Sexual Harassment at Macmillan Publishing in 1989—A “Me Too” Account

October 25 Update: In another day of revelations about sexual harassment, the New York Times‘ Jennifer Schuessler reports that the former literary editor of The New Republic Leon Wieseltier, who was about to launch a new magazine, is stepping down from that position in the wake of his admission that he harassed women at TNR. Publishers Lunch’s coverage (subscription required) of Wieseltier prompted the editors of the book industry website to add a link to my post below about harassment when I worked at Macmillan. Here’s a screenshot of Publishers Lunch’s item next to my original post. 

Earlier this week, on the day of #WomenBoycottTwitter, I began writing about an episode of sexual harassment that I was close to, then put it aside as it didn’t seem quite apt then. Tonight with the “Me too” theme rapidly spreading on Facebook, now seems the moment:

       With these appalling daily revelations of abuse and manipulation of women by power-hungry men, I want to describe an incident from 1989 during the time I worked at Macmillan Publishing on 866 Third Avenue. It was two years before Anita Hill informed the world about Clarence Thomas. With another editor, I shared the work and time of a female editorial assistant. The other editor, a male, handled Macmillan’s list of religion titles. He had at one time been involved in Bible publishing at Oxford University Press. Among his authors at Macmillan was a Catholic priest whose parable-like novels sold hundreds of thousands of copies. A cigarette smoker with a southern accent and a moustache, he liked to work with his feet propped up on his desk, and edited those books for religiously observant readers.
      Our assistant came in to my office one day and closed the door. She sat down and told me that she was having a problem with our colleague, the other editor. I expressed concern and asked her to tell me more. She reported he was talking to her about her clothes, asking her to go out with him, suggesting he could help her publishing career, and making lewd, suggestive comments. I was shocked and disturbed and upset for her. I told her I was very sorry this was happening. She said she wanted it to stop. I said I could speak to our colleague and tell him to cut it out, but quickly realized instead that I should tell our boss, an idea that she endorsed. Within a few minutes of learning about the situation, I went down the hall to the corner office of our boss, Bill Rosen (sadly, in 2016, the late Bill Rosen). Bill was very angry when I told him what the editorial assistant had said to me. I left Bill and I heard him call the religion editor in to his office. The door closed behind them. Soon, that same afternoon, I saw the religion editor packing up his desk, fired for cause from the company.
     Word must have gotten around our floor, and the company, that the religion editor had been fired, but I don’t know if others knew why. I didn’t tell anyone at the time, and the assistant and I only spoke briefly about it again. She went on in her career, leaving  publishing, and the last time I knew anything she had moved to Los Angeles and was working in children’s TV. I was aware at the time that the religion editor knew that the assistant had talked with me, and that I had spoken to Bill. I was glad he knew we’d blown the whistle on his self-glorifying bullshit. I hope the religion editor stopped harassing women. I know he still edits books in religion, as I have seen his name on Goodreads. I thought of sharing his name here today, and had even typed it in above. However, because naming him would implicitly suggest the name of the assistant—who I am not in contact with, and whose permission to do so I do not have—I am going to refrain from naming him, at least today. It is definitely not to protect the religion editor or his privacy, and surely not because I don’t want him to know that I’d named him here. I certainly think it would be appropriate if he suffered reputational damage for his regressive behavior, even at this late date.

Appreciating the CBC’s Grant Lawrence for his Evocation of Felix Mendelssohn’s 1829 Visit to Fingal’s Cave

CBC Radio’s Grant Lawrence is for the second consecutive August filling in for three straight weekends as guest host for the Vancouver weekend morning show, “North by Northwest,” which airs from 6am-9am in British Columbia, and a very civil 9am-noon in NYC. I’ve been listening to, and enjoying Grant on the radio since 2009, when he was hosting “Grant Lawrence Live,” a three-hour show most weekday afternoons on CBCRadio 3, the Internet-only outpost for homegrown indie rock n’ roll on Canada’s national broadcasting service. For the devoted audience of which I was a part, we listened to the station as often as workdays, employers, and connectivity would allow. And Grant wasn’t the only popular host—there were many others avidly listened to, and musicians who did guest-hosting. The blend of infectiously enjoyable programming combined the best Canadian indie rock n’ roll; crackling wit, from Grant especially; good heart from all; regular podcasts that supplemented the daily programming; and a lively communal blog on the Radio 3 website where listeners, hosts, and musicians occasionally, were all on line together, sharing thoughts and info on topics-of-the-day, plus current events, both news from the public sphere, and from people’s lives. It made for great radio, a close virtual community, and music, art, and friendship that enriched many lives over several years.

In 2015, the CBC, what’s known in Canada as a “crown corporation”—already under strain for several years due to severe budget cuts under the misrule of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, plus questionable management by CBC appointees who didn’t, and still don’t know broadcasting—ended live daily hosting on Radio 3, with emotional final shows by all the hosts still there, with Grant and another, Lana Gay, among the last remnant. The programming became taped promos, intros, outros, pre-produced musician featurettes, and a livestream of music, much of it by the same artists as before, but lacking the personal touch. The blog was still available to us then, and many of the core still hung out there in virtual space; I continued to visit the blog occasionally, but much less often listened to the live stream. Even though Justin Trudeau came in to office as Canada’s new PM in November 2015, with a promise to restore funding to the CBC, the same management is still in place, and the privation of the service has not noticeably improved yet. Finally, last month even the Radio 3 blog was folded up, too. And, mysteriously, the music content on Radio 3 has been geo-fenced, so it can only be heard within Canada’s borders, even though Radio 3 had long had fans and listeners from the US, Mexico, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and all over the world.

I’ve drafted a letter that as a lifelong friend of Canada I’ll be sending to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, 
Minister of Canadian Heritage, who has purview over the CBC. It reads in part,

I am personally and professionally invested in the work of sharing Canadian culture and spreading word of it all among appreciative cultural consumers in New York City, the US, and the wider world, among music lovers, readers, and among people who appreciate what a good country Canada is, with so many creative people.

I am writing to express my sincere hope that you and your colleagues will seriously consider restoring live hosting to CBC Radio 3; the daily live blog; and continue to provide the music service that has introduced myself and many other non-Canadians to the rich treasure house of talented Canadian musical performers.

I very much appreciate your attention to this letter from a non-Canadian. I remain a friend to Canada and to Canadian artists. Thank you for your consideration.

I hope she and her staff will read this and consider reversing course in many areas with regard to CBC Radio. Some of the Radio 3 people have moved on to jobs elsewhere, like Lana Gay who is on-air at Indie 88 in Toronto. For his part, Grant Lawrence has stayed at the CBC, working in social media and digital marketing for CBC Music, the larger entity in to which Radio 3 was folded, then swallowed up and made in to just another of their many live streams.

This is all stated as prologue to explain that I’m pleased when, from to time, Grant does a guest-hosting stint on one of CBC Radio One’s many programs, such as the one mentioned above, on “North by Northwest,” as he has the past two weekends, and coming up again this weekend (August 13-14). On his first weekend in the hosting chair, he aired a fascinating interview with American-Canadian blues legend, Jim Byrnes. He’s also done a segment with Chris Nelson, a First Nations man who acts as custodian of 5,000-year old petroglyphs on the BC coast. Then, last weekend, he broadcast a segment about composer Felix Mendelssohn’s fateful tour of Scotland in early August 1829, when he toured the scenic Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles, located off the mainland of Scotland, 187 years ago this month. Among many majestic sights, the composer visited the isle of Staffa, which is composed of vertical basalt stacks, formed it is said from a volcanic blast that also created the Causeway of the Giants in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland. On Staffa, seven miles distant from the larger island of Mull, Mendelssohn visited Fingal’s Cave, a remarkable setting that inspired him to create new melodies after he experienced its uncannily acute acoustics, with the sea rushing in and out of the sheltered space. Last Sunday, Grant played the splendid orchestral overture “The Hebrides,” and a section from Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony.

All this reminded me of a visit Kyle Gallup and I made to Scotland in 1992, when we also toured the Hebrides and visited Fingal’s Cave on a boat ride that landed us at the edge of the island, permitting us to take a brief walk inside the cave, using guiding ropes and metal stanchions sunk in the rock to keep visitors from sliding in to the water. The stanchions looked as if they were fixed in place almost 187 years ago! I’m glad I can share my photos here from our remarkable day, just as Mendelssohn shared his through his music. The first three photos (including the one at the top of this post) show us approaching Fingal’s Cave, the middle two show us after we landed for our brief visit, and the last was taken from inside the cave itself. Thanks to Grant Lawrence for the reason to remember the glorious music of Felix Mendelssohn and our visit to Fingal’s Cave almost 25 years ago! I’ll be listening to him on “North by Northwest” again this weekend, and you can too, right here via the Internet.

From inside Fingal's Cave

New Book I’m Agenting Points to Breakthroughs in Designing & Building a State-of-the Art Military Helmet

According to a science article by Washington Post reporter Ben Guarino, the claw of the mantis shrimp packs a wicked punch in dispatching its prey, and has even been known to split or amputate the thumbs of unlucky fishermen. But for me the most remarkable part of this fascinating article regards the material of the claw, or club, as it’s also described in the story:

“UC-Riverside scientists and engineers say they have detected a heretofore unknown natural structure in the outer layer—the critical ‘impact area’— of the club. Were helmets or body armor to be created following this mantis shrimp template, they say, soldiers and football players could be protected from immense blows. When viewed under a microscope, the outer layer of the club has what the scientists describe as a herringbone structure. There, fibers of chitin and calcium compounds are arranged in a series of sinusoidal waves. When the shrimp strikes a prey’s shell, the researchers think this herringbone wave buckles, dispersing the impact throughout the club without causing catastrophic damage to the predator.”
This is of keen interest to me and investigative reporters Robert Bauman and Dina Rasor, as we begin marketing to publishers their new book, Shattered Minds: How the Pentagon Fails Us All with Combat Helmets that Fail to Protect Our Troops. Here’s a draft pitch letter I’ll soon begin sharing with prospective editors at publishing houses:
This startling book, written by two authors who’ve covered the Pentagon for many years, reveals that in the twenty-first century, while traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become the signature injury suffered by our troops, the defense establishment has failed US fighting men and women by continuing to issue them an antiquated military helmet that fails to mitigate the worst of this tragic harm, even though superior design and technology are available.
This investigation by Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman, the first book to examine this most basic item of military equipment, features the stories of two sets of whistleblowers determined to expose the truth about the failures military helmet bureaucracy. Their book braids together the two stories to chronicle the helmet scandal and its human impact.
Readers will learn about retired Navy doctor Robert Meaders, known affectionately as “Doc Bob.” He began helping his grandson obtain protective pads that deterred the blunt force and blast wave impact caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These pads made even the standard issue combat helmet more protective than they were without them. Soon, frustrated by his futile efforts to convince the Marine Corps’ bureaucracy in Washington DC to add these protective pads to the helmets of combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and receiving an avalanche of requests from many Marines for them, he started a nonprofit organization, Operation Helmet, to raise funds so the pads could be provided to the troops free of charge. Despite the improvements his pads offered, Doc Bob was blackballed from the military procurement system
Tammy Elshaug and Jeff Kenner, longtime employees of North Dakota defense contractor Sioux Manufacturing discovered to their dismay that the required density of the Kevlar material woven into netting supplied by Sioux for combat helmets was being shorted in the plant where they worked. Bringing their discovery to the attention of management—believing the boss would surely clean up the illegal practice—they were instead accused of stealing company secrets and having an adulterous affair. Both were fired, leading to a lawsuit and a judgment they won in court that brought the company’s bad faith practices to light.
Doc Bob did not know about Jeff and Tammy and they did not know about him. Yet all three struggled during the same time period to do what was right for the troops. This book chronicles, interwoven to show the courage and dedication of all three, and also, to explain why the Defense Dept, despite news coverage of their revelations, has continued to do the indefensible. The authors use all their years of reporting and investigative experience to explain to readers and policymaker how this could happen. Critically, they also offer information on how the public, press and the military departments can fix the problem and give US troops a better combat helmet that will help them survive their service and continue contributing to the defense of the United States of America.

Upon publication the authors will write op-eds and columns that offer an open challenge to technologists, designers, 3D printers, materials scientists, and high level defense thinkers to finally design the best possible military helmet. Despite the Pentagon’s failure to this point, we also hope to gain their attention to bring new talent and focus to the goal. In the same regard, we are excited about the effort being undertaken by the Head Health Challenge, which also relates to football helmets, an effort that has been covered by Liz Stinson in Wired magazine. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to forge a constructive link between the Defense Dept and the NFL with this initiative to design and build a superior helmet. I recommend you read the marvelous article by Ben Guarino, which also has video from UC Riverside scientist David Kisailus.


#TBT—Remembering Joel C. Turner, All the Way Back to May 1964

In this old photo I’m getting a hug from my brother Joel at a reception celebrating his Bar Mitzvah, circa May 26, 1964, which would’ve been Joel’s 13th birthday. I’m about 9 here. Looking at the image, I can almost remember the day.

Joel died suddenly in December 2009. A few years later, on what would’ve been his 61st birthday, I posted this remembrance of him here on The Great Gray BridgeScreen Shot 2016-02-18 at 5.48.46 PMObits also ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Publishers Weekly, and Shelf Awareness.

Thinking about him, as I do often, because Joel was a gregarious, social person, I know he would’ve enjoyed and thrived amid the advance of social media the past seven years. He had started on Facebook at the time of his death, but none of us, including him, was so aware yet, of how our lives would be influenced by this new media. Joel had early in his adulthood worked as a reporter, and always retained a prodigious appetite for knowing about what was happening in society; he really enjoyed talking with people, asking them questions, hearing what they thought, and offering his views on the matters at hand.  He and I didn’t share all the same politics, but the ways we thought about things was were still alike in many ways. He was a kind of social philosopher, and in 2000 ran for Congress on the Libertarian line in a Cleveland-area district. Growing up 3-4 years apart, we encountered many events as a pair in our five-person family—along with our sister Pamela, the eldest + our folks, Earl and Sylvia. We experienced events together, like the JFK and RFK assassinations. I recall be awoken the morning after Bobby Kennedy had been shot, our mom telling us as she woke us that day.  The summer of 1970, Joel and I drove from Ohio out to California and spent six weeks camping in a redwood forest. During that trip we adopted our dog Noah. I relate much of that personal history on this Great Gray Bridge webpage. Joel is much missed by all who knew him.Obit Joel Turner

New Year’s Tribute to Mr Stress, Jan 1 1943-May 18 2015, RIP to a Great Bluesman

As a New Year’s gift to all my fabulous friends, readers and Internet acquaintances, I’m glad to share memories, an essay, and a few links about Cleveland’s Bill Miller—aka Mr Stress—a great blues harmonica player, singer, and leader of bands who died this past year, on May 18. I followed him avidly from 1972, when I turned 18, old enough to go to bars, to 1985 when I moved to NY. I think of him today, not only because his passing came this year, but because he was the first baby born in Cleveland in 1943, a bare minute after midnight. He was feted on the front page of the next day’s newspaper as the city’s first firstborn—a fitting birth for a bluesman when you consider Muddy Waters singing about the fabled blues character ‘born on the 7th son of a 7th mother on the 7th day.’ Clearly, Mr. Stress had an auspicious pedigree for a bluesman. He would’ve been 73 when the clock & calendar turn tonight. In 2012, I contributed an essay about Stress for the book Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology, linked to here. Happily, I reconnected with him after I published the essay. Also, here’s Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Chuck Yarborough‘s appreciation of him, published two days after his passing; and tributes by Cleveland musician Alex Bevan; and audio of Stress in performance (one and two). 

Though Weary, the Search for Justice Never Faltered in Argentina, More than Thirty Years after the Dirty War

This is a powerful Retro Report​ video, “Where Is My Grandchild?”, coupled with a NY Times story by Clyde Haberman, “Children of Argentina’s ‘Disappeared’ Reclaim Past, with Help,” about Argentina in the thirty years since that country’s Dirty War, when babies were taken from their parents, who were then ‘disappeared’ and later murdered. The article explains that those children, more than 500 of them, in turn were illegally adopted and became Argentina’s ‘living disappeared.’ Ever since, brave Argentine grandmothers have been seeking their grandchildren and justice. The video includes an interview with an Argentine geneticist named Dr. Vincent Penchaszadeh who fled the country during the junta—and whom my wife and I coincidentally consulted when in the 1990s we were trying to have a child. He’s since returned to Argentina and is applying his sophisticated understanding of genetics and forensics to help the grandmothers find their grandchildren, 117 of whom have now been connected with one another. Here’s a still of the doctor from the video, which is viewable at this link:Dr. Victor Penchaszadeh

Though I have never been to Argentina, I am connected to this tragic history, not only because we found Dr. Penchaszadeh to be an extremely compassionate caregiver, but because of a charismatic rabbi, Marshall T. Meyer, who led a NYC congregation that I was a member of from 1985 through most of the 1990s, whom we learned the good doctor also knew. In a 2012 blog post about Marshall, I wrote:

“I met Marshall in 1985, shortly after he returned to the United States from Argentina following a lengthy sojourn as a rabbi there, during which time he became an outspoken critic of the military junta that imprisoned, tortured, and ‘disappeared’ thousands of people they deemed opponents in the country’s “dirty war.” The dedication of the searing 1981 book, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, by Argentine activist and former prisoner Jacobo Timerman, reads,

To Marshall Meyer

A rabbi who brought comfort

to Jewish, Christian, and atheist prisoners in

Argentine jails.

After the murderous generals fell from power, Marshall served on the national commission that investigated and chronicled the full range of crimes and abuses they had committed, the only non-Argentine to do so. He told me in sadness that after his service on that body he found he could no longer be an honest pastoral counselor to victims’ families, having learned disturbing details of the torture prisoners endured; he felt torn between sharing what he knew when grieving survivors asked him about their relatives’ last days, and the desire to spare them more agony. However, they sensed he knew more than he could say. Marshall—who as a rabbinical student worked with spiritual giant Abraham Joshua Heschel, typing several of his book manuscripts prior to publication—had a big personality and was unflinchingly vulnerable. He gave and received a lot of hugs. When he returned to the States from Argentina, he soon became rabbi of B’Nai Jeshurun, then a moribund Manhattan congregation, and within a short time had made it one of the most vital synagogues in New York City. It even gained a nickname, ‘BJ.’ During his tenure, Marshall recruited two younger rabbis to serve alongside him there, Roly Matalon and Marcelo Bronstein–from Argentina and Chile, respectively–who fully took the helm after his wrenching death, at only age 63. Though I’m not much involved with the congregation these days, I still consider myself a sort of lay disciple of Marshall’s, and a friend to Roly and Marcelo and to the congregation.”

Below is the NY Times obit of Marshall that ran after his death in 1993, when he was only 63 years old. I am very happy that these adult children of murdered parents are finding their grandmothers. I find this all extremely moving, and think that you may, too. 

Happy to be Back in Bookselling with the New Rizzoli Bookstore

To longtime readers of this blog, and many, many friends in the book business, I’m excited to announce a new venture I’m going to be part of. I’ll be working as a bookseller in the soon-to-be-reopening Rizzoli Bookstore here in New York City. You may recall that last year Rizzoli lost its prior location on W. 57th St when their lease there ended. They’ve found a fabulous new location in the St. James, a landmark building on Broadway between 25th St and 26th St in the booming Manhattan neighborhood of NoMad (north of Madison Park). The Wall St Journal’s Ralph Gardner wrote about Rizzoli’s plans in a story here. Earlier this month, Rizzoli sent out this fact sheet. Decorated handsomely with elegant fixtures in a museum-like setting, the new 5,000 square foot store will offer a stellar inventory of illustrated books in art, photography, architecture, interior design, fashion, film, theater, dance, music, and cooking, along with current releases and classics in fiction and nonfiction, and childrens books. The selection of titles will be fabulous.

The store will have a soft opening, apt for our sultry summer weather, starting July 27. While I’m already spending lots of my time there to help get the store opened and underway, and will continue working many hours in the early weeks once it opens, my longterm schedule will nonetheless permit me to continue operating Philip Turner Book Productions, my editorial service and publishing consultancy, and in fact have completed work on two manuscripts for author clients this month.

I am really excited with this opportunity to be back working on the floor of a well-stocked bookstore, which brings my career full circle. It all began for me with Undercover Books, the three-store indie chain I ran with my family in Cleveland, a business I worked in from 1978 until 1985, when I came to NYC and began working in publishing. I worked for big publishing houses from 1986 until 2009, when I began my consultancy. Now, thirty years after leaving Undercover Books, I’m back as a bookseller. I look forward to seeing NY friends and visitors to the city in the new Rizzoli Bookstore, at 1133 Broadway.