Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Literature's invisible arbiters

We never get to read them, but reader's reports for publishers can make or break books - particularly so for translations. Esther Allen 'fesses up about her shadowy trade

From The Guardian:

A silent trade ... Photograph: Graham Turner

The reader's report is the most silent of literary genres, its existence publicly acknowledged only in attacks or parodies.
In Umberto Eco's Misreadings, spectacularly obtuse flunkies advise publishers to reject the Divine Comedy and The Trial. ("Why is the protagonist on trial?" the report queries in exasperation, adding that if this and other issues could be clarified, the novel might eventually become publishable.)
Few if any real reader's reports are ever published; they're written for an extremely limited audience: the editors and publishers who will decide whether to bring out the book in question. Hence the hostility the reader's report inevitably generates.
The lowly minion who authors it can do something no after-the-fact reviewer, however powerful and unkind, can accomplish: stop the book from being published in the first place.

No comments: