Publisher’s Credo: Heads Will Roll

By Lilit Marcus

Published November 24, 2006, issue of November 24, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Last Monday, News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch announced that he was pulling the plug on O.J. Simpson’s hypothetical murder tale, “If I Did It,” and on the television interview that was to accompany it. Though many both inside and outside the company breathed a sigh of relief, some were left wondering how the misbegotten project had come into being in the first place. A possible explanation comes from Tom Kane, founder of the Web site www.commontales.com. In the 1990s, Kane spent a year working for Judith Regan, the fiery publisher who bought the rights to the Simpson book and who conducted the interview that Fox now won’t air.

As one of his odd jobs, he said, Kane was asked to look into the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes. Regan had become obsessed with the tale, particularly the part where Judith decapitates the drunken Assyrian general. Regan sent Kane on missions to find images of the beheading scene for her office. Famous for working on books about scorned and mistreated women — she has said that her interest in the Simpson project stemmed in part from firsthand experience in an abusive relationship — Regan saw the biblical Judith as a feminist before her time. According to Kane, Regan took Judith’s lesson a bit too much to heart. “She threatened to cut off my head if I didn’t do [something she’d told me to do],” he said. “I believed her.”

Publishers make their living telling stories. What matters at ReganBooks, though, is the version of the story that Regan wants you to know. And here, the story that she wanted people to know was that she was a woman warrior, too, a half-Irish, half-Italian spitfire who’d gone from being a National Enquirer reporter to being one of the most powerful people in publishing, and she wasn’t afraid to cut off your head if that was what it took to get ahead. She perhaps missed the part of the story where Judith killed Holofernes in order to save the Jewish people. Or the part about how the community held Judith in high esteem.






Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.