Since yesterday we’ve been discussing (rather profitably) here on Bookninja whether a poet’s private life and/or artistic product should affect his or her day work (ie, bread/shelter money), especially around the issue of a principal who has written and posted some poems that make some parents and bureaucrats question his suitability to run a grade school (maybe we should start tracking principal/teacher television, reading, and internet habits in a national database as well, to ensure they think nothing outside sunshine, lollipops, rainbows and content quizzes). Are the man and his poetry separate or inextricable? Does the citizen artist who holds a day job have some distance/immunity in the workplace from the content of whatever art he creates outside his non-artist roles? Can we expell teens for short stories about killing teachers, or arrest brown people for fiction about suicide bombers, or fire teachers for poems with swear words and that express questionable (but non-pedophilic) sexual desires? (If people had read my third book The Hunter as some kind of autobiographical statement and this were common practice, I’d likely be locked up now. Maybe I am, and this is all a Thorazine/Lorazepam cocktail hallucination and really I just look like the guy from Faith No More at the end of that video.)
Anyway, in Ireland, something similar goes on with a national hero of Irish Language poetry — on every course list there is, except that in his personal life he happens to like to have sex with young men. Some dangerously young. Again, nobody’s arguing whether laws have been broken (they haven’t), but they are saying “won’t someone think of the children” about having their kids taught the work of someone (as opposed to by someone) who’s moral centre they question.
It is a sordid tale of two rival films, two former friends who fell out in Nepal and two different versions about the sex life of one of Ireland’s most famous living Gaelic poets.
Cathal O’Searchaigh’s poems are on the prescribed list for the 2008 and 2009 Leaving Cert examinations – the Republic of Ireland equivalent of AS-levels in the UK. He is one of the most respected authors of poems in the Irish language.
When he is not at his cottage in Donegal composing poetry or attending literary functions in Dublin, O’Searchaigh spends a good deal of his time in Nepal where he has raised money for charities over the past ten years and adopted a son.
But his preference for sex with younger men has placed him at the centre of a public storm in Ireland, with calls for his poetry to be taken off the syllabus.
The Galaxy British Book Awards have announced their shortlists. What a stark difference. In the US, the “popularity contest” book award just died (the Quills) because it wasn’t having enough of an impact on the sales of its nominees. But its nominees were typically schlock/bestseller/factory books likes Grisha, Oprah titles and Patterson. In the UK, the popularity contest includes Doris Lessing, Khaled Hosseini, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Ian McEwan. They do have a category that’s basically for celebrity bios though, so not all hope for a little fun is lost.
One of Canada’s top minds is finally getting recognized (officially) as one of our top novelists. Lawrence Hill, the once and future ‘Ninja, has won the Carribean/Canada section of the Commonwealth Prize for his stunner of a novel The Book of Negroes (Someone Knows My Name in the US). Coverage of other regions here. Congratulations, L! Now bring it on home.
- McNally Robinson closing Calgary store now that Albertans can use oil revenues to be officially exempted from intellectual pursuits as well as sales tax
- French read riot act before book fair
- This musical is set in my old ‘hoods of Washington Heights/Inwood…
- Breaking news on Marmaduke…
- Andrew Motion introduces Philip Larkin in The Guardian’s ongoing series entitled “Why Your Newspapers Suck While We Respectfully Remain the Best in the World”
Unless you live in a cave, you can guess why Abebooks has compiled this list of the top ten hooker books of all time. I’m sure number eleven is already being ghostwritten as we speak.
Kevin Chong, a sometime ‘Ninja, ruminates at the Ceeb on whether it’s possible to write a successful (ie, good) rock and roll novel.
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of rock ’n’ roll history can see the novel-worthy antagonisms — of art versus commerce, idealism versus reality, sex versus death, burning out versus fading away. These are the reasons that people who grew up loving the music keep trying to write books about it.
