Today in books and publishing: Conflicting takes on Why I Left Goldman Sachs; Amazon "are not pleasant people to do business with"; genre markings of literary fiction; Animal Farm to be filmed.
Is ex-Goldman Sachs banker Greg Smith a hero or a whiner? This week's most discussed book release is undoubtedly Greg Smith's Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story. You'll remember Smith as the guy who made a big stink by penning an op-ed for The New York Times upon his resignation from the investment bank, claiming that it harbored a recklessly greedy and exploitative culture.
Those who've read advance copies of the book are saying widely divergent things about it. For instance, Bloomberg's Susan Antilla dismissively quips, "Smith describes his journey with a Wall-Street caliber perspective. That is to say, he has none." Reuters' Lauren Tara LaCapra also shrugs off the book, writing, "Reviewers, who received copies of the full book, have panned it for being a sleepy read with no big revelations—or worse, misleading." Even The New York Times, the paper that gave Smith his pedestal to begin with, is printing a critical review by James B. Stewart: "The book not only fails to deliver concrete examples to back up his sweeping conclusions, but he admits changing 'names or descriptors' for some (but not all) people and acknowledges that what he does disclose is 'from memory.'"
But others are hyping up the revelations in Why I Left Goldman Sachs, saying that it provides revealing insight the company's frat boy antics and condescension towards its "muppet" clients. No matter what reviewers are saying, though, Smith is the clear winner in this whole scenario. He made millions over his 12 years at Goldman, received another $1.5 million for the book, left on the moral high road, and got to appear on 60 Minutes. And now he's saying that he never meant to write a tell all in the first place. "People are looking for something sensationalist and expose-like," he told Reuters. "I would like people to look at it in a thoughtful manner, with an objective sense that Wall Street has do to things that are right." The moral of the story? No matter what, bankers never lose. [Reuters]
Amazon's bully pulpit. Selling books is a fiercely competitive racket these days, and no one gets into it without realizing that they face cutthroat competition from huge corporations. Still, it's hard not to feel for everyone being bullied by Amazon lately. In the U.K., Amazon is refusing to charge its customers a 20 percent value added tax on e-books, instead saddling publishers with the cost. The company only pays 3 percent VAT on e-books itself, since it operates out of the tax haven of Luxembourg. "These are not pleasant people to do business with," one U.K. publishing executive told The Guardian. "They have no compunction in shutting down the buy button on their site on our titles if we step out of line." [The Guardian]
Say goodbye to your e-book library. European publishers aren't the only ones grumbling. An e-book reader was recently notified by Amazon that her account was being shut down, and that all her e-books would be wiped from her Kindle. Apparently she had violated some DRM standard, though Amazon's representatives wouldn't specify her offense. "With DRM, you don’t buy and own books, you merely rent them for as long as the retailer finds it convenient," comments Norwegian tech journalist Martin Bekkelund. [Martin Bekkelund]
Buying Brazil's book market. Rounding out this edition of "Today in the Evils of Amazon," across the Atlantic it's being reported that Amazon plans to cut a check for Brazil's entire book-selling economy. Just because, you know, they can. [Melville House]
Genre markers of literary fiction. The stuffiest MFA grads will detest the suggestion, but books of literary fiction can sometimes be just as predictable as formulaic romance, crime, and science fiction novels. Reading Molly Ringwald's When it Happens to You inspired The Millions' Edan Lepucki to reflect on literary fiction as a genre. "When It Happens to You, you see, is a sterling example of literary fiction, if we were to consider literary fiction as a straightforward genre like romance or science fiction, with certain expected tropes and motifs," she writes. Lepucki then goes on to list some of the dead give-aways that the book you're reading is literary fiction, including long titles, a thematic obsession with adultery, and those ubiquitous dogs always barking in the distance. [The Millions]
Who says these books are unfilmable? This listicle reminds us that calling a book "unfilmable" is always subjective. Long live directors crazy enough to try to adapt books like Naked Lunch and Cloud Atlas for the big screen. [Flavorwire]
Speaking of film adaptations... George Orwell's Animal Farm is slated to filmed, with Andy Serkis (best known as Gollum in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films) in place as director and star. Orwell's political allegory has previously been turned into an animated film and a made for TV live action feature. [GalleyCat]
Mapping independent bookstores. It's still very much in the works, but Dwell's interactive map of independent bookstores throughout America promises to be a useful tool for anyone who wants to keep brick and mortar booksellers local. [Dwell]