The Passive Voice A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Pub and Traditional Publishing Tue, 15 Oct 2019 16:33:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Passive Voice 32 32 What has marked Chinese society Tue, 15 Oct 2019 17:00:08 +0000

What has marked Chinese society is its level of cruelty, not just revolutions and wars. We ought to reject it totally, otherwise in another upheaval there will be further cruelty.

~  Jung Chang

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Is The Golden Notebook a feminist novel? Tue, 15 Oct 2019 16:33:49 +0000 From The Guardian:

The New York Times critic Ernest Buickler once wrote that “a firkinful of scorching aphorisms” could be culled from nearly every page of The Golden Notebook. An exaggeration, of course – but only just. Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel is eminently quotable:

“For with my intuition I knew that this man was repeating a pattern over and over again: courting a woman with his intelligence and sympathy, claiming her emotionally; then, when she began to claim in return, running away. And the better a woman was, the sooner he would begin to run.”

“The real revolution is women against men.”

“If we lead what is known as free lives, that is, lives like men, why shouldn’t we use the same language.”

“One had to be much older than I was then to understand George’s relationship with his wife. He had a fierce loyal compassion for her, the compassion of one victim for another.”

. . . .

The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes The Golden Notebook as a landmark of the women’s movement in the 1960s, an achievement Lessing disliked, denying that the novel was a “trumpet for women’s liberation” or an account of “the sex war”.

It would be reductive to describe all of Lessing’s female characters as victims. Most of them are too smart, determined and independent-minded to allow themselves to be beaten down entirely. But the odds are stacked against them, especially in their relationships with men.

Time and again, the men get to do and say dreadful things, then trot off unscathed to their next victims.

. . . .

It’s impossible to read The Golden Notebook without thinking that there’s something very wrong in the gender relations it describes and in the world at large. It’s easy to see why readers might have taken it as a call to arms and feminist inspiration. But even so, it’s just as easy to see why Lessing was annoyed that people might describe the novel in exclusively feminist terms. It’s too complicated and ambiguous to fit any political programme.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG wonders if it matters whether The Golden Notebook is a feminist novel or not, particularly when the author denied “that the novel was a “trumpet for women’s liberation” or an account of “the sex war”.”

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In Defense of The Supernatural in Detective Fiction Tue, 15 Oct 2019 16:09:50 +0000 From Crime Reads:

Some months ago, I had dinner in New York with an old friend, one of the most senior figures in the American mystery community. We tend to differ on almost every subject under the sun, food and wine apart, but it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, and I like to think that we have both mastered that art, for the most part.

Toward the end of the evening, my friend suggested that I had made two errors in my career. One was the decision not to write exclusively in the mystery genre, but to explore other areas of writing. This, he felt, had damaged me commercially—although, as I pointed out to him, it had benefited me creatively. My second error, he believed, was to have mixed the mystery genre with the supernatural. Whatever its benefits or disadvantages to me, either commercially or creatively, he believed that this simply should not have been done. For him, the supernatural had no place in the mystery novel, and there are many in mystery community who share his opinion.

Naturally enough, I demurred. This perceived line of demarcation between the genres is largely a product of the early part of the last century. If we are to point the finger at a single culprit, we may choose Father Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, the British writer, critic, and theologian. Knox was a witty, urbane Catholic cleric, although a little too clever for some.

. . . .

Perhaps the most famous popular demonstration of Knox’s cleverness are his 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction, a set of rules for crime writing published in 1929, of which the Second advises: “All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.” Knox, one can’t help but feel, was probably writing with his tongue fixed ever-so-gently in his cheek (his Fifth Commandment declares that “No Chinaman must figure in the story,” a wag of the finger in the direction of purveyors of the so-called “Yellow Peril” school of crime writing.) Yet while some of Knox’s rules fell by the wayside, or were deliberately violated by storytellers . . . his injunction against the supernatural appeared to become engrained in the lore of genre, with only very occasional exceptions, William Hjortsberg’s 1978 novel Falling Angel possibly being the most notable of them.

The crime novel is a product of rationalism, which predicates the value of reason over experience or, indeed, spiritual revelation. But as I tried to explain to my dinner companion, the relationship between crime writers and rationalism has always been more fraught, and more creatively interesting, than the purism of Knox—or, more correctly, his followers—allows. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, published in 1868 and generally regarded as the first modern detective novel, is suffused with a fear of the supernatural. The theft of the titular Indian diamond by Colonel Herncastle during the Siege of Seringapatam seems to unleash all manner of misfortune on his niece, Rachel Verinder, and her family. Whether the Moonstone is actually cursed or not is beside the point. What matters is the belief that a curse may exist.

