The Orange Prize is trying to attract teenage attention, mostly by nominating the Jonas Brothers for novel of the year. And some other stuff. Like, totally. You know?
The Penguin Orange Reader’s Group Prize 2009 is to re-launch itself using teen website spinebreakers.co.uk, as part of an extended campaign designed to increase young readers interest in the Orange Prize for Fiction.
The prize, which is in its eighth year, is the only UK prize dedicated to finding the reading group of the year and is a part of Orange’s literary portfolio. Although potential winners will enter on behalf of their book group, the first prize winner of the 2009 award will win £1,000 individually, as well as two tickets to the Orange Prize for Fiction awards ceremony in June. Runners-up will receive a set of the 2009 Orange Prize shortlisted books. Entrants will be judged on how they have made reading a social activity, and their involvement in book groups as well as their commitment to blogs and social networking sights will be taken into consideration.
That book that Vlad’s progeny dramatically hummed and hawed about for several months before siding with the dollar is coming from Penguin. Get ready to read a masterwork of epic proportions… what? It’s a bunch of index cards? Oh. Are we going to publish his grocery lists too?
Nabokov left the novel unfinished when he died in 1977, asking for it to be destroyed. His son Dimitri Nabokov finally took the decision to publish, bearing in mind that his father once also intended to burn his best-known work, Lolita.
Kirschbaum said: “[Penguin Classics m.d.] Stefan McGrath and I went to Dimitri’s home in Montreaux with Andrew Wylie, for a three-day stay. It was important that we meet because it was a big acquisition, and it was quite emotional for Dimitri because it was a big decision to publish, which took him decades.”
The Original of Laura was written, like all Nabokov’s novels, on index cards. Penguin will reproduce all 138 cards, with a transcript of the text on the opposite page. Kirschbaum said the cards add up to “a good chunk” of text taking “several hours” to read. “I’m an avid, obsessed fan of Nabokov and for other fans it’s incredibly interesting to see his handwriting and read his prose—not necessarily extremely polished, but you can still see kernels of genius in everything he wrote,” she said.
- “Extreme reading” competition nets father and son free trip
- The Kite Runner closes in on gay penguins as most challenged book in America…
- Lulu opens massage-yourself poetry-spa under URL of former wank-yourself-poetry-porn-theatre
- A noble goal? Book industry tries to go green and reduce noxious emissions by 20%… does this include some of the titles?
- Project Bookmark Canada puts Canlit in public spaces
- Middle aged white men corner fiction awards market in Oz
Ian bought a Kindle and some Kindle ebooks from Amazon. He also bought some real-world stuff from them, some of which he returned. Amazon decided that he’d returned too many things, so they suspended his Amazon account, which meant that he could no longer buy any Kindle books, and any Kindle subscriptions he’s paid for stop working.
I recognize there are some serious, legitimate, and valuable titles self-published these days—yet, for some reason, I still get the feeling this is going to look (and smell) like the overflow from a Sailor Moon sexdoll fan convention. So much mouthbreathing….
Publishing veterans Diane Mancher and Karen Mender are launching Self-Publishing Book Expo, an event that will focus on self-published books and the companies that produce them. SPBE will offer attending authors a place to exhibit and sell their books to the general public–and agents and publishers–as well as offering representatives from self-publishing companies to showcase their services. The event is slated for November.
What matters more to you with your books, the contents of the text or the contents of the end papers? Do people still inscribe books anymore? I know it’s something my older relatives do, but I seldom do this. I find it’s something I do more for children than other adults. I suppose it’s a dying thing. I do love finding old inscriptions in second hand and antique books, though.
When some of my own belongings were destroyed in a flood, my first concern was not for my waterlogged computer, but the copy of Sophie’s Choice a close friend gave me. At the time, I was stuck in a spiral of self-blame caused by a destructive relationship. “Hopefully this will teach you something about love, and something about guilt,” the inscription reads. To my relief, it was undamaged.
Chances are you’ve got at least one book like that on your shelf, inside which someone has taken the time and thought to write a message, the one you’d grab first in a fire and would never donate to a charity shop or the likes of readitswapit.com. As Zakia Uddin wrote when reporting on The Book Inscriptions Project, “the physical nature of a book – to be given away, to be found, to be tucked away – means that the inscriber can be as verbose, pointed or esoteric as they want.”
I asked my friends if they had any inscribed books, and they kept saying the same things. “It’s one of my most valuable possessions.” “It’s the first thing I’d save in a fire.” These aren’t first editions, but their inscriptions render them priceless.
On the tangential subject of authorial inscriptions, I remember Marc Coté coming up to me at a reading with my book in hand once. He said, “Hi George, can you inscribe this to me and make it worthless?” I blinked a couple times and stuttered and he told me he’d taken in a copy of a rare book to a dealer once (I think it was an Findley title) and they had said that while first editions like his were worth a bucket, it became worthless when it was inscribed to a “nobody”. From Findley to Atwood? A mint. From Findley to you? Nada. Gee, thanks. I get all my signed books inscribed to me, so I guess I have a shelf full of garbage. But one man’s garbage, as they say….
