Snapshot of the Week – 20 January 2017

Snapshot of the Week – 20 January 2017

Welcome Mr President! While at the time of writing it seems unlikely that any poet will emerge to take the stage at the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, thus adding gravitas to the occasion, one never knows. He is full of surprises. Bill Clinton was welcomed by Maya Angelou in 1993 (her poem On the Pulse of Morning was published as a little hardback and became something of a bestseller); Barack Obama was welcomed by the Harlem-born poet Elizabeth Alexander at his first inauguration in 2009, and by Richard Blanco at his second in 2013. Blanco became the first Latino and first openly gay poet to read at a presidential inauguration. The tradition (of sorts) goes back to 1961 when Robert Frost famously welcomed John F Kennedy and recited ‘The Gift Outright’ from memory because he couldn’t read the poem he’d written due to the bright sunshine.

The inauguration casts a shadow over everything. When the American Library Association (ALA) booked its Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta it almost certainly didn’t know it would begin on the same day. The conference could be a stormy one for ALA President Julie Todaro. She created anger among some of her members following an ALA statement after the election that said: “We are ready to work with president-elect Trump, his transition team, incoming administration and members of Congress to bring more economic opportunity to all Americans and advance other goals we have in common.”

Brian Kenney, Director of the White Plains (NY) Public Library and former editorial director of Library Journal, wrote: ‘Trump’s campaign rhetoric directly contradicted the ALA Code of Ethics and the library community’s core values—especially those regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. And many ALA members believed that any statement from ALA needed to address such contradictions, first and foremost. Instead, draft or not, such words were absent entirely.’

The row over the decision by Simon & Schuster US (not UK) to publish Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor at the Trump supporting website Breitbart, continues to generate debate. When it is published it will be interesting to see how its content stands next to this comment: ‘People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs… [But] no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others’. That was the statement Twitter released when it banned Yiannopoulos from its site last summer. Will the book’s content incite harassment of others? We will have to wait.

In other news… Er, it’s him again. Believe it or not, some left leaning booksellers may have sympathy for one aspect of the new president’s thoughts. Trump told Fox News last year: “Amazon is getting away with murder tax-wise. [Bezos is] using the Washington Post for power so that politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed.” But Amazon’s recent announcement that it intends to create 100,000 jobs in the US by 2018 may temper the President-elect’s earlier zeal.

Now for a Trump-free item. The Russian book market is growing by value, if not by units, according to the Association of Russian Publishers. Book prices have increased by around 15% in the past year and approximately 75% of the market is educational. New title production has fallen by some 40% in the last six years, but Alexander Alperovich, director of the publishing house Clever, told Publishing Perspectives that in 2016 the children’s book market grew by 11.5%; the sector is showing the same resilience publishers have noticed in the UK.

Former Publishers Association president Robin Hyman died on 12 January and was fondly remembered by PA council member Richard Charkin who described him as a “publisher through and through”. Hyman’s son Peter has connections to the book industry. He was an advisor and speechwriter for Tony Blair for seven years, and then left to work in an inner city comprehensive which led to the well-received book 1 out of 10, which Vintage published in 2005. Now he is the co-founder and head teacher of School 21, a new14-18 school in Stratford, east London.

But we have to end with the big man. So who might read for Trump? Any suggestions? Kid Rock? Ted Nugent? Gene Simmons? Calling Republican poets: your country needs you.

Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.

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