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Archives: November 2006

Bo Knew Football—and Business, Too

bo-schembechler.jpgWarner Books has announced that just before his death two weeks ago, famed Michigan football coach and athletic director Bo Schembechler had completed the manuscript for Bo’s Lasting Lessons: A Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership, so there will be no disruption in their publication plans. “We… are honored to be publishing the book that he spent the last months of his life working on,” says Warner publisher Jamie Raab. “He embodied the qualities of true leadership, and his wisdom and legacy will be passed along in his new book.”

HBO Greenlights Preacher Series

The good news for comics fans, as reported by Borys Kit of the Hollywood Reporter is that there’s going to be a new HBO series based on Preacher, the Garth Ennis-scripted story of an apostate Texas minister who, possessed of amazing power, decides to track down God and hold him accountable for failing to do right by His creation. Naturally, he has sidekicks: his gun-toting ex-girlfriend and a drunken Irish vampire. Much violence and obscenity ensues.

The bad news for comics fans may be that the show’s being scripted by Mark Steven Johnson, the guy who wrote and directed the not-so-acclaimed film version of Daredevil (and Ghost Rider, too, although the jury’s still out on that long-delayed project). He won’t be directing the hour-long drama series for HBO, though—that honor is going to Howard Deutch, who began his directing career in the mid-’80s on John Hughes classics like Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful. This isn’t the first time he’s collaborated with Johnson, who wrote the script for his 1995 film Grumpier Old Men.

BREAKING: Houghton Mifflin Accepts Buyout Offer

We told you this morning Riverdeep was nearly ready to acquire Houghton Mifflin, and now the deal’s been done—the Associated Press reports that Houghton has accepted $1.75 billion in cash. So what happened to the $3.5 billion number Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin mentioned? Well, the investors are also absorbing another $1.6 billion of debt.

Technically, though, Riverdeep isn’t actually acquiring Houghton. Instead, Barry O’Callaghan, who already has a controlling stake in Riverdeep, has formed an investment group called HM Rivergroup that, in addition to buying Houghton for that $1.75 billion, will also spend $1.2 billion to acquire Riverdeep.

Scene @ The Book Standard Teen Book Video Awards

Tribeca Cinemas was the place to be last night as The Book Standard hosted its latest iteration of their Book Video Awards – this time for young adult novels by Meg Rosoff, Markus Zusak and Libba Bray. A lengthy cocktail hour (which also included an impressive snack display) saw folks from The Book Standard – including Book Trailerpark editrix Kimberly Maul (pictured with the New Yorker‘s Ron Toam), who bears an uncanny resemblance to Olympic gold medal winning figure skater Jamie Sale, and bon vivant Chuck Shelton, who was snapping away with his digital camera – Kirkus Reviews, and parent company VNU (for another week, when the ownership change results in a new name) mingling with those from Random House Children’s Group, Inkwell Management literary agent Richard Pine, Bray (the only author in attendance) and the three filmmakers – Katie Koskenmaki, Jon Haller and Susan Muirhead. All three videos are now available online, and Maul’s written up last night’s proceedings as well.

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Glancing Inside the NYTBR Notable Books

Not to dis Bookslut librarian Raina Bloom’s statistical analysis of the 2006 NYTBR Notable Books list, but her statements about how more than half of the authors selected have written for the New York Times since 1980 aren’t really the most interesting facet of the list (and it’s hard to even figure out exactly what conclusions we’re supposed to draw about the femaleness of the women who wrote notable books but hadn’t contributed to the Times since 1980, though since this is Bookslut I assume it’s probably meant to be viewed as evidence of institutionalized literary sexism). The reason it’s not interesting, or perhaps I should say not significant, is that Bloom makes no effort to distinguish between the nature of those Times bylines: Who’s a columnist? Who’s a reporter? Who was just making a freelance contribution?

Look back at the criticisms of last year’s list, and you’ll note that the charges of cronyism were leveled specifically because of the number of Times employees who’d made the list. In that respect, this year’s list is a noticeable “improvement,” in that the only staffer I’m spotting at all is columnist Frank Rich, and let’s face it, The Greatest Story Ever Sold was reasonably notable. Sure, there’s a lot of Times contributing writers—in the nonfiction section alone, a quick check turned up Michael Lewis, Steven Johnson, Michael Pollan, Francine Prose, and Rich Cohen…but, again, what are you going to do? Those books are indeed pretty notable. Furthermore, as opposed to last year, when it appeared that drawing a paycheck from the Times meant you were guaranteed a spot on the list, it’s worth noting that critic-at-large Margo Jefferson’s On Michael Jackson was spurned. (Along with how many other books by Times staffers? Darned if I know; that sounds like it might entail something suspiciously close to research.) And, despite our early prediction that frequent Review contributor Ana Marie Cox would be the Curtis Sittenfeld of 2006, Dog Days didn’t make the fiction list despite lavish praise from Christopher Buckley. Then again, the more cautious enthusiasm of Claire Dederer didn’t nudge equally frequent contributor Sittenfeld’s The Man of My Dreams onto the list either.

