Quad Quotes: January-February 2001


We asked Jerry Eidenier at Duke's Gothic Bookshop to compile last semester's listing of best- selling books. Here's the top ten, combining fiction and nonfiction, in order of sales:

1. Leading with the Heart: Coach K's Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life, by Mike Krzyzewski, with Donald T. Phillips. Foreword by Grant Hill '94.

2. Duke: A Shared Vision, photographs of the university by Duke University Photography, with a foreward by Reynolds Price '55. 3. Not Afraid of Flavor, by Ben and Karen Barker. Recipes from Durham's Magnolia Grill.

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling.

5. Coach K's Little Blue Book: Fire, Fact, and Insight from College Basketball's Best Coach, edited by Barry Jacobs '72 (paper).

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling (paper).

7. Nowhere Else on Earth, by Josephine Humphreys '67.

8. Feasting the Heart: Fifty-two Commentaries for the Air, by Reynolds Price '55, from his National Public Radio essays.

9. The Beavers Build a Dam, by G. Walton Williams, illustrated by John Kolock (paper). Williams is a professor emeritus in Duke's English department.

10. If Gargoyles Could Talk: Sketches of Duke University, by William E. King '61, A.M. '63, Ph.D. '70. King is Duke University Archivist.



How much is Hillary Clinton's memoir of her eight years in the White House really worth?

Simon & Schuster's winning bid included an $8-million advance, an amount so large as to have few precedents in nonfiction publishing. Several years ago, Pope John Paul II reportedly received $8.5 million for Crossing the Threshold of Hope, and outgoing General Electric Chair Jack Welch has received a $7.1-million commitment for the North American publishing rights to his first book, while Colin Powell's advance for his autobiography was around $6 million. But is it reasonable to suppose that the market for Senator Clinton's words can rival that for the leader of a billion Roman or the most respected corporate leader in America, or the extraordinarily popular hero of the Gulf War?

This question is not just of interest to the shareholders of Simon & Schuster's parent company, Viacom, but also to the ethics watchdogs of the U.S. Senate. The Senate's rules are somewhat more lax than those of the House, which now bans members from accepting advance payments for their books as a result of the uproar back in 1994 around then-Speaker Newt Gingrich's $4.5-million deal (for two books) with Rupert Murdoch's publishing house. Senators may still receive publishing fees, including advances and royalties, so long as they are "usual and customary," which is to say in accord with the market value of the work.

The problem for all concerned is that there is no established price or value for a unique property of this sort. The publishers that entered the bidding were placing their bets without knowing what they were buying. How candid will Hillary Clinton be about the scandals of her husband's administration? Indeed, by 2003 (the expected publishing date), will those scandals be superseded for the jaded public by newer, fresher material provided by the Bush administration? Will she emerge as a serious presidential candidate by then (a factor that helped Colin Powell's sales for a while), or will she settle into the normal routine of a junior

Her worldwide reputation and the marketing machinery of a major publishing house guarantee that the book will have a big launch when the time comes. But, there's no way to tell whether it will end up selling "just" 500,000 copies in hard cover or a million plus-the latter being what's required to make back that advance.

Commentators have opined that Simon & Schuster will most likely lose money on the deal. But there is some chance that it will catch fire, that for whatever reason the success-breeds-success dynamic of the book market will kick in, and, in retrospect, the $8 million will appear to be a bargain. The pursuit of the jackpot earnings generated by a blockbuster book is part of the publishingbusiness, just as it is part of the entertainment industry more generally. Sustaining huge losses on investments in movies, top ball players, and Broadway shows are a routine part of the game. Simon & Schuster's contract with Hillary Clinton is equivalent to a costly lottery ticket. No matter what happens after publication, it will be hard to answer the question of whether they paid too much up front for that ticket, and whether the arrangement is in that sense ethically problematic.

-Philip J. Cook, ITT/Sanford Professor of public policy, is co-author of The Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us.


"I know some people will be very pleased with the decision, and others will be dismayed. That's pretty much the history of human beings and social change." 
--Charles M. Smith '62, M.Div. '65, a minister, United Methodist Church representative, and Duke trustee, on the decision to allow same-sex unions in Duke Chapel, in the Raleigh News & Observer


"These very same justices who have undertaken to second-guess the Florida Supreme Court have staked their reputations on preventing federal usurpation of state authority. There is not much good to be said for the court's work, except that it acted with reasonable dispatch." 
--Law professor Chris Schroeder, director of the Program in Public Law and co-chair of the law school's Center for the Study of Congress, on a panel examining the U.S. Supreme Court decision that named George W. Bush the winner of the 2000 presidential election


"When you give money to the poor, they spend it. But when you give tax breaks to the rich, they save it. So giving money to the poor is an investment." 
--Recently reelected Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien, on his Liberal Party's platform to expand social programs, speaking in Reynolds Theater in December as part of the von Der Heyden Fellows program





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