By Randy Cohen
Fill in the blank in this recent New York Times headline:
"A Pentagon Report Now Belittles the Menace Posed by _______."
by noon ET Tuesday to e-mail your answer (NewsQuiz@slate.com).
Responses to Thursday's question (No. 46)--"Book Him":
Representative Mom: Balancing Budgets, Bill and Baby in the U.S. Congress, by Susan Molinari.
The actual book by the actual former representative. You are invited to submit the title of a sure-to-be-forthcoming book by another public figure likely to be published by November.
"In the Bosom of the Beast: The Prison Correspondence of Norman Mailer and Monica Lewinsky."--Meg Wolitzer
"Due out this fall, from Salman Rushdie: Big Cocksucking Carpenter Jesus."--Bill Franzen
"Chicken Soup for Leonardo DiCaprio or Idiots for Dummies, by some guys with a lot more business sense than Chris Kelly."--Chris Kelly
"Get the Fuck Away From My Car: Reflections on Law Enforcement and Civil Society, by Rudolph Giuliani."--Andrew Solovay (Steve Ballou had a similar answer.)
"And Then There Were None, by Jack Kevorkian."--Patty Marx
"All the President's Women, by Kenneth Starr."--Marshall Efron (similarly, David Kanevsky and Gary Frazier)
"Viagrateful, by Elizabeth Dole."--Chris Payne
Click for more responses.
This is what you get when independent bookshops are crushed by megastores like Barnes & Daimler or Borders-Travelers Group--an onslaught of imaginary satirical books. Here's what you don't get with either imaginary or actual books--cocktail party conversation. You'll hear far more talk of last night's television or this week's movie. Here's who to blame: the New York Times.
A TV show is on at a particular moment; everyone sees it at once. A movie--under $10 even in New York--opens at a particular time, and again, everyone sees it over the same few weeks. These become common cultural experiences, common references available for conversation.
But while every book has a publication date and some attendant fuss from reviewers and publicists and Charlie Rose, few people buy books in hardcover. At over $20, new books are too expensive. So a book only gradually diffuses itself into the culture, without the focus needed for conversation. "Did you read the new ..." Not yet, no.
In many countries, serious books originally appear in paperback for under $10. However, the New York Times reviews few paperback originals, and theirs is the review that most influences a book's fate. So, until they change their policy, prepare yourself for more lively chat about that wacky Ally McBeal.
I also blame Mayor Giuliani, but more out of habit than for any actual reason.
"I just wanted to be treated like everyone else."--Laurence Tisch, chairman, CBS
"Many New Yorkers went outdoors after running out of things to do indoors."--New York Times, May 11, 1998
"Are we crazy?"--Robert Iger, president, ABC
"I think it's incredibly offensive to say that we're supposed to do this and not make a profit."--Jamie Kellner, head of the WB Network
"It's like Bob Dylan sang: 'Folks, you got to start swimming or you'll sink like a stone, cause the times they are a-changing.' "--Robert Iger
hack references over the last five quizzes
Viagra ----------------- 10
Monica Lewinsky ---- 7
My Giant -------------- 0
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