Update: Sunbury and Patrick Quere parted ways in August 2011. – D.R.
I hate censorship and would not want Amazon to ban the novel Grognard despite the grotesque violence, racism, anti-Semitism and other offensiveness. Would I myself have published it? My first reaction was, No. But I may have figured out how Patrick Quere could have modified his work to win me over. Meanwhile, ahead, is a reply from his publisher, Lawrence Knorr of Sunbury Press.
The latest is that a new edition of Grognard with commentaries—I myself will offer one, gratis, and tell how the book could have been different—will appear by December 1. A sequel will come out in early 2011.
Update, Nov. 30, 2010: Current plan is to skip the commentary I had in mind. I might offer it here instead, in place of the existing one, which I’ll preserve separately.
By Lawrence Knorr
Publisher, Sunbury Press
You’ve written an excellent essay—it is very deep and thought-provoking. Thank you for the inquiry and the opportunity to clarify some things. I agree there are some very important points to clear up regarding this book, the author and the publisher.
First, regarding the “hate-speech” rants in the book:
We, at Sunbury Press, do not espouse any of the views presented in this work of fiction. I personally do not harbor such ill-feelings towards anyone. The author, Patrick Quere, feels similarly. The book is a work of fiction in which the protagonist (Felix Moullec), a misanthropic psycho/sociopath, complains about all the ills in his life and community and affixes blame on every living creature around him. Clearly the main character is insane, diminished by his environment. Simply put, he hates everyone!
A quick skim of the book, or “trolling” for specific quotes misses the point. When read in its entirety, the book conveys the imagery from the mind of a crazy person. Obviously someone who feels this way about everyone has a mental health problem. Given this theme in the book and its possible connections to the horrible events in Hollywood, Florida, the publisher plans to donate profits from this book towards mental health causes.
Second, regarding “auto-biographical”
It is our position this is a work of fiction. Patrick Quere, the author, has mentioned there are “auto-biographical” elements in the story, and that it is also somewhat “biographical”. What Quere has done is borrow elements from his youth and from the local community. He has also “imprinted” some quirks or characteristics of people he has met along the way on the characters in the book. (What writer doesn’t?) While I do not personally know Patrick Quere beyond our recent business relationship, he does not appear to harbor any such beliefs in real-life. His writing, at worst, is the product of an overly-imaginative, highly-capable writer of fiction.
Third, regarding the decision to publish
Interestingly enough, none of the reviews to date had mentioned anything about “hate-speech”. The focus of Bradley Winterton’s review (Taipei Times) was on the violence in the book. (This was written before the Beau Bruneau incident.) When considering the book for publication, we understood the main character was a nut, so anything he was “saying” was seen in a different light. To focus on the speech and violence in the book is to miss the point about mental wellness and what can evolve in the “soup” of declining neighborhoods across this country.
Such speech and violence is actually very commonplace in the media and in our entertainment. Listen to a lot of the music that has circulated in recent years, or go to the movies. Quentin Tarantino has certainly played in this space. Even Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino” rants about the Asian-Americans living next door, as they bear resemblance to the North Korean soldiers he shot and killed and stacked “like cord wood”.
As you can probably tell from our increasing list of publications, we have not focused on any one genre or agenda. We have tried to be agnostic about the content and have sought to be a vehicle for the arts, history and fiction. I refer to the following quotes, from people much wiser than I, as instructive in this matter:
“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”
— Benjamin Franklin, 1730
“Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”
— Winston Churchill
“This is slavery, not to speak one’s thought.”
— Euripides, Greek tragic poet (480 or 485 B.C. – 406 B.C)
“To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.”
— Michel de Montaigne, Essays, 1559
“Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always be the last resort of the boob and the bigot.”
— Eugene Gladstone O’Neill, American playwright (1888-1953)
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
— Salman Rushdie
“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.”
— Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891
In closing, I’ll address Felix’s motives. You seem to be focused on that in the essay. Simply put, he is a misanthropic psycho/sociopath. Such people say and do things with no apparent logical motivation. In that regard, Patrick Quere has brilliantly conveyed the inner-mind of such a character. Is Quere such a person himself? Could such a person write such an “introspective” work? I don’t think so!