One of the things that became so extraordinary about Tara Break standing behind the cloak of an entire publishing firm, and standing over the destruction of an ex’s career too, one just taking off in America, was her own obsessive privacy and secrecy. It has an intimate cause, we believe, but was matched by an ability to seek permission for her actions among others, underlined by her warning of how ‘political’ work can be, but not face the music on things that really matter. Is that Abrams, New York, Tara Break or modern life? So she asked David once what she should do about an Abram’s colleague on the slide there, David Rosen, she said was drinking too much, as she would later say, like Sarah Van More, of the man who hired her and also loved her, Harold Rove . Tara Break had once been so seemingly sensitive to people, but over David Rosen, David C-D did a mime into a swimming pool once about being stabbed in the back, with teasing laughter at the time, but the point was perhaps being able to be a little tougher, yet to take responsibility for that yourself, and not ask everyone else. It became an issue about really standing beside the people you are with too and say you care about. Little did he suspect…
The crisis at Abrams though was always both personal and professional, but the so-called ‘protection’ of an employee at the expense of a contracted author, meant that vital aspect of the situation was blocked and denied and it totally distorted ensuing arguments about books too, and the right working relationship and conditions back. Instead a kind of ‘mobbing’ happened, that for a time was later supported by a CEO, as he started to see where the chips were falling. So a literally unanswerable ‘stalking’ charge was held in place, partly on grounds of privacy, and used to bully, in breach of fundamental principles of justice and ultimately the US Constitution. It was underlined by the arrogant words and actions of Sarah Van More, in so many ways, especially in accusing of betrayal and puting Satelite Tours into a catalogue that completely undermined a contracted author’s ability to promote and function in the US, as he had done so well, and support his future and past work properly and forcefully. Both valuable to a firm and essential to him, not to mention the deep emotions involved anyway. Also supporting Tara Break’s claim he alone was in the wrong.
The open threats to a contracted author, who had asked for help, apologised – though never put yourself even slightly in the wrong in New York business – and was seeking some power back in his work, including a novel that would have been held there four incredible years, were harmful and outrageous, David needed a way back to a far lighter storytelling and positivity too, like the wasted proposal he offered, but the fundamental issue was a senior editor refusing to allow any professional peace. Just go on hiding instead and stick your easy labels on others. Yet now the issue became a fight with his own editor too, that she saw wrongly as some attack on her “power over her list” and because he got so close to the heart of a firm over two years, David was talked to in a way they would never have dared get away with compared to any American author. Then there was the effective conspiracy that developed between people in a small department, to keep a secret from a CEO, that would have pushed a book into print that his own editor did not think good enough. Before that, they knew about it as it happened, and people David had worked with for years did nothing. That was surreal itself, as it was his own editor admitting she “saw what he meant” when he argued they were holding his entire life and work to ransom, but what later happened would make Kafka blush.
Tara Break ‘stabbed David in the back’ in several ways though. First over a ‘private’ medical issue, then over a relationship itself she spoke about to colleagues without asking him first. Then in her bizarre responses and failed priorities, when he was coming on tour to New York, and she was a major firm representative too, that made it so difficult to function. With words from her like ‘porn is evil’, from a woman who edits books on Rock n Roll, some real writing was on the emotional wall. That’s what makes the claim to privacies such a joke though, and it included Sarah Van More’s breach of private trust to an outside publisher at Penguin US. In Sarah Van More telling David once “loyalty is a tricky thing”, you might wonder where Sarah Van More’s loyalties lay, in terms not only of people, but basic editorial duties, now Tara Break was supporting her over her own personal crisis, but she could come out with a line like “we will protect our girl”, months before David’s issue reached a head, work dialogue already drying up, and she was hand in glove with Tara Break’s new man too. At the point where Susan Van Metre developed pneumonia, perhaps it was the atmoshpere inside New York firms that was very much to blame.
Tara Break knew something of previous publishing fights and difficulties though, why Abrams support had been so important and special to him, not to mention America, but seemingly nothing at all about the psychology of authors, the process of writing, the wider value of it, or someone she had been with two years, who had specific issues with the high handedness of some editors. One was the fact Macmillan had swapped editors on a third novel the same day he told them his father had died. But as ever intimate shared trusts were abused and then used in ‘evidence’ against the ‘bad guy’, behind the scenes. Try working in front of that. It seems Abrams editors are allowed absolute protection of their ‘private’ lives, but not expected to show one iota of professional care, intelligence or respect for working author’s private or professional lives. When they first met she came out with the line “don’t make me the last to know”, then did just that to David in every way imagineable. Just as they had shared ‘trusts’ about being hurt in other relationships, but she took a pick axe to real trusts, personal and professional, in her own ‘growing up’. If a relationship with a publisher itelf is like a kind of working marriage, especially in the language used in America, she should take a leaf out of the calendar book she did with the artist Donny Miller!
