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Happy Mother’s Day, Michel Houellebecq!

ceccaldi372.jpgAs far as nascent literary subgenres go, there may be none sadder than the maternal counter-memoir. As we wait for Augusten Burroughs‘ mom to come out with her version of the truth, we can — if we’re French– already read Lucie Ceccaldi’s take on her son Michel Houellebecq‘s dysfunctional childhood, which he fictionalized in ‘The Elementary Particles.’

Angelique Chrisafis, who interviewed her in the Guardian, says that while “literary theorists welcome the precious psychological insight into the biggest voice of a generation,” everyone else might just find the situation sad: Ceccaldi says that her son is an “evil, stupid little bastard” and adds that “this individual, who alas came from my womb, is a liar, an imposter, a parasite and above all – above all – a petit arriviste ready to do absolutely anything for money and fame.” One senses that Houellebecq won’t be sending any Teleflora bouquets or Hallmark cards her way this or any other year.

‘Snuff’ Marketing Campaign Is The Chuck Palahniuk Team’s Most Shocking Yet! Yawn.

friend-me.jpgThe ‘Fight Club’ author’s latest, which PW says “reads like a cross between the Spice Channel and Days of Our Lives,” is about the guys waiting in line at an aging pornstar’s career-ending 600-dude gangbang. So Doubleday‘s marketing department decided to get “creative” and make a bunch of tired jokes about porn, creating a MySpace page for the pornstar character and a book trailer (fairly SFW, actually) that poses as a trailer for one of her early films, “The Wizard of Ass.” According to that MySpace page, her filmography also includes lit-inspired porn titles like “The Gropes of Wrath,” “The Ass Menagerie” and “Catch Her In The Eye,” which would all be a lot funnier if they hadn’t been thought of already or didn’t actually exist.

‘The Score’ Explains The Science Behind ‘The Game’

score.jpg In June, Avery will publish Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Faye Flam‘s book about “how the quest for sex has shaped the modern man,” which is the latest entry in a field that’s almost becoming a genre unto itself. Call it the “Mystery” section — the fast-growing area of the bookstore devoted to books that have something to do with Neil Strauss‘s 2003 bestseller ‘The Game.’ Flam’s book isn’t another guide to seduction, though. Instead, she uses examples from throughout the natural kingdom — from praying mantises to giant squid — to explain how evolutionary science supports Strauss’s tactics. Fun! Also, depressing. Also, seriously gross. For example, about those giant squid:

“The male uses his penis like a hypodermic needle, piercing the skin on the female’s arms … since the female has no vagina. Then, with hydraulic force, the male injects her with four-inch-long tadpole-shaped “spermatophores” … the penis is about five feet long when flaccid. The end of the penis has a cartilaginous lance, the better for stabbing … sometimes the female will bite off the male’s penis or arms with her deadly beak. It may be that one or both sexes don’t survive the encounter. If human males faced these sorts of hazards, it would seem perfectly understandable that they’d gather in pickup classes and related support seminars, there to boost one another’s courage to approach the opposite sex.”

Who Knew? Eliminating Returns Reduces The Book Business’s Carbon Footprint

In 2005, 31% of the roughly 1.5 billion books printed in the US were returned to publishers. Guess what: that not only doesn’t make sense for anyone’s bottom line — people don’t buy more books because they see big luxuriant stacks of books on offer, it seems!– it’s bad for the environment!

As is buying and selling paper-stacks at all, of course, but let’s not think about that for the moment. In an article about Bob Miller‘s new HarperCollins “studio’s” no-returns policy, sustainable-living publisher Margo Baldwin explains the rationale behind the no-returns deal she has struck with 30 bookstores: “In this age of global warming it’s insane to be shipping books back and forth across the country for no good reason. It’s just a waste of energy and, not only that, it still encourages the overproduction of books — many of which end up in landfills.”

So will the entire book industry change the way it does business based on these concerns? Maybe not: “‘It would require Random House or HarperCollins to develop an entirely new business model,’ said [Jim] Milliot of Publishers Weekly. ‘And that is not going to happen.’”

Putting The Bestseller List In Perspective, Or Something

max.jpgThere are no ‘Harry Potter’ titles on the Times bestseller list for the first time in 10 years.

Tucker Max‘s ‘I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell’ is still on there, though — and it has been for three years. Yes: three years.

The Barbara Walters Memoir ‘Embargo’ Was Even More Meaningless Than Most

audition.jpgOn her Tumblr, which is obviously where I get most of my news, the Observer‘s Doree Shafrir bitches that the Times ran their review of Barbara Walters‘ memoir ‘Audition’ yesterday despite Knopf’s explicit warning that no reviews should run before May 6. “It’s sort of bullying of a paper like the Times to publish their review first, just because they can. It’s not like Knopf is never going to send Janet Maslin another book,” she points out.

