The Whitney Houston E-Book Onslaught; Maugham, Your Valentine

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Today in publishing and literature: The hastily written Whitney Houston e-books aren't racing up the Kindle bestseller charts, a former Politico reporter signs a deal to write the year's least subtle roman à clef, and a Valentine's Day reading compromise, courtesy of W. Somerset Maugham. 

It's been three days since the death of Whitney Houston, but already there are 14 new Kindle e-books about the singer available for purchase. The content varies wildly from book to book. There are "unauthorized biographies, hastily stitched together." (One is comprised solely of Wikipedia pages and costs $3.99.) Another is "comprised of fan tributes," while others include "a 10-page handwriting analysis, a German edition of a gossipy book about Houston and ex-husband Bobby Brown, and a book of new poems about her." So far, none of the quickie texts has cracked the Amazon Top 100, though one -- Whitney Houston We Love You Forever -- hit number 16 in the music biographies subcategory yesterday, but has since plummeted to number 42. [Jacket Copy]

Slate staff writer Farhad Manjoo has reached a deal to write a book called Masters of Our Universe, based on "The Great Tech War of 2012," an article he wrote for Fast Company last year. Apparently, Simon & Schuster will pay Manjoo a figure in the "mid-200s" -- that would be hundreds of thousands of dollars --  for the book, which according to Publisher's Lunch is all about Facebook, Apple, Google, and Amazon "battling for dominance of our lives."  At The New York Observer, Foster Kamer points out the irony in Manjoo's soon-to-be imminent book tour since, in December, Manjoo wrote a piece for Slate demolishing the entire concept of a neighborhood bookstore, calling them "the least efficient, least user-friendly, and most mistakenly mythologized local establishments you can find." Hopefully, independent booksellers will forgive him. [The New York Observer]

Recommended Reading

Sales of Bristol Palin's book Not Afraid of Life have been highly, highly modest since it was released last year. Over the weekend, things were dire enough for her to place a Craigslist ad promising a free, autographed copy of the text for the first 100 people who confirmed they'd be attending her book signing at a Books-a-Million in Washington, D.C. last weekend, a stop that neatly coincided with her mom's speech at CPAC.  [The Political Bookworm]

Former Politico reporter Karin Tanabe has signed a deal to write a novel called The Capitolist, "in which a 20-something journalist leaves a cushy NYC magazine job for DC's hottest (and most cut-throat) political rag, where she uncovers a juicy scandal involving a senator that could make or break her career." Sounds exciting! And also thinly-veiled. Tanabe reportedly departed Politico's gossip blog Click last month. At the time, Fishbowl DC said she was "rumored to take a job elsewhere," but it turns out, writing about a heightened version of her old job was much intriguing. [Buzzfeed]

It's Valentine's Day, and there's been no shortage of pieces about the most -- the most! --romantic scenes, couples, and canoodling sessions in literary history. Predictably, there's also an anti-Valentine's Day contingent  dedicated to highlighting the various romances that have failed spectacularly in books and poems over the years. Surely there has to be some middle ground, since smart people can and do disagree on whether Valentine's Day is, in fact, a holiday for suckers. Jessica Crispin -- aka, @thebookslut --  recommends picking up something by W. Somerset Maugham tonight if you're unattached. Maugham, she declares, is "the patron saint of relationship toxicity." There's no better example of this than in The Painted Veil, in which a doctor makes his wife accompany him into the heart of a cholera epidemic in the hopes one of them -- or maybe both --wil die and put an end to their marriage. It's jaundiced, but not hard-hearted, Crispin notes. Rather it shows a kind of love that's brutal and self-flagellating and just plain hard. At the very least, Maugham will "suit your gimlet eye, and keep you company until you’re able to think of love again."  [Barnes & Noble Review]


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