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Cancel Culture: How the world of books has been the hardest hit

Once the business of governments, censorship is now of the people, by the people, and nowhere is the spark-plug of public opinion more obvious than in the world of books. Author and critic Bridget Hourican takes a look at who’s been hit hardest

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Ronan Farrow

Ronan Farrow

Woody Allen

Woody Allen

Edna O'Brien, whose novel 'The Country Girls' was banned in Ireland

Edna O'Brien, whose novel 'The Country Girls' was banned in Ireland

Stephen King has voiced his concern about 'cancel culture'

Stephen King has voiced his concern about 'cancel culture'

The religious right in the US tried to get JK Rowling's 'Harry Potter' series banned from libraries because of Satanism

The religious right in the US tried to get JK Rowling's 'Harry Potter' series banned from libraries because of Satanism

Writer Jeanine Cummins' best-selling 'American Dirt' was accused by many on Twitter of cultural appropriation

Writer Jeanine Cummins' best-selling 'American Dirt' was accused by many on Twitter of cultural appropriation

Forty-something Laura Albert caused huge controversy when it was alleged she was the writer of memoir, 'Sarah', rather than a transwoman JT LeRoy.

Forty-something Laura Albert caused huge controversy when it was alleged she was the writer of memoir, 'Sarah', rather than a transwoman JT LeRoy.

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Ronan Farrow

Covid-19 is playing havoc with the publishing schedule - Roddy Doyle, Ottessa Moshfegh and David Mitchell are just some of the bestselling writers whose book launches have been pushed back from spring to late summer or autumn. Online book sales have gone up during lockdown, but without tours, readings, signings and festivals, it's hard to get attention for new books. Come September, we'll be facing a glut of new titles in what is already the busiest publishing month in the calendar. Unless we're back in lockdown and the new releases are pushed back till next year...

The vista is gloomy for publishers and authors, unless you have a controversy on your hands. Turns out this is the perfect time to publish a 'cancelled' book, as independent US publisher, Arcade, demonstrated when they fast-tracked Woody Allen's memoir, Apropos of Nothing, for release on March 23. That memoir came with more baggage than a jet-setter. On March 2, Hachette announced that it had acquired the book and would be publishing in April. Cue a Twitter storm fuelled by two of Allen's children - Dylan Farrow, who accuses Allen of molesting her when she was a child; and Ronan Farrow, scourge of Harvey Weinstein, and stout defender of his sister's right to be believed. Farrow is also an Hachette author for his bestselling Weinstein expose, Catch and Kill.


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