Then not only saying things that might have given anyone hope personally, yet going behind his back to friends in London, reversing even a friendship she asked for, admitting she had a fear of any kind of ’emotional confrontation’, and in the complete breach of professional trust too in allying with someone in London David specifically warned her about to do a ‘book’. That spat on a ten year fight to produce work of value and meaning, and to him a very ‘special relationship’ with an American firm. Her indigant claim “now you’re not respecting me” may have become true, but was laughable in terms of everything she had so disrespected in a life, friendships and work too. But then in the slam door absolutes there, she refused to even read Fell, or other obviously worthless work, compared to the ‘Hew, Screws and Glues’ she was producing at Abrams. She might by now have read “War and Peace”!
So the crisis happened, which was actually an argument both about love and friendship too, but also about work, surreal in the way it was pinned into one bad moment in time, or ‘truth’, voiding any honesty that ‘side’ about why it had happened or how, while David found it almost impossible to write. It was bloody obvious he went too far, but in comparison to Tara Breaks’s astonishing failure to ever take one single positive action, beyond the months of silent passive aggression of sitting at the heart of a firm, that David had also once so loved, and was doing so well at, culminating in a meeting where she told him “I give myself permission to change my mind”, before she took the whole thing to another guy in the background, he had to make all the gestures, when the real harm was all on the other side.
Espcially when it became “US” against “YOU”, so quickly, courtesy of Susan Van Metre, synthesising delicate personal issues and judgements and so-called working ‘rights’, as David was forced to work under contract, into a situation that was almost killing. His agent told him categorically “they will sue you” if he tried to walk away, days before she walked away on him, as he was about to take her professional advice, though he thought the principle of threatening a contracted author and blocking proper working conditions and dialogue wrong. That happened after whatever was said to her on the phone by his own editor Sarah Van More. Then a CEO’s right response was they had been in effective working repudition of a contract and potential defamation with regard to all previous working standards on his front. David has noticed how they talk merrily about ‘kicking ass’ at Abrams now, but you are not actually supposed to do that to your own authors, under contract and in the middle of three commissions, with two novels already at a firm.
He had apologised, and too generously, into a wall of complete silence from his publisher and editor too, in the next door office to Tara Break, but even then nothing could come back from the person who had declared “life is unfair”, to help just a work situation. But then the issues went on and at any moment Tara Break could have stood up at work and put them away, or even privately before a so-called ‘enquiry’, but again used the group, with ensuing damage everywhere. The cruelty of it became astonishing. Oh yes, but of course a contracted and supposedly valued and supported author at ‘Family Abrams’ was to blame for everything, trying to bring out his own truths or meanings in complex books, losing a persion, under conditions they could see were doing harm, or find some balance in his working life and respect again, as Sarah Van More replaced Harold Rove! In one way, in knowing the point of going wrong, he was to ‘blame’, he lost his better self, though he no longer thinks his better half, but in everything else that happened, welcome to Abrams, or Amulet, and the story of the scapegoat, although it seems Harold Rove became one too.
It was never just about Tara Break though. Why could Sarah Van More not even show the respect to an author, in looking at his rewrite of a second novel, or Abrams stick to its own forced agreements, in announcing to readers, in breach of that difficult agreement, a book was still cancelled? If it was all so obvious about ‘new people sending out emails by mistake’, or already failed trusts, how could they maintain such an appalling, military style insistence on contracts they themselves had already breached? Because basic publishing contracts are hardly worth the paper they are written on, as Ginger Clarke warned “you will destroy trust” if you even mention them. For reasons of deeply breached trusts on that side of the fence, it was already gone. There are two very simple questions though, if ‘they’ were right why is Harold Rove no longer Vice President, and why has David not been compensated for such unnecessary harm, to life and work, over so long, despite repeated attempts to make peace, and get on with work under the right conditions? The authors do not matter, unless right at the top, the publishers do.