You heard it here first: Oprah's next book-club pick ought to be Who Moved My Soap? A CEO's Guide to Surviving Prison. That suggestion comes from author and comedian Andy Borowitz, who hosted Monday night's Authors' Guild Gala at the Metropolitan Club. (He also happened to write Who Moved My Soap?) A black-tie benefit for the Authors Guild Foundation and Authors League Fund, the evening honored author, historian, and humanitarian (and a founding editor of New York) Barbara Goldsmith, with biographer Robert Caro presenting and attendees including John Grisham, Scott Turow, and Sandra Brown. During the cocktail-hour crush, we chatted up Borowitz about copyright law, book sequels, Dan Brown's angst, and more.
You do a lot of these hosting gigs. What’s your secret?
The secret to being a good host: Be very brief is the most important thing. Don’t say very much. Try to be affable. But I may offend people. They like to have somebody offend them a little bit. That would be disappointing if I offended nobody. I’m shooting for a 10 percent walkout rate.
When was the last time you were really offended by something or someone?
I think it was when Wolf Blitzer devoted all fifteen screens on The Situation Room to Anna Nicole Smith, because I felt like it totally overshadowed the astronaut-in-diapers story, which is what I and most Americans were concerned about. That offended me, just in terms of his priorities as a newsman.
There’s another Gone With the Wind sequel coming out. Which classic novel needs a sequel next?
I thought the novelization of Snakes on a Plane was good. I want to find out what happens with the characters. In the sequel I would like to get more into the lives of the snakes.
Seems Dan Brown is never, ever gonna finish that follow-up to The Da Vinci Code. How would you break his writer’s block?
Every book is now available for free online as a result of Google. I think if Google can take other people’s writing and just publish it, why not Dan Brown? I think Dan Brown can just go and search a bunch of other books and just put together a book that way. Maybe the book starts “Call me Da Vinci Code.” No one would ever notice, I don’t think.
Author Mark Helprin has argued that an authors and his descendants should own the copyright to the author's work in perpetuity — even if the book is out of print. Where do you stand on this debate?
It all hinges on what’s an out-of-print book and what’s not. I think I can help settle the dispute: If I wrote it, it’s out of print. Unless Oprah picks it. —Justin Ravitz