Dorothy Parker’s reasons to live

The 13th of the month is as good a day as any for an affirmation of life. Grin and bear it.

Dorothy Parker

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Now read her New York Times obituary published in June 1967: Dorothy Parker, 73, Literary Wit, Dies. (She had a heart attack.) The obit’s full of lovely gems such as this brilliant quote from her:

Wit has truth in it. Wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.

It also quotes this brilliant putdown:

“Are you Dorothy Parker?” a woman at one party inquired. “Yes, do you mind?” the humorist retorted.

Bookmark the obit if you like — and see what happens if you try to copy and paste.

Continue reading “Dorothy Parker’s reasons to live”

The amazing teen fiction factory

Writing fiction may no longer be a solitary exercise: other people may be involved too besides the person named as the author on the book cover. The New York Times spills the beans on how some teen fiction gets written.

Kaavya Viswanthan is named as the author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.

“But on the copyright page — and the contracts — there’s an additional name: Alloy Entertainment,” says the Times.  “Neither (the publisher) Little, Brown nor Alloy would comment on how much of the advance or the royalties — standard contracts give 15 percent of the cover price to the author — Ms. Viswanathan is to collect,” it adds.

And, best of all, Viswanathan and Megan McCafferty — whose books she plagiarised — both worked with the same editor. Both the writers thanked her in their acknowledgements, says the Times. It has other interesting details in the article, First, Plot and Character. Then, Find an Author.

“In many cases, editors at Alloy — known as a ‘book packager’ — craft proposals for publishers and create plotlines and characters before handing them over to a writer (or a string of writers),” says the Times. And the company boasts several bestsellers.

How to write a bestseller — like an ad

Only the author’s name may appear on the book cover. But the book itself may be the product of team work much like a commercial advertisement. Writing a novel need not longer be a solitary exercise of a writer pegging away alone, putting down thoughts on paper.

Indian-born Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan apparently received expert assistance in writing her bestseller, Opal Mehta Gets Kissed, Gets Wild and Gets A Life from 17th Street Productions, a “book packaging firm”. It’s part of Alloy Entertainment, which claims to be developing several film projects and TV pilots, whose president Leslie Morgenstein, told the Harvard Crimson newspaper: “We helped Kaavya conceptualise and plot the book.”

The Harvard Independent Online quotes a former editor at a 17th Street unit who says: “A packager basically serves as both the writer and editor of a book.”

Wow, and I thought a writer worked alone!

No doubt Viswanathan is extremely bright or she wouldn’t have got into Harvard. But money does make a difference. Her parents hired Katherine Cohen, founder of IvyWise, a private counselling service, which charged $10,000 to $20,000 for two years of college preparation services, reported the New York Times. After reading her writing, Cohen put her in touch with the famous William Morris talent agency. Somewhere along the way she got help from a “book packaging firm”. 

It makes you wonder how much talent you need and how much money and “connections” to succeed in the world today. The preparation Viswanathan needed to get into Harvard may not be all that unusual. Plenty of students pay just as much to get into that charmed circle which can make all the difference in later life.