Modia Minotaur

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Skullduggery in the Book Trade

A good deal of media attention over the past few days has been dedicated to new enquiries into the safety of the best-selling CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. It's certainly not the first time the diet has been questioned. You have to feel sorry for the CSIRO. Like Australia's universities, its charter of innovation and research has increasingly been pushed into the background in pursuit of the almighty dollar, and it must be humbling indeed not only to have to churn out tosh like populist diet books to survive but to go begging to the food industry to fund it, thus compromising the independence of research as is commonly seen in the US.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying `So take the CSIRO Diet with a grain of low-sodium salt'. However, particularly prominent in the new chorus of criticisms has been one Dr John Tickell, who was rather non-ticklish on yesterday's talkback radio and TV news, even going so far as to demand that John Howard and Health Minister Tony Abbott kick off the boat shoes, come back from holidays, and sort out the whole fracas before devotees of the CSIRO diet collectively choke on their T-bones.

All very well - but precisely nowhere was it reported that - by massive coincidence, of which the world is apparently filled with many - Dr Tickell is also the author of the newly released Great Australian Diet Recipe Book (incorporating The Asian Food 7 Day Detox). You'll find this on the shelves of most major bookstores - frequently, right next to ... erm ... The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet ...

Meanwhile on the other side of the world, the latest best-seller - thanks to a hearty endorsement from Oprah Winfrey - is A Million Little Pieces, a harrowing true story by former Drug Addict, Alcoholic, Criminal, and Chronic Over-User of Un-necessary Capitalisation, James Frey. In the USA, Frey's happy little tome sold second only to the latest Harry Potter book in the Christmas period. There's only one teensy problem, according to dirt-digging website The Smoking Gun: it's all a big pack of Demidenko sized whoppers. In the course of finding a picture of Frey's kisser to add to their gallery of celebrity mugshots, the website uncovered the real shocking truth - that Frey's `extensive' criminal record contained nothing more than a few drink-driving convictions, and that his book's sequel, My Friend Leonard (detailing his heartwarming relationship with an illiterate prison inmate to whom he read `War and Peace) was clearly almost entirely fictional.

It remains to be seen whether this subterfuge will start a Helen Demidenko-scale scandal - or even a Jayson Blair scale one - but one way or the other, Frey's story - his real story - makes intriguing holiday reading.

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