Uses a statistical equation to calculate the date his novel, for which he is seeking an agent, will be published.
I hate uncertainty in life and have therefore decided to apply sophisticated econometric modelling methods to calculate when my new novel, A Half Life of One, for which I am currently seeking an agent, will be published.
The world of statistical modelling has come on a long way since Bishop Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin calculated that the world was created in 4004 B.C. So far, in fact, that some Creationists now think that this date is too distant.
Applying the formula we arrive at a publication date of 21st March 2021. This is actually a Sunday. However, Monday, 22nd March 2021 is within the standard deviation of the model and is therefore the forecast Publication Date with a variance of + or – 3%.
Very funny. Especially if you live with a sociologist. Someone give him a read, please.
The U of M has acquired Bly’s archives. They will be kept in cryogenically frozen conditions. And by that I mean out back of the library.
The Publishing Contrarian blog has an involved post about author Millenia Black’s outrage at being asked to provide her racial background prior to appearing at a potential reading venue. Black’s argument seems to be that the only way minorities can get in to traditional reading venues is by submitting to what she calls “the nigger treatment”. The Contrarian and others argue that the original offensive question might have been a stab at marketing the event. All I can think is, marketing is a valid excuse? For me, that’s scraping the bottom of the barrel. But the Contrarian, as is her wont, thinks otherwise.
But although he and his readers love gore and lavatorial humour, cartoons and appalling jokes, his books actually contain vast amounts of information and give a vivid portrait of the past: the cruelty, the characters, the grisly lot of children. They even give dates. Sitting down with my seven-year-old to listen to the audio tape about the Romans – narrated by Deary himself – I groaned at his introductory old chestnut: “What did the Romans use to divide Gaul into three parts?”; answer: “Caesars”. But then he told the story of the death of Julius with high drama. “I didn’t know that,” said my son, who is now clamouring for more.
The fall cup positively runneth over with big books. Lit titles to pot boilers, they’re all here.
Some publishers took pains to avoid being swallowed up by the big names this season, releasing their books during quieter months. “A lot of people we have pushed to January or pulled forward to August because we knew it was going to be a killer fall,” said Neil Nyren, the publisher and editor in chief of G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a Penguin imprint. He moved one such book, “The Afghan,” a novel by Frederick Forsyth, to August. “I just didn’t want to plunk it down in the middle of all that,” he said of October and November. “Putting it in those slots would just be killing it.”
And writing a book about a crocheted blanket wouldn’t? Ohhh.
Reading this account of Ted Hughes’ time with Assia Wevill is like slowing the car to peer at a bloody accident. Horrid and fascinating. The authors do their best to provide a journalistic account, but you can see the conclusions being drawn. I have to say, Hughes was was a royal bastard, especially when it came to women, but I find it unconscionable that anyone would try to take a murder suicide (Assia’s killing of their daughter and herself) and chalk it up to “the outcome of a distorted over-responsibility”. How hideous. It was the outcome of insanity and self-indulgent revenge. I’m floored at the suggestion that this was otherwise.
In a letter to his close friend Lucas Myers, Hughes reflected on his part in the deaths of his wife and lover, confessing that with Plath it was his “insane decisions”, while in Wevill’s case it was his “insane indecisions”. When he granted us a rare interview in London in October 1996, Hughes said Plath’s death “was complicated and inevitable, she had been on that track most of her life. But Wevill’s was avoidable.” Perhaps this was why he tried to erase her from his life.
Her death and murder of their daughter may have been avoidable, but he would have had to dodge the day he met her. Anyone ready to kill their own child and themselves over a love affair has had the insanity from early days.
Billy Bragg, long may our elevated lighters burn in your presence, picks his top 10 books on Englishness. Not one of them has “crumpet” in the title.
Reader Franklin sends us to the Atlantic, to which he apparently subscribes so we get a three day pass (read it now, kiddies), where protean loudmouth Christopher Hitchens actually likes Pamuk’s Snow and thinks it an important window on Turkey. I can just picture a cartoon Pamuk behind the curtain repeatedly making the throat-cutting motion and urgently whispering, “Ix-nay on the aise-pray before you get me ill-kayed.”
IFOA opens tonight with a tribute to the 100th anniversary of Canadian publishing institution McClelland & Stewart. But is it still Canadian? Random owns 25% of the company with the other three quarters housed with a rather silent partner, the University of Toronto. If you were to look at it from a merely operational point of view, it might appear to be the other way around. Who’s calling the shots?
Whether or not M&S remains truly Canadian or just an imprint of an international company would not be a hot-button issue except for one thing: as a Canadian-owned company it’s eligible for government funding. In the last fiscal year, M&S received $578,365 and its children’s division, Tundra Books, $168,028 from the Ministry of Canadian Heritage. The two divisions also received block grants totalling $262,300 from the Canada Council. Grand total: $1,008,693.
“What does independence mean?” Pepper asks rhetorically. “I’m allowed to decide what books we buy, how much advances we pay, what royalties we offer, how many we print, the marketing terms. I make the decisions in consultation with the board.”
He’s the decider, see. And just what is “truth”, if you follow me…
So, the question becomes, is this money that should be ear-marked for “truly” Canadian presses? I see the point. But I also think some of Pepper’s comments ring true, as well. We’re a country rife with fear about cultural imperialism (with good reason), but we shouldn’t start jumping at shadows just yet. Just because the new American owner hired an American to come in and implement American-style cost cutting measures, doesn’t mean we should get our
knickers Calvins in a twist. When they start publishing Russell Banks and Richard Ford to the exclusion of Andre Alexis and that young Munro lady, I think we should really start to worry.
UK photog Madeleine Waller has assembled a series of beautiful glamour shots of various UK poets. It’s one of those yucky flash-y sites, so I can’t link directly in. You have to click on “colour” and then “poets” to get the shots. But once you’re in, the presentation is quite nice. (Thanks, Todd)
Should the composer of what’s possibly the worst poem ever be in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography?
Ford Madox Ford called Marzials “the handsomest, the wittiest, the most brilliant and the most charming of poets”. Yet one of Marzials’s claims to fugitive fame is authorship of reputedly the worst poem ever written. Called “A Tragedy”, it begins: “Death! / Plop. / The barges down in the river flop. / Flop, plop,” and it ends, “I can dare, I can dare! / And let myself all run away with my head, / And stop. / Drop / Dead. / Plop, flop. / Plop.”
I say, let ‘im in! He was a sound poet of excorptional skull.
Barb Carey goes over the GG poetry list for the CBC, with special attention to newcomer and darkhorse candidate, Nightwood author Elizabeth Bachinsky.
So, what does it take to be noticed? Judging by this year’s GG shortlist, announced Oct. 16, the loosely conversational, anecdotal mode prevalent in a lot of Canadian poetry doesn’t cut it. Virtuosity is a virtue: the five finalists are phrase makers of ample skill that remind us that words are sound, not just shapes on a page.
I love that this prize is going to be called the Man Asian Literary Prize. MALP. That should go over well.
Michael at the Literary Saloon has done some digging and found that Pamuk’s first scheduled post-Nobel speaking engagement (scheduled long before the win), at a Minnisota university, has been cancelled due to “increased demands” on his schedule. Besides bad form, the Saloon wonders if there’s a more political reason, perhaps something small — say, the lectureship’s tendency to talk about Armenian genocides and such. Is Pamuk lying low back home? Interesting questions.
I don’t usually link to reviews, but this guy (generally) makes me (almost) wish I was American.
In a New York magazine fluff piece, a bunch of writers reveal working titles for their famous works that went on to glory and success with GOOD titles. I’m sure there are better stories than this out there, but then you’d have no current market tie in. It would be hard, though, to resist “Breast Case Senario”, wouldn’t it?
The Toronto Star has ousted both its publisher and editor and replaced them with two SoWest Ontario boys. I guess a bad quarter leads to calling in the small town reserves. Skip this if you aren’t a paper wonk.
GG-nominated author of The Fearsome Particles, Trevor Cole, joins Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer in The Magazine for a chat recorded (audio, 6.3 meg) back in September. Cole’s work has been nationally and internationally acclaimed, having previously been shortlisted for a GG and longlisted for the IMPAC award. Here Cole talks about his work, about his audio archive project Author’s Aloud, about journalism and more.
