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Today, Elsewhere

Readings reviews our two November Classics: Gerald Murnane’s A Lifetime on Clouds and Elizabeth Harrower’s Down in the City.

To make matters worse, financial success in frontlist publishing is very often random, but the media conglomerates that run most publishing houses act as if it were not. Yes, you may be able to count on a new novel by Surething Jones becoming a big best seller. But the best-­seller lists paint nothing remotely like the full financial picture of any publication, because that picture’s most important color is the size of the advance. But let’s say you publish a fluky blockbuster one year, the corporation will see a spike in your profits and sort of autistically, or at least automatically, raise the profit goal for your division by some corporately predetermined amount for the following year. This is close to clinically insane institutional behavior. A fascinating look at the book business from the inside.

‘If the novel has an overbearing literary influence, it’s undoubtedly Jorge Luis Borges.’ Reading the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed) as though it were dystopian fiction.