by Campbell Geeslin
“Books about living a happy life have been in vogue for the past two decades,” said PW in an article called “Come on, Get Happy.” But the essay started off with a quote from Euripides, writing in 424 B.C.: “That man is happiest who lives from day to day and asks no more, gaining the simple goodness of life.”
BookScan said that the category was up 12% more than in 2013. PW asked, “Has the happiness market reached the saturation point?”
Happiness Is . . . 500 Things to Be Happy About is a current bestseller by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar. One of their 500 moments of happiness occurs when one “recovers data from a dead computer.”
Maybe the happiest of all is the writer whose self-help book lands on the bestseller lists.
SELLING PRODUCTS: Mrs. Wright tells her children to sit at the counter, and she orders Diet Cokes for them. Then she goes to the shelves and gets a bottle of Ecotrin Cardiologist Recommended Aspirin. . . .
Are e-novels about to be spiked with product advertisements? The New York Times reports that in a new e-book, Find Me I’m Yours by Hillary Carlip, “Sweet’N Low appears several times in the 356-page story, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.” The heroine and her friend discuss the product and one says, “They fed lab rats twenty-five hundred packets of Sweet’N Low a day . . . And still the F.D.A. or E. P. A., or whatever agency, couldn’t connect the dots from any kind of cancer in humans.”
The product’s maker paid about $1.3 million for the plugs. The Times said, “If it succeeds it could usher in a new business model for publishers, one that blurs the lines between art and commerce in ways that are routine in TV shows and movies but rare in books.”
MOVIE IN MOTION: Matthew Quick, author of Silver Linings Playbook, has written a new YA novel, Every Exquisite Thing. PW said it is about “a high school girl whose life is changed after she receives a mysterious book from her favorite teacher.”
Publication is set for spring 2016, and the Weinstein Co., which produced the hit movie version of Silver Linings Playbook, has already acquired film rights.
AUTHOR TOO: Actor Tom Hanks is branching out. The movie star took a turn on Broadway, had a short story published in The New Yorker and has now sold a collection of short stories to Knopf. The book does not yet have a title or a release date but vintage typewriters figure in it in some way. Hanks collects them.
ON CLARITY: Arthur M. Melzer is the author of Philosophy Between the Lines. Its subject is esoteric writing that uses obscurity, deliberate contradiction, parable and allusion instead of prose that is clear and direct.
James Ceaser, a professor at the University of Virginia, reviewed the book for The Wall Street Journal. Ceaser wrote, “There is a surface message intended for the ordinary or inattentive reader and a deeper meaning, often diametrically opposed to the first, that is addressed to the discerning reader.”
Ceaser concludes, “If there is anything ‘esoteric’ in Arthur Melzer’s approach, it would have to be in the sheer lucidity and precision of his writing, which is his way to lead the modern readers to see, confront and challenge the presuppositions of their own age.”
SUBVERSION: Mark Levine, a poet who teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, wrote the leading review in a special fall section about children’s books in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review.
Levine wrote, “There has been a strain of subversion in picture books—think of Maurice Sendak and Tomi Ungerer, among others—alongside the dominant anodyne snuggliness of the form. Now, sophisticated cheekiness appears to have gone mainstream.”
One of the books reviewed was The Jacket by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova. Levine wrote that Book is the main character. “Book is lonely until he is discovered by a reader, ‘the girl,’ in whose hands he finds his place.”
BIG DEAL: Saga Press, a new Simon & Schuster science-fiction imprint, has a six-book deal with Chuck Wendig. His series has a heroine, Miriam Black, that PW said “is cursed with the ability to see the death of every person she touches.”
Saga will release three backlist titles from the Black series--Blackbirds, Mockingbird and The Cormorant—as e-books and then as trade paperbacks. The deal includes three new titles.
The books are in development as a Starz channel TV series.
ANOTHER GOES: Posman Books in Grand Central Station will close December 31. The bookstore was designed for commuters in a hurry, with its many books displayed on tables rather than shelves.
The New York Times said, “Bookstores around New York City have been disappearing for years, driven out by soaring rents, and the overall gloomy economics of the publishing industry.” Posman is closing because Grand Central is undergoing major construction to connect it to the Long Island Railroad.
FINAL IN SERIES: Rick Riordan is the author of The Blood of Olympus, the final installment of his Olympus series. PW said the first printing was three million copies. It became an instant bestseller.
More than 40 million books of Riordan’s three series are in print. His next project is a trilogy inspired by Norse mythology. The first book, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, is scheduled for October 2015.
LESTAT IS BACK: Anne Rice’s new novel is Prince Lestat. Time magazine said she had written “34 books that include five pseudonymous sexual-fantasy novels . . . [and] sold 100 million copies worldwide.” Eleven of her novels have been about vampires.
Time said that Rice believes she suffers from a lack of serious critical attention. She said, “Once you hit No. 1 on The New York Times [bestseller] list, I don’t think you get any interesting reviews after that! You just don’t!”
Time wrote: “Rice says she writes in a fever, no matter the medium. When she posts on Facebook, it’s a first draft. When she writes a novel she sees its influence only after the fact.”
NO, NO, NO: Louise DeSalvo is a professor at Hunter College. She wrote an article about rejection letters for the November issue of Poet & Writers.
She had plenty of sharp-edged quotes from editors but ended her article with a story about Stephen King who began collecting rejection letters before he was 14. He pounded a nail into the wall of his room, and collected rejections on it until, he wrote, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”
BENEFIT: E.B. White stories and poems will be read aloud at Manhattan’s Symphony Space on November 16. Among the actors on stage will be Naomi Watts, David Hyde Pierce and Liev Schreiber. Title of the program is “Terrific Tails: A Celebration of E.B. White.” It is a benefit to provide books to disadvantaged children.
JOB CHANGE: Ed Park, who, according to The New York Times, “brought a patina of prestige to [Amazon’s] fledging publishing program,” has resigned as editor of Amazon's Little A imprint, which he has directed since 2011. The Times reported “that the battle between Amazon and publishers was not the main reason for his departure, but he allowed that it was one of several factors that made the job difficult and ultimately led to his decision to leave.”
Park will be an executive editor at Penguin Press, with a mandate to "acquire more fiction."
OUT OF A JOB: Mark Driscoll, an evangelical pastor and bestselling author, resigned from his Seattle megachurch. World, a Christian newsmagazine, reported that $210,000 in church funds had gone to a marketing firm that had promised to get Real Marriage, a book by Driscoll and his wife, on bestseller lists. The New York Times said the book included “unusually frank talk about how Christian wives can please their husbands in bed.”
Driscoll was quoted in the Times about his reasons for quitting his job: “past pride, anger and a domineering spirit.”