March 7, 2005

Random Condo . . .


“For a house that made its name publishing James Joyce and, more recently, E.L. Doctorow and Norman Mailer, Random House has had an unusual last year. Its two best-known, best-selling authors in 2004 were Donald Trump and American Idol‘s Clay Aiken,” observes Matthew Flamm in an article for Crain’s. As he goes on to say more bluntly, “The flagship imprint of the world’s largest publishing company is suffering an identity crisis. Staff turnover and a difficult marketplace for literary books are pushing Random House away from its highbrow heritage and toward the lowbrow commercialism that marks most of its competitors. And at the same time that it’s shedding its literary distinctiveness, it has yet to enlist the sort of blockbuster author, such as John Grisham, who can be relied on to keep a commercial publisher in the black.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.