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Archives: November 2007

Dozens of Weird Books, Collected Under One Cover

bizarre books.jpgUnBeige posted an item yesterday afternoon about a compendium of uncategorizable tomes called, catchily enough, Bizarre Books. The HarperPerennial production, assembled by Russell Ash and Brian Lake, celebrates classics such as How to Avoid Huge Ships and the amputee memoir From the Stump to the Limb. Some of them, though, just sound like they have weird titles; The Little I Saw of Cuba, for example, turns out to be a perfectly reasonable, if heavily illustrated, memoir of the Spanish-American War by combat photographer Burr McIntosh.

(Of course, the idea behind Bizarre Books is a familiar one; one of the books adorning the cover, Scouts in Bondage, has even loaned its title to a similar collection that focused solely on titles and covers, published last year in England and brought to the States last month by Simon & Schuster.)

UPDATE: Cultural historian Lynn Peril writes: “I have a copy of the original American edition of Bizarre Books (St. Martin’s Press, 1985). I picked it up at a thrift store—source of many fine bizarre books in my collection – sometime in the past decade or so. But what a difference a cover makes! The original clearly went for the “weird/wacky” as opposed to the “weird/venerable” vibe of the current edition. You also mentioned that Scouts in Bondage was the title of an English collection of covers and titles; Bizarre Books was also originally published in Great Britain.” Thanks, Lynn!

Prolonging the Deathly Hallows Afterglow

ewcover-jkrowling.jpgNo sooner does J.K. Rowling land herself on the cover of Entertainment Weekly as the most entertaining person of 2007, than Details names Harry Potter one of the most influential men under 45, right between the publicist for the New York Post and that guy in Atlanta who caught a bad case of TB. (Frankly, their list seems highly arbitrary—the Romney kids and Ellen Degeneres’s stupid ddg make the cut, but not Soulja Boy, or even Masi Oka?) At this rate, Dumbledore’s going to land himself on Out‘s next Power 50 come springtime.

The New Small Talk: She Does It So Awfully Well

bridie-clark-outdoors.jpgAfter a detour co-authoring Gawker‘s unfortunate foray into the book world with a thousand other writers, Bridie Clark is back on familiar turf, having signed a contract for her second novel, I Think She’s Got it, with Weinstein Books, which snapped up film and TV rights along with the publication deal. The book is described as “a thoroughly modern retelling of Pygmalion,” about “a dashing but arrogant man-about-town who is convinced he can turn anyone—even the most awkward wallflower—into this year’s ‘it’ girl.” (Didn’t this really happen with a couple socialites and a publicist a few years back, or am I half-remembering a Lifetime TV movie?) Ah, the majesty and grandeur of the English language. It’s the greatest possession we have. Anyway, it’s refreshing to see somebody finally rewrite Pygmalion for adults, after all those teen movie versions like She’s All That and Jawbreaker.

(But seriously: For my money, the characters were the most delicious aspect of Because She Can, so it should be fun to see how Clark deals with them when she’s got a ready-made, solid plot architecture that, ideally, isn’t going to let a single antagonist overwhelm the rest of the story.)’s Throwing a Party for Nina Burleigh is hosting a book party for Nina Burleigh next Monday to celebrate the publication of Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt, a history of the late 18th-century French archaelogical expeditions that revolutionized our understanding of ancient Egypt—an odd change of pace for a People staff writer, you’d think, if you didn’t know she’d also written a book about the founding of the Smithsonian. Anyway, if you’re free that evening, you can RSVP to join the author at Mantra that evening for the cash-bar festivities.

Our Exit Interview with Jack Romanos

jack-romanos-interview.jpgSo what’s it like to be leaving Simon & Schuster on a string of unprecedented quarterly financials? I asked Jack Romanos as we sat in his office a few weeks before his retirement at the end of 2007. “It’s kind of a dream scenario,” he laughed. “And it’s a testament to all the hard work we’ve done over the years to create publishing programs and build the business… The company runs effectively. The management team is strong. And then we had the great fortune of having The Secret fall out of the sky, but if we took The Secret out, we would still be having an amazing year.” He smiled, then added, “But we’ll leave it in.”

