Best-selling titles of years past- Where are they now?

I read Michael Korda's Making the List, a book on best-sellers, when it first came out in 2001 and realized I had never heard of most of the books on the lists he provided. I wasn't crazy about Korda's explanations and theories, but it got me thinking about how quickly the books we put out fade away. The Boston Public Library has two books in their collection on best-selling titles and I've pored over these lists trying to understand why these books have disappeared. The subjects that Americans read have not really changed in 100 years, but the books have.

The concept of a book's life-cycle is one of the most compelling reasons why I stay at the publishing house where I work. Our library is filled with hidden gems that trade publishing forgot or couldn't make work so they sold them off. It's why I can spend hours at used bookstores. The way that a book's value fluctuates throughout time and in different markets fascinates me. One day you're on top of the world, the next headed for the pulp house . . . and the next you're suddenly in demand as the world finally picked up on your genius.

And now I know I'm not alone.

Making Light is one of the best resources we have on the web for what really happens in trade publishing, but Teresa Nielsen Hayden's entry on the life expectancies of books is one of the best things I've read on the subject in a long time. You want to know the perils and heartbreak of publishing or what keeps publishers up at night- go read this post.


Mad Max Perkins is the real JT Leroy

As part of the ongoing series of dramatic reveals of authors-that-no-one-really-cares-about-except-those-inside-the-industry, Pub. Daily reports on Mad Max's true identity: Dan Conaway.

you can read all about it here or go to galleycat's entry where she does the research to identify him.

2 things I want to point out- what great publicity for the book DOPE. There's the urge from an editor for people to read his book, the unmasking of this mysterious man to create buzz about the book since he sacrificed his identity for this book, and now there's the articles about the blog that came out for DOPE. If the book fails, I hope they make news by saying that Dan Conaway wasn't really Mad Max Perkins, but knows who he is and bought the website so that he could introduce a book he believes people should read (as opposed to those books editors buy and work on that they don't believe people should read).

The second thing is Simon Lipskar's comment: "Mad Max's blog put a lie to the widely-held belief out there that publishers are filled with number-crunching technocrats who couldn't give a damn about books." I think it speaks worlds for why this INDUSTRY is in the shape it's in.


Time to order my "I'm the Real JT Leroy T-shirt" if I can still find one.


Soundtrack for Kinshu by Teru Miyamoto

Kinshu is a "lyrical novel in letters" from Teru Miyamoto. New Directions has just released the first translation of his work by Roger K. Thomas. The novel was originally released in 1982 with this translation appearing in 2005. The story is set in a series of letters between a divorced man and wife who had a chance meeting at a vacation spot. See my 100 word review for a better sense of the book.

This soundtrack is more instructive than complementary and involves 2 of Mozart's symphonies. I suggest buying a middle-of-the-road recording for this particular translation. No need to knock yourself out with the definitive recording since the subtleties aren't necessary since the symphonies are there to reflect the psyches of Aki and Yasuaki, the 2 main characters.

1) Symphony 41 (Jupiter Symphony)- Mozart
2) Symphony 39- Mozart


Soundtrack to Parched by Heather King

And another one for you boppers.

1) (Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song- BJ Thomas track 1 from Greatest Hits
2) I Saw the Light- Bill Monroe track 3 from The Very Best of Bill Monroe
3) Searching for My Baby- The Primettes track 3 from Looking Back
4) Try (Just a Little Harder)- Janis Joplin track 3 from Greatest Hits
5) Medley: You Made Me Love You/ It Had to Be You/ Nevertheless- Dean Martin track 10 from Live from Las Vegas
6) Benny and the Jets- Elton John track 7 from Greatest Hits
7) Can't Find My Way Home- Blind Faith track 2 from Blind Faith
8) It's All Over Now- Rod Stewart track 2 from Gasoline Alley
9) Low Life in High Heels- Cheap Trick track 10 from Special One
10) Rock and Roll Lullaby- BJ Thomas track 6 from Greatest Hits
11) Me and My Bobby McGee- Janis Joplin track 5 from Greatest Hits
12) Land: Horses/Land of A Thousand Dances/La Mer(de)- Patti Smith track 7 from Horses
13) Whiter Shade Of Pale- Procol Harum track 1 from Greatest Hits
14) Landslide- Fleetwood Mac track 8 from Fleetwood Mac
15) "Til I Can Make It On My Own- Tammy Wynette track 3 from 20 Greatest Hits
16) Balm in Gilead- Paul Robeson track 2 from Live at Carnegie Hall

It's not worth tracking all the original songs down really. The book's like the greatest hooks and melodies of other memoirs.

Book Soundtracks- The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God

Ready to dip in to some short fiction from one of Israel's favorite young writers- Etgar Keret? Don't forget that soundtrack!

1) Highway to Hell- AC/DC track 1 from Highway to Hell
2) Miss America- Styx track 5 from The Grand Illusion
3) Shilo- Neil Diamond track 7 from The Greatest Hits
4) Bullet The Blue Sky- U2 track 4 from The Joshua Tree
5) Brown Eyed Girl- Van Morrison track 1 from Blowin' Your Mind
6) The Boxer- Simon and Garfunkel track 6 from Bridge Over Trouble Water
7) Eve of Destruction- Barry McGuire track 18 from Anthology
8) Tainted Love- Marilyn Manson track 1 from Not Another Teen Movie Soundtrack
9) Trash- New York Dolls track 6 from New York Dolls
10) Ballroom Blitz- Sweet track 1 from Desolation Boulevard
11) The Passenger-Iggy Pop track 4 from Lust for Life
12) Quicksand- David Bowie track 6 from Hunky Dory
13) Daw Da Hiya- Ofra Haza track 6 from Kirta
14) Wish You Were Here- Rasputina track 2 from The Lost and Found
15) Ruby's Arms- Tom Waits track 12 from Heartattack and Vine
16) 7 O'Clock News/ silent Night- Simon and Garfunkel track 12 from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

Yah, the book reminded me of the movies Harold and Maude and The Graduate for some reason, so there's the reasoning behind the soundtrack.


