I just heard about an article called “Literary Censorship at the Met?”, which apparently ran last week in Publishers Weekly. It is the most pointed piece yet on the contretemps that resulted from the brief banning of Nicholas Fox Weber‘s The Clarks of Cooperstown(which was written to coincide with an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) from the museum’s bookstore. In the course of reporting that story, a number of newspapers and magazines discovered that Weber’s book wasn’t alone. From them, I learned that Patricia Bosworth‘s Diane Arbus: A Biography was removed during the Met’s Arbus show, and my book, 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building, had also been permanently pulled from the museum bookstore’s shelves. Staffers were told that happened because I’d allegedly humiliated a Met curator, revealing his homosexual affair with a 740 resident, but in fact that curator had proudly confirmed the relationship, and is quoted by name in the book. And the bookstore carried it for five months before its abrupt disappearance. Just after it disappeared from the Met, by the way, it went into its 9th printing (there have now been thirteen).
A bookstore employee also told those same reporters that 740 Park disappeared right after I sought the Museum’s cooperation with (or at least neutrality towards) my next book, a 740-like biography of the Met. Its administration instead decided to try and impede my research. In PW, though, Met spokesman Harold Holzer says au contraire: “Its time has passed. I hate to say that … but books run their course.”
That got me curious, so I checked the Barnes and Noble bestseller rankings. One year and eight months after publication, and a year and quarter after 740 Park went bye-bye from the Met, the trade paperback stands at # 6,598, not terribly far from the new edition of Virgil’s The Aeneid, which is featured in the bookstore (and is #1,623 on bn.com). Both are doing quite a bit better than Art of the Classical World in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the brand new book on the Met’s refurbished Greek and Roman Galleries (currently #81,189) and The Map Book, which the Met says is one of its bestsellers (#9,114). Also labeled a bestseller on the Met’s web site: The hardcover The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker(#11,347 on bn.com). Finally, just out of curiosity, I checked Holzer’s book Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President(though he defends the removal of books from the museum bookstore by day, he moonlights as an author himself). It stands at #95,630.