How Long Does It Take to Sink?


The Titanic struck that ill-fated iceberg at approximately 11:40pm and roughly 2 hours and 40 minutes later, the remnants of the cruise ship hit the bottom of the ocean. How long it takes for a book to plunge from the bestseller list to the depths of the remainder table remains to be seen.

On Thursday, Oprah publicly flogged memoirist James Frey on national television so most of the week’s sales were already booked. There probably wasn’t time for the sales figures to reflect the cat-o-nine-tails back scrubbing handed out. On today’s New York Times Paperback Nonfiction list, the disputed memoir A Million Little Pieces is still clinging to the upper reaches. Ranking at #2 on the list, the book is down only one spot from last week’s #1. And on the Hardcover Nonfiction list, the memoir about a prison stint that didn’t happen, My Friend Leonard, fell one spot to #4.

Maybe next week will see a Frey free list as a result of the controversy. Maybe, in our scandal obsessed culture, his sales figures will actually increase. Who knows?

One thing that I did find interesting is how the Times describes the books that populate its list. I never paid any attention to this kind of thing before and maybe I’m the only one who thinks this is fascinating. Who writes their descriptions and what influences his or her decisions?

On the January 22, 2006 list, the book is described as “a memoir by a man who was an alcoholic for 10 years and a crack addict for 3.”

A week later, on the January 29, 2006 list, the Times folks added a qualifying adjective to their description so then it read “a controversial memoir by a man who was an alcoholic for 10 years and a crack addict for 3.”

This week, on the February 5, 2006 list, the book is carries the disclaimer “both author and publisher acknowledge that this memoir contains numerous fabrications.”

Intriguing. I’m going to have to start paying more attention to these descriptions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *