Fay Weldon's new book, The Bulgari Connection, is just arriving in stores and, not surprisingly, causing a fair amount of buzz. Not because of the plot twists or her brilliant turns of phrase, but because Ms. Weldon accepted an "undisclosed fee" from Bulgari, an Italian jewelry maker, for mentioning their products. This, then, would seem to be the world's first sponsored or "product placement" novel.
And while you and I — well, I, anyway; "you" I have my doubts about — might be aghast at this development, publishers, as you'd expect, are champing at the bit, selling classics to the highest bidder then "updating" the text for reissue. Already at the printers are such old favorites as Plato's Banana Republic, Charles Dickens' A Chanukah Carol (where, at story's end, Ebenezer Scroogeburg buys Bobaleh Cratchitstein's family a huge and wonderfully lean Hebrew National kosher holiday salami), F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Vittles and J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rice-A-Roni.
More surprising is the roster of contemporary authors who have taken Weldon's lead. Just take a look at the books recently featured in Publishers Weekly under the heading "The Season's Hottest Titles."
Saturday Night Live with Morrie: Readers will be delighted to find out that author Mitch Albom might have only seen his friend Morrie Schwartz on Tuesdays but that he talked to him via phone on an equally consistent basis. In this new release, Albom shares the conversations he had with — and the lessons he learned from — the old man while they were simultaneously tuned into Lorne Michael's long-running late night comedy program.
O Is for O: Popular mystery writer Sue Grafton, for the first time ever, revisits a letter of the alphabet (she previously wrote O Is for Outlaw).
In this edge-of-your-seat page-turner, just after Oprah Winfrey's magazine, O, hits newsstands, one-by-one the celebrities and personalities featured in its pages turn up murdered. It's then that the monthly's namesake and CEO herself calls in the finest female bloodhound around, PI Kinsey Millhone. Together Kinsey and Oprah chase the killer down a trail of intrigue, bloodshed and high-calorie snack foods and desserts.
Lilly's Dominion: Master of Horror Stephen King creates a character of aberrant, sinister, monstrous, hideous, cruel, repulsive and seemingly irredeemable evil. The Chief of Unfriendly Lunatics at the Oak Haven Institute for the Insanely Insane, Dr. Noah Trossity, warns investigators this supreme incubus is positively, completely unstoppable ... unless it's put on a supervised schedule of mood elevators from the pharmacopoeia of drug maker, Eli Lilly & Co.
Harry Potter and the Harry Potter Movie: This latest entry in the series revolves around Harry and his friends using their magical spells to sneak out of Hogwart's and into London to see the hottest film of the holiday season.
The Electric Gatorade Acid Test: If you think Tom Wolfe has just rejiggered his classic non-fiction report on the California scene of the mid-1960s, think again. Wolfe has delivered an all-new novel which, like Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full before it, examines (and skewers) the lives of the rich and fatuous. This time his protagonist is Jordan Michaels, an enormously wealthy and popular retired professional basketball player. Michaels has decided to try a comeback in the sport he loves, but in addition to confronting his diminished prowess on the court he must also confront many other issues in his spinning-out-of-control life. Like: How can he keep his thirst totally quenched while working feverishly to save his rocky marriage? Can he reconnect with his sullen son and still maintain his electrolytes at optimum levels? But Michaels goes through his greatest soul searching when he learns that if it weren't for the $10 million a year he's paid for endorsing a certain sports drink, its maker could afford to make the watery crap taste good.
Count Electrolux: You'll forget Lestat, Louis, Talbot, et al, with this latest from the imagination of the Mistress of the Undead, Anne Rice. Because while Count Electrolux might be a vampire he has such powerful sucking action that he can clean out every last corpuscle from an entire human circulatory system in one-fourth the normal bloodsucking time. Giving him more time to go out and do the more enjoyable things in un-life.
No One Poops: Taro Gomi, the writer/illustrator responsible for the delightful and popular Everyone Poops, now explains to children what happens when mega-doses of Kaopectate are mixed into the diets of all the world's creatures. ©