paper trail

The Return of Michel Houellebecq

Jill Abramson

In her new book, Merchants of Truth, former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson writes that the paper drafted a letter to the Chinese government “all but apologizing” for a story that exposed corruption in the country. The article, by David Barboza and Sharon LaFraniere, went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. Abramson says she confronted the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, who agreed to change the letter. But Abramson claims that the letter, even in its amended form, was “still objectionable” for its apologetic tone. The confrontation “strained” Abramson’s relationship with Sulzberger, the former editor writes. She was fired two years later. 

Being a book writer has never been lucrative, but a new report by the National Authors’ Guild says that the profession “may not even be a livable one anymore.”

The Guardian reports on the publication of Michel Houellebecq’s new novel, Serotonin, which was released on Friday. The book had a first printing of 320,000 copies—huge in France—and the sixty-two-year-old author received the Légion d’honneur, “France’s highest national honour,” from President Emmanuel Macron. The novel is about “a lovesick agricultural engineer who writes trade reports for the French agriculture ministry and loathes the EU, and offers diatribes against politicians who “do not fight for the interests of their people but are ready to die to defend free trade.”

Forbes looks at one hundred of the best-selling books of 2018 and uses them to offer insights into current publishing trends, such as: “Fiction bestsellers are mostly crime thrillers,” and “Sci-Fi, fantasy, and romance aren’t popular genres for print anymore.”

In other trend-spotting news, Publishers’ Weekly lists the biggest news stories of 2018, including “Barnes and Noble stumbles,” “Sexual Harassment Stays in the Headlines,” and “The Agenting Profession Takes a Hit.”

Michelle Obama’s Becoming was the best-selling title of 2018.