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Archives: November 2005

Wottakar’s urge to merge may go forward

But if it does, it won’t happen until Friday, which leaves the UK publishing industry on tenterhooks, to say the least.

The lowdown, for those not paying attention? HMV is the parent company of Waterstone’s, that behemoth bookstore chain that’s been growing at a superfast clip since its founding in 1982. Meanwhile, Ottakar’s expanded at a similar rate since its inception in 1987. HMV wants to buy out the latter to merge with the former, which would create a stranglehold on over a quarter of all UK bookstores. And not surprisingly, many publishers and authors are pissed, since W’s Scott Pack — the head buyer — already wields enough power to decide which books those stores will stock.

So will the deal go ahead? It’s up to the Office of Fair Trading (think anti-trust) to decide. Naturally, many folks hope the deal gets scuttled, but it’s going to be one of the big stories to watch for, especially if you’re Scottish — where 26 of the 31 main bookshops in that country belong to the Wottakars hybrid.

No Brownies This Week, Sam !

Sarah’s got the NYTBR Notable Books list covered (look for her dispatch later today), but here’s some scattered thoughts about the current issue:

  • Note to John Simon: If you’re going to take up part of your review of Richard Schickel’s Elia Kazan bio to pick stylistic nits with his language, maybe you shouldn’t be generating bilge like “No mere page turner, this is a page devourer” for front-page placement. And when you advise a reader to “take this sentence,” it helps if what you quote is actually a sentence, not merely a lengthy predicate. I mean, really: Take some of that time you’re not spending on theater reviews anymore and put it into polishing your prose. This is the New York Times Book Review: Bring your A-game! (That said, bully for following the biography’s lead by talking about Kazan’s work and not simply rehashing the “dutiful American or ratfink?” debate all over again.)

  • What’s with all the armchair psychoanalysis this weekend? David Lipsky’s review of Imperial Grunts turns into a case study of Robert Kaplan: “An aspirational resentment—a writer’s sense of how good he could be, if he only got the breaks—seems to have been part of Kaplan’s equipment from the start.” Then there’s Terrence Rafferty on John Banville: “[A]t a certain point you might begin to suspect… that this solemn, shimmery verbal miasma is actually a sly parody of the kind of English novel that receives rapturous notices in The Guardian and The Independent, gets made into a quiet, tasteful film with a Harold Pinter script and wins the Man Booker Prize. As it happens, The Sea did just win the Man Booker Prize, which proves, I guess, that Banville knew what he was doing.” Jonathan Rosen’s consideration of Harold Bloom’s Jesus and Yahweh seems positively restrained by comparison, even though it’s clearly (even when viewed secondhand) one of Bloom’s most personal works; likewise David Oshinksy on John Hope Franklin’s memoir.

  • David Halberstam gets two-thirds of page 25 for a review of The Education of a Coach. Then he gets roughly three-fifths of the “Inside the List” column on page 26, plus a headshot, and he’s not even on the real list yet, just the extended one. Then Hyperion springs for a full-column ad for The Education of a Coach on page 27. Now, I love Halberstam as much as anybody else in New York media, and don’t think for a second I’m not getting this book for my stepdad for Christmas, but come on; there’s giving props and then there’s looking like the fix is in.

  • Oh, look, a back-page cartoon about how mean Dale Peck is! Did Chip McGrath take over the Review again? Because it sure feels like 2003…

That said, two entire pages on poetry, most of it in paperback? Very cool. Likewise the joint review of Hattie McDaniel and Stepin Fetchit reviews. And let me repeat that, for all his inelegances, John Simon really does get what makes Schickel’s biography of Kazan work (yep, I’ve read it). On the whole, and if you’ve followed me here from Beatrice you know I’ve gone on about this, I really do think although it’s still a work in progress, the Review is way better now than it was two years ago. Although I’ve still probably sealed my doom with them by mentioning the brownies thing…

Some quotes are best left unadorned

It’s not surprising that the NYT would want to hop on the so-called “literary celebrity” bandwagon with this side-by-side comparison of Nicole Richie’s faux-memoir THE TRUTH ABOUT DIAMONDS and 50 Cent’s upcoming G-Unit line of books and graphic novels. And the comparisons are fun, but much more so are Richie’s one-liners.

On why she wrote the book: she could have opted for memoir, but “it’s more exciting if you make things up.”

How did she write the book? “I just did what my dad does, which is carry around a tape recorder, and when I got ideas I just spoke into the recorder.” (that might be news to the person who actually cobbled these disparate tape recordings into an actual book…)

And the best of all: “I’m hoping that—that people will just act like adults and take it for what it is. And it’s a story. It’s a fiction novel.”

Actually, Nicole, that’s fictional novel. Otherwise known as an agent’s favorite phrase ever.

UPDATE: The New York Daily News gets in on the celebwriter thing, too.

You Will See Lion, Witch, Wardrobe

A few weeks ago, I took a look at some of the early hype around The Chronicles of Narnia. WSJ reporter Merissa Marr files a more current look at Disney’s marketing plans, which include overtures to “a panoply of special-interest groups, from the Coast Guard Youth Academy to Ronald McDonald House.”

“We’re not going after any audience we haven’t gone after before,” says Oren Aviv, Disney’s head of movie marketing. “The difference is that this is the first project [where] we’ve gone after all of them at the same time.”

And not just the Christian fans, either: Marr discusses how the film’s producers are reaching out to every public school in America, a good number of the public libraries, military families, and “Hispanic audiences, whom Disney thinks will relate strongly to the theme of family loyalty.” And lest you think this is a lot of work to go to for one holiday blockbuster, the movie’s co-producer, Walden Media, has plans to extend the franchise out for as long as 18 years in order to cover all six sequels to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

And This Is News Why, Exactly?

From today’s Page Six item about Oprah Winfrey’s self-scuttled book deal:

“A decade ago, Knopf paid the talk-show queen a bundle for her memoir, to be written with Joan Barthel of A Murder in Canaan fame. Oprah was so concerned the manuscript be kept secret that after each session with Barthel, she had the completed pages put away in her safe. Oprah went to a book fair to hype sales, and there was every indication the book would be a huge best seller, when she suddenly canceled publication… Now the buzz at Zocalo restaurant is that Oprah never explained why she pulled the plug—and never will. And Barthel, who recently moved back to New York after a long stay in St. Louis where her mother lived, has likewise maintained her silence.”

Now, with a little digging, it’s easy to find out Barthel wrote a glowing profile of Oprah for Ms. in 1986, which almost certainly landed her the memoir-shaping gig. And the book was indeed listed in Knopf’s winter 1998 catalog; you can still see its phantom Amazon.com listing. But why are Post readers hearing about this now? And why the left-field mention of Zocalo, an UES “Nuevo Mexican” restaurant with no discernible connection to Oprah, as if anyone there would know about her book deal? (I mean, unless a Knopf insider was having dinner there or something…) If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect the whole purpose of the item is to let people know Joan Barthel’s back in town and knows how to hold up her end of a non-disclosure agreement. That’s a nice gesture, but if you’re going to do something like that, it helps to get the name of the book right: It’s A Death in Canaan.

Times Google Week Peters Out

Well, that two-story-a-day pace couldn’t last forever: Since my last check-in on Tuesday’s edition, the Times hasn’t filed any substantial stories on Google. Luckily, I didn’t have to go into complete withdrawal, as the new issue of Wired finally showed up in my mailbox with Kevin Kelleher’s educated guesses on the company’s plans, where he speculates on everything from book searching to forays into telecom and OS development.

The popcorn is ready to be eaten

One of the things that struck me as odd about Cindy Sheehan’s upcoming book is why she went with a tiny Hawaiian publisher when she could have had the New York bigwigs at her beck and call. Well, as it turns out, she may well do so, as she’s enlisted David Vigliano (certainly one of the kings of celebrity deals) to broker a deal for her memoirs, according to PW Daily. The book will “further explore Sheehan’s son Casey’s life, his death in the Iraq war and how the family tragedy moved her to activism.” Look for the proposal to make the rounds sometime after the holidays.

