Monday, July 20, 2009

Try Me, the Spectator and the power of unseen friends

I see the Spectator hoped to run a review of Farah Damji's Try Me but was thwarted by the bonds of friendship which so frequently decide what (and how what) gets reviewed in our largely (still!) Oxbridge press.

I am printing two letters (the latter edited to save blushes) between the magazine's literary editor Mark Amory and the press director of the company credited with publishing Try Me, Sophie Cooke. In this instance I think the magazine has behaved entirely honourably: it wasn't interested in the book, then became interested because someone Amory knew said he wanted to review the title. The reviewer manqué then cried off, thinking of Answered Prayers and the horrors of social ostracism, no doubt. Amory frankly and refreshingly reveals all. Do you see the sneery smile on Madame Arcati's face?

Dear Mark,
I hope you are well. I am just following up to see if you had a chance to look at the press release I sent you about Farah Damji’s book, Try Me, and if so, if you are at all interested in doing something with it? Many thanks,
Sophie Cooke
Press Director
The Ark Press

Dear Sophie,
I am sorry I have mucked you about. I did not plan to do ‘Try Me’ then someone asked specially to do it, you decently sent me a copy and now he says he can’t because it is rude about dear friends. Why not defend them, I say but he is immoveable. Sorry.
Yours,
Mark

Other examples of missing book reviews in our national press would be most welcome.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

You've only half outed Mark Amory.

Madame Arcati said...

I quite admire Amory's honesty. On the other hand why didn't he get another reviewer - if only to trash the book? I suppose he didn't hesitate to have Coleridge's execrable latest novel critiqued.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, nothing so revealing as honesty.

Anonymous said...

I quite enjoyed Coleridge's novel. He didn't use words that challenged me.

Anonymous said...

So what? That's life.

veritas said...

I haven't seen one single review of my masterpiece: "Interesting Encounters in an Elevator".

I haven't written it yet but that's no excuse.

Green Goddess said...

Good Lord. How did you get that?

I think Mark Amory is lovely. But then I have a thing for posh Oxbridge boys. More people will read this on Madame Arcati than read the Sextator which is largely pointless this week.

The characters in Arvind Adiga's new book are described as "leaping off the page to grab you by the throat." I suppose when a whole book just eats you up and swallows you whole it doesn't make the review pages. Anyway. Look for next week's Private Eye...an in-depth expose of the inner workings of Mr Pamela Bordes' meejah empire. And a chance to reprint that great Pammy / Andrew photo-op again.

Madame Arcati said...

My inbox is like a harlot's love canal.

And Veritas, I am scandalised by what you reveal. All of literary journalism stands indicted.

Anonymous said...

Why are you publicising Damji's book when you know she pleaded guilty to more criminal charges last week and is up for sentence later this year subject to medical reports? Has Madame Arcati now tuned her interest from Kevin Spacey and Spiritualism to the literature of cons?

Madame Arcati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madame Arcati said...

My interest in this instance is in a form of censorship by social power - only recently I wrote about the American author Michael Gross and his problems with getting reviews for his latest book (see labels), thanks to the disapproval of a powerful New York queen who is one of Gross' subjects. The next best thing to ridding ourselves of this power is knowing of it. I'd rather readers have the opportunity to damn an author to hell than social creeps.

I am well aware of Farah's legal problems, that's entirely another matter.

Anonymous said...

Sophie Cooke is another one of Damji's aliases. She's not a well girl at all. This is really getting a bit tiring now.

Green Goddess said...

http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/615972

lovely pictures from the Guy Hilton Gallery event.

daisyjarvis@rocketmail.com said...

Can you find someone who has placed an online order of Try Me and actually received it? If you find such a person (who isn't one of Farah's aliases) I will be very surprised. The good thing about Amazon and Waterstones is that you don't actually get charged anything until the book is dispatched. Unfortunately Farah is now encouraging everybody to order directly from her sham company The Ark Press and pay her direct. That way you'll never see your money again and you'll never see the book. I really think it's a disgrace that you are aiding and abetting this criminal to scam more people. I'm surprised at you and do not understand your motivation. From other messages I've read here it seems you are aware of what Farah is doing and you just don't care and seem to find it somehow fun to enable her to scam more people. Why?

