Is Prada, or Publishing, the New Black?

Cape Times (South Africa), January 5, 2007 | Go to article overview

Is Prada, or Publishing, the New Black?


LOS ANGELES: Is the publishing world the new Prada?

That's the feeling readers might get from two new novels by Debra Ginsberg and Bridie Clark, which might remind them - at least superficially - of the high-end fashion scene depicted in The Devil Wears Prada.

In all three works, an ambitious young woman goes to work for a cruel, over-the-top female boss, only to survive in the end with her dignity intact.

Ginsberg's recently published Blind Submission and Clark's Because She Can, which are due to come out next month, are set in the ferocious |literary jungle. They lampoon two larger-than-life characters in the book business, for whom the authors have previously worked:

Ginsberg with Sandra Dijkstra, a prominent literary agent based in Southern California who has nurtured many best-selling authors, and Clark with Judith Regan, the publisher who was recently fired by HarperCollins for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks after cooking up the aborted literary and television package on OJ Simpson.

"I think everyone is familiar with the phenomenon of the boss from hell, the over-the-top person who can ruin your professional and personal life," said Clark, 29, who worked with Regan in New York for almost a year.

"I'm sure this happens in many jobs, but you do hear a lot of stories about it occurring in the world of |publishing."

Perhaps it was just a matter of time. If Lauren Weisberger's vicious portrait of Anna Wintour and the fashion world in The Devil Wears Prada could be turned into literary and cinematic gold, why couldn't the book world - teeming with behind-the-scenes intrigue and a rogue's gallery of opportunists - offer similar literary fodder?

For the record, Clark said her book is fiction and not a specific portrait of anyone. But she concedes "it's based on things I've lived and things I've imagined. It's pretty much out there by now, what she (Regan) is like".

The New York gossip world, however, has been buzzing ever since galleys of Clark's 274-page book began circulating in November.

The publisher, Warner Books, has openly touted the Regan connection, sending reporters a juicy item from Lloyd Grove, a former New York Daily News columnist, who described Vivien Grant, the novel's main character, as "a wildly abusive, foul-mouthed, pantsuit-wearing publisher who favours down-market bestsellers about strippers and pimps, boasts about her sexual escapades to staffers and carries on an extramarital affair with a New York City public official who - presumably unlike Regan's onetime paramour, a former police commissioner - likes to be photographed wearing lipstick and lingerie".

Claire Truman, the young protagonist in Clark's book, thinks she's heard it all as she comes to work for Grant. But nothing prepares her for a boss who calls at all hours, makes brazen intrusions into her private life and throws vulgar tantrums. …

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