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Between the Lines

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A BIRD IN THE HAND Basketball great Larry Bird just nixed a $200,000 advance for Full Court Press, a book about his first year as the Indiana Pacers’ coach, because the offer wasn’t lucrative enough. ”I think he deserves big money,” says Bird’s agent, Frank Weimann, who nonetheless counseled his client to take the offer. Weimann blames the Whoopi Goldberg fiasco (her $6 million Book spent only three weeks on the New York Times best-seller list) for publishers’ cautious mood. ”I can’t recall when I won an auction and the author declined,” says Rick Wolff, the Warner senior editor who thought he had a deal for Bird’s book.

DEATH BE NOT PROUD Berkeley prof Bob Blauner spent five years working on an anthology called Our Mothers’ Spirits: On the Death of Mothers and the Grief of Men, culling writings from, among others, John Updike and Kirk Douglas. The book was originally scheduled for a February 1998 release, but when Princess Diana died, publisher Judith Regan bumped the book up to November and replaced the original cover (which featured a Madonna and child) with a picture of the late princess embracing sons William and Harry — as well as a shot of her flower-adorned coffin. ”I had anxiety, but I showed [the new cover] to friends and people in my men’s group, and I’m getting good reactions,” says Blauner. ”Mother Teresa is also in there,” points out a spokeswoman for the book, referring to a hastily rewritten introduction. Yeah, so why isn’t she on the cover?

AWARD TO THE WISE Pssst! — wanna buy an Academy Award for your movie? Check out the following formula. Step 1: Option a novel that’s won England’s prestigious Booker Prize, like 1981’s Schindler’s Ark, by Thomas Keneally, or 1992’s The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje. Step 2: Cast heartthrob Ralph Fiennes in one of the leads. Step 3: Sit back and watch the statuettes fall into your lap. This formula must have been the rationale behind Fox Searchlight’s December release of Oscar and Lucinda (based on Peter Carey’s 1988 Booker winner). But while Arundhati Roy was doubtless overjoyed to win this year’s Booker for The God of Small Things, she may have to blink back visions of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion: Her book’s main characters are…7-year-old Indian twins.

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