Which leads into a Galleycat-centric holiday wish: when an auction is happening, it’s great to know not only who the winner is, but who the players are and what happens when this flurry of activity takes place. Know of one coming up? Involved in one? Send us the details!

The ultimate in bookstore follies

Even after many years, sometimes it just seems like the right time to get out of a business. And for Dick & Caren Lobo, owners of Sarasota News & Books, the time was now. So they started the process of looking for someone to buy their property.

Little did they know that things would get, shall we say, rather complicated. And bizarre:

The Lobos, who, in addition to selling their bookstore were also looking to relinquish the prime piece of commercial real estate that houses Sarasota News & Books, had thought they’d found the ideal buyer in an out-of-towner named Thomas Coelho. Brought in on the deal by a local and, according to Lobo, well-respected, real estate broker named Derek Filcoff, Coelho was looking to buy the bookstore and the accompanying building with his partner, Randall Bono. After doing some research, the Lobos found that Bono was a well known attorney who lived in Sarasota; they found nothing on Coelho. The deal nonetheless proceeded as expected…until a strange note arrived at the bookstore.

The note, which was actually a reprint of a 1999 story from The Hartford Advocate aptly titled “The Art of the Con,” discussed at length the suspect maneuvers of a local man named Thomas Jurewicz. Since the article also featured pictures of Jurewicz, it was immediately clear to the Lobos that Jurewicz was indeed their new buyer, Thomas Coelho. Armed with this new information, the Lobos, along with their lawyers, confronted Coelho and Filcoff via conference call. “At that point we didn’t know who we were dealing with,” Caren said. After speaking with the pair, and listening to Filcoff vouch for his partner (who, the Lobos were told, was repentant about his past and had changed his name to put his misdeeds behind him), the husband-and-wife team decided to move ahead with the deal.

Caren, who said the pair had kept their word up until that point (and had also delivered a sizeable closing fee), believed Coelho and Filcoff and decided that the Advocate article was speaking about past trespasses. That all changed when, the following day, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune ran a story about how the Lobos were selling their bookstore to man who had a warrant (for grand larceny) out for his arrest.

But, as PW Daily’s Rachel Deahl further reports, a happy ending is in sight, as Andrew and Meghan Foley have signed on as the newest owners of Sarasota News & Book. The deal closed last week and the Foleys take official ownership of the store on December 1.

Coolman on Her Way to Big Apple

PW Daily has the story on Marie Coolman’s shift from Random House to Penguin Putnam this morning, as Ballantine’s veteran West Coast publicity chief takes a new post as marketing director for Hudson Street and Plume. I’m pretty psyched about this; back in the day (oh, 1995), Marie—along with the rest of that Random House team in Los Angeles—was one of the first publicists who actually believed me when I said that websites were a hot new media platform and their authors really should give me interviews. And from such humble beginnings, my online career was born.

Lessening the IMPAC

First, a caveat: I don’t understand why the Impac Dublin Literary Award has to longlist so many books. Is there any earthly reason to put out a press release that 132 of the so-called year’s finest (that year being, uh, last year) are in contention? With that many, it all becomes rather meaningless. How hard is it to be like the Booker and whittle it down to, oh, 20, then do a shortlist and a winner?

But nobody asked me, and since other news organizations seem to be following this story around like sheep (mostly because it’s a really lucrative prize) I guess Galleycat can as well. So here’s the Irish Times’ take, what with 6 of the country’s writers making that very longlist. Writers ranging from Colm Toibin to Roddy Doyle to….Cecelia Ahern, that bastion of literary quality.

The shortlist of 10 will be announced in April and the winner in June, meaning that a full 2 years could have elapsed between publication and winning. Timely, that.

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