The inside scoop on the book world

DISCO INFERNO He loves the nightlife: Whit Stillman, writer-director of the 1990 preppy cult-classic film Metropolitan and the just-opened The Last Days of Disco, has signed with Farrar Straus & Giroux to write a first novel called…The Last Days of Disco. ”He felt he couldn’t explore all the issues he wanted to in the screenplay,” explains his agent, Lynn Nesbit. ”It is a sort of backward deal,” admits FSG editor in chief Jonathan Galassi, who bought the as-yet-unwritten work of fiction for an undisclosed sum after seeing some examples of Stillman’s prose.

MERGE OVERKILL Twenty-six authors from the A list of American publishing — including Jane Smiley, Kurt Vonnegut, Peter Maas, Joyce Carol Oates, E.L. Doctorow, Art Buchwald, Joseph Heller, Carl Bernstein, and Annie Dillard — have sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission protesting the Bertelsmann-Random House merger. Says Bernstein, ”I’m somewhat skeptical that ownership [of all these imprints] by one entity will maintain the competitive economics of the business.” Responds Bertelsmann spokesman Stuart Applebaum: ”There will be no lessening of diversity. And all this free-floating anxiety about what might happen is not relevant [to the FTC].”

THE KISS-OFF Choosing a cover for the paperback version of Kathryn Harrison‘s The Kiss — the author’s account of her adult affair with her father — proved a delicate situation for Bard, the new Avon imprint that’s striving for an upscale, literary image. Random House had obscured the author’s face on the hardback’s front cover (she was pictured as a child with her father), and Bard editors initially planned a similarly understated cover, using a small stock photo of an anonymous feminine face with eyes modestly downcast. But according to a source, Harrison scotched the discreet design, selecting instead a glamorous, windblown shot of herself used in Dutch editions. ”It was a joint decision. I don’t think it’s that unusual to have an author on the cover of a memoir,” says Avon editor in chief Jennifer Hershey.