the take

No, the ‘Times’ Coverage of ‘Love and Consequences’ Is Not Charles McGrath’s Fault

From left, Margaret Seltzer; Charles McGrathPhotos: Courtesy of (Seltzer); Galleycat (McGrath)

This morning Gawker devotes a lot of blog inches to speculating about whether Love and Consequences, the “memoir” of growing up in South Central L.A. that just got debunked, benefited from some special relationship with the New York Times. Gawker’s evidence? The book’s editor at Riverhead, Sarah McGrath, is the daughter of Chip McGrath, the former editor of the Times Book Review and now a writer at large for the paper. (Today he’s busy helping Nicholson Baker return his library books.) No offense to the excellent rabble-rousers over at Gawker, but we’d answer that question with a chuckle and a dismissive wave of the hand. That’s not really the way things work. Well, sort of it is, but not the way they think.

Gawker’s Ryan Tate wonders whether McGrath’s tenure at the Book Review affected the Times’ decision to publish a Michiko Kakutani rave or convinced “Thursday Styles” “House & Home” to run a profile. But that’s unlikely on the face for a number of reasons. No one in “Thursday Styles” “House & Home” is talking to Chip McGrath about whom they should profile. And prickly Michiko Kakutani is certainly not consulting with Chip McGrath about what to review or how to review it. (She doesn’t even really talk to current editors at the Book Review, much less former ones, as Tate later amended the post to reflect.) As well, if McGrath’s former position at the Book Review had anything to do with the Times’ coverage, you’d expect that the Book Review would rave the memoir, right? Well, they haven’t even reviewed it, not even in this coming week’s issue, which features on its cover not Love and Consequences but Tony Earley’s novel The Blue Star.

More to the point, this isn’t the first book Sarah McGrath’s edited. Like most editors, she has a list of dozens of books under her belt, and the Times ignores most of them, the way it ignores 95 percent of the books published every year. Love and Consequences didn’t get attention from the Times because its editor is the daughter of a guy who writes for the Times. There’s a much more complicated web of history, friendships, relationships, favors, and promises behind every book that gets major play in the media.

Love and Consequences — then called A Child Left Behind, by “Bree” Seltzer — sold in the summer of 2005, at auction, to an editor with a good reputation. At least a little of that reputation comes from Sarah McGrath being the daughter of Chip McGrath (and the sister of the New Yorker’s Ben McGrath). Some of it comes from Sarah McGrath knowing the right people, some of whom she knows due to family connections. Plenty of it comes from Sarah McGrath being a good editor who edits good books for a good publisher. It hardly matters, because in the inbred world of book publishing, where everyone knows everyone and probably dated everyone else, the threads of friendship and quasi-friendship and marriage and lineage are so densely knit that to try to tease one out is basically pointless.

Lying Author’s Ties To The Times Book Review [Gawker]
Related: Fake Memoirist Dupes ‘Times,’ Publisher, But Thankfully Not Oprah [Daily Intel]

No, the ‘Times’ Coverage of ‘Love and Consequences’ Is Not Charles McGrath’s Fault