The big news about the Penguin/Random merger hit last week, but then so did Hurricane Sandy, or I’d be writing about the merger. It’s been enough just to check the news (is everyone safe, are lights on at the office yet?). If I had the time, I’d express concern about the impact of this biggest of big houses (with the expectation of bigger, that is, more commercial, books) and the collapsing and combining of imprints, which always seems to happen after a merger and always threatens to reduce the variety of voices.
My biggest worry is for literary fiction, which I fear is getting more and more marginalized. Twenty-six years ago, when I came to Library Journal, about two-thirds of the literary fiction I received came from big houses; now it’s only about a third. Bravo for all those terrific indies, often publishing terrific stuff and keeping up the literary beat. But they don’t have the clout (or the print runs) of the big houses, and I don’t want us to start thinking of literary fiction as somehow specialized. Hey, where would we be without Jennifer Egan or Zadie Smith or Junot Diaz?
No time for the supporting arguments, but that’s my thesis.