Along with what seems like 10,000 other titles, my first book, Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions came out last Tuesday. I'm in the new release section with major authors and public figures such as Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, Jeffrey Toobin, John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, David Halberstam, Laura Ingraham, Mother Teresa, and Khaled Hosseini. These people sell books by their name alone (and rightfully so). My dad's not even sure who I am. Tough competition in book land....
In that no one other than my mom's bridge group has ever heard of me, you can imagine that none of the afore mentioned authors is sitting around their publisher's office biting their nails over my lottery memoir. These folks are real machers: novelists, a president, an economist, even a saint. All I ever did was cut deals with lottery winners and live to tell a few funny stories. I wasn't exactly leading the free world or saving babies in Calcutta. Fine.
Still, there's one book selling like hot cakes which just kills me (sorry). OJ Simpson's If I Did It. OJ Simpson's book just passed President Clinton's Giving on the New York Times Bestseller list. That gives me the willies. And, with all the chaos surrounding the book's author, ghost writer, publisher, new publisher, ownership etc., I don't even know if I'm rooting for the book to sell so the Goldman family can get a few bucks or hoping it doesn't sell, so I can keep some modicum of faith in the intellect and taste of the nation which I call home. The entire thing is confusing at best.
I'm a realist about the publishing industry. Publishing is a sales game, nothing else. Publishing is about selling books, not disseminating literary masterpieces to the world. I'm fine with that. Most everything is about selling in one way or another.
I don't blame the publishing world for the success of the OJ book. I blame the tens of thousands of people that saw fit to lay down $24.95 for the chance to know more about a subject we all should have overdosed on a decade ago. Don't you folks have TV's? Isn't Entertainment Tonight on this week?
OJ's book, or the Goldman family's book...whoever's taking credit/blame for it these days, is out selling virtually every other book on the market. What's it say about the state of publishing? It bodes ill. What's it say about us as a culture, our pop-culture, the collective zeitgeist of our population? Bad, bad things. Even if the book is beautifully written (which I simply cannot imagine), who cares? If the book is full of all the blood, guts, and gore that you lunched upon during the Simpson trial...too bad. Wasn't enough enough back then?
I'm all for rubber necking. I get it. There was something interesting about the whole OJ scene. Fine. But, don't we all get our OJ fix from the insane amount of hours that the TV shows still devote to the subject? Now, OJ has actually taken over or literary world too? Can't something be done to stop it? (Perhaps anyone who's bold enough to wait in line at Barnes and Noble with If I Did It in their hands should be either branded or tarred and feathered at the counter? Thoughts? Who's with me?) I'd feel less embarrassed sitting on a plane reading the latest issue of Barely Legal than I would this book. And, come to think of it, if you did buy it, wouldn't you feel inclined to hide it in the same drawer as your porn? It's not exactly what you'd have featured on your coffee table, is it?
I'm no book snob (I haven't the pedigree). I'm not even a TV snob. I love bad pop-culture. I even like bad TV. I just finished religiously watching yet another season of Big Brother on CBS, okay? In other words, I'm no genius. I read a lot, but I've barely gotten through half of the Western canon. (Okay, a quarter of it.) I'm a lot more CBS than PBS. But, even a putz like me has his limits.
Maybe I'm just missing the point on this one. Maybe everyone's buying OJ's book just to stick it to him. (Please feel free to stick it to me in the same way.) Maybe the country is reaching out to the Goldman and Brown families. Perhaps every purchase of If I Did It is the pop-culture equivalent of donating to a good cause. Somehow I doubt it.
If you want to stick it to OJ, try eliminating him from the national dialogue. He's least offensive when there's no one interested. And, if you must read some page turning crap this fall, read my book. I've never harmed a hair on my wife's head. I'm too afraid of my wife to mess with her.
P.T Barnum said, "You'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American People." Somewhere in the dark underbelly of Manhattan's publishing world, there's a very happy man, nodding along in full agreement as he start the presses on If I Did It's second printing.
We are a nation of yo-yo's.