Say, hypothetically speaking, that your publisher took you out to dinner one night and said, over candlelight and silverware, Listen, baby, I totally think you’re the shit, but, see, this other guy has WAY more profile than you, and he wants to title his book the same thing you do (Brooklyn), so even though you’ve been working on this for years, I’d like you to come up with something else for the midlist catalo—er, I mean, publicists to use.” That would suck, wouldn’t it? Hypothetically speaking?
Joanna Smith Rakoff had just turned in a major set of rewrites on her novel, Brooklyn, when her editor at Scribner broke the news to her over dinner that she would have to change its title. It seemed that Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, a Scribner author since 2000 who has been twice short-listed for the Booker Prize, wanted to use it for his forthcoming book, which was scheduled to come out this spring, just a month after Ms. Rakoff’s.
Would the young debut novelist mind terribly getting out of the way?
This was last April—roughly six years after Ms. Rakoff first started working on the book and gave it its name, and four months after Scribner acquired it at auction for a six-figure sum.