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Move Over, Grisham — The Upstart Gruen Has Arrived By Judy Gruen

Now that my new book, Till We Eat Again: Confessions of a Diet Dropout, is alive and in the marketplace, competing with 13 billion other new book titles, my thoughts have naturally turned to how I can catapult myself from total literary obscurity to only partial literary obscurity. On mornings when I have drunk entirely too much coffee, I start to hallucinate that I will become like other megastars of the literary world, so famous they only need to be called by last name: Grisham, Grimes, Grafton, and Gruen! I imagine my books being delivered by the truckload at Sam’s Club and Costco, where the only books they sell are those by authors already rich and famous and about to become even more rich and famous.

But the book industry is, like old age, no place for sissies. Even The Great Grisham himself recently acknowledged that his new novel may not sell as many millions of copies as his previous books. Grisham ‘fessed to a reporter that he understood that this was natural, since nobody can stay at the top forever.

I think that’s mighty mature of Mr. Grisham. And since I read his comments, I’ve been busy mapping out my strategy of how to tactfully push John, Martha, Sue and other literary overachievers aside so that another “Big G” can find her rightful place on the New York Times bestseller list.

Of course, though it is unseemly, sometimes one must resort to cheap PR tricks to capture attention. I’ve been following carefully what some others have done to keep their names in the public eye. This is the list I’ve come up with so far:

1. Pretending I hate publicity. The more some authors tell the public, “I only have contempt for the crass marketing machine creating this annoying buzz all around me. I also hate reading in front of ignoramuses who will never understand the deeper implications of the social novel,” the more the fans adore them! One of these authors was invited on Oprah ­ Oprah! And he dissed her! He said “NO” to the O! It only made the stampedes for the bookstores greater. So, if you’re reading this, Oprah, my answer is, have your personal trainer call my personal trainer, and we’ll talk.

2. Commit a crime. Yes, a crime! Athletes do this with great success, if you haven’t noticed. They bite ears off referees, choke players on the opposing team, and cause mayhem in hotel rooms, yet their sweat socks go for thousands of dollars on eBay. My problem is that as a general rule I am risk-averse, and haven’t found the perfect crime to commit that will help launch me to stardom while keeping me out of prison. If you see someone jay-walking with a haughty air, it may be me.

3. Write a book about a dysfunctional family. Other than a smug and condescending author, there’s nothing the public seems to like better than a smug and condescending author who has written about a family bursting with every kind of codependency, passive-aggressive behavior and abuse known to mankind. In fact, the more dysfunctional the family, the better.

4. Offer my opinion on matters of foreign policy, including how to handle those rascals over in Germany and France. If I can get someone to do my carpools for a week, I might even go to Iraq to look for the weapons of mass destruction that Sean Penn missed. Or, like Jesse Jackson, I can begin critiquing the Bush Doctrine in rhyme, and rap it on CNN. True, some people are getting sick of other people who have no experience in foreign policy spouting off about it, but even bad publicity is still publicity, as long as they spell your name right.

5. Chain myself to a pile of Harry Potter books in my local Barnes & Noble and refuse to move until the public begins to buy my book by the millions, or until we agree to stop cutting down forests for the sake of publishing 850-page children’s books.

Now, if you have any better ideas out there for how I can achieve the success that has so far eluded me, send me an e-mail. Until then, I’m going to get going on that draft about the dysfunctional family. Which reminds me, the Jerry Springer show is about to start, and I need to tune in to begin my research.

Judy Gruen is the author of Carpool Tunnel Syndrome: Motherhood as Shuttle Diplomacy, and Till We Eat Again: Confessions of a Diet Dropout (Champion Press, 2003). Sign up for Judy’s regular email humor column, Off My Noodle, on the Newsletter page at www.judygruen.com. Email her at judy@judygruen.com.