Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Combination Unsolicited Editorial & Unedited Solicitation

You want to know why folks like James Frey, J.T. Leroy and (my personal favorite) Margaret Seltzer all lie about their lives in an effort to get published? Because books these days are being hyped less for their stories than they are for the stories behind the stories. Case in point: When Reuters announced the winner of Penguin's American Breakthrough Novel writing contest yesterday, they opened the article with this: A New Orleans bartender who survived Hurricane Katrina won an "American Idol"-style competition on Monday after the public voted online for his book to be published by Penguin Group. -- a.k.a. the backstory of the dude that won. Only after this unnecessary pulling of the heart strings did they get around to this: Bill Loehfelm, who won a $25,000 contract, wrote "Fresh Kills" during the day while bartending at night. It is about the murder of a man on a New York City street corner that reunites his estranged and abused children. -- a.k.a. the actual plot of the book itself. Sorta makes you wonder what the point of this article actually was, don't it? If you think that I'm exaggerating (and that the whole thing is nothing more than a case of poorly placed paragraphs), here's how the article ends: The other finalists included a North Carolina woman who completed her novel while commuting to and from her job at Macy's department store, a Connecticut pediatrician who wrote her book after hours and a Kansas computer programmer who has been writing on the side for the past 20 years. No, it doesn't conclude with the winning author's future plans or the submissions deadline for the next A.B.N. contest or even the date when the winning book is going to be published. It ends with three more woe-is-me, look-at-me, save-it-for-Oprah bio blurbs.

Call me, Margaret Seltzer. All is forgiven.