Trillin’s Willin’

In his latest bestseller, Dogfight, the ever-humorous humorist has concocted a rip-roaring, ready-made political target: (subtitle) The 2012 Presidential Campaign in Verse. Published in November, this narrative poem is interrupted occasionally by what the author calls a pause for prose (“Callista Gingrich, Aware That Her Husband Has Cheated On and Then Left Two Wives Who Had Serious Illnesses, Tries Desperately to Make Light of a Bad Cough”). The author’s 2011 book, Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff, was published in paperback Dec. 11. Dogfight is Trillin’s fourth book of political poetry (Obliviously On He Sails; A Heckuva Job; Deciding the Next Decider). America’s deadline poet turned in the final poem on Nov. 8 (two days after the election and a day earlier than expected) and Random House had finished books in hand on Nov. 13. Books went on sale one week later, Nov. 20, and Dogfight launched with a typically hilarious Daily Show Nov. 29. (Stewart ended the show by saying, “I promote this book and I urge people to purchase it. It’s a great stocking stuffer because it doesn’t take up the entire stocking.… It’s hilarious.”) Dogfight debuts on PW’s Hardcover Nonfiction list this week, with sales of 14,427, as reported by Nielsen BookScan. (The publisher reports 60,000 copies in print.) Trillin finished up a nine-city tour Dec. 14 in L.A. with a sold-out event at Writer’s Bloc. More than 300 of Trillin’s pieces have appeared in the New Yorker, where he’s been a regular contributor since 1963. His columns have been collected in five bestselling books: Uncivil Liberties (1982); With All Disrespect (1985); If You Can’t Say Something Nice (1987); Enough’s Enough (and Other Rules of Life) (1990); and Too Soon to Tell (1995). —Dick Donahue

Calvin Trillin, Poet: A Sample

If Rubio, Jindal, or Haley or Rice
Got put on the ticket by Romney as vice,
Republicans possibly then could entice
Some voters who like to eat food that has spice
And not stick with voters who think that a slice
Of white bread’s the food that will always suffice

Fact #1: Facts Cannot Be Trusted

Fact-checking a review of a book can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, and even when you’ve made sure everything’s kosher, you still aren’t necessarily out of the woods. Last week during an “Ethics in Biography” panel at the Leon Levy Center for Biography, John Matteson told of getting a call from an irritated ornithologist who informed the author that the cardinals he included in his description of Concord, Mass. (and which Matteson had personally observed flitting about the town) in his Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Louisa May Alcott, Eden’s Outcasts, weren’t introduced to the area until after Alcott’s death. Facts, in a word, are fickle, which is why we do not envy those poor souls whose job it is to fact-check The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2013. The book costs $12.99, but we’ll give you this fact for free: it debuts at #8 on our Trade Paperback list.

Upon cracking the cover, the first fact readers will encounter is that there is a version of the book for kids—that one features Justin Bieber and a cute frog on the cover. The adult version shows actress Anne Hathaway and a wounded Syrian rebel (in separate frames). The last fact in The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2013 is that information regarding zodiac signs can be found on page 377, and “For complete index, see pages 979–1007.” In between, readers will learn that the world’s highest dam, which is in Tajikistan, is 1,099 feet tall; Obama was re-elected; and Miley Cyrus came of legal drinking age in 2012. There’s a lot more, but we didn’t have time to check it all.—Samuel R. Slaton

Intel from Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector, written with Mark Greaney, debuts at #1 on the Hardcover Fiction list. In this timely techno thriller, as Chinese naval vessels make aggressive moves in the South China Sea and threaten Taiwan, Chinese cyberwarfare and cyberespionage experts launch an attack on American infrastructure. An all-star cast of familiar Clancy characters—including U.S. president Jack Ryan (newly returned to the Oval Office), son Jack Jr., and ex–Navy Seal John Clark—strive to avoid what could turn into an all-out war between China and the United States.

Since his first novel, The Hunt for Red October (1984), about a Russian submarine crew’s attempt to escape to the West, Clancy has displayed a knack for combining descriptions of state-of-the-art weaponry with politics and military action. His second novel, Red Storm Rising (1986), chronicled a conventional Soviet attack on NATO; Patriot Games (1987) dealt with terrorism; Debt of Honor (1994) foretold how passenger planes could be used as weapons and ended with a suicide attack against the U.S. Capitol Building. Even more prophetically, Dead or Alive (2010), written with Grant Blackwood, centered on the efforts to take out an Osama bin Laden–like character, who’s discovered hiding in plain sight in an upscale house in a major city. One can only hope that Threat Vector will prove more a warning than
a prediction.—Peter Cannon

The Importance of Wedding Ernest

In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart (as Rick) famously said, “We’ll always have Paris”; Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, the story of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, has established a pretty impressive run itself. Following the novel’s Feb. 22, 2011, publication, Random House reports combined hardcover and e-book sales of 820,000 copies. In PW’s Dec. 17 issue McLain’s novel marks its second week on our trade paper bestseller list, with year-to-date sales of 24,917 as reported by Nielsen BookScan. RH assistant publicity director Lisa Barnes notes that Wife, with 260,000 copies in print, has been widely distributed in airports across the country and is a featured book at Target, Kroger, Wegmans, and in the Costco Connection, where it’s Pennie’s Pick for December. (Said Costco’s book maven, Pennie Clark Ianniciello: “It’s no secret that their relationship didn’t last, but I kept hoping for the best.”). McLain has written a number of original pieces for the book’s paperback launch, including a guest blog on Hemingway’s Paris for Fodor’s. The paperback tour kicks off after the holidays, with stops including Miami’s Brickell Avenue Literary Society, the Savannah Book Festival, the Tucson Festival of Books, the Nick Linn Lecture Series in Naples, Fla., and more.—Dick Donahue

Sophomore Streak

Wm. Paul Young’s Cross Roads (FaithWords) is settling comfortably into bestseller berthdom, at #13 in its fourth week on our Hardcover Fiction list. Young’s debut novel, The Shack (2008) was a sleeper megahit, selling more than 18 million copies. The new novel features a protagonist who gets to review his life and the choices he made while his body lies in a coma. The unorthodox Christian theology underlying his stories has hit a sweet spot. FaithWords came out with a first printing of one million and estimates total sales of 170,000 thus far (Nielsen outlets, which are light on Christian bookstores, report 62,392 to date). Young just finished a 25-city book signing tour that garnered lots of local media; national appearances included the Today Show and NPR’s All Things Considered.–Marcia Z. Nelson