So why leave now, when things are going so well? “I got old,” he laughed again. But, really, it’s all about keeping a promise he made to himself several years ago to retire when he turned 65. “The only question I had over the years was whether I would keep that promise… I will certainly want to stay involved [in publishing] in some way, and I’m not going to go into hiding, but I’m looking forward to not having a job for the first time since I was a teenager.”

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Meg Cabot Is Ruining the Classics (with apologies to Spike Jones)

My favorite part of Meg Cabot‘s dollhouse theater reworking of Little Women, which is a tangential promo for her new novel, Big Boned? Her valiant effort at recreating the hand-to-hand combat theme from Star Trek:

Cabot promises to work her way through more novels in the same fashion; in the meantime, she’s also poking fun at Nora Ephron‘s neck thing.

Nat Geo Gets Updike Talking Dinosaurs


Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there was a parlor game where you thought up unlikely combinations of writer, subject matter, and magazine. John Updike writing about dinosaurs for National Geographic might well have come up at some point, except that you can’t use it anymore: Updike actually has written the cover story for December’s Nat Geo issue, contemplating the weirdness of dinosaurs with more than a little awe.

In an interview on the magazine’s website, the author explains that his awe extended beyond the subject matter: “I have never written for the National Geographic and to me it is a very august publication. Every middle class home when I was growing up somewhere in it had a stack of these yellow back magazines that were somehow sacred. So the notion of appearing in a sacred volume like the bound Geographics slightly intimidated me.” His presence on the cover is just one of the magazine’s steps towards cultivating a more literary image; yesterday, editors unveiled a second round of A-list contributing writers, as David Quammen, Caroline Alexander, and Cynthia Gorney are joined on the masthead by Barry Lopez, Robert Draper and Mark Jenkins. Lopez writing for National Geographic? Throw in wolves, and you’ve got the exact opposite of that imaginary parlor game I mentioned above; in fact, you might just have the most perfect magazine article ever.

Eye-Catching New Sci-Fi Covers from England


When I met Diane Vadino last month, she told me about some amazing book covers she’d seen in a London bookshop just before she returned to New York to promote her novel. She was back in England recently, and tracked those books down again—part of Gollancz‘s “Future Classics” line of science fiction novels. Each of the eight novels selected for the revamp has been given a new, highly stylized cover that keeps the title and author off the front; Vadino used her camera phone, though, to show me how the spine still provides ready identification. From left to right, the images here represent Revelation Space by Alasdair Reynolds, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Blood Music by Greg Bear, and Schild’s Ladder by Greg Egan. Gollancz is also working with the creative design charity organization D&AD to create similar covers for eight classic space operas.

Are Paperback Readers Paying for Discounts on Kindle Fodder?

Jane Litte of Dear Author has caught wind of an interesting development at in the wake of the release of its Kindle e-book device: mass-market paperbacks are no longer being discounted. Litte spot-checked some upcoming releases in mass-market romance and noticed the removal of the discount; I browsed the site last night and it’s happening in science-fiction, too. People were wondering how Amazon could afford to slash prices on Kindle-formatted books to $9.99 when the publishers had no intention of offering a discount? “It looks like Bezos is hoping to make more money off the high volume of sales from those mass market purchasers,” Litte observes. “Like romance readers who account for 21 percent of the retail book industry.”

And at least one author—Natalie Damschroder—has discovered that her new trade paperback is now full price as well. A cursory perusal indicates that every other book from her publisher, Amber Quill Press, is similarly affected; trade paperbacks from larger publishers, however, do appear to be retaining their discounts…for now, at least.

Situation Wanted: When Bulfinch and Craigslist Collide

Remember Living Read Girl, the blog that ran the Almost Moon jingle contest a while back? Lady T is at it again; this time, she’s using the American publication of Marie Phillips‘s comic fantasy novel, Gods Behaving Badly, to invite her readers to submit imaginary job-seeking ads for the Greek mythological pantheon. Among her suggestions: Have Hermes look for a delivery job, send Apollo out to the tanning salons, and make Aphrodite look for matchmaking work. I’m recusing myself, but clearly there’s plenty of opportunities: Dionysus as a sommelier, Demeter as a horticulturist, and so on…there’s probably even a joke about Hercules and the Augean stables to be made, depending on how loosely Lady T wants to define the whole “gods and goddesses” aspect of the contest.

As before, Lady T’s contest has no official connection with the book’s publisher, but, really, if the numbers are there, it’s only going to be a matter of time.