New Spock on the Horizon

STORES are aware a new edition is coming, and I assume that the replacement ordering is slowing up accordingly," says Pocket Books' Carol Fass. The book to which she's referring, however, isn't just any old almanac or tax workbook, but a classic, with 30 million copies in print -- Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock, M.D., the little volume drooled on by generations of tots the world over.

Since it was first published in 1946, Dr. Spock, as it's commonly dubbed, will, with this one, have had four revisions in five editions. But the newest, due to be available nationally by March 1, has something about it that's a great deal different from its predecessors, in addition to the approximately 85 percent of the text that's changed. What's happened to make bookstores hold their reorders back is that, after 40 years of going it alone, Dr. Spock, at 81, has taken a collaborator.

Michael Rothenberg, M.D., like Dr. Spock (who once taught him), is both a pediatrician and a psychiatrist. A Seattle resident, he's a fulltime faculty member of the University of Washington, and he survived an intensive screening process launched by Benjamin Spock to become both a writing partner and designated heir to the Baby Bible throne. "Initially, it was overwhelming," comments the 58-year-old Rothenberg, describing how he felt when he learned of Spock's decision. "I was totally stunned! Ben was my teacher, but our most recent involvement had been due to an interest in the effects of television viewing on children." (Dr. Spock, it seems, had learned of and admired his former pupil's research in this area.)

Naturally, joining forces with a household word will make a difference in his day-to-day life, and Rothenberg agrees that when he said yes, he knew he was making an "enormous commitment." The new edition took a year-and-a-half to write ("all my weekends and all my evenings"), and, even now, in mid-January, the two men are still finishing up work on the book's index. But what about becoming such a public person? What about the guru-dom that will be thrust upon Rothenberg as soon as the book's cover is on display? "A lot depends on how many people will want to go directly to the font. Ben gets a mailbag a day, and I could come in for some of that. So I have a few contingency plans." Such as hiring additional staff, to keep his secretary from drowning in anxious parents' queries.

Dr. Spock had two titles before it was known as Baby and Child Care. One was The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, the other The Pocket Book of Baby and Child Care. And it has had several publishers: Duell, Sloan and Pierce, Hawthorne Books, and Dutton, in succession, have brought it out in hardcover. Its quite respectable total sales in that format, however, lag far, far behind those of its colossally popular paperback version, which Pocket Books has always done. (Intended as a paperback from the very start, the book's hardcover rights were sold by Pocket Books to Duell in order to gain better review attention.) There are also translations into 38 languages, including Slovenian and Urdu.

With the current Spock and Rothenberg edition, the name changes again. From now on, Dr. Spock won't just be the book's affectionate nickname but its title in actual fact. Or, rather, the official full title will be Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care. This is because Michael Rothenberg has a contract with his collaborator to do more editions ("at six to eight, instead of 10-year intervals, since the pediatric knowledge explosion is simply too great") and will, at some point, be proceeding by himself. Yet, with the new title, notes Rothenberg, even when he's the sole author, he won't really be substituting his three syllables for that famous one. McCullough and McWilliams

COLLEEN McCULLOUGH, best known for The

Thorn Birds, which, both on page and screen, gave Australia a sexier image than it had previously had, now has a fourth novel due out. Called A Creed for the Third Millennium, Harper & Row is publishing it in the late spring and plans for it the largest first printing that house has ever done -- 250,000 copies. The book is also a first for McCullough, being set in America (the others all had settings Down Under or in the South Pacific). Although Creed takes place in the year 2032, Harper publicity director Dan Harvey is quick to point out that "it's not science fiction, there're no gadgets or futuristic devices." Instead, it focuses on the bleak plight of a world of greatly diminished resources, where the writing of oneman serves as an inspiration to a demoralized populace. . . .

Before he became known as one of the premier entrepreneurs of the personal computer publishing business, Peter McWilliams (Questions and Answers on Word Processing, Personal Computers and the Disabled etc.) was a poet. A self-published poet, in fact, and successful enough -- 3 million books sold, he says, with nine out of 14 still in print -- to keep advertising them every year in time for Valentine's Day. Bearing titles like I Love Therefore I Am and Come Love With Me and Be My Life, the McWilliams poetry books come out under his own Leo Press imprint (Prelude Press is the name of the company which issues his technical tomes). An official bio even states that McWilliams dropped out of college to follow in the footsteps of Rod McKuen, but he described his muse to "Book Report" in this way, "Every time I'm in a personal relationship, I write poetry. But I haven't been in one in a long while." And he probably keeps dropping one computer for another, too! Side Bets

ONE year before Dr. Spock brought out his original Baby and Child Care, a minor comic classic of the American immigrant experience was published. Anything Can Happen was its name, and it's endured to turn up this month in a 40th anniversary edition from St. Martin's Press. One of the book's co-authors, George Papashvily, died seven years ago; his wife and collaborator, Helen Waite Papashvily, survives him. After Harper & Row first issued the book in 1945, it went through an impressive number of different reprints (including translations into George Papashvily's native Georgian, Thai, Portuguese and Telugu), last being available in the late '60s in large-type and paperback formats . . . .

A little-known Connecticut publisher, Lime Rock Press (Box 363, Salisbury, Conn. 06068), has decided, in its own small way, to take on Trivial Pursuit. What they hope to do is offer "geniuses" a word game that wouldn't have them curling their lips at the questions. Compiled by Elizabeth Seymour, a North Carolina writer, Hobble-de-hoy! is a book and a game at the same time, and, actually, it was in the works for three years, long before Trivial Pursuit took over the nation's evenings. Recalls Seymour, the idea to do it came one Christmas when her family was too weary to play charades and decided to try the old favorite, "Dictionary," instead. Present on that occasion was her uncle, Whitney North Seymour Jr., who divides his time between being a Manhattan lawyer and a Connecticut publisher (as well as a sometime author, himself). It was he who was determined that Lime Rock turn the definition-composing game into a book, even though his niece thought, she says, "A parlor game for adults sounded like a non-starter." With a second printing now on the way, thanks mainly to a segment of NPR's All Things Considered which featured Hobble-de-hoy! Liz Seymour is still a bit bemused that she's found so many others intrigued by such words as temulentious, sororiation, gloze and chroolepoid.