Why was the publisher embarrassed by a rare bestseller?

Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 06:33 pm
"What was the best book that Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the publishing house he led for nearly sixty years, had ever published? Straus had to strike from the list his most competitive writers: Robert Lowell, John Berryman...Picking among his closest friends - Susan Sontag, Joseph Brodsky... - would be like declaring a favorite child. It certainly wouldn't be one of his rare bestsellers, from Sammy Davis, to Scott Turow, who rather embarrassed him."

If I get it right, in the last sentence, the word "rare" means "excellent". I don't understand why the publisher was embarrassed by these bestsellers and "certainly wouldn't" choose them as the best book. Could anyone explain that for me? Thank you!
View best answer, chosen by JustinXujia
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Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 08:05 pm
I don't think so. I am assuming the books by the best writers, close friends, their writing liked by him, didn't sell particularly well. When he did ok a book that became one of the firm's relatively few best sellers, he was embarrassed because he didn't admire the writing.

Personally, I find Sontag hard to read, but she was a well known and often admired intellectual. I've read some of Brodsky and was engaged with his work, would like to read more.

Sammy Davis was a film and tv star, not known for writing (I don't know if he had a ghost writer involved or not), and Turow is a readable guy who wrote legal procedurals.

These are different kind of writers and Straus knew it.
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