Life as a Cookbook Ghostwriter; A Defense of Publishing Collusion

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Today in publishing and literature: Amazon shows the Los Angeles Review of Books its generous side with a $25,000 grant, an argument against investigating publishers for collusion, and the grubby life of a celebrity chef's ghostwriter.

The Time Traveler's dance partner Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife, is going to be writing a new work for London's Royal Ballet that will feature neither time traveler's nor their spouses. According to Kevin O'Hare, the company's incoming artistic director, the new work will be a "modern twist on a fairytale," which is to say, it will be like every other ballet. (Kidding!) That sounds like a big change of a pace for an author who sold more than 2 million copies of a book about a time traveler and his wife who does not travel through time, but Niffenegger can afford to dabble: she received a whopping $5 million advance for her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, which came out in 2009. [The Independent]

Ghosts in the kitchen The life of a cookbook ghostwriter is as unglamorous as the life of a regular ghostwriter. That's the message of a lengthy New York Times article by Julia Moskin, who helped shape nine books of recipes from celebrity chefs, largely without credit. Along with the expected anonymity, she says ghosting cookbooks also comes with a smidgen of chaos -- since many big-time chefs don't have their favorite recipes written down. Some of them can also be real jerks about the writing process, frequently running late and switching ghosts on a whim. Other impediments include bullying restaurant owners and insecure spouses. (Moskin says one chef had her name removed from the cover of his book because he was worried it would hurt his wife's feelings.) She doesn't name names, but we have a feeling we will when she receives a deal to expand the article into a memoir, which must -- must -- be titled I Was a Cookbook Ghostwirter. [The New York Times]

Recommended Reading

Amazon's charitable side. The Los Angeles Review of Books has received a $25,000 grant from Amazon. This makes us happy, because we don't like all that talk about how the retail (and publishing) behemoth is just out to job writerly types. The donation is the latest from the company to a group or publication dedicated to "fostering the creation, discussion, and publication of books." Past beneficiaries of Amazon's under-the-radar largesse include: the Best Translated Book Awards, The Kenyon Review, The Moth, the 92nd Street Y, Girls Write Now, and the PEN American Center. [GalleyCat]

On collusion At Slate, Matthew Yglesias argues the Justice Department shouldn't bother to investigate whether publishers have conspired to artificially inflate the price of e-books, because the market is rapidly changing and big-time publishers are going to have to do something to survive. "Whether they merge, collude, or simply find a convenient confluence of interests around Apple’s efforts to compete with Amazon," Yglesias argues, "there’s no real threat to competition here." The merger and "convenient confluence" points are well-taken, but colluding to fix prices is, strictly speaking, illegal. And it's kind of the Justice Department to look into things that could -- could -- be illegal. [Slate]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.