Or take Edgar Allan Poe, possibly one of the least rational men ever to have set foot on God’s earth.

. . . .

But the most interesting case of all is that of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the paragon of logical detection, Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle believed in the Cottingley Fairies, an infamous British photographic hoax perpetrated in 1917, and attended séances in the company of Harry Houdini in the hope that Houdini would help him to spot fake mediums—not because Conan Doyle was a skeptic, but quite the opposite: he wished to locate true mediums in order to communicate with his dead wife and child.

. . . .

Philosophically—and, indeed, creatively, given Conan Doyle’s own preference for his historical novels—Conan Doyle’s worldview seems entirely at odds with that of his own most successful creation, and I can’t help but wonder if the two happiest words he ever committed to print were those he wrote in his diary after sending the great detective over the Reichenbach Falls in 1893: “Killed Holmes.”

. . . .

My dinner guest was having none of it. One could not, he affirmed, view a writer’s art in the context of his life. Some degree of separation was required. As a writer, I considered that a writer’s life and his creative work remained inseparable. I fell back on the words of the poet W.B. Yeats (who was, along with Conan Doyle, a member of the paranormal research body known as the ‘Ghost Club’): “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

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The only major media coverage surrounding the Canadian film industry Mon, 14 Oct 2019 22:55:04 +0000

The only major media coverage surrounding the Canadian film industry, year after year, is the same narrative: What’s wrong with the Canadian film industry?… It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Canadians are only hearing about how terrible Canadian films are, I’m not surprised by the lack of interest that they have in our work.

~  Filmmaker Kevan Funk

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The CBC – Canada’s National State Subsidized Broadcaster – Confronts in Court the Conservative Party and Copyright Law 10 Days Before the Federal Election: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Mon, 14 Oct 2019 22:50:07 +0000 From Excess Copyright:

Not for the first time, the CBC – Canada’s 83 year old, usually respected even if frequently controversial taxpayer subsidized broadcaster – has embarrassed itself badly on the copyright front. This time, however, it has outdone itself in terms of controversy by suing one of Canada’s two main political parties for copyright infringement just 11 days before a national election. It has taken, IMHO, an inexplicable and frankly unsupportable position seeking to prohibit the use of short excerpts from broadcast footage in the course of election campaigns. It will be recalled that in 2014, Jennifer McGuire, who is apparently still employed by the CBC in the same very senior position as General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News that she has held since May 2009, led the charge with a “consortium” to try to stop the use of such excerpts in political campaigns. The thought was even entertained by the government of the day led by Stephen Harper to pass legislation explicitly allowing for such usage by political parties, notwithstanding that I and others warned that that such legislation was not only unnecessary but could potentially and likely even be very counterproductive. I wrote about all of this almost five years ago just over a year before the last election, including how Rick Mercer demonstrated his sadly ironic apparent ignorance about copyright law. It’s déjà vu all over again, except that this time it’s much worse.

In any event, Ms. MaGuire is still in charge of the news network at CBC and is the apparent guiding mind behind what is likely to go down as one of the most misguided moments in the history of the CBC in terms of both journalism and the law and may well prove to be a defining moment in the increasingly possible demise of the CBC – especially if the Conservative Party of Canada wins the election, which this latest fiasco may ironically help to facilitate. Ms. McGuire is also CBC’s representative on the CDPP (Canadian Debate Production Partnership), which managed to present two French debates and only one English debate (go figure!).

The CBC has unaccountably and inexplicably sued the Conservative Party of Canada for a campaign video, visible above, that includes several short excerpts (only some of which are from the CBC) from various broadcasts, consisting of at most ten seconds in each case. Here is the remarkable Statement of Claim, which could serve as good teachable moment for any law school copyright or civil litigation class. Here’s a hint – why ask for an interim and interlocutory injunction where there is obvious doubt as to whether there is a even a serious issue to be tried just 10 days before the interim injunction would be moot anyway against activity that has already admittedly ceased, and where there is no credible evidence of irreparable harm arising from practices that are decades old?

. . . .

