It quickly becomes evident that Paulson’s character is the kind of 20-something that is unwilling to earn notoriety by slaving away and putting in dues, rather she wants it with the least amount of effort required. Lavin’s character remains skeptical of this youngster in her midst, holding back from getting personal until duped into doing so by the eager student. What transpires between the two is something straight out of the news and publishing world headlines – stories from Lavin’s character are stolen by her student and repackaged in a more salacious form.
With cease and desist orders targeted at sites aggregating news content online, as was recently the case between The Wrap and Newser, and so-called biographies raping the lives of well-known figures in order to sell books, similar to the newly published Oprah Winfrey book by Kitty Kelley, Collected Stories instantly becomes a relevant and timely social commentary.
“You appropriated my life,” Lavin screams with a gut-wrenching howl at Paulson during a confrontation in the play – the older author discovered that her personal history became fodder for the younger writer’s new book. It is a moment one can imagine playing out in the halls of newspaper and publishing houses everywhere. When e-book retailers dictated prices to book publishers, it couldn’t have been pretty in the morning meetings.
And when Sharon Waxman discovered Newser was supposedly lifting her site’s content in order to drive up web traffic, the Hollywood news lady must have shot steam out of her ears, or at least that is how it will be depicted in HBO’s new series Tilda. Isn’t that right, Nikki Finke?
Publishing houses and newspaper dynasties should be cautious, because like Lavin’s character in Collected Stories, they could quickly turn into the storied mentor that discovers their biggest fans have pilfered their own collected stories and risen to a level of notoriety without sweating a drop.
“Life is too short for the New Yorker,” barks Lavin’s character at one point in Collected Stories. Like the old media guard, she is blinded by her ancient ways and refuses to see that the work coming from her pupil is a sign of the changing tides. By casting aside any ideas of change, she is ultimately overthrown and made irrelevant.
If nothing else, Margulies has written two plays that act out the “what if” scenarios that publishers should seriously be thinking about, otherwise they could soon find themselves stuck behind a paywall that nobody wants to get access to, a lesson Variety has learned after seeing online page views drop more than 40% after charging for content.
Collected Stories photos courtesy of Joan Marcus.
This article was published by the Huffington Post on April 28, 2010.