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The inside scoop on the book world

S.I. Newhouse biographies and ”Seinfeld” made news the week of May 15, 1998

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GETTING SHY ABOUT SI

For the second time, an unauthorized biography of media mogul (and Random House owner) S.I. Newhouse has run into trouble. In 1994, after St. Martin’s brought out Thomas Maier’s Newhouse, the mainstream press blackballed the book — and so did all the New York paperback publishers. (Johnson Books in Boulder, Colo., finally took it on.) Now Viking has killed Carol Felsenthal’s Citizen Newhouse, a book it signed up in 1993. Felsenthal’s editor, Al Silverman, approved the manuscript pending a legal vetting last fall, but shortly after he retired in December, the company did an about-face. ”Viking canceled the book because I know so many people at Random House,” insists Viking Penguin’s president, Susan Petersen, who headed Random’s Ballantine division for 10 years. According to Felsenthal, ”Newhouse certainly didn’t call [Penguin Putnam president] Phyllis Grann and say, ‘Do what you need to kill this book.’ He didn’t have to. These people are more than willing to censor themselves.” Silverman believes the same. ”[The book] was canceled because they didn’t want to upset the Newhouses,” he says, ”and they were slightly concerned because [Newhouse’s Conde Nast] magazines buy serial rights.” Grann had no comment. Tiny independent Seven Stories Press plans to publish Citizen Newhouse this fall.

SEIN-ING ON

So many publishers are rushing to get a piece of the Seinfeld finale, an actual coffee-table book about coffee tables may not be far off. HarperCollins is issuing bound scripts from the series, Bantam has replenished pressruns of Jerry Seinfeld’s megaseller Seinlanguage, and a Queens College chum of Seinfeld’s named Mike Costanza claims in The Real Seinfeld (Wordwise Books) that he, not cocreator Larry David, was the inspiration for George Costanza. Leave it to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose Elaine was long mired in dead-end publishing jobs, to raise the tone. The actress would like to oversee a children’s poetry anthology, but the project has reportedly stalled thus far because publishers want to tack a splashy tell-all onto the deal.

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