I like these pieces. They clear the air. Get it all out and let’s get things organized. Some good rules here (from CreativePenn Twitter feed) I would only add: don’t contact me unless it’s on gold record and sent via Voyager module. And I want to be able to smell the cosmic dust on it, people.
– Books with no contact info. I like playing the “guess the publicist” game as much as you like getting emails about books that aren’t yours.
there is one curious event in the life of Henry David Thoreau that has received little attention, and which may have been a formative event, influencing not only his decision to sequester himself at Walden Pond, but also the development of his environmentalist philosophy. On April 30, 1844, Thoreau started a blaze in the Concord Woods, scorching a 300-acre swath of earth between Fair Haven Bay and Concord. The fire was an accident, but the destruction of valuable woodland, the loss of firewood and lumber, and the narrowly avoided catastrophe that almost befell Concord itself angered the local residents and nearly ruined Thoreau’s reputation. For years afterward, Thoreau could hardly walk the streets of his hometown without hearing the epithet “woods burner.”
That the father of American environmentalism could have been the scourge of the Concord Woods may seem too ironic to be true. Yet, not only did this unlikely event actually occur, but it seems quite possible that, given Thoreau’s general lack of direction at the time, as well as his growing interest in pursuing a career as a civil engineer, America’s first great naturalist might not have undertaken his Walden experiment at all, had it not been for the forest fire he sparked a year earlier. The fire happened at a time when Thoreau seemed desperately in need of some catalyst to convert his thoughts into action.
Why are publishers still paying huge advances to celebrities and A-listers while everyone else, from mailroom staff to editors and midlist authors suffer? I think we all know the answer to that. It’s the same as it was before the recession. Er, excuse me: “global economic downturn”.
Schneider says publishers need blockbuster books — and they are willing to spend money to make money, even in this tough economy.
“We’re acquiring fewer books now, but I think there is an intense focus on the next big book, books that will drive readers into the stores, books that will support the rest of your list,” says Schneider. “Finding the next big hit can make your year.”
Authors who earn the really big bucks — like John Grisham or James Patterson — are considered pretty close to a sure thing. They can deliver a book and an audience on a regular basis. But celebrity books are a bigger risk, and literary novels are the most unpredictable.
Well-known literary authors can tank at the bookstore, while unknowns — like Sara Gruen — can have an unexpected hit. After Gruen’s novel Water for Elephants sold millions of copies, the bidding went sky-high for her next book. Eventually, she got around $5 million in a two-book deal.
Chuck Adams, the executive editor of Water for Elephants publisher Algonquin Books, says he had to drop out of the auction because “there was so much money thrown at [Gruen].”
Adams describes book auctions as very competitive events, where the price of a book can be driven up easily in the heat of the moment.
“You really want a book, and then you get into the auction and you think, ‘Ok, I’ve reached my top, but maybe if I just go a little bit higher,’ ” says Adams. “And the next thing you know, it just keeps escalating. And finally you just have to slap yourself and say, ‘What am I doing?’ “
Bloomsbury has gotten some retail folks up in arms by removing cover prices from some backlist titles. Ostensibly this will allow tickets to be added as needed to keep prices comensurate with the market (read: increase prices). The issue here is who will be left holding the hot potato when consumers start complaining about the cost of these titles.
Bloomsbury executive director Richard Charkin said the publisher had started removing prices “over a year” ago. Titles stripped of their prices are understood to include the Harry Potter series, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex and Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient among others.
Charkin explained: “When something drops into the backlist, you may wish to increase the price, in which case this enables us to do it [more easily]. It’s a sensible thing to do because I think this government is going to have to introduce high levels of inflation, and we want to make sure we have a way of dealing with it.”
Charkin stressed that the policy had not been introduced to circumvent discounting, and that there were no plans to remove prices from the covers of frontlist titles. He added it was common practice for backlist books to be produced without r.r.p.s.
However, retailers and publishers have described it as “quite unusual for a trade publisher”, with one describing it as a “carte blanche move”. None of the retailers spoken to by The Bookseller had been approached by Bloomsbury.
Husain added: “My concern as a bookseller would be that it shifts the onus of pricing over to us. The buyer’s perception will be that the price label has been put there by the bookseller, and so it comes back to us if there is a huge difference between one bookseller and another.”
- Atlantic Book Awards handed out (not to be confused with recently split Atlantic Ink awards)
- Moby points to science that yields the source of writers’ cramp
- You slog away in your basement office for years, this dude [son of a bitch?] gets adopted and has a book contract within days…
- RIP: Maurice Druon, French author, dead at 90
- Racy Gay Talese books come back into print
- Wayson Choy profiled at the National Post
- Slushpile challenge: be an agent for a day
A robotic exoskeleton to help the elderly an infirm lift heavy objects (read: help the super soldiers of the near future tear your rioting ass limb from limb).
Graywolf’s Twitter feed pointed to this piece as an example of how publicists should NOT to communicate with book bloggers.
Here at Flavorwire, we have never received a pitch or an email about covering an upcoming book that suggested the person on the other end thought we were less-than because we’re a blog.
Click through to see the letter, and get a lesson in how not to treat bloggers.
In the earliest days of Bookninja there were a few hiccups when publishers like Random wouldn’t send us books because they didn’t know who we were or didn’t value the online market, but in all fairness, those were relatively early days for blogging, and those same publishers now fall over themselves to get us review copies and flack sheets (to the point that I’m trying to discourage many titles as needless paper waste). I’ve never really experienced anything like the above, but what I have experienced that I would add to the discussion of how NOT to treat bloggers is widebanded, unaddressed, unpersonalized flack copy emailed to a group list. It might be what’s most convenient and efficient, but it’s not doing you any favours in terms of getting my attention. Same with the mail merge emails where my name (or just the URL) is stuck in salutation field and its obvious the text isn’t suited to the site (”We think your readers would just LOVE to hear about our new publication, 10 Dating Secrets for the Pedicure Set…”) The publicists and authors who get the most attention are the ones who actually read the site and know what fits. I always use Laura at Anansi as a good example of this. That woman knows how to write a pitch. And takes the time to write one specifically for Bookninja.
A woman in Japan has published a memoir centred around heartbreaking text messages she sent to her dead husband’s cell phone, which she kept active and charged and set to vibrate by his urn. I am torn here. Between wanting to read this bizarre book and wanting to get her some serious help.
Although the couple used to talk of visiting foreign countries when they got older, Motoo’s death put an end to their plans. Overwhelmed by her sense of loss, Fukuda began sending messages to her husband’s cell phone.
A message sent on April 26 reads: “I couldn’t live if I didn’t think you were still beside me. I can’t live [without you]. I’m crying every day.”
Another one on July 15 says: “I want to call you ‘Otosan’ to my heart’s content. Why do you have to be inside such a small urn?”
On sleepless nights and mornings, she continued sending the messages. Every time she did, his cell phone she had placed in front of his portrait vibrated as if her message had reached him.
“My heart aches every time I remember your illness, and I feel like I’m getting sick. But it’s okay. If I die, I can be with you sooner.” The message was sent on Dec. 30. Her message on Jan. 1 read, “I don’t have that much time left, so I want to live more positively and freely.”
Fukuda has never forgotten to charge her husband’s cell phone. But one concern is that the messages received on his phone will eventually disappear as new ones come in. Hoping to keep them as a record, she has compiled about 50 messages and a written memoir about the days they spent together.
Conflicting reports and speculation still swirl around Amazon’s de facto banning of gay titles through an “adult” tag. Was it an accident caused by some convenient Frenchman, a trollish hacker, or some darker conspiracy testing the moral waters and now being fobbed off as a “glitch”? Some say they’ve apologized and fixed things, others think not. Intentional or not, say some, the fact that they were experimenting with this kind of technique points to a serious problem. Plus, it’s a good test case for Twittered activism.
The problem is that given the previous responses by Amazon, the “glitch” excuse stands in contradiction. One of the following things then must be the case:
- Amazon did decide to treat certain books with sexual or sexual identity themes as adult products and reversed course when there was enough negative reaction.
- The “glitch” was something that happened on at least two occasions over the period of months.
- There was a series of mistakes, but Amazon representatives were incorrectly told that adult-themed books were being treated as adult products and treated as such.
- Some Amazon representatives independently decided to start the “adult products” excuse without clearing the answer in advance of giving it.
The last possible explanation is the hardest to treat seriously. The other three indicate some significant problems in how Amazon is doing business. Either it is excluding products without giving customers a choice, and inviting the scrutiny brought by consumers with web access, or it is creating a variety of clashing messages, each carried by one part of the company but not another.
Author, critic and rights activist, dead at 58.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose critical writings on the ambiguities of sexual identity in fiction helped create the discipline known as queer studies, died on Sunday in Manhattan. She was 58.
The cause was breast cancer, her husband, Hal Sedgwick, said.
Ms. Sedgwick broke new ground when, drawing on feminist scholarship and the work of the French poststructuralist Michel Foucault, she began teasing out the hidden socio-sexual subplots in writers like Charles Dickens and Henry James.
- PEN condemns publication of war criminal’s poems, Bookninja goes one step further and condemns all publication of poems…
- Something about Harry Potter still lingers as important for some reason
- The start of the end? February book sales plunge almost 11%
- Michael Bay signs $50M deal to fuck up the Thundercats
- Happy birthday, Johnson dictionary!
- Authors named to Arts Academy
Barack Obama reads Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things are to a group of kids on Easter. Unlike that other guy, buddywhatshisfacewarcriminal, whose favourite book was the monosyllabic Hop on Pop and who could barely follow a script, Obama can not only choose a decent kids book, he can read it upside down. Forget the publishers, Spike’s gotta be pretty happy with this one…
Social networking sites like Twitter destroy the moral compass in teens. Well, that and TV. And videogames. And Hersey’s products. And falling education standards. And bad parenting. And pot which, as we know, is one step removed from crack. It’s all really part of a larger mosaic of worry, init.
New findings show that the streams of information provided by social networking sites are too fast for the brain’s “moral compass” to process and could harm young people’s emotional development.
Before the brain can fully digest the anguish and suffering of a story, it is being bombarded by the next news bulletin or the latest Twitter update, according to a University of Southern California study.
“If things are happening too fast, you may not ever fully experience emotions about other people’s psychological states and that would have implications for your morality,” said researcher Mary Helen Immordino-Yang.
Poetry magazine has handed out its big awards, including the filthy rich Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which went to Fanny Howe.
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is pleased to announce that poets Fanny Howe and Ange Mlinko are the winners of its sixth annual Pegasus Awards.
Howe is the recipient of the 2009 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Established in 1986 and presented annually by the Poetry Foundation to a living U.S. poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition, the Ruth Lilly Prize is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets, and at $100,000 it is one of the nation’s largest literary prizes. Poet and critic Ange Mlinko is the winner of the Randall Jarrell Award in Poetry Criticism. The prizes will be presented at the Pegasus Awards ceremony at the Arts Club of Chicago on Tuesday, May 19.
Some booksellers are setting up shop at the local farmers markets, where black clad, Beemer-driving yuppies peacefully graze with their morlock brethren: homohippicus, or the “Wild North American Reticulated Hippy”. Sounds like a good business model. Plus there’s that guy there who makes his own donuts.
Lamb said the Portland Farmers’ Market approached him with the idea last fall. “I started looking at the numbers—they do within 22,000 and 25,000 people a day in the high season. Between 8 A.M. and 2 P.M., the numbers are outrageous. And a lot of those are tourists. It makes perfect sense to have Powell’s represented there.” Starting April 25 and continuing on the last Saturday of every month until October 24, Powell’s will bring six shelving carts, each one holding about 150 books, to a 10′ x 20′ booth in the Portland Farmers’ Market’s PSU location. Two carts will feature used books; one will feature new cooking and gardening titles; one will feature titles pertaining to green and sustainable living; and two will feature books on a particular theme that will change seasonally. The first several themes are “going to seed,” featuring titles about seed gardening and composting, and “locavores,” with books about preparing local food and eating locally. Later in the year, a “preserving” theme will feature books about “capturing the harvest,” and a “fun with fungi” theme will offer books about hunting and cooking mushrooms. Lamb said local chefs, farmers, bee keepers and others who have written cookbooks will stop by the Powell’s stand and sign books to sell.
The dreamy Richard Nash points to this piece via his Twitter feed. Publishers need to stop thinking like publishers and start thinking like game developers. Eeeenteresting…
Computer games developers and publishers have always needed a device to be purchased on which their games can be played. In the early days, it was a computer. Then specialised devices came along and the manufacturers of the devices started to battle it out for domination and Sony was the early winner with the Playstation. Microsoft brought out the Xbox and Nintendo discovered a new market with the Wii.
But the games publishers and developers learnt fairly early on that the platform did not affect their development and publishing of games. The games developers (the equivalent of authors) created ever more immersive and graphically stunning games to make the most of the power of the games consoles which could be played on either an Xbox or a Playstation. They just developed ‘compiler’ programmes and ‘architectures’ through which their games adapted to the platform for which they had been purchased. Games publishers want to be able to distribute their games onto as many platforms as they can.
The good thing about books unlike a newspaper is that they are likely to be read again. Not read as many times, perhaps, as often as a track is played on a MP3 player, but an eBook has a longer life than a newspaper article, nevertheless. A game is likely to be played several times before it swapped or exchanged. Of course, most games come on a disc. But, increasingly, games are being played online and soon they will be downloaded to consoles when broadband speeds increase. So, in that sense, publishers will be ahead of games developers.
Things like the cell phone are totally killing old plot devices like missed connections and isolation. Damn. Looks like we’ll have to think of some new plot devices. Shame, really.
Technology is rendering obsolete some classic narrative plot devices: missed connections, miscommunications, the inability to reach someone. Such gimmicks don’t pass the smell test when even the most remote destinations have wireless coverage. (It’s Odysseus, can someone look up the way to Ithaca? Use the “no Sirens” route.)
Of what significance is the loss to storytelling if characters from Sherwood Forest to the Gates of Hell can be instantly, if not constantly, connected?
Plenty, and at least part of it is personal. I recently finished my second thriller, or so I thought. When I sent it to several fine writer friends, I received this feedback: the protagonist and his girlfriend can’t spend the whole book unable to get in touch with each other. Not in the cellphone era.
Then I started talking to fellow writers and discovered a brewing antagonism toward today’s communication gadgets.
The NYT has a piece on the tug-of-war going on over the legacy of Nicholas Hughes. On one side is the ghoulish army of Sylvia academics and their allied necrophiliacs who have made a life of gossip and want to frame his death in terms of his parents’ relationship, on the other is the group of friends and family who knew him best and want to remember the man instead of the subject of some poems.
“For me, his work was elegant and beautiful, just like a good poem,” said Amanda E. Rosenberger, an assistant professor in the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, wiping away tears.
His friends here are grappling with his death not as heart-rending literary coda, but as devastating loss — for his girlfriend, for the students he mentored and for the future of fish ecology. Using elaborate underwater camera systems and sophisticated computer models, Mr. Hughes had developed new ideas about how salmon, grayling and other fish chose their habitats. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of ecosystems, yet he was also an expert in hydrodynamics and evolutionary biology — a kind of academic triple threat.
This is one reason people here scoff at the notion that he came to Alaska as some kind of “Into the Wild” escape. His fascination with fish spans more than two decades, back to Oxford University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in zoology, followed by a Ph.D. in biology from the university here in 1991. After winning several prestigious research positions in Canada and Alaska, he was hired as an assistant professor here in 1998. He was 36, and a promotion to associate professor and tenure followed in due course.
TKAM has beaten out the word of God as the most inspirational book of all time. That’s got to be a mixed blessing. Um, hi, St. Peter? Yeah, well, you see, I had absolutely NO CONTROL over that kind of thing and… Um, what? Which elevator? Oh….
A spokesman for www.OnePoll.com, which conducted the research, said: “Despite To Kill a Mockingbird being written in the 1960’s, it is still considered the most inspirational book.
“The novel is renowned for its warmth and humour, despite dealing with serious issues of racial inequality. The narrator’s father, Atticus Finch, has also served as a moral hero for many readers over the years.
“It’s interesting that the book is considered more inspirational than the bible, which many people turn to at some point in their lives.”
Men Are From Mars And Women Are From Venus, the self-help relationship manual came fourth in the poll.
That last sentence provides a bit of much-needed context here, doesn’t it?
Gloria Vanderbilt, a plastic statue of whom is pictured here, has written an erotic novel. Glad to see she’s keeping busy. You know, it can get lonely with only the bunny slippers to keep you company.
plicit book, which is to be published in June, has already sent shock waves through the reserved upper echelons of New York society after passages were leaked to a New York tabloid. The leaks showed that Vanderbilt’s prose spares no one’s blushes in its explicit descriptions of kinky sex. Andrea Peyser, a columnist at the New York Post who got hold of the 143-page tome, breathlessly called it “pure, elegant, unadulterated smut” – before reassuring readers that the book was light enough to be “easily read with one hand”.
The plot follows the adventures of society beauty Priscilla Bingham, whose husband, Talbot, dies after 10 years of marriage. She then discovers his letters to his dominatrix lover, Bea, and becomes obsessed with exploring his secret world of erotica.
Kindle 2 has everything! Except, you know, text. Font problems have users feeling jabbed in the serif.
Amazon’s Kindle 2 is slimmer, faster and has longer battery life than its predecessor. But the newly launched e-book reader falls short when it comes to how well it displays text, say some users.
“When you read a lot of text on the screen, the contrast on the text drops as the font size gets smaller, which is the exact opposite of what the reader wants,” says Ted Inoue, a Kindle 2 owner from Pennsylvania who has extensively analyzed the issue.
It’s a problem that didn’t exist for the first generation of Kindle owners. Kindle 2 has font smoothing algorithms and its screen offers more levels of gray in order to better render text and pictures. But the changes have backfired by making text more difficult to read at smaller sizes. The problem seems especially acute for older users.
Well, depending on who you ask the whole Amazon-blocking-gay-titles “glitch” was either a major fuckup or an unintentional major fuckup. One thing is certain though, it’s front page news everywhere. One report has the whole thing blamed on France—a coder there, faced with the language barrier, applied “adult” to things like “gay”, “erotica”, “sexuality”, etc. In print, Amazon is backpedalling so hard they may be slowing down the rotation of the planet, the most quoted line of which seems to be “embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error”. But it looks like that might very well be the case. I can’t imagine any international company would be stupid enough to make a policy decision like that in this day and age. The fact of the matter is, this points more to endemic social problems than corporate ones. And what would have happened if the Twittered outrage hadn’t occurred? How long would this de facto policy have continued?
Slog has done a fine job looking at all angles of The Great Glitch, but I think it’s still worth asking… what if Twitter didn’t shame Amazon into action?
As many have said, the problem wasn’t treated like a glitch by Amazon’s staff in the first place. But let’s not forget, the initial report was filed two days after Probst first noticed the problem. These de-rankings sat live on Amazon’s listings for days, and a guy with a direct publishing contact at Amazon couldn’t get someone to take action or send a realistic, rational response. This initial result is in line with the statement Mike Daisey made to the PI yesterday:
While embarrassing to the public, it will fade quickly as the changes get reverted. Amazon is no longer the company it once was: it’s just an online Wal-Mart. Like any behemoth, there’s little accountability inside the bubble.That expectation of a fading embarrassment does apply to the public. This whole escapade illuminates the issue that Amazon is a money-first corporation that only acts when the bottom line is threatened. Without #amazonfail, what would’ve happened? You’d see a few complaints climb to the top of Digg/Reddit for all the nerds to see. Maybe Fark would throw up a goofy headline about it. And, of course, there’d be the inevitable online petition.
Those kinds of complaints get sucked into a vacuum of here-today-gone-tomorrow Internet nerd chatter. Yawn.