I happen to like many rock ’n’ roll novels, including Great Jones Street and especially You Don’t Love Me Yet (one of my favourite reads of 2007). I’ve even written one, so I’m more than aware of the pitfalls. Writing a rock novel is like setting your story in a hothouse of solipsism. Then there’s the problem of describing music — no matter how many adjectives you throw at a fictional song, they only demonstrate their inadequacy.
The principle of a Jewish school in Toronto is also a novelist and poet. He placed a bunch of his poems on his personal website, but found out the hard way how quickly things spread on the internet. Some of his imagery and subject matter was violent and sexual (a Canadian, are you sure?!) and soon there was an anonymous email circling to parents seeking his head on a platter. Now parents and the school board are up in arms.
The board of Leo Baeck Jewish Day School, with campuses in Forest Hill and Thornhill, struck a committee of parents to review six poems by director David Prashker. The poems were circulated to parents last week in an anonymous email that called the works “disturbing” and asked whether they felt comfortable entrusting their children’s education to the author.
The poems contain the f-word and sexual imagery and one poem begins with the line “the first act of killing is the hardest” and ends with “the second time is remarkably straightforward.”
The poems have been withdrawn from Prashker’s personal website while the review is underway.
“We have asked a committee of the board to review the content, which we hope will report within days instead of weeks,” said board chair Brian Simon.
The school has 800 students from kindergarten to Grade 8.
The controversy comes as Ryerson University considers expelling a student for running a study group that traded homework tips on the Internet site Facebook as well as global concern about students using the Internet to bully each other, intimidate teachers and plagiarize.
“This is a wake-up call for educators not to put anything negative on the Internet that could come back and bite you – exactly what we’re telling kids,” said Stu Auty, chair of the Canadian Safe Schools Network.
In other words, don’t express yourself freely in your free society? Isn’t this starting to sound, even from the poet asked for comment, remarkably Orwellian? I haven’t read the poetry in question, so maybe my opinion would change if I did, but I have to say I’m surprised at the level of vehemence here. I have to wonder whether the people calling this poetry dangerous are the same people who presumably don’t give a shit what poetry says 364.5 days a year. Doesn’t a poet have a right to a day job and his/her artistic freedom? Those of us who do work outside our artistic practice are pretty good at switching hats: 9-5 – executive director, 5-7 – father, 7-8 – Team Fortress 2 Medic, 8-11 – poet. It’s scary to think you can be called to task in your day job/school for creative work you do outside it.
A publisher set up to exclusively bring to print words already free on the web is in financial trouble and about to get liquidated. Really? Who saw that coming? Yet the big houses are circling with their long, hooked necks, searching for scraps.
The picture will no doubt become clearer in the coming days, but exactly why such a highly regarded venture has run into the ground will prove harder to establish. Joel Rickett, deputy editor of the Bookseller, commented that all businesses struggle in their early years, and firms must grow their turnover quickly to remain afloat.
“You need one or two big successes to support the whole list,” he said “and while TFP has put out some excellent books, some of which have done well, they haven’t really troubled the bestseller lists.”
In the meantime, the bigger companies – and their bigger chequebooks – have been watching TFP’s dynamism, and following in its footsteps with greater financial clout.
The take home info for you, O publishing sector stakeholder, is “You need one or two big successes to support the whole list”. So next time you’re pondering the publicity/editorial decisions of your publisher, you might ask yourself, Am I one of these two? No? Then, for better or worse, there’s the answer.
Some Jewish students refused to answer questions on Shakespeare because they believe he was anti-semitic, but because they also refused to sign their names on their tests, they lost all their marks for the other questions as well and failed. Perhaps a little brash and ill-thought out, but it’s nice to see kids caring enough to protest anything other than the change in gravy products in the cafeteria.
Rabbi Abraham Pinter, the school’s principal, said: “They refused to sit the Shakespeare test because it was their perception that he was anti-Semitic.
“Many Jewish people would not listen to Wagner on the same grounds. I do not see an exact comparison and I don’t share their view, but their decision is something I respect. I think Shakespeare was reflecting the ethos of the time in his portrayal of Shylock. If he was alive today, he would probably be going on anti-war marches.”
