Fay Weldon writes the first corporate-sponsored novel.
September 4, 2001 2:37 AM   Subscribe

Fay Weldon writes the first corporate-sponsored novel. With Grove/Atlantic, yet.
posted by aflakete (12 comments total)
Fay Welson has been (amiably) barking mad for some time now, as evidenced by her frequent nutty outbursts on the small screen and in the pages of the Guardian. She's also very good at publicising herself (fair enough).

I predict that in twenty years, she will still be the only litewawy novelist to have pulled a stunt like this. Chick-fic and lad-lit, on the other hand...
posted by Mocata at 4:15 AM on September 4, 2001

I wouldn't be surprised if many other novelists have done a bit of commerically intended "product placement" too, but without publicising it...

In the good old days, literary sponsorship was what one did. Spenser's The Faerie Queene is an unashamed piece of utter flattery to Queen Elizabeth I (and if memory doesn't fail me it worked rather well too), and most early novels were dedicated to some rich nobleman or -woman the author hoped would sponsor them. We still think of them (well, some of them) as good literature.

Perhaps sponsorship like this (old and new) is the way to save literature even when those old-fashioned notions called publishers and copyright die?
posted by jill at 5:24 AM on September 4, 2001

This might seem new but in all reality, Fay Weldon "sold out" some years ago.

At first I found Weldon's quite radical change of character and belief systems strange indeed. Now I just blame bodysnatchers.
posted by lucien at 5:33 AM on September 4, 2001

Fay Weldon's greatest contribution to world literature was "Go to work on an egg", her headline for the British Egg Marketing Board or whatever the damn thing was called-
It seems to me she has never stopped working in advertising. The real dupes, though, are the Bulgari honchos: who the hell is going to buy one of their baubles "coz Fay Weldon, like, mentions them a lot in her most recent novelette"? What happened? Wasn't Miss Deneuve available?
Talk about downmarketing, Marina B...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:56 AM on September 4, 2001

I seem to remember, studying Ovid and Virgil and such, that the parts playing up to the emperor were generally the worst in the work, and the more cloying bits of flattery usually the worst works.
posted by fidelity at 8:39 AM on September 4, 2001

Writing provides a supremely lousy living. If one is consumed with the artistic desire to write the One True Great Work, fine: labor on in poverty and struggle for the fame that should be yours as all are consumed with wonder at what you have wrought.

For the rest of the wordcrafters out there, selling ad space makes it a little bit easier. I don't, truly, see the big deal: most novels, most stuff that is printed today as a "book" is a commercial product, not Great Art. Just as we have learned to skip over ads online, ads in our movies, ads making up the bulk of magazines, ads on buildings, ads on clothing, so we will soon tune this out. Sure it's more noise. But noise is what life in this crowded world is about.
posted by salt at 10:20 AM on September 4, 2001

As long as the sponsorship is mentioned on the cover (across the top, like an ad insert in a magazine) and on the title page, I have no problem with this. Just like when scientists are hired by corporations or advocacy groups, that should be at the head of the report, and mentioned in any news report that cites the results.
posted by aflakete at 11:14 AM on September 4, 2001

Salt, for heaven's sakes, how rich do you want to be? Yes most writers "labor on in poverty" but a select few gain critical acclaim and by anyone's standards make more than a reasonable living.

Weldon being one of them.

"But noise is what life in this crowded world is about."

If you say so.
posted by lucien at 11:23 AM on September 4, 2001

I'm sorry to be a spoilsport but Fay Weldon's new book will be no cheaper to buy because of the advertising. If it was we might discuss how to present the damned thing.
As it is when you or I splash out for a novel we expect a book, i.e. the author's own work from cover to cover.
There are enough ads out there already.
Besides, when the book actually comes out all the non-metafilter-wise punters who buy it - all four or five of them - will be blissfully unaware they are being shortsold.
Shame on you, Grove Press, once-proud publisher. It's a good thing Samuel Beckett has died before he finds his work plastered with Bushmills and Guinness product placements.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:38 AM on September 4, 2001


I hope it bombs.
posted by jackiemcghee at 1:33 PM on September 4, 2001

This quote from the article gave me unpleasant chills: "I think this is fantastic. It gives me a lot of ideas."

—Jane Friedman, president of HarperCollins

Note: HarperCollins is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, owners of the array of FOX television stations, 20th Century Fox film studios, the New York Post, and the LA Dodgers.

posted by jbushnell at 4:45 PM on September 4, 2001

I think a lot of this endless new wave of people selling out is partly due to the fact that we hardly ever hear or read exactly why selling out (specifically, artists accepting corporate sponsorship or letting their work be commingled with advertisements) is a Bad Thing. So let me take it upon myself to lay out an argument (not the only one):

1. People work for whoever pays the bills.
2. People serve and seek to please the people they work for.
3. In the case of books, the people who buy and read the books are paying the bills.
4. Thus, authors work for their readers, and serve their interests.
5. The interests of the reading public are not necessarily the interests of corporations.
6. When corporations bankroll authors in exchange for having a say over the content of their work, the authors are no longer just working for readers, but also for corporations.
7. Authors who take money from corporations in exchange for inserting product mentions will ultimately have to face a choice between serving the interests of readers and serving the interests of corporations.

It should be clear how dangerous this would be for nonfiction writing. But why is it important for fiction? Well, it seems to me that fiction is valuable because it illuminates emotional truths that authors of nonfiction aren't as free to write about, and can combine them with political and social ideas to give both more resonance (think Grapes of Wrath or 1984. If corporate sponsorship had been a regular part of the book industry fifty years ago, would those novels ever have had the chance to be published?

posted by skoosh at 1:35 AM on September 5, 2001

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