In my last letter published in SN (January 5), I made what I believe to be fairly unambiguous charges that the Minister of Culture, Dr Frank Anthony, usurped his position to have his daughter’s book published under the Caribbean Press, a state-funded mechanism originally intended to publish the work of contemporary writers resident in Guyana.
In that letter, I called on the support of several prominent people associated with the press or government’s cultural policy to condemn this.
So far, there has been a public silence on this matter, as there has been on several other issues related to the literary arts. Perhaps what is at issue is that my learned friends are unsure about the impropriety of the publication in question, or perhaps a different scenario has been privately offered as explanation. Once we are satisfied that the young Ms Anthony’s novel has the “Caribbean Press” logo/title on it, there are only two possible scenarios outside of the one I posited in my last letter.
The first alternative scenario is that the book was produced by a different publishing company and the graphic artist who created the cover artwork took liberties to attribute the book to the Caribbean Press. In that scenario, it would mean however that this error would have somehow slipped through every single step of the editing process, an unlikely occurrence since even vanity press publishers require some acknowledgement, to the exclusion of any other brand or trademark. So, if the book was published by, say, Xlibris, it is reasonable to expect an Xlibris credit on it, not one from the Caribbean Press. Further, this scenario would render the use of the “Caribbean Press” branding on the book a violation of what one hopes is the registered trade name of a state entity. In short, any unauthorised use of the Caribbean Press branding on the book would not only be unethical but illegal.
The second alternative scenario is that the Minister paid out of pocket for the printing of the book, and for use of the registered Caribbean Press brand name.
Since this is a state entity and since the subject Minister would have been involved in said transaction, then we would expect that Dr Anthony would be ready to provide records – quotations, invoices, receipts, delivery notes.
Even so, this would still beg the question of when precisely was this policy decision – the state-funded initiative functioning as a vanity press – taken and whether this decision was announced publicly so that other writers could take advantage of the opportunity.
Let me be clear – I celebrate the emergence of any new author in Guyana, whatever age, whatever their familial ties. As has been made clear by their academic performances, the Anthony children are exceptionally bright, and I am certain that her commitment to producing a book at such an early age is a clear indicator that Ashley Anthony has a promising future as a writer ahead of her. This for me is what makes the manner of her first publication all the more troubling – his daughter is not without the talent, and the Minister not without the resources, to have had this book published independently.
Moving forward, I suggest that the Minister take the decision – for personal and professional reasons – to publicly donate every single copy of this edition of the book to the school system, and then have the Ministry host a national young writers’ competition – with integrated workshops – of which the best entries are collected into an anthology.
The young writers should also be afforded the privilege of having their efforts covered by the state information agency and given prominence in the state media.
And, in the long term, clear guidelines and criteria for publication with the Caribbean Press need to be established so as to ensure that there selection is based on merit, both in terms of talent and need.