Rabbi Pinter said there had been similar actions in the past but because previous protesters had signed their names on the paper, their marks for other sections of the exam had not been forfeited.
The Shakespeare test accounts for 18 per cent of the marks so, if a pupil scored highly in the other sections of the paper, they would still acheive the level five award, the standard expected of a 14-year-old in English.
Shakespeare is the only writer to be a compulsory part of the English secondary school curriculum.
However, Rabbi Pinter said: “I think it was a bit harsh to remove all their marks. Next year I will be recommending they put their name on the paper.”
Apparently someone in St. John’s did something to piss off Satan, and now he’s lowered the frozen left cheek his evil ass and is squatting over us with all his incontinent power. So I offer a few links here, and if the power holds, a few more.
- Aussie wins kid lit award
- Booker winner Anne Enright speaks out against censorship in advance of China trip
- The Great Man wins PEN/Faulkner
- Terry Prachett decries funding and announces major donation for Alzheimer’s research
- Guardian poetry pamphlets do Plath (is there anyone over there who wants to collect these pamphlets this week and mail them to me? Please?)
- Bruce Dickinson the screenwriter? I hope his characters die with their boots on… Get it? GET IT?!
- Gee, how can we squeeze another few dimes out of the Harry franchise? I know! Split the final book into TWO movies!
After our crazy hack last month, we posted an audio interview between poet and memoirist Jonathan Garfinkel and poet Adam Sol about Garfinkel’s travels in Israel and Palestine, recorded in his controversial book Ambivalence. Somehow, this appears to have been missing from from The Magazine page and you might not have seen it, though it’s been there for weeks. If you haven’t, check it out now, in The Magazine.
And since we’ve been speaking of new technologies around here, reader Brian reminds us of this oldie, but goodie (video).
With over 5000 entries from 2000 cities in 20 countries, what does it say about the award process that the top 10 finalists for the “Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award” are all written by Americans? (Thanks, BP)
what struck me about their memoirs was not their uniqueness, but their very similarity to other books in the “political memoir” genre, recent examples of which include the autobiographies of both Clintons; Leadership, by Rudy Giuliani; No Retreat, No Surrender, by Tom DeLay; and The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama (but not his first, quirky, pre-fame book, Dreams From My Father), just to name an arbitrary few.
Beyond “setting the record straight,” none of these books was ever intended to have deeper literary or historical significance. They don’t do careful self-analysis, but neither do they add much to the bigger picture. They don’t necessarily lie, but they are intended to shape public perceptions of the author, which is why many read like extended versions of those candidate-life-story films one sees nowadays at political conventions. Some—I’m thinking here of Bill Clinton’s hefty memoir—seem designed to decorate coffee tables, not to be read at all.
So, why don’t the publishers who produce them come in for more criticism? And why aren’t authors more often parodied?
Like those thee- and thy-less Bibles you find in hotel room drawers (next to the phone books with the spine crease at the “escorts” yellow pages), but for Shakespeare. Now you needn’t spend any time at all learning about Shakespeare. Excuse me, I misspoke. I didn’t mean “learning about Shakespeare”, I meant “studying for a 10th grade content quiz”.
Remember that stirring speech by Marc Antony that began, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”?
How about “Friends, Romans, countrymen, give me your attention”?
Makes more sense, right? Sounds like Antony’s speaking in a Starbucks, trying to get people to ditch their iPods and listen up.
It gets better.
Recall Hamlet’s lament?
“Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew, / Or that the Everlasting had not fixed / His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God, God! / How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world!”
Try this translation:
“Ah, I wish my dirty flesh could melt away into a vapor, or that God had not made a law against suicide. Oh, God, God! How tired, stale, and pointless life is to me. Damn it!”
Maybe translation’s not such a good thing for kids.
And what about the most famous soliloquy in world literature? Here’s the supposedly reader-friendly version:
“The question is: is it better to be alive or dead? Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all?”
William Shakespeare, meet Dr. Phil.
The Times reviews the Kindle, Amazon’s ebook reader, and speculates on the future of the emerging genre.
