Galley Girl: Moon Unit Zappa Edition

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Moon Zappa

Moon Unit Zappa says that her first novel, "America the Beautiful" (Simon & Schuster Trade Paperbacks) is "17.2 percent autobiographical." The heroine, America Throne, has an unusual name, is the daughter of a famous person, and has a musician brother. "Obviously there are some similarities there," she says wryly. To say the least. Moon, as she is known to her friends, is the daughter of the late Frank Zappa, a bandleader, guitar hero, composer, satirist, and political commentator whose creativity is legendary. She admits that Growing Up Zappa was complicated business. "I’ve had enough excitement for a lifetime, certainly."

Being famous from birth — Moon was born in 1967, when her father was at the pinnacle of his career — causes certain problems. "I definitely get a lot animosity from people who think I inherited a fortune or something," she says. "People really tend to think that I’m free and rich. That doesn’t make people very happy." When her book came out in England last year, two skinheads broke up her first reading in a bloody brawl. "My dad’s fans, at their worst, so miss my father that they make the mistake of thinking that this book is about him." In fact, says Moon, her lifestyle in Los Angeles is far from rock and roll. "I’m boring — I play with my dogs and hang out with my honey, and just think about work." Oh yeah — she does a little stand-up comedy, too. "I like keeping my writing funny. So the comedy continues to inform that."

Four years after Diana’s death, Prince William and Prince Harry remain the most written-about teenagers in the world. On August 14, Morrow added to the verbiage, with "Diana’s Boys: William and Harry and the Mother They Loved" by Christopher Andersen, the bestselling author of "The Day Diana Died" (a No. 1 NYT bestseller), "Jack and Jackie, "Jackie After Jack," and "The Day John Died." It's timely, as William heads off to college, and the August 31 anniversary of Diana's death nears, and there are lots of never-seen pix in the book.

Simon Winchester goes for arcane subjects. His bestselling "The Professor and the Madman" told the story behind the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. His new book, "The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology" (HarperCollins; August 14) tells the story of William Smith, "whose lifelong obsession with fossils and the strata of rock formations proved to be the foundation for the science of geology." Kirkus adored it, giving it a starred review. "A fluid, fascinating, emotional story of an unlikely genius who created a science." HarperCollins is really behind this book, which goes on the WSJ bestseller list this week.

PW is intoxicated with "Middle Age: A Romance" by Joyce Carol Oates, giving it a starred review. "FORECAST: Of late, Oates can do no wrong. Deep in her career, she is pulling out the stops again. Since the success of ‘Blonde,’ and Oprah’s February 2001 selection of ‘We Were the Mulvaneys,’ more readers than ever will be gravitating to her new work (and her backlist, too) and they should be thoroughly satisfied with her latest offering."

The toll from Alzheimer’s continues to mount. Since 1975, the number of Americans afflicted with the disease has jumped from 500,000 to 5 million. Over the next fifty years, an estimated 80-100 million people worldwide will succumb to Alzheimer’s. On September 4, Doubleday will publish "The Forgetting: Alzheimer’s: Portrait of an Epidemic" by David Shenk. Says the publisher, "A magnificent synthesis of history, science, politics, psychology, and profound human drama, ‘The Forgetting’ explores the nature of a disease that attacks our memory and, by extension, the very core of our human identity."

PW predicts press attention for "Legal Lynching: The Death Penalty and America’s Future" by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. and Bruce Shapiro (New Press; October). "This will be a must-read for anti-death penalty advocates...FORECAST: A hot political topic and high-visibility father-and-son authors guarantee media attention for this that should generate at least an initial spike in sales."

"I know that everyone is talking about Jonathan Franzen this fall, but don’t you need a female voice as a counterpoint?" asks a publicist at Doubleday. The female voice she has in mind is that of novelist and short story writer Jennifer Egan, whose second novel, "Look at Me," will be published by Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday on September 18. Egan has a lot going for her: superagent Binky Urban, a 15-city reading tour, and confirmed coverage in Vogue, Elle, Harpers Bazaar, O, Mademoiselle, Marie Claire, Talk, Paper, Vanity Fair and the NYT Book Review. The plot, according to Egan’s publisher:

"Fashion model Charlotte Swenson returns to Manhattan, having just recovered from a catastrophic car accident in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois. The skin of her face is perfect, but behind it eighty titanium screws hold together the bones that were shattered when she hit the unbreakable windshield of her car. Unrecognizable to her peers and colleagues, Charlotte finds it impossible to resume her former life. Instead, she floats invisibly through a world of fashion nightclubs and edgy Internet projects, where image and reality are indistinguishable. During her recovery in Rockford, she has met another Charlotte, the plain-looking teenage daughter of her former best friend. Young Charlotte, alienated from parents and friends, has come under the sway of two men: her uncle, a mentally unstable scholar of the Industrial Revolution, and an enigmatic high school teach whom she seduces. In following these idiosyncratic tales to their eerie convergence, Egan illuminates the difficulties of shaping an inner life in culture obsessed with surfaces."

Susanna Kaysen, the bestselling author of "Girl, Interrupted," tells the story of how her vagina began to give her pain rather than pleasure in "The Camera My Mother Gave Me" (Knopf; October 10). PW replies, Who cares? "Thin, disappointing...FORECAST: Already the subject of a NYT piece suggesting this ‘autopathography’ may become the target of a backlash against such transgressive confessions, Kaysen’s slight memoir will spark some controversy, but don’t expect ‘Girl, Interrupted’-level sales." Kirkus is more entertained. "Pithy, funny, adventurous, sexy, and eye-opening...Disguised as plain, brown memoir, a voluptuous exploration of sexuality, aging, the failures of modern medicine, attempts at self-knowledge, and the meaning of pain." The book gives no explanation for the odd title.

"They’re the canker sore on the lip of humanity," says the publisher. "They interrupt dinners, down time, and always call at the wrong time." Of course, the "they" in question is telephone solicitors. In October, Warner will publish a paperback original, "Fun with Phone Solicitors: 50 Ways to Get Even!" by Robert Harris. The author offers such techniques as:

  • The Telephone Ruse: Pretend to transfer your tormentor and then press several buttons on your phone
  • The Verbatim Variation: Repeat everything the caller says in a sing-song voice
  • The Drop-the-Phone Drill: Self-explanatory

    Mario Puzo died in 1999, but his last novel is being published now. "The Family," which will be published by ReganBooks on October 2, was finished by Carol Gino, Puzo’s longtime companion. Kirkus winces. "The old, black magic just isn’t here. ‘The Family’ is Godfather Lite. Eminently skippable." But Judith Regan, with a first printing of 250,000, is betting that most people don’t read Kirkus.