The inside scoop on the book world

BACK TO THE FUTURE? Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize winner and literary time traveler, has signed again with Farrar, Straus & Giroux for a yet-to-be-titled work of fiction. As strange-sounding as The Hours, which juxtaposed the life of Virginia Woolf with contemporary characters, the new book is set partly in the mid-19th century, partly in the present, and partly in the future, with the same characters appearing in all three periods. It’s tentatively scheduled for fall 2003.

IT’S PLAY-BACK TIME Longtime head of St. Martin’s Thomas McCormack, who retired five years ago to return to his first love, playwriting, is giving Off Broadway audiences a peek at the backstabbing editors and demanding celebrity authors that people the book world. But the 70-year-old writer doesn’t think all the characters in his well-reviewed Endpapers are typical of the industry. For one thing, the really bad guy in his play ends up in Hollywood. ”Editors are ‘lifers,”’ McCormack says, explaining that books hold little appeal for the impatient. ”We lose a constant trickle of people to Hollywood, but it’s less a brain drain than a speed drain.”

A BOOKSTORE GROWS IN HARLEM Veteran Denver bookseller Clara Villarosa is about to open Harlem’s first major bookstore on July 29. Hue-Man Bookstore will offer a large section of self-published works, as well as everything from African-American romance novels to children’s literature and history. ”When you think of all of the writers who came out of Harlem,” she says, ”[you realize] you have that cultural literacy built into your community, but you don’t have an expression of it housed in one place.” Until now.

DEAR JOHN… His memoir You Cannot Be Serious is a best-seller, but John McEnroe may not have the last word. His ex-wife, Tatum O’Neal, is planning to write a memoir of her own. Agent Dan Strone reports ”extreme interest” among publishers, but he claims that the book is not a rebuttal. ”This [is] something that’s been talked about for a year,” he says.