I just read in the New York Times this morning that Anne Fadiman will leave the American Scholar over a budget dispute. It seems that despite the fact that the literary journal has become one of the the country’s best under her watch, a dispute over budgets led to an impasse. According to the Times, “a high profile and a healthy circulation of about 28,000 were apparently not enough to safeguard her job. Last week a budget deficit for the journal, which costs $1.25 million a year to produce, left Ms. Fadiman and her publisher, the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at loggerheads, with Ms. Fadiman contending that she had been dismissed.” (You can read the entire story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/30/books/30SCHO.html)
It is too bad that so often quality work and the bottom line can cause conflict such as this. Surely, publications must make money to survive. Conflicts such as these are never a black and white issue. But such stories are not uncommon. You wonder, what’s an editor to do?
Over the years, I have picked up quite a few issues of the magazine, enjoying them very much. “Its witty essays by leading writers on subjects as varied as jigsaw puzzles and diabetes have sparked intellectual discussion, lured fresh talent and earned this quarterly three National Magazine Awards in six years,” writes the New York Times. “It is currently a finalist for two more: one for general excellence in a publication with a circulation of less than 100,000, and one for profile writing, an article by Ms. Fadiman about an Arctic explorer that appeared in the winter issue.”
I realize that I have strayed from the subject of books. As the newspaper stressed, Anne Fadiman is just as fine a writer as editor. In fact, if you have not picked up a copy of her book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, you must. This National Book Critics Circle award-winner is a classic in creative nonfiction as far as I am concerned, covering the cultural conflicts that can occur when American medicine and Hmong customs clash. Fadiman, as you might expect, can also be counted among us bilbiophiles. Check out her latest book on the subject: Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader. Let me know your thoughts.