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Between The Lines: George Saunders' Off-Beat Tale

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Cheeze Whiz You might not think The Stinky Cheese Man would have anything in common with George Saunders, the O. Henry Award-winning short-story writer and cult favorite. But Lane Smith, the best-selling illustrator of the eccentric children’s book, has agreed to do the pictures for Saunders’ next book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip. The offbeat tale — about little orange creatures and a young girl in the seaside town of Frip — is aimed at ”adults and future adults,” says Random House senior editor Daniel Menaker, who approached Smith with the story and was surprised to find the artist was a Saunders fan. When the volume is published by Villard next August, he adds, ”We hope to have it shelved in both sections.”

Explosion of Interest A 1937 gas explosion that killed nearly all of the schoolchildren in a small Texas town set off the nonfiction auction of the week, with several publishers vying for Sara Mosle’s Boom: An American Explosion. The proposal drew comparisons to A Civil Action and Isaac’s Storm. Says Knopf editor Jordan Pavlin, who won the book with a reported $600,000 bid: ”It uses a terrible accident and the civil trial that followed it to tell a larger story about America just before the outbreak of World War II and the ‘greatest generation’ and the oil industry and greed.”

Pop of the Charts Scott Turow couldn’t do it. Neither could Stephen King. But James Patterson’s Pop Goes the Weasel (Little, Brown) has finally managed to loosen Harry Potter’s death grip on the top slots of the New York Times best-seller list. The latest in the Alex Cross thriller series is wedged at No. 3, right between The Chamber of Secrets and The Sorcerer’s Stone. ”I’m not supercompetitive, but this is fun,” says a surprised Patterson. ”I like Harry, I don’t want to hurt Harry—but I don’t think you can, anyway.”