Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Monday, October 1, 2012

THE EVIL THAT MEN DO LIVES AFTER THEM

In 1969, I and my first wife were each in a full-scale psychoanalysis and I was doing everything I could to earn enough money to pay the medical bills.  [I was actually audited by the IRS one year because they could not believe that someone with an income that low had medical bills that high.]  A paperback publisher, New American Library, contacted me about doing a book to be called Ten Great Works of Philosophy.  The idea was that I would find ten works whose translations or [in the case of David Hume] originals were in the public domain -- hence no permissions fees -- and cut and paste them into a little book together with sketchy introductions.  The editor offered a thousand on signing and a thousand on submission, which in those days was three months of analysis for the two of us.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.  I completed work on the book so fast that before they could pay me the thousand for signing a contract I had submitted the finished manuscript and asked for the second thousand as well.  I know you will believe me when I say that this was not my finest scholarly effort.

This afternoon, in the day's mail, arrived my royalty payment for the book from Pearson, which at some point along the way acquired Penguin, which had earlier on acquired New American Library.  Not much -- $334 -- but when I entered the sales and payments in the Excel spreadsheet that serves as a record of my book sales, I noticed that I was closing in on 200,000 sales, all of which have brought me a bit more than $20,000.  I was thirty-five when I cranked out that little number, and like the Energizer bunny it just keeps on going.  I have the creepy feeling that long after I am dust, semi-annual checks will continue to arrive for my sons, and eventually for my grandchildren.

9 comments:

Jim said...

Professor Wolff --

I own a copy of that book, and I continue to see it in the (small) philosophy sections of most mainstream bookstores (Barnes & Noble, etc.). You are probably not the only writer whose best work has fallen out of print while lesser efforts continue to generate royalty checks. I would argue that musicians and songwriters are similarly afflicted.

-- Jim

Robert Paul Wolff said...

So long as they spell my name right! :)

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I might also observe that musicians and songwriters are not always the best judges of their own creations. Sir Arthur Sullivan had only contempt for the music he wrote for the immortal Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and thought that his big, boring, serious compositions, such as Ivanhoe, for which Queen Victoria knighted him, were his true claim to greatness.

mesnenor said...

I think the piece Sullivan was proudest of was the song "The Lost Chord", which has the distinction of being one of the first pieces of music ever recorded.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Interesting. I had no idea it was one of the first pieces of music recorded. Thanks for the comment.

Seth said...

I would be interested in your reflections on the experience of psycho-analysis. Freud seems to have been consigned by conventional wisdom to the same waste bin Marx is moldering in.

Here's a reading suggestion which might not be familiar to you, and might provide some 'provocation' for your own reflections:

http://www.amazon.com/Fragments-Analysis-Freud-Joseph-Wortis/dp/0876686560

Robert Paul Wolff said...

If you go to Box.net, following the link at the top of this blog, you will find there a lengthy many-part "tutorial" on The Thought of Sigmund Freud that says just about everything I have to say about Freud. I would welcome your comments on it.

LFC said...

"Pearson, which at some point along the way acquired Penguin, which had earlier on acquired New American Library."

Pearson is an enormous company which has, among other things, a line of college textbks, often outrageously priced I'm sure, from which it no doubt makes a great deal. I did not know it owned Penguin (which means, I believe, it also owns Viking). Another indication of how 'concentrated' and dominated by big conglomerates the publishing industry has become.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I think honesty compels me to reveal that I in fact have a textbook with Pearson. Thirty-seven years ago, I wrote a philosophy introduction called ABOUT PHILOSOPHY for Prentice Hall. I did it because the advance allowed my first wife, Cynthia Griffin Wolff, to take a semester off from teaching to finish her major work on Edith Wharton, A FEAST OF WORDS. I wrote the book in eight weeks to fulfill the contract. Prentice Hall was bought by somebody who was bought by somebody who was bought by Pearson, and now, long after the marriage is ended, the book goes on, in its eleventh edition, earning me a good bit of money. As I observed on this blog about a different book done for money, "the evil men do lives on. the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar." I had to memorize the first ten lines of that speech in high school. I am terrible at memorizing anything.