In this month's issue of Duke University's alumni magazine, much-ballyhooed debut novelist Dana Vachon mulls the disjunction between the book he thought he'd written and the book that most everyone else (except one of us!) thought he wrote: "As much as I was tempted to write 5,000-word riffs on greed, it does me no use if you close the book, right? I know I've said it before, but I honestly believe it: Vox populi, vox dei." One wonders, though, exactly what "populi" Dana's referring to here. The 8,405 people who, according to Bookscan (which only tracks about 70% of retail outlets), have bought the book in the five months since its publication? Well, maybe they are the voice of God. Anyway, the article also contains a shocking revelation. You know that Times Night Out With Dana? Turns out, he was faking being a douchebag at his publisher Riverhead's behest!
Like for his "Night Out" profile in the Times, his publisher asked him to ham it up, to act as if he were a character in his book, because the more people who read and developed an opinion about him (good or bad), the more copies of M&A he'd sell. A piece about a typical night out for him—which he claims, somewhat disingenuously, involves little more than "eating Skittles and watching YouTubes"—won't get people talking; it won't draw eyes. So he stuffed a pocket square into his blazer and made a reservation at Le Bilboquet, one of the Upper East Side's swankier restaurants, a place he goes to "maybe twice a year." And guess what? The story was one of the Times' most e-mailed that day. It was no big deal, this playing dress up, just another step moving M&A toward a second or third printing.
I know I've said it before, but I honestly believe it: there is nobody dumber than publishing house publicists. They're the publicists who couldn't get jobs working as restaurant publicists.