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Book news round-up: Toddler memoirs, Angelina’s revenge, British sex

August 3, 2010

Justin can attend an R-rated movie if an adult, like his friend Usher, goes with him.

I’m not without sympathy for Justin Bieber and his fans. Looking at the title of his announced memoir, Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever: My Story, I see the poor kid needs a colectomy already. Ba-boom.

That joke would be a lot funnier if the term for the surgical removal of the colon was “colonectomy,” but sometimes medical science and the American Heritage Dictionary just refuse to cooperate. In any case, here’s a poll, and please consider carefully before you make your selection:

Which is more ridiculous: A) Justin Bieber’s usage of not one but two colons in the title of his book; B) Justin Bieber’s usage of numerals in place of words, an affectation Prince wore out in the 1980s; C) the entire prospect of a 16-year-old heart throb writing a memoir.

Especially since Bieber, judging by his still photos, looks more like he’s 12. A little 12, too. I mean, c’mon: What’s the kid got to write about? Oh, right: His “amazing journey to stardom,” as HarperCollins puts it. Plus: Bieber is “excited to share just a little bit more of my world.” Or so says HarperCollins.

I can see it now: Chapt. 3: The Potty Training Years: “I go poop!”

And there will be “previously unseen photos” for “fans afflicted with Bieber fever.”

Harmless fun, I suppose, not to mention a predictable way to separate tween girls from their parents’ money.

Angelina’s revenge: Apparently it’s getting harder and harder to separate those parents from their own money, leastwise if you’re trying to do it with an unauthorized celebrity biography, like Andrew Morton’s brand new Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography. An AP story by Hilell Itale explores the decline of the tawdry celebrity bio, killed — you guessed it — by the Internet.

“There is much more competition from the tabloids and the Internet, so you have to go beyond the day-to-day gossip,” says Morton’s editor, Hope Dellon of St. Martin’s Press. Adds Patricia Bostelman, vice president of marketing for Barnes & Noble: “The audience for the book has often read all the key revelations prior to publication.”

St. Martin’s has  shown its faith in Morton’s book  with a first printing of 150,000 copies. Morton is a proven money-maker with previous gossip tomes about Princess Diana, Tom Cruise and Madonna.

But even Kitty Kelley, who invented the modern celebrity bio and had great success with it in the ’80s and ’90s, is struggling. Her juicy unauthorized book about Oprah Winfrey, which came out in May, has moved only 105,000 copies. Previous Kelley books about stars like Frank Sinatra or Nancy Reagan, sold millions.

“The sales of Oprah were well below our expectations,” Bostelman said.

Good news for Justin Bieber, though. Itale reports that the celebrity books most likely to sell are those written by or with the cooperation of the celebrities themselves. Get out those crayons, Justin!

No sex please; we’re British: Finally, former British poet laureate Andrew Motion (yes, I know, it confuses me, too, but he’s not the author of the Angelina bio) says novelists in Merry Olde England seem to have stopped writing about sex.

Motion came to this conclusion after reading 138 recent novels in his capacity as chair of the judging committee for this year’s Man Booker Prize.

“It’s as if they were paranoid about being nominated for the Bad Sex Award,” Motion tells the Guardian. He adds: “There were a lot of people writing about taking drugs, as if that was a substitute for sex”.

The Guardian‘s Tim Adams dilates to consider the history of literary sex writing, all the way back to the landmark Lady Chatterley obscenity trial of half a century ago. But the new freedoms quickly devolved into cliche, Adams notes, leading Auberon Waugh to start the Bad Sex Award at the Literary Review in 1993.

“One of the effects of this sense that there is nothing new under the sun,” writes Adams, “has been to return the erotic to the nudge-nudge, wink-wink, margins of the publishing world.”

Hey! Don’t say that as if it were a bad thing. Anything that keeps overwrought sex scenes out of the books I read gets two thumbs up.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Sean permalink
    August 3, 2010 10:07 pm

    The title of his next memoir will require a semicolon.

  2. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    August 4, 2010 9:30 am

    Yes, it will be a story of emotional and grammatical growth.

  3. PJ Parrish permalink
    August 4, 2010 1:35 pm

    Re the Bieber book:

    Makes perfect sense to me, Chauncey. Harper Collins also published Palin’s autobiography. There’s money in them thar swills.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      August 5, 2010 10:33 am

      Yes, true, true. But it behooves some of us to be clucking adults, pointing out how ridiculous it all is.

      • PJ Parrish permalink
        August 5, 2010 1:26 pm


        One last point about Harper Collins:

        They were on the ropes two years ago, but they just today reported their total revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30 rose 11.1% and profits jumped from $17 million to $88 million. All their divisions posted gains.

        Why? Mainly, big sales of Palin’s biography, some vampire books, plus — get this — a 250 percent jump in e-book sales. The CEO said based on the latter, HC would continue “to reposition the company to meet the emerging digital market by investing in new businesses, new content and in new skills, while simultaneously streamlining operations to improve efficiencies.”

        So if Bieber, Palin, and — ack, ack! — Glenn Beck (my own publisher’s cash cow) can help keep me and thousands of others in print, it’s hard to argue about taste. I just hope I’m not one of the things “streamlined to improve efficiencies.”

  4. September 1, 2010 2:05 am

    I would much rather read about every day people and their stories of overcoming the odds or doing something truely admirable. For instance, I just recently read a great memoir titled, “There’s Something About Daniel” by Robyn Stecher that I finished reading last week and still can’t stop thinking about. The book allows the reader to look inside her life of raising a child with special needs, while maintaining a professional position as executive vice president at Don Buchwald and Associates, Inc., a bi-coastal talent agency. It was truly an inspiring story and really changed my perspective on life. These are the types of memoirs I would prefer to read.

  5. October 23, 2010 5:38 am

    It is delightful… Beautiful pictures

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