In the English-speaking literary world today, a narrow set of acceptable ideological views, a culture of hive-minded conformity, and a commercially driven industry have created an environment in which mainstream publishers don’t print certain views, and censor and revise the ones they do put out. Authors who don’t bow to the woke paradigm lose work, are pressured into self-censoring, or don’t ever get their foot in the door, while publishing professionals are fired left and right for ideological nonconformity, not to mention the rise of the sensitivity reader, whose role is to enforce the party line. When I was fired from my former literary agency, my boss kept repeating, “the industry is very liberal” meaning that my criticism of gender ideology is not welcome anywhere in the industry.
While in the publishing world, I learned a lot about the narrow-mindedness of the editors and agents, and what they are interested in signing. On my first day as an intern at a literary agency in New York, I was instructed on the most important factor in deciding whether to sign a nonfiction writer: the size and reach of their platform—their celebrity—not the merit of their ideas or research. I was taught that religious content is an absolute no unless the book is published by a specifically religious imprint. While separation of church and state is fundamental to our democracy, surely literature is the place to explore both the good and the evil of religion, a central theme of many of the greatest works in the Western canon. It was clear that what we were looking for were books that publishing professionals consider palatable to the upscale conformist audience that devours podcasts and Twitter feeds and believe such delusions as “trans women are women”, among other newly-minted and bizarre beliefs.
Our era will go down as a dry and unimportant milieu in the history of the written word. Instead of publishing controversial and provocative books that would challenge and engage critically with mainstream beliefs, the publishing industry has become the backdrop for a continuous stream of instructive “scandals” wherein an author, agent, or editor is maligned or even dropped after being accused of heretical thought. In January, literary agent Colleen Oefelein was fired from the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency merely for the sin of having accounts on “right-wing” social media platforms Gab and Parler. Last year, Hachette canceled Woody Allen’s memoir after “listening to staff and others” object to the publication on the grounds of the allegations of sexual abuse against Allen. Prior to the cancellation, members of Hachette’s New York staff staged a walkout to protest the Allen memoir, which was then canceled (it seems safe to say that whatever one thinks of the accusations of sexual abuse against Allen, the decision to cancel his memoir only stems the likelihood of a Hachette book actually being of interest to posterity). Just last month, another scandal rocked the literary world when author Kate Clanchy was accused of racism and ableism for rather innocuous language used in her memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. Statements of contrition were released from the publisher, Picador, as well as the Orwell Foundation, which had awarded the book a prize for political writing in 2020. Clanchy herself tweeted that she welcomed the opportunity to revise her book and added “you are right to blame me.”
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor