Can the tweedy genre survive the convergence of the celebrity tell-all with the rise of the self-reflexive blook? The answer may surprise you. If you could find it.
Colin Robinson has been in publishing since 1976. He has worked for fusty companies and radical ones, for earnest independents and empire-building corporations, for Britons and Americans: as an editor, always involved in the slightly precarious business of putting out serious books. But recently he started noticing something about the way books are treated that disturbed him. “Here in New York” – Robinson lives in a fairly intellectual part of Manhattan – “books are quite often left out in the street. If people are moving, they don’t take their books with them.”
There may be a harmless explanation. Manhattan apartments are small. Some people always get rid of books once they’ve read them. Yet Robinson has some cause to see the phenomenon as a symptom of something ominous. On 3 December last year, despite what he describes as an editorial list “filled with erudite, well-written books”, he abruptly lost his job at the American publisher Scribner.
So many other editors were sacked in New York that day, it almost instantly became known in the closely connected worlds of American and British publishing as “Black Wednesday”. In recent months, such culls have become grimly routine in many industries. But among those who write, publish and sell serious non-fiction – the biographies, histories, travel and science books researched and written with a degree of subtlety for a general audience – the bad news seems to have been building up since long before the current recession.
I don’t know what you’re all looking at… there’s nothing to see here. There’s no endemic sexism in our society anymore. We solved that problem back in the 60s when we burned all those bras. In the 70s we solved hunger in Ethiopia and reliance on foreign oil. In the 80s we solved acid rain and Amazon deforestation and in the current decade we solved racism when we elected Obama (I expect we’ll have Global Warming under wraps in the next year or so too). What about the 90s? What did we solve then? Oh yeah: the Pearl Jam/Radiohead divide.
Are Canadian liteary magazines being set up to take the fall in the coming arts and culture funding shuffle? The answer doesn’t appear to be one I want to hear.
Last month, Mr. Merwin won a second Pulitzer prize for poetry — the fourth New Jersey poet to win in the last 10 years, a streak that is unmatched of late by any other state, and one that raises the question of whether it is more than just a happy coincidence.
New Jersey loyalists — and I, living as I do in the same town where six generations of my family are buried, count myself among them — would argue that it is. Look at what else we’ve produced, we argue, and point to a roster of cultural heavyweights that extends from Sinatra to Springsteen. But why this particular and dominating skill in poetry? Why not fiction or drama or history?
Something else is going on here, I think, and there’s a number that explains it: 566, the number of municipalities in New Jersey, more per square mile than any other state. It’s the same number that explains so much else about our state — its economy, its politics, its landscape, its psychology, and why it has provided such a rich trove of stories for newspapers like this one. Poetry is compressed language, a density of meaning in a small space, and we are a compressed state, a density of communities in a small landscape.
The technical term for what you’ve just read is, I believe: “stretching it”.
Ruth Padel has beaten out all-comers for the position of Oxford Professor of Poetry. Scandal dogged the whole process, from the refusal and reversal of Carol Ann Duffy to the low, gossipy smear campaign against the person who was probably the best fit for the position, Derek Walcott. Padel’s appointment, however, does break a, surely coincidental, 300 year streak of old white guys.
I originally coined this running title gag with an eye toward a bitterly medicinal feel, but as time goes by I’m starting to think of the “dose” part more in terms of The Clap.
- Colour e-readers coming
- Amazon still concentrating on coming e-textbook wars
- NYT columnist plagiarizes blogger
- Whoeverthefuck Jonathan Ross is, he’s launched a Twitter book club (Twook Cwub?)
- Twitter Haiku contest in London train station
- And for the Twitter twifecta: guy and his followers to write book (nb, not James Patterson)…
- Scribd to become virtual graveyard with a difference: prices!
A tech author whose work is more pirated than the Somali coastline speaks out about his battle to get his name and work back.
The specter of piracy of my books materialized for me several weeks ago when I typed the four words “wayner data compression textbook” into Google. Five of the top 10 links pointed to sites distributing pirated copies. (And now, it’s six.)
To add insult to injury, the top 10 doesn’t include any page that actually sells my book, although they do point to several pages at Amazon and other sites that sell newer books by other authors. Other search strings do a better job and find the textbook’s page at Amazon.com.
The piracy of music and movies has been a challenge for the industry for many years now, but the book business seemed to avoid the problem. That is rapidly changing.
Derek Walcott is not an evil man. Like any man, he is flawed. But, like any great man, he is retrospect and understands that his flaws are universal. And from them, he creates art.
His role in this society is crucial. Art forces our minds to reinvent what we think and so we build impossible buildings, find improbable cures and make changes that could never have been dreamed of before. With every artistic moment the paradigm shifts and civilisation grows stronger for it.
I can only hope that Oxford decides to stop the election and allow everyone more time to reconsider what has just happened. Derek Walcott should not walk away from this post. He is the greatest living poet in our time and what he has to say is vital to all of us.
On April 23, 2009, a federal district court in the southern Russian province of Dagestan issued an unprecedented ruling, ordering a journalist of a local newspaper to pay compensation in an amount equal to US$1,000 to a writer who did not like a review of his book published in the newspaper. The plaintiff, an author whose work of fiction was reviewed in the publication’s book review section, sued the reviewer, claiming that the author and his family had experienced severe mental suffering and that his professional reputation was damaged as a result of the review. The writer stated that after reading the book review, he experienced chest pains, headache, and elevated blood pressure. He demanded to be compensated in the amount of US$150,000. Both parties were dissatisfied with the court ruling and expressed their intention to appeal.
I… I… I’m speechless.
- Richard and Judy cancelled, but bookclub retained until purse-string holders realize no one will care now that it’s off TV
- Great literature latest to be fed like mafia informant into Twitter’s language woodchipper
- Ondaatje prize shortlist
- Al Pacino probably thought this would only take a second
- Reasonable rider clause #1: don’t mention the name of the chick my husband’s schtupping
- There’s an Independent Foreign Fiction Prize?
- Samuel Johnson prize dominated by scientists
- Book prices going up in UK
- Bloomsbury “cautious” about the coming year… read: bashing heads off cubical walls and screaming “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIIIIIIIEEE!!!!!”
I don’t know, people. They can’t all work. Carry on: the Obamas hosted a poetry jam at the White House. Arrroooooga!? Eee-oh eee-oh!? Yyyai-ya!? Wakawakawaka!? Hoing! Hoing!? Hadahbadah!? CLANG! (This was my attempt at conveying through text that, on reading this news, my body went rigid, levitated half a meter, my feet acting as wings, my eyes shooting from my head on stretched optic nerves, and my jaw dropping over two meters until it (apparently made of iron now) bounced off the ground.
Perhaps for the first time ever, the White House jammed and slammed last night.
Poets and playwrights, actors and musicians packed the ornate East Room, delivering cool jazz and glorious spoken-word poetry, sprinkling a bit of hip-hop and a bit of the heroic couplet. And through it all, the president and the first lady watched — and applauded.
“We’re here to celebrate the power of words,” President Obama said. Words “help us appreciate beauty and also understand pain. They inspire us to action.” He introduced the first lady as his poet.
Michelle Obama told the gathering that the event was a way to open up the White House and invite in diverse voices. “I have wanted to do this from day one,” Mrs. Obama said. “The notion of standing in this room and hearing some poetry.”
I love the new world.
Meditation can do wonderful things, especially for people who can afford the time to meditate. And I believe the answer to the above question is: look under your seats—FREE CARS FOR EVERYONE!!!!!
In spite of the personal tragedy, Frey’s life is approaching something he’s not quite used to: happy and normal. Even the scandal over A Million Little Pieces might be finding closure, as they say. Last spring, Oprah executive producer Sheri Salata called him to talk about coming back on the show—which for various reasons didn’t work out—and in the fall he got a call from Winfrey herself.
She’d had an epiphany of sorts while meditating that morning. It was time to apologize for what she put him through on that fateful day. She explained that her uncharacteristically harsh evisceration of him was coming, unfairly, from her own ego and sense of having been personally betrayed—a redemptive moment fitting, you might say, of The Oprah Winfrey Show. “It was a nice surprise to hear from her, and I really appreciated the call and the sentiment,” says Frey. “When I heard her say, ‘I felt I owe you an apology,’ I was very grateful. As far as I’m concerned, that part of my career is over and behind me and I’m looking forward to writing more books.”
Listen, people, I know you love me. I know you’re glad I didn’t suffocate, but rather managed to chew off a fingernail and use the half-moon sickle of it to jimmy the lock on Wiersema’s trunk and hop, bound hand and foot, stinking sport sock stuffed in my mouth and secured with duct tape, to the nearest highway where I was picked up by a reticent, seemingly-unsurprised trucker named “Cooter” who drove me 157 miles to the nearest town and dropped me, still bound and gagged, back on the side of the highway. I know you appreciate that I spent several hours panhandling for bus fair until I was able to get a Greyhound back to a city with an airport, and then maxed my VISA buying a last minute ticket for St. John’s so that I could be here to post for you this morning. I know this. You don’t need to say it (say it). We have an understanding, youse and me. I know, I know. We complete each other. But I also know that there’s no way in everloving fuck you’re going to pay to read Bookninja through a Kindle. Why? Well, first, because I suspect 99% of you don’t have one. And second, because it’s nearly six years that I’ve been doing this shit for free and you’d have to be the worst poker player in the world to bet that I was going to go otherwise. Still, that doesn’t seem to have stopped the Amazon people, who have recently launched a publishing arm in order to wring the last filthy drops of scum from the smelly dishtowel of books, from setting up a storefront for bloggers to sell their (currently free) content to the e-ink set. Hold on. I just have to load the starter pistol. Okay. Go! Let the outrage begin. BANG!
File this under: You’ve GOT to be kidding me.
A Swedish/American travel writer has written a “sequel”, of sorts, to The Catcher In the Rye.
Hold on, let me try this again.
A Swedish/American travel writer has written a “sequel”, of sorts, to The Catcher In the Rye, which will be published next month.
Nope, no matter how many times you repeat it, it never actually makes sense.
A sequel to Catcher? Why? Just… WHY?
Thankfully, the article points out that “the book is billed as ‘freestanding’ and so can be read without first reading the novel that inspired it”, which I’m sure will come as a relief to both of those people who haven’t actually read Catcher.
Perhaps a journalist should stalk Salinger for a few days, and see if they can get his reaction to this…
Have you ever had one of those mornings, the kind where you wake up with a start, stumble through the house, dodging piles of books and strange, sharp-edged children’s toys, into the kitchen where you start making coffee, only to realize (cue ominous chords) THERE ARE NO COFFEE FILTERS!!! And the scream that comes out of you is something feral and desperate, so loud that it… wakes you up with a start. And you lay there for a second, shivering, still terrified, but comforted by the fact that it was all just a dream. So you decide that no more sleep is likely to come and you get up shakily and stumble through the house, dodging piles of books and strange, sharp-edged children’s toys until you get to the kitchen, and you open the drawer where you keep the coffee filters… and there are NONE there!!!!
I can’t decide if I feel more like George R.R. Martin, or like many of his fans, each trapped in their own on-going nightmares from which they can’t seem to awaken.
I don’t know if you’ve been following this, but Martin has become something of an internet whipping boy over the last few months. The key issue is the fact that he’s… a little behind would be putting it politely… on the latest book in his unimaginably successful A Song Of Ice And Fire series. “A little behind” to the point that he published the first half of the latest book (that half, for the record, weighed in at a mere 680 pages) five years after the previous book, with vows from both author and publisher that the second half would appear shortly. Those vows were made in 2005, and there’s been no sign of a new book since.
And the fans are upset. Well, not all of them. But a vocal, nay, militant group of Martin readers (let’s refer to them, with editorial non-partisanship, as “fucking idiot overly entitled fanboy wankers”) have been, well, vocal and militant about everything from Martin’s writing process to his other projects to his personal life in their pursuit of the new book…
(Yes, you’re right – I DO have an image of Gollum in my head right now, crouched in a cluttered basement suite, muttering “My precious…” as he strokes a battered paperback of A Game of Thrones… why do you ask?)
The fighting has gotten particularly vitriolic, and it occasionally spills out of the safe confines of Martin’s on-line universe and into the more genteel locales of cyberspace. Case in point, this recent, well-reasoned, non-confrontational analysis from Neil Gaiman’s blog. (For the record, I was grateful that I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee — ah, sweet coffee — when I read the first line of his reply, otherwise I’d be replacing this laptop…)
Hhhmp mmmf! Hhhmp MMMFF!!!
So, my day-job at Bolen Books is taking me out of my cozy comfort zone for a couple of hours this morning to attend a breakfast and seminar on web-based marketing opportunities and skills. Which is, as I look at this WordPress screen and my recent search history, clearly a pretty important thing. It’ll be a few hours before I return.
(That’s IF I return. The breakfast/seminar is at the Union Club, which means I have to brave the mean streets of downtown Victoria first thing in the morning, and I have to do it not wearing jeans. Yes, that was the answer to the “Is there a dress code at the Union Club?” question — “You probably don’t need a jacket, but no jeans.” Which means I’m gonna be pretty cold. And have nowhere to keep my lighter and wallet. And I hope I can find decent underwear — apparently today IS the day that my mother warned me about.)
Meanwhile, amuse yourselves with this week’s episode of “OMG, Pirates are stealing our ebooks!” and try not to mutter “Well, duh” under your breath. I bet you can’t resist…
Sometimes it’s reassuring to stumble to the computer, bleary from lack of sleep, and receive instant affirmation that the world is, in fact, unfolding in exactly the manner that you’ve come to expect: shitty, questionable and unfair. No, I’m not talking about the results of yesterday’s provincial election…
Take the news out of Alaska (!) that Sarah Palin (oh, how I long for the day when we can once again ask, as a culture, “Who?”) has signed a deal with Harper Collins to publish an “unfiltered memoir” in the spring of 2010.
A deal worth — brace yourselves — $7,000,000. Yup. Seven Million Bucks.
It’s not for me to judge. Or question. I mean, Harper Collins is hurting financially, so I’m sure they think this is a good idea. And I’m sure that someone out there is interested in reading this book (personally, I’d like to find that person and kick them in the shin — but I think that’s just the lack of coffee talking, it’s barely 6 am out here in the hinterlands) and, you know, to each their own. I mean, $7M, that’s a pretty reasonable bet on someone whose fifteen minutes ran out the first Wednesday of last November…
No, I’m going to reserve judgement until I have answers to some pressing questions: will there be a Limited Edition, bound in wolf-skin, perhaps? Will she choose to use The Bridge to Nowhere as the title, which seems perfect to me, or will she go with the more accurate I’d Really, Really Like to Live in that Big White House in DC Soon and Darn-it, I’ll Even Write One of them Book Thingies Like Obama Did If That’s What It Takes? And, perhaps most importantly, who will do the illustrations, and will they be in colour, or will the book be packaged with those shitty markers that used to come with the Doodle-Art posters so readers can colour it themselves?
Hmm… clearly I need more coffee.
Check Wiersema’s trunk for Murray’s bound and gagged remains. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
An Anonymous Friend
A.S. Byatt is profiled in this morning’s Globe and Mail, while the ABC pick-up of Robert Sawyer’s Flash Forward makes the page over at the National Post. And in sad news, sports-writer and novelist Bud Shrake, co-author of Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime of Golf, has died, at age 77.
I feel kinda sorry for George. He does this job day in and day out, and he’s away the one day every decade when the headline “In breaking poetry news” can be used with a straight face and no sense of irony.
The Guardian is reporting this morning that Derek Walcott has withdrawn his bid to become Oxford professor of poetry following a well-orchestrated, and still anonymous, letter-writing campaign focussing on sexual harassment claims from the early 1980s.
The Nobel laureate cited the “low and degrading attempt at character assassination” for his withdrawal.
Far be it for me to editorialize, and not to make light of the very serious nature of the claims against him (or the very serious nature of sexual harassment itself), but I think I expected more from Walcott. The claim cited in the anonymous mailing included him allegedly telling a student, “Imagine me making love to you. What would I do? … Would you make love with me if I asked you?”
Seriously? You’re Derek Walcott and THAT’S the line? THAT’S what’s going to end up haunting your career?
Like many of you, I make Bookninja a regular part of my day. It’s like fiber for the brain; it… nah, best not to pursue that particular metaphor.
It’s a good ritual, though. Every morning I stumble out of bed, blindly fumble a pot of coffee into being, and start hitting the Favourites while it perks. When I got to Bookninja this morning, I groaned. No updates since yesterday? WTF, George? I mean, don’t you know how much I depend on you for that early morning pick-me-up? And I’ve got the time zone thing in my favour: by the time I log on, the site has been updated and I get my daily dose of book love and industry snark before I shower. So what was I supposed to do, with George so clearly slacking off?
And then the penny dropped. Shit.
So hey, welcome to the Rob show. We’re on West Coast time, so all you folks in TO… well, I wouldn’t bother checking the site before lunch over the next couple of days.
And as for content, well, George was less than helpful on that front in his advisory notes. I’ve gotten used to relying on BN for my industry news — how the hell am I supposed to track all of that stuff down, I asked the Ninja-master. ”The internet,” he replied, ever so helpfully. Funny guy, that George.
So I figure I’ll play it close to the vest and by the small, shattered sense of principles that I cling to like the Zen monk on the cliff edge before he notices the strawberries. That means I won’t be linking to my piece in this past weekend’s Globe & Mail about Little, Big; that’d be unprofessional. Not to mention craven and self-serving, no matter how good the book is. And I won’t post a bunch of links to badly shot concert footage, no matter how cool it is, and how the jerky, drunken camera-work makes it seem “just like being there”; that would be a waste of bandwidth, and a blatant violation of what this site is all about. And I certainly won’t make it all about me. Cuz that would be wrong.
So, stay tuned while I figure this all out.
What’s that you say, George? You need to be out of town for a few days? Something earth-trembling and mind-blowing I’m sure… You want me to take care of the place? No problemo, mi amigo. I’m here for you, whatever you need.
Excuse me for a sec – I need to call a guy about a keg…
Who says literature is in jeopardy? It’s urgent enough to risk everyone’s lives, don’t you know.
I just got back Thursday and I’m leaving again tomorrow morning, and I have about 600 pages left to read and respond to before I go, so…
- What will the paper look like in the future?
- The discovery of a fake peer-review journal catering to big pharma leads to the discovery of an entire publishing wing dedicated to fake peer-review journals… nice
- Germaine Greer’s open letter to new laureate Carol Ann Duffy
- Speaking of cattiness and poetry, Derek Walcott is being smeared anonymously as he bids for Oxford chair…
- The writers of Lost are like all great authors: largely lost
- Party like it’s 1999, sahib
- Amazon conceding at least something to Apple?
- Twilight sees new dawn
- Women’s word festival in UK
Today Sally Cooper asks four of the hottest, brashest, most honest novelists in Canada, Claudia Dey (Stunt); Nalo Hopkinson (The Salt Roads); Russell Smith (Diana); and RM Vaughan (Spells) to open up and spill their thoughts on sex in fiction. And they do. In this funny, intimate, occasionally confessional discussion, these writers tackle everything from the hazards and necessity of writing sex in fiction to pornography, the English language, sexual identity, pseudonyms, Martin Amis, the bisexual mind, Jaws, Worst Sex lists and matronly disapproval.
I’d say that Jodi Picoult has jumped on the Dan Brown-hate bandwagon, but it’s more like she’s found the bandwagon’s tracks in the overgrown jungle and is hoping to find the fossilized vehicle itself and use forensic techniques to tease out its ancient implications.
Despite – or perhaps because of – The Da Vinci Code’s extraordinary success, Dan Brown is the author that his peers most love to hate. Now Jodi Picoult, whose books also sell in spades (but perhaps not quite so many spades) has added her voice to the chorus of criticism.
Graciously allowing that she doesn’t “deny Dan Brown any of his success”, Picoult went on to pick apart Brown’s best-known novel, declaring that the code-cracking thriller left her cold. “I don’t understand the hype over such a poorly written novel – and as an author who does all her own research, I know better than to consider myself an expert in the field I am writing about,” she told the Daily Mail. “I believe this was an error in judgment for this particular author.”