Seamus Heaney is recovering in Ireland from a stroke. Not sure if there’s more news on this. If you see something, please . (Thanks, J)
A few years back, I bumped into a Famous Canadian Writer at a post-Giller Awards party. She had just lost to a fellow novelist and was, as a result, tipsy and just the slightest bit bitter. When I expressed my disappointment at her defeat, she snapped, “Canadian publishing is just like high school and I didn’t get to be prom queen once again,” before heading to the bar for another drink.
Well, you’re all prom queens in my eyes, dearies. And by that I mean your mascara is running and you’re about to puke in the quarterback’s Camaro, but you’re the queen tonight, nonetheless. Remember that. Hang on to it with slowly-wrinkling white knuckles. It was the time of your life.
Is there an unspoken movement afoot to diversify award lists, and thereby revivify literature? Not really. What do they offer then? A snapshot of now.
Awards, after all, can’t help but be subjective, reflections of both their juries and their times. Just look at this year’s National Book Award nominees. Among the young people’s finalists is Gene Luen Yang’s “American Born Chinese,” the first graphic novel ever so honored, while the fiction list includes Dana Spiotta’s “Eat the Document,” a kaleidoscopic portrait of a 1960s radical gone underground, and Mark Z. Danielewski’s “Only Revolutions,” a book so nonlinear it comes with instructions on how it should be read.
Are these the best books of the year? That’s impossible to answer — and I don’t think it’s pertinent in any case. More important is to see them as expressions of their moment, as impressions of where literature is right now.
True to its heritage, however, the world’s largest seller of maps has atlases and paper maps as the backbone of the initiative. While the privately held company doesn’t disclose specific figures about its business, Chief Executive Robert Apatoff says print products still account for the majority of its sales.
Anyone who thinks old-fashioned folded maps are going away should think again, according to Apatoff.
“It’s kind of like saying newspapers are going to disappear,” he said in an interview at the company’s headquarters north of Chicago. “There’s going to be some changes in how they’re used, but people still want to open them and read them with their coffee.
“Same thing with trip planning. People will continue to want to be able to consume maps this way,” he said, even if they use maps or atlases together with hand-held devices or the Internet.
Um, no, I Mapquest everything. Sorry. They even give me directions which only get me lost about 45% of the time! This represents a 33% increase in the odds of my arriving on time! Plus, I’ve met all sorts of new people in Tuktoyaktuk.
Microsoft and Google amoebas touch sticky pseudopods in tentative precursor of eventual catastrophically-gooey collision. Spluck!
South African poet laureate and ANC leader, dead at 76.
Another great small press list, especially if Anansi can still be considered a small press. Maybe small press alumnus. Anyway, it’s good to see Ninja favs such as Bachinsky’s Nightwood book in there for poetry, and Trevor Cole’s Fearsome Particles and Andre Alexis’s Ingrid and the Wolf for kids. We have a podcast interview with Cole coming up tomorrow. Look for it!
- Peter Behrens, The Law of Dreams (House of Anansi Press)
- Trevor Cole, The Fearsome Particles (McClelland & Stewart)
- Bill Gaston, Gargoyles (House of Anansi Press)
- Paul Glennon, The Dodecahedron, or A Frame for Frames (The Porcupine’s Quill)
- Rawi Hage, De Niro’s Game (House of Anansi Press)
Congrats all around!
André Alexis writes in the Globe that there is something inherently wrong with French novels being on shortlist of a prize designed to honour English language books — especially given the short shrift the translators have received as part of the media hooplah.
The members of the Giller jury, in nominating The Perfect Circle and The Immaculate Conception for this year’s Giller Prize have, I think, tacitly suggested that the original language of a novel is less than essential to the novel itself. At least, that seems to be what the Giller jury is saying, in that the names of the translators (Sheila Fischman translated Le Cercle parfait and Lazer Lederhendler translated L’Immaculée conception) are nowhere near as prominent in the announcements/press releases for this year’s Giller Prize as the names of the writers of the French originals.
It’s as if the prize were being given not to a book but to an “essence” (a story, a plot, characters) that can be, now, in French or, now, in English without losing any significance. Again, I think this is profoundly wrong and it is, besides, a great insult to the translators. The Immaculate Conception is in the English of Sheila Fischman (who is, I think, one of the least-heralded great contributors to Canadian literary culture).
If the Giller is a prize given to work written in English, the majority of the prize should be given not to Soucy but to Fischman. Same goes for The Perfect Circle by Lederhendler. Yes, Soucy and Quiviger are important to the English novels, but they do not write in English, have not written these novels in English and should not be eligible for the major portion of the Giller Prize amount. At the very least, Fischman and Lederhendler should share the prize equally with the writer of their book’s original version.
The end of Lemony? Kids, lining up with parents in New York to get their book signed by Snickett’s representative Handler, speculate. It’s funny to hear some of their pleas for him to not stop. And I mean that in a cruel, looking down on your pathetic, slobbering, burlap-covered orphan-form kind-of-way.
Children and their parents queued from the time Handler’s reading and performance finished around 4.30pm until midnight to get their Snicket rubber stamps and personal dedications on the tomes they clutched. ‘It’s not good. He is a genius, in a weird way – 13 is an unlucky number, though, so I’m not sure if he is telling the truth. He’s too young to stop. Maybe he will suffer all the tortures that he puts in his books,’ said Jessica Cohen, 12, from Manhattan.
Oooh! She’s got the spirit! Get ‘im, Jessica!
Agatha once went missing for 11 days and now someone thinks a recently invented disorder (as most disorders are) might explain what happened, lo those years ago.
Christie was eventually discovered safe, but in circumstances that raised more questions than they answered. Alone, and using an assumed name, she had been living in a spa hotel in Harrogate since the day after her disappearance, even though news of her case had reached as far as the front page of the New York Times. Until now the two most popular theories offered for these strange events have been that either Christie was suffering from memory loss after a car crash, or that she had planned the whole thing to thwart her husband’s plans to spend a weekend with his mistress at a house close to where she abandoned her car.
But Norman, a former doctor, believes the novelist was in a fugue state, or, more technically, a psychogenic trance, a rare, deluded condition brought on by trauma or depression, which may also have led the writer and actor Stephen Fry to travel to Bruges in 1995 without leaving word with his friends or family.
Sweetheart, I’m headed to New York for a couple of weeks. If you tell me later that I shouldn’t have gone, I’ll blame it on my brain.
I ask what it is about his poetry that makes it so difficult for the regime to tolerate – and we’re back to politics again. He’s uncomfortable with the focus the western media have placed on the time he has spent in prison, and on the censorship of his work.
“There are poets who are political activists and members of underground organisations,” he says, “and there are poets like myself who do not participate actively in underground organisations, but who have strong political views and a strong vision which has sometimes landed them in trouble.”
An interesting, long article on how the new philanthropists (much like the new universities) are directing their dollars into the sciences that fight disease and better humanity, while the arts are finding themselves on the short end of the charity stick. Is this necessarily a bad thing?
It’s a rising concern for many potential donors to the arts: What is the justification for donating to the opera when the money could help stamp out malaria — or stem global warming, reform education or solve any of a number of humanitarian crises? For arts groups, the problem is being exacerbated as some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people have stepped up in the past year to give globally, from Warren Buffett’s more than $30 billion donation to causes like AIDS and tuberculosis initiatives through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to Richard Branson’s $3 billion pledge to invest in renewable-energy research and technology.
Arts organizations have mainly ducked this issue until recently, targeting only those deeply interested in the arts and hitting up their current donor rosters — typically packed with old money from full-time philanthropists — for bigger donations. But now, as more donors turn to humanitarian causes, arts groups are scrambling to tap the fortunes of the next generation — Internet billionaires, hedge-fund moguls and biotech entrepreneurs.
New philanthropists “want to go where the zeitgeist is,” says András Szántó, an arts consultant who serves as a senior adviser to the Wealth and Giving Forum. “And the genuine intelligence and progress in society right now is in science and technology.
First things first: in a heartbeat, please give your money to an AIDS charity before you give it to me. But. Now. See. The problem, in my mind at least, is that much of what’s being given by private individuals and foundations here actually enables negligent governments, by taking the pressure off the imperative to take care of their people. If even a fraction of the money governments spend on the science of military weaponry was given over to the science of bettering the human condition (which is what I thought we elected governments to do) philanthropists with time on their hands wouldn’t have to play science superhero and could instead spend a nice night at the opera they paid for. Won’t you please think of the (rich) children?
AN Wilson says old books were pretty and new books are ugly. Well, that may be true, but it’s the opposite for people, ANnie.
Do books have to be ugly? It is a question that poses itself almost every time one walks through one of the huge American-style bookshops that are now the norm in this country, gazing with dismay at the heaps of ugly dust-wrappers and book covers.
There are many books there that I would like to read, or at least to try, but few that I would want in my room, clashing with the lovely old Penguin poets, the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, the sets of Dickens, Conrad and Carlyle and the Nonesuch volumes, all of which confirm the Anthony Powell view that books do furnish a room.
Faw faw, faw faw faw. And have I mentioned my collection of books? But seriously, I do agree that many, if not most, books these days are ugly, especially compared with the simple elegance (read: lack of computer technology) of years past. But while I think doilies are pretty, you don’t see me decorating my house with them because I’m not a refugee from Victorian England.
No doubt there will be occasional pieces over the next few weeks, but it’s amazing how quickly something like this can fade out of the news these days.
Joyce Carol Oates has a piece on Margaret Atwood in the NYRB. I swear to god, JCO must get wrist transplants ever two years. How does she write SO MUCH??
Author of twenty volumes of prose fiction including most notably the novels Surfacing, The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake, as well as thirteen volumes of poetry, six works of nonfiction, and six children’s books, Margaret Atwood has an international reputation that differs considerably from her reputation in her native Canada, where she became, virtually overnight in 1972, at the age of thirty-three, the most celebrated and controversial Canadian writer of the era. The daughter of an entomologist at the University of Toronto, with a master’s degree in Victorian literature from Harvard (1962), Atwood would seem to have an instinct for taxonomy; for the casting of a cold but not unsympathetic eye upon the strategies by which individuals present themselves to others in order to confirm their identity or, simply, like the desperate captive in The Handmaid’s Tale, her most widely read novel, to survive.
(From Backwards City)
Do any of you have opinions on this? I’d like to make this space open to both sides of the issue. On one hand, I support the evolution of copyright to something that doesn’t impede artistic process and journalistic freedom. On the other, I see that people just want to get paid and that big corps like the Globe don’t want to pay them. What’s the bigger picture here?
The British-based author and former publisher Carmen Callil has become embroiled in a growing dispute over the limits of freedom of speech in America after a party celebrating her new book on Vichy France was cancelled because of the opinion she expresses about the modern state of Israel.
A party in honour of Bad Faith, Callil’s account of Louis Darquier, the Vichy official who arranged the deportation of thousands of Jews, was to have taken place at the French embassy in New York last night but was cancelled after the embassy became aware of a paragraph in the postscript of the book. In the postscript Callil says she grew anxious while researching the “helpless terror of the Jews of France” to see “what the Jews of Israel were passing on to the Palestinian people. Like the rest of humanity, the Jews of Israel ‘forget’ the Palestinians. Everyone forgets.”
Who cares about all the award news when there’s a new, and final, Lemony Snickett novel to parse?
The symbolism of 13 has not been lost on Lemony Snicket, the nom de plume of the author Daniel Handler, whose “Series of Unfortunate Events” reaches its mordant and much-anticipated denouement today with publication of “The End,” the 13th installment of this children’s book series. (The first 12 volumes, in case you failed to notice, contain 13 chapters each.) The books have collectively sold more than 51 million copies worldwide since the series began seven years ago.
Is writing a novel akin to being filmed while, ahem, you know, ah, being, um, intimate? If it is, dudes, I am so starting a novel today. A British actress dishes on making the switch from screen to page.
