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On the Books Mar. 22: Exclusive info on 'The Gaggle,' new book deal for Elizabeth Kostova, and more

Jess Massa and Rebecca Wiegand are not only poster-girls for modern day dating, but also for 21st century book publishing. These best friends came up with a theory on “dating in the post-dating world” called “the Gaggle.” In a nutshell, the idea is that in a time when traditional dating relationships can’t be expected, women now have a group of guys in their lives who fulfill different romantic roles. Massa and Wiegand turned their idea into an interactive blog (, YouTube series, popular Twitter feed, and they even have a movie currently in development with New Line (screenwriters Emily Cook and Kathy Greenberg are attached), which will most likely be reminiscent of recent rom-coms with large casts, such as He’s Just Not That into You and Valentine’s Day. With an already strong brand and film option behind them, Massa and Wiegand, with A-list literary agent Alex Glass, shopped their Gaggle idea for a book, with Massa as author and Wiegand as co-creator. Massa told me exclusively they made a “significant six-figure deal” after a hotly contested auction among six interested publishers, with editor Kerri Kolen at Simon & Schuster coming out on top. Slated for spring of 2012, Massa will pen the book, giving a whole picture of the current dating world and its changing values, and describing the types of guys a girl might find in her Gaggle. Also exclusive to the book will be a rundown of a guy’s Gaggle of girls. READ FULL STORY

Take a look at Mindy Kaling's new book cover for 'Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me?'


My excitement over Tina Fey’s Bossypants waned ever so slightly when I saw the bizarre, man-armed book cover, only to pick up with the release of two brilliantly funny excerpts in The New Yorker. Even though we haven’t read any chapters yet, the newly unveiled cover of Office writer Mindy Kaling’s book of humor essays Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? (And Other Concerns) seems to be more in line with what we know and love about the author. Leaning against some grandmotherly floral designs, Kaling evokes a wallflower, quite literally, awkwardly surviving and observing a junior high birthday party. Judging from her popular Twitter feed and the working title of her upcoming film The Low Self-Esteem of Lizzie Gillespie, Kaling is becoming the sardonic yet sweet voice of the formerly insecure girl. I also love the new title (it used to be The Contents of My Purse)–it’s a question we ask ourselves constantly in adolescence, and, let’s face it, well into adulthood. READ FULL STORY

On the Books Mar. 17: Michelle Obama to write about White House vegetable garden

First lady Michelle Obama has signed on with Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, to pen a book about her garden on the South Lawn of the White House. To date, the garden has produced 2,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables and folds into the first lady’s campaign to promote healthy eating, creating community, and supporting local foods. Obama explained to the AP her intentions behind the project: “So we wanted to share the story with the rest of the nation and perhaps with the rest of the world, because we get so many questions about the garden: How did we do it? Why did we do it? How do I do this in my own home or community?” READ FULL STORY

Wilfrid Sheed, critic and novelist of great moral wit, has died

Wilfrid Sheed, one of the finest contemporary critics and novelists, has died. He was 80, and died of urosepsis, an infection.

Born in England and raised in America, Sheed possessed a style that was elegant and conversational; erudite and frequently funny. His work can be almost evenly divided between his life as a novelist and as a critic; one job informed the other. In his introduction to READ FULL STORY

Republicans rule 'New York Times' best-seller list

It’s a Red State book bonanza! Sarah Palin’s new book, America by Heart, debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times best-seller list, but failed to dislodge George Bush from the top spot. Decision Points remained No. 1 for the third week in a row, and publisher Random House reports to that they’ve sold 1.5 million total copies of the ex-president’s memoir.

Read more:
Sarah Palin’s publisher, Gawker settle leak dispute
Sarah Palin calls ‘American Idol’ contestants ‘talent deprived’
Bill Clinton gives a rave review to George W. Bush memoir
George W. Bush’s book ‘Decision Points’ gets a cover and a release date

Tea Party hero Christine O'Donnell signs book deal

Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party politician whose campaign for the U.S. Senate in the state of Delaware was overshadowed by her years-old comments about witchcraft, has signed a book deal with St. Martin’s Press, according to the Associated Press. O’Donnell, who was endorsed by Sarah Palin, was a surprise winner of the Republican primary but lost the general election to Democrat Chris Coons. The book intends to share her “frustrations” with the political process.

'Living Large, From SUVs to Double Ds': Sarah Z. Wexler explains why big is not always beautiful in her new book

Living-LargeWhen people go home to see their folks they often marvel at how things seem smaller than they remembered. But this was very much not the case when journalist Sarah Z. Wexler visited her parents in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., a few years back. “I noticed that whenever one of the houses had been bought, they had been bulldozed and a McMansion had popped up in its place,” she says. “Just about every driveway in this suburban neighborhood had an SUV. And our neighbors were members of a megachurch. I started thinking about all the ways these things might be connected. That we’re basically super-sizing in all these different aspects of our lives. We all know about super-sized food. But we’re also doing it in all of these other ways.”

Wexler examines this phenomenon in her new book Living Large, which contains chapters on McMansions, megachurches, big box stores, the Humvee, and Las Vegas hotels, amongst other subjects. While the tome is routinely critical of America’s big-is-beautiful tendencies, various chapters find Wexler clearly being tempted by the thought of, say, a big Tiffany engagement ring or, in the course of a consult with a plastic surgeon, bigger breasts. “I tried to go into each of the subjects putting aside my preconceptions,” she says. “I wanted to go in with an open mind, which was really difficult to do in some cases. I have a hard time with boob jobs. To me, women who get boob jobs are essentially unhappy with themselves and how they look. But that was something I was completely seduced by. You look at photo albums filled with hundreds of photo albums filled with before and afters and even if you went in with good self-esteem you think, ‘I’m a before.’ And that rocks your self-esteem a little bit. And then getting to try on these huge Barbie boobs and saying, ‘I kind of get this.’ I could not stop staring at myself in the mirror, thinking, ‘Okay, it’s $7,000. How could I pull that together?’ And then I thought, ‘Wait, what am I doing? I had to get out right then. I had to rip the silicone boobs out of my bra and get the hell out, otherwise I knew I was going to be signing up.”

TwineballIn the book, Wexler also spends time with a group of “freegans,” people whose determination to lead a low-impact lifestyle means they forage for food in dumpsters. The author says that she tried to follow suit, but ultimately balked: “I really tried to eat things out of the garbage. I held the bread up to my mouth and was like, ‘Do it!’ But it was like being on Fear Factor for me, but it wasn’t a live cockroach, it was just bread that had been in a bag in the garbage.”

What message would Wexler like readers to take away from Living Large? “What I came to in the end is this idea of ‘right-sizing,'” she says. “When I first heard that term I hated it. It’s a gross corporate word they use instead of downsizing. But the more I thought about the word, I wanted to reclaim it and use it literally. We should have things be the right size for us. And that’s not saying no one should have an SUV and nobody should have a big house. The Duggars need a huge house because they have four million children. But the average size of the American family is shrinking. Most of us do not need a McMansion.”

Wexler is currently working on another book called Awful First Dates. “I ran a blog where people would submit short anonymous stories about bad dates that happened to them,” she explains. “So it’s going to be some of my stories and a lot of anonymous stories. It’s a lot different from interviewing economists.” And what was Wexler’s own worst dating experience? “I went out with a guy who told me he was manager of a major league baseball team,” she laughs. “And then halfway through our date he revealed he was actually their mascot.”

Best-Selling-Author Gary Dell' Abate! (Sounds better than Baba Booey)

Gary Dell’ Abate has spent the last 27 years producing Howard Stern’s radio program — Baba Booey! — a three-ring circus of calculated chaos that now reigns on Sirius — Baba Booey!! — Satellite Radio. Over the years, he’s taken part — Baba Booey!!! Fine! Over the years, Baba Booey has taken part in all sorts of shenanigans and grown accustomed to having his personal life — and dental hygiene — dissected by Stern and his court. But with the New York Times best-seller They Call Me Baba Booey, Dell’ Abate (and cowriter Chad Millman) have pulled back the curtain on his own complex childhood in Long Island, where his clinically depressed mother was prone to clobbering antagonistic neighbors with shrubs. Some fans expecting a Private Parts-esque expose of racists, strippers and carnival freaks might be disappointed, but others will be pleasantly surprised by the earnest and thoughtful telling of growing up Booey. If anyone was raised to handle the insanity of Howard Stern’s jackals, it’s Gary Dell’ Abate.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Who did you set out to write the book for?
I was always targeting it towards the fans. There’s a lot of stuff in there that I think the fans will appreciate, but it’s not a behind-the-scenes-of-the-show book. I guess my angle was, I’ve been on the show for 27 years. If you think you know me and you like me, now you’ll really get to know me.

The book is much more personal and sober than I would’ve expected, delving into your upbringing in a very chaotic middle-class household. Was that always the plan?
I was playing with a lot of different ideas. I had been pitching around a different kind of book, a much lighter book. I’m known as the music guy on the show, so maybe a Baba Booey’s Book of Music Lists, Essays, Arguments etc etc, something like that. I talked to a book agent who I know very well, and he said, “Well, you might be able to sell that, but really, What’s your story?” And I said, “Well I don’t have a story.” And he’s like “Everybody’s got a story.” And so I went home that night and thought about it, and I called him the next day, and I said, “You want to know my story? Here’s my story.” And he goes, “That’s a great story.” I go, “Yeah, there’s one problem; I don’t really want to tell that story.” It was highly personal. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there, because I didn’t want to portray my mother in a negative way. READ FULL STORY

