Jonathan Cape's Dan Franklin has said he wouldn't be able to publish Vladimir Nabokov's controversial classic Lolita - about a man's obsession with a 12-year-old girl - were he to be offered it today, because of the #MeToo phenomenon and changing attitudes among a younger generation.
Quoted by Rachel Johnson in a Spectator article, Franklin - whose authors include Howard Jacobson, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie - told the publication: "I wouldn’t publish Lolita. What’s different today is #MeToo and social media — you can organise outrage at the drop of a hat. If Lolita was offered to me today, I’d never be able to get it past the acquisition team — a committee of 30-year-olds, who’d say, 'If you publish this book we will all resign.'’
Johnson's piece references trigger warnings in universities for material with sensitive content and the use of morality clauses in publishing contracts, describing publishing as having "a massive attack of wokeness".
Also quoted is literary agent Natasha Fairweather of Rogers, Coleridge and White, who commented: "The real story is about what is happening in the world of young adult publishing, where the mood is becoming so militant that you are no longer allowed to write from the perspective of anyone other than yourself. Amelie Wen Zhao withdrew her book from publication with a Twitter post that read like a Stalin-era apology."
Zhao asked her publisher, Random House's Delacorte imprint in the US, to delay publication of her YA debut following criticism online of a slave auction scene.
Meanwhile Curtis Brown chair Jonathan Lloyd was quoted on the furore surrounding writer Dan Mallory, the author of thriller The Woman in the Window (HarperCollins), accused in a very lengthy New Yorker article of fabricating his past and lying about having cancer. Lloyd told the Spectator: "We all knew he had fantasies. Does the fact that he might be a bipolar fabulist detract from his abilities to write a novel? Not in the least."