QUITE THE SCENE: Salman Rushdie, Lorrie Moore, Martin Amis, Jonathan Franzen, Steve Martin, Dave Eggers and Jhumpa Lahiri were among the writers at Pace Friday night for the kickoff of the fifth annual New Yorker festival (like WWD, The New Yorker is a unit of Advance Publications Inc.).

Saturday, Sarah Jessica Parker sat down with New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean. Parker, who said she’ll discourage her son, James Wilkie, from acting until he turns 18, credited her parents with helping her avoid the perils of pubescent fame. “I just had parents who were really afraid of trash,” she said of the whole teen stardom scene.

Also that night, articles editor Susan Morrison interviewed Conan O’Brien at the Bowery Ballroom — good timing, considering earlier that week O’Brien had been named as the successor to Jay Leno at “The Tonight Show.” Morrison asked how O’Brien will adapt his sensibility to a wider audience. “We have a masturbating bear on our show right now,” he said. “Will you be seeing that at 11:30? Yes, you will.”

And talking about the evolution of the ideal feminine form the next morning at the Met, Harold Koda, curator of the Costume Institute, sounded like a fashion version of Karl Marx: “We’re living in a period where you can barely survive a season. It’s an imperative of the capitalist project, which is to create obsolescence.” — Jeff Bercovici and Sara James

EVERYBODY’S A CRITIC: The review in The New York Times of A.J. Jacobs’ new book, “The Know-It-All,” was notable for its ferocity: “Corny, juvenile, smug, tired” was critic Joe Queenan’s verdict on the memoir, which chronicles Jacobs’ attempt to become “the smartest person in the world” by reading an entire encyclopedia. Nowhere in the review was it mentioned that Queenan is a contract writer for Men’s Health, a direct competitor to Esquire, where Jacobs works as a senior editor (until the end of the month when he becomes an editor-at-large). Considering Queenan makes his living as a professional curmudgeon, his response, when asked whether there had been any discussion of disclosing this relationship to Times readers, was perhaps to be expected: “I gotta tell you, this is one of the most ridiculous questions I’ve ever been asked,” he told WWD. “I write about 90 stories a year, and I would say about 10 of them are in Men’s Health. I’ve written for almost every magazine known to man.” If anything, he said, his willingness to take shots at an Esquire editor should be commended. “As a freelance writer, the last thing you want to do is antagonize people at places you have worked or might work in the future,” he said. “But my attitude is, I’m reviewing a book. I don’t care if it was written by my mom. Actually, my mom would probably write a better book than this.” Jacobs, on his book tour, could not be reached. — J.B.

This story first appeared in the October 5, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

GIVE ME AIRE: Visionaire 43 “Dreams” goes on sale this week, and if the pretension alone doesn’t nauseate you, the chemical smell emanating from the 4-pound tome might. From the publisher’s crib sheet: “In Visionaire 43, dreams become a startling reality. Photographs and images are transformed into ethereal works of art through a high tech burning process called laser cutting. The resulting images emerge, almost ghostlike, from a seemingly blank black page.” In contributor Adam Fuss’ case, that page stays pretty blank and black. But others, most notably Karl Lagerfeld and Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, succeed in transferring photographs onto the mesh-like screens. At $175, it’s a pricy novelty item, but then, once you’re finished huffing — or the fumes wear off — Rachel Whiteread’s lace square doubles as a doily. — S.J.

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