Sarah Palin's publisher files suit against Gawker over leak

Don’t upset Mama Grizzly. HarperCollins, Sarah Palin’s publisher, has filed a lawsuit against Gawker Media for leaking pages of the ex-governor’s upcoming book, America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag. The Associated Press reports HaperCollins filed a complaint in Manhattan Friday after Gawker refused to take down excerpts from the book, which is headed to bookstores Nov. 23. (Other websites that also leaked the pages adhered to the publisher’s demands.) Palin even addressed the leak via her Twitter: On Nov. 18, she tweeted: “Isn’t that illegal?” Gawker, however, defended their decision in a post titled “Sarah Palin is Mad at Us for Leaking Pages from Her Book.UPDATE: A federal New York judge ordered that Gawker remove the leaked pages from their site Saturday in an injunction that prevents the website from “continuing to distribute, publish, or otherwise transmit pages from the book” prior to a Nov. 30 hearing.

Read more:
Sarah Palin calls ‘American Idol’ contestants ‘talent deprived’

Keith Richards' autobiography 'Life': The Shelf Life Book Club

keith-richards-lifeA couple of years back, I had the pleasure of interviewing Keith Richards not long after he had signed what was rumored to be a $7m deal to pen his memoirs. The Rolling Stones guitarist was in fine form as he recalled working on the film Sympathy for the Devil with Gallic auteur with Jean-Luc Godard in the mid-’60s (“I think he went mad. He’s a Frenchman. We can’t help them”), ruminated on the Hollywood career and musical talent of his friend Bruce Willis (“Terrible movies. But a great [harmonica] player”) and lambasted the then recently published memoirs of his fellow Stone Ron Wood (“Terrible! I don’t know what reduced him to that”). When talk turned to his own in-the-works autobiography, Richards explained that he would occasionally send notebooks to his co-writer, White Mischief author James Fox, and that Fox in return would “send me more stuff about my past than I care to know.”

While Fox may well have done much of the heavy lifting research-wise on Life, the book is as much a Keith Richards, ahem, “joint” as “(I Can’t Get No Satisfaction) Satisfaction” or “Jumping Jack Flash.” Of course, the guitarist had a creative co-conspirator on those projects as well, and much of the publicity which surrounded the publication of Life concentrated on his deriding of Mick Jagger. This is pretty much the least interesting aspect of the book, particularly as Richards has spent a goodly portion of the past three decades making mock of the Stones lead singer while talking to interviewees. (When I asked Keith if he had gone to Mick for any acting advice prior to his cameo in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the guitarist replied that Jagger was “the last person I’d ask in the world. Are you kidding me?”) In any case, Richards spends as much time praising Jagger as he does criticizing him. The guitarist reserves his real venom for late director Donald Cammell, who had once been involved with actress Anita Pallenberg, prior to Richards taking up with her in the ’60s. Cammell, who committed suicide in 1996, also co-directed the Jagger-starring 1968 gangster Performance during which the singer engaged in an affair with Pallenberg. “Cammell wanted to f—me up,” writes Richards. “Clearly he took a delight in the idea that he was screwing things up between us. Mick and Anita playing a couple… I met Cammell later in LA, and I said, you know, I can’t think of anybody, Donald, that’s ever got any joy out of yourself. There’s nowhere else for you to go, there’s nobody. The best thing you can do is take the gentleman’s way out. And this was at least two or three years before he finally topped himself.”

Jagger and Cammell are not the only folk to provoke the Richardsian rage. When Keith comes to consider the mysterious death-by-drowning of Stones founder Brian Jones, he notes that Jones was so “obnoxious” he wouldn’t be surprised if foul play was involved. But despite all this, Life is really driven by not by Richards’ hates but by his loves. And what an engagingly idiosyncratic, and often unexpected, collection they turn out to be. Yes, Keith has a soft spot for drugs — though he claims that his heroin addict days are long behind him and that he had to give up cocaine following his 2006 brain surgery.  However, he is also fanatically fond of dogs (“I would probably die for one”), books about British naval history (“The Nelson era and World War II  are near the top of my list”) and the traditional British dish of bangers and mash, the guitarist’s recipe for which is included. (The secret, apparently is to start cooking the sausages in a cold pan: “No preheating. Preheating agitates them, that’s why they’re called bangers.”) He also writes with huge passion about music and devotes several pages to his love for open guitar tunings, a subject that he manages to make much more interesting than you might imagine. On a more personal level — although one suspects matters don’t get much personal to Keith than the subject of music — he reflects heartbreakingly on the many treasured people he has lost along the way, from his young son Tara to country-rock legend Gram Parsons.

If the result is short on gossip column-friendly revelations, it is engagingly long on a sense of joie de vivre, a lust for life that must partly derive from the fact that Richards has dodged so many bullets, both metaphorical and, as he recalls in Life, literal.

So much for my opinion. What did you think of Life?

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