Losing a Beloved Writer

Though a somewhat stylistic departure from the essays that brought him to prominence, David Rakoff’s novel-in-verse, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish (#18 on our Hardcover Fiction list), is being met with as much acclaim as his earlier works. PW called the new book’s effect “mesmerizing” and “astounding.”

An outpouring of tributes appeared when Rakoff died of cancer in August 2012 at age 47. At the time, Bill Thomas, Rakoff’s editor at Doubleday, said: “The world is a little less kind and a little less beautiful today. There were hundreds of reasons to love David. He was of course incredibly charming, witty, and learned, a brilliant raconteur with the quickest mind imaginable, but most of all he was a generous soul. Though his life was cut infuriatingly short, it was rich beyond measure.” Just 10 months earlier, in October 2011, Rakoff’s 2010 essay collection on pessimism, Half Empty, won him the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

A writer-at-large for GQ and a regular contributor to This American Life, Rakoff also published two other humorous essay collections. On his 2001 debut, Fraud, PW declared, “A talented new humorist [has sprung] onto the scene”; he followed up in 2005 with Don’t Get Too Comfortable. In addition to his cutting wit, Rakoff was also known for the warmth and pathos of his writing, both of which remain consistent in Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish. In reviewing the book for the New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote: “Mr. Rakoff was far too young to have left behind this grace note or any other. But future readers can turn to this book to remember why he was so widely appreciated and is sorely missed.”—Gabe Habash

Music Man–cum–Author

Don’t know Corey Taylor? Clearly you’re not a heavy metal fan. If you were, you’d know that he’s the frontman of not one but two popular bands, Slipknot and Stone Sour, and that he’s known for performing in a really scary face mask (think Hannibal Lecter). At the Revolver Golden Gods Awards show in May (like the Oscars, but with tats and piercings), Slipknot won Best Live Band and Corey was awarded the Best Vocalist trophy. But Taylor’s more than just a music man: as an author, he’s equally proud of the accolades received by his two books. The first, Seven Deadly Sins (Da Capo, 2011), spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, while his latest, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven, lands at #20 on this week’s Hardcover Nonfiction list. According to Da Capo publicity v-p Lissa Warren, Taylor spoke at the most recent Perseus Books Group sales conference; she reports he was “gracious, cerebral, funny, and self-deprecating—our reps loved him.” Thankfully, he left the face mask at home.—Dick Donahue

Steel at ‘First Sight’

With how rapidly the world is changing, to say nothing of the publishing industry, it’s heartening to see there are still authors we can depend on. In a time when even the existence of romance is threatened, we don’t have to fear for the fate of romantic fiction when Danielle Steel is delivering. This week, the newest entry from the bestselling author, First Sight (Steel’s 129th book), appears on our Hardcover Fiction list at #2, sandwiched by spies and mystery, with 37,523 copies sold, and breathing hard on first place. Impressive for a writer who’s been publishing since 1972. First Sight follows Steel’s glamorous people and places theme, with the protagonist a successful fashion designer who flits from New York to London, Paris to Milan, while harboring a painful and tragic past and never “risking her heart.” Steel’s personal life is reflected in her writing: she was raised among the wealthy, her parents were European, and she spent her childhood mainly in France. Married five times, she’s had a tumultuous personal life that’s informed her writing. She consistently produces several books a year, has written nonfiction, poetry, and children’s books, with her novels perennial bestsellers. Steel has sold close to a billion copies of her books worldwide, and according to Random House’s publicity manager, Kate Childs, she has more than 600 million copiesss in print. Steel stays in touch with her huge fan base through her blog, consistently presenting an aura of elegance while maintaining accessibility. And while she delivers tried-and-true stories of love lost and found and adversity overcome, there’s nothing old-fashioned about our doyenne; she’s just hit one million Facebook followers. Catch up with her on The View on August 1. —Louisa Ermelino

No Draft Dodger Here

If anyone out there is in a Nielsen BookScan bestsellers fantasy league* I hope you drafted Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Life into your lineup this week. The ESPN fantasy sports analyst’s memoir stormed up the leaderboard to hit #4 on the Hardcover Nonfiction list, having broken the 8,000-unit mark. In a recent PW online q&a, Berry talked about the intense camaraderie and social bonding that participation in fantasy sports leagues engenders, the realities of fantasy life versus misconceptions of fantasy players, and also the contrasts between writing this book and his early gigs as a sitcom screenwriter. The book dives deeper into these themes, cognizant of just how popular this pastime has become, particularly among those who wouldn’t consider themselves sports fanatics or statistics geeks. Last week, having teamed up with Dave & Buster’s restaurants, Berry embarked on a six-stop book tour with events in L.A., Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, and Cincinnati, Ohio. His publicist at Riverhead, Liz Hohenadel, said that at his L.A. event, 200-plus fans turned out to meet Berry. Later in the week, the author filed his own report from the road: “It’s been a great tour so far. People have had me sign their trophies, pick their draft order, and record trash talk video to fellow league mates that aren’t there. I’ve been challenged to skee-ball, Pop-A-Shot, and Whac-A-Mole at every Dave & Buster’s.... Still undefeated, dammit. Of course, lots of questions and answers about the upcoming fantasy season. Between the q&a, the signings, and taking pictures, the events have gone on for about four hours and everyone’s leaving happy. Except the guys I beat in Pop-A-Shot.” —Alex Crowley

*If anything like this actually exists, please let PW know!

Jesus: Rising in Bestseller Ranks

While the Bible reigns as the bestselling take—four of them, actually—on the life of Jesus, the newest interpretation of his influential life and chaotic times enters this week’s Hardcover Nonfiction list at #7 with Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Author Reza Aslan, who was born and raised in Iran until his family left after the 1979 revolution, has three degrees in religion as well as an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. His first book, No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (2005), has been translated into 13 languages, and Aslan is frequently quoted in the media. His reputation has readily translated into media appearances for Zealot ranging from NPR’s Weekend Edition to The Daily Show, the latter not for the first time. He was also the subject of an unfavorable Fox News commentary, which has triggered a social media kerfuffle and a pile-on of one-star reviews at Amazon from readers whose principal objection was to the author’s religion (he is a Muslim) rather than his thesis. Aslan will tour both coasts in support of the book, which PW called “compulsively readable” in a starred review. —Marcia Z. Nelson