Book news for the week of May 4, 1990 -- Brief updates from the literary world

* Battle of the Times

”I’d rather be a newspaper editor than the richest man in the world,” Nelson Poynter used to say. In 1947 he bought the small, unimportant St. Petersburg Times and fashioned it into one of the country’s best newspapers — sharp, thoughtful, Pulitzer Prize- winning. Poynter tried to protect the Times by placing his majority shares in a nonprofit trust, the Poynter Institute. When he died in 1978, his hand-picked successor became editor and CEO, with the ability to thwart takeover attempts. Now Texas billionaire Robert Bass, a minority shareholder, is testing that arrangement. Bass — who took advantage of a sibling squabble to snap up some family stock — recently filed suit over the company’s dividend distribution. But Florida’s attorney general says the lawsuit could interfere with the Times‘ financing and plans to intervene on its behalf. Bass, undaunted, is exploring other ways to challenge the validity of the newspaper’s relationship with the Poynter Institute. And that means the St. Peterburg Times — one of the last major independents — is still at risk.

* Transformer

When Lou Reed picks up a pen these days, it might not be to write a song. The former Velvet Undergrounder, who studied journalism and poetry (under Delmore Schwartz) at Syracuse University in the ’60s, is working on some magazine articles. He is also tinkering with two book possibilities — a collection of lyrics and a work of fiction.

* Twice-Told Tales

Next September Carol Publishing will inaugurate its new children’s line, Upside Down Tales, with a somewhat unusual version of Cinderella. ”When you read the book through the first time, it will be the regular Cinderella,” says publisher Steven Schragis. ”Then turn it upside down and read it the other way, told by the stepsister.”

* Her Turn

There are books aplenty about her husband, and now there will be a Raisa Gorbachev biography as well. Summit Books has signed Urda Jürgens, a German journalist who has been traveling with the Gorbachevs for two years, to write the as-yet-untitled book.