This is an interesting piece on the invisible arbiters of literature — those shadowy, half-human folk in the leather zipper masks who are kept down in the basement in a range of cages and trunks and are released once a month to decide whether your ms makes it from the slush pile to the editor’s desk.
The reader’s report is the most silent of literary genres, its existence publicly acknowledged only in attacks or parodies. In Umberto Eco’s Misreadings, spectacularly obtuse flunkies advise publishers to reject the Divine Comedy and The Trial. (”Why is the protagonist on trial?” the report queries in exasperation, adding that if this and other issues could be clarified, the novel might eventually become publishable.) Few if any real reader’s reports are ever published; they’re written for an extremely limited audience: the editors and publishers who will decide whether to bring out the book in question. Hence the hostility the reader’s report inevitably generates. The lowly minion who authors it can do something no after-the-fact reviewer, however powerful and unkind, can accomplish: stop the book from being published in the first place.
In related, perhaps relieving, news: you can see they are not always right.
Some pics of Rowling’s new handmade book — Needleneck the Nerd or something. Looks a bit like Jack the Ripper’s diary, but is pretty sweet, all things considered. Luckily, she only has seven fans, all of whom suffer from an excess of disposable income. This reminds me of something that happened many years ago. My memory is faulty, but I think Stephen King or William Gibson or someone like that released a book that on an encrypted disk that could only be read once before it destroyed itself, which can be a good thing with King, but there were cries of protest at the stunt. Of course, the text was broken open and available widely shortly thereafter. How long do you think before the contents of this book are available for sale in an “everynerd” edition?
As discussed in an interesting and largely civil fashion here over the last few days, there’s been a claim made that Martin Amis has been engaging in racism. Not so, says Hitch.
Ronan Bennett’s clumsy tirade against Martin Amis in G2 on Monday will not have been a complete waste of space if it allows us to revisit the words “discriminate” or “discrimination”. In a public quarrel that originated between two professors of English (Amis and Terry Eagleton) it ought not to be necessary to remind people that these terms are, at root, complimentary. To have a discriminating palate, for example, is to enjoy good taste. I have argued for years that the concept is absurd when applied to racists. “Discrimination” is something that they just can’t manage. Indeed, it is the very thing of all things that they cannot, by definition, manage. A racist is a racist precisely because he can’t distinguish between a Jew and another Jew, or an Asian or West Indian or Chechen. The “out” groups are all made up of generalised amalgams and there can be no exceptions.
God, I crack me up. Guardian blogger Antonio Banderas doesn’t really like Amazon’s ebook reader, Kindle, but he does outline some requirements he’ll need before unleashing his sultry gaze on an electronic screen — most of which, of course, preclude any form of electronic technology. Unlike Tony and his rakishly tousled hair, I dislike it for different reasons: I wish to OWN my books, not rent them or have my use of them dictated to me by a table full of lawyers. Aside from practical and fetishistic concerns, this is what mostly holds me back from switching. I suspect people won’t take to this one more than the previous ones. But I’ve been known to be wrong before. (Like Monday morning when at the ultrasound technician’s room I was sure Lady Ninja had a girl in her gulliver, but it turned out to be another boy. Take heed, those who would oppose me. My army grows.)
Publicists must just drool over this kind of article. It’s like fluff manna from heaven. I can hear the phone pitch now: There’s no real controversy around this book, unless you count the massive psychological trauma that could result in adults not purchasing this book and not hiding it away from their children’s beady little prying eyes! Oh, and by the way, would you mind pointing out how beautiful the book is? Oh, and mention all the other successes too. Well, I suppose you can forget the controversy part after the first couple paragraphs, it might get in the way of the sales pitch… Listen, do us a favour? Just work as much of this flack copy into the article as you can, will you?
Parents take note: The new illustrated version of Yann Martel’s Booker-Prize-winning novel Life of Pi is not meant for children.
Yes, this new edition from Alfred A. Knopf publishers in Canada is filled with pretty pictures of a tiger, a zebra, turtles, fish and other creatures populating the story. And at first glance, those pretty pictures exude a sense of whimsy. But look more closely. They also are shrouded in dread. Remember: Most of these animals get eaten by one another in violent, gory scenes that would most surely give your youngsters nightmares.
Martel’s newly decorated 2001 novel may look child-friendly. But it’s not. It remains very much a devilishly complicated adult novel exploring religion, truth and the meaning of life. And the illustrations by Croatian artist Tomislav Torjanac are very much, in the words of Martel, “adult art,” despite containing cute animals ordinarily found in bedtime stories for six-year-olds.
Here we go. The Canadian government has been licking the boots of the US music and film industries for since Harper got elected and now these twin dominatrices, let’s call them Miss Cloe and Lady Griselda, have dictated the laws they want to their collared bitches in Ottawa – and Canada has responded with a demur, eyes-down, “Yes, Miss”.
Courts in Canada have ruled against prosecution of individuals over file-sharing.
Copyright legislation needs to be updated to protect musicians and songwriters, said Graham Henderson, president of CRIA.
But the Canadian Music Creators Coalition, whose members include Sarah McLachlan, Sam Roberts and Avril Lavigne, has said it would not like to see a law that would lead to lawsuits against music fans.
The CMCC says it like to see legislation that recognizes the importance of file-sharing as a way to spread the word about Canadian music.
It has called for a “made-in-Canada” solution that recognizes current technological and music business realities.
Canada is under pressure from the international recording industry to update its copyright laws.
Here come the articles picking apart the NEA literacy study (pdf) reported on yesterday. Apparently not understanding things is suddenly important. I mean, who needs understanding when you have brutal force and oppression?
Particularly striking, Gioia and Iyengar both said, are the declines that occur between age 9 and age 17 in reading proficiency scores and time spent reading.
The percentage of 9-year-olds who say they “read almost every day for fun,” the NEA report notes, rose slightly, from 53 percent to 54 percent, between 1984 and 2004. During roughly the same time period, average reading scores for 9-year-olds rose sharply. But the percentage of 17-year-olds reading almost every day for fun dropped from 31 percent in 1984 to 22 percent in 2004, with average reading scores showing steady declines.
Iyengar emphasized that the NEA’s data can show correlations but cannot prove a causal relationship between reading decline and, say, the proliferation of electronic media. Asked what he personally made of the late-teenage numbers, however, he offered a scenario likely to sound familiar to parents and educators.
Ah, electronic media… the hydrocarbons to the mind’s climate change…
You could argue, as Herman Badillo did the other day, that Norman Mailer cost him the mayoralty of New York City in 1969.
You could make a case, too, that Mailer’s candidacy assured the re-election of Mayor John V. Lindsay. From Mayor Lindsay, you even draw a wobbly line to the city’s fiscal crisis in the 1970s, to the city’s fall and rise, to a conservative backlash that elected Rudolph W. Giuliani and to a period of post-racial politics.
That is all conjecture, though.
What is indisputable is that long before Stephen Colbert flirted with entering the 2008 presidential campaign, voters had never seen anything quite like the 1969 New York mayoral race.
Amazon has released a new e-reader. Called Kindle, in what I can only assume is a lovely pun on the likelihood it will burst into flames in your jacket and melt your shirt to your chest, the reader is about the size and and look of a construction brick, but will carry 200+ books. Not everyone’s convinced, but get it lighter and leaner and I’ll buy one just to have 200 reference texts with me at all times. Hmmm… Chilton’s Toyota Matrix repair manual? Check. What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Check. SAS Survival Guide for Metrosexuals Caught in a Post-Apocalyptic World They Didn’t Fight Hard Enough to Prevent? Check…
The craziness around the use of the word “terrorist” grows. In Australia, a man was kicked out of a bar because he was reading Richard Flannagan’s The Unknown Terrorist. How fucking slack-jaw inbred stupid do you have to be to kick a guy out of a bar for reading a book? Anything short of the wildly popular title How to Build a Dirty Bomb and Plant It Under Table 3: Best Practices for Irradiating Yokels in the Locals should be safe to read in public.
Reading a book in a pub might seem an inoffensive activity but when drinkers saw the title of a book being read by Michael Chalk, they complained to bouncers and he was ejected.
Mr Chalk was reading The Unknown Terrorist, the latest novel by the Australian author, Richard Flanagan. The book has received critical acclaim, but patrons in Shenanigans, an Irish pub in the Queensland city of Cairns, clearly had not heard of it.
Mr Chalk, a teacher who was in town for an education conference, had not even ordered a drink when a security officer asked him to leave. “He said several customers had complained about the literature I was reading and I’d have to move on,” Mr Chalk told the Cairns Post.
Mr Chalk said he believed his appearance – he is olive skinned, with dark hair – played a part in the incident.
Listen. America. Australia. Britain. Canada. I know you are chock-a-block full of liberals. I know they’re there. Like rodents between the floorboards. I saw them when I was wee. They looked shaggy and smelled funny, but they got things done. It’s time to decide, dear rodents. Are you an infestation of timid liberal mice or big fucking snaggle-toothed liberal badgers with serious anger issues? If you’re mice, then it’s time to take your political ancestors with heuvos out of the freeze-dry and reconstitute a generation of people with balls. I know you’re all hanging on quietly these last eight years hoping all the various us-and-them nutbars will just go away, but while you’re leaving the pitchforks in the hay and the torches in the sconces, these fucking nutbars are using those fucking nutbars to solidfy their grip on the world! Time to do get up and do something! (That, coupled with the last post, ought to add about two stack inches to my dossier down at headquarters in Virginia…)
Reader Frankie points out that the CIA, in an information war style, has negatively “reviewed” the National Book Award winning title Legacy of Ashes, on its site… Gee, now that you’re “reviewing” books critically, instead of writing thinly-disguised propaganda sheets, do you think I could get Cancer Man’s opinion on my new book? I think he’d find it deliciously evil. This “review” is the literary equivalent of that unmarked van pulled up outside your apartment… You know, the one with the satellite dish on the roof?
Publishers are increasingly turning to book clubs to get the word out, as well as the latest on Edna’s pâté recipe, which is just to DIE for.
“He said that ‘The Kite Runner’ wasn’t being read until book groups got hold of it,” recalled Ann Kent, who put together the event, which was held in San Jose, Calif. “He acknowledged their power in putting his book on the best-seller list and keeping it on the best-seller list. It was pretty profound.”
Profound or not, the message had resonance. Increasingly, authors and publishers are tipping their hats to the power of 8 or 10 or 12 women (and usually they are women) sitting around a dining room table, dissecting their particular book of the month, then spreading the word to their friends.
Is youth wasted on the young? No, apparently not. From the fires of youth spring the greatest works of our time. Plus, the sex is much more filmable. I suspect this person may be young… See below.
Novelists are not lion tamers. Just because they are old and still doing their job does not automatically mean that they are good at it. The trajectory for most literary geniuses is down. Where else is there to go? After all, writers are people too, and when people get old they get, well, soft.
They no longer seek to change the world. Their furies and passions no longer spit and fizzle and force themselves out in explosive ways, because after 50 years of living (or 20 for our shorter-lived literary forbears), the wonders of life have mellowed.
It’s not that old people write only about pipes and slippers — all too often they write about sex, death and all the extreme situations between. But there’s no getting away from it — it’s so far from being fresh as to be yukky. And I’m not only talking about certain old white Americans who famously enjoy writing about wrinkly old boys getting it on with nubile youngsters. When Alice Sebold had Helen, the middle-aged protagonist of her latest novel, hook up with her friend’s teenage son in the back of a car, she was joining the ranks of older authors frenziedly asking themselves if they’ve still got it.
Too late for me. I guess I missed my chance at brilliance and must now descend back into my pit of irrelevent, wrinkled, limply sexual yearning for a misspent youth.
Speaking of: Back in the day (early 90s), I had a friend named Rick, a fireman/social worker, who was about 10 years older and used to give me reports from his mid-thirties about the life changes I’d be experiencing as I grew older. He spoke like a combination embedded reporter and surfer, delivering all his wisdom as though he’d just taken a huge toke from a joint, which sometimes he had. Usually mine.
Some of these chats revolved around biological changes that we won’t delve into here lest I break down in tears, while others were idiological/social changes. I was 23, doing judo semi-professionally, and in the best shape of my life. I had quit the theatre and was just starting to think about the possibility of writing. It was a good time filled with partying, art, working out, and music.
Often Rick’s advice/predictions were really useful, I see now in hindsight, but at the time I secretly laughed at him for being old and having “sold out”. Like when he told me that, as I matured, I’d start to value melody over anger in my music. (I’d just finished berating him for starting to enjoy country music. I was in the depths of Nirvana then. But, I tell you, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t playing The Eagles and The Band at a jam session on Saturday.) He also told me that when I reached his age I’d, and I stress that I am quoting here, “start to appreciate a bit of ass on a woman”. Words of wisdom, surely. But perhaps the most intriguing advice he gave, was not to be embarrassed about either who you were when you were younger or how you change as you get older.
“You know what I think about what you guys think, George?” he asked, referring to not only my toussle-headed, parade-booted, Bradford-dinner-jacket-wearing companions running around with a beer in one hand and a bird in the other, but to my generation in general. “I don’t.”
I first read Brave New World in the early 1950s, when I was 14. It made a deep impression on me, though I didn’t fully understand some of what I was reading. It’s a tribute to Huxley’s writing skills that although I didn’t know what knickers were, or camisoles – nor did I know that zippers, when they first appeared, had been denounced from pulpits as lures of the devil because they made clothes so easy to take off – I none the less had a vivid picture of “zippicamiknicks”, that female undergarment with a single zipper down the front that could be shucked so easily: “Zip! The rounded pinkness fell apart like a neatly divided apple. A wriggle of the arms, a lifting first of the right foot, then the left: the zippicamiknicks were lying lifeless and as though deflated on the floor.”
I myself was living in the era of “elasticised panty girdles” that could not be got out of or indeed into without an epic struggle, so this was heady stuff indeed.
What do you make of the following statement: “Asians are gaining on us demographically at a huge rate. A quarter of humanity now and by 2025 they’ll be a third. Italy’s down to 1.1 child per woman. We’re just going to be outnumbered.” While we’re at it, what do you think of this, incidentally from the same speaker: “The Black community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” Or this, the same speaker again: “I just don’t hear from moderate Judaism, do you?” And (yes, same speaker): “Strip-searching Irish people. Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole Irish community and they start getting tough with their children.”
The speaker was Martin Amis and, yes, the quotations have been modified, with Asians, Blacks and Irish here substituted for Muslims, and Judaism for Islam – though, it should be stressed, these are the only amendments.
- Low test scores linked to decline in time spent reading – in other news, government funds study to prove humans need heads to live
- If you absolutely must plagiarize passages for a major piece of non-fiction, my suggestion is to NOT steal from Wikipedia
- More hand-wringing over Canadian book pricing issues – how long will this get milked?
- New Havel play!
- Jane Austen blah blah blah, characters blah blah blah, slow news week blah blah blah
- Surfer physicist’s Theory of Everything… This so turns me on…
- Now here’s the equation for FUN!
Reluctant pot-stirrer Ali profiled at The Times.
Germaine Greer turned against her and Prince Charles stood her up. She became the figurehead of the crisis of multiculturalism. Her novel, Brick Lane, started protests and anguished debates in Britain. It revealed a hidden world of Bangladeshi immigrants in east London, their sweatshops and arranged marriages. It sold around the world and now it’s a film that will be seen around the world. But, curiously, Monica Ali doesn’t really want to talk about it.
“If I had portrayed all Bangladeshis as terrible people it would have made for a very weak book,” she says. “It wouldn’t have served any purpose. It concerns ideas about human nature and family bonds. The reason for exploring the complexity of human nature is to serve the strengthening of art, not to represent each and every faction as though you were a politician.”
Ali does not see herself as an issue writer but she wrote a book that, accidentally, became an issue.
