Bob Schwartz

Category: Publishing

The baseball magazines of winter

Baseball has changed. Baseball never changes.

Baseball media have changed (a lot). Baseball media never change.

Pre-digital, sometime after the New Year, baseball publications began appearing on magazine racks. These review the past season and forecast the season to come.

For baseball fans, this is an oasis in the desert between last fall and next spring. Would your favorite team or players do better or worse? As the saying goes at the end of the long season: there’s always next year. Next year is here.

In these digital times, paper baseball magazines are still here too. Up to a few years ago, even though I was reading them in digital form, I still followed my tradition of buying two or three just to have them around.

The baseball magazines have changed a bit. The combination of fantasy baseball and baseball metrics has these now entitled “fantasy baseball” guides. Even with the addition of vicarious competition and super-sophisticated statistics, they are still what they were: previews and prophecies about things to come.

More than before, the magazines wait to publish as long as possible, since there is much more active and late movement of players from team to team. So a magazine published in January is likely to miss the signing of a significant free agent by another team.

I saw my first baseball magazine of 2020 last week; the rest of them will be on the shelves by mid-February. As Pavlovian as it is, my heart fluttered. On the cover it called itself a fantasy baseball guide, something I don’t participate in, but the deeper meaning resonated.

It is January, followed by February, followed by spring training, followed by the new baseball season.

I may get old, but the baseball magazines of winter never will.

Does the New Jeb Bush Book Infringe Hundreds of Copyrights?

Jeb Bush - Reply All

A funny thing: None of the Bush politicians are lawyers. Though they do know some.

Which is one reason Jeb’s new book of his e-mails from being Florida governor (Reply All) is perplexing, along with the question of why he’s publishing it at all. He makes a big point of saying in it that in Florida, letters and e-mails to the governor are part of the public record, which is true. Anyone has the right to read them.

But…that doesn’t settle the question of whether the writers of those letters and e-mails still hold any copyright in them, such that if you (Jeb) decided to collect them all, and publish them in a book of your own that you sold, you might not be infringing their rights. Because the two things—being a public record and giving up the right not to be copied—are two separate things.

I’ll leave it to other lawyers and to journalists to pursue this matter, if it’s worth pursuing, because frankly, I don’t care that much. Maybe it’s just the spectacle of a campaign unraveling in so many ways that has piqued my interest a little. Or wondering, as historians may if they care to, how this all went so wrong.

Phyllis Tickle: The Godmother of Us All

Phyllis Tickle

Phyllis Tickle died last week at the age of 81. No matter the number, it would always be too low.

Phyllis is the godmother of contemporary religion publishing and those who worked there. She established the Religion section of Publishers Weekly, the bible of the industry. It is possible that no single individual has had a bigger impact on a significant genre of publishing.

She was also a remarkable writer and speaker on matters of religion and spirituality, including her insights into the emerging church for changing times. Among her many books: The Divine Hours, a series of guides to the ancient practice of hourly prayer, and The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual Landscape, a memoir that is as close as those who didn’t know her will get to the unique and unforgettable person and spirit she was.

Like a brilliant and generous mother, she encouraged and enabled creative editorial talent and writing for decades. If you look at the careers of the good and the great in the field, you will find Phyllis at the nexus. She is found in the acknowledgments of scores of books, like this one picked at random:

“Phyllis Tickle answered countless e-mailed questions, no matter where in the world she was.”

I don’t precisely remember the first time I met Phyllis. She was just always there. I do remember the last time I spoke with her. That voice, the one I can hear clearly right now, that soft and distinctive Tennessee talk, just lifted and lightened you.

“I love you, Schwartz,” she would say. Love you back, Miss P. Miss you too.

Fortune Magazine Pleads: Heed the Authentic Cry of Our Youth

Youth in Turmoil Cover

It is January 1969. Fortune, one of the world’s most conservative business magazines, publishes a special issue about Youth in Turmoil. It then adapts the issue into a book, with an image of a flame on the cover.

The message is not, as you might expect, about how these ungrateful long-haired drug-addled rebels are destroying the country. On the contrary, the message is that these young people are trying to tell us something important and we should listen—before it’s too late.

Here is the introduction:

American youth is trying to tell us something important. The brightest of our young men and women are telling us that as far as they are concerned the choices for our society are narrowing rapidly. We can, at worst, look ahead to a future, very near, in which they lose all heart for our national effort, thus robbing it of its nerve, vitality, and point—a state of affairs in which they range themselves against us either in violence or in withdrawal. Or we can heed the cry of these young adults. Though often marred by shrillness, arrogance, and negativism, that cry is authentic and valid in its central message. It tells us that in our rush to well-being we have left much undone at the same time we have made so much more do-able. It tells us that we should rechannel our enormous energies to deal with the lengthening list of environmental and social grievances. If we can enlist these young idealists and they can enlist us, the nation will evolve toward a life style that once again sets a new standard for the world. I hope that this book, adapted from the January, 1969, special issue of FORTUNE, will contribute to that mutual enlistment.


Please read this word-for-word. It is extraordinary. This is a bible of the establishment, during one of our most anti-establishment times, acknowledging that many things are wrong—including environmental and social problems—and admitting that young people are trying to remind us of our responsibilities to make it right. If the establishment fails, Fortune says, “We can, at worst, look ahead to a future, very near, in which they lose all heart for our national effort, thus robbing it of its nerve, vitality, and point—a state of affairs in which they range themselves against us either in violence or in withdrawal.”

Consider how far we have come. Youth seems to be somewhat disaffected, maybe even having lost heart and been robbed of its nerve—but not exactly in turmoil. Much of the conservative establishment would now never dream of agreeing that we have justifiable environmental and social grievances, let alone that these should be aggressively addressed.

The Sixties are variously celebrated, trivialized, and even laughed at. Maybe it’s funny to see a Big Business publication like Fortune willing to open its eyes, look around, and decide that these kids just might have a point and we can do a whole lot better. Or maybe it’s a little sad that we don’t see more of that today.

Bookstores in New York


Rizzoli Bookstore

Bookstores in New York
The gleaming rooftops at sundown
Oh, bookstores in New York
It lifts you up when you run down

Dreamers with empty hands
They sigh for exotic lands

It’s bookstores in New York
It’s good to live it again

Apologies to Vernon Duke, Autumn in New York, the greatest of all Manhattan songs

The New York Times ran a story this week, Literary City, Bookstore Desert: Surging Rents Force Booksellers From Manhattan .

If you’re interested, you can read the story yourself. If you’re paying any attention to New York, business, media, or culture, you already know the story. Bookstores under siege by the rise of Amazon and digital books. Manhattan rents skyrocketing. The number of people who care about or have actually had the bookstore experience falling. The number of people who associate the Manhattan experience with the bookstore experience falling faster.

Above is a picture of the Rizzoli bookstore on West 57th Street. It will be closing soon, as the building owner will be tearing down the building. It is not the only great bookstore, past or present, which has contributed to the specialness of Manhattan. It is, though, a good example of that. If you have not walked down 57th, and have not turned into Rizzoli, and have not walked up those stairs and past those shelves, you will have to imagine. The same goes for all the other big and small bookstores of Manhattan, some less grand on less grand streets, all of them filled with books. All of them places to get lost for a while, for a long while if the aisles are long and the shelves high, the way you get lost in a flirtation or a lifelong love.

This is not nostalgia. This is not romance, at least not the kind that constructs an unreal and unattainable dream. It is real, it is still there, for now, the bookstores, the books, the place and time to scan the titles, to pick up and pull out and leaf through and browse. A refuge from the Manhattan streets, or whatever streets you walk, a place and time to be yourself, to be anywhere, and mostly to fall in love. It’s still good to live it.

Beyond Anger: How to Hold On to Your Heart and Your Humanity in the Midst of Injustice

Beyond Anger
The crisis in Ukraine is deepening, and with that lots of thought, opinion, and calls for action. It may seem like the wrong time for self-awareness and contemplation. Enough talk. This is a Nike world, so let’s just do it.

Whether it is about the Russian invasion of Ukraine or about unfairness in our own nation, our desire for justice and aversion to injustice is a good thing. But it can be so powerful and overwhelming that we easily get lost. It isn’t that we shouldn’t act decisively; it’s that in our zeal, we can be confused or overly certain about what the right decision is.

Last summer, in the face of terrible killings in India that had profound implications for Buddhist communities, Shambhala Publications published a free book you can get, Beyond Anger: How to Hold On to Your Heart and Your Humanity in the Midst of Injustice.

The publisher explains:

In July 2013, multiple bombs exploded in Bodh Gaya, India, in and around the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage site, the Mahabodhi temple that marks the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment. In response, Shambhala Publications offers this free eBook consisting of excerpts from some of our books from a variety of Buddhist traditions that encapsulate values of love and nonviolence, which we can all practice ourselves.

You may not be a Buddhist, or care about Buddhist philosophy. You may or may not be angry about what is going on around the world, or about what some people say about how to solve the problems. You may believe that you have a better way, and you may be right. It’s just that no matter what, a different perspective can always be helpful.

In a section of the book called Conflict Resolution: Anger Is the Problem, The Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje talks about Global Conflicts, Global Solutions:

When bigger and more powerful nations step in to offer guidance to other nations, many of the same principles apply as when individuals intervene to resolve interpersonal conflicts. A sincere motivation is absolutely key, and on top of that, the intervention must be done with sensitivity and skill.

In this small world we live in, nations coexist interdependently. The actions of one country affect others deeply. Countries with more power have the potential to influence others more. I believe that with this power comes a great deal of responsibility, and that includes the responsibility not to exercise one’s power over others in pursuit of the private interests of one’s own nation….

Before you approve the actions proposed, you should be confident that they are in the best interest not only of your country, but of the world as a whole. To be a responsible, conscious citizen, it is important that you think for yourself, and take universal peace, stability, and well-being into account. Use your discernment and take a stand that serves the whole world, not just one corner of it.

Even when we are sure that the motivation to contribute positively to the well-being of the world is sincere, we also have to scrutinize the means used to pursue that aim. For example, in the name of bringing freedom to other countries, weapons are produced and wars are waged. As powerful countries themselves expand their arsenals and wage more war, the peace and stability of their own country and of the world are both placed at risk.

Again, a pure motivation needs to be applied with wisdom. I feel very strongly that war and fighting are not an effective means to bring about peace or prosperity, stability or freedom. I am certain that history will demonstrate war to be ineffective and counterproductive in the long run.

I have met many people from powerful countries who are deeply unhappy with how their leaders wield their power internationally. This seems especially common when people have failed in their efforts to urge the decision makers to pursue a more compassionate and skillful course. Some of these people become angry at their own governments. In other cases, people direct their anger at the governments of other countries.

If you find yourself angry at any government, please recollect how harmful anger is to yourself and others, and steady yourself with a firm resolve. Make an unwavering commitment to yourself that you will not allow your mind to become perturbed. Be immovable—unshakable from a peaceful state of mind.

The Gates Book and the Gates Speeches

Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is about to release a memoir of his tenure under Presidents Bush and Obama. Provocative advance excerpts from Duty are now being released, and these explosive devices are anything but improvised.

Every news outlet, pundit and politician is already busy making points about President Obama, Vice President Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others, based on comments clipped from these excerpts, rather than having read the whole book. Even out of context, it is clear that Gates has formed some definite opinions based on working for and with these American leaders. That is anyone’s privilege, but particularly that of a man who spent forty-five years in laudable public service, much of it at the highest levels of government.

As always, though, opinion and criticism is a matter of perspective, that is, where the critic stands underlies what a critic sees and says.

You can read all the speeches that Gates delivered as Secretary of Defense. This is guaranteed not to be as titillating as reading or hearing about the “best parts” of Duty, but it might give you additional insight that will make the context of the book clearer.

Here, for example, are excerpts from remarks he made to the Heritage Foundation on May 13, 2008, when he was serving under President George W. Bush. (You can read the entire speech here) At that point, the Iraq war was five years old, only halfway to its conclusion. At that point, he had been Secretary of Defense for two years, and from that point, he would remain in that position under President Obama until July 2011.

But there is a more fundamental point that I will close with – and again, historical perspective is important. It is impossible to separate discussions of the “broken” Army following Vietnam – a conscription army – from the ultimate result of that conflict. At a congressional hearing last year, General Jack Keane, former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, recounted the profound damage done to the Service’s “fiber and soul” by the reality of defeat in that war.

The risk of overextending the Army is real. But I believe the risk is far greater – to that institution, as well as to our country – if we were to fail in Iraq. That is the war we are in. That is the war we must win.

There it is, the context: Iraq was “the war we must win.” Gates’ insights into military matters is often brilliant and sensible, informed by his intelligence, experience and education. But on this point he candidly reveals a premise that for some colors everything else he offers. We must win Iraq because the failure to win would “break” the military the way that Vietnam did.

We did not win in Iraq, but technically, we did not lose. That current events in Iraq point to some devolution doesn’t really settle the question. That some U.S. Senators are calling for us to return to Iraq to avoid that loss or at least to avoid the appearance of futility is a partial reflection of exactly what Gates said.

We know that Gates’ personal critiques are based on close working relationships and observations. We also know, or should recognize, that those critiques are grounded in a worldview that others may not, very legitimately, share. If for Gates one of the measuring sticks is whether someone believes that Iraq had to be won, that measure may be skewed by genuine differences in informed opinion. One opinion is that as valorous as the service and sacrifice was, Iraq was a mistake, to be abandoned as prudently as possible; others might now say the same about Afghanistan. What Gates has to say about our leaders is certainly worth listening to, provided we pay equal attention to the mindset of the speaker.