Is she worried about how it will be received? “Nobody wants to be criticised, so it’s partly that and partly because I don’t know where it has come from. I don’t know what it is. With acting, it’s like I want to reach everybody with it, but I didn’t have any of those feelings with the book. It just felt like it was between me and [her editor] Alan Samson. When he first told me that someone else had read it, I was absolutely stunned. It was like someone had videoed us making love. It felt almost as intimate. [Writing] comes from the subconscious and that makes you feel exposed.”
I bet this is EXACTLY how Pam and Tommy felt. But, you know, with more money and drugs.
I call those “week days”.
Hipsters on the streets of New York are wearing “Stewart/Colbert ‘08″ T-shirts, promoting a Dream Team presidential ticket featuring the Comedy Central stars. And the subway is plastered with ads for Man of the Year, the new Barry Levinson film that imagines an American public so disgusted with politics that it elects a fake news anchor president.
Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, insists he’s not running. But judging from the reverential reception he received at last weekend’s New Yorker Festival, and the fact that tickets to his appearance sold out in about two minutes, there’s a hunger for something truthful and authentic in American politics. Man of the Year suggests the place to find it is in fake news.
I know, I know. But I would vote for him. In a heartbeat. We let an idiot try. Now lets let a smart guy try again.
For the record, when I mentioned yesterday that the Pamuk win seemed to have the oily sheen of politics to it, I had no idea that whole line of reasoning would be picked up by an undesirable element of the political spectrum to hem and haw over. What I hoped to impart, and I still think is true, is that the timing is either coincidentally fortuitous or well-planned. I don’t think there’s any way around that.
But I also noted that he deserves this prize more than a few of the recent winners. I don’t think the argument that the award was politically motivated should negate the worth of the win, though I suppose it must, to some extent. What can’t be taken from Pamuk is the excellence of his work. Here’s a bit of what’s being said today about the whole thing:
- Slate has a roundup of what the blogs are saying about possible politics in the Pamuk Nobel pick (about halfway down).
- Reuters and Slate Pamuk primers — for those of you dwelling in caves and not reading BN as closely as you should
- Boston Globe primer and editorial on politics
- Excerpts in NYT from Pamuk’s work and yet another primer
- Pamuk translator Maureen Freely on the right wing agenda to smear her and Pamuk
- Telegraph (you guessed it) primer and a Guardian primer/analysis of politics
Harold Pinter, in his actor form, is going to be performing in Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. Colm Tóibín recounts an earlier meeting with Pinter the actor and wonders what will happen when these two large heads meet.
It was April 1997 and Harold Pinter had just come off the stage of the Gate Theatre in Dublin, where he had been performing in his own play The Collection. I was standing in the coffee bar with the Australian novelist David Malouf and we were marvelling at the mixture of agility and menace and mystery that Pinter the actor had just displayed when we were approached by the theatre’s artistic director, Michael Colgan, who told us that Mr Pinter wanted to meet us.
Immediately, I encouraged David Malouf to go alone to meet the great man, but Colgan demanded that I come too, assuring me that Pinter had specifically wanted to meet me. I was then, as I hope to remain to my dying day, an obscure Irish novelist and I knew that Pinter had neither heard of me nor read me, but Colgan insisted and I reluctantly agreed.
Insensitive? Maybe. JCO is in the Freying pan for writing a fictionalized account of a recent very-real death in New Jersey. The woman actually must type at warp speed to put out all that she does, so I can’t imagine her having the time to wait for any current event to cool enough to make its fictionalization sensitive to those involved. It’s an interesting point, though. You wouldn’t go blabbing to grieving relatives and friends about someone’s recent demise, so should writers (of fiction or journalism) be held to any different standard? Does politeness have a place here? I think you know what my answer is. What’s yours?
Alex Beam walks you through the money saving process of not reading. Now THIS is useful journalism.
More than 55 years ago, a little known academic named Mortimer Adler published “How to Read a Book.” The 400-page tome, aimed at “readers and those who wish to become readers,” was a surprise hit and spent several weeks on 1940 best seller lists.
An update of this hot-selling concept would be: “How Not to Read a Book.” Books are expensive, and most of them are not very well written anyway. I have not read dozens of books in just the past few months. I am prepared to share my secrets of un-reading with you.
Automated translation services are getting better all the time, but hopefully they’ll never get too good.
“The Babel fish is small, yellow and leechlike, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe,” Adams wrote. “It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.”
That’s the idea, anyway. In practice, the translation services inspired by the Babel fish sometimes give the impression of helping us misunderstand anything said in any one of a dozen languages. Elevators haven’t quite been installed in the Tower of Babel yet. And some of us are rather grateful for that. It’s a beautiful tower, even if it does look like a cross between a construction site and a ruin.
For those of us who see every error as a potential poem or joke, every new web service or handheld gizmo claiming to do translation strikes a chill in the heart.
I recently corresponded with an eBay seller in France over a two month period, using only my high school French and Babel Fish. They were surprisingly uniform in ability. I think she thought I was more illiterate, than unilingual, which is a triumph!
Are the awards for people in the biz and those outside it. The National Book Awards announce their shortlist and the Quills annouce their “winners”. It’s like trying to navigate through a pack of running horses today.
Tis the season for awards coverage.
Political pick? The last couple years of Nobel picks have shown a definite political agenda. Last year it was anti-American playwright (yes, I’m aware that’s a terribly unfair reduction) Harold Pinter and this year it is Orhan please-don’t-kill-or-incarcerate-him Pamuk. Pamuk, whose Snow was recently reviewed here at Bookninja, may deserve the prize, moreso than some recent winners, but one can’t help but wonder at the timeliness of the choice.
As many of you know, Ninja K’s fantastic first novel The Nettle Spinner, was up for the Amazon First Novel Award last night. The prize went to powerhouse Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, which given its stellar reviews and international acclaim, is no real surprise. Still, I have to take a minute to encourage you to buy Kathryn’s book, which is a real shocker of first novel. It somehow manages to combine a breathy elegance with a sweaty musculature and come up with something that defies the typical gender divisions in CanLit.
(On another note: I was a little disappointed last to try to follow the proceedings from St. John’s. I decided I would open the Amazon award page on Amazon and keep refreshing until they posted. Do you think I could find the award page anywhere, on the very night they were granting the award? I find it odd enough that they announce the shortlist in the spring but wait until the fall to award it. The fact that they do virtually no promotion of it in between, up to and including the night of the award, is extremely peculiar. If you saw a business being run this way, you’d assume it was a mafia money laundering front.)
For an aspiring novelist, Robert J. Wiersema spent several years in just about the best and worst situation. The former student of University of Victoria’s creative writing program (he dropped out to complete an English degree) co-ordinated author events at Victoria’s famed Bolen Books. He was a little like a literary Tantalus: a guy with a drawer full of unpublished manuscripts and rejection letters who was surrounded by successful writers, literary agents and book publicists.
So Wiersema came up with a plan. He would establish himself as a respected book critic, writing reviews for the Quill & Quire, the Vancouver Sun, the Globe and Mail and the Ottawa Citizen. He called it his “audition for publishers.” And it worked. After writing dozens of reviews over a three-and-a-half-year period, Wiersema called up publishers and agents to tell them about the latest novel he’d been toiling over.
A first-time fantasy author gets her trilogy (there has to be at least three books in fantasy… it’s a rule) bought by LOTR filmmaker Peter Jackson. Lights! Camera! CGI!
Ms. Novik grew up in Roslyn Heights on Long Island, the daughter of two Polish immigrants who read her fairy tales in Polish. She was an early and voracious reader who, at 6, first breezed through “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and a few years later developed a Jane Austen obsession. In high school she was a self-described “stereotypical nerd” and a straight-A student who spent lunch and recess in the library.
Around 1994 Ms. Novik began writing fan fiction, stories based on the characters of other writers. She called it “embarrassing, terrible early work” that could not be published — thankfully, she said — because it would be tantamount to copyright infringement on other authors’ characters.
You’ll note at one point near the beginning they talk of her sitting in her Upper East Side apartment. This is why the headline couldn’t read “rags to riches”…