Michael Geist has succinctly parsed and measured the CBC’s possible claim in key quantitative and factual respects:

One of the clips features two short segments (total of ten seconds) of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall event. There are no CBC journalists involved, though the town hall aired on the CBC. Displaying ten seconds from a town hall that ran over an hour hardly qualifies as a significant portion of the work and again does not implicate CBC journalists or journalism.

The remaining three clips do include CBC journalists. One involves four seconds of Andrew Coyne speaking on the At Issue Panel on conflict issues. Rosemary Barton appears in the clip (as does Chantal Hebert) but says nothing. The clip should qualify as fair dealing, but it is difficult to see what the fuss is about given that Barton does not even speak in it. Another clip involves five seconds of John Paul Tasker appearing on Power and Politics discussing support to Loblaws for energy efficient refrigerators and the last one features five seconds of Rex Murphy talking about moving expenses. The clips are short and demonstrate that CBC journalists engage in legitimate critique of government policies and action. That isn’t bias, that is doing their job. Indeed, all these stories were widely covered in the media and there is nothing particularly controversial about what is said in the clips. (highlight added)

Link to the rest at Excess Copyright

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What’s an Influencer Worth to Books? Mon, 14 Oct 2019 22:31:00 +0000 From Publishers Weekly:

A mini-scandal lit up Twitter last month when the Cut featured a tell-all essay by 27-year-old writer Natalie Beach. In the piece, Beach exposes her seven-year relationship with her friend Caroline Calloway, who scored an agent and a reputed $375,000 book deal for her memoir. Beach, who ghostwrote the book, says her former bestie bought Instagram followers after being told by literary professionals that “no one would buy a memoir from a girl with no claim to fame and no fan base.”

Platform has always been key when putting together a nonfiction book proposal. But back in the not-so-very-distant past—a mere dozen years ago!—publishers were throwing six figures and two-book deals at anyone who had a half-decent story and a clip in the local newspaper. These days, a huge following on social media, particularly Instagram, is a must for a book deal.

The moment agents or editors hear an author has a small following or no following, it’s over. Yes, there are exceptions. Still, worthy authors are overlooked every day—in favor of a young woman with a photo of macarons that went viral? Now her friend the ghostwriter has CAA shopping rights to her story? Which era is crazier?

The Kardashian/Jenner sisters have 500 million followers. So how come fewer than 500,000 viewers (18–49) tuned in to the latest episode of their show? Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies sold fewer than 40,000 copies, according to BookScan—yet she remains a powerful influencer. When are publishers going to concede that number of followers (fake or not) is only one key to book sales?

Naturally, some influencers produce books that are megabestsellers (usually with a lot of help). That is because they deserve a wide audience for whatever message they are sending. Ariana Grande, who has one of the biggest social media followings in the world, should get a huge deal… because she’s an incredible singer with a fantastic story to tell—not because of her follower count!

. . . .

This latest story about two millennial influencers and their book deal reminds me of that hype. Except now I’m overprotective. Some wanna-be authors are using the acquisitions process to snow us, to dupe us, to basically make a mockery out of what publishing stands for—content. Is this what they mean by influence?

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG has two reactions to the OP:

  1. He has zero sympathy for publishers who are snowed, duped or mocked by anyone, including authors (or more likely their agents) who are looking for a book contract.
  2. If PG were looking for a book contract (he is not and never will), he would be inclined to buy Instagram followers if that would help get him a deal. If publishers can’t look farther than the number of followers on an author’s Instagram account, why not? Is there a strict code of ethics that binds publishers to do or not do things like puff up the quality/importance of a book they’re releasing? What’s sauce for the goose . . . .
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Booker Prize Goes to Two: Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo Mon, 14 Oct 2019 22:20:45 +0000 From Publishing Perspectives:

In what will be for some a controversial move, the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction has been given to both Canada’s Margaret Atwood and the UK’s Bernardine Evaristo at the annual ceremony at London’s Guildhall.

Atwood is being honored for The Testaments (Chatto & Windus), the seequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, part of the Gilead body of material that has given Atwood’s career explosive new life with the success of the Hulu television adaptation and that series’ new content.

Atwood now is the fourth author to win the Booker twice. Her The Blind Assassin won in 2000.

. . . .

Bernadine Evaristo is being honored for Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton). Evaristo is the first black woman to win a Booker.

