ica, and there are legions of readers eager to find out whetherrnKatie Couric really has a wolverine, or how Johnny Depprnamassed that extraordinary collection of Woolworth turtles.rnNot only that, but does Kate Moss know about this and whatrndoes she think? What we have here are the publishing equivalentsrnof what Alan King, commenting years ago about GeraldrnFord’s public clumsiness, called “sight gags.”rnThese newcomers to publishing have already been praised asrnvasdy intelligent, but this is pretty standard, because judgingrnfrom the hullabaloo of compliments whenever book peoplernmeet face to face, everyone in the industry is simply brilliant,rnwith IQs that would have dazzled Einstein. When backs arernturned the mood sours, of course, and the giddy bonhomiernchanges to snickers about the last overpriced celebrity book thatrndid not sell, the political memoirist picked up on moralsrncharges, the ballyhooed new novelist who took heavy criticalrngas and heavier returns. With such a dense fog oi schadenfreudernhanging over the book scene these days, it is fortunaternthat there are still laws against carrying concealed weapons, atrnleast in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria. To be truthful, all this isrnnot quite as showy as Mailer and Vidal trying to punch eachrnother silly in front of witnesses, but an industr)’ in trouble cannotrnalways bring in the best entertainers, and Robert Downey,rnJr., and Geraldine Ferraro have their own problems these days.rnWith such disorder on all sides, there are the inevitable publishingrnpanels, rogues’ galleries of industry seers wringing theirrnAre You a Memberrnof The Rockford Institute ?rn^•mrnw Wouldn’t you like to knowrnwhat Chronicles editorsrndo when they’re notrnwriting for Chronicles! For a taxdeductiblernmembership donation ofrn$25, you will receive the Institute’srnquarterly publication, Main StreetrnMemorandum, your source for allrnthe hard-hitting commentary andrnRockford Institute news that can’trnfit in the pages of Chronicles. Tornjoin, send a check for $25 to:rnTRI Membershiprn928 North Main StreetrnRockford, IL 61103rn rrnhands over the latest outrages, and then rushing back to their officesrnto initiate further buffoonery. One inevitable question is;rnWliat’s to be done? Sad to say, the typical answer of too manyrnof the elites, secure in their belief that no one can blame themrnfor the ongoing mess, would probably be: About what? Regrettably,rnmany insiders carry with them everywhere, like some unpronounceablernblood disorder or tropical fungus that will notrngo away, the unhealthy misconception that everything is normal,rnthat the world of book publishing has been a bizarre placernfor years, has survived and even prospered, and that this is thernindustry’s natural state.rnSigns of hope can be detected, though, in a recent articlernin Publishers Weekly about several promising young editorsrnfrom a variety of trade publishers both large and small.rnAll under 40 years of age, they profess devotion to their craft andrntalk sensibly about all the right things: their impatience with delays,rntheir interest in new and offbeat ideas, the need to draw inrnreaders younger than 40, their willingness to look for new writersrnin unexpected places, their feeling that the concept of bookrnpromotion needs to be completely overhauled. If they, and othersrnlike them, are sincere, it is none too soon, for the book businessrnbadly needs clearheaded reinforcements at this point.rnYet they will be struggling against the accumulated foolishne.rnss of the past 25 years. They will need to bear in mind that arnbook must first exist as a book. Publishers deal in the printedrnword, and each sentence, paragraph, and chapter must be asrnwell-tailored as possible; if their project is one of the tiny numberrnthat is turned later on into a movie —even one starringrnPauly Shore—then so much the better. But in publishing, itrnis the reviews that matter and not the newsreels. There is, ofrncourse, the danger that even now one of these well-meaningrnyoung professionals may be preparing a deal memo for a HidekirnIrabu book, or angling to purchase the memoirs of TabrnHunter, Troy Donahue, or Rory Calhoun, lured by the mysteryrnbehind the great star’s fall from grace—as if our having to readrnabout Holly Near wasn’t bad enough.rnAbove all else, they should consider the huge potential audiencernfor good books out in what used to be called the AmericanrnHeartiand —and further reflect that this tpe of reader is notrnlikely to look kindly on frothing anti-American bad-asses, whornno longer seem as cute and allegedly principled as they didrnback in 1972. If anything, time has shown the rest of us thatrnmost of the grand causes of those years were daffy and even destructive,rnthe black-footed ferret is alive and well and living inrnWyoming, and today the word is that even Eldridge Cleaver enjoysrna good strawberry daiquiri now and then.rnSome years ago, Irving Howe made a point about the type ofrnargument that is clever, persuasive, and articulately framed.rnHis comment was: “But is it true?” If anything has gotten thernbook business into trouble in recent years it has been the tendencyrnto pay heavy money to frauds making absurd claims thatrnonly certain publishing elites, Ramsey Clark, or the EnglishrnDepartment at Duke University^ could ever take seriously. Ifrnthese young editors are really serious they will dial 911 immediatelyrnwhen confronted by someone asking for large sums ofrnmoney for the purported memoirs of Jimmy Stewart’srntransvestite lover, or for a tell-all book about how El Nino is reallyrnan FBI sting operation gone amok.rnThe story goes that Freud once said that sometimes a cigarrnis just a cigar. If he were observing what goes on in the bookrnbusiness today, he might add, “You’re not out of the woodsrnyet.” crn16/CHRONICLESrnrnrn