In the last six months of 2007, 50% of the bestselling novels in Japan were originally released as page-per-day serials sent direct to mobile phones. According to Wired magazine, Magic iLand, a site that allows users to write and download mobile-phone novels, plans to release “software that allows phone novelists to integrate sounds and images into their story lines”.
This is where it gets interesting, creatively. I write online “alternate reality” games, which blend different kinds of media to tell a story. Part of the story might appear in a blog, part on a Facebook page, or on the website of a fictional company, or in the comments for a YouTube video. The ebook creates the possibility of a “book with benefits” – a novel that automatically links you to a discussion forum, a history book that includes interesting material for which there was no space in the finished volume. It’s even more revolutionary than that, though: the ebook could be a whole new art form.
Man, that IS great! Images and sounds supplementing and replacing text! Wow! What an age we live in. What impresses me the most about this is how we’re turning books into TV and video games, but still somehow managing to cling to calling them “books”. Now that testament to the power of human
Sigh. The Guardian is like a dream date in newspaper form. They’re publishing a series of booklets on seven great poets of the 20thC. Up first is Eliot. Auden’s next. Then Plath, Larkin, Hughes, Heaney, and Sassoon.
Each booklet includes a generous selection of the poet’s best known and most acclaimed work.
Their poetry is accompanied by introductions from prominent literary figures, archive reviews and facsimile reproductions of their original manuscripts.
I would so put out on the first date. We might not even get to the restaurant.
The Tyee weighs in on literary fakery with a review recently discredited holocaust and gang life books.
Say you meet me at a party and I tell you that when I was 7 years old, I killed a full-grown military officer, then ran off and was nurtured by a pack of wolves. Would you believe me or begin edging away quietly, keeping the snack table between us at all times?
Or say I’m a healthy-looking, articulate young white woman, and I tell you I used to work for the Bloods in L.A. — a full-time gun-strapped gangbanger. Would you believe me or laugh in my un-bruised, orthodontured face?
If you said you would believe these stories, then please stand by — the process of natural selection will be along for you in a moment.
A funny, and sad, bit on shoplifting in the book world. I remember when I was a teen and worked at Coles, we kept certain authors in the back room or behind the counter. I can’t remember who those authors were, exactly, but I think Bukowski and Burroughs ring bells. I also remember catching a few of them out in the mall.
There’s an underground economy of boosted books. These values are commonly understood and roundly agreed upon through word of mouth, and the values always seem to be true. Once, a scruffy, large man approached me, holding a folded-up piece of paper. “Do you have any Buck?” He paused and looked at the piece of paper. “Any books by Buckorsick?” I suspected that he meant Bukowski, but I played dumb, and asked to see the piece of paper he was holding. It was written in crisp handwriting that clearly didn’t belong to him, and it read:
1. Charles Bukowski
2. Jim Thompson
3. Philip K. Dick
4. William S. Burroughs
5. Any Graphic Novel
This is pretty much the authoritative top five, the New York Times best-seller list of stolen books. Its origins still mystify me. It might have belonged to an unscrupulous used bookseller who sent the homeless out, Fagin-like, to do his bidding, or it might have been another book thief helping a semi-illiterate friend identify the valuable merchandise. I asked the man whether he preferred Bukowski’s Pulp to his Women, as I did, and whether his favorite Thompson book was The Getaway or The Killer Inside Me. First the book chatter made him nervous, but then it made him angry: He bellowed, “You’re just a little bitch, ain’t'cha?” and stormed out.
Worse than the shoplifters though, were the crazy folks — like the guy who’d come in and spend an hour thumbing carefully through maternity books looking for pictures of childbirth. Slightly slackjawed, wet-lipped, with his right leg shaking rhythmically, like Elvis dancing. I still shudder, thinking about it. The old ladies who were my coworkers always made me go over tell him to leave. I’d say, Why me? in a fit of sudden feminism. The first time I approached, it was like being a victim in a horror movie. I kept thinking to myself, Don’t go into the basement!! But I did, and when I asked him to leave, he looked up slowly, smiled, put the book down and sauntered out. He knew. KNEW! Or was retarded. I couldn’t tell. Regardless, his smile creeped me out. I half expected his teeth to be serrated. After that, I got bolder and bolder until one day, I just walked up, pulled the book out of his hands and said, “Get out and never come back, perv.” He looked a little startled, but never did come back. I hope he wasn’t an obstetrician.
