Tuesday, November 09, 2004

In Defense of Anonymity *#*

*#*With apologies to David Foster Wallace (or, indeed, to anyone especially weary of DFW) for the use, below, of footnotes...

Recently Boston Globe correspondent Jessica Brilliant Keener posted a comment here which began:
Could we talk about the intensity with which everyone is protecting his or her editorial identities? Could editors (anonymously, if necessary) discuss why they feel compelled to remain anonymous? I don't mean to be strident or naive but the publishing world is beginning to sound like an incest anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous group. Is there some kind of dependency/co-dependency factor going on here? And what's the root of this?
Dear Jessica,

I admit I'm a little surprised by this: has the anonymous source, the insider who'll tell what she really knows about the view from inside, only under the circumstance that her identity not be made public--has this not been a staple of the journalistic enterprise since, say, the days of Watergate? Not to suggest, even remotely, that protecting the identity of an editor who said "ads don't sell books" is anything other than a theoretical parallel to protecting the identity of the joker who said "follow the money"; on the other hand, if anonymity makes it feasible for you to have access to information you might not otherwise have--and, apparently, desire--is it really fair, in fact, to describe the presentation of said information as evidence of some sort of inbred insider co-dependency? any more, say, than you would your own journalistic endeavors?

I insisted that the editors' remarks be published anonymously, just as I've insisted/promised that the information provided by all WRITERS who respond (to a different survey posted herein) will ALSO be presented anonymously. Any editor who puts her name on the web immediately becomes subjected to [yes, the negative connotation of that phrase is intentional, as anyone in publishing will understand] scores of unsolicited submissions (a cruel reward for her generosity) and, quite possibly, a reprimand from her employer. Likewise, why would a writer share the intimate details of his own publishing experience, especially if that experience were to reflect poorly on his future prospects, as it might if his name & particulars were made public?

I'm in complete agreement with your other points; indeed, one might say that your remark about how "the more straightforward everyone is about the business, the healthier and more successful everyone--editors and writers--will be" (etc) represents the principles on which this blog is based.* But I flinch, just a little, at the suggestion that the rules that apply to your profession should not also extend to mine.**

*One might describe these as "founding principles," except then one would be lying. In truth this can only be said to be the case in hindsight, since I hadn't more than a passing notion of what the hell I was getting himself into when I launched this paper boat...

**Here, too, I stretch the truth for dramatic effect: yours (presumably) is in fact a profession; this can only--generously--be described as my "hobby." I'd reinforce that notion with the insertion of a benign smiley-face here if I could--but this would exceed my technological capability.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mad--you're absolutely right to post anonymously. The flood of submissions and queries you'd receive from the hungry horder of writers out there would be crushing. You don't have to pull punches, either, and I appreciate that. Thanks for your insights.
Ray Rhamey, Flogging the Quill

A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]

"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."

PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]

"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."

PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]

"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."