Thursday, January 24, 2008

Undue Non-Diligence 2

Along with the Ishmael Beah story on Tuesday, under the headline "More Breaking News," Publishers Lunch noted articles in the New York Times and San Francisco's BeyondChron about books with identical titles.

The NYT piece, Can’t Tell a Book by Its Cover, or Even Its Title, It Turns Out, focuses on a new book with an old name: THE SAUCIER'S APPRENTICE. Written by Bob Spitz and being published in May by W.W. Norton, its subtitle is "One Long Strange Trip Through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe.”

Problem is, there's another SAUCIER'S APPRENTICE--by Raymond Sokolov, restaurant columnist for The Wall St. Journal and food & wine columnist for Smart Money. First published in 1976 (!) by Knopf and now in its 16th (!) printing, its subtitle is "A Modern Guide to Classic French Sauces for the Home."
[Said Sokolov] “I looked into it, and I’m certain that this was not a blunder, that Norton knew about the existence of my book.”

Mr. Spitz said that he came up with the title when he was working on the proposal for his “Saucier’s Apprentice.” He added that until recently, he had no knowledge of Mr. Sokolov’s title, which is listed on “I interviewed a lot of people in the food industry for my book,” Mr. Spitz said, “and not one of them mentioned there was already something else with that title. I thought it was a stroke of genius, but as it turns out it was Ray Sokolov’s stroke of genius.”
Or humorist S.J. Perelman's. The NYT notes that his essay, “The Saucier’s Apprentice,” ran in The New Yorker “about two decades before Mr. Sokolov’s book.”

And then we have Paul Krugman Ripped Off Wellstone’s Book Title in BeyondChron, which begins:
Yesterday’s New York Times had a piece about authors ripping off book titles from other authors. Although it’s technically not illegal, reported the Times, the practice is certainly unethical. What they didn’t mention is that one of their own columnists, Paul Krugman, just did it himself. Krugman’s new book, “Conscience of a Liberal,” has the same title as a book that the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone wrote in 2001 – which is still in print. Now Krugman claims that he didn’t even know about the book title, a mistake that was at best careless.
So we're supposed to believe that a bestselling author (Spitz wrote THE BEATLES: A Biography) and a renowned NYT columnist/author/economist/Princeton professor, their agents, editors and publishers never even thought to go online to see if their titles were original?

As they say in New York: Yeah right.

And in London: Pull the other leg; it's got bells on it.

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