An Update

If you recall my pre-Rosh Hashanah post on my discomfort with the National Book Critics Circle blog (and specifically, its tendency to express/promote distinctly anti-Israel views), you may be interested to know what’s happened since.

At times, that anti-Israel preoccupation (primarily on the part of the organization’s president; one other blog reader posted a comment in which s/he called it the president’s “kvetching about Israel”) seemed to fade. So I was a little more comfortable with remaining a member. Not that I didn’t still put my two cents (or more) in when it seemed necessary. Even while I was away on the residency.

But it became emotionally draining. And when I saw myself mentioned on the blog (the words “NBCC member” prefaced my name and a link to a piece published several weeks earlier) just a short scroll away from a post I found (once again) utterly biased (and, frankly, offensive to anyone who even attempts to understand that Arab-Israeli conflicts, whether involving the Palestinians or Lebanon, simply cannot be viewed through a stubbornly reductionist lens in which the Arabs are always Israel’s “innocent victims”) I’d had enough.

So last week, I resigned from the National Book Critics Circle. I may not have done my career too much good through this episode. But I’ve eased my conscience.

And an ancillary benefit: now I don’t feel compelled to check in at that blog every day to see what new mischief’s going on. Which, I have to tell you, is a real relief. Though I admit I can’t help wondering if my message finally got through and if someone on the board may finally have persuaded the president to keep his personal political opinions separate from the organization’s blog.

O.J. As Author

Yesterday I read something that brought me instantly to one of those “and my book hasn’t been published?” moments.

Maybe you know this moment, too. You find out something is going to be published, or has been recently published, and you just can’t believe that we function within an industry that publishes such (can’t say the word–my mom occasionally reads this blog) while your own manuscript waits and waits for an agent, editor, and/or publisher to pick it up.

The book that nearly made me cry in pity for my own little short story collection is O.J. Simpson’s new tome, If I Did It. According to this article, the book, which will be out at the end of this month, “‘hypothetically describes how the murders [of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman] would have been committed.'”

Hypothetically. Right.

Later I learned that O.J. was paid an advance of more than $3 million. The only thing that’s more outrageous than anyone paying him that much is the possibility that the payer (ReganBooks/HarperCollins) has avoided paying O.J. directly and thereby made it more difficult for the still-grieving families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson to collect on the monies awarded them in the civil case.

So there’s my contribution. My choice for most-I-can’t-believe-this-book-is-being/has been-published. What’s yours?

UPDATE (NOVEMBER 20, 2006):
If you haven’t heard the good news yet, read about the cancellation(s) here.

On the Eve of Rosh Hashanah

There’s a blog I often appreciate for its concrete and practical information for book reviewers. I used to link to it right here.

But this summer I removed that link. Why? Because that blog, maintained by the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle (an organization I joined just this past summer), too often takes an anti-Israel stance, both in its choice of links and in its summaries/introductions of that material. I simply can’t condone such a practice, however implicitly.

I’ve taken my share of attacks on that blog for my protests within “comments.” But I’m not sorry I said what I said there this summer, when the posts proliferated (as it happened, right after my membership application was processed). Yes, my open disagreement may have damaged my own career, now or in the future. (How “smart” is it to alienate members–including the president, the chief anti-Israel poster [he struck yet again yesterday]–of the National Book Critics Circle?)

But some things are too important. Sometimes, you can’t just ignore what others say or “be nice,” as my mom has always urged. As Sanford Pinsker’s new essay at JBooks.com has reminded me, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

Happy New Year. See you back here next week.

L’Affaire Grass

When I want to find reliable information about something literary happening outside the United States, one of the first places I check is the Literary Saloon (linked to the right). So as I follow the developing Gunter Grass story, that’s one of the sites I keep checking. To catch up, click here.