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Reading and Weeping

       "If Stephen King, John Grisham, and Michael Crichton got together, they'd become one of the top three publishers overnight"
—Morgan Entrekin, quoted in The New Yorker

Tony Outhwaite's article pretty much says it all, a whole lot of it anyway, about the present state of American publishing. And he's not only right on the money, he's seriously funny, which is a pleasure for the reader and a problem for the writer who comes along afterwards and whose last best hope and bet is to play the slow-witted straight man.

Still, there are a few things to be said to complement Outhwaite. Over the past year or so the tactical and strategic battles in publishing have been extensively covered, if only in bits and pieces, by the New York Times, New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, the Nation, even Time and Newsweek, and, of course, the sassy and arrogantly irreverent New York Observer. Which is only to say the problem has been on some people's minds and agendas. Out of all this mostly self-conscious and often self-serving coverage have come (in my opinion) three important articles: Outhwaite's, without question; Ken Auletta's "The Publishing World: The Impossible...

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