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Damonology

posted by awelborn

Remember Damon Linker? The former First Things staffer who wrote that New Republic cover story on Fr. Richard John Neuhuas, The Absolutist? In which Neuhaus Threatens Your Freedom?

(The article was much discussed here and at the American Scene, and Linker himself entered both discussions.)

We knew, of course, that Linker’s article was reflective of the subject of his forthcoming book The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege.

Rod Dreher reports on Fr. Neuhaus’ side of the story, which he writes in the current FT (not online)

A few weeks later, he told me he was thinking of writing a book about First Things and its editor in chief. He explained that the book would be a critical appreciation of the achievements of the magazine. I said I would be happy to cooperate with such a project but I didn’t think there would be enough interest in the subject to elicit a large advance from a publisher. Moreover, this would be a first book by a relatively unknown writer. In early December, he told me that several publishers had indicated intense interest in the book he was proposing and that Doubleday had offered an advance of $160,000.

Go to Rod’s for more, including Rod’s explanation of how many books Linker would have to sell to cover that advance and how odd it is that Doubleday would give an advance for a book on RJN.

Well, I’d guess that since the book’s title hints at a wider subject (even if it doesn’t deliver on it), that scary concept has a lot of resonance today among, and does sell books.



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Kathy Donnelly

posted July 21, 2006 at 12:40 pm


I don’t know if it will sell books or not. I recentley listened to Ann Coulter explain how she had a hard time getting published, even after a best seller, but that liberal authors get big advances for books that turn out to be flops. Here is an opportunity for a publisher to slam the “theocons” (whatever they are). When it comes to bashing Christians, and especially anything Catholic, the liberals jump.



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Patrick Rothwell

posted July 21, 2006 at 12:49 pm


If Doubleday targets libraries as well as a general readership, it might make a profit. I also think its wrong to assume that only liberal authors get big advances for books that flop. Mary Cheney – a much more well-known figure – got a much larger advance than Damon Linker, and her book was a huge flop.
I also suspect that Linker’s book – agree with it or not – iwill be more informed and intelligent than anything that Kevin Phillips could ever write on the subject. I think it has the potential to sell well unless it is a hatchet job of just one man (Neuhaus) that is not a household word.



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Nick

posted July 21, 2006 at 1:23 pm


Citing Mary Cheney’s advance for her book is pretty weak. Is it a stretch to suppose that publishing a book from her was just too delicious to pass up? If Mary Cheney was a nun, do you think she would have gotten a book deal?



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CV

posted July 21, 2006 at 1:59 pm


I guess for Fr. Neuhaus, no good deed goes unpunished. Sounds like he treated Linker well and was sincere in his support of him. In return, Linker stabbed him in the back, not to put too fine a point on it.
Linker may well have been sincere about supporting the mission of FT when he began working there. He either changed his views at some point along the way (at best) or was lying all along in order to get a closeup view of the vast right wing conspiracy masterminded by Fr. Neuhaus (sarcasm off). I think it’s pretty clear that he lied to Neuhaus about the general focus of his book (“a critical appreciation of the achievements of the magazine,” with a pretty big emphasis on critical, apparently).
I’m not sure I understand the point of Rod’s post, however. It seems clear that the Linker book is not aimed at “theocons” but rather at mainstream lefty audiences who lap this stuff up.



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mark j

posted July 21, 2006 at 2:29 pm


Interesting that Linker was still working at First Things, apparently happily, while submitting the proposal and planning the book.



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mark j

posted July 21, 2006 at 2:34 pm


On a somewhat related note, I was just looking at the First Things website, and saw that the August issue has an article by Ross Douthat (of The American Scene) reviewing Kevin Phillips’ book and three other “religious-right-theocracy-hysteria” books (but not the Linker book).
http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0607/articles/douthat.html



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Joe Strummer

posted July 21, 2006 at 2:56 pm


It seems the Linker situation should be an occasion for sadness and not carping.



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Simon

posted July 21, 2006 at 3:08 pm


I don’t see why we would be enjoined to “sadness and not carping.” The facts on record establish a very strong presumption that Mr. Linker is not an honorable man.
Then again, for $160,000 perhaps he doesn’t much care.



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Simon

posted July 21, 2006 at 3:09 pm


On a somewhat related note, I was just looking at the First Things website, and saw that the August issue has an article by Ross Douthat (of The American Scene) reviewing Kevin Phillips’ book and three other “religious-right-theocracy-hysteria” books (but not the Linker book).
http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0607/articles/douthat.html

Mark J. — Yes, the Douthat piece is outstanding as well as hilarious. A must read.



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Patrick Rothwell

posted July 21, 2006 at 3:17 pm


Nick, my point was that Mary Cheney is associated with the Right, and the Left seems to loathe her in profoundly unbalanced ways. This disproves the notion that only liberals can get big advances because the book publishing industry is rather liberal.



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Colin

posted July 21, 2006 at 3:31 pm


Am I correct in assuming that the industry SOP is still that the writer has to return the part of the advance not covered by actual royalties generated? Or in today’s publishing world does the publisher just eat the difference if the book flops?
In either case, I hope Linker enjoys his thirty pieces now, if that’s what the advance turns out to be (reserving judgment). $160,000 won’t generate enough interest for a family to live on, and I would guess that after a volte face like this he will live paycheck to paycheck doing discreet spec work for magazines. I can’t see any periodical editor ever trusting him enough to bring him onto the masthead and into the office.



