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Monday Morning

What a Carve-Up!

“After 17 years of publishing books I believe are worthy, practical, and authoritative,” says Perigee editor-in-chief Marian Lizzi, “I’ve finally figured out the key to strong sales: fake blood!”

The jack-o’lantern carving guide Extreme Pumpkins has already had three printings and found its way onto the BookSense bestseller lists lists—and of course the next two weeks promise to be just as hot for the book, if not hotter. Author Tom Nardone is having fun tracking the book’s success on his website, including his role in an upcoming Travel Channel documentary on Halloween.

Are You From Jersey?

Freelance journalist and travel guide author Jen A. Miller is launching a new interview series on her blog, Down the Shore with Jen,” and she’s looking for “writers, musicians, bloggers, comedians, Very Important People—just about anyone with a Jersey shore connection” to appear as guests on the site, starting with author and Phillies fan Sue Marquette Poremba yesterday afternoon. I’m figuring that if there’s enough Jerseyite literati to fill Irina Reyn‘s Living on the Edge of the World, the book world ought to be able to come up with more than enough “shoobies” to keep Miller busy, right?

Visiting Hours with the Whiskey Robber

In early 2006, I mentioned the DIY audiobook Julian Rubinstein was producing based on Ballad of the Whiskey Robber. Recently, Rubinstein returned to Hungary to visit the subject of his book, imprisoned hockey goalie turned bank robber Attila Ambrus, on the eve of his 40th birthday. Here’s a sampling of the footage they shot:

Want more info? The AP’s Jim Litke offers a quick summation of the backstory, building off Rubinstein’s original book and the recent interview.

B&N Satisfied With Online Orders, Won’t Put OJ in Stores

Nearly a week after Barnes & Noble declined to order If I Did It for its bookstore outlets, pre-orders are “surging” at the B&N website, so AP reporter Hillel Italie checked in with the chain’s spokeswoman, Mary Ellen Keating, and she says they still ain’t gonna carry it.

On a related note, someone forwarded a bit of sarcastic skepticism towards B&N from Slate columnist Timothy Noah, who notes that If I Did It is the store’s most heavily ordered not-yet-published book. What caught this sharp-eyed GalleyCat fan’s eye, though, was that the image Slate is using as the book’s cover is a reduction of our crop, which left off the filler copy Beaufort is currently displaying on the top third of the jacket until it’s ready to unveil the special guest stars whose commentary will be added to that of the Goldmans. The subtle proof that our media peers know we exist has started our week off with a smile.

Key West Loves Hemingway’s Cats More Than Bush Administration

patches-hemingway-cat.jpgWe first told you about the federal government’s interference with Ernest Hemingway‘s cats last summer, and city officials in Key West, where roughly 50 cats have the run of the dead author’s estate, have now taken decisive action in support of the literary felines. In response to claims by the Department of Agriculture that the Hemingway House needs a federal license to “exhibit” the cats, the Key West City Commission gave the house an exemption from restrictions on multiple cat ownership, describing the cats, many of whom have extra digits on their paws, as “animals of historic, social and tourism significance,” as well as “an integral part of the history and ambiance of the Hemingway House.” (File photo of Patches courtesy of the Associated Press, which has been all over this story from the beginning.)

Who Says You Can’t Live Large in Publishing?

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One of our readers passed on a tidbit from the latest issue of Architectural Digest on the $28 million asking price for Linden Farm, former Simon & Schuster head Richard Snyder‘s 60-plus-acre Westchester estate with an 8-bedroom Tudor Revival house. The estate has been in the news recently because in Snyder’s lawsuit against Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Linden Farm was identified as the site of a secret negotiation where EMI chair Eric Nicoli attempted to broker a peace between the two. But it seems like that house has been on the market for a while—Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner may have looked at it in 2005, around the time the property was spotlighted in Forbes, which admired it for having “everything one needs to live a pampered country life.” And they were asking $28 million for it then, too.