- Book publishing getting greener
- $100M donation to NYPL
- More on Rowling suing her “fans” for publishing a Harry lexicon
- Will Arab Booker put Arab fiction on the map?
- Arthur C Clarke award opening up to lit fiction
- Wallace Stegner celebrated by western authors
- Locus poll on best SF of the year… (I am so behind in this category, I wouldn’t even know how to vote… I really don’t read contemporary SF. I just keep alternating between Canticle for Leibowitz and Left Hand of Darkness every few years. From BoingBoing)
When one roundup just isn’t enough to fully capture the breadth of shite available on teh internets.
Sean O’Brien argues in favour of beefing up the canon. Sorry, “The Canon”.
“Read poetry: it’s quite hard,” the poet Don Paterson crisply suggested. To do so requires us to claim that imaginative space, and to live with Keats’s “uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts”, rather than rush to conclude and summarise. Part of what Eliot called “the shock of poetry” lies in the fact that what it offers is often both instinctively recognisable and at the same time resistant to interpretation – a three-dimensional experience for the imagination, not a mere scanning of captions. And just as poetry’s subject is life in all its manifestations, so it exacts from the reader an equal attention to the human gift of language – meaning, tone, overtone, music, pattern, memorability, the power to move and delight.
If such richly complicated but freely available pleasures have come to seem forbidding, then we are indeed in trouble. Autonomy and seriousness come under threat because they represent an obstacle to the progress of the kind of ignorance that prefers to suppose that everything can be consumed, excreted and replaced, that one thing is much like another, and that anyway nobody cares or has time to make their own distinctions.
Disgrace should win the Booker of all Bookers, says I. It’s the best contemporary novel I’ve ever read. Other people?
Lotteries and literature go ill together, but on balance, the Booker probably does more good than harm. Who knows which novel the latest panel will choose or what the voting public will make of its shortlist. The frontrunners are clear: The Life of Pi, Midnight’s Children (again), The Remains of the Day, The Inheritance of Loss and Disgrace. If it’s any guide, when The Observer polled more than 100 writers on ‘the best book of the past 25 years’, the clear winner was Disgrace.
So it’s decided then. We needn’t have the bizarre award.
Mokoto Rich runs down history the soap opera of fakery that’s plagued the publishing industry the last few (hundred) years, and consumate post-modernist Mark Leyner gives his take in the Op-Ed pages.
IN a scandal that’s sending shock waves through both the publishing industry and academia, the author Franz Kafka has been revealed to be a fraud.
“‘The Metamorphosis’ — purported to be the fictional account of a man who turns into a large cockroach — is actually non-fiction,” according to a statement released by Mr. Kafka’s editor, who spoke only on the condition that he be identified as E.
“The story is true. Kafka simply wrote a completely verifiable, journalistic account of a neighbor by the name of Gregor Samsa who, because of some bizarre medical condition, turned into a ‘monstrous vermin.’ Kafka assured us that he’d made the whole thing up. We now know that to be completely false. The account is 100 percent true.”
Here are some news bits I didn’t feel like writing witty posts about individually.
AN Wilson revisits the Revisited. When Lady Ninja and I watched the EXXXTEENNNNNDDDEDDD miniseries DVD of the BBC adaptation of said book, I have to admit I was caught up in the story — though I did take great pleasure in asking my sex-and-gender-scholar/Quaker/feminist-professor-of-a-
wifelife-partner each night whether she wanted to watch another episode of “Gay Magnolias”. She has a wide range of bored-with-your-childishness glares — and each one can be measured in kilowatts.
Hitherto, whenever the book cropped up in conversation, I had trotted out the line that it was a failure: too much overwriting, with snobbery and piety mingled. Certainly the snob stuff is – well – surprising, not least because of the mistakes.