Get your refunds, get your James Frey refunds. . .

but only if you bought the book directly from Random House!

Now they've shown their hand. This has all been the first step by Random House to take the power away from the bookstores.

"Oh, there's a problem with your book? It's full of possible lies and may not be true even though it's sold as a 'memoir'? Well you need to go to your point of purchase. Bookstore not refunding money? Maybe next time you'll think to order direct! Bwa-ha-ha-ha."

No, seriously, who buys books directly from publishers except bookstores? Does anyone chose rh.com over Amazon.com? No, really. Hats off to you dear consumer. Hats off to you.


JT Leroy is a woman?!

Alriiiight. So while posting my "I promise I'll post more" post I was surfing a few other sites including ask metafilter and I happened across this post on questions about some facts in James Frey's A Million Little Pieces.*

At the time I thought nothing of it and the only reason it caught my eye is that my sister just read the book over Christmas. Literary hoaxes are nothing new and I prefer to read the ones that are pulled on the collectors and haughty intellectual types who think they know better: see Warmly inscribed by the Goldstones for more stories. Then suddenly the literary world is in an uproar because of a certain article on the Smoking Gun website. Now everywhere I turn people seem to be suddenly interested in this story. Even the last story on the news tonight was about the book.

So, what do I have to add to this? Just questions for the publishing industry and our readers.

Are we so inured to the heartbreak in the modern memoir that we're willing to take the author's flights of fancy as truth? Does this go to show that people are still willing to belive everything they read? That if it's outside of academics then there's no reason to be critical? Why did it take The Smoking Gun to break this story? Where were Publishers Weekly and the New York Times when this book came out 3 years ago? Or even when Oprah picked it last year? Are we as an industry so depsperate for sales that we're letting the major media break the story rather than policing ourselves (I know the book came out 2 years ago but it was a lead title on the publisher's list even then)?

This kind of fraud happens ever year, and every two or three years it comes out that someone did something very bad (plagarism, copyright infringement anyone remember these scandals?) and then the whole thing gets cover on CBS Sunday Morning and we go back to our peaceful ways.

The big news to me isn't the lies (much like the JT Leroy story which broke sometime before Christmas since I remember reading a 15 page article on who was really JT Leroy) but the complacency within the industry to let this go on for two years. We had to wait for it to sell thousands of copies to make someone notice the facts didn't add up.

*Why an Amazon link? I thought you hated to link to Amazon and would rather use www.isbn.nu or the actual publisher's for book titles? Because Amazon is a great place to pick up on some raw emotions and gut reactions to the book. Read the reviews from January 2006 and don't forget to check out the forums!


Lost Entry- back where it belongs

So a month since updates due to craft shows, birthdays, holidays, and all the assorted shopping mental and emotional preparation that goes along with it. One upshot is that my sister gave me a copy of Getting Things Done by David Allen. I've been a fan of sites Lifehacker and 43 Folders like any other person who happened upon them and realized that more organization is needed.

So I was checking out some of Lifehacker's sites on the sidebar and went to working smart to find this entry on the death of traditional book publishing along with a follow-up.

I haven't read the comments yet (from the second post seems like it will take some time), but my first reaction is that people who read like to read books and that doesn't seem to be changing. What is changing is the size of people who like to read. What's changing for the book industry is that people don't need to sit down with a 256 page non-fiction book to learn about dinosaurs or computers. They can grab a summary online. The digital paper that the industry has been dreading for years is not going to be the equivalent to Ipod. Look at all the digital services that were around before MP3 players- the original Napster, Gnutella, etc. etc. Kids were burning mix CDs for each other from music they downloaded online well before the first IPod came out. The early adopters had already made the move to digital music well before the devices appeared. This isn't the same with digital books. Libraries and reference material. Yes. The days of having an encyclopedia in the house is long gone, but people are still going to want to have books to show off. CDs and vinyl aren't status symbols, but books still have a marginal value as that. They show a certain pedigree for people. Now this may drastically change the college and educational market, but that has been drastically changing for years. The real place to watch how these new technologies will change traditional publishing is the academic market and I certainly don't know enough about that to have a clear sense of what is happening.

New book review format

Sigh, you start something with the best of intention and then 3 months later you realize you haven't written a review and the galley of Tulia by Nate Blakeslee is still sitting by your computer and the New York Time Book Review has even gotten the jump on you and put it in their 100 Notable Books of 2005. So due to the rapid consumption of literature (and by which I mean that which is written and gathered in book form and sold in book stores or previewed at libraries, but does not necessarily have literary value) and the shorter amount of time left in the day to dedicate to writing a review, I will henceforth dispense with the 100 word review for most books. If there should arise such a work that deserves more attention then I will devote more space to it. But in the past month I have not come across a book worth more attention than 100 words. If you are an actual reader (and still check back even though I haven't updated in some time) be patient just a little longer and you will have a review of not only Tulia, but Kinshu, a newly translated novel from 1980's Japan, Animals in Translation, The Bones of the Earth, Off Main Street, and maybe even some new soundtracks for Fargo Rock City and the much delayed one for Etgar Keret. Who knows what 2006 will bring (well I know in February there's another show I need to have pieces ready for so that trumps reviews for right now).