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August 12, 1988 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-08-12

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he Nancy Reagan
book "will be a book
about one woman's
experience of living in the
White House and being
married to the President."

spoiled Novak. Said Fein, "He's very un-
pretentious. The fact that he's moving in
extraordinary circles has not made him at
all haughty."
But they also guess that he may be
wearying of ghosting. Novak himself says
he may leave ghosting when it ceases to be
"enjoyable: '
"The Nancy Reagan book may be the
last. Or there may be a dozen more. If there
was some book I was dying to write'on my
own, I would do it. And right now, there
is a book I'm dying to work on — The Big
Book of Humor."
Novak is about to sign a contract for The
Big Book. In a sense, it will be a secular
sequel to the 1981 Big Book of Jewish
Humor. Edited by Novak and his friend,
Moshe Waldoks, who will also work on the

new humor book, the first Big Book was
a compendium of Jewish humor writing
that included everyone from Woody Allen,
Lenny Bruce, the Marx Brothers and the
Wise Men of Chelm.
"Without bragging," said Novak, "I can
say the Big Book of Humor is a wonderful
book because I didn't write it. It's an
anthology of other people's writing."
Regardless of the speculation about
Novak's tolerance for more "as-told-to"
projects, he seems like someone having a
fine time. He appears to know who he is
and why he does what he does. "I've been
called a 'ventriloquist: " he said, "but
that's not a good analogy because it im-
plies I write the script for the people I
ghost for, which I don't. I just help them
say it better." Shrugging off questions
about whether his ego is lost, submerged
or compromised by ghosting books by bet-
ter known people, he said, "I never had this
much attention until I became a ghost
writer. So it's been fine for my ego."
"Hell, my name's on the cover of these
books. What more ego gratification can
you get? These days, ghost writers are get-
ting so much attention that some people
think I can write these books on my own.
That's ridiculous. I don't invent these
books. I write them depending on what I'm
getting. I always figure these guys could
have written these books with many dif-
ferent writers, but I could have written
them only with them."
For seven years a Jewish journalist,
Novak still cares deeply about the profes-
sion. While working on the Iacocca book,
he edited the short-lived chavurah move-
ment journal, New Traditions. And he is
"appalled at the general level of Jewish
journalism. The Jewish community will
not be mature, responsible, or dynamic un-
til it has better newspapers."
For the past year, Novak has been a
member of the board of the Fund for
Jewish Journalism, the Bronfman
Foundation-funded effort to improve
Jewish journalism in the U.S. "It took a
long time to get going on this committee,"
he said, "but it's now just starting to have
some effect. It's a harder job than we
thought. People have little idea of the
dismal caliber of Jewish journalism in this
Perhaps Novak has been able to handle
the success, the affluence and the version
of fame that comes with ghosting because
he never set out to it. He wanted to write
his own books — and he did that, although
not with the success he imagined. So to
any budding ghost, Novak advises, "First
write at least one book of your own so you
won't always be asking yourself, 'Is this
my book?' Because it's not."
"But when you write your own books,
they don't go away. They're on your shelf
even if they're on no one else's. I know
what's mine. And I know what is someone
else's." III




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