Saturday, October 02, 2010

"The way people speak and write nowadays makes my head hurt." Act 1, Cyrano deBergerac

I have no idea how to get an “official” day declared but I’d like to figure it out and suggest one. It will be called: “In Honor of ‘With’” Day. With? With whom you would rightly ask? In this case, the day will be set aside to thank and celebrate the talents and collaboration of the “With” who sits solidly, quietly and barely noticed beneath the “By” name on book covers these days.

Like most blog posts and columns I write, several stars (AKA stories and headlines) collided and I started to think about the underappreciated, workhorse writers whose words make certain books come to life. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not sure many of these books should ever come in contact with a printing press or see the light of a Kindle, but I don’t make that decision. What’s done is done, and in cases like this, done in large part due to the skilled writers who tell the story of the celebrity “author” on the cover.

First, the good news. According to the New York Post, no publishers appear to be interested in publishing the memoirs of Nadya Suleman, the Octomom. She’s been shopping a book around but so far, no takers. I’m positive that’s not due to a wave of rational thinking crashing onto the shores of Manhattan; more like overexposure for a woman who doesn’t have a story that hasn’t already been told on the pages of People or Us magazines. Nonetheless, I guarantee you Suleman’s book would have carried a “with” credit.

Now the bad news: Nicole Polizzi is publishing her first book. A novel, for God’s sake. From the mind of Snookie. It’s due in January and titled something like “A Shore Thing.” Some kind of ‘falling in love at the shore’ epic, no doubt. The book’s online listing doesn’t list her “With,” and I can certainly understand that. The “With” in this case will probably use a pen name to ensure that he or she will continue to work in the publishing industry. And I don’t blame the writer for one second. Getting paid to write anything these days is something of a miracle. So go with God, “With,” whoever you are.

Although it occurs to me that there could be a reason to buy “A Shore Thing.” You know those books and websites that suggest surprising uses for everyday objects? I could buy this book, cut out the middle of all the pages (leaving the perimeter of each intact) and use it to hide my good jewelry in plain sight. Well, if I owned enough good jewelry to warrant that, I would. Let’s face it: once this book is on a shelf, no one would ever pull off again, right? That thing would sit there for years, untouched, and my jewelry would remain safe.

Snookie’s as yet unnamed collaborator notwithstanding - who may turn out to be quite a story-teller, who knows - the list of “With” ’s is long and distinguished. They’ve assisted all kinds of authors telling all kinds of stories: from Lee Iaccoca to Howard Stern; from Patti LuPone to Laura Bush. They listen. They take notes and tape hours of interviews. The best of them smooth out the details and evoke a “voice” we’ll all recognize on the page, while suppressing their own. They watch “their” book climb the bestseller list, and congratulate the author.

Sure, they’ll cash a check for their work. But I’d like to see them take a bow of their own. So who’s with me? I’m proposing April 1, birth date of Edmond Rostand, the French dramatist who wrote the play, Cyrano de Bergerac. If anyone knows the story of supplying someone else with words and taking no credit, Rostand’s character does.

So there it is: Let’s set aside April 1, as our official “In Honor of ‘With’” Day, celebrated the world over by everyone who loves a good read.

No comments: