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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
fall 2007| 56 |buddhadharma amy hertz: Thank you, but I will say it got a mixed reaction. Many people were happy about it, because it was blowing people’s minds and getting out to people who had never heard this information before. But many people in the dharma community were upset that anyone was making money. The books I do need to make money if I want to keep my job, and the whole reason I stayed in publish- ing was to try to do these books. robert sharf: It wasn’t the content, then, but the commercial success of the venture that made them nervous? amy hertz: Yes, but also a lot of people were complaining that it bastardized and dumbed down the teachings, that it lacked integrity, although to my knowledge no one articulated that in an actual review. I don’t feel that was a fair criticism. I am a dharma student, so I’ve always fought to maintain integrity, to present teachings in a way that’s not going to create mis- understanding. Sogyal Rinpoche himself was extremely thorough. He took draft after draft to Khyentse Rinpoche and other teachers in Asia. He checked every- thing left and right and back and forth and made sure he was doing his job. reed malcolm: That book came on the scene at a good time, because people were start- ing to get interested in death and dying in a serious way. Whenever I try to push a book that looks at death and dying, I cite Sogyal Rinpoche’s book as the prime example of how well the subject does. That book also provides a superb introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, or even just Buddhism, for folks who don’t know anything about it. amy hertz: For a certain group of people, though, it was still way too complicated and too laden with jargon, so when the I went to my editor-in-chief and said I was going to be Holt’s New Age editor. He asked me why, since he knew I hated New Age, and I told him I wanted to do dam- age control. I wanted authentic teachers to deliver the authentic information in a way that a larger number of people could access. That’s how The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying was born, which started me on the road of publishing Buddhist books for a larger audience. tim mcneill: What process did you and Sogyal Rinpoche follow to create the book? amy hertz: There were some public talks toworkwithbutalotofitwasoneon one, with Sogyal Rinpoche dictating. Rinpoche had asked me to read a number of Buddhist books, and to my ears, with a background in mainstream publishing, they read like packaged talks. They didn’t work as well on the page as I wanted. So I said to Sogyal Rinpoche that he had to start over, not just package his talks. He had to write a book from scratch, and I wanted Andrew Harvey to help him because he’s a brilliant writer. Also, having his name on the book meant that I could go to the New York Times Book Review and point out that they had given Andrew Harvey lots of space in book reviews before, so now just because he’s working on this weird Tibetan thing doesn’t mean they should ignore it. In fact, when the book came out in 1992, they did review it. It was the first time they ever reviewed anything of that kind. tim mcneill: That book was indeed a criti- cal moment for Buddhist books reaching the larger marketplace and for Buddhism in the West. possibility of editing the Art of Happiness with the Dalai Lama came up, I jumped on it. buddhadharma: Reed, can you tell us how you got into publishing Buddhist books at an academic press and say something about trends in academic publishing these days? reed malcolm: I had been interested in Buddhism on a personal level for a long time, having studied at Kopan monas- tery in Nepal. I also studied Buddhism in graduate school and was fortunate enough to be hired by a publisher with a large Asian studies list that incorporated Buddhist titles. The University of California Press has a long history of doing Buddhist books dating back to early sutra translations by Edward Conze. We do a lot on Tibet and Tibetan history and recently pub- lished a book by Jeffrey Hopkins, but the majority of our books in this area look at Buddhism in a larger context and its impacts and relationships. However, I don’t think books on Buddhism or on Buddhist studies have exploded in the way that many people expected. I haven’t seen a significant change in the size of the Buddhist studies field over the years, and the number of books published that look at the Buddhist religion have remained more or less the same. What has emerged, however, is an increased interest in the societal role of religion more generally, and along with that has come an interest in the role of Buddhism in society. Academic publishing has changed radi- cally in the last twenty years. First, we had the copier, which led to the use of “course readers,” and then the Internet, which spawned electronic publications. On top of that, library sales, a mainstay for schol- What establishes the authority of the Buddhist teacher in America is the book. I can’t say for sure whether that is good or bad, but let’s at least be honest about it. — Reed Malcolm 1958 1957 1959