Sep 23, 2011

Assange bio: not a manuscript anyone would intend to publish

They were putting copies of Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography in the window of Waterstone's this morning when I arrived to buy a copy, which was cool -- I really thought that was no more than a movie cliché, writes Guy Rundle.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


They were putting copies of Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography in the window of Waterstone’s this morning when I arrived to buy a copy, which was cool — I really thought that was no more than a movie cliché. Inside, half a dozen copies sold in 10 minutes — most of the purchasers looked like newsroom interns — and a film crew from German state television was sharking around interviewing people.

Since no-one buying the book was willing to participate, they were finding casual browsers and offering to buy them a copy. When I arrived, they had cornered some gormless young man who had been, as is the case for most bookshop habitues, simply hiding from the day.

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17 thoughts on “Assange bio: not a manuscript anyone would intend to publish

  1. Carol Cowan

    Menagier?? Really?

  2. Mark from Melbourne

    I had a menagier once but it was confiscated by my 4th grade teacher…

  3. michael r james

    Nice review (and fast reading). Your vignette took me back a decade (or two?) to when the wonderful Gothic store spread over 5 floors in Gower street in the heart of Bloomsbury was a Dillons, now Waterstones’ flagship store, a candidate for one of the best bookstores in the world.
    GR gave some information in his Crikey piece yesterday but I thought Crikey readers might like a condensed version of the publishing fiasco as retailed by The Guardian today (so perhaps needs to be read with bit of care; remember David Leigh is the author of his the book in which he revealed the password to the cables file; apparently it has been optioned by Hollywood, as has the NYT book!). Lawyers and publishers (then Hollywood) all earning their fees with nary a dollar in Assange’s pocket (yet). Assange is no angel but he certainly seems a naif in this hard-edged world.
    Emphasis is mine.

    Julian Assange autobiography: why he didn’t want it published
    David Leigh, James Ball and Esther Addley Thursday 22 September 2011 21.47 BST

    Canongate, (run by Jamie Byng), and the US publishers Knopf agreed to pay £600,000 and $800,000 respectively for the rights, with Knopf paying $250,000 in advance. Canongate also agreed to pay upfront O’Hagan’s ghostwriting fee, believed to exceed £100,000.

    Canongate also negotiated a crucial loophole in the contract, which it was eventually to invoke. “If … the manuscript has not been delivered by the prescribed date or its final form is not acceptable to the Publisher, the Publisher has the right to decide whether to continue to publish the Work. If the Publisher decides to continue to publish the Work the Proprietor agrees that all typescript or notes relevant to the said Work shall belong to the Publisher.”

    The money went into the client account for the Assange defence fund, administered by solicitor Mark Stephens, who was conducting Assange’s criminal defence. Assange now claims he thought he was getting the services of top QCs and solicitors pro bono. But FSI, which says only the initial advice tendered was free, eventually put in bills that in total are reported to exceed the advance.

    …..a draft manuscript by March, as required. But Assange refused to sign off on it. Some sources suggest that, after failing to sell the Hollywood film rights to his memoirs, Assange realised that all future payments on the book would be swallowed up by his lawyers.

    One benefit for the publisher, however, is that under the get-out clause in the contract it will no longer be obliged to pay the second and third tranche of the advance – a saving of £350,000. Canongate has, however, promised to pay Assange any royalties he is due after the paid-out advances have been recouped. Some observers still believe that Assange stands to make a small fortune from his eventual royalties.]

  4. kuke

    “Who else is going to change the world, Marty? Greenpeace?”

  5. michael r james

    A little typo, obviously should have been menagerie but perhaps also Freudian?:

    [Le Ménagier De Paris (often abbreviated as Le Menagier) is a French medieval guidebook from 1393 on a woman’s proper behavior in marriage and running a household. It includes sexual advice, recipes,[1] and gardening tips. Written in the (fictional) voice of an elderly husband addressing his younger wife, the text offers a rare insight into late medieval ideas of gender,[2] household, and marriage.]

    4th grade, Mark?

  6. zut alors

    “Vanity in a newspaperman is like perfume on a whore; they wear it to conceal a dark whiff of themselves.”

    I reckon the book would be worth buying purely for this remarkable observation.

  7. db

    Does he really talk like that? Apt or not the quote or misquote looks like a very contrived bit of written stirring instead of a spoken comment. While Assange is not perfect it does look like there’s a bit of strawman construction going on with this book.

  8. Guy Rundle


    as i noted in my report yesterday, Assange argues that he and Canongate had renegotiated for delivery in 2012, and that as part of that process, the existing contract was cancelled. He alleges that the publisher only got hold of the existing MS. when ghost writer Andrew O’Hagan’s researcher accidentally let them get a copy.

    So, if true (and who knows) not naive enough to let the publishers have a copy, without them acquiring it by subterfuge.

    Yes, the suggestion that Leigh et al have ‘several sources’ suggesting that Assange bailed because he realised the advance would be swallowed up by legal fees, need to be taken with, ironically, the usual salt. I dont doubt there are sources, but the question of who they are and whether they know anything is pretty crucial.

  9. AR

    If I had to choose between a passionate individual and a faceless/amoral corporate entity it would be easy, if wrong headed. As in betray my friend or my country.
    The more highly organised an entity the worse it treats mere mortals, as anyone who’s ever had to deal with HR in any company with more than a couple of hundred employees, apologies to the Great Sage Dilbert.

  10. Policeman MacCruiskeen

    Down here on Mutton Bird Island we don’t give a stuff about Assange’s personal history, personal life or whether or not he knows how to really treat a female impersonator. We just reckon he’s a game changer so we’ve awarded him our highest public honour – the Antechinus Medal which the O’Leary boys reckon is appropriate because o’ the way that aforesaid native marsupial performs intercourse for 28 days solid before its hair falls out, its tail drops off and it karks it. We’ve also given ‘im lifetime membership o’ the Armed Wing of the Hippie Party o’ Mutton Bird Island. An all round top lad.

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