According to "A Book too Hot off the Presses" (Washington Post, 8/21/08), the book was slated for the press until Random House
received "cautionary advice" that the fictionalized story of one of Muhammad's wives might "incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."Translated: a blurb-writer voiced her opinion (and sued to have her name removed from the book's bibliography). Random House then contacted a few more people, who apparently agreed. The book was pulled — though a Serbian printer published 1,000 copies before a mufti took offense at the material.
Publishing is a business, and every business reserves the right to refuse service. However, when does it become a bad idea to stop publication of a book? With riots erupting after perceived slights by Muslims following the publication of a Danish cartoons, some publishers — American publishers, in this case — will pull the plug.
Do you as a reader think that is right? Do you think it's fair to halt publication because a work "might incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment"? Is there any reason to halt publication?
Going even further: do you think some subjects are "off the table" for authors? Which ones would those be? And what would make them forbidden?
Postscript 8/27/08: Please read Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso's excellent Opinion piece in the Indianapolis Star ("Beware of Lifting Swords Over Words," 8/26/08) regarding this matter.