NEW YORK — Heads are spinning in publishing circles in the wake of Jonathan Karp’s boomerang-like trajectory from Random House to Hollywood — and back — after five weeks in the saddle as a production veep at Scott Rudin Prods.

One of the fastest turnarounds in recent publishing history — Karp will resume his old job as Random veep and senior editor next week — the saga points up how difficult it can be for even the most savvy publishing vet to survive a Hollywood initiation at the hands of a powerful industry exec.

And it’s not just the powerbrokers who are feeling the pressure: The travails of a Hollywood newcomer is the topic of a new book that is making waves in the industry, “It’s All Your Fault: How to Make It As a Hollywood Assistant,” just out from Fireside.

HBO has expressed interest in the book as a potential series, but there’s no deal.

Written by Bill Robinson, Diane Keaton’s partner at Blue Relief Prods., and the screenwriter Ceridwen Morris, the book, among other things, spotlights just how hard it may be for someone steeped, as Karp was, in book culture, to adjust to the Hollywood vernacular. On any given day, write Robinson and Morris, a producer‘s assistant could find himself typing of pages of development notes as incisive as the following: “One way to up the romantic tension would be a quick sex scene right before the Travolta character dies of cancer.”

Karp wasn’t an assistant but an exec expected to buy and develop books for the screen. But while Scott Rudin Prods. is known for buying a wide range of literary material, the fast-track production schedule of an office producing seven films concurrently — budgeted at $300 million in total — couldn’t have left much time for literary introspection.

GOLDIE HAWN WILL produce and Marsha Norman (” ‘Night Mother”) is writing the screenplay, of a telepic in development for CBS based on Barbara Robinette Moss’ memoir, “Change Me Into Zeus’s Daughter.”

Book, about Moss’s hardscrabble childhood in rural Arkansas, was originally published by a tiny Iowa City press, then reissued in hardcover by Scribner last fall.

Pic is being produced by Hawn’s Cherry Alley Prods. and Alliance Atlantis. Now in early development, the lead character is likely to be a vigorous role for a female thesp. Moss was and abused by an alcoholic father and underwent plastic surgery to repair physical disfigurement before becoming an award-winning author.

JOHN CUSACK IS WRITING a screenplay with Mark Leyner based on Leyner’s novel, “Et Tu, Babe.”

A gonzo story about a weightlifting, ultra-rich celebrity author named Mark Leyner, the book is a freewheeling spoof of contemporary culture filled with references to Hollywood and the publishing biz.

It will be a New Crime production, which is Cusack’s company that did last year’s “High Fidelity.” The project is parked at New Line under a development deal Cusack has with the studio. Given the turmoil at that company, it’s fate is now an open question.

Despite the departure of Mike De Luca, Lynn Harris and Claire Rudnick-Polstein, “Et Tu, Babe,” may be another project that’s orphaned before being snapped up by another studio.

MAXIM EDITOR KEITH BLANCHARD has sold an untitled novel to Simon & Schuster.

Due out in the spring of 2002, it’s the story of a Gotham ad exec searching for a documentary that will make him the heir to untold fortunes. The book is rife with information about the origins and evolution of Manhattan, but most of the action takes place in today’s New York. Not surprisingly for the presiding spirit of a magazine that’s captured the unreconstructed hearts of millions of young American men, Blanchard “has a real ear for the way young New Yorkers talk to each other — and it’s very funny,” according to acquisitions editor Geoffrey Kloske.

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