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Archives: November 2005

Stan Berenstain, 1923-2005

berenstainbears.jpgDrawn!, a blog focusing on illustrators, is reporting the death of Stan Berenstain some time yesterday; no further details were available by the time I wrote this and went to bed late last night. Berenstain was the co-creator, with his wife Jan, of the Berenstain Bears, icons of young children’s literature I’m sure every reader of this blog recognizes. When the Berenstains moved their popular franchise from Random House to HarperCollins nearly three years ago, sales of their books were pegged at over 240 million in just over four decades, making for an average of six million books sold each year.

UPDATE: Confirmation via Reuters finally came around 4:30 this afternoon, although the report notes that Berenstain’s actual time of death was Saturday, not Monday. And I never knew that Dr. Seuss was their first editor…

Welcome to the Daily Grind

Con Coughlin, the British journalist perhaps best known in the States for his book Saddam: His Rise and Fall, used to be the executive editor of London’s Sunday Telegraph. Starting Thursday, he’s going to be the “defence and security” editor for the Daily Telegraph, taking the place of acclaimed military historian Sir John Keegan. He’s certainly got the experience for it: his forthcoming (January) book, American Ally, details how “Tony Blair’s staunch support for the United States since 9/11 has confirmed his position as one of the most important and controversial world leaders of the twenty-first century,” to quote the catalog description by Ecco (which is a division of HarperCollins, which is a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which might explain why supporting the United States “confirms” Blair’s importance, unlike all those irrelevant rulers of “Old Europe” ). And his last significant report for the Telegraph provided details on Iranian smuggling of weapons to Iraqi insurgents. No, wait, scratch that: Searching the Telegraph directly rather than through Google News reveals a story from earlier this week about Chechen rebels being trained in Iran.

Previewing the new LBF Premises

The London Book Fair is leaving Earls Court behind for a bigger, more spacious place over at the Docklands. Will it work? The Bookseller’s Herbert Lottman went to scope out the premises, and see if the Fair’s claim that rights trading will be integral to the new location will actually prove true:

The ExCel hall is a vast, ground-floor oblong that eventually will double as an Olympic venue. As promised, the very first section of the fair–if entering through the main entrance–will be the International Rights Centre.

A door separates the IRC from the general publishing sector, which occupies a little over half of the entire building, followed by signed areas for books in the following categories: children’s, architecture and design, travel, academic, and scientific and technical. Remainders, promotional books and publishing services have their own sections. Booked space already represents a 20% increase over last year’s fair, with another 10% available for late entries.

Emma House, manager of the show for Reed Exhibitions, describes some of the features designed to cater for agents and scouts (whose collective activity is of course a major source of revenue in the book business). These IRC users have priority in renting tables (of which there will be some 570), while publishers without stands in the exhibition area who wish to work the rights market from the IRC will have to wait until December to book.

But what about accessibility to hotels, and transportation issues?

In addition to all this, there is London’s newest and least-known tourist attraction, the Docklands, as ExCel is surrounded by the wharfs of the London of yore. Regular boat services will connect the Savoy Hotel with Canary Wharf, which itself is linked by shuttle bus to ExCel.

Just outside the fairgrounds the five-star Sunborn Yacht Hotel is moored to a dock, while several decent hotels are within walking distance, including a first-class Crowne Plaza. Three miles away a luxury-class Four Seasons and a ship-shaped Marriott stand out. (Random House has all but pre-empted the latter for its personnel, and has reserved one of the attractive café-restaurants along the quay for a party.)

So the verdict seems to be as follows: promising, but definitely a wait-and-see attitude remains.

Interesting Elevator Conversations, I’m Sure

One of the problems with writing nonfiction about people and places on the contemporary scene yet is that the story always changes. Why, just last month, as Michael Gross was making the rounds to promote 740 Park, his exposé of the histories of that co-op’s elite residents, one of his prime subjects died. But the passing of TV Guide heiress Enid Haupt isn’t the only new development in the building…shortly after her death, Fortune reported that downstairs neighbor Israel Englander was negotiating with the SEC and Eliot Spitzer over alleged trading misconduct at his Millennium Partners hedge fund, and late yesterday afternoon, Reuters intimated that the settlment is almost ready, and will probably cost Millennium somewhere between $100 and $200 million. (If we were a mutual funds gossip blog, we’d note here that Spitzer also landed a $100 million settlement with Federated Investors yesterday, then speculate about what this means for his gubernatorial campaign. As it is, I’ll just say, way to beef up that inevitable book proposal, Eliot!)

Meanwhile, Liz Smith told her readers billionaire Ron Lauder and his wife are getting divorced, while United Technologies CEO George David won’t have to worry about whether he or his wife will get their penthouse apartment, because he withdrew his divorce petition. So it looks like there’s more than enough material for Gross to start working on a sequel, should he so desire, once he’s got his next book for Broadway—a look at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s ultrarich benefactors—wrapped up.

