Hardcover 451: Thought Police-ing Literary Loose Cannons


Please excuse our mixed dystopic metaphors, but Edward Champion reports that bookish types are debating whether or not bookstores should be able to request that visiting authors keep their curse words and dirty talk to a minimum. It all started when a Massachusetts store asked Jennifer Weiner, who is currently touring to promote her new novel, Best Friends Forever, to kindly avoid the word “cock” at a signing. Weiner complied, so score one for puritanical New England-ers.

We get it when newspapers censor the language of interviewees or demurely state that certain words aren’t suitable for print, but you can’t censor the words that come out of someone’s mouth, right? (We’re not sure, though, that a request for polite language exactly qualifies as censorship.) And if bookstores have a problem with a friendly chick lit author, we can only imagine the sticky situations they might find themselves in with slightly more controversial types. Thus we present to you our list of free-wheelin’, gaffe-makin’ authorial loose cannons (which has been a problem for over a century, it seems). Good luck getting them to play nice.

1. Gloria Vanderbilt: The octogenarian socialite just released an erotic novel sure to make bookstore-goers, not to mention her blue-blooded family, blush.

2. Joe Biden: Our VP says the darndest things. Press secretaries can vet his speeches and books all they want, but more often than not, Biden will end up saying something silly anyway.

3. Kanye West: We find West‘s self-aggrandizing endlessly entertaining. He’s actually a bit of a modern-day Walt Whitman in that he sings of himself and contains multitudes. To wit: while promoting his own book this spring, he made a point of mentioning that he doesn’t read. Booksellers just loooove to hear that!

4. Bill O’Reilly: Oh, the Fox New-ster may claim to hate the liberal hedonism and obscenity of everyone else on this list, but we know he has quite a temper.

5. Bret Easton Ellis: Even though he is most famous for his critiques of ’80s excess (like American Psycho), he can’t very well make those critiques without coarse language and drug references.

6. Alice Hoffman: Earlier this summer after an imbroglio involving a bad review, an attempt at revenge and a huge backlash, novelist Hoffman learned not to tweet in anger. But can she follow through, or will bookstores fear a similar outburst?

7. James Frey: Not only does he write about addition and Capitalize random Words, James Frey is a known liar and provocateur.

8. Chuck Palahniuk: The Quentin Tarantino of novelists, Palahniuk’s books tend to be violent. Not safe for the kiddies!

9. Philip Roth: It’s not like the man who is arguably American’s most celebrated writer is famous for writing about masturbation or anything. There’s also always the threat that he might shout.

10. Martha Stewart: Don’t be fooled by all the baked goods, we bet she’s got a total potty-mouth on her.