On Friday at a little after 5 p.m., the New York Observer posted up a 131-page book proposal by Michael Hastings, a Newsweek Baghdad correspondent. The memoir is about his time overseas and the death of his fiance. The Observer post promptly disappeared. Besides the obvious copyright issues with making the whole shebang available, there was another reason mega-lit agent (and poet!) Andrew Wylie wanted the proposal disappeared from the internet: it was going to get people killed in Iraq.
The letter we got from Wylie about linking to the Observer's post went like this:
Please immediately remove from your website any material drawn without authority and in violation of copyright from a proposal by our client Michael Hastings. The dissemination of this material endangers individuals' lives, in addition to being a breach of copyright.
While al Qaeda doesn't obsessively monitor Gawker yet, despite the frequent aid we supply to terrorists by means of identifying ideal targets (Simon Hammerstein's Box theater and Schiller's Liquor Bar—plus all of Blue States Lose!), there is the question of why then it'd be acceptable for Wylie to distribute a book proposal that identifies targets in the first place.
More explicit information is in the letter that the Observer received from Covington & Burlington LLP:
In addition, please take notice that Mr. Hastings advises us that the Work contains information that relates to the security of personnel at the Baghdad bureau of Newsweek and identifies certain news sources by name. Obviously such material was never intended for public distribution [actually, sic: It's a manuscript], and by publishing the Work in its website, the Observer is potentially endangering all of these persons. Continued posting of the Work on the Observer's website only increases the chances that some harm may result.
Furthermore, Mr. Hastings advises us that private and information [sic] regarding the late Andrea Parhamovich, as yet not know [sic] to her own family, is reflected in the Work.
Okay, so, that's just messed up. The military-industrial-entertainment complex that was so quick to encourage young Hastings to sell his diaries at a tasty price is in way over its head. They felt compelled to put this on the market so fast that no one even did any sort of clearance, including with the family of the woman the book is ostensibly about. Sick. Was there some reason this had to rush to market? Was there a competing, equally tragic memoir? Are purchasing editors going to be "over" Iraq memoirs in the next couple months?
We sorta figured that the whole Didion death memoir thing would go seriously wrong on the next iteration anyway.
Apparently the person that we understand is the purchasing editor, Scribner's Nan Graham, is qualified to possess material that supposedly endangers Americans abroad—material that, given all these claims, will need to be removed before publication anyway. Meanwhile, Andrew Wylie can't be enjoying that he's spending down his $75+K commission on lawyers with minimal English skills.