William Collins scoops Michiko Kakutani book on 'objective reality'

William Collins scoops Michiko Kakutani book on 'objective reality'

William Collins will publish the debut from the former New York Times chief book critic Michiko Kakutani, billed as "a clarion call for verity". 

A year on after the Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic left her role at the NYT, the HarperCollins imprint has scooped The Death of Truth for an undisclosed sum and has fast-tracked its publication for 26th July. David Roth-Ey, William Collins’ executive publisher, bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown UK.

The author promises her much-anticipated first book will tackle US President Donald Trump's "snowballing lies and repudiation of objective reality" as well as the Leave campaign ahead of the Brexit vote.

"We live in a time when the very idea of objective truth is mocked and discounted by Trump", the blurb reads. "Discredited conspiracy theories and ideologies have resurfaced, proven science is once more up for debate, and Russian propaganda floods our screens. The wisdom of the crowd has usurped research and expertise, and we are each left clinging to the beliefs that best confirm our biases."

The book explores how truth become an endangered species, according to William Collins, taking "a penetrating look at the cultural forces that contributed to this gathering storm”. It has been fast-tracked for publication because the it is such a “timely” title, the publisher said.

“In social media and literature, television, academia, and political campaigns, Kakutani identifies the trends, originating on both the right and the left, that have combined to elevate subjectivity over factuality, science, and common values,” William Collins said. “And she returns us to the words of the great critics of authoritarianism, writers like George Orwell and Hannah Arendt, whose work is newly and eerily relevant.”

Kakutani “offers a provocative diagnosis of our current condition and presents a path forward for our truth-challenged times” as well as “remarkable erudition and insight”.

The former critic stepped down as the NYT’s chief book critic last July after 38 years at the publication. A month after her departure, she signed a deal for US publication of The Death of Truth with Crown’s Tim Duggan Books. 

Roth-Ey described the title as "a clarion call for verity and one of the most important books of the year". 

"Melding history, politics, literature and critical theory, Kakutani shines a bright light on the dark state of democracy today in the age of Trump," he said. "Wide-ranging in scope but tightly argued, The Death of Truth is an essential antidote to the current war on truth."

Kakutani said: "Trump's snowballing lies and repudiation of objective reality are eroding public trust and Constitutional safeguards in America, but the assault on truth is hardly confined to the States. It's a global phenomenon - witness the Leave campaign's false claims about the UK's relationship with the EU during the Brexit referendum, the Russian sowing of dezinformatsiya in the run-up to elections on the Continent, and the worldwide spread of fake news over social media."

She added: "In The Death of Truth, I situate these developments in context with larger political and social dynamics that have been percolating through western culture for several decades now, and explore the fallout this ascent of subjectivity over reason and expertise is having on our daily lives and on the future of liberal democracy around the world."

Earlier this month The Bookseller reported on how the non-fiction market is experiencing a dramatic shift, with "more intelligent" titles on the rise, partially the result of the continuing wane of the celebrity market. 

The book will be published in hardback retailing at £12.99.