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Media Beat

If authors had gone on TV years ago



Many authors jet around the country in a quest to generate new book sales by going on as many TV programs as possible. Along the way, the authors aren’t always choosy about the shows they appear on – and vice versa.

It’s not too pleasant to consider what might have happened if today’s cable TV environment had been a venue for discussion of American classics when they first came off the press. Consider, for instance, the likely outcome if Harriet Beecher Stowe had appeared on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” in 1852 to promote her new book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

The author might have found it difficult to get many words in edgewise while the host engaged in his trademark approach to discourse. “So you think you understand these issues better than the president does,” Bill O’Reilly might have said. “You rabblerousers are trying to substitute a left-wing agenda for arrangements that have served our country well for nearly a century.”

But it’s even more disconcerting to consider what might have happened long ago if editors at publishing houses – and their publicists – tried to adapt their titles and promotional efforts to the standards of today’s TV networks. Along that line, step with me now through the looking glass to imagine some of the results:

– In the mid-’30s, the controversial German leader Adolf Hitler visits New York to promote a volume of his maverick musings. He lands a counter-intuitive appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” that results in lots of barbed repartee and much laughter. The banter showcases the guest’s surprising wit, nets appreciable press coverage and leads to a sustained spike in sales for the guest’s new book, “Mein Camp.”

– A night of glitzy cinematic internationalism comes to “Entertainment Tonight” as the syndicated TV program scoops the competition with tantalizing leaked tidbits from Leni Riefenstahl’s authorized biography, “Lights, Camera, Iron.”

– Midway through the century, on CNN Headline News, host Glenn Beck brings on authors from the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute to explain why launching a military assault farther north will not cause China to become involved in the Korean War.

– “Larry King Live” goes for the ratings gold with an intimate interview of former Sen. Joseph McCarthy about the poignant account of his battle with alcoholism in his new autobiography, “Boozin’ While Bruisin’ the Reds.”

– Known inside the PR industry as “The Chameleon in Suspenders,” longtime CNN host Larry King cancels a scheduled appearance by Martin Luther King Jr. in order to feature a onehour interview with the sensa- tional singing star Jiminy Cricket, who discusses matters of conscience and his salacious new book, “When You Wish Upon a Starlet.”

– Over at CNN Headline News, the inimitable Nancy Grace makes television history with sustained nightly coverage of unconfirmed reports that Jacqueline Susanne once ordered her gardener to read “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” aloud while acting out scenes from the novel.

©2007 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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