Anonymous said...

The main form of censorship is not social but against quality work.

Madame Arcati said...

I'm well aware that there are some determined campaigns going on around here! I know of at least three people who have received copies of the book, so perhaps you need to check your facts out, if indeed you are sticking to the facts.

As I have said, I am well aware of the problems around Farah and this posting is about social power censorship in general. If you don't like the Damji example, try the Gross. Did you have anything to say about Gross?

Madame Arcati said...

And on that note, I am only putting up comments on censorship. There is one person determined to make points about Damji, your points have been made. And you have made them in several different places.

Anonymous said...

In my experience there really is not that much censorship when it comes to good books being reviewed. They only tend to be ignored when they are not that interesting or relevent.

Madame Arcati said...

I can't agree (and forget about Try Me here). So many good books are ignored because the author has no reviewer connections or the topic falls outside the prejudices of the editor. For years Private Eye has charted the back scratching in crit land.

veritas said...

Hooray! Can I claim that as a review of my unwritten book Madame?

This has to be a first-a published review of an unpublished book.

It will be included on the dust jacket and you will receive the first signed copy.

Madame Arcati said...

You may. Arcati of course often only reviews the book cover. That tells so much.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it more often the publisher who has the reviewer connections?

Madame Arcati said...

Perhaps "connections" is the word. But generally, if the author is not connected h/she will be lucky to be reviewed. Why, for example, review a Nicholas Coleridge novel?

Anonymous said...

So many unknown debut authors get good review coverage. Zadie Smith springs to mind with White Teeth, and so many others. I think a good book and a publisher with connections goes a long way. A contentious book without the backing of a big publisher might encounter problems getting reviews though as is the case with the Farah book.

Madame Arcati said...

What I don't like is the editor (not the case here with Damji) who makes moral judgements. I'd rather see a book torn to shreds by a forensic analysis than a page full of cliche about a book by a friend of a friend. Exceptionally, great talent breaks through.

Anonymous said...

Mark Amory comes across as a decent chap.

Madame Arcati said...

Here he does. Otherwise I wouldn't like to say. I haven't the time right npow to explore. Perhaps other writers have worked with him.

Anonymous said...

"Why are you publicising Damji's book when you know she pleaded guilty to more criminal charges last week and is up for sentence later this year subject to medical reports?"

Frankly, Anon, what else would you expect from someone who also supports a Jonathan King?

"Has Madame Arcati now turned her interest from Kevin Spacey and Spiritualism to the literature of cons?"

Via Daniel Radcliffe's fake naked pic! Not mentioning that Arcati's vision of KS and spiritualism is somewhat adulterated too. :->

Anonymous said...

Mark Amory would be lost without Clare Asquith. It is she who holds the Speccie's book pages together.

spears said...

Don't forget the brewhaha over Stephen Robinson's book on Bill Deedesh, whose review the Telegraph dumped for a Barclay-related reason.

Madame Arcati said...

The JanWinter2 shitters are back! Hopelessly addicted! xx

Anonymous said...

"Madame" just plays with people till they stop generating comments. Farah should remember that about this whore. Probably the darkerst of all bloggers, evil.

Madame Arcati said...

Btw, I don't "support" Jonathan King. What I don't do is make a moral judgement on behalf of the lumpen bloggertariat. Here again, I am well aware of the problems surrounding King: why should I play witchfinder general? Leave that to the Wades of this world.

Anonymous said...

I agree about Jonathan King etc. I like your refusal to take a moral stance. Problem is in this instance you are actually playing accessory to Damji's scams. That's really....edgy.

Madame Arcati said...

No, let's be accurate. I have been given third party assurances and I have seen certain documents which appear to rebut the fraud claims re Try Me. I was told no books were being dispatched, but I know of at least 3 people who received hard copies. So what happned there? If Madame Arcati has any reason to think that books are not being sent out then my tune will change. What won't happen is my acceding to unsubstantiated claims in particular cases. Newspapers are much better at that sport of thing. I also disapprove of relentless vendettas unless hard evidence supports the claims.