For example, I had forgotten that Charles Ryder, the painter-narrator, marries the sister of Boy Mulcaster, who is a viscount. Ryder drops in the fact that she is called Lady Celia. But Mulcaster would have had to be an earl, a marquess or a duke for Celia to be Lady Celia (unless Viscount Mulcaster was Boy’s courtesy title and he was waiting to inherit a marquessate – but we aren’t told that is the case).
On the whole, though, the lyricism of Waugh’s depiction of the aristocracy, their great houses, and their place in the English landscape and English scheme of things, seemed beautiful rather than ridiculous.
Possibly-self-hating-Canadian Stephen Marche, he of controversy well-courted, has a new essay out, this time skewering the late Alain Robbe-Grillet for “ruining” the experimental novel. Should be a good conversation starter for a few weeks. (You have to click on an ad to read the whole thing, but it’s worth it.)
I should have felt grief at the news of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s death last week. Instead I recognized in myself only confusing relief. He was a great champion for the innovative novel, so in a way I owe him: I’m a novelist, and while I would be loath to call myself avant-garde, my first book did have marginalia all the way through and my second was a literary anthology of an invented country. But the truth is, Robbe-Grillet was a disaster for innovative novels. After him, literary innovation, experiment with form or anything mildly unconventional came to be seen as pretentious and dry, the proper domain of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys and nobody else.
Apparently some poor sap minister in the UK is courting a public pantsing by suggesting libraries should be placed in shopping malls. Actually, is that all bad an idea? Now bear with me: wouldn’t it be great to let your kids go off and do their thing while you browsed the musty shelves in a soundproof environment? You could even join the old-folk squatters over by the periodicals for some afternoon head-wobbling and ass-scratching. Then when your progeny have had enough of the rides at the retail themepark, and you’ve read half a John Grisham novel you’d never have in your house, off you go to the car, WITHOUT a muzak version of G’n'R’s Paradise City running through your head. It’s brilliant, really.
Libraries could be brought into the 21st century by locating them in shopping centres and offering loyalty cards and cinema ticket rewards for visits, the Culture Minister said yesterday.
Oh, I see, there was FURTHER stupidity behind the idea. I dampen my support (but still call for government mandated oases in the chaotic stimulation/numbing centres known as shopping malls).
Apparently libraries have been struck with a particularly invasive form of cancer: java.
I got my first library card, for Hendon library in north London, when I was two years old. It gave me access to picture books, then children’s fiction, then the grown-up version; as many books as I wanted, as fast as I could read them. Hendon library was my temple, my treasure house, the place that inspired me to read and then to write. As an adult, I wrote a lot of my first novel there.
But the moneychangers have set up shop in my temple. Hendon library’s opening hours have been cut, a cafe has taken the place of part of the fiction section, and a computer learning zone has replaced the periodicals room. When I complained, a local councillor wrote back to say that he did not feel that the cut in opening hours was a great hardship for anyone. Of course, hardship is not really the point. Clearly no one is going to die without a library. The value of the arts cannot be measured by its ability to preserve life, but rather to enhance existence.
I sympathize, but also note that a hell of a lot of finches had to die in the Galapagos to get the finches we have today. (This is a clumsy attempt at metaphorically suggesting evolution may produce something stronger than the library itself, but I got home at 3am and up at 6:30, so I’m not quite even sure if there’s a proper verb in that sentence. Basically I’m saying coffee can’t be all bad, because 87% of my blood is currently bean-based and I’m still living… … … Wait: “living”.)
Author McEwan profiled around climate change and getting to the point on the oblique angle.
Ian McEwan chose climate change as a subject after “pondering how to write the world’s worst novel”. He said it would have moral intensity, worthy attitudes, graphs, statistics, biology, chemistry, fashionable pessimism and, worse, factitious optimism.
But the book he finally began to write this year has none of those “do-not-read” qualities. “The way to write about climate change is to write about a deeply flawed person,” he told almost 2000 people – the biggest crowd since the biennial Adelaide Writers’ Week began in 1960 – who endured 37-degree heat to hear his first public reading from his 12th novel-in-progress.
Michael Beard, his protagonist, is a thrice-divorced womaniser and winner of the Nobel Prize for physics, a specialist in light who has made “planetary stupidity” his business and believes solar energy can save the world.
Technology, often feared by the bookish world, is a growing friend. As the mass market has risen so has the reality of a technologically connected society. This doesn’t just mean Facebook. Global communities are gathering around common interests online, just as intellectuals gathered in cafes in 1900s Vienna. They are gloriously beyond corporate control and naturally antipathetic to the reductive mass market. We are only at the beginning of this social revolution. I am not an advocate of the life led online, but as broadband reaches all generations, genders and income brackets, so this will develop usefully. It won’t be all of life but it must be a place where niche interests can develop, robbing the mass market of a portion of its control. Literature can thrive in these places.
And in the SFChronicle, we get two online mag editors talking about where the real trenches are positioned.
“This is a revolutionary period,” says Jenks, 57, who has held fiction editor positions at Esquire, GQ and Scribner’s. “And as with all revolutionary periods, it’s one of enormous opportunity – I don’t think there’s ever been a greater period of opportunity for writers, for literary work.”
“I think the transition for writers (from print to digital) is painful because it’s new,” adds Edgarian, 46, the author of the critically acclaimed novel “Rise of the Euphrates.” “But the opportunities are enormous.”
In related news, Esquire has just published a fictionalized memoir/short story of Heath Ledger’s final days. Assigned as an investigative article, the reporter and editor evidently concluded that the best way to do the entire story justice (ie, sell magazines) was to fictionalize it and get at the GIST of his final days, as opposed to whatever FACTS are available. It might be good, I don’t know.
“It becomes theatrically important, after you die, what your last few days are like,” the article begins.
Skeptical readers might surmise that Ms. Taddeo didn’t turn up anything in her reporting and turned to a gimmick to get the story in print. But Mr. Granger insists that the piece, which is labeled fiction, is neither stunt nor gimmick.
“It’s an earnest effort,” he said, adding that the magazine has tried to tackle fiction using a nonfiction playbook before. “We’ve been trying to assign fiction,” he said, “to make it topical, relevant. To go to writers with a headline or an idea.”
More woes for embattled liar Margaret Seltzer/Jones as the anti-gang foundation she claimed to lead now also appears to be fake.
Leaders of several other groups combating gang violence in Los Angeles who were listed on Ms. Seltzer’s Web site said they did not know of the International Brother/SisterHood or of Ms. Seltzer or Margaret B. Jones.
“I’ve never heard of her before in my life,” said Malik Spellman, an intervention prevention specialist at Unity T.W.O., which works to provide social services and stop gang activity in many South-Central Los Angeles neighborhoods and was listed on Ms. Seltzer’s site. “I believe if she was active, I would probably know her by name or the organization.”
Ms. Seltzer claimed in the book to be part American Indian and said she grew up with an African-American foster family in South-Central Los Angeles running drugs for the Bloods. In fact she has no such heritage and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of suburban Los Angeles with her biological family and graduated from a private Episcopal day school.
Over at The Guardian, John Crace gives some pointers on how to write your own faker misery memoir,
I head back to St. John’s today, leaving the 16 degree weather of this weird Brigadoon in the middle of New Jersey for the -5 of back home. Sigh. But, a good time was had by all, as they say, so I can’t complain. I’ll start posting normally again tomorrow and the next service interruption I expect will be around the middle of April when Baby Ninja 2 arrives. And at that point, you may not even get the news list.
- More on the fake gang memoir (for those who sometimes get asked for NYT sign-in and password, remember you can always use the old Bookninja one: Login: bookninja, password: waaa)
- And some analysis at the NYSun and Slate about why the hell publishers don’t fact check and suck at spotting fake memoirs (is it that they can’t spot fakes or that when the writing’s good, they’re lulled?)