Girl, Woman, Other is Evaristo’s eighth work of fiction. She also is a writer of essays, drama and content for BBC radio.

Despite the consternation and/or glee of this “joint prize,” to use the foundation’s favorite term for it, this is not the first time the judges have gone literarily rogue and insisted on a split prize. Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton won in 1974 and Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth won in 1992.

In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. In an era in which rules don’t seem to matter in many high places, that 1993 regulation now has been cast aside.

Booker Foundation literary director Gaby Wood is quoted tonight by the Booker’s press people, saying, “Over an agonizing five hours, the 2019 Booker Prize judges discussed all of the much-loved books on their shortlist, and found it impossible to single out one winner.

“They were not so much divided as unwilling to jettison any more when they finally got down to two, and asked if they might split the prize between them.

“On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them. They left the judging room happy and proud, their twin winners gesturing towards the six they would have wanted, had it been possible to split the prize any further.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says rules are for the little people. The ones who live in Omaha or Burnley.


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The Visigothic Code Mon, 14 Oct 2019 19:49:44 +0000 PG is a sucker for great headlines.

The Visigothic Code is one such headline, particularly in the legal arena, where the Uniform Commercial Code and The Code of Federal Regulations are just a few of the many legal codes in the US.

The Visigothic Code struck PG because he generally associates the Visigoths with a bit more barbarity than is implied in an extensive written legal code. After all, Visigothic forces led by Alaric I pretty thoroughly sacked Rome in 410 and thereafter, in PG’s limited understanding, The Roman Empire started to go downhill at an accelerating pace, kicking off what some have called the Dark Ages.

It turns out The Visigothic Code was a real thing.

From Wikipedia:

The Visigothic Code (Latin: Forum Iudicum, Liber Iudiciorum; Spanish: Libro de los Jueces, Book of the Judges), also called Lex Visigothorum (English: Law of the Visigoths), is a set of laws first promulgated by king Chindasuinth (642–653 AD) of the Visigothic Kingdom in his second year of rule (642–643) that survives only in fragments. In 654 his son, king Recceswinth (649–672), published the enlarged law code, which was the first law code that applied equally to the conquering Goths and the general population, of which the majority had Roman roots, and had lived under Roman laws.

The code abolished the old tradition of having different laws for Romans (leges romanae) and Visigoths (leges barbarorum), and under which all the subjects of the Visigothic kingdom would stop being romani and gothi instead becoming hispani. In this way, all subjects of the kingdom were gathered under the same jurisdiction, eliminating social and legal differences, and allowing greater assimilation of the populations. As such, the Code marks the transition from the Roman law to Germanic law and is one of the best surviving examples of leges barbarorum. It combines elements of the Roman law, Catholic law and Germanic tribal customary law.

Link to the rest at Wikipedia

How can you not love lawmakers with names like Chindasuinth and Recceswinth?

Someone evidently decided The Visigothic Code would gain more respect if it was written down in an impressive manner:

Visigothic Code or Liber Iudiciorum or Lex Visigothorum. Set of laws promulgated by the Visigothic king of Hispania, Chindasuinth and enlarged by Recceswinth (654).Vit. 14-5. I foliate I. Miniature Painting. SPAIN. Madrid. National Library.

“Where,” you may ask, “might I find a Library of Iberian Sources online so I can examine the Lex Visigothorum aka The Visigothic Code?”

PG has the answer to that question in one link aka LIBRO.

When you start writing laws down, they tend to proliferate, so it turns out The Visigothic Code ended up with 12 volumes. Since PG’s Latin is so rusty that there may be little of the original left unrusted, he was happy to find a translation into English.

Here are a few choice excerpts:

Book II, Title I Law IX

No woman can conduct a case under the authority of another, but she is not forbidden to transact her own business in court. Nor can a husband conduct the case of his wife without authority from her; and, indeed, he should protect himself with such an instrument in writing, that the wife may not repudiate the whole proceeding; and if she should repudiate it, the husband shall undergo the penalty to which he is liable who presumed to conduct a case without the authority of his wife. And if the husband should lose a case which he prosecuted without the order of his wife, her rights shall in no way be prejudiced; and she can afterwards either prosecute the case herself, or can authorize any one she wishes to do whatever is proper in the matter. And if the case should justly go against the husband, and the wife should believe that the adversary who prevailed should again be sued; and, after the second trial, it should be apparent that her husband was not unjustly beaten in the first trial, the wife shall render satisfaction as prescribed by law, not only to the judge who first heard the case, but also to the other party whom she brought into court for the second time.

