Life plan: Fill days then fill pages

August 19, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER

I have a new career plan, and it involves finding something I can do every day for a year and then finding somebody who will pay me to write a book about what happens when I do.

This appears to be a lucrative publishing niche. We can now read about guys who spend a year reading the Oxford English Dictionary, the Bible and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

We can read about a woman who spent a year cooking Julia Child's recipes in a tiny New York apartment and a woman who spent a year traveling to three continents to find herself and a woman who spent a year taking all the advice offered in fashion magazines.

(It's a good thing she started taking that advice. Cathy Alter was eating meals out of the office snack machines and having sex on her desk with the guy in the cubicle next to her.)

There's Danny Wallace, who spent the year saying yes to every offer made to him. And Maria Dahvana Headley, who spent a year saying yes to everyone who asked her for a date, which ultimately included 150 men, a couple of women and a homeless guy who thought he was Jimi Hendrix and late for a gig.

There is the couple who spent a year having sex every night and the other couple who only did it for 101 days. (One hundred and one is an impressive number of nights of sex, but compared to the competition, that's a lot like setting out to read the Oxford English Dictionary and then writing about how you only got to the letter "J.")

Anthony Holden wrote a book about being a professional poker player for a year, so perhaps I can write a book about being married to a guy who covers professional poker for a newspaper, but I think that might be a niche niche.

Norah Vincent wrote a book about the year she spent disguised as a man, so that idea has been taken. And a New York City couple wrote a book about going without toilet paper, and a lot of other things, for a year. Thank heaven that's been done.

Phyllis Rose wrote about a year spent reading Proust. Not only can I not imagine spending a year reading Proust, I can't imagine reading about it.

Same with Judith Levine's My Year Without Shopping. I can't imagine what there would be to write about. "Today, I didn't shop again." I mean, what's the second chapter?

But don't kid yourself. There is money to be made here.

Julie Powell, the frustrated New York secretary who decided to get out of her funk by working her way through Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 and blogging about it, got a book deal.

And now she is going to be played by Amy Adams in a movie written by Nora Ephron. Meryl Streep will play the famous chef, and there is already Oscar buzz.

And they are making a movie out of A.J. Jacobs' attempt to spend a year living biblically. But that's only because a film about the year he spent reading 33,000 pages of the encyclopedia might put audiences to sleep. When you try to live biblically, you can count on plenty of conflict to drive the story line.

There are happy endings as well. Remember Headley, the woman who went on all those dates?

She met a great guy and married him.

I have a couple of titles that I am thinking about: Type II Diabetes: A Year of Eating Spaghetti. And Rehab: 365 Days of White Wine.

Frankly, I think these titles would fly off the bookshelves, and I'd enjoy the work.

Scarlett Johansson should play me in the movie.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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Read recent columns by Susan Reimer at baltimoresun.com/reimer

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