Poet and … well, just about everything else, profiled at the Telegraph.
‘I’ve not been a prolific poet,’ he says, his eyes looking to the ground, as they often do, ‘and it always seemed to me to be a bad idea to feel that you had to produce in order to get… credits. Production of a collection of poems every three years or every five years, or whatever, looks good, on paper. But it might not be good; it might be writing on a kind of automatic pilot.’
It’s not just a question of column inches. In any library or bookshop, the vast majority of books on the shelves are by authors writing in English. In stark contrast to publishing throughout the rest of the globe, translated fiction accounts for only a tiny fraction of the books published in the English-speaking world. In Germany 13% of books are translations. In France it’s 27%, in Spain 28%, in Turkey 40% and in Slovenia 70%, but in Britain and America the best estimates suggest that the fraction of books on the shelves which started off in another language is somewhere around two per cent. One measure of the lack of interest in translated literature from both government and the industry is that Britain is the only country in Europe that doesn’t produce any statistics on translation.
It’s a state of affairs described by translators as “shocking”, “pathetic”, “scandalous”. And according to Esther Allen, the executive director of Columbia University’s Centre for Literary Translation, the crisis may be even deeper in fiction. “The number of novels being published in translation is ridiculously small – in the hundreds each year,” she says. “If you sort out the authors who are already globally validated – Nobel winners and so on – and the retranslations of the classics, then it’s absurd.”
Alexandria vs. the Information Superhighway! Guess who wins? (I’ll give you a hint: one is shiny and new and the source of ever-so-much trepidation and fawning and the other is destroyed and buried in the sands of time. But it’s a fair comparison, really.)
This digitising of human knowledge is the most profound cultural event since the invention of the printing press itself. In the third century BC the librarians of Alexandria sought to collect “books of all the peoples of the world”, and amassed perhaps half a million scrolls. But even the library at Alexandria was thought to contain perhaps as little as a third of all the books then written.
The great Internet Library is more ambitious: it may one day contain the entire written culture, not just all the books, but countless millions of articles, half a million films, and billions of web pages. Kevin Kelly, “senior maverick” of Wired magazine, recently predicted in The New York Times that the online library would eventually contain “the entire works of humankind, from the beginning of recorded history, in all languages, available to all people, all the time”. Technology has made achievable what the librarians of Alexandria could only dream of: one vast, searchable, all-encompassing book, the complete history of the race.
Stupid ancients. They couldn’t even get a measley e-book right.
Writing about “fans” at Nextbook. I love this guy and I just read The Foreskin’s Lament. I have to say, I never laughed out loud so often during one book. I also love that his clever name basically means Hello Outsider. I met him first in New York and he seemed like a stand-up guy, but I totally got into his corner after watching him be interviewed in Toronto, when asked why the aggression toward God, he gave one of the best answers I’ve ever heard. To paraphrase, he said something like: Look, let’s do an experiment. Take the entire text of the Bible and copy it into Microsoft Word. Then do a Find/Replace command where you find all instances of the word “God” and replace them with something like “Phil”. Now give that text to any four-year-old and ask them who the bad guy is. Even a four-year-old knows it’s Phil…
I am in Chicago, at the Hopleaf Bar on North Clark Street, one of the last stops on the U.S. portion of my book tour. What happens as I am on my way out of the bar has happened before.
“Excuse me,” a young woman calls. In other cities, it is a young man, or an old man, or an old woman.
“Yes?” I answer.
“I was at your reading.”
For a moment I flatter myself and assume she wants a book signed.
“And I have to say,” she continues.
This is the first bad sign. People who say things they “have” to say usually say those things with their hands pressed firmly over their ears.
“I have to say that I think it’s so sad that you say these things about Judaism.”
“Sad for me,” I ask, “or sad for Judaism?”
“Sad for Judaism,” she says.
“Oh,” I answer.
Sweet! Now they can control and directly benefit from gouging their students! Technology… is there anyone it CAN’T fuck over?
At a college of 48,000 students — about 27,000 of whom take classes online — the allocation of resources must be efficient. Rio Salado, located in Tempe, Ariz., employs only 32 full-time faculty, most of whom are chairs of a specific academic discipline and have the freedom to design individual courses. Using a “one course, many sections” model, some 1,000 adjuncts adhere closely to the class plans they’re given.
That means that for the relative handful of full-time professors who pick the textbooks, the short-term task of assembling customized materials for each course will theoretically pay off in the long run with course readings that are more complete, relevant and from a variety of different sources without overwhelming students with multiple hardcover tomes. And since faculty played an active role with the administration in devising the program, no one has raised concerns about being forced to jettison texts for a cheaper alternative.
People are using Craigslists for everything these days — getting rid of crap, renting out slums, hooking up in tawdry no-tell motels, and the heroin-needle-hanging-from-the-dead-arm version of creative writing workshops.
Craigslist is “a fun place to look when you should be doing something else,” said Debbie Newman, an editor at the gossip blog Jossip who trawls Craigslist for offbeat ads. “If you’re a talented writer and maybe a frustrated one working somewhere like a law firm that limits your day-to-day creativity, you take your opportunities where you can find them.”
Craigslist has advantages over other soapboxes. “You can set up your own blog, but people are not necessarily going to go there,” said Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist. “If you haven’t established an audience, you can do worse than Craigslist.”
