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Archives: May 2005

Spinning TPOs

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, novelist and Bookninja contributor, surveys agents, publicists, review editors, publishers, writers, booksellers, and customers “in a mad attempt to glean what is really behind … The Myth of Hardcover.”

There is a sense from the surveys answered that the consumer, given the choice, would prefer paperback. I do not think that the average book buyer is impulsive but rather that given the fact that frontlist large press books are well-hyped and, therefore, easily recollected at point of purchase, the desire for ownership, and entry into the particular mystery of that particular book, over-rides patience. At this point, the fact that hardcover fiction exists begins to feel coercive.

Reading Instructions

transita.jpg“Are you a woman? Over 45? Having trouble finding fiction you can relate to?” There’s a pill for that, or, hold — check that — a publisher. You can’t tell which it is from the publisher’s name: Transita, a prescription-pill-appropriate obfuscation of a recognizable word (“transition”).

“Until Transita,” says founder and director, Nikki Read, “the majority of published fiction has centred around younger women’s lives and experience.” Readers may, however, experience a range of mild to moderate side effects, including plot indigestion, shortness of breadth, and sentence fatigue. Contact your doctor immediately if you ingest more than three Transitas in a 24 hour period. Book clubs can help regulate your usage. Transita is not intended for households with children under 10 years of age. Do not leave Transitas unattended near literary critics. Transita is not compatible with MAOIs, MFAs, PhDs, douching, or cocaine. Transita should not be used by those with ulcers, high blood pressure, or non-typical (“alternative”) lifestyles. Transita cannot be held responsible for blood clots formed in the legs, arms, or heart. Use responsibly, under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor.

Grumpy Old Bookman Finds Mood Stabilizing Publisher

Judging by the reactions quoted in the Guardian, you’d think Macmillan’s “New Writing” imprint was roadkill being offered up for dinner — cause for immediate concern and/or repulsion.The Ryanair of publishing, Hari Kunzru calls it; shocking and an exercise in futility, says agent Natasha Fairweather. A more enthusiastic response goes like this: “not a complete rip-off.”

Grumpy Old Bookman‘s response, though, reads more like Goldilocks exclaiming, This one’s just right!:

…If you look at the invitation page, you will also note that Macmillan are doing some other sensible things. They are taking submissions in the form of digital files, for a start. No more bloody great piles of paper everywhere. And they are discouraging you from telling them your life story in the covering letter. And they say that there will ‘a minimum of communication between publisher and author’. Which would suit me just fine. I don’t want to be close personal buddies with my publisher; I just want him to do a decent professional job.

Macmillan seem to have all sorts of reasonable ideas like that. Life gets weirder by the minute, doesn’t it? Who is running this operation? What medication is she on? Is it available on the NHS?

Sarvas for Editor

L.A. Observed has the goods on Steve Wasserman’s resignation from the L.A. Times Book Review, confirming rumors previously posted on GC.

According to an in-house memo from higher ups at the L.A. Times, “Steve … informed us of his decision several weeks ago, but characteristically offered to remain through the recent Times Festival of Books.” Furthermore: “The search for Steve’s successor already is under way, and an announcement regarding that appointment will be made soon.”

According to a press release also posted by L.A. Observed, Wasserman will be relocating to NY, where he will become Director of Kneerim & Williams at Fish & Richardson P.C., a literary agency whose rep’d authors include Brad Meltzer, Stephen Greenblatt, Joseph Ellis, and E.O. Wilson.

Background Reading:
-”L.A. ‘s Challenge to The New York Times,” Columbia Journalism Review
-”L.A.’s Battle of the Books,” Salon
-”Book Journalist Roundtable,”

“High and Mighty”

americandream.jpgA reader informs me that Jason DeParle has won the NY Public Library’s Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, an award whose dignified purpose seemingly repels media interest (the first link provided goes to the Library’s own press release). Previous winners include Dana Priest for The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military and Keith Bradsher for the awesomely titled High and Mighty: SUVs — The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way.

Language of the Blurbosphere

William Safire parses the “fulsome lingo of book ads and catalogs” for his latest “On Language.”


a book with at least one good review

Widely acclaimed

a book with two or more reviews, plus a cable-TV plug

Critically acclaimed

a book decently reviewed in a specialized publication; also, a book that didn’t sell

Unfortunately, though, Safire chooses to contrast the typical phoniness of blurbs with a note of praise from Saul Bellow about one of Safire’s novels. “It was the most generous ‘acclaim’ a journeyman novelist could hope for,” Safire writes — which goes to show: just as beauty exists in the eye of the beholder, a compliment’s sincerity exists in the eye of the beholden.

“An Obscure Favorite Author”

As misinformed as you might find GC, there’s always someone out there worse than we are:

Additionally, he incorporates odes to an obscure favorite author of his, Don DeLillo, who has risen in prominence since the essay’s publication.

Also, it must be noted: the quoted article ends with “Booya.” (As in Booya: Media disbarment, case for.)

Crossing Over

Like the Kim Basinger vixen in Cool World, One Life to Live‘s Marcie Walsh is crossing over, selling her fictional self’s fiction in nonfictional bookstores. In other words, Thank God there aren’t any tv shows set in MFA programs.