Anonymous said...

"Btw, I don't "support" Jonathan King."

Oh but silly me! Advertising his productions is not supporting him indeed. Neither are you supporting Duncan Fallowell, Mark McGowan, Steph Mastini etc. Right?

Anonymous said...

I would say being convicted of 23 new counts of fraud is hard evidence. You disagree that it is then, presumably?

ex-Spectator hack said...

This is not the full story! Amory smelled a rat. He found out about Sophie Cooke.

Anonymous said...

I think what my Arcati is saying here is that she likes Damji's book and wants to support it. I think she is saying she knows Damji is still a fraudster and is up on new charges but that this knowledge doesn't make her want to stop liking or supporting Damji's book. That the book in itself is not a fraud even if it's author continually engages in acts of fraud. This is what I think the situation is.

veritas said...

Anonymous said...

"Madame" just plays with people till they stop generating comments. Farah should remember that about this whore. Probably the darkerst of all bloggers,' evil.

What a wonderful compliment-"the darkerst/darkest of all bloggers"

And me on the very same blog-the first in the world to receiving a glowing review about an unpublished tome.

Now I need some bad or mixed reviews to complete my success and surely I would worthy of a wikpedia page.

Who said the Madame doesn't break new ground ?

Green Goddess said...

Madame. You are not an evil whore. I AM. Oh but then I AM you and Anna Cohen and my lovely Sophie and Nirpal Dhaliwal. I LOVE all this hate because it is turning into BOOK SALES! Try Daunts darlings and Paige's of Hackney and other indys in your local 'hood. Amazons restocked, should be available from Friday. If you order directly from The Ark, which you can, you are covered by PayPal. The chains will indeed get the book as The Ark's distribution gets sorted out. The book was late to the printer because it had to be libel and privacy checked for all the e mail and text correspondence btwn me, Allan Jenkins XXX and William Dalrymple. Recent changes in the law meant I was allowed to publish it. In my view it is worth the delay because it really adds to the book. Someone else thinks so too

"Her ruthless attacks on those who have either crossed or bedded her seem quite cruel and detatched, but the way they have been wriiten and presented are nothing short of genius. She picks people apart like some sort of caustic, ravenous surgeon but she does it with a biting and clever wit that's is too hard to resist. She lays down the fickle and pourous London media circle for what it is and rightly expose those who are deceitful and unapologetically miscreant and unjust to their loved ones."

Oh hold on, I must be HIM too. In fact I am everywhere. Such fun.

Definitely Maybe said...

Yes, Nicholas Coleridge is a rubbish writer but he knows a good thing when he sees it - he gave the Fallowell book a terrific review.

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something here? Why does Amazon say Ms Damji's book is not in stock? A bit fishy?

Madame Arcati said...

Here's the Arcati view:

Yes, Farah is in trouble with the law (again!).

She has written a book.

It happens to be very well written.

So far as I know, books are being dispatched.

I have read the entire book in pdf format. The book is typeset as a book, textually it looks like a book.

Is it likely she went to the bother of writing such a book in order to make a few quid without fulfilling orders? Unlikely.

Should the book be reviewed? That's a matter of opinion. But I found it interesting so will review it.

Should you buy the book? That's a matter for you. Make your own judgement.

And that's it.

veritas said...

"Anonymous said...

Am I missing something here? Why does Amazon say Ms Damji's book is not in stock? A bit fishy?"

Definitely something fishy..I can't find my book in stock on Amazon either and it's already had one glowing review.

Anonymous said...

why review a n coleridge novel? because thousands of people buy them; and so want to know what they're like. it's like a j archer novel: most of highbrow lit society hates archer and thinks the novels lousy but everyone has to acknowledge as professionals they're worth giving space to.

DRF said...