Here’s some newsy stuff I came up with today. Sorry it’s not more, but you know, I just survived a five town hop from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to St. Jonh’s. It was like being a flat rock chucked at a choppy sea. When I close my eyes I can still feel the plane moving, like after spending the afternoon on a roller coaster. I’ll be busy for the next hour or so making out with the soil of the island. Oh, who am I kidding? I mean the rock.
- Solidarity forever! World joins US screenwriters
- How to win a National Book Award in five easy steps
- Montreal Grand Prix du Livre goes to book on Gould
- Iran bans new Marquez book, thought
- Edmonton seeking a writers’ house… presumably well-insulated
- Speaking of places to think, write and read…
- Kurt Vonnegut more popular than Mailer, who’s never been more popular now that he’s dead
- In the valley of the literate (tucked in the middle of the valley of the dolls, the dale of the dummies and the gorge of regrettable indulgences)
- Waterstone’s boy done come up
A Daily Show writer, on strike at the picket line, delivers a hilarious Daily Show-style video explanation of what the conflict is about. God, it would be so fun to hang out with these guys. Why can’t they read my blog and hire me in what would surely be the web 2.0 Cinderella story of the century? Oh, the funny thing…. Riiiiight.
The Telegraph asks through a review of Granta’s new book of American short stories, edited and intro’d by Richard Ford. Personally, I think a good short story has an easy equation: one abusive father + one eerily poised and clueless child – a mother character with any sense of agency x all the powers of divine ironic punishment filtered through the malevolent grimace of an animatronic doll with a kitchen knife. It’s very simple, people.
In his new introduction, a considerably windier affair than last time around, as paper-bag abstractions are blown about on adverbial hot-air currents and sudden gusts of superlatives, Ford again acknowledges, with a nod to someone he calls ‘Duchamps’ [sic], that ‘my tastes, of course, have been at work’, though this comes only after a long and not very successful attempt to define what makes a good short story.
This is, perhaps, an impossible task, its aim better achieved by presenting examples than making claims.
And pretty much every one of the 44 examples here, from Eudora Welty’s magnificent, sad and subtle ‘Ladies in Spring’, first published in the Sewannee Review in 1954, to Nell Freudenberger’s fine, subtle and assured ‘Lucky Girls’, first published in the New Yorker in 2001, through wonderful stories by the likes of John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor, Bharati Mukherjee, Joy Williams, Richard Bausch, Lorrie Moore, Junot Díaz, including 14 who were in Ford’s previous collection, and two of the Granta Best of…, could be presented as evidence that the form is far from dead, and that Richard Ford knows a good story when he reads one, even if he’s not very good (who is?) at extrapolating generalisations about why.
Perhaps (here I go) one reason it’s so difficult to say in general what makes a good story is that good stories tend to concentrate on the particular.
The Independent has a longish piece on what it sees as the fallout of Mailer’s death: the death of the American novel itself? People, if the American novel was that unhealthily tied to one person, then Mailer provided a minor mercy by giving up his own ghost and dragging it down with him. Actually, I don’t think he had a ghost so much as a wraith. Or maybe a lich.
The obituaries devoted far more column inches to his pugilism and manic energy, his shocking pronouncements and womanising, than to his actual writings, but they were agreed on one thing: not since Hemingway had there been a writer so convinced that writing is in itself a heroic enterprise, the work of a man of action, the outpouring of a giant ego that somehow embodies the nation that spawned him. The ideal of the two-fisted, typewriter-pounding tough guy owes less to Hemingway, in fact, then to André Malraux, the impossibly brave French war hero and novelist who became minister of culture; one can see how Mailer’s political ambitions might have been stirred by Malraux’s example. But it was an ideal that brought with it a holy grail: that of a single perfect work of fiction that would encapsulate the heart of the US, interpret its history through the light of a single, outstanding consciousness, unite the private lives of the characters with the public drama of its politics. It would be the War and Peace of the great plains and the Manhattan skyline. It would be the Great American Novel.
Mailer believed in it utterly.
Spanish novelist, profiled a the Telegraph.
A few more stories after this, but I have to get these bits and pieces out of the way first, then have breakfast, which may or may not consist mainly of cariboo, and then return to my hotel room. So hang on.
Attention Toronto ‘Ninjas: Remember to get your tickets, if you haven’t already, for One Little Goat Theatre Company’s production of ANTIGONE:INSURGENCY. I have a few links for you now to some online reviews and previews. Besides the great review from NOW, there’s a wicked video preview piece from a Greek news website that interviews Adam and the actors about the production’s challenges and success. It’s a really great introduction, especially if you were fence-sitting about the avant-garde nature of the adaptation. I told Adam when I went over his script earlier in the year and was blown away by what he’d done — you’re either going to be burned at the stake for this or showered with laurels. Maybe burned at the laurels. Yet, so far the reaction has been largely positive. But regardless, it’s must-see theatre, and you can still get tickets for the last few shows.
I’m headed off to Labrador for a few days, so I am giving you an airport-based roundup. I’m not quite sure if this whole “internet” thing has caught on there. I think they’re working more on getting other modern amenities like “plumbing”. I kid. I kid because I love. Seriously though, I am about to get into a plane that looks as though it’s made of balsa wood flown by a ground-based 10-year-old radio-control enthusiast. Someone help me. I don’t want to eat the soccer team or get stalked by Alec Baldwin. Generally, but on this trip in particular.