Writing Bad Sex means never having to say you’re sorry

…because chances are, if you’re inflicting one of these turgid passages on the world, you really have no clue how people are reacting to such prose.

Yup, it’s that time of year again, and the award for worst depiction of copulation will be given out this Thursday at London’s In and Out Club to one of eleven lucky nominees. The competition is fierce, and star-heavy: John Updike, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Giles Coren, Salman Rushdie, just to name a few (though my vote goes to Ben Elton. Why? Because this might give him a good excuse to stop writing crapass novels. You think?)

Of course, the fun is figuring out how to pick a winner who will actually show up to take his (usually his) lumps about writing about sex so badly. Last year they goofed, as Tom Wolfe sniped that the competition didn’t take into account that he wrote ironic bad sex. Having read some of those winning passages, I can safely say that the irony meter was set very, very low…

Bum-med Out

blackbolt.jpgLast month, we told you about the wave of hobo cartoons inspired by John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise. Just before the holiday, Jawbone Radio posted a disturbing update: some of the pictures are getting bounced from the canon, including Adam Koford’s “Black Bolt of the Inhumans” (left). Koford has set up an alternative 700 Hoboes group on Flickr as a workaround, but the whole affair does seem to raise interesting questions (which I freely admit I’m not qualified to touch) about Flickr’s relationship to illustrations vs. photographs.

Look Out, She’s Got a Contract!

Newsweek reports that Alex Kerry got a book deal for a memoir about life following her father on the presidential campaign trail last year, “a companion piece to the documentary she’s making from 300 hours of footage shot on the road.” Including, possibly, the scenes she shot while hiding in the next room and peeping through the door. (Some jokes just write themselves, so say it with me now: ewwwww!) Although I’m wondering if there’s not a ‘to’ missing from her triumphal declaration: “Somebody let me loose with a book contract and now I have way too much say.” Sure, sure…but when do we get to read Jenna’s campaign diary?

Puzzling Evidence

Those insidious folks at Penguin slipped a copy of Penguin Sudoku 2006 into their latest crate of review copies, and let me tell you: it’s not as if I was expecting to get a lot done over the holiday weekend anyway, but damn, those things are addictive. “A year’s supply of sudokus”? Not hardly! Sure, maybe if you did just one a day, but who can be expected to show that kind of restraint?

Yesterday’s Boston Globe has a profile of Wayne Gould, the man who pretty much created the sudoku tipping point. And while I could tell you any number of stories about how the “number place” craze is sweeping the nation, to the point where instructional seminars are packed (because sometimes even math profs get stumped), you’re probably wondering where the publishing news angle is.

So I’ll tell you: Over in England, DC Thomson is expected to pay as much as £85 million for Puzzler Media, which claims to reach more than half the nation’s puzzle book market. And what’s been driving the price up? You guessed it: the popularity of Puzzler’s sudoku offerings, reported to sell as much as 280,000 copies a month.

The NYTBR has got a little list

And where there’s a list — specifically, the 100 Most Notable books of the year as chosen by the Book Review — there are stats, things noted, and other sorta-kinda-unusual stuff:

61 of the books are non-fiction; 4 are poetry collection and the rest — 35 — are fiction.

The National Book Award nominees are well represented: 3 from the fiction category, 4 from the non-fiction and W.S. Merwin for poetry.

The Booker Prize Winner is on here (John Banville) along with 2 shortlistees (Zadie Smith, Kazuo Ishiguro) and 3 longlisted authors (Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and J.M Coetzee)

Genre fiction is essentially ignored save for Elmore Leonard’s THE HOT KID and, if you want to call it that, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (but that’s really in the “crassly commercial cash cow” category, which must be a new record for alliteration…)

Overexposed young things: 4 (Dave Eggers, Curtis Sittenfeld, Zadie Smith and Benjamin Kunkel.) Overexposed not-so-young thing: 1 (Bret Easton Ellis.) Overexposed Times columnists: 1 (Maureen Dowd.) Overexposed old white guys: 0. (I mean, E.L. Doctorow and Cormac McCarthy are old, but they don’t really count, do they?)

Any categories we should add? Additional thoughts and comments? Send them our way.

Blades leaves Ballantine — and publishing altogether

The executive editor of Ballantine Books, Joe Blades, evidently spent Black Friday calling up some of his notable authors to inform them that he’d be leaving his post. Why? Though Blades hadn’t responded to email queries as of this writing, burnout seems to be the biggest issue, according to a recent post by one of his authors. Though Blades isn’t certain what his next move will be, it won’t have anything to do with the publishing world.

Blades was especially known for editing mystery and crime fiction, and his author list included Anne Perry, Sandra Scoppettone, Terrill Lee Lankford, Rochelle Krich, Mary Logue, Gillian Roberts and William Bernhardt. It remains to be seen how many of these folks will be kept on by Random House, but Blades will be meeting with various RH brass to discuss which editors get custody of which authors.