If Dad Did It, Arnelle Wanted Her Cut, But It’s Fred Goldman’s Book Now

arnelle-simpson.jpgFriday afternoon, after we’d all taken off for summer hours, ABC News reported that OJ’s daughter came up with the idea for If I Did It. OK, technically it was Raffles Van Exel, previously best known for hovering in orbit around Michael Jackson, who came up with the idea and started noodging Arnelle Simpson about it; she just took it to OJ Simpson. ABC put the transcript of Arnelle’s deposition (117-page PDF) online to accompany their story; my favorite bit comes when she remembers talking to her siblings about how “it’s an opportunity for us, and in the long run there’s opportunity, there’s financial opportunity.” Asked by the deposing attorney to elaborate on what they thought that financial opportunity was, Simpson is totally straightforward: “That we would all be a part of the book, and that we would get money from the book when it came out.” And this was before she asked OJ if he’d do it, mind you.

But making money off her dad’s story just got a lot harder, because the judge in her bankruptcy hearing has ruled that Fred Goldman can have the rights, which means he and his family will be moving forward with their plans to sell the book, now titled Confessions of a Double Murderer, to the highest bidder. I wonder if they also acquired the film rights, and if they’ll be working on a sequel.

Biz-Advice Author on Idol-Smashing Mission

Reuters correspondent Helen Chernikoff takes note of Phil Rosenzweig’s new management guide, The Halo Effect… and Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers, in which the biz school prof comes out swinging:

“Some of the biggest business blockbusters of recent years contain not one or two, but several delusions. They operate mainly at the level of storytelling.”

Among the books he labels as hampered by the halo effect (“a tendency to base specific conclusions on general impressions”) are recongized genre touchstones like In Search of Excellence, Built to Last, and Good to Great—to which the authors, if they bother to reply, say, well, we never said we had the perfect solution. What advice does Rosenzweig offer to counter their delusory storytelling? Chernikoff summarizes his message: “Strategy and execution are risky, he writes. Luck plays a role. Strong decisions can generate bad outcomes.” People will pay $25 just to be told life’s a crapshoot? Damn; clearly I’m in the wrong racket.

Rosenzweig responds to the review on his blog, at least the parts where Chernikoff got feedback from the writers he criticized. He notes that In Search of Excellence never really claimed to be more than a bunch of interesting stories, but that the other two books quite explicitly purport to explain why some companies succeed and others don’t, even though their content “does not remotely meet the most basic test of good research.” Neither Good to Great nor Built to Last is a bad book, Rosenzweig stresses, but “a good story is a long way from a claim of solid research or scientific rigor.”

Writers Slash Their Not-So Favorite Books Into Pieces

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Earlier this month, Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout espoused the joys of brevity in books in his most recent “Sightings” column on Orion’s plans to publish abridged editions of classic novels. Now the New York Times’ Motoko Rich pushes the idea forward in a not-entirely-serious vein, asking writers like Christopher Buckley, Joyce Carol Oates, Norman Mailer and Jonathan Franzen to pick what books deserve to go under the editing knife. Mailer offered a list that he requested be printed in full and without commentary, while Neal Pollack suggested cutting “80 percent of THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks and turn it into the greeting card that it was meant to be.”

Most controversial goes to Ann Patchett with her Orwell slams and most wimpy, easily, to Franzen, who applied the abridging logic only to titles, even if he got off some amusing zingers like “Shortmarch” and “Paler Fire.”

The South Will Rise Again, One Zombie Writer at a Time; Or, Everything That Rises to the Semi-Finals Must Converge

You know, it doesn’t bother me so much that Time Out New York‘s “ultimate NY book bracket” is derivative of the Morning News Tournament of Books. Bracketology is all the rage these days and something like this was bound to happen. No, the thing that gets me is this opening face-off from the “Contemporary/Post-1970″ category:

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To be fair, one could say that although Flannery O’Connor died in 1964, The Complete Short Stories qualifies as post-’70s literature because it was published in 1971. But would one?

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