But it’s also worth noting that the book’s gossipiest revelations — like the news of Walters’affair with a senator — broke much earlier in a non-review context, despite the embargo. Of course it’s publicists’ job to position books cleverly, but it does seem unfair to leak buzzy details strategically while telling reviewers they must hold off on writing about the book. This just makes it obvious that the only point of an embargo is to focus review coverage around pub in a way that will create a sales spike that boosts bestseller-list chances. Scandalous.

Book Blogger’s Debut Novel Gets A ‘Times’ Teardown

Mark Sarvas Author Headshot small.jpgSometimes we must try to puzzle out for ourselves why the New York Times Book Review has chosen to review a book. In his review of Mark Sarvas‘s debut, ‘Harry Revised,’ Troy Patterson connects the dots for us: “That you are reading a review of this novel in these pages is a testament to the author’s success as a blogger.” As you might have already guessed, the review isn’t a very positive one.

“Harry does not seem to have been reread, never mind revised,” Patterson writes. ZING! “I will grant you that these days, only chess players seem to use the word ‘gambit’ properly, but Harry is supposed to be infatuated with the game of kings. Other terms that the novelist is pretentious enough to use despite his not knowing their precise meanings include ‘enormity,’ ‘parameters,’ ‘jumper,’ ‘tortuous’ and ‘petty crime.’ The choicest mixed metaphor finds Harry ‘keeping his balls in the air’ while he’s ‘stuck on a roller coaster’ carrying him along by ‘sheer momentum.’”

(photo: Sara Corwin)

Is Strand Management Not Just Crappy But Also Sorta Racist?

strand2.jpgThis week’s New York Press cover story alleges that black female employees of New York’s venerable used bookstore have been unfairly discriminated against — three in the last 18 months have felt “the wrath of Strand management” based on work-rule infractions. Fired employee Nicole Congleton tells the Press that she was confused at first about why she was being singled out for punishment, and then it had dawned on her: “Oh, it’s something to do with black women. And I really hoped it wasn’t. Because I hate pulling the race card. I think it’s deplorable. But finally I was, like, that’s what it is.” No one from Strand management would comment.

The article also notes that the bookstore, in spite of its cool image and rep — “Employees have their nametags hanging below their stylish caps but above their skinny jeans and Converse shoes” — turns out to be, actually, a business: “It’s not the East village hipster bookstore it’s presented to be,’ said one current 26-year-old male employee. ‘It’s a corporation, and it’s run like that.’”

Is Augusten Burroughs’ Life “Milked Dry”?

wolf-at-the-table-190.jpgIn a polygraphish New York profile, Sam Anderson got Augusten Burroughs to admit that he might, 5 memoirs in, be running out of life-experience to mine: “He says he might be done. He wants to go back to fiction, which he says always feels like an adventure.”

Today in the Times, Janet Maslinagrees. After kicking things off by bemoaning the fact that “book’s cover graphic packs more of a wallop than the text does,” she goes on to mock the affected, Joyce-lite musings of infant Augusten (who pines for “my crib, my homebox, my goodcage” — oy) and to wonder what, exactly, the dude’s father did that was memoir-meritously bad, besides kill a guinea pig.

“[Burroughs] remains a writer with a large and loyal following, a fluent and funny storyteller whenever he actually has stories to tell. Maybe those stories needn’t be so personal. Maybe his range can expand beyond tales of dysfunction. And maybe some thoughts belong on the page more than others do,” she concludes. Zing. Let’s hope Burroughs never gets to pie her.

Rick Moody Hit Dale Peck Pretty Hard In The Face With That Pie

At a fundraiser for writers’ retreat Sangam House, Rick Moody got cold, whipped-creamy revenge for the 2002 review in which Dale Peck called him “the worst writer of his generation.” Moody didn’t pie Peck gently, either — he really put his arm into it, and then smeared it around after making contact.

This is cute and all, but there’s a chummy, clubby aspect of the ‘reconciliation’ that bothers me. Does Peck really take back everything he ever said about, say,’The Black Veil?’ Does he still care fervently about literature and how it’s marketed, or is he just spending his free time swimming around in a vault full of money a la Scrooge McDuck now that his sci-fi project with the dude from Heroes sold for $3 million? Also, I feel that this establishes a dangerous precedent. Well, I am not about to get pied, not even to support the worthiest writer’s retreat imaginable.