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Everything wrong with publishing: Katie Raissian of Grove/Atlantic

Sunday 10/17/21

This is a postscript to the Raluca Albu business of the other day. It says volumes about publishing. I would like to know, Grove/Atlantic, how what is documented below is an okay way for one of your employees to conduct themselves? Then again, I know that Grove/Atlantic does not care. Most people in this business are this way. And because they are this way, people don't read. People don't write well, either, because the people in publishing are like Katie Raissian, and they're not here to put forward the best books and the best writers. In this example, you will see inconvertible proof of that. You will see inconvertible proof of discrimination. You'll also laugh, perhaps--though really it's not a laughing matter, though it is funny, which is somehow different--over the immaturity befitting a child, though perhaps that is unfair to children. I think it probably is. This is a behavior and a prevailing mode of behavior for culture--a subculture--that is impossible to justify. Anyone who sees this knows how wrong it is. Go ahead--try and justify it. I'd like to see someone try.


On August 7 of this year, I sent Katie Raissian a senior editor at Grove/Atlantic the bulk of a new book, along with, of course, my cover letter. I would say that that book represents the best work I've done in my life; or, I should say, I've never done finer work than what is in that book. It starts, for instance, with "Fitty." I'd never written her before. I'd had no dealings with her, or she with me. I did not follow-up to my letter from August 7, in part because I know--I always know--what is happening here. How it works. What this is all about. It's about pettiness. Envy. Often, skin color and gender. It's about a class structure these people want to keep intact. It's gross, it's disgusting. It's about cronyism. Mediocrity. Repetition. Nepotism. The last thing anything in publishing is about is merit. Quality. They are irrelevant, except insofar as merit and quality induce a freeze-out from these people, on account of how those qualities in a writer make them feel about themselves.


As I've said--and it's obviously real and heartfelt--this isn't what I want to be doing. I don't want to be putting items like this up on here. But the way this works now is I am going to continue to regularly do so, until this system changes. Or people start doing the right thing. Which will help bring about that change. I am not going to sit back and be complicit in someone else's discrimination against me. Which is what they want more than anything. Well, they want to see that person not get anywhere on their watch. That's imperative to them. But they also want to get away with what they are doing.


They do, because who could stand up to them? Or even just say the truth? The people getting anywhere are the people of this system. No one else. Everyone else is flushed out, pretty much, very quickly. They might straggle at the very edges. Except for one person. Hello. How are you this morning? I am that person. And what are we going to say? He's not smart enough? He doesn't write well enough? He doesn't have the track record? He's a horrible person?


Ah, but there's no making those arguments, is there? You can't even start, can you? There is the track record. There is the body of work. There is the quality and range of the writing, which is undeniable. None of it looks like anything anyone else writes. That is immediately obvious. As for not being a monster, there is this journal, which is closing in on 1300 entries, of a life lived in plain view of the public. You know what this man does every day of his life, how he thinks, what his values are, his morals. His pain, his suffering, his life situation; how he carries on, what he does to do so. You know he touches no alcohol. You know the amount of work he does. What he does to endure. To somehow carry on. This journal is millions of words long. You think you can just fake that? Or do you inevitably get the measure of a man? Of a human? No, it is plain what I am. As an artist. As a writer. In my career and what I have done and where I can go, if I did not have these people united in what they are doing to hold me back. And as a person, too. Also, there are literally hundreds of hours of sound on this website where one can here exactly what this man sounds like, hear how he interacts, his affable, gentle nature, his thoughtfulness, kindness, his courage, expertise, humor.


I'm about to paste in the the cover letter I sent Katie Raissian on August 7. There is no one sending a cover letter like this. There is no one doing what this author is doing. There is the work that is better than what is out there. There is a writer who is everywhere. In one highly public place after another. There is a writer who moves from medium to medium and excels in every one of those mediums. This is not a professor cloistered away in Idaho, with no visibility. This is someone who can sell books many ways over. Look, there is the op-ed in the highest circulation newspaper in the country. That doesn't help sell books? It's a unique career. Imagine all that person could do--and do for a press--with a chance. What earthly reason is there not to give him one? What earthly reason is there not to be excited about the possibility of doing business with that person? Because you're not getting letters like this from or about anyone else. They don't exist.


And you know what Katie Raissian did? She never replied. I never followed-up, as I've said. I'd never once written her before. She only decided to open this letter again on this past Thursday. So that's two plus months later. When Raluca Albu told her to hate me. Think about that. It wasn't worth it for Katie Raissian to do her job, with what we all realize this author is, and this letter represents. Now, that doesn't mean money is immediately thrown outward and a contract is speed-delivered to the door. But there is no artistic, fiscal/commercial, or professional reason to not respond. There is no justification. This is how it is with these people. But they will publish the person who is the bad writer. Who does nothing. Who does nothing else but their bad book every five years. Who has no visibility. Who does not appear in these places. Who is not going anywhere. Because that person is one of them. There is more. I'd never interacted with Katie Raissian on social media before. I didn't follow her on Twitter, she didn't follow me. I didn't even remember her. She was one person I wrote once, suspecting exactly the kind of person she was. A bad person who was hopeless at her job, and who didn't care about books, art, entertainment, money, competence, decency. Katie Raissian, on Friday, then takes to Twitter and Instagram (my Instagram presence is about as strong as that of your dead great grandfather's) and blocks me. Look what you're dealing with. These are evil children. She'll go back into that email for the first time in two plus months to do this. Because someone said, "I hate him! He was awful to me!" There is no third party--and I've heard from plenty of people--who could read that Raluca Albu entry in these pages and think that was not deeply disturbing and wrong, and it is obvious and undebatable who the villain of that particular piece was. Same as right now. But right and wrong, sanity and insanity, quality and trash--everything is backwards with these people. They don't care about reality. They care about their subculture. They care about being able to do whatever they please, and to support people like them. They don't care about business. They don't care about readers. They don't care about the right thing, from any standpoint. They don't care about art. I'll put it very simply: they don't care at all about writing. That's not what they're here for.


I ask again, now that thousands of people are seeing this: How do you justify this? How does that author not get snatched up? Are we going to pretend that that guy can't make money, with what he has, the quality of what he has, and his explosive, unique career? Are people supposed to believe that that guy isn't worth a piddling five grand? Why? How do you justify that? Because he's a white male? How do you justify that you have a senior editor who only even thought his letter--with his work--was worth opening a single, second time--because that's all it was--on account that someone else at another venue said, "I hate him, and you will hate him now too." I am sure many of these people have gone around lately in recent days and done just that with their cronies. But what does it matter? If you are that way, you are behaving towards me the way Katie Raissian did from that first letter. From initial contact. There was no spamming. There was one letter. A great letter. From a person doing great things. That others are not. I saw this yesterday, and I actually laughed. I couldn't stop laughing. Who is like this out in the real world?


I wrote Katie Raissian, and I brought all of this up yesterday. Guess what she said? She said nothing. You're dealing with cowards. And, in this case, a coward who was busted and looked ridiculous. What are you going to say? What you're going to do, paradoxically, is get more angry and hate me more because of your behavior. And what you are. It's like when a criminal who does something heinous is caught. They're angry at the other person. They want to do them in. Why did I mention BOMB like I did in the cover letter? Raluca Albu is the online editor of BOMB. She's the only one with that title. Those stories were for online publication, because as I detailed, by mentioning their names, those other people at BOMB, hate me. They had banded together against me to make sure I would not be in print. If one looks at Albu's letter from April, it's a mash note extolling her love of those stories. The love and enthusiasm is obvious. It's right there in the text. Then she makes it sound as if it's just a case of what not story, not whether there would be a story. For a piddling amount of money, because this is what I have to go through. This is the wheel to which I'm lashed right now. I have to keep my cool, and swallow my dignity, trying to deal with these people over the course of years, when they behave like they do for the reasons they do. And like I said, you'd think the editor of the section would actually have some power of her section. Ultimately, it's her section.


Well done, Grove/Atlantic. I'd like to see what you have to say to this. Because a lot of people are going to see it. How do you justify any of this? The biggest takeaway should be that Katie Raissian was never going to respond, to someone who is clearly doing amazing things. It wasn't because of that person's work, track record, where they can go, what they can sell. So what was it then? What remains? Discrimination and incompetence and the club these people have erected for themselves. I am being literal. That email was not read a single other time--and it would not have been--until Raluca Albu reached out to Katie Raissian and told her to ban me. Time and interest in doing all of that, but not in doing your job, or being a somewhat decent, professional person.


(By the way: I mentioned the NYRB title like I did because as you may have seen, her bio talks on the Grove/Atlantic page talks about how she organizes her NYRB books. And also--because this is actually how you have to think--on account that Edith Wharton is a woman, and many of these editors hate men or have decided a straight white male--and one who looks like an athlete, as I do--will by no means, no way, no how, be advancing on their watch. And just that white males of a certain non-dinosaur age are bad, bad, bad in publishing right now. Am I male author? Not really, not in the important sense. I don't do the macho nonsense, or male Brooklyn hipster nonsense.)


Dear Katie,

How are you? I wanted to show you a few stories from a new book of mine, if you don't mind, and see if you might be interested. My work has appeared virtually everywhere this point, in terms of fiction (the VQR, Glimmer Train, Harper's), nonfiction (The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Guardian), regular op-eds (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today), but my site or Google could give you a much better idea than I could here. I'm the author of eight books. But this new one is called There Is No Doubt: Storied Humanness. Every story features either a female narrator or protagonist--or, at the least, they're shaded that way. It's the strongest work, I believe, I've done to date.


I've attached stories called "Fitty," "Girls of the Nimbus," "The Echo Blow," "Transitionings," "Head to Give," "Fetch and Ferry," "The Stopping," "Seedless Cherries," "Dot," "The Half Slip."


There was an op-ed in the New York Daily News the other day. There will be a nice piece in The Wall Street Journal on 8/22 on Sam Cooke's 1961 album, My Kind of Blues, which hopefully will help sell some copies of my Sam Cooke book coming from Bloomsbury in September. The Daily Beast will be publishing an excerpt of that book, too. There's a new personal essay in Salmagundi on running stairs and there will be a short story in Post Road any time now. BOMB will run some fiction. I don't know what it is yet. The editor there liked everything in a pile of my stories that she had, and I guess she's going to decide on something. There will be a big feature on John Coltrane's Ascension in the next issue of JazzTimes. I'm doing a piece on upcoming an NY Review of Books volume of Edith Wharton's ghost stories for the TLS now.


Thanks for the time.


Best,

Colin