Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Mindell Dubansky, a librarian at the Metropolitan Museum, collects objects that look like books—but aren’t books. They are made from wood, plastic, soap, granite, coal, slate, metal, ceramic, wax, and plaster.

The New York Times said, “She once paid $1,200 for an 18th century tea caddy disguised as a stack of books.“ She has “books” by the authors Y.B. Untidy, R. U. Laffin and Dusty Evsky. E. Raser is the author of Right the Wrong. It contains an eraser.

Mock volumes have been produced since 1411. Dubansky said, “Books make you feel important. Books make you feel learned. They reflect to others how you feel about yourself.”

CURSE & BLESSING: Joyce Carol Oates wrote an introduction for a 1988 Writers at Work collection of interviews that had appeared in The Paris Review.

Oates wrote, “Flannery O’Connor, attacked by critics for her ‘dark’ and ‘pessimistic’ vision of life, observed that no writer is a pessimist; the very act of writing is an act of hope. And so it is. And so do most writers perceive it, as a vocation, a privilege, a curse that nonetheless contains a blessing. John Hersey puts it most simply, and most honorably: ‘Writing is the only real reward’.”

DRAMA: The main character in a new Broadway play, Sex With Strangers, is “a 40-ish female novelist.” She has “retreated from the publishing world after being stung by the indifferent reception to her first novel.”

The actress who plays her, Anna Gunn, told The New York Times, “When you feel so deeply about what you’ve chosen to do as a career—that’s a calling and you can’t do anything else—and then you kind of get slapped the first time out, and you see the people around you skyrocketing to fame . . . “

Playwright Laura Eason said the character ”is not someone who’s insecure. She actually feels and knows she is very talented. She just hasn’t gotten the acknowledgment she believes she deserves.”

LOOK ALIKES: Public Apology by Dave Bry and Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology by Edwin Battistella share a couple of words in their titles and an image on their jackets. Both show a banner being towed by a small plane. One is written by a New York author and the other is by a linguist in Oregon; the books’ contents are completely different, The New Yorker noted in its July 17 issue: “Publishers, like movie distributors, are serial copycats when it comes to cover art.”

COMPETITION: The Guardian said, “U.S. authors have dominated the young adult lit—but UK and Irish authors are rising up with their own gritty, witty, brave and real brand of teen fiction.”

British young-adult author Sophia Bennett has a novel, The Castle, due out next month. She was asked to describe what current Y/A British books are like.

In addition to gritty, witty, brave and real, Bennett used the following words: fantastical, dark, funny, scary, magical, alive with witches and twisted fairy tales, nerve-shredding tension, gory, deadpan, humorous, and feisty.

TREND NOTED: Leonard S. Marcus was curator of the New York Public Library exhibition: The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter. His latest book is Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing.

Marcus wrote in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, “As America’s postwar baby boomers grew up, dipped a toe or more in child psychology studies at college and started families of their own, children’s book publishers took note of a new, pop-cultural sensitivity to a wide array of developmentally-based childhood trials and tribulations. Picture books about potty training, tantrum throwing, the death of a pet and other emotionally charged topics proliferated, and were often shelved together at the library under the catchall heading of ‘bibliotherapy.’“

COMIC: Jim Gaffigan is a stand-up comic who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in New York with a wife and seven children. He wrote a memoir, Dad Is Fat, published in 2013. It continues on the nonfiction paperback bestseller list.

The book’s title, according to Wiki, was “derived from the first complete sentence his eldest son wrote on a dry-erase board at the age of four or five.”

Gaffigan said, “He showed it to me and I laughed, and then I put him up for adoption.”

The new book, Food: A Love Story, will be published in the fall.

ESSENTIALS: Pamela Druckman is the author of Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. She has also discovered the wisdom of French price fixing because she lives on a street with seven nearby bookstores. France has just passed “an anti-Amazon law,” which says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books.

She asked, in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, if Americans have “handed over a precious natural resource–our nation’s books—to an ambitious billionaire with an engineering degree?”

Druckman said, “The French government classifies books as an ‘essential good,’ along with electricity, bread and water.”

SEQUELS: According to Pottermore gossip, Harry Potter is 34 years old and his hair is graying. The Guardian asked, “What happened when your favorite children’s book characters grew up?”

Peter Rabbit “was scouted as an animal actor to star in a Baz Luhrmann remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and a glitzy Hollywood career ensued. Last month Peter’s iconic blue jacket sold for a record-breaking $1.5 million at a charity auction. Autographs are available on request.”

SPIN-OFF: James Patterson’s books have sold more than 300 million copies. His eight-book Maximum Ride series for young readers has sold 30 million copies. Now those books are being turned into an online series for YouTube. An initial batch of six to 10 episodes will run 10 to 15 minutes each.

The New York Times said: “The books feature six children who have been genetically modified with bird DNA and can fly.”

DUELING BOOKS: Hillary Clinton’s memoir, Hard Choices, was pushed down the bestseller list by Edward Klein’s Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas. The Klein book was described in The New York Times as “a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages.“

Sample: “In one section in Mr. Klein’s book, former President Bill Clinton demands that his wife get a face-lift. When she refuses, he gets one instead.”

Klein told the Times (where he once worked as editor of the Sunday magazine): “I don’t make this stuff up. The quotes come from sources who were present when the statements were made or who were told about the statements shortly after they were made.”

A spokesman for Hillary Clinton said, “Let’s strap Ed Klein to a polygraph machine and let the needle do the talking.”

In Sunday’s Times Book Review, columnist Gregory Cowles referred to Klein’s book as a “mudfest.”

WHY TV’S BETTER: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (1994) continues as a mass paperback bestseller. The prolific, award-winning author is a great-great-grandson of Mormon founder Brigham Young. Card is professor of English at Southern Virginia University.

He’s had a lot of experience trying to turn his sci-fi fantasy novels into screenplays. In an interview on the Web, he said, ”Everyone in Hollywood knows and says, ‘Everything depends on a good script’ and then they take a good script and wreck it in order to fit some insane, asinine formula some film school teacher came up with. It’s the reason why television is so much better than film these days. In television, the writers have authority, and in film they have none.”

MUST READS: Larry McMurtry’s latest novel is The Last Kind Words Saloon. The New York Times Book Review asked him to name books that he believed all people should read before they die:

William Butler Yeats‘s Crazy Jane poems. The classic 19th century novelists. And Barbara Tuckman‘s The Guns of August.

McMurtry’s suggestions sent me to Yeats where I found: “Crazy Jane on the Mountain.” That poem begins with: “I am tired of cursing the Bishop . . . “ The poem ends with:

“Propped up on two knees,
I kissed a stone;
I lay stretched out in the dirt
And I cried tears down.”

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