Juan Williams and others: does controversy produce good books?
Juan Williams, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, and Eva Gabrielsson all landed recent book deals fueled by highly publicized controversy.
One made prejudicial comments about Muslims on national television. Another threw a shoe at a sitting US president. And yet another is embroiled in a fierce battle over the inheritance and publishing rights of a recently deceased bestselling author.Skip to next paragraph
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All have been rewarded with book deals and plenty of publicity. It’s a common practice in publishing – turning adversity or even bad behavior into hyperpublicized book deals. It makes good economic sense – but what kind of books does it produce?
Exhibit A: Crown Publishers announced that Tuesday Fox News analyst Juan Williams has signed a book deal with Crown, an imprint of Random House. He will write two books for the publisher, one on his controversial NPR firing earlier this year.
NPR fired Mr. Williams after he said on the Fox News Channel that he gets nervous when he sees people with Muslim clothing on a plane.
“But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous,” Williams said in an October taping of the “O’Reilly Factor.”
NPR said Williams’ remarks violated its standards for on-air opinions given by its personnel, although the organization has since said the firing was poorly handled.
Williams’ first book, scheduled for a summer 2011 release, will undoubtedly center on the NPR firing controversy. “[It] will focus on free speech and the growing difficulty in America of speaking out on sensitive topics; Williams will argue that the American public benefits from a vigorous and full-throated debate on hot button issues of political and cultural import. Williams will chronicle his own first-hand experience of the consequences of crossing the line in public expression, as well as the stories of other individuals who have been criticized and retaliated against for expressing views that are deemed politically incorrect,” Crown said in a statement.
Exhibit B: Meanwhile, in the Middle East, journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, aka the Iraqi shoe-thrower, is signing copies of his first book, “The Last Salute to President Bush.” The book chronicles the moments leading up to the infamous Baghdad press conference during which Mr. Zeidi became famous by hurling his shoes at Bush and calling him a dog, the Washington Post reported.
In the book, “he recalls the revulsion he felt when he saw Bush at the joint Baghdad press conference with Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki,” the Post reported. "In these moments, everything I had seen and heard about the massacres against Iraqis this man had committed came to my mind ... and I felt a thunder in my body," Zeidi wrote of the moments leading up to the infamous act. Moments later, he sprung from his chair, threw his shoes toward Bush and shouted, "This is your farewell kiss, you dog!"