I’m leaving you. The book we had… well, it was special. I was willing to give it a try even though we were very different people — me, an anarchist zinester and you, a right-wing media magnate — but it’s just not working out.
At first, I was amazed by all the things you owned: Fox, News Corp., New York Post, HarperCollins… my friends were impressed that my new sugardaddy owned their favorite shows, The Simpsons and the X-Files. Like me, they slipped under your spell.
And I enjoyed it while it lasted. The heights, they were dizzying! All of a sudden, I was a Real Writer, a somebody — people wanted to be near me, in hopes that my glow of legitimacy was something they could warm themselves by. Actually, the glow was a result of a ray fired from your orbiting spacestation, but they didn’t know that. They just knew that I waschosen. Hollywood people offered money to make a film version of my novel, while another company fought for the right to publish it in the USA! All because you were by my side.
But I was quite pleased to have another publisher for the American edition. I was seeing you everywhere, and it was beginning to creep me out. Being published by Avon meant I could stretch my legs a little, meet new people — but you didn’t like that, did you, Rupert? You could see I was enjoying myself out from under your shadow. So you bought Avon.
I was furious. Furious! I wasn’t cheating on you — I was just meeting new people. But when I complained to my friends, they said: “Well, Murdoch is one of the leading forces behind media consolidation. And a bit of a pig.” I’m afraid to say I agree, Rupert — two mid-sized companies are going to produce a more diverse selection of writing than one megacorp, it just stands to reason, and you’re going around buying publishing houses like they were collector plates.
They’re not. They’re not “print divisions” of News Corp, they’re pieces of history. You’re lucky William Makepeace Thackery isn’t still with Harper books, because you’d find yourself depicted rather unpleasantly in the sequel to Vanity Fair. But satire isn’t really enough. You don’t have the right to dominate the literary tradition just because you can buy it up. So I’ll be publishing my second novel myself.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m the same person I was before I met you, Rupert. I’ve met a lot of powerful people through you, and got a bit of a reputation besides. Did you use me, or did I use you? I don’t know — it’s all a blur. I do know that I’ll always remember you — not least because you’re the inspiration for the name of my new press: No Media Kings. You’ll find someone new, someone young and so demographically perfect you’ll be swept off your feet. Be brave, Rupert Murdoch, chin up,
(This open letter appeared in This Magazine, May 2000.)