Publishing roundup – Ginger and Mary Ann, Kurt and Jack

Opinion March 28, 2012 0 Comments

by Hugh Gilmore

Tick Tick Tick Tick – Here we go: a selective look at what’s new and wonderful in the publishing world lately, starting with the age-old question: Ginger, or Mary Ann?

Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island” has just penned “Why We Love Mary Ann: What the Girl-Next-Door from Gilligan’s Island Teaches Us About Love and Relationships, Work and Play, Respect and Responsibility, Purpose and Gratitude.”

I was so struck by Ms. Wells’ say-it-all-with-the-title approach that I feel I can confidently skip reading the book, but still be able to contribute to cocktail party conversation here in Chestnut Hill. I picture myself saying over num-nums, “Sure, Ginger’s quite glamorous, I agree, but Mary Ann taught me a lot about Purpose and Gratitude, two darned fine traits you don’t hear enough about lately. Not up here on the peninsula anyway.”

That “say it all with the title” approach tickled me greatly. So much, in fact, I went looking through the Publishers Marketplace website looking for more forthcoming books I could BS about without bothering to read.

After you go through the following small sample, perhaps we could form a book club, or discussion group without losing TV time by reading them: (1) “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table,” by Tracie McMillan (Scribner); (2) “American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf,” by James Dodson (Knopf); (3) “The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today’s Families,” by Mark Hyman (Beacon Press); (4) “The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family,” by Liza Mundy (Simon & Schuster).

Phew. Speaking of sex, you know about “Mommy Porn” by now, don’t you? That’s the contemporary media hook being given a type of erotic fiction that’s been around a long time, but is now being marketed as a new trend. It supposedly shows the liberation of contemporary women – instead of being tied down, they get tied up. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a trilogy by E. L. James, combines romance fiction with bondage and R-rated S & M.  Several-hundred thousand copies of “Fifty Shades” have been sold in e-book format. James is frequently depicted as a lonely English housewife who voiced her desperate longings on Internet women’s underground fiction websites.

In reality, she is a media-savvy British television producer and currently in negotiations for the film rights to her trilogy. As I write, Sony has been reported to have offered five million dollars for screen rights. Book One will reemerge in paperback on April 3 and the others two weeks later.

As long as we’re on the subject of badly written dumb things that are wildly popular we might as well discuss “The Hunger Games.” Opening weekend as a movie: $110 million dollars in gross receipts. A record, of sorts.

Now for the good news: The Harvard Lampoon is just out with its parody version, “The Hunger Pains,” whose protagonist is named Kantkiss Neverclean. It is available in paperback and Kindle formats. And if that news pleases you, maybe you’ll be happy to learn of a few other parody versions of pop culture books. For example, “A Game of Thrones” has been recast as “A Game of Groans: A Sonnet of Slush and Soot,” by George R. R. Washington (pseudonym of  Alan Goldsher) due March 27. A good parody from last year was “The Girl with the Sturgeon Tattoo,” by Lars Arffsenn (pseudonym). The eponymous heroine has been renamed Lizzy Salamander. You might also want to check out the Lampoon’s 2009 parody of Stephanie Meyers “Twilight” series, this time called “Nightlight.”

Material as humorous as what we’ve just mentioned should not precede what follows now, lest it seem silly, but an Irish bookseller made an unusual and serious claim this week that must be heard. Frank O’Mahony of O’Mahony’s Booksellers has blamed a dip in his sales on an Irish airline, Ryanair. Mr. O’Mahony runs four shops and a warehouse in the midwest and southwest of the Emerald Isle. He said that Ryanair’s new restrictive luggage policies have forced people to cut down on the number of books they take on holiday with them, and hence have cut his sales.

Asked to respond, Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara diplomatically countered by saying, “That’s complete rubbish.”

And as long as we’ve turned to the literary side of literature, we cannot close without mentioning two posthumous publications by the respected and esteemed authors, Jack Kerouac and Kurt Vonnegut.

Since his death 42 years ago, the Kerouac estate has released 27 previously unpublished works. The most recent is the “The Sea is My Brother,” a “lost” novel written in 1943 when Kerouac was a merchant seaman. Released in hardback last November, it was reprinted last week. I haven’t read it.

The Kurt Vonnegut title is a 22,000-word novella titled “Basic Training,” which was originally submitted to, and rejected by, The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. It will be released as a Kindle Single exclusive.

According to the publisher, Rosetta Books, “Basic Training” has Vonnegut’s “trademark grand themes: the lunacy of kings, the improbability of existence, the yearling hero’s struggle with duty and love and the meaning of heroism.” All that for $1.99, just released last Friday.

So there, all written in one breath, with only one dip of the quill, a peek into the world of contemporary book publishing – another fine service offered you by the peninsula’s leading newspaper.

Hugh’s new book of stories about life in a Chestnut Hill book store, “Scenes from a Bookshop,” is available through Amazon.com in Kindle format.

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