NEW YORK--ISN'T THIS ILLEGAL? Blasphemous? Against the laws of nature? Advocacy Press, the Santa Barbara-based nonprofit publishing company, has--gasp!!--rewritten Mother Goose. The traditional poetry-spouting bird, they charge, is violent, sexist, racially slurring, filled with irresponsibility and negative. "The expectations are clear," Advocacy fumes: "Girls may be flower-tenders, frightened curd-eaters, seamstresses and imprisoned pumpkin-shell residents, while boys can be kings, masters, candlestick jumpers, scholars and wife-keepers." Hence "Father Gander Nursery Rhymes . . . The Equal Rhymes Amendment." Doug Larche (Father Gander) is a poet, professor, playwright, songwriter, director, actor, coach and father of two. An example of the 48 rhymes he has updated "in response to current events" is the new "Jack and Jill Be Nimble": " Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick! Jill be nimble, jump it too, If Jack can do it, so can you!"
MONEY TALKS (SOMETIMES): Although Random House adheres firmly to its "we do not discuss advances" policy, the skinny in publishing circles is that the right to publish Anatoly Shcharansky's memoirs cost the house $6 million. In the still untitled book scheduled for publication in fall, 1987, the Soviet dissident and human rights activist will write of his experiences during nearly a decade in Soviet prisons and labor camps. The deal was negotiated by Random House senior editor and associate publisher Peter Osnos, formerly the Moscow correspondent of the Washington Post; Random House chairman and president Robert L. Bernstein (chairman also of the Fund for Free Expression and the U.S. Helsinki Watch) and Shcharansky's agent, Marvin Josephson of International Creative Management. The three met with Shcharansky in Jerusalem, his home since his release Feb. 11. Shcharansky will write the book in Russian and Osnos will edit it. No translator has yet been announced.
FAMILY FEUDS: The complex, often dramatic, saga of Louisville's Bingham dynasty, until recently the multigenerational owners of the Courier-Journal, will be chronicled in a book to be written by Alex Jones of The New York Times and Susan Tifft, scheduled for joint publication by Summit Books and Pocket Books. Patriarch Barry Bingham Sr. and his wife Mary have agreed to cooperate exclusively on the book, granting Jones and Tifft sole access to family records and documents. The decision by the senior Bingham in January to sell the paper prompted his son Barry Jr. to brand the action "a betrayal." Along with the widely regarded newspaper's relationship to social and political changes in the South, the book will examine the sale, its aftermath and the effects on family members.
LEGAL BRIEF: Legendary lawyer Roy Cohn may be able to pay off some of the $7 million (with interest accruing daily) the IRS claims he owes with proceeds from his new literary venture. Random House's "Words to the Wise and the Not So Wise" is subtitled "Roy Cohn on Divorce." In it, the lawyer purports to tell all, including the inside scoop on celebrity divorces he has handled, from Aristotle Onassis to Alan Jay Lerner.
COVER STORY: The big question mark is the title, still undecided. But among the more interesting topics on the new list from Henry Holt is . . . Marilyn Monroe. The author makes the subject still more interesting, since it is none other than Gloria Steinem who has undertaken to analyze the famous sex goddess. "Gloria on Marilyn" is one title that has been resoundingly rejected.
LITERACY HOTLINE: Mega-best seller Sidney Sheldon has donated $50,000 to the Coalition for Literacy. The grant will support a telephone hotline connecting possible volunteers and students with local organizations engaged in literacy tutoring.
BOOK TV: Following on the supersuccessful electronic heels of MTV, "American Bookbox" has made its debut in Boston, featuring a 15-minute interview with Margaret Atwood, author of "The Handmaid's Tale." The book sold out within 10 days of the video's opening at the Boston University bookstore. Underwritten by publishers and bookstores, the new service puts interviews with authors on videotapes for display in bookstores as a way of promoting their new works. Illustrator-entrepreneur Mark Shasha, 24, dreamed up "American Bookbox," reasoning, "This is a way for someone to really meet an author and to get to know that author better." Each monthly program will run 30 or 60 minutes, beginning in 20 stores nationwide. Shasha's goal is 200 stores by June 1 and, ultimately, 2,000 stores.
BIG WINNER: The $50,000 Ritz Paris Hemingway Award, the world's largest prize for a novel, has been presented to Marguerite Duras for her novel "The Lover." The award commemorates the longtime personal association of Ernest Hemingway with the Hotel Ritz, Paris.
Also . . . Anthony Lukas, author of "Common Ground," and Robert Norrell, author of "Reaping the Whirlwind," are co-winners of the sixth annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Lukas and Norrell will share the $2,500 cash award, to be presented by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy at a ceremony at her home in McLean, Va.
And . . . Los Angeles psychologist/author Jonathan Kellerman has just garnered the Edgar Allan Poe (just call it the Edgar) award in the category of best first novel for his "When the Bough Breaks," published last year by Atheneum and now available in paperback from New American Library. (Looks like a TV miniseries may be in the works as well.)