- Judith Regan, publishing’s answer to syphilis, back in the news
- On stereotypes in book buying, what bestseller lists say about the country they’re published in
- Cory Doctorow on ebooks (from SFSignal)
- Death of the Critic? Maybe not so much, says critic
The Master of all Dungeons, failed his final saving throw at 69. (Thanks, P)
Princeton is going well and it was 17 degrees here yesterday. I near broke out shorts.
- Fake memoir of abuse and drug dealing recalled (thanks, DC)
- Why literary sex is a turn off
- Findley’s Pilgrim is hitting high notes
- John A. bio gwyns Charles Taylor prize (Star)
- Penguin latest to offer audio books without copyright protection
- Arab countries boycott Paris Bookfair
- Jessa has some choice words for the WaPo
More list blogging ahead for you today, but first, an article you have to read about the cost of the Iraq war. It will knock your socks off.
Appetites whetted, Stiglitz and Bilmes dug deeper, and what they have discovered, after months of chasing often deliberately obscured accounts, is that in fact Bush’s Iraqi adventure will cost America – just America – a conservatively estimated $3 trillion. The rest of the world, including Britain, will probably account for about the same amount again. And in doing so they have achieved something much greater than arriving at an unimaginable figure: by describing the process, by detailing individual costs, by soberly listing the consequences of short-sighted budget decisions, they have produced a picture of comprehensive obfuscation and bad faith whose power comes from its roots in bald fact. Some of their discoveries we have heard before, others we may have had a hunch about, but others are completely new – and together, placed in context, their impact is staggering. There will be few who do not think that whatever the reasons for going to war, its progression has been morally disquieting; following the money turns out to be a brilliant way of getting at exactly why that is.
Next month America will have been in Iraq for five years – longer than it spent in either world war. Daily military operations (not counting, for example, future care of wounded) have already cost more than 12 years in Vietnam, and twice as much as the Korean war. America is spending $16bn a month on running costs alone (ie on top of the regular expenses of the Department of Defence) in Iraq and Afghanistan; that is the entire annual budget of the UN. Large amounts of cash go missing – the well-publicised $8.8bn Development Fund for Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority, for example; and the less-publicised millions that fall between the cracks at the Department of Defence, which has failed every official audit of the past 10 years. The defence department’s finances, based on an accounting system inaccurate for anything larger than a grocery store, are so inadequate, in fact, that often it is impossible to know exactly how much is being spent, or on what.
This is on top of misleading information: in January 2007 the administration estimated that the much-vaunted surge would cost $5.6bn. But this was only for combat troops, for four months – they didn’t mention the 15,000-28,000 support troops who would also have to be paid for. Neither do official numbers count the cost of death payments, or caring for the wounded – even though the current ratio of wounded to dead, seven to one, is the highest in US history. Again, the Department of Defence is being secretive and misleading: official casualty records list only those wounded in combat. There is, note Stiglitz and Bilmes in their book, “a separate, hard-to-find tally of troops wounded during ‘non-combat’ operations” – helicopter crashes, training accidents, anyone who succumbs to disease (two-thirds of medical evacuees are victims of disease); those who aren’t airlifted, ie are treated on the battlefield, simply aren’t included. Stiglitz and Bilmes found this partial list accidentally; veterans’ organisations had to use the Freedom of Information Act in order to get full figures (at which point the ratio of injuries to fatalities rises to 15 to one). The Department of Veterans Affairs, responsible for caring for these wounded, was operating, for the first few years of the war, on prewar budgets, and is ruinously overstretched; it is still clearing a backlog of claims from the Vietnam war. Many veterans have been forced to look for private care; even when the government pays for treatment and benefits, the burden of proof for eligibility is on the soldier, not on the government. The figure of $3 trillion includes what it will cost to pay death benefits, and to care for some of the worst-injured soldiers that army surgeons have ever seen, for the next 50 years.
Even the odd, trollish conservative who wanders into this site and decides to stick around instead of fellating Rupert Murdoch at some other site has to be staggered by this. It’s even in your language: money.
I’m blogging from a hotel room before I head out for lunch with friends, so here are some links to tide you over.