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Archives: March 2005

Random House Invests in Literacy

When Big Tobacco primes children for smoking, it’s illegal. When Random House does the same thing, give or take some variables, it’s integral.

Random House, the world’s biggest publisher of consumer books, said on Wednesday its investment arm has become a significant minority shareholder in Philadelphia-based American Reading Co.

… [American Reading Co.'s] program requires students to read for at least 30 minutes each day at school and another 30 at home, and has been credited with boosting standardized test scores in various U.S. school districts.

“They are pioneering a new distribution channel for trade books as enjoyable essentials in the lives of elementary and high school students across the country, many of whom now will go on to become frequent book customers,” said Richard Sarnoff, the president of Random House Ventures.

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“The ‘We’ll Put Out Our Own Damn Book’ PR Work-Around”

mylife.jpgFor several years now, talk shows have been making books into bestsellers. Now, thanks to Richard & Judy and Good Morning America, they’re also making books.

Earlier this week, GMA and co-sponser Simon & Schuster announced the finalists for their The Story of My Life contest, which — according to its official rules — was judged on two criteria: “quality and persuasiveness of entrant’s reasoning why [her] story [is] worthy of becoming a book (33%)” and “overall potential of this life story for on-air appeal to audience of Good Morning America and book appeal to readers (67%).” ( … As if publishers don’t already pick their books this way.)

According to the Happy Booker blog, which has been tracking the competition since its get-go, ghost writers have already completed the three finalists’ memoirs. But, even so, viewers’ votes (vote here) will be used to select only one for publication. (… Which just goes to show you: even publisher-commissioned books can have the odds stacked against them.)

“The ‘We’ll Put Out Our Own Damn Magazine’ PR Work-Around”

Adam Langer, author of Crossing California, schools American publishers in the ways of their oft-superior German counterparts. “The [European] publication of Crossing California,” Langer writes, “offers some inventive marketing ideas that some folks in the U.S. might want to take note of.”

Most interesting to me among the ideas was what Langer called the “‘We’ll Put Out Our Own Damn Magazine’ PR Work-Around,” in which the shrinking space reserved for author profiles and book reviews gets counteracted by “a slickly designed magazine” put out by the publishing house to “[promote] its authors with articles by established journalists who don’t work for the company’s publicity department.”

Part of what makes this idea interesting, at least as it’s described by Langer, is Langer’s worry-free enthusiasm for it. Personally, I feel uncertain about the further blurring of advertising and journalism; these “slickly designed magazines” remind me a little of the “video news releases” federal agencies encourage newscasts to air.

On the other hand: I hear the words “magazine,” “authors” and “slickly designed” and, immediately, I have the promitive urge to hunt the thing down, drag it home, and lovingly devour.

The Music of the (Blogo)Spheres

Awesome: Largehearted Boy introduces “Book Notes,” a new blog feature in which “authors whose work I admire will create mix CD’s based on their latest book. There are no ground rules, I plan to just let these creative masters work their own magic with words.” First up is Tom Bissell, author of the recently released God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories. (Thanks to bookslut for the link.)

Publishers V Lotus Club

From the new NY Observer comes this strange little piece about rainstorms, Sonny Mehta, and blue jeans. If there’s a thesis at all buried in here it’s that the relaxing of publishing’s dress code has finally outpaced (or, more literally, outstripped?) New York City’s.

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GC, Declawed.

I don’t think GC’s a good forum for blogger wars, but Beatrice’s most recent criticism of GC has finally roused my interest in some self-defense.

Responding to a recent GC post, B’s Ron Hogan writes,

I’m not sure which is creepier: the idea that Foer was pulling an Eddie Haskell on Deborah Solomon or the loose connection GC makes between the pseudosexual Eddie-style suckup technique’s of Foer’s fictional character and the way Foer’s mother doted on him as a child, which is then linked up to the alleged googly-eyed treatment in Solomon’s reporting.

What I do know is that enough has gotten to be enough. The line between criticizing somebody’s writing and attacking their personal life usually isn’t a very thin one…

I mean, Lord knows I’m hard on certain “bad, bad writers,” but I hope that the emphasis here is on the bad writing–unless, of course, somebody happens to be both a bad prose stylist and the sort of guy who slaps his reviewers around or totally lies his way through a journalistic career and then tries to cash in with a tell-all memoir. But if I ever get to the point where I’m just dumping on some poor author the way GC does on JSF, feel free to stage an intervention before I totally embarrass myself.

