TAKE THAT!: The famous book critic is also “famously busy and famously rude”; he is “pale and bloated,” the “vitriolic scourge of writers, artists and musicians.”
Few would come forward to claim a likeness to this character from Cathleen Schine’s serialized murder mystery in The New York Times Magazine, who is expected at an artists’ colony but instead shows up as a beached corpse. But notoriously acerbic Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott did, on his blog last week. And as in any good mystery, there’s a motive, though Wolcott didn’t mention it then: In a 2004 Vanity Fair story on Schine and her ex-husband, New Yorker film critic David Denby, Wolcott said aspects of a Schine novel were “hackneyed” and “generic,” and compared it to a “Lifetime movie shot through a milk-bottle lens.”
Like Schine’s fictional “culture thug” who “murder[s] people’s work,” Wolcott lacks a college diploma, but the character may only be a composite — the critic in the story also has a TV career and doubles as a “sycophantic” celebrity profiler.
Schine declined comment, but Wolcott wrote WWD in an e-mail, “I suspect Cathy wasn’t too thrilled with my pan of her novel…and decided to bump me off fiction-wise to repay me for my sins.
“I’m in favor of literary feuds and score-settling being played out like a Jacobean drama in the slick pages of The New York Times Magazine. But I do think she might have given her critic-corpse a scene or two instead of serving him up like cold mashed potatoes.” Which is, perhaps, the best revenge of all. — Irin Carmon
GET THOSE VIRTUAL AD DOLLARS: It’s no news Hearst Magazines has had a busy year on the digital front — but its Cosmogirl title is the only one so far to go into the virtual world. And, no, the editors don’t just want their own avatars: According to new data from eMarketer, by 2011, 53 percent of children and teen Internet users will enter a virtual world at least once a month. So to reach that demographic, Cosmogirl has partnered with established virtual Web site There.com, where readers will be able to enter the Cosmogirl Global Village.
Editorial from the pages of the magazine will be incorporated into the virtual world, and — here’s the key point — advertisers will of course be able to get involved in virtually every aspect. So far, “Dancing With the Stars” has planned to utilize the village’s “dance floor,” New Line Home Entertainment will show screenings of “Hairspray” in the “screening room” and Parlux Fragrances will promote Paris Hilton’s new fragrance, Can Can. (But don’t ask whether there will be any other of Hilton’s shenanigans; she gets into enough trouble in the real world.) “This provides our advertisers with another way to surround girls — along with mobile, the pages of the magazine and cosmogirl.com,” said Kristine Welker, Cosmogirl’s vice president-publisher. — Amy Wicks
NO PRESSURE: Though Guild-protected employees at Time Inc. now have the option of whether or not to write for the Web thanks to their new contract, that doesn’t mean the pressure to be part of the company’s digital focus has dissipated. Referencing the terms of the new contract, Time Inc. editor in chief John Huey sent a memo to Fortune and Time staffers on Tuesday informing them that “Guild-covered employees of Time Inc. are not required to contribute to the Web sites as part of their jobs; and will not suffer any negative impact as a result of not contributing.” However, the disclaimer came after saying that Time Inc.’s best employees have managed to multitask. “As we are all aware, Time Inc.’s Web sites have become a critical part of the company’s plans for the future….Many of our best journalists are writing stories and covering beats for the magazine and the dot-com simultaneously, and, your managing editors and I strongly encourage each of you to consider how you can best contribute to Fortune and Time to ensure their success.”
In other words: If you want to be one of the company’s “best journalists,” you better write for both.
So do staffers feel the pressure to ramp up productivity now? Not really. Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer, Time managing editor Richard Stengel and just about every magazine editor in the industry has agreed that print, online and, for that matter, television and radio are all necessary to a magazine’s growth. “No one says you have to go on CNBC. But management likes it when you do,” explained one writer.
Even the Guild acknowledges that having employees write for both is a good thing, but their discontent came when top editors sent memos requiring print employees to do so, since Guild coverage did not extend to the Web previously. Huey’s concession is part of a settlement between the company and the Guild on the matter. The contract, which expires in 2010, was approved Friday by a vote of 105-14. — Stephanie D. Smith
CRACKLIN’ ROSIE: Rosie O’Donnell may have scrapped all TV appearances for her new book, “Celebrity Detox,” but she has more than enough time for her fans. On Tuesday afternoon, more than 200 of them were on hand at the Barnes & Noble in Midtown Manhattan to get their books signed. O’Donnell was more than amenable to all requests, from posing for pictures (and even allowing for reshoots for pictures that didn’t work out) to sending some fans over to her assistant to make sure they received an invite to the opening reception of her art show at New World Stages later that evening. One attendee described O’Donnell as “incredibly warm and personable with everyone,” and at one point, she even started singing a few bars of “The Five-Fifteen” from the musical “Grey Gardens” with a boy sporting a shirt that read, “Jerry Likes My Corn.” Up next for Barnes & Noble: none other than O’Donnell nemesis Donald Trump, who has a signing next week for his new book, “Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life.” As one Barnes & Noble employee put it, “The crowd will definitely be a lot different!” — A.W.