Pulp fiction is not worth giving space to in the limited book pages of the press. Because pulp fiction merely supplies a market and does not add anything new to human experience. Do food critics review the fact that Sainsbury's has received another delivery of potato crisps? Of course not. They review a new chef or restaurant or recipe. People should understand that art - including literature - is not about numbers or markets or bums-on-seats but about ADDING something to life and so enlarging our reality.

Duncan Fallowell

DRF said...

Which doesn't of course mean that art and literature cannot enjoy any sort of popularity - but it does mean that the criterion has nothing to do with numbers sold and everything to do with originality.

Duncan

Anonymous said...

This is just a question and not a judgment but can anyone tell why Farah would continue on her criminal path? Being in prison and losing her kids can't have been very nice so why would she want to get in similar trouble again? I know that 'Green Goddess' will come on and say it is not Farah's fault and it is everyone else's fault but I've confirmed with reliable sources that she really has pleaded guilty to 20+ new counts of fraud. Why wouldn't she learn from her previous mistakes?

Anonymous said...

"I also disapprove of relentless vendettas ..."

Hear, hear, my dear!
It is a witch hunt MA darling. It doesn't matter that FD paid for her prior mistakes, nor that what the charges she is facing now are not related to what the book is about. This persecution is about ostracizing her because once you've done wrong, no one must trust you again nor support you so that you find your way out through legal/moral ways. Who cares this post is about censorship or that when you review the book, that is what the review will be about? You are promoting Farah Damji and you must be stopped!

We must remind you everyday Farah dearest, for the rest of your life, that you have been a bad girl and there is no place for you among these straight-as-an-arrow law abiding citizens, because if we applaud and support anything you do, no matter how commendable or extraordinary, we are "supporting" you - you naughty incorrigible girl.

Do you understand now where the ways of the criminal justice system basically come from? Where the whole problem starts? These people are the same ones that would have to vote to make changes to it. They would have to believe that individuals like you FD can be encouraged to make the right choices. If you are going to do anything to improve the system dear, you have to be aware that these are the kind of people you are facing. They couldn't care less that in the long run it benefits society as a whole; they want blood and they want it now and if they can close down this blog while they are at it, that would just be icing on the cake.
ox

Madame Arcati said...

Yes, a name is a Precious thing.

Duralex said...

<< You are promoting Farah Damji and you must be stopped! >>

Ha ha ha! Actually I suspect our "Madame" of supporting and promoting no one else but "herself", by specialising in the rescue of the tenth-rate scandalous personalities that the mainstream press leaves her as a charity. :-)

Madame Arcati said...

Is that so Duralex, with the press focusing only on the first rate scandalous personalities?

Anonymous said...

You just stand your ground, baby. You are NOT being accessory to nothing! You have been around long enough to know who/when they are coming to you with the voice of reason and who is just hiding their horrible prejudiced feelings behind this "you should not be supporting society's pariahs" chant.
ox (or should I sigh FD? I'm probably her too - let's start a club)

p.s I was thinking Farah that maybe you should get a black t-shirt with scarlet letters ("FD") stamped in the chest area so that people can recognize you in the street and cross to the other side before they reach up to where you are walking. After all, some may not recognize you at first and they would not know to avoid you...;-)

Anonymous said...

Arcati's most striking attribute is naivety. She is pathetically drawn into these sagas and just seems to relish the abuse. Sometime ago I formed the view that "she" requires psychiatric attention.

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

...you are a worm Anonymous..why wouldn't MA support me and my endeavors?...I am real, and honest and I am everything I say I am and more.. I will not be intimidated by you...so, go pick on someone your own size, you spineless sloth..
s~xx

Anonymous said...

Blimey! I see Farah Damji's book is OUT OF PRINT already on Amazon.co.uk! My advice to Farah - dump her POD publisher - get a new ISBN no and re-release the book on the web.

Anonymous said...

Lordy, she's madder than a bag of snakes on a barbecue.

Is this Michael Gross the same one who, in the reviews quoted for the book on Amazon, calls Ms Damji a 'quasi-criminal'; I'd love to know what he thinks a real criminal is.