Monday, April 10, 2006

Book proposal

Juicy Gossip: Shocking & Scandalous Stories About Famous People

By Warren Boroson

This book is meant to entertain -- with startling anecdotes and surprising information about famous people. Biographies these days are much more revealing than they once were, so plenty of material is available.

Besides, it can be enlightening (and reassuring) to be reminded that famous people could be human all too human.

Most of the people written about would be historical.

Sources would be provided for all statements.

The anecdotes/information would vary in length - some a few sentences long, some a page or more. Well-known stories - Ben Franklin's estrangement from his son, and from his wife, would be skipped; sexual scandals, being plentiful, would be limited.

The material would vary, too. Some of it would be serious, but some would be just innocently amusing.

The key questions are: Is this amusing? Surprising? Little-known?

To my mind, perfect candidates for the book are:

1. Jerome Kern (composer of “Showboat”) was successfully sued for plagiarism by Giacomo Puccini (“I Left My Love in Avalon” is akin to an aria in “Tosca”);

2. Florence Nightingale did not believe in the germ theory of disease; she was also dubious that women might become doctors;

3. Robert Browning didn't recognize a term he encountered in a medieval poem, and thought it referred to an article of clothing. So, in a famous poem of his own, he referred to old nuns' twats.

Perhaps the book would be arranged alphabetically.

More examples, all of which would be fleshed out:

THE SCANDALOUS

Albert Einstein had an illegitimate daughter (with his first wife, before he married her). She is lost to history, perhaps because she did not survive long.

One signer of the Declaration of Independence later, under intense pressure, swore loyalty to the British.

Walt Whitman, while a teacher on Long Island, was denounced by a clergyman for having affairs with some of his male students, and allegedly was tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. (A recent biographer gives some credence to this story.)

President Woodrow Wilson supported segregation.

THE SURPRISING

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is adopted. (His father of Arabic ancestry.) He discovered that his birth sister is the successful novelist Mona Simpson, who later based a character on him.

Carl Sagan, the astronomer, was a regular user of marijuana and appeared in print as an anonymous advocate of its use.

Abraham Lincoln, according to his law partner William Herndon, told off-color stories. (Examples.)

George Washington's first offer of marriage was rejected.

Ludwig van Beethoven apparently was anti-Semitic.

For good reason, Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary) did not believe that she spread the disease. In fact, she once had herself checked out by a chemist. He reported that she did not have typhoid. (Today scientists believe that she was in temporary remission.)

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