In Which Paul Auster Becomes A Children's Author
Yes, the same Paul Auster. And the best part? He didn't even know about it.
A funny thing happened during Granta’s B.E.A. panel on the state of American writing on Friday, when a woman from the audience asked Paul Auster whether it was his idea to turn Timbuktu, a novella he published in 1999, into a children’s book.
For a moment, Mr. Auster looked at the questioner blankly. “But it’s not a children’s book,” he said.
To read about this bizarre story - which is as much of a commentary about how ridiculous the publishing industry seems to be these days, click the link below to read more.
Here are some more details from this odd story:
The woman insisted that she knew what she was talking about—that the book she was referring to was an adaptation, published with full illustrations and packaged as a kids’ book. Mr. Auster said it was the first he'd ever heard of such a thing.
At that point, Picador publicist James Meader, who works on Mr. Auster's paperbacks, submitted in a somewhat sheepish tone that he had a copy of the book in his office, and would send one to him directly. Soon someone in the audience had Googled the book on her iPhone, and raised her hand to share her findings. "It has a gray fluffy dog on the cover looking over its shoulder," she reported.
Had Picador published a Paul Auster book without telling him or paying for the privilege? That’s kind of what it seemed like!
"It’s kind of a macabre idea for a children’s book," Mr. Meader said, "Because as you may know, the dog does commit suicide at the end."
In an interview today, Ms. Mann said she had gotten in touch with Minedition and that contracts and copies of the book—which is distributed by Penguin in the USA—are on their way to Ms. Mann’s office. Turns out a computer crash was to blame!
Emphasis in the above is mine.
I'm a little less charitable, and wonder how it's possible a computer crash could be to blame; how did this actually get published before any contracts were signed? Regardless, there are probably a lot of German kids reading this and wondering what the heck kind of story their parents wanted them to read.
(For what it's worth, Timbuktu is a favorite of many Auster fans, but one of my least favorite.)