Looking at a list of books due or out this season, with an eye on literary fiction (The Pale King, by the late and gone-too-early David Foster Wallace, is much anticipated), I also saw that the conglomerates of Jodi Picoult and Danielle Steel continue to churn out novels like donuts at the Krispy Kreme. (And Mary Higgins Clark releases her 43rd mystery, which will bullet to #1, as usual.)

I wonder if they really deliver so prolifically by themselves, or whether they have something going on like another uber-bestselling scribe, James Patterson, who acknowledges he’s no longer actually involved in the writing of the quickie tomes that feature his byline; he provides outlines to various collaborators who follow his established formula for the final product. Anyone who’s read a Patterson novel (I plead guilty) pretty much knows the pattern — two-word chapters, anyone? — so it’s probably a by-rote endeavor for the crime novelist’s accomplices. Taking it a step further is the Sidney Sheldon “franchise,” with the author’s name (he died in 2007) tacked on books now executed by assorted romance/suspense writer-heirs.

Though the KFC-ing of the writing profession may be abhorrent to many, I admit I sometimes find these vacuous alternatives entertaining in times of stress. Formidable no-brainers when real thinking is to be avoided like the plague. But ‘til the next indulgence, it’s time for the Wallace, left (to be published on the 15th).