Cheney Novel Pulled by Publisher


recent update:The AP reports that New American Library (Penguin), publisher of Cheney's novel "Sisters" has decided not to reissue the book as planned, after a call from the author's attorney, Robert Barnett.

Apparently Cheney hadn't even heard about the second edition til the press contacted her. Barnett said "I told them that she did not think the book was her best work."


Unless Mrs. Cheney had some actual legal objection (i.e. still holds copyright, etc), this appears to be a sad case of self-censorship from a corporate publisher. Of course, if Mrs. Cheney DOES have copyright in her own name, then she has every right to hold back publication.Although not directly relevant to the campaign (a book by the vice-president would be), I would have loved to see the book be reissued and Mrs Cheney quizzed on its racy and lesbian contents.If someone wants to reissue John Kerry's 1971 book and follow him with questions, that's all right with me too.

First, tell me if you think the hypothetical Kerry case I cited would be censorship. If you don't think that would be, then we have different definitions of censorship.If Cheney's lawyer offered the publisher a couple of extra books in exchange for not publishing the book she's not proud of, I'd call that a reasonable business transaction. Some might call it blackmail on the part of the publisher, but I wouldn't. Both sides would be getting a benefit. Mrs. Cheney would be spared bad publicity and the publisher would get manuscripts of hopefully better books.That's not what's being publicly reported. It looks like New American is being prevented from gaining a benefit based on some words from Mrs. Cheney's lawyer. Until I see some other evidence, "if it looks like a duck ... then it probably is."As for New American being politically as well as financially motivated to reissue this romance novel -- ABSOLUTELY. I said so in my last posting.Unless they held the copyrights involved, I wouldn't want Al Gore or either of the Clintons stopping the release of books. Mrs. Cheney shouldn't be able to either -- unless she makes it worth the publisher's while.

Okay, so if Mrs. Cheney called instead, and asked them not to publish, would that be considered censorship? Possibly her view is that the work is not her best quality, and in order to keep her as a future author, the publisher decided that they could make more money with subsequent publications? Many people use their lawyers when it comes to contractual obligations and contacts.Again, it is not censorship when a business decides not to publish, sell or offer a service. They were not threatened with legal action, quite possibly could not have been sued anyway. They chose to make a business decision that would probably be more profitable in the long run. Remember, it's not just sales dollars that they are selling with a book, they are also selling their brand and reputation. Quite possibly they considered publishing it to capitalize on politics?

There's a Houston Chronicle which I thinks makes the case that this *is* a case of censorship, or at least a cave-in by a publisher. If you peruse the article above, you will find:1) The publisher New American Library had publicly made a conscious decision to reprint the book.2) They did so because they thought they could make money because "We felt interest was growing because it was an election year and we decided it could be a timely book,"3) New American had the legal right to reissue the novel.4) The publisher reversed it's previously issued BUSINESS-BASED decision AFTER it had been contacted by Mrs. Cheney's lawyer.-------------------To me: Decision to publish + call from lawyer resulting in cancellation of publication qualifies for censorship. We are told that the lawyer did not threaten legal action, only that he told the publisher that "sisters" was not Mrs. Cheney's best work. If that was the only message delivered, why have a lawyer carry it? Why not Mrs. Cheney herself? Besides, it sounds like the publisher didn't need anyone to tell them that this was probably not a Penguin Classic!Look, New American Library's decision to reissue this book in the first place was political -- w/o a doubt. It's reasonable to assume that Mrs. Cheney's suppression of the reissue is political as well.Consider the rightful outrage that would ensue if a publisher tried to reissue Sen. Kerry's angry 1971 anti-Vietnam book and decided not after Kerry's lawyer called and said "Don't do it. It's not the man's best work." That would be censorship and so is the present case.

It's not censorship when you freely select for yourself what material you will have access to; that's personal choice. It is censorship when you take it upon yourself to decide what materials others will have access to, or deny yourself access when deliberate intimidation causes you to fear the repercussions of your choice. (To deflect any hair splitting about whether corporate culture creates such intimidation.)

There's no way to know whether the publisher's choice is a simple business decision or if it was scared off by Big Bubba Bush. Unless the publisher, or some whistleblower who works there, divulges that information. Frankly, I consider Ms. Cheney's rationale to be rather suspect. It's not an invalid concern; professional writers are sometimes struck by the desire to burn works they produced as younger artists, but given the censorious bent of the Bush administration, I can't accept her excuse on the face of it.

If we stipulate that this is censorship, then what better kind of censorship is there? Governmental? Institutional? Religious? Xenophobic?

One must be able to censor one's self. Call it censorship if you will, but self restraint, personal choice, or even being smart enough to know when to shut up is what it actually is.

It is also what keeps me from getting in a fist fight with my trashy neighbors who get drunk and scream at one another on the front lawn at all hours of the night. Sometimes you simply have to know when not saying or doing something is the better choice.

Uh... I thought paranoia was when a person thought "they were really out to get you"!!

For more on censorship, check out

FACT: I have many books that the local public library doesn't carry... is that censorship by them?!!

Paranoia when it comes to politics is silly.Now paranoia when it comes to alien abductions is not silly. That's a fact.

Ah, but it's not paranoia when they really are out to get you, and while the jury is still out on that one, I got my suspicions.

When a business (or author) decides not to sell something they own or hold the rights to distribute, it's not censorship. It's called choice. Censorship is when I (or you) tell someone else what they cannot sell or distribute, even if they hold the rights. It's done everyday in businesses that don't sell information. Let's not go off the deep end here.If Ms. Cheney contractually can supress futher editions, and she chose to block it, it's not censorship. If the publisher contractually can suppress further editions, even if the author would like to do so, it's not censorship (in that case she gave up the rights). If it was mutually agreed upon, it's not censorship.And let's not assume this was done for political reasons. That's called paranoia.

Well, one problem would be getting hold of a copy of this book. According to WorldCat, only 11 libraries own it. Remember, back in '81, Mrs Cheney wasn't the second lady. Today it would sell a lot better, even if it was crap.

I would have loved to see the book be reissued and Mrs Cheney quizzed on its racy and lesbian contents.

I don't get it, what stops them from doing it now? The book still exists. This really isn't a big deal. It is fiction for goodness sake.

The idea that the book should not be reissued because it's not Cheney's best work is totally bogus. There's all kinds of hysterical, sensationalistic crap being churned out at the drop of a political crisis. Publishers don't care about ethics and civil liberties nearly as much as they care about the bottom line. The publisher stands to make a buck off this book, and the only reason I can see that he would shy away from doing so is if he was scared off.

Librarians make these decisions every time they decide what books to buy... should we buy this one or that one. NOT censorship but "values clarification"!!

If you want to read about real censorship, check out
...especially the one entitled: 1997-07-16: Announcing a new organization and website, Filtering Facts

True. True. You're correct, Daniel.See, that's what makes LISNews so much fun. We all get to air our opinions, and still have time (and desire) to share a beer afterwards.

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