Service of Spilling the Beans

February 27th, 2012

Categories: Publishing, Spilling the Beans, Writing

Who hasn’t fanaticized about writing a tell-all book, article or post about an industry, company or character? A retired PR man wrote “Bad PR Stories” on a friend’s blog, “My 2 Cents,” but he didn’t name names and he doesn’t work in the industry anymore.

When someone spills the beans, names and all, I think of Truman Capote’s book, “Answered Prayers,” where he exposed intimate secrets of his celebrity friends. Employees, feeling their oats, have blabbed inside info about their employers through social media and have suffered the consequences.

Kat Stoeffel exposed one of the latest blabbers in a New York Observer article, “Bogie’s Burn Book: There’s a Tumblin’, Tweetin’ Bull in the Knopf China Shop” about a publicist at a major book publishing house who posted inflammatory insider industry impressions on his Tumblr blog:  “…the 51-year-old executive director of publicity and marketing for Knopf posted ‘The Hierarchy of Book Publishing,’ a top-100 ranking of his colleagues and competitors, on his personal Tumblr. Far from a fawning Forbes-style list, Mr. Bogaards’s blog post was a gallows-humor-inflected schematic of an industry in collapse. Books are so screwed, it suggested, that a self-published genre geek (J.A. Konrath, #2), the father of a 4-year-old child who has purportedly been to heaven (Todd Burpo, #4) and the intern running the company Twitter feed (#6) all faced sunnier futures than a feared industry veteran like Andrew Wylie (#11).”

Stoeffel quoted a bookstore clerk and assistant at a publishing house who loved what they read and confirmed the info and continued: “But to senior members of the industry, Mr. Bogaards- ‘Bogie’ to friends and colleagues-didn’t quite stick the landing. To them, the power list, rife as it was with personal snipes, more closely resembled a burn book, the wide-ruled repository for a middle schooler’s toxic thoughts.

“He called Bill Clegg, the book agent who penned a memoir about his crack addiction, ‘Stovepipe.’ He said New York Times critic Dwight Garner wrote his reviews ‘juiced, listening to Earl Scruggs.’ He imagined superpowered agent Binky Urban (#11) saying, ‘I wouldn’t take that offer to my maid.’ He said nothing of hot-streak publisher Amy Einhorn, per se, but ranked her hair at #3.”

Writing is cathartic. How many letters or emails have I written–and not sent–and yet felt better for the exercise? I let potentially poison missives sit overnight and if I still feel compelled to let loose, I may ask my husband or a colleague for their opinions. My husband will often ask “What good will sending this do for you?” Most times the answer is “nothing other than letting off steam.” And such a missive is intended for one or a few people at most with the potential of going viral, very different from a blog or book.

What causes a successful, middle aged person one assumes wants to continue working, to let loose? Is it a final straw which flips a switch, arrogance that makes them feel that they can get away with anything because they have up until now, a crazed moment [though it took Capote more than that to write a book] or something else?

8 Responses to “Service of Spilling the Beans”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    How about this person– a WOMAN now, once an girl [intern]—
    Should she have spilled the beans at this late date, or ANY time, about JFK??

    http://www.examiner.com/top-news-in-san-francisco/jfk-mistress-writes-book-jfk-watched-her-have-sex-with-his-friend

    Former president JFK’s mistress, Mimi Alford, has given out details about the relationship between the two. “Sadly, news of celebrities or people in power having affairs and making a fool out of their wives, no longer shocks me. It happens so often. Just look at the affairs of people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tiger Woods” says San Francisco resident Anna Latoracca
    Continue reading on Examiner.com JFK mistress writes book, JFK watched her have sex with his friend – San Francisco Top News | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/top-news-in-san-francisco/jfk-mistress-writes-book-jfk-watched-her-have-sex-with-his-friend#ixzz1nbh4oMMU

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Good point, Hank.

    One wonders about the role of financial gain and/or an attempt to be recognized by a wider audience and how it fits the picture and the inspiration to bean-spill.

    Your example reminds me of John Cheever’s daughter, Susan, who launched her own writing career with a book that garnered headlines as much for what was in it as for her skill. Her book about her dad, soon after he died, revealed that he was gay, considered shocking at the time.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    I heard recently that the most frequently received and most often discarded manuscripts are the autobiographic ones — namely the tell all stuff. It’s not surprising, and those editors forced to wade through a daily morass of ho-hum should be awarded medals. Much of the public is fed up with the revealing of affairs crowd, and undoubtedly only a confession of murder will sell. But the prospect of sitting in jail as the eventual reward is not overly attractive to most authors, regardless of talent.

    A best seller, for the most part, is one that inspires interest of topic. All of us have favorites, but since few of us are shocked, let alone care about what someones ex-mistress has to say, or that various criminals and/or gays were hiding in the family closet, it would appear that the spilling of beans book is on the way out for now. Of course, there may be as yet unrevealed issues that could give birth to public horror, but as of now, they don’t seem to be anywhere in sight.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    There’s always a market for juicy gossip and catty reports about those held high because of accomplishment, birth, celebrity or whatever. People seem to enjoy knocking others off pedestals.

    The publishing star on the griddle for sharing his chock-full-of-nasty list seemed to garner enough publicity to interest the New York Observer and no doubt others such as myself amplifying the info. The question remains: Why would someone hit “send” on mean-spirited material that could bounce back and hit them hard–as it did Capote who lost all his friends. It’s a little like stubbing your toe. After a second, you can expect pain. The difference is that you don’t stub your toe on purpose.

  5. Hester Craddock Said:

    Historians will tell you that while diaries can be extremely useful as primary source material, “tell all” efforts are less so, because their intent is more to shock than inform. At their very best, as in the case of Marcus Tullius Cicero’a exposure of Gaius Verres’ disgraceful, coruprt mismanagement of Rome’s Sicilian colony, they create memorable oratory and great literature as well as expose a bad guy. However, I’m sorry to say I have no idea who the lady you quote is writing about, or what she is trying to say. Maybe she uses an idiom I have yet to learn.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hester,

    Kat Stoeffel, the writer of the NY Observer article, writes clearly enough–I think you have trouble with what the blogger in question–the bean spiller–wrote. It is a mysterious language that I haven’t mastered myself. I am still trying to improve the old fashioned kind of communication–please pass me a block of stone and a chisel.

  7. David Reich Said:

    For some, I suspect it’s a matter of revenge for past wrongs.

    For others, it might be their chance to “shine” in the 15-minutes-of-fame spotlight. No matter that that spotlight may show them to be fools, they’re still in the spotlight.

    The ease of gaining a large audience via social media makes the whole process more risky. I like your idea, Jeanne, of letting it sit overnight until you’ve hopefully, cooled off a bit and can look at what you’ve written with calmer, smarter eyes.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    You are right about the revenge angle, but it isn’t sweet if your professional and/or personal lives are disrupted and pretty much ruined. The targets may become the long-term “winners.”

    The overnight technique is similar to one I read in an advice book a million years ago. The topic was how to get over a lost relationship and move on. The method would work if you wanted help to get over a boss who fired you, a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife or close friend. You were to think of a secret or something you could do to the person and write it down but never, ever pass on the information or do the dastardly deed. Just by revisiting the scandal you’ve written about– for your eyes only– you would move from feeling sad or sorry for yourself to anger and then, soon, nothing, which was the objective. But key was not do spill the beans, just to know where they were and how to use them to your benefit.

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