- Screenwriters fighting for public opinion
- Oxford’Bookninja › Create New Post — WordPresss word of the year — “locavore”…. Bookninja, on the other hand, has for the fourth year running chosen “bullshite” (from Maud)
- CBC Canada Writes competition at national level (I judged the NL leg of this… what a strange contest — so difficult to compare categories and styles — lots of fun)
- Judith Regan finally snaps and sues HC — that took many thousands of hours longer than I though it would
- And speaking of scumbags, the Goldman family speak out on their decision to
cash in onpublish OJ’s book
- Books and literacy to fight AIDS in Africa
- RIP: Ira Levin
- Farewell Norman, you pig
- Poetry on the train, a match made in shakey-tea-spilled-in-my-lap and smelly-guy-with-his-shoes-off heaven…
Some commentary, obviously in support of the little guy, on JK’s suit against the folks trying to publish a Harry Potter compendium. I didn’t know this came from a website she had previously praised. Fan work is murky at best, but it strikes me that with mass hysteria phenomenon like the Potter series that it has only added to her bulging coffers, not detracted from it.
In her suit and her statement, Rowling tries to draw a distinction between the online version of the HPL and the proposed book version. The online version is OK, she says, because it’s freely available to anyone. The print version will make money and thus is not allowed.
This seems an arbitrary distinction. For one thing, fair use covers both commercial and noncommercial works. Vander Ark points out that over the years many readers have asked him to publish a portable print version of his site — it’s hard to imagine how he could have done so in a non-commercial manner.
Moreover, Vander Ark and others who work on the HPL have spent much time compiling it. Why shouldn’t they be entitled to profit from their labor? Does Rowling expect all scholars who make reference works to take vows of poverty?…
But the question is not whether Rowling is on solid legal ground in suing her fans. It’s whether she’s on solid moral ground.
Unfortunately that’s NOT the question at all. The question is indeed whether she’s on solid legal ground and what implications that will have for others trying to compile similar works for books written by less-litigiously-inclined author/lawyer conglomerates. (Thanks, Sean)
The parity/book pricing issue is still making headlines, which probably means nothing else is wrong with the world. Glad to hear we cleared up that Darfur/rainforest/child sex trade mess. Just like acid rain and the impending nukular armageddon. Whew. Glad it’s over. Now, back to blindly consuming my way through life….
Book rage, anyone? As the Canadian dollar hit the $1.10 mark earlier this week, booksellers and publishers began to circulate stories of customers going beyond simply venting their dismay at hapless clerks and turning books into projectiles, sometimes to the point of drawing blood.
Ever since our dollar achieved exchange parity with the United States on Sept. 20, “books have been under the microscope,” notes Yvonne Hunter, director of marketing and publicity for Penguin Group, one of the country’s biggest publishers. And the consumer hasn’t liked what he’s been seeing. His ire has focused on the discrepancy between what a Canadian pays for an imported, American-made book in this country and what an American consumer pays for that same title, with the two different prices printed right there on the book flap for all to see. The bookstore serves as the conduit for what publishing historian and novelist Roy MacSkimming calls “this predilection for feeling ripped-off. There’s been an attack of sticker envy out there.”
Who’s having this sticker envy? I submit they’re largely the same folks who live in the burbs around your town and shop predominately at Walmart. It smacks of that same me-me-me-thinking that keeps child sweatshops alive in the third world and allows for the indescriminate destruction of countries harbouring natural resources coveted for their black, SUV-filling goodness. Book prices are unfair, but it takes time to change things. The idea of punishing booksellers and publishers, particularly small businesses already forced into thin margins by unfair distribution practices, for this is ridiculous. The most logical thing, it seems to me, who knows nothing but has a pulpit, is for publishers to not print prices on books and have them stickered on, whether at their warehouses or at the stores. Then prices can change in a relatively more timely fashion. ‘Cause I suspect this dollar will go down in the record books as last hurrah before the “correction”, some time after which we’ll adopt the US greenback, or a version thereof, as a multinational Western hemisphere dollar… Ew.
Now, we all know there have been times we’ve picked up Local Journal X and thought, I should call someone and have this fucker arrested, but these days you have to watch what you think. Especially if you’re planning on posting it online. Otherwise you end up with ridiculous situations like this:
At 23, Samina Malik has earned herself the dubious distinction of being the first woman ever to be convicted under the Terrorism Act. Malik – while being found not guilty of the more serious charge of possessing an article for a terrorist purpose under Section 57 of the Act – was convicted of possessing material “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. What had she done? Well, she downloaded various documents from terrorist websites including weapons manuals and The Mujaheddin Poisoner’s Handbook, niftily designed with a skull and crossbones on the cover (I’m still not sure if this is a spoof). Compounding all of this, Malik went all Web 2.0 and posted poems – terrible, terrible poems – on various websites. That’s about the extent of her terrorist activity. But never fear. The judge and prosecutors went the extra mile to give her a notoriety that her very, very bad poetry and infantile fantasies about being a terrorist really don’t warrant.
- Translation awards
- UK a nation of rereaders — apparently 77% reread books they enjoyed the first time… as opposed to here where we reread just to cut through the poetic riffing and figure out what the fuck was being said…
- See Norman Mailer get his ass kicked by Rip Torn, of all people (not his most dignified moment, but then again, probably not his least dignified moment, either…)
- Asian Booker awarded
The firm’s publisher Andrew Kidd told The Bookseller: “We want to help well-reviewed authors get straight to their readers.” At the same time, Picador’s novels will also appear in limited hardback print runs, produced for the people who prefer to acquire books with cloth covers, boards, endpapers and so on, and who don’t mind paying for those luxuries.
