The inside scoop on the book world

By Matthew Flamm
June 08, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
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ON A PRAYER Whoever said sex sells should have taken a look at religion. With Multnomah’s ”The Prayer of Jabez” topping best-seller lists, Pocket Books is poised to bring out ”The Pope’s Private Prayer Book: A Message of Spirituality in time for Christmas.” A compilation of the Pope’s favorite prayers and homilies, the book will be followed by seven more collections of his prayers; its release will coincide with a CD featuring the likes of Danny Glover, Britney Spears, and Steven Tyler reading the prayers. ”The books are a little bit nondenominational; the hope is that people who are not Catholic will pick these,” says Tracy Behar, Pocket’s editorial director.

GOOD NIGHT, MAUREEN Becoming a book editor was once publishing’s Holy Grail — but no more. ”This generation of senior editors is no longer willing to put up with long hours and low pay,” says one executive. In the latest of a string of departures at big houses, Maureen O’Brien, the Hyperion editor whose authors have included Malachy McCourt (”A Monk Swimming”) and Liz Smith (”Natural Blonde”), has taken a company-wide buyout offer and left the business. Meanwhile, Bill Shinker, who recently resigned as publisher of Simon & Schuster’s Free Press, will start a hardcover nonfiction imprint at Penguin Putnam, launching in fall 2002.

THE REAL GEISHA Mineko Iwasaki, purportedly the model for the narrator of Arthur Golden’s ”Memoirs of a Geisha,” is going to tell her own story — and according to her agent, her decision has nothing to do with the lawsuit the retired geisha recently brought against Golden and Random House in which Iwasaki claimed the book hurt her reputation and that she is owed royalties (Random House disputes the claim). ”It’s absolutely separate — she wanted to tell her own story,” says Jandy Nelson of Manus & Associates. ”We have never seen the world of geishas from a nonfiction angle,” says Emily Bestler, the executive editorial director of Pocket, which paid mid-six figures for the memoir.

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