You're maybe a little suspicious that for the first Media Guy's Pop Pick of 2010, I'm plugging (and giving away two copies of) a new book by Advertising Age's Ken Wheaton. You're probably thinking: Doing a solid for a colleague, eh? Well, no. I don't even like Ken Wheaton. He drives me nuts! He's constantly doing things like singing Taylor Swift songs (loudly) to himself in his cubicle, checking his Palm Pre whenever I start talking in meetings, and eating my home-made lunch out of the office fridge -- even though I always write "PROPERTY OF SIMON! DON'T EAT!" in big letters on the paper bag. (And then, standing there with yolk and mayo on his chin, he'll say, "Oh, was that your egg-salad sandwich?")
OK, actually, I made all of that up. Truth is, I barely ever see Ken because I don't work out of Ad Age HQ -- so I feel I can enthusiastically endorse The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival, his debut novel, from a literal remove. (In fact, Ken has no idea yet that I've read his book, or that I'm saying nice things about it.) Even if you're a fan of Ken's writing in Ad Age, there's no way you'd expect he had in him the story of a young Catholic priest who, as the back-cover promo copy explains, "has come home to the bayou to take charge of St. Pete's church." Does that sound earnest and religious-lit-y? It's anything but. I wasn't kidding in my headline above: Ken's protagonist, Father Steve Sibille, haphazardly (and more than a bit desperately) devises the book's namesake event to keep his easily distracted flock from getting poached by a newly arrived Pentecostal minister who's building a megachurch nearby. It's a deceptively simple story populated by deeply complicated, beautifully nuanced characters -- and it's as irreverent and raucously funny as, well, you'd expect a novel by Ken Wheaton to be. The out-of-left-field bonus is that it's also often touching and gently profound (about, for starters, Southern and Cajun culture, race relations, mortality, sexual identity, friendship, loyalty, the limits of faith ... and the tendency of all God's children to look for love in all the wrong places).
To celebrate the publication of The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival, I'm randomly giving away two copies (see the fine print below), in keeping with recent Media Guy's Pop Pick tradition. But if you don't want to test your luck, you can buy a copy here.
And, hey, Ken? Stop eating my damn egg-salad sandwiches.
THE FINE PRINT: To enter my random drawing for one of two copies of "The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival" in this informal Media Guy's Pop Pick giveaway, send me an e-mail with "Rabbit Festival" in the subject line on or before Jan. 31 (the cut-off is 12 midnight EST). You must have a valid U.S. mailing address and be 18 or older.
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Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco