THE NEW BARBARIANS: The Wall Street crisis makes for good copy, both in newspapers and relatively soon, it appears, in hardback. The New York Observer reported a handful of books about the economic crisis were sold under the Penguin imprint last week: New York Times columnist Joe Nocera and Vanity Fair’s Bethany McLean sold an unnamed tome to Penguin’s business imprint, and The New York Times Magazine contributor Roger Lowenstein got a deal for “Six Days That Shook the World” on Wednesday with Penguin. Meanwhile, Andrew Ross Sorkin, The Times’ lead business reporter on the crisis, nailed a deal on Thursday with Viking for a book about Wall Street’s implosion.
Now comes the hard part: how, exactly, does one write a book about a crisis that continues to unfold and appears to have no end? It seems Lowenstein may focus on a weeklong snapshot of the drama, given his book’s working title — although exactly which six days of the ongoing crisis remains to be seen. (Lowenstein declined to comment on the details of his book). McLean said her book with Nocera will cover a longer time period, including missteps in Washington preceding the meltdown (for example, the failure to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).
In Sorkin’s case, he admits “the hardest part about this book is to figure out where the story begins and where it ends. It’s still a moving target and we’re still seeing how it plays out,” he told WWD in a 10 p.m. interview Thursday, just after he filed the breaking news of J.P. Morgan Chase buying the assets of Washington Mutual, a firm now considered to be the largest bank failure in U.S. history.
At the least, Sorkin knew two weeks ago there was enough drama in the news for a longer form treatment. “There was a moment…where I remember going home at about 2 a.m. and Lehman had gone bankrupt, Merrill Lynch had just been sold to Bank of America and AIG was on the precipice of bankruptcy. And I remember thinking, Holy s–t this is a book, or a movie or something.” It wasn’t until last Monday that he “got remotely serious” about putting pen to paper, though. His proposal, Sorkin described, “was pages, it wasn’t really much of a proposal. A couple of scenes, a sense of character…[enough to] give a sense that there are rich characters and plot points that can be [flushed out].” Sorkin said he’d be writing the book himself, but didn’t say if he’d be taking time off from daily reporting to complete it. — Stephanie D. Smith
THE MOTTO MAKETH THE MAN: Jay Fielden is spelling it out for those who are still unclear about what Men’s Vogue brings to the table that is distinct from other men’s lifestyle titles. The magazine will introduce a new tagline — “Style is how you live” — with the November issue, the first mission statement set forth by the Condé Nast title. “Men like a good motto, and I’m one of them,” said Fielden. “We’re raising our rate base to 400,000 in January, which is a lot of readers, but I still feel that there are a number of people out there that haven’t discovered the mag. One thing people remember when meeting someone new is a clever line of introduction. I think this one will win us a bunch of new friends.” And perhaps, advertisers.
The tagline reflects the magazine’s coverage of expensive toys, vacations and the people who partake, but Fielden said style doesn’t equate to expensive. To help readers consume luxury goods smarter, the magazine will introduce the “MV Scorecard” — think a cross between “Consumer Reports and the Michelin Guide,” the editor in chief said. The magazine will provide a subjective ranking of top products ranging from wine, accessories, clothing, and sporting goods to technology and motoring, according to a standard set forth by Men’s Vogue editors and experts in the field. The magazine will give its seal of approval to one product of the categories judged. November’s first installment includes a ranking of watches, diesel cars and an analysis of TV’s political pundits. Fielden writes in his editor’s letter to readers: “As the earthquake on Wall Street sends out its aftershocks, this new monthly feature will offer, we hope, a bit of stable ground, advising you on what’s worth your time and increasingly indisposable income.” Read: Keep spending money, just spend it smarter. Another new motto? — S.D.S.