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Cheney’s Daughter to Write Memoir

marych.jpgMary Matalin’s first book for her new S & S imprint, Threshold, has been announced, and it doesn’t sound half-bad (unlike, say, her imprint’s title). According to the NY Times, Threshold’s pub debut will be a memoir by Mary Cheney, Lynne & Dick’s lesbian — and, until now, quite private — daughter.

Carolyn Reidy, president of adult books at Simon & Schuster, said Ms. Cheney’s book would be not only an account of the campaigns by a singularly highly placed insider but also “about her own role, about being thrust into the spotlight unwanted and her opinions about that.”

Simon & Schuster said it expects to publish the memoir in May 2006, two years before Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney leave office.

Ms. Matalin said Ms. Cheney felt she could speak out now.

“She had to remain reticent and her parents had to remain very reticent until the 2004 campaign was over because she had a job to do. We all had jobs to do,” Ms. Matalin said. “But she is highly articulate and opinionated and interesting, and she thinks for herself and wants to say it in her own words.”

… Ms. Matalin herself has been associated with the Republican Unity Coalition, a group of gay and straight Republicans who hoped to make the party more welcoming to gay men and lesbians. Her friends said she privately opposed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, although Ms. Matalin has also never commented publicly on that.

“Ayelet Waldman Describes Her Day”

5:30 A.M. Last night I set the alarm clock half an hour early so I could wake up before my husband does and stare at him while he sleeps. One of the kids was crying, but I shut the door. My husand looked so peaceful. Vital and peaceful. I love him.

6:15 A.M. After whipping up an omlette aux fines herbes and squeezing the oranges for his juice, I wake up my husband with the customary morning blowjob. Torrid. From what I can make out through the door, the kids have realized that they’re going to have to cook their own breakfast again. I hope they also realize that if they make a mess, they’re going to have to clean it up. This mommy business is rough, demanding stuff. The husband finishes his breakfast and takes me from behind.

7:00 A.M. While bathing the husband I notice a small mole on his back. Worry for a second that it might be cancerous. Weep. Wonder how I’ll go on without him. Huge crash of dishes from the kitchen snaps me out of it. Continue scrubbing husband; those little brats better have that floor spotless by the time I get out there.

8:00 A.M. The hardest part of the day; I send the husband to his office. As soon as the door shuts, four faces look up at me, expecting – what, comfort? Caring? I flip on the TV and doodle variations of my first name and my husband’s last name on a notepad.

8:01 PM to Midnight are also faithfully described at TMFTML’s.

Ayelet Waldman Background Reading:

  • Living Out Loud — Online: Waldman’s Salon column debuts [Salon, March 14]
  • Letters: Salon readers sound off on Waldman’s column [Salon, March 18]
  • Letters: Jane Smiley and others defend Waldman from “overheated” readers [Salon, March 22]
  • Ayelet and Chabon: blogging kills your fiction [Maud Newton, March 22]
  • Living Out My Mind [Old Hag, March 23]
  • Truly, Madly, Guiltily, by Waldman [NYT, March 27]
  • Waldman to Chabon: I Only Have Eyes For You [Gawker, March 28]


  • Pictures of [people who I think are] Chabon & Waldman
  • Filed Under, “Not So Sure About That”

    Just imagine playing a character and then reading all about his or her adventures!

    Considering that everyone’s gaming experience is different, perhaps various players would write different books.

    That would be a boon for writers, readers and gamers alike.

    You’re Just [Not] What I Needed.

    Until’s “Recommendation Wizard” stops telling me I’ll like Sue Shellenbarger’s The Breaking Point : How Female Midlife Crisis Is Transforming Today’s Women, Phil Lesh’s Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead, or Ann Brashares’s Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood, I’m really not going to waste time worrying that Amazon knows me “too well.” I do, however, have cause to worry if, as the article’s lede suggests, Amazon knows me better (the Grateful Dead??) than I know myself.

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