Anti-Marketers’ Pre-emptive Strike on YA Novel

By Neal Comment

Remember yesterday’s item about Cover Girl working its way into Cathy’s Book? Well, all those sponsored references to Lipslicks lip gloss have attracted the attention of the anti-corporate killjoys at Commercial Alert, an advocacy group (co-founded by Ralph Nader) that strives “to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy.” On the one hand, that leads CA to push for the elimination of commercial programming on school buses; on the other, it demands the removal of all prescription drug advertising from all media. Even the commercialization of Broadway (Broadway!) has these guys losing their cool.

Anyway, the group has already decided—based solely on the NYT story, rather than examining the book itself, as far as I can tell—that Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart aren’t really writers, merely co-creators of a marketing campaign. As such, it’s peppering hundreds of book review editors with an insistent request not to cover Cathy’s Book. “It is not unknown for works of fiction to advance political and other agendas,” the petition acknowledges, “but this crosses a line.” Why political agendas should be acceptable while commercial ones aren’t remains unexplained, but I for one find it hard to trust a value system in which Cathy’s Book is deemed inherently more reprehensible than The Turner Diaries before the book’s even been read.

“Will you treat this book as a novel to be reviewed,” Commercial Alert presses, “or as an advertisement, which is suitable for discussion in the business pages?” Yet, based on the available evidence, including direct statements by the authors, there would appear to be no reason not to consider both approaches…at least, no reason not purely driven by anti-corporate ideology. CA seeks “to stop the subversion of our culture by corporate huckstering and commercial values, and to strengthen noncommercial culture.” As near as I can tell, that ought to dial us back to some time just before the Enlightenment, although I for one would welcome the return of the illuminated manuscript. Which isn’t to say that I’m some gung-ho corporate warrior—just that I don’t buy into CA’s “hate the player and the game” mindset. Heck, until I actually see a copy of Cathy’s Book, I’m not even going to hate the players…