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You know how those people are

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August 16, 2002

Head for the hills, or maybe not Richard Cohen’s Washington Post evisceration of dancing bear Ann Coulter makes for cheerful reading, and is full of good lines:
If, as Coulter says, liberals control the media and much of the animal and plant kingdoms, then how is it that the president du jour and others of recent times—Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush the Elder—happen to be conservatives? I must be missing something here. […]

For some reason, Coulter has a need to question the manliness of liberals; against all evidence, she even refers to Bill Clinton as “IMPOTUS.”

It’s too bad Cohen starts his column with the hair-raising assertion that Coulter’s Slander “is now the No. 1 bestseller in the nation.” Alarming, attention-getting, and dead wrong. Yes, Electrolite readers, we’ve been here before. All together now: The weekly New York Times bestseller list, used by booksellers as the gold standard, in fact comprises seven lists: hardcover fiction, hardcover nonfiction, hardcover advice, children’s books, paperback fiction, paperback nonfiction, and paperback advice. Coulter’s confection is currently on top of one of the seven: hardcover nonfiction. To get some perspective, take a look at USA Today’s weekly bestseller list, which surveys more stores and combines all books, all genres, and all bindings into a single list of 150 books. On this week’s list, our Ann is #24, behind (among others) a Tom Clancy novel, a Harry Potter book, Webster’s New World Dictionary, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, a Star Wars novel, Tolkien’s The Two Towers, another Harry Potter book, and Richard Russo’s Pulitzer-winning novel Empire Falls. Still probably too high up, but not quite the moral and cultural crisis you might think from taking Cohen literally.

As I’ve remarked before, this isn’t hidden information. But it’s probably too much to expect a little paper like the Washington Post to actually have, you know, editors who know about this sophisticated big-city stuff. [05:44 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Head for the hills, or maybe not:

Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 06:16 PM:

Two Harry Potter books, actually.

I recall reading something several months back about a new company that wanted to sell a service that didn't rely on surveys but reported actual sales numbers for books. Do you know anything about that?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 07:14 PM:

Hey, I listed both Harry Potter books. Look again.

You're thinking of Bookscan, an attempt to duplicate, in the book industry, the music industry's internal Soundscan system of deriving sales charts from cash-register inputs.

It's a good idea, and it's coming together slowly. Bookselling in America is a lot more diverse than the CD business, and independents play a much bigger role Right now it mostly covers the chains. I have plenty to say about this, and probably will at some point.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 09:41 PM:

I am seriously looking forward to watching that woman age.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 09:58 PM:

Hardcover nonfiction? Perhaps the New York Times should do a little fact checking on the work before they classify it as such. Or is this more of a tort against the publisher for false advertising?

(Who, me snarky?)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 10:01 PM:

"Nonfiction" and "fiction" aren't synonyms for "true" and "false."

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2002, 02:50 PM:

Not because I'm correcting anyone here, but because it's a fact that needs to be more widely recognized: General-interest trade nonfiction books that get fact-checked by anyone other than their author are the exception, rather than the rule.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 09:14 AM:

Thanks for the USA Today link and the dose of reality. I get depressed every time I see the Times Book review listings these days...

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 09:18 AM:

Teresa, the depressing thing about lightweights like Coulter, is they sometimes don't age so much as morph. Once her "beat the liberals" schtick gets old (i.e ceases to sell), look for her to pull an Arianna Huffington or David Brock; she'll suddenly "grow" and change her mind about issues--as long as she can keep a high-paying job with some media outlet or keep her face on the back flap of some new strain of "non-fiction."

Gerard Van der Leun ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2002, 04:27 PM:

Look, it's like this.

The liberals get to control the print media (for the most part).

The conservatives get to control the government (for the most part)

The pretty-but-inconsequential get to control Hollywood (for the most part)

Guys with really weird haircuts get to do Nightline and the CBS evening news (except when on vacation.)

Frootbats with bizarre agendas, a jones for weather summaries, and an unhealthy interest in the safety of children coupled with a repetitive news compulsion get to waste their lives on Cable News networks.

We're not sure what Tom Donahue gets to do other than something different real soon now.

James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2002, 11:06 PM:

I trust that everyone saw the adulatory editorial on this Ann in last Monday's Wall Street Journal?