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Media Watch

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SEX SELLS: When a producer from Oprah asked Lana Holstein, formerly a sex therapist at Tucson's Canyon Ranch who has now rolled over to Miraval, to appear on last Thursday's show (called "Is Your Sex Life Normal?"), nobody seemed to realize that Holstein and husband David Taylor had a new book out as of last month. But the Oprah spot gave Holstein a perfect opportunity to hawk the book, Your Long Erotic Weekend: Four Days of Passion for a Lifetime of Magnificent Sex. Within hours, the slim volume had moved to No. 2 in Amazon.com's sales rankings.

On Friday morning, it was No. 1.

Now, the peculiarities of Amazon.com's system mean that a single book-discussion club in Marana can bump a novel's ranking up thousands of places in a single day. With the Oprah exposure, though, you can bet Holstein has pretty well earned back her advance already.

What none of the book's panting readers will realize is that, although Holstein and Taylor provided the ideas and advice, the tome's actual sequence of words and punctuation, and particularly its prurient sex scenes, were largely devised by a ghost writer. No dishonor there--subject specialists aren't generally confident writers, or else they're just too busy specializing in their subjects, so they hire pros to get their ideas into print. Happens all the time. I've ghosted a couple of (as yet unpublished) books myself.

Most readers probably couldn't care less about this. They'll be way too busy with other concerns, judging from the blurb at Amazon.com ("Couples leave sexual dullsville behind forever as they learn how to awaken their sensual selves, rekindle that sexual spark, master the tantric secrets of orgasm, and take one another to heights of passion they've only dreamed about").

But Tucson Weekly readers should care. That's because the ghostwriter is none other than our very own RenÉe Downing.

If nothing else, that means that the style is vibrant and the grammar is correct. (But neither she nor Holstein and Taylor wrote the jacket copy or the Amazon.com blurb--"Don't think the three of us had anything to do with the Cosmo stuff," she warns.)

"I feel as if I've been hit by a large but pleasant object," RenÉe e-mailed me upon learning about the book's success. She stands to gain a small financial benefit from future sales, the sort of arrangement where she expected to need an electron microscope and a pipette to endorse her royalty checks. Even so, "With Oprah flogging the thing--who knows? I don't see a second house in Malibu, but maybe some help with tuition. Ack! Hubris."

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