Canada’s book world has suffered a great loss. Derek Weiler, editor of the Quill and Quire, is dead at 40. Details and encomium surely to follow. You can join a Facebook group to share your memories of Derek here.
- The Quill has posted more information, including an obit that will run tomorrow
- Steven Beattie has posted a tribute and reprinted a collaborative review he did with Derek
- Afterword has an extensive list of links
- Martin Levin has posted a remembrance at the Globe
Why is sex so hard to write well? I guess it’s hard to capture the rank disappointment and quivering shame of real life on paper…
It’s every writer’s nightmare. You’ve invested years of blood, sweat and, in my case, HB pencils in the British Library to construct your tale of deep passion and pent-up desire and now – at last – your central characters are edging towards the bedroom. At which point you start to suffer from writer’s droop. How are you going to encapsulate the earth-moving wonder, the erotic arousal and tender protectiveness of the longed-for moment?
Imagine this and multiply it by ten when the main character of your novel, The Lady and The Poet, happens to be John Donne, perhaps the greatest erotic love poet in the English language, whose poetry glitters with clever seductiveness, carnal longing and a subversive delight in sex?
Add to the problem the helpful advice from my agent that when Donne and the young woman with whom he falls passionately in love, Ann More, finally make it to the four-poster – “it had better be good!”
Did he turn down the laureateship 10 years ago for political reasons? “Partly,” he says, quickly adding that, “I’ve nothing against the Queen personally: I had lunch at the Palace once upon a time… it’s just that the basis of my imagination, the basis of the cultural starting point, is off-centre.” This is a less forthright response than the one he gave in 1982, after being included in an anthology of British poets: “My passport’s green/No glass of ours was ever raised/to toast the Queen.” (He has lived in the Republic of Ireland since 1972.) His close friend Ted Hughes could write “mythological poems about the Queen Mother” because he was “an English patriot” – something Heaney could never have been.
How does he judge the outgoing laureate, Andrew Motion? Heaney chooses his words carefully. “Andrew gave it the complete 21st-century attention, did the outreach and the poems for the sovereign. He did wonderfully well,” he says, sounding like an indulgent teacher. So who should replace him? In 1977, Heaney gave a lecture which spoke appreciatively of three English poets: Hughes, Philip Larkin and Geoffrey Hill. Might Hill (the only one still alive) make an interesting choice? “He would make a magnificent poet laureate,” says Heaney. “He has a strong sense of the importance of the maintenance of speech… a deep scholarly sense of the religious and political underpinning of everything in Britain.” However, he continues, his poems show an acute distress at the falling away of standards – cultural and political. “I think because of that he wouldn’t want the job.” Heaney’s work lacks Hill’s religious seriousness.
What a strange turn at the end of the paragraph…
The NYT looks at the insanity that is the writing world’s Holy Grail—the advance. In my case, as a poet, it’s more like a Dixie Cup than a chalice of everlasting life, but that’s cool. I just keep running back to the bathroom sink every few years to fill it up and have my sip. And I don’t have Knights Templar guarding it so much as a couple guys with a broken Cutty bottle. Such is my life.
despite the economic downturn, and the fact that 7 out of 10 titles do not earn back their advance, the system doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. In recent interviews, a dozen New York-based publishers and agents told me, more or less, “Publishers have to keep buying books,” and “They have to bid for the best books” — which in large part means those that will sell.
Advances are seldom specified authoritatively. Amounts are coyly described like cigarette brands — the “mid-fives,” the “low sixes,” the “mild sevens.” In the preface to “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” Dave Eggers broke form by telling the reader he received $100,000 for the manuscript, which — after his detailed expenses — netted him $39,567.68.
Advance envy is common. “Writers who can’t recall their Social Security number can say to the penny how much of an advance their nemesis received,” Elissa Schappell, a fiction writer and co-editor of the anthology “Money Changes Everything,” said in an e-mail message. To an outsider, the numbers can seem arbitrary, even absurd. “No one ever says of an advance, ‘That’s exactly what that book deserves,’ ” Schappell said. “Yep, a coming-of-age first novel involving drug addiction and same-sex experimentation is worth $25,000.”
Time for your weekly (daily) dose of articles fretting over the death of this and that and pondering the apparently misty future of the other thing.
If you hang around long enough, eventually someone looking for something to take down will find you. I know, it’s been six years and I’ve erected a palisade of apathy to protect me from the barbarians without. The Elements of Style comes under fire here in the Chronicle.
The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students’ grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.
The authors won’t be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte’s Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk’s death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.
This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian. Despite the post-1957 explosion of theoretical linguistics, Elements settled in as the primary vehicle through which grammar was taught to college students and presented to the general public, and the subject was stuck in the doldrums for the rest of the 20th century.
Amazon has put up some sort of script that blocks sales rank numbers from LGBT titles. After a weekend freakout in the books community, lead mostly through Twitter, the company is now claiming this was because of a “glitch”. Funny that glitches can be so selective, eh? Given that they’ve been a relatively smooth operation thus far, I’m going to go out on a limb and say they should stop combing the software for rogue code and start combing the employee ranks for fundamentalists. I watched the posts fly by this weekend and just couldn’t bear to read about it until today. So, here’s some roundup from people who were working over the weekend…
Might I suggest, as many others have, boycotting Amazon until they not only fix the glitch, but issue an abject apology?
Zombie news on the first weekday after a guy rose from the dead seems somehow blasphemously apropos. So, other classic works to get the zombie treatment—The Corpse of Monte Cristo and Farewell to Arms and Legs are coming soon to bookstores near you.
The week before Comic-Con, in February, news about the book had hit more than 1,000 Web sites. As a result, on Amazon, the book’s ranking jumped from in the high millions to 72. The early buzz was so intense that Rekulak got an offer from another publisher to buy the rights; that house warned, according to Rekulak, that Quirk was “too small to publish the book successfully.” Quirk declined the offer and, instead, bumped the book’s pub date from July to April.
Although other publishers may now release titles with other ghouls inserted into Penguin Classics, Rekulak is planning to do another literary mash-up. Ideas, unsurprisingly, have been pouring in from would-be authors. For Rekulak it’s now a matter of sifting through the proposals, which, if nothing else, are amusing; so far he’s seen everything from A Farewell to Arms and Legs to The Corpse of Monte Cristo to As I Lay Bleeding.
What about War and Body Pieces and Spread Around the World in 80 Days? There’s also got to be a place for The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Was Eaten, Three Musketeers and Two Bottles of Ketchup, The Power and the Gory, A Portrait of the Artist as a Fresh Man, How Green Was My Body, A Ventricle for Leibowitz, Catch Her in the Rye and Eat Her, The Swiss Meatball Family Robinson, The Goulash Archipelago, A Room of One’s Own with Extra Locks, The Prime Rib of Miss Jean Brody, The Lady Served with Shalotts, Bride’s Head Revivisected, and Lady Chatterly’s Dinner. I got a million of ‘em, folks…
“Dear Billy Bob”
I didn’t know you
weren’t acting when you played
that guy in Sling Blade.
The bloom is off the rose, people. We could turn our head here and there when Barack left some crazy Cheney-ites in positions of power, but now he’s extending the domestic spy ring (including on libraries and bookstores) wing as the “Patriot” Act. Shame, Barack!
The Campaign for Reader Privacy has sent a detailed memo to Congress expressing its reasons why the USA Patriot Act needs to be reformed before its likely extension before the end of the year. The CPR, composed of a variety of book industry groups including the ABA, AAP, ALA and PEN, has fought for five years to restore reader privacy that it believes was stripped away by the Patriot Act and in particular Section 215 which authorizes the issuance of secret search orders which permits the government to search the records of any person its believes could be relevant to a terrorist investigation. According to the memo, the Patriot Act eliminated safeguards protecting the confidentiality of the records of bookstore customers and library patrons, and has had a chilling effect on First Amendment right.
Stop robbing graves, people! Especially those of shitty writers.
The news that bestselling author Michael Crichton, who died last year, is to rise from the grave with two new novels raises the thorny issue of completions. Two texts have been discovered on his computer – a historical thriller that is more or less complete and a science fiction novel of which one-third is finished. His publisher, HarperCollins, now plans to rush them into print, with the latter to be completed by a sympathetic writer working from the author’s notes and plot outlines.
Don’t do it! Leave his work be: publish it as he left it, and let Crichton fans try to work out his intentions for themselves. The urge to complete – exemplified by the numerous attempts to conclude Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood – is based on a misconception: that only a finished work is of interest. The reverse is true: unfinished works are often the most interesting of all.
While not as famous as, who passed away in March of last year, Arneson was a driving force behind D&D’s creation and his contribution to the world of adventure gaming should not be underestimated. It was Arneson’s spark that transformed Gygax’s game into the first edition of D&D, and begat everything that followed.
Arneson had to fight to get credit for his contributions, filing multiple lawsuits (later resolved out-of-court) against Gygax over crediting and royalties. He nonetheless did return to TSR in the mid-’80s to work with Gygax again. Following that, he began a second career as an educator, working in several schools with a particular focus on how to use gaming as an instructional tool.
I need one more hour today, in order to get half the things done I need to. Can anybody spare one? Damn. Here’s a few bits.
- EJ Pratt Poetry Prize has a particularly good shortlist
- Dictionaries recognize same sex marriage, why can’t you? (Fail on the illo, Slate)
- Audiobook success driven by downloads
- Canadian poet gets material, and subsequent coverage, from Weekly World News
- Jane Austen zombie tale chews up charts
- Why even go out anymore? The world is on the web
- Six accidental literary masterpieces
- Guggenheims everywhere!
Given the evidence shown below, I submit that it would probably easier if we all got naked, grabbed some sharpies, and drew meat charts in dotted lines on each other. Try the chops, robot overlords. They’re delicious! RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!
Apparently an author photo is simply essential in marketing a book (NPR Audio). I made the decision with my last to not have one. I guess with poetry the rules are different. For starters, in poetry there’s no such thing as this “marketing” of which you speak… In my next there’ll not only be no photo and no blurbs (I’ve never used blurbs), but no acknowledgements. I’m cutting back to the bone in hard times. Soon I plan on cutting the cover and poems. All that will be left are those blank gimme pages at the back. Then I’ll have the form f’in perfected.
Okay, let’s see… Um, witty commentary…. okay, okay.. hang on… Um, just a sec. Give me a minute for godsake, I’m thinking… SHUT UP! Uh… Okay, okay. What about “An e-reader specifically for magazines“? Ah? Ah? Well, think about it.
Plastic Logic is developing an e-reader with a display that is about 8.5 inches wide and 10.7 inches long—the same size as most magazines and nearly twice the size of the Kindle screen (and more than four times the size of iPhone and Blackberry interfaces—where many of us skim our New York Times headlines in the morning).
Their prototype is made out of plastic, so it’s lightweight, and thinner than a pad of paper. Mr. Benzi said the company’s “secret sauce” is its flexible screen, which can feel a bit like a magazine and has an added bonus of making the device nearly unbreakable.
Plastic Logic plans to release a product on the market by 2010. Once they perfect the actual product’s look, Plastic Logic would include some kind of “content store” similar to what is available on the Kindle. Users could subscribe to publications, and new issues would update automatically—and they could download their own Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PDFs onto the device, too. Currently, the reader incorporates black-and-white display technology from Cambridge-based company E Ink, just like the Kindle.
I hate that term so much. Perhaps I should escape into a bodice ripper like everyone else is…
In a recession, what people want is a happy ending.
At a time when booksellers are struggling to lure readers, sales of romance novels are outstripping most other categories of books and giving some buoyancy to an otherwise sluggish market.
Harlequin Enterprises, the queen of the romance world, reported that fourth-quarter earnings were up 32 percent over the same period a year earlier, and Donna Hayes, Harlequin’s chief executive, said that sales in the first quarter of this year remained very strong. While sales of adult fiction overall were basically flat last year, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales, the romance category was up 7 percent after holding fairly steady for the previous four years.
I don’t know about you lot, but I don’t need a recession to make crave a happy ending. I call days when I hope for happy endings “weekdays”. Or alternately: “weekends”.
I swear to God, somedays the cliffs above the harbour call. Just one step and all the obligations end. Sigh. I wish I was courageous enough to be that cowardly. But seriously, I’m just busy as fuck putting out fires that should never have been started, so I’ll be brief in my posting today, but check back later this afternoon in case I get the itch to complain about something.
- Atwood among business book award nominees
- Borders UK shakeup
- Barack the Barbarian… Why do I think he’ll be not only buying copies of this, but putting them in board bags and adding them to the stacks of white boxes in the closets of the White House?
- How to build your own letterpress
- If you’ve got some time to waste, you might have a trawl through the Twilight Sucks message boards and see how the kids today conduct their cultural discourse…
- We’ll see how they like it over in the Arab states…
Shakespeare had it wrong: names count. Frigging gender, getting things all confused.
“Does treating chairs as masculine and beds as feminine in the grammar make Russian speakers think of chairs as being more like men and beds as more like women in some way?” she asks in a recent essay. “It turns out that it does. In one study, we asked German and Spanish speakers to describe objects having opposite gender assignment in those two languages. The descriptions they gave differed in a way predicted by grammatical gender.”
When asked to describe a “key” — a word that is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish — German speakers were more likely to use words such as “hard,” “heavy,” “jagged,” “metal,” “serrated” and “useful.” Spanish speakers were more likely to say “golden,” “intricate,” “little,” “lovely,” “shiny” and “tiny.”
Boroditsky created a pretend language based on her research — called “Gumbuzi” — replete with its own list of male and female nouns. Students drilled in the language were then shown bridges and tables and chairs to see if they began to characterize these things with their newly minted genders. And it turns out…
The Griffin Prize shortlists were just announced. Great list. Almost perfect. No women at all (on CDN list), but great books.
Revolver, Kevin Connolly (House of Anansi Press)
Crabwise to the Hounds, Jeramy Dodds (Coach House Books)
The Sentinel, A. F. Moritz (House of Anansi Press)
The Lost Leader, Mick Imlah (Faber and Faber)
Life on Earth, Derek Mahon (The Gallery Press)
Rising, Falling, Hovering, C. D. Wright (Copper Canyon Press)
Primitive Mentor, Dean Young (University of Pittsburgh Press)
The 23 blank pages, which literary experts presume is a two-act play composed sometime between 1973 and 1975, are already being heralded as one of the most ambitious works by the Nobel Prize-winning author of Waiting For Godot, and a natural progression from his earlier works, including 1969’s Breath, a 30-second play with no characters, and 1972’s Not I, in which the only illuminated part of the stage is a floating mouth.
“In what was surely a conscious decision by Mr. Beckett, the white, uniform, non-ruled pages, which symbolize the starkness and emptiness of life, were left unbound, unmarked, and untouched,” said Trinity College professor of Irish literature Fintan O’Donoghue. “And, as if to further exemplify the anonymity and facelessness of 20th-century man, they were found, of all places, between other sheets of paper.”