Sometimes there’s merit in cynicism

First, I must commend the New York Sun for finally making Otto Penzler’s columns available in full text format. Because that means there’s far more opportunity for immediate comment and head-banging-against-wall actions (or constant chuckling, depending on your personality profile.) And once again, he’s managed to stir up a ruckus with his latest piece, which explains in rather contradictory fashion why chick lit is too cynical, but Mickey Spillane’s up-front attitude about writing for money isn’t.

Now, there are many ways to respond to this, but it’s Friday, it’s gorgeous outside, and others are already doing so in more detailed fashion. Instead, let’s go do some math. I love math, because numbers – even though they can lie – still show some interesting trends. And thanks to some very nice little birdies who have helpfully supplied BookScan numbers for comparison, we’ve got lots of numbers to play with!

Two disclaimers, of course: First, BookScan is only a representative sample of sales, ranging anywhere from 50-70% of reporting stores, and isn’t necessarily the most accurate measure of how a book is doing. Second, the only agenda at work in preparation of this post was curiosity – because some books on this list I loved, some I didn’t so much, so I think the net effect is neutral.

The numbers reported below are as of Wednesday, August 9, 2006. So here we go:

Red Leaves by Thomas Cook (June 2005)

hardcover: 3,044

trade paperback: 1,876

The Enemy of God by Robert Daley (July 2005)

hc: 1,736

tpb: 431

Fiddlers by Ed McBain (September 2005)

hc: 12,066

pb not yet released

Learning to Kill by Ed McBain (July 2006)

hc: 1,433
pb not yet released

Ash and Bone by John Harvey (December 2005)

hc: 1,765
pb not yet released

The Female of the Species by Joyce Carol Oates (January 2006)

hc: 4,665
pb not
yet released

Darkness and Light by John Harvey (July 2006)

hc: 923
pb not yet released

Total Penzler/Harcourt sales (7 books, 9 editions): 27,939
  <span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Sales of Jennifer Weiner&#8217;s GOODNIGHT NOBODY (mentioned in Penzler&#8217;s article) in its<br /> first 2 weeks: 36,626</strong></p> 

    So there you have it. Math. <strong></strong></span></div>