Comic Book Plus: Digital Superheroes

Comic Book Plus
If it isn’t apparent from previous posts, the premier pop cultural medium of these times (meaning the last century) may not be movies or music or television or any of the usual suspects. It is comic books, and while explaining that in detail will have to wait for another post, just ask the entertainment enterprises that have built billion-dollar franchises on that foundation. Hint: Don’t just look at the movies; look at video games, which are sometimes expressly, sometimes implicitly interactive comic books at heart.

Digital has provided new ways to enjoy the old and the new. Comixology, for example, offers an excellent cross-device platform for digital comics. But if you love comic books as essential cultural artifacts, the digital pickings have been slim and erratic. Of course comic book connoisseurs and scholars have been scanning and distributing them for as long as there has been an internet, but organization, information and, above all, copyright integrity has been missing.

The developers of the Comic Book Plus are digital and cultural superheroes. “Free and Legal” they trumpet, and nowhere in the universe can you both read and download such a collection representing decades of this historical basis of American—of world—culture. Free and legal. (Note: The downloads are in special comic book file formats that require some sort of reader. One way to deal with this is with Calibre, the world’s most popular free ebook manager and converter. Calibre will convert the comics to any format you choose, e.g., epub or pdf, to be read on your existing readers.)

If you love comic books and graphic novels, no more needs to be said. If you love pop culture and its origins, immerse yourself in the sequential art of these digital waters. Just make sure you have some time to spare because you won’t want to come out. And for those in the know, just tell them Will Eisner sent you.

Random Notes on Editing

Random Notes on Editing
1. Whether working on a business report, legal brief, story or even a non-written creation, you have either had the privilege to edit others or have suffered the tough medicine of being edited.

2. All works are improvable. Ask God.

3. There is a difference between edits that are improvements and changes based on subjective sensibilities, though there is a gray area in between.

4. It is easiest to identify improvement editing when the creation is discretely functional and results are measurable, as with some sorts of advertising copy. Some would say readability and clarity fall into this functional category—that is, unless tortured readability is a creative choice and can be handled deftly. Ask Faulkner or Joyce.

5. Voice may be the hardest part of editing. It may also be the hardest part of writing. Even the most technical sorts of work can convey a distinctive voice—you will find this in textbooks, in legal articles, even in judicial rulings. Some writers don’t know abstractly what a distinctive voice is because they just naturally have one. Others work to develop it. That is the dual quandary for editors. If a writer has a voice, or the beginnings of one, you want to cultivate it without editing it away. If a writer doesn’t have much of a voice, there is a risk of the editor—who is often a pretty good writer too—to substitute a different voice entirely.

6. The Bible is the most importantly edited work in Western history, maybe in human history. Speaking of voice, imagine being the one responsible for editing the voice of God, Moses or Jesus. Yet somebody did. These editors took no credit, though it is fun to consider what those acknowledgements might look like. “And finally I’d like to thank my editor, without whom these transcripts of my speeches would not have the power that they do. JC.”

The Mad Dancers

The Mad Dancers
The Baal Shem Tov is the eighteenth-century founder of the Hasidic movement in Judaism. Jews and non-Jews who know the modern versions of the movement often don’t know much about its beginnings. Some of those contemporary manifestations may seem distant from the original spirit.

We have no writings by the Baal Shem Tov, so we rely on the records of his disciples, and on legends and stories that have come down the years—and that still have a remarkable power to inspire. Their authenticity is not in their being a verbatim record of what was said and what happened. Instead, they are an unmistakable reflection of a unique spiritual figure from any age or faith.

The Baal Shem Tov believed in and lived the direct experience of God everywhere in everything. Study and conventional piety took second place, which made him unpopular with the establishment, and would still today. He thought we should be outdoors in the trees, not indoors at the desks. Living in a divine state of optimism, joy and wonder was the ideal. People who live that way, of course, are remarkably hard to control.

This story is taken from The Golden Mountain (1932) by Meyer Levin.

The Mad Dancers

Already the voices of opponents were raised against the Baal Shem’s teaching, for many
rabbis could not understand his ways. Some said of him that he dishonored the Sabbath with singing and freedom, some said that his ways and the ways of those who followed him and called themselves Chassidim were truly the ways of madmen.

One of the scholars asked of the Baal Shem, “What of the learned rabbis who call this teaching false?”

The Baal Shem Tov replied, “Once, in a house, there was a wedding festival. The musicians sat in a corner and played upon their instruments, the guests danced to the music, and were merry, and the house was filled with joy. But a deaf man passed outside the house; he looked in through the window and saw the people whirling about the room, leaping, and throwing about their arms. ‘See how they fling themselves about! ‘ he cried, ‘it is a house filled with madmen! ‘ For he could not hear the music to which they danced.”