. . . .

Book II, Title III, Law VI It shall not be Lawful for a Woman to Act as an Attorney, but She may Conduct her Own Case in Court

No woman can conduct a case under the authority of another, but she is not forbidden to transact her own business in court. Nor can a husband conduct the case of his wife without authority from her; and, indeed, he should protect himself with such an instrument in writing, that the wife may not repudiate the whole proceeding; and if she should repudiate it, the husband shall undergo the penalty to which he is liable who presumed to conduct a case without the authority of his wife. And if the husband should lose a case which he prosecuted without the order of his wife, her rights shall in no way be prejudiced; and she can afterwards either prosecute the case herself, or can authorize any one she wishes to do whatever is proper in the matter. And if the case should justly go against the husband, and the wife should believe that the adversary who prevailed should again be sued; and, after the second trial, it should be apparent that her husband was not unjustly beaten in the first trial, the wife shall render satisfaction as prescribed by law, not only to the judge who first heard the case, but also to the other party whom she brought into court for the second time.

. . . .

Book II, Title IV Law VI – Concerning Those who give False Testimony.

If any one should give false testimony against another, and be detected, or should acknowledge his crime; if he is a person of rank, he shall give as much of his own property to him against whom he testified falsely, as the latter would have lost by his evidence, and he shall never again be permitted to testify in court. If he is a person of inferior rank, and does not possess the means wherewith to make amends, he shall be delivered as a slave to him against whom he testified falsely. But the cause shall by no means be lost by reason of such false testimony, unless the truth shall have been established otherwise; that is, either by a lawful and approved witness, or by just and legal documents in writing. If any one should corrupt another, either by a gift, or by fraud, and should thereby induce him to perjure himself, then, as soon as this fact shall become apparent, the instigator of the crime who aimed at the injury of another, as well is he who was induced by avarice to swear falsely, shall undergo the penalty of forgery.

. . . .

Book III, Title IV Law VI. It is not Lawful for Slaves to put Persons to Death who are taken in Adultery.
While parents have the undoubted right to kill adulterers caught in their houses, slaves have no such authority. But if slaves should discover them, they may keep them in honorable custody, until they can be delivered over to the master of the house, or to the judge; and, after having been found guilty by reliable evidence, the legal penalty shall be inflicted upon them.

. . . .

Book IV, Title II, Law II. Concerning Poisoners.
Different kinds of crimes should be punished in different ways; and, in the first place, freemen or slaves who are guilty of preparing, or administering poison shall be punished in like manner; as for instance, if they should give poisoned drink to anyone and he should die in consequence; in such a case those who are guilty shall be put continuously to the torture, and be punished by the most ignominious of deaths. But if he who drank the poison should escape with his life, the party who administered it shall be given up into his power, to be disposed of absolutely as he may desire.

. . . .

 Book VI, Title IV I. Concerning the Injury of Freemen and Slaves.
Where one freeborn person strikes another any kind of a blow upon the head, he shall pay five solidi for a bruise, ten solidi if the skin is broken, twenty solidi for a wound extending to the bone, and a hundred solidi where a bone is broken. If a freeborn man should commit any of the above named acts upon the slave of another, he shall pay half of the above named penalties, according to the degree of his offence. If one slave should strike another, as above stated, he shall pay a third part of the above penalties, proportionate to his offence, and shall receive fifty lashes. If a slave, however, should wound a freeborn person, he shall pay the largest sum hereinbefore mentioned, which is exacted from freeborn persons for assaults upon slaves, and shall receive seventy lashes. If the master should not be willing to give satisfaction for the acts of his slave, he must surrender him on account of his crime.

Link to the rest at The Visigothic Code

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If children were brought up to become non-conformists Mon, 14 Oct 2019 17:00:47 +0000

If children were brought up to become non-conformists it would only ruin their lives. So parents all over China who loved their children told them to do as Chairman Mao said. It was not possible to tell them anything else.

~  Jung Chang

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I remember when my mother pointed to a stone Sun, 13 Oct 2019 18:10:11 +0000

I remember when my mother pointed to a stone, and she said this was the kind of stone people used to place on the feet of the baby girls to stop them trying to climb away and unbind their feet.

~  Jung Chang

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