paper trail

Aaron Robertson on the People’s Townhall on the future of publishing; When will Obama’s next memoir come out?

Aaron Robertson

In an article titled “How the Trump Campaign Is Drawing Obama Out of Retirement,” New York Times reporters Glenn Thrush and Elaina Plott offer some insight into the current state of the former president’s next memoir. In a package deal, Random House bought the memoirs of Michelle and Barack Obama’s memoirs in 2016 for $56 million. Michelle’s Becoming arrived in 2018. The publication date for Obama’s book is not yet set. According to the article: “The book’s timing remains among the touchiest of topics. Mr. Obama, a deliberate writer prone to procrastination—and lengthy digression—insisted that there be no set deadline, according to several people familiar with the process.” In January, the former president circulated a draft “between 600 and 800 pages.” This was probably too late to prepare the memoir for publication before the November election. But Obama is “seriously considering splitting the project into two volumes, in the hope of getting some of it into print quickly after the election, perhaps in time for the Christmas season, several people close to the process said.”

Damian Barr, Marlon James, Helen Macdonald, Alexander Chee, Sarah Perry, and other writers are calling for the removal of Lady Emma Nicholson from her position as vice president at the Booker Foundation, which grants the Booker Prize, citing her homophobic and transphobic views.

Jennifer Senior looks at how Newt Gingrich laid the groundwork for Trump’s “napalm politics,” and makes good use of historian Julian Zelizer’s forthcoming book Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of a New Republican Party, which states: “Gingrich had planted; Trump had reaped.” As Senior notes: “Gingrich was the first true reality TV politician.”

At Literary Hub, Aaron Robertson reflects on the People’s Townhall meeting on publishing’s “radical future”: “if our companies do not currently have shared Google Docs open with early drafts of plans to engage elementary and high school students and people who do not live on one of two coasts; or to build partnerships with publishers that extend beyond the Big 5 to smaller, virtually unknown presses that champion writing by and for people of color; or to give concrete career advice and a rolodex of contacts to our interns; or to provide curious young writers with first-hand industry testimonials and research about hiring practices; or to ensure those on the highest rungs of leadership meet regularly with those on the lowest; or to assist with literacy programs around the country—what are we doing instead?”

One Signal, an imprint of Atria Books, has purchased journalist Kim Kelly’s Fight Like Hell for a reported six figures. The book is, according to the publisher, a “marginalized peoples’ history of labor in the United States, focusing on workers who have made crucial contributions to the labor movement but whose stories have often been overlooked.” One Signal adds that Fight Like Hell will be “a rallying cry to those who want to organize and build the better world we all deserve.”

Tomorrow at 7:30pm EST on Zoom, Julie Orringer will discuss The Flight Portfolio, her new historical novel about an effort to help writers and artists escape Nazi Germany, with writer Andrew Sean Greer, the author of Less.