"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 24 June 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

The Bull Jar


[This is one of those guys that just is plain old goofy.  No getting around it.]

While postmodernists have debated

the fate of the Author, actual

authors have pretty much just

gone on authoring. Now, however,

arrives the post-postmodern era:

In 1997, the scatoma that was

the Author is likely no longer

even a typist. We're prepared to

consider ourselves lucky if a

"writer" has actually read his

or her own book before heading

out on the promotional tour.


[You  know, I just don't get this Rodman guy.  I really don't.]

For one example, Dennis Rodman

turns out to have married (and

divorced) an unusually

disciplined literary talent. A 1

February story in the Chicago

Tribune revealed to the world that

Anicka Rodman, not previously

known as a memoirist, would be

crafting a "tell-all book about

her life with the bad boy of

basketball," this in exchange

for a "six-figure" paycheck. The

tome hit bookstores ... on 1

May, two months after the


(bad-boy-ex-girl?) began

preparations to write it. A

co-author was credited with

participating in the

lightning-fast parturition of

the text, but was regrettably

not asked to join in the

back-cover cheesecake shot,

which demonstrates conclusively

that the authoress has both

killer abs and tats with 'tude.

Wow, you find yourself thinking,

Annie Dillard was never stacked

like this! (Dorothy Allison

never rocked the fucking house!)


Of course, Dennis Rodman's

purported punching bag isn't the

only writer manquée in

recent history handed a portion

of book-jacket legitimacy.

Writers-who-aren't range from

Hillary It Takes a Village

Clinton to the four young

authors of the Hollywood

tell-all - yes, another

tell-all - You'll Never Make

Love in This Town Again, who

wrote about their

pre-intellectual intercourse

with very nearly every human in

Los Angeles possessed of both a

penis and a credit above the

title. Moments after Tiger Woods

became famous, his father was a

writer, too, authoring Training

a Tiger: A Father's Account of

How to Raise a Winner in Both

Golf and Life, with the

collaborative assistance of a

fellow prose-poet.


[This is a book called Highway. I am grumpy today, I don't feel like writing alt tags.]

These new writers don't represent

new kinds of books, of course;

sex scandals and subpolitical

blather from famous

Washingtonians have been around

as long as we've had sex and a

government, and it's hardly

surprising that they continue

after the two have merged. Ditto

celebrity pieces cream-puffed

out to book length. But note

that it's no longer enough for

the books to be about Hillary

and Tiffany; both now are

authors because they own the

identity that is used in the

title and advertisements.


Jack Hitt, a putting-

words-on-paper writer

from the quaint old days,

detailed the new state of

authorship in the 25 May edition

of The New York Times Magazine.

(The story was titled "The

Writer Is Dead," making you

wonder which novelist got the

most phone calls from panicked

relatives. Ethan Canin, call

your mother.) Hitt told about

being hired, on an extremely

hush-hush basis, to rewrite a

"multimillion-dollar nonfiction

book by a famous person." The

incomprehensible manuscript he

was hired to rewrite turned out

to have been written by another

ghostwriter, who had himself

written up a set of ideas

generated by another ghost. The

celebrity "author" was many

steps removed from the book with

his name on it - but that

certainly wouldn't make the

credited author any less the

author to anyone but a few

old-guard natterers who just

don't understand today's book



[This is a graphic that has the word 'book' written on it.]

The critical importance of

authorial personality has even

drifted into the paths of

writers who still write, Hitt

adds: "All writers must now find

a way to step back from

themselves in order to shape

their personas into a kind of

celebrity that will interest the

industry pushing books and the

public buying them," he writes.

And we thought David Foster

Wallace was just hiding a bald



Finally, Hitt attributes to an

unnamed literary agent the

suggestion that as many as 80

percent of new books on the

shelves at Barnes & Noble

aren't written by the person

listed as the writer.


All of which has precisely no

effect at all on the book-buying

public, who are busy ignoring

the newspaper and deleting

unwanted email, and don't have

time to worry about what a book

means down inside the pages. Our

ideas have all become about an

inch deep, and consumption of a

book cover - and the identity

used to market it - is right at

our level: a yes vote for the

high-concept one-liner that

marks the personality on the

book jacket. William Bennett?

Uh, he's for values. When we

actually read the things,

there's probably some sex

involved; and, really, who cares

if Rodman's ex really wrote the

damn book? Sweet pictures of the

beating injuries, huh?


[This book has a big pair of red lips on it.]

Books have become the cultural

wallpaper, pasted up to state

our identities or adorned with

diverting pictures. People who

aren't readers needn't worry

much about people who aren't

writers - and they don't need to

worry at all about people who

are. Leave it to the astute

consumers at Amazon.com to tell

us where we stand; offering

personal reviews of You'll Never

Make Love, the Hollywood

tell-all, few found reasons to

be unhappy.


"Like People magazine," one

offered, "you just can't put it



Why you'd pick it up, on the

other hand, is up to you.

courtesy of Ambrose Beers

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