June 21, 2005
Susan Peterson Kennedy President Penguin Group 375 Hudson Street New York, N.Y. 10014
Dear Ms. Peterson Kennedy,
I write in support of David Brock's expression of disappointment and outrage, as expressed in his "open letter to the Penguin Group" of June 20.
I am an academic, a musicologist and a professional singer. My wife is an English teacher, a poet and songwriter. We are both bibliophiles, with perhaps a modest 2500 or 3000 books between us, in every room in the house. Not only are our professional libraries extensive, but we read endlessly for pleasure, our tastes ranging from P. G. Wodehouse to Stephen Jay Gould, from Vladimir Nabokov to Vikram Seth, from Hindu myths to John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee (arguably a god in disguise), from Robert Heinlein to "Dilbert," from the comic mysteries of Donald Westlake to the linguisic theories of Stephen Pinker...you name it, we have a place for it in our library. Except for one thing.
Character assassination masquerading under the aegis of "serious journalism." That, we don't want. (Full disclosure: I own a copy of Kitty Kelly's Sinatra biography, and a copy of Kevin Cash's "Who the Hell is William Loeb?") Advance reports on the content of Edward Klein's book on Senator Clinton suggest that it is, in Brock's words, "...an obviously false and defamatory tract." The excerpts currently in circulation, and which Brock detailed in his letter, suggest that Penguin has been, to put it very mildly, sloppy in the matter of checking facts and holding its authors to a high standard of accuracy and professional conduct. As a liberal booklover, I'm emotionally inclined to give a firm like Penguin the benefit of the doubt - but as a book-loving liberal, I am outraged that your firm's formerly high standards of accuracy and conduct have been sacrificed to make a quick buck on the ready market for libel.
My wife and I like to go to bookstores; we like to read; we buy books; we are teaching our daughter to love books. Everyone in our family is like that; I have an aunt who once spoke of some minor domestic requirement as "not essential, not like food or books." Needless to say, many of the volumes we own are published by Penguin Group, and that orange spine and proud Arctic fowl have always stood in our minds as a mark of quality. Until now. Say it ain't so, Ms. Kennedy! I'm afraid that we'll be boycotting the Orange in our future book-shopping. We're sorry to say goodbye, but with a book like Klein's, it appears that Penguin is flipping us the bird.