I couldn’t begin to tell you what this all means; maybe 2005 just a bumper year for the Times writing corps, and now we’re seeing a leaner harvest. Or maybe there was a corrective measure in the selection. I’m actually more impressed by the list’s newfound equity between fiction and nonfiction: As opposed to last year’s 61-39 advantage to nonfiction, this year fiction and poetry combine to take the narrow lead at 51-49.

Scene @ Denzel Washington’s Book Party


We didn’t even know Denzel Washington had a book party last week to celebrate the success of A Hand to Guide Me, his collection of inspirational stories from celebrities about their mentors, so clearly we need to crack the whip a little harder with various publicists. But here he is at the Hudson Hotel’s Library Bar with the book’s production team, authors M.J. Rose and Stan Pottinger. The party was also a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; we’re tipped that the book’s publisher, Meredith, generously donated $25,000 to the Mt. Vernon Boy’s Club where Washington spent time as a young boy.

Philip Turner jumps from C&G to Sterling

Shelf Awareness reports that Philip Turner, v-p and editor-in-chief at Carroll & Graf, Thunder’s Mouth and Philip Turner Books at Avalon Publishing, is joining Sterling Publishing, the Barnes & Noble subsidiary, to direct a new narrative nonfiction imprint called Union Square Press. Starting next fall, Union Square Press will publish 40 titles a year in a range of subjects, including adventure, biography, culture, current and international affairs, the environment, history, politics, social issues and sports. The company will also create a Union Square Press paperback program devoted to revivals of out-of-print books, reprints in trade paperback of both its own and other publishers’ titles and paperback originals.

Turner will also take his imprint – which focuses on what he calls “imperative” non-fiction – that he only started at C&G parent company Avalon a few months ago – over to Sterling. Turner began his career in 1978 as a co-founder with his family of Under Cover Books, an independent bookseller in Cleveland, Ohio. Since leaving Under Cover in 1986, Turner has held a number of senior editorial positions, including executive editor at Times Books and editor in chief of Kodansha America. He joins Sterling January 15.

The Costa Book Award shortlists

The awards formerly known as the Whitbreads have announced their shortlists, and though there’s a decidedly male-centric slant, the Times somehow conflates this into a claim that “no female novelist has made the cut” when in fact, two – Stef Penney and Marilyn Heward Mills – did for debut novel. Granted, the main novel listDavid Mitchell, Mark Haddon, Neil Griffiths and William Boyd – is woman-free, while the overall grouping has a decidely thriller-ish bent, but according to the Guardian’s Sarah Crown, the whole thing’s rather underwhelming.

The category winners will be announced on January 10 and each will win 5,000 pounds. The overall winner of the 25,000 pound prize will be named on February 7.

Riverdeep close to buying Houghton Mifflin

The New York Times reports that Riverdeep, an Irish educational software company, is close to making a deal to acquire the textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin for about $3.5 billion, including debt, people involved in the negotiations said. The deal may be announced as early as today.

A merger of Houghton Mifflin and Riverdeep is expected to help the combined company compete against rivals like McGraw-Hill and Pearson. Several other textbook publishers have recently merged or are up for sale: Blackwell Publishing was acquired by John Wiley & Sons; Thomson Learning is on the block; and Wolters Kluwer’s education business may also be sold soon. Talks between Houghton Mifflin and Riverdeep have gone on for months, people involved said. Riverdeep will create a new company and merge itself and Houghton Mifflin into the business. Riverdeep, which is half the size of Houghton Mifflin, is expected to take on significant debt to finance the deal.

UPDATE: The deal was made Wednesday morning.

AP Does Right by the Blogosphere

Remember our item yesterday about Philip K. Dick and the Library of America? Well, Associated Press book reporter Hillel Italie spread the word far and wide in a story filed this afternoon, and we’re totally grooving on the fact that he acknowledged up front, “News of the project first surfaced earlier this week when Lethem was interviewed by the literary blog, The Elegant Variation.” Sure, in most cases that’s just a simple journalistic courtesy, not worth mentioning at all, but some folks are of a mind that websites don’t deserve props and will lift stories without attribution. So it’s awesome to see the AP recognize The Elegant Variation (one of our favorite literary blogs, though we’re biased because we’re friends with the guy), and fun to see some buzz for this PKD collection while we’re at it—especially since Italie got LOA publisher Max Rudin to acknowledge the possibility of a second Dick collection or volumes focusing on other sci-fi writers like Ray Bradbury or Ursula K. LeGuin.