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amywelborn

posted July 21, 2006 at 3:40 pm


No, Colin, that’s not the case. Contracts aren’t dependent on sales, just on your production of the manuscript and publication. Most contracts are tripartate – the writer gets 1/3 upon signing the contract, 1/3 upon having the manuscript accepted and 1/3 upon publication. Sometimes it’s 50-50 divided either between steps 1 and 2 or 1 and 3.
You only have to give the money back if you don’t fulfill your part of the bargain: you don’t have a manuscript ready at all, or its determined that you didn’t deliver what you agreed to.



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Joe Strummer

posted July 21, 2006 at 3:43 pm


Colin,
May I suggest a cease and desist order on all references to Damon as “Judas.” He is/was/? a Jewish convert.



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Boko Fittleworth

posted July 21, 2006 at 3:52 pm


Why this thread hasn’t yet been hijacked for Weigel-bashing (like every other FT thread), I don’t understand.
Joe, as always, love the music, quibble with the lyrics. I think Dylan’s “Positively Fourth Street” is more apt here than is “Clampdown”.



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Colin

posted July 21, 2006 at 3:53 pm


May I suggest a cease and desist order on all references to Damon as “Judas.” He is/was/? a Jewish convertA very good point and suggestion, although I would note that I wasn’t the only one, and mine didn’t even use the J-word. Still, the point is well taken. Apologies to Mr. Linker; I was genuinely curious about the economics of writing.



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Michael Tinkler

posted July 21, 2006 at 4:03 pm


Oooh – if Mary Cheney were a nun! The lesbian NUN daughter of a v.p.! Now THAT might’ve sold!



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Joe Strummer

posted July 21, 2006 at 4:54 pm


Boko,
I have about 9 Catholic blogs identities. Joe is my favorite. I’m so happy Amy’s blog now has a reference to ‘Clampdown.’ But Joe’s lyrics are fairly bad. A recent New Yorker profile had some playwrite waxing about how Strummer turned him into an atheist. :-(



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Peter Templer

posted July 21, 2006 at 7:12 pm


Boko,
I’ll do some bashing. I’ve been wondering what it says about Neuhaus that he would be bamboozled by somebody like this in the first place. From what came out on the blogs, this guy sounded like a bit of a loose cannon–he was known as a bit of a firebrand in Straussian circles, moved on to an academic position at BYU, moved on to work for Rudy Giuliani, was unhappy there… I’ve met a few folks like this (never happy anywhere, always on the move, generally making people around them unhappy) and their unhappiness always sticks out a mile. How could Neuhaus trust this guy as much as he did? My guess is that, coming from Giuliani’s staff, he supported the war in Iraq to the hilt (including America’s mission to spread democracy across the globe) and that was good enough for Fr. Neuhaus, even though Linker’s religious credentials were questionable, if not non-existent.



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Joe Strummer

posted July 21, 2006 at 8:42 pm


Peter,
You’re off the mark there.
He explains in his book that his reason for leaving First Things were due to the journal’s (perceived!) position on the war.
A “firebrand Straussian” isn’t entirely true either.



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Peter Templer

posted July 22, 2006 at 1:04 am


Joe,
I haven’t seen Linker’s book. Have you? What else does it say?
If he left FT because of its stand on the war, that makes things even stranger still and the question remains: What WAS he doing at that magazine? Why was he hired? What did Neuhaus and his folks see in him that made them say, “this is the perfect guy to edit a magazine that advances a religiously informed public philosophy”?



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Mike Petrik

posted July 22, 2006 at 10:01 am


“My guess is that, coming from Giuliani’s staff, he supported the war in Iraq to the hilt (including America’s mission to spread democracy across the globe) and that was good enough for Fr. Neuhaus, even though Linker’s religious credentials were questionable, if not non-existent.”
But didn’t Linker’s association with FT begin well prior to the Iraq war? I haven’t researched it, but I have not subscribed to FT since before the war, and I seem to recall Linker. Of course my memory is pretty unreliable.



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Peter Templer

posted July 22, 2006 at 10:27 am


Mike,
Yes, I just looked at Fr. Neuhaus’ statement and, apparently, Linker started work at FT in May 2001, before 11 September. What made me link the Linker’s time there and 11 September was that somebody “in the know” came on to Amy’s blog back in March and gave a brief summary of Linker’s background and career at FT. Linker didn’t dispute that when he came onto Amy’s blog. I might be thinking of Linker’s promotion from associate editor to editor, after James Neuchterlein’s (sp?) retirement, which I’m pretty sure came after 11 September.
Anyway, as I said, although by all accounts Linker was less than honest, I simply wonder what this says about Neuhaus’ judgment and priorities. How does somebody, who even in his pre-FT days had the marks of a loose cannon and non-team player (again, going by what the poster on Amy’s blog said), who doesn’t seem to think religion belongs in the public square at all, become the editor of a magazine that seeks to advance “a religiously informed public philosophy”?
Here is the thread of which I am thinking. Read C. Coleman’s post, the first one. “Neuhaus was his [Linker's] strongest supporter.”
http://amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook/2006/03/conflict_of_int.html



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