Welcome to the OJ Schadenfreude

By Neal Comment

photo: Michael Yarish

Seriously: Is there anybody outside of Regan—which has so far maintained a restrained silence—that isn’t expressing a public thrill to see how O.J. Simpson’s If I Did It has been shot down and stomped on in the last 24 hours? The decision by News Corp. came as a surprise to everyone…especially, so we’re given to understand, those HarperCollins employees who were told by no less than Jane Friedman late last week that, although the book was controversial and offensive to many employees, the company had decided to stand by its publication and demonstrate a supportive silence to the outside world. But, insiders suggest, it was the increasing lack of support not just from bookstores refusing to stock the tell-all but from Fox affiliates refusing to air the documentary that led Rupert Murdoch to bring down the axe.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to whether this means Judith Regan is on the way out, but as I told a reporter for Netscape last night, I just don’t see that happening. “Someone always has a problem with her books, but they work at the cash register,” I told the reporter. “No matter who was publicly outraged, there were people who were willing to buy it.” And it’s true; just look at those Amazon and Barnes & Noble sales rankings.

Shortly after the decision was made, author Karen Spears Zacharias (who’s published by William Morrow) says she sent the following message to Friedman: “Can you hear the round of applause from the balcony? It comes from the rank of HarperCollins authors who were distressed and shamed over the idea of the publisher we love marketing OJ’s book. Pulling it was the right decision. Of course, the better decision would have been to have had enough integrity to have never even considered it in the first place.” But if that had happened, we’d never have seen Ben Greenman’sIf I Did It: The Musical,” a reasonably amusing spoof with occasional flashes of brilliance: “In my hand / In my hand / Is a dangerous knife. / I am paying / A visit /To my wanton ex-wife.” (And I know how hard this is to do, because back in 1997, I wrote a couple songs for a musical version of the coming out episode of Ellen, including the showstopper “I’m Gay! I’m Gay!”)

So what happens to the books? According to the major writeups, like the Bill Carter/Ed Wyatt NYT teamup or Hillel Italie’s AP dispatch, HarperCollins has declared that the books will be recalled and destroyed…but some copies have already been shipped. We don’t hold out a lot of hope of getting a copy, but we’ll see what we can do…