American Pie 13.05.04

Is Felix Dennis thinking of getting out of publishing to concentrate on his two new interests: growing forests and poetry? He gave a hint in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he said that he might be selling Dennis Publishing in the next few years. He wants to accumulate enough land in Britain to create a 50,000 acre estate that he intends to call the Forest of Dennis. Meanwhile he has one other project: the publication of an American edition of his first volume of poetry, A Glass Half Full, that was a big success in Britain, he says, despite the fact serious reviewers virtually ignored it.

For an American promotion tour he has hired a jet – at a cost of around $300,000 – to shuttle him around the country. Something that American poets are somewhat disdainful about.

The association between poets and poverty is very strong, arriving for a reading in a helicopter, as he did in Britain, people are likely to doubt your poetic credentials, says a former US poet laureate Billy Collins. Nevertheless Miramax Books, a unit of the Disney company, is printing 25,000 copies – about ten times as many as most books of poetry sell. Since he started writing poetry about four years ago, the 56 year old publisher, has written about 700 poems – and has let his hair grow poetically long….. He admits he kept his poetry a secret until October 2001, when he read one of his poems at a dinner party. “It brought the house down” he claims. “I felt like a young girl who has just won her first gymkhana” he confessed.

Fans of Charlie Brown are in for a treat. There are plans to republish every one of the Peanuts strips, dating back to 1950 . Years ago when it was first mooted, cartoonist Charles Schulz vetoed the idea. “Nobody wants to read that old stuff” he averred. “Forty nine years of Charlie Brown! Good grief” Now his 65-year-old widow has agreed to let a publisher reprint the full collection of cartoons in bi -annual volumes, each containing about two years of strips. The first is due to hit the bookshops here this month. It includes the very first Peanuts strip – which showed two kids sitting on a kerb as Charlie Brown walks by. One comments to the other: : “Good ol’ Charlie Brown… How I hate him”.

For the first time since the Reagan years, there will be no special facilities for the foreign press at this year’s Republican and Democratic Party conventions in New York and Boston. The official reason: the need for economy. The belief inWashington however is that it is a payback for some of the negative coverage of the Bush regime in Europe, particularly in France and Britain. For more than 20 years the State Department has provided well-equipped briefing rooms at the conventions for the foreign press, including state-of-the-art communications equipment. Some Administration officials are making no secret that they are incensed over recent anti-American stories in the overseas Press. “Why should we subsidise the foreign press? Let them come and pay like everyone else”, one official is quoted in US News and World Report. At the same time a State Dept spokesman insisted: “This year money is tight. You can’t do everything you want to do”. The saving that is expected to come from the changes? An estimated $500,000.

Stop the press: Lachlan Murdoch, the son of media magnate Rupert Murdoch and publisher of the NY Post, and his wife, Sarah, are expecting their “first edition”. According to The Post’s star gossip columnist Cindy Adams, the couple’s first baby is due later this year.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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