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MARCH 29, 1999:  REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS: These are grim days for the NEA, indeed. Now not only does the Endowment have to look over its shoulder for awarding grants to artists dealing with controversial subject matter, but also to those with controversial politics...or so a recent incident might indicate.

NEA chairman William J. Ivey rescinded a $7,500 grant for the publication of The Story of Colors when it came to light that the children's book was written by Mexican guerrilla leader Subcomandante Marcos.

Never mind the reasoning--which has received both praise and rebuke nationwide--that the grant might not be an appropriate use of taxpayer money. What are the chances of that happening?

As reported in the online publishing industry newsletter BookFlash, Ivey defended his decision by saying the unusual circumstance violated the intention of the federally funded grant, "especially if some of those funds wound up contributing to a revolution." Mexican officials reportedly agreed.

The book, a folk tale about Mayan gods, was originally published in 1997, in Spanish, by a Mexican company. Publisher Cinco Puntos Press, a small press out of El Paso, was the direct recipient of the grant, awarded to publish an English version of the book. Cinco Puntos said $2,000 would go to an artists' cooperative in Mexico, not to Marcos himself.

But all's well that ends well: The Santa Fe-based Lannan Foundation stepped up in the wake of the controversy to offer the necessary funds to continue the project.

SUBJECTIVE REASONING: And that's not all the weird news in the book world. If you're one of those who dreads using the old-fashioned card catalog (or the newfangled electronic search engines) to find books at your local library, perhaps a vacation to Merry Old England is just the ticket.

A BBC report sends news of a new cataloguing system in the U.K. across the oceans: ranking books by mood. The goal of the program, which has received nearly a half-million dollars in U.K. lottery funds, will categorize books according to content, such as sex, violence and emotion.

Although the plan has received a great deal of support, its critics contend, among other things, that information on tone and content can be obtained by reading the information on the book's jacket or back cover--an effort best left, without government subsidy, for people to determine for themselves. The controversial plan is due to be in place at the end of 2000.

For more publishing news tidbits, point your Web browser to http://www.bookflash.com/.


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