Apparently the digitization of old manuscripts and books is good for something called “knowledge”, which is I believe inversely related to “getting laid”. But I escape myself. New technology is good for making old technology work again. Yay!
In a 21st-century version of the age of discovery, teams of computer scientists, conservationists and scholars are fanning out across the globe in a race to digitize crumbling literary treasures.
In the process, they’re uncovering unexpected troves of new finds, including never-before-seen versions of the Christian Gospels, fragments of Greek poetry and commentaries on Aristotle. Improved technology is allowing researchers to scan ancient texts that were once unreadable — blackened in fires or by chemical erosion, painted over or simply too fragile to unroll. Now, scholars are studying these works with X-ray fluorescence, multispectral imaging used by NASA to photograph Mars and CAT scans used by medical technicians.
Remember Amazon’s attempt to hold the profits of small publishers hostage for an extra cut? Any takers? Nope. Now if people would just stop paying outrageous prices to see professional sports live we could get this fucking revolution of dollars underway.
Independent publishers have almost unanimously opted to receive later payment of invoices by Amazon.co.uk, rather than give away an extra 2% discount, an IPG survey has revealed. More than 100 members of the Independent Publishers Guild responded to the survey, which was conducted online over the past few weeks.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they used the Amazon Advantage scheme, but just two publishers have signed up to receive “early payment”, which is due 15 days after the end of the month in which a purchase is made. More than 40 publishers have selected to be paid on the later “standard” option of 60 days. The remainder said they were still undecided over the matter, although the deadline passed on 1st April.
It appears that at least one of James Patterson’s slave writers may have made a daring escape attempt. Appearing sallow, gaunt, and in desperate need of an iron, a reportedly “high-strung” man has made it as far as the corner of somewhere and soandso without being torn to shreds by the pursuing hounds.
Before branching out on his own, Mr. de Jonge (pronounced da JONG) spent several years on that assembly line, as co-writer of the Patterson novels “Miracle on the 17th Green,” “The Beach House” and “Beach Road.” He was the pioneer, so to speak — the person who first gave Mr. Patterson the idea that he could write more than one book at a time — though the two men have differing recollections about how the collaboration started.
Mr. de Jonge, who is tall, slender and a little high-strung, recalled recently that he was hiding in his office at J. Walter Thompson, where he was a copywriter, when one day Mr. Patterson, with whom he had played golf occasionally, stuck his head in the door and asked if he could talk to him for a minute.
“It was a very frightening moment,” Mr. de Jonge said, explaining that at the time Mr. Patterson was the chairman of J. Walter Thompson. “He wasn’t my boss — he was way above my boss.”
It writes the book or it gets the hose.
Poet, dead at 84. More to come as mainstream picks it up.
- The National Post has a good roundup on what’s going on with the new Kindle, and apparently WAY more time than I do to couch the links in explanatory text… go there
- Also covered here
- Rupert is just letting you know that as of next year no one will be reading his online content
- Twitter growing
- I’ve been travelling and unable to connect for some reason. The shakes started around the time the cold sweats stopped. Anyway, here are a few links.
- James Frey adds text to novel to get back at Orpah
- Danuta Gleed award shortlist
- Scifi author, Booker winner vie for award
- Randy Maggs wins EJ Pratt Award for Sawchuck book, popping it through the collective five-hole of other shortlistees
- Unfinished DFW book finds UK publisher
- Books coming to film include YA zombies
- James Patterson wins award for grass roots literary activism… Jesus kills kittens in disbelief
Apparently the new Star Trek movie is barely watchable…
In a recent profile in the New Yorker, McEwan said that he wants to ‘incite a naked hunger in readers’. I dislike strong narrative manipulation, but McEwan’s Collins-like surprises certainly work. They retain our narrative hunger, though perhaps at a cost. His addiction to secrecy has a way of ‘playing’ us, and if his withholdings ultimately seek to contain trauma, they also have the effect of reproducing, in plotted repetitions, the textures of the larger, originating traumas that are his big subjects. I don’t mean that his books traumatise us – that would be grossly unfair. Just that we finish them feeling a little guilty