been doing all these anti-racist and allyship things and them publishing Peterson’s book completely goes against this,” one employee said. “It just makes all of their previous efforts seem completely performative.” All staff who spoke to Vice “said if the book isn’t cancelled, they would like Penguin Random House Canada to consider donating the profits from the book to LGBTQ organizations.”