A Happy 60th
THE BOOK-of-the-Month Club recently celebrated its 60th birthday with a gala black-tie affair in the precincts of the New York Public Library. Le tout publishing was there, gowned and tuxedoed to the teeth. There were cocktails before dinner and coffee and brandy afterwards in the marbled entrance hall of the library. The dinner itself, with quail and wild rice as the main course, was served upstairs in the Main Reading Room. It was marvelous to be wined and dined on those same sturdy tables where one had so often labored on term papers lo! those many years ago.
The evening also provided an opportunity to catch up on gossip. David McCullough, who was the master of ceremonies for the dinner, is working on a biography of Harry S Truman. Would he be able to hold it to a single volume? "I have a good incentive," McCullough said. "I'm told that I will be decapitated if I don't." Craig Claiborne is working on a southern cookbook and Raymond Sokolov, another fin bec, is coming out with How to Cook: An Easy and Imaginative Guide for the Beginner in July from Morrow.
Robert Daley is working on a novel about an assistant police commissioner in New York City who kills someone with his revolver. Daley was himself an assistant police commissioner (for press relations) in New York City and carried a gun. Barbara Tuchman, a lifelong resident of New York City, has moved permanently to what was her summer home in Cos Cob, Connecticut. "I can now actually drive to my dentist and park in front of his office," she said. "What a pleasure." She also said that she was working away on a new book, "but I am so far from finishing it that I don't even want to talk about it."
And then there was Mordecai Richler, the witty novelist who commutes from Montreal to fulfill his duties as a Book-of-the-Month Club judge. He is working on a new novel. What will it be like? "Filthy," he promised. Momisms
MICHELE SLUNG, who as punishment for her sins wrote the Book Report column for several years, is making a bit of a stir in the publishing world with anthologies of the things mothers say. Her first book, Momilies, appeared last year in a Ballantine paperback and had a lively sale. Slung is back this year with a sequel, More Momilies. At the same time a French version of her first book has just appeared, and contracts have been signed for publication in Britain and Germany.
Interspersed with pictures of famous moms, such as Kafka's mother and Martina Navratilova's, More Momilies contains some vintage examples of the momily genre -- such as "You'll get over it before you're married" and "If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don't come running to me." The French version of the first book is called Mamandises, a pun on the word gourmandise that also includes the idea of mom's sayings. It is published by Editions Albin Michel.
Explaining how Mamandises came about, Slung said, "I go to a village in Provence during the summer and I have a friend there who teaches English. She asked me to come to talk to a class of young teen-agers and to use Momilies as a text because it is in simple but colloquial English. At the end of the class, we asked the students for French equivalents and they came up with at least 10 good ones, so I knew a French edition of the book was feasible.
"Then in January, I got a call from Nina Sutton, a French journalist who used to work in Washington. She was on a lecture tour for the French government. As soon as I heard her voice, I realized she would be the perfect person to do the book. She loved the idea, and had a contract within four days of going back to Paris. Editions Albin Michel got the book out between then and now. It was really a crash job. The cover says 'by Nina Sutton, based on an idea by Michele Slung,' and there are pictures of the mothers of De Gaulle, Francois Mitterrand, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jacques Brel and others."
Can Encore de Mamandises be far behind? The British edition, to be published by the big paperback house Arrow, is being called Mother Knows Best and will be out for Christmas. The German edition is being done by Rowohlt Verlag, but no title has been chosen yet. Pal of Pocahontas
EVERYBODY HAS heard of the Virginia colonist Captain John Smith and how Pocahontas saved him from execution by her father, the Indian chief Powhatan. But few people know much more about Captain Smith. He was, in fact, an adventurer who before arriving on these shores had fought the Turks in Transylvania and Hungary and who had survived a period of slavery in Turkey.
It is also little known that Captain Smith was a considerable writer. And it has been a long time since there has been an edition of his works -- 102 years to be exact.That's why the new three-volume The Complete Works of Captain John Smith (1580-1631) has aroused a good deal of excitement.
The new volumes, completed with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, were edited by Philip L. Barbour, author of The Three Worlds of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas and Her World, who died in December 1980 after completing the project. Volume I of the new edition is devoted to Smith's writings before 1624, including very early accounts of the colonies of Virginia and New England. All of Volume II is given to Smith's greatest work, Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, published in London in 1624. Volume III contains his writings from 1624 until his death in 1631, including the first printed dictionary of English nautical terms.
Captain Smith's 1953 biographer, Bradford Smith, mincing no words, called the old sea dog "our Odysseus, our Siegfried, our Aeneas," and added he outdid Odysseus "by being his own Homer . . . a feat none of the ancient heroes can match." Bradford Smith certainly knew how to give a compliment. Publisher of the new edition is the University of North Carolina Press. The set costs $150. Hail to the Chiefs of Staff
IN JANUARY, 1985 there was a symposium at the University of California-San Diego that gathered together eight former White House chiefs of staff from six different administrations covering 25 years. The participants included General Andrew Goodpaster (Eisenhower administration), Theodore Sorensen (Kennedy), Harry McPherson (Johnson), H.R. Haldeman and General Alexander Haig (Nixon), Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney (Ford) and Jack Watson (Carter). John Chancellor acted as moderator. The participants discussed the role of the chief of staff, how to deal with presidents, managing crises and the role of the media, among other topics.
Now the University of California Press has announced that it will be publishing a book based on the symposium. Titled Chiefs of Staff: Twenty-Five Years of the American Presidency and edited by political scientists Samuel Kernell and Samuel Popkin, it will appear in November. In the Margin
LITTLE, Brown has moved up publication of Ford: The Men and the Machine by Robert Lacey to June 20 and the book will be a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. The book begins with the birth of Henry Ford in 1863 and continues to the present day. Lacey's last book, published in October by Little, Brown was Aristocrats, a study of six European aristocratic families. Summit, a division of Simon & Schuster also has a book on the Ford family under contract. The authors are Peter Collier and David Horowitz, author of previous books on the Kennedys and the Rockefellers . . . Writer's Digest books of Cincinnati is allied to Writer's Digest magazine and publishes volumes for working and would-be writers. A particularly helpful one is 1986 Fiction Writer's Market, which contains several essays on writing fiction, but perhaps more important, thorough lists of agents, literary and commercial magazines that buy fiction, and publishing firms that do fiction . . . May 6 is Viking's publication date for a revised and expanded version of Information U.S.A. by Matthew Lesko, who lives in Potomac, Maryland. The book is a guide to information available from the federal government. First published in 1983, Information U.S.A. was picked as the outstanding reference book of the year by the American Library Association.