Such people, though, are few in number. So why have publishers persisted for so long in bringing out hardback novels, pushing for reviews and interviews with the authors, and waiting until everyone has forgotten about the publicity before issuing the affordable editions? Until 20 years ago, libraries and book clubs provided one reason, because they ordered hardbacks in decent quantities; but these quantities have dwindled to negligibility. Another reason was that literary editors thought that only hardbacks deserved reviews; there is better coverage for paperbacks on the books pages now, although it could improve further. The third was that authors felt hardback editions gave them prestige. Picador may find that this attitude endures.
We asked something similar quite a while back in the early days of the Magazine (not available online right now because I’ve never been able to find the time to spend converting the files from the old site to the “new” one — I suppose I ought to get around to that one day). In fact, it was Ninja K, then just a mailroom intern, who wrote the article, sealing her place among the pantheon of godlike beings who run this two-bit, occasionally updated gin joint.
- Potter encyclopedia on hold after Rowling releases the hounds
- Journos getting antsy as CanWest starts axing jobs
- Marvel puts old comics online
- Blake water colours see light of day
- Borders adds TV to a programming that is rumoured to also include books
- LRB praises sung
- The return of Borat (I haven’t seen the film yet, but had seen many of the original sketches — I’ve always defined good satire as work which makes you cringe-laugh when you know you shouldn’t. When the publishers sent me this book, I flipped through it kind of mildly interested and was shocked at the detail and continuing abbrasiveness of it. Right down to the “translation” and bad colour separation. Cohen may be our generation’s Andy Kaufman. Let’s hope he doesn’t go nuts.)
- Copy of Wuthering Heights sells for six figures
- Jenna Bush is star of literacy fundraiser… I love it when they bring out the adults who have been helped by literacy training. It reelly puts a fase on the hole prollem
- More on how to bluff your way through books you haven’t read… didn’t we cover this last year?
- Reading aloud helps the heart, mind (from Ed)
Author and lover of women, often at their own expense, dead at 84. A variety of opinions as you’d expect. I wonder how many of them were canned, having been set in desk drawers near derringers and blood stained letter openers….
Around this time of year, Canadians express a justifiable pride in the fact that a countryman penned the world’s best-known piece of war poetry. Are we also aware, or do we even care, that possibly the world’s most famous collection of anti-war poetry is also the product of a Canadian?
Expatriate Todd Swift put together the anthology 100 Poets Against the War through an Internet call for submissions in 2003, and designed it to pre-emptively protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The book holds the record for being the most quickly compiled and published anthology of all time, for what that’s worth in either literature or protest.
So, I was in that anthology’s two incarnations, and while I also applaud Todd’s efforts (he’s a tireless worker for poetry and social justice), I also thought the majority of work in it was complete dreck, poetically speaking. That said, what seemed to me to count in a production so large and speedy was the demostration of goodwill and support for peace that mobilized a global community in an extremely short period of time. This fact alone is the enduring accomplishment of the book, not the work inside. Yes, it’s weak editorially, but it was a WEEK between conception and “publication“. That’s less “editorial” and more “administration”. When I got it and flipped through, horrified at the calibre of some of the clumsy, cumbersome work within, I came to the conclusion that the whole exercise was an act of protest, more akin to a placard than a literary work, and that it stands well as such, in all its sloppy, jingoistic glory. When Todd asked, I sent a poem in not only because it was a chance to do SOMEthing, but also because it was a chance to do the RIGHT thing. I don’t care what anyone else’s motivations were, mine was just to say No in whatever small way I could. That said, there ARE some good poems in there, as John points out, but perhaps they will have to find homes in other books to be given a proper space for appreciation. Big deal. The book wasn’t about poems. It was an angry, sputtering call for a return to reason well before that kind of thinking was spreading, as it’s beginning to now.
This weekend only Only ONLY! The Monsters of Typeface invade moma Moma MOMA! See Helvetica take on Garamond in the bloodiest font war since… aw forget it. I can’t keep it up.
If you’re seeking some suggestions for celebrating Helvetica’s 50th birthday, might I recommend a trip to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which is presenting an exhibition devoted to the typeface? To mark the occasion, the MOMA acquired an original set of 36-point lead Helvetica letterforms. Of course, I don’t need to tell you to fly American Airlines to get there (their fuselage bears the grand imprint of Helvetica, as does and Lufthansa). Those looking to save money might consider renting a Toyota from National, or taking a Greyhound or Amtrak to New York (all of the aforementioned companies use Helvetica in their logos). Once in Manhattan, don’t forget to take a ride on the subway system, whose signage utilizes – you guessed it. And be sure to sip some VitaminWater, shop at American Apparel, and memorialize it all with your Olympus camera (powered with Energizer batteries), since all of these products boast Neue Haas Grotesk, as Helvetica was originally named.
Have you ever wondered, as you sat in bed with your little booklight generating it’s oddly broad circle of light and heat, whether once you put down your Pat Conroy and turn out your Lumannoyance Clip (TM) you will wake helplessly pinned and smothering under your own pillow? Well, no more! A booklight that actually only lights the book! It’s like Star Trek is here today, man! I think Scotty left this behind when he was here saving the whales back in the 80s.
The Hollywood writers strike is getting serious now, with The Office and 24 (24:30 in Newfoundland) heading into reruns. Even Canada is getting edgy. Hey, don’t take away our cultural imperialist overlords/paycheques! This reminds me of that episode of the Simpsons (everything in life can be seen through the lens of the Simpsons) where they block the flow of beer and tv into Springfield. But of course there’s one big difference between the couch potato drunks on the Simpsons and the North American public: most American’s aren’t yellow ciphers voiced by celebrities. This won’t take too long.
This time over… PAT CONROY? Isn’t that the Prince of Brides author? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the world needs an emoticon or textual way of conveying a cartoon animal’s triple take and accompanying oy-yoy-yoy sound.
Graphic depictions of violence, suicide and sexual assault in two Pat Conroy books are at the heart of a First Amendment debate, pitting offended parents against high school students who object to being told what they can’t read.
Even Conroy has interjected himself into the debate. In an e-mail to a student, Conroy slams those who would ban his works as “idiots.”
Between the kitty litter and the toothpaste, on a lonely aisle of your supermarket, they cry out for love. Highlander Untamed! Unleash the Night! To Pleasure a Prince! The Boss’s Wife for a Week! Willingly Bedded, Forcibly Wedded! Carrying an average price of $7.42, these paperbacks are cheap and hardly literary, yet carefully crafted by an industry that annually produces some 6,000 titles.
With hairless pecs bulging from almost every cover, misty castles in the background, and unsheathed swords grasped by virile hands, there is a lingering musk of Fabio that causes snickers among the uninitiated, the cynics who pass the racks by in search of paper towels and TV dinners. Before heading home alone to watch Desperate Housewives or The Hills, these shoppers may smirk, wondering to themselves, “Why would anyone want to read these books?”
A better question is: Why would anyone want to write them?
A judge in New York has ruled on what makes a poem. I think we can fire all the English profs now.
Keenan’s 79-page decision included legal and literary history. He offered a brief description of Parker — “the famous writer who was a member of the Algonquin Round Table” — and a detailed summary of what constitutes a poem.
“A poem sometimes possesses rhyme or meter, though this is not necessary,” Keenan wrote. “A poem is typically free from the usual rules of grammar, punctuation and capitalization.” In a footnote, he cited testimony that before “World War Two, a poem almost always had rhyme or meter.” Now, “the popular definition of poem has become much more lenient.”
Sigh. Posting this reminds me of the story I heard about the original black and white production of The Lord of the Flies — apparently for the first pig feast scene the director set out a roasted boar in front of the motley cast of utensil-less kids and gave them only one direction: “Eat the pig”. He filmed the ensuing chaos and made cinema history.
I love those rare occasions in the UK when poetry and politics collide. Out come the long knives. Imagine reading this in paragraph three of a Guardian reveiw of your new book that’s topped with the headline “Behold them, reader, and despair”:
This year, an estimated 170,000 books will be published and, if I suggest that this is only the 169,999th least worth reading, that is only because I am hedging my bets. A worse book might appear this year. It is a possibility.
But what exactly are you saying here? Speak clearly, man!
Alex Good points to an interesting article on how to value the press over the bottom line (in the NGO world we’d call this a “best practices” piece).
The importance of independent publishers and magazines is evident, yet the way to set them up and keep them alive is less obvious. Their number has grown impressively in the US and in Europe. In France, dozens of small alternative publishers of literature and poetry, and some political houses, met recently. They all now play an important role taking on authors and subjects that large houses dare not risk.
I sit on the board for One Little Goat Theatre Company, which I consider to be one of the best, most interesting theatre groups in North America. OLG’s mandate is to explore the intersection between theatre and poetry, and last year our English language world premiere of Thomas Berhard’s “Ritter, Dene, Voss” earned universally positive reviews. This fall, we present continue our tradition of breaking new ground with a radical reworking of Sophocles’ classic “Antigone“.
As noted in the preview section of EYE MAGAZINE, our artistic director, playwrigtht, poet, and director Adam Seelig, has adapted this masterwork into his own piece, creating a scintillating hybrid that works as both traditional tragedy and contemporary commentary on 21st Century politics.
ANTIGONE: INSURGENCY will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable theatre experiences of the year and, if you’re in or around Toronto during the run (Nov 9 – 25), I encourage you to attend. It’s one of those shows people will be talking about, and it pains me that I can’t be there — but I’ll feel better knowing you had a chance to see it! If our past experience tells us anything it’s that your best bet is to call and reserve in advance.
Anne Enright, THIS IS YOUR LIFE! In minute, over-examined detail! You thought putting your shoes in the basket at Dulles was invasive? Welcome to the arts pages.
The Man Booker Prize carries with it a check for £50,000 (about $105,000), a guaranteed increase in book sales and, for little-known authors, instant popular recognition. But the spotlight sometimes falls in unexpected places.
That is what happened to the Irish writer Anne Enright, who won the 2007 Booker for “The Gathering” last month. The novel, in which a woman tries to untie her family’s tangled past as she brings her brother’s body home to be buried in Ireland, has won glowing praise, as Ms. Enright’s books generally do. But almost immediately the praise was intermingled with criticism over a recent essay by Ms. Enright in The London Review of Books.
Oh, yeah, and in France, somebody won something else.