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Scene Last Night: James Frey, Salman Rushdie at Booktrack Bash

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Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Reading isn’t considered polite at a party, but the hosts encouraged it at last night’s launch event for Booktrack, which makes electronic books with soundtracks.

On the fourth floor of Yotel, in midtown Manhattan, Chief Executive Paul Cameron and four models wearing neon-pink wigs and little black dresses stood before an array of headphones and iPads set up with Booktrack editions.

I got through the first page and spacey ambient music of a young-adult science-fiction novel called “The Power of Six” by Pittacus Lore.

Then Cameron switched me to a chapter in “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes -- the Adventure of the Speckled Band.”

Over the loud music of the party, I made out some popping sounds.

“It’s the fireplace in the study!” I sleuthed.

Others tested the product in the lounges. These were glass-enclosed rooms equipped with a stocked bar, large bowls of chocolate-covered pretzels and male models as hosts. Groups could read Booktrack editions on large television screens.

Literary agent Helene Brenkman said she was skeptical.

“What if you hear an explosion before you get to that paragraph? The surprise would be spoiled,” Brenkman said.

Cameron said the product measures your reading speed so that the right sounds arrive at the right time. For slow readers, the ambient music loops. Sound effects are pegged to specific words or groups of words, he said.

As the sun set, guests filled the expansive outdoor terrace for great views of the skyscrapers in Times Square.

“I read actual books,” said Paul Haggis, screenwriter and director of “Crash.” He has spent the summer reading “Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War,” by Karl Marlantes.

Rushdie With Sound

Salman Rushdie said he had listened to some of the soundtrack for “In the South,” a short story originally published in the New Yorker magazine. It will be available on Booktrack this fall.

“It’s about two old men in south India, on the edge of death. They are very close friends. It’s funny and sad,” he said.

James Frey said he uses music when he writes to get him in the right mood. “If I want to feel rage, I listen to heavy metal,” Frey said. “If I want to feel romantic, I listen to Mozart or love songs from the ‘80s.”

Frey’s company, Full Fathom Five, launched the young-adult series by Pittacus Lore, and Frey stars with the model Petra Nemcova in a short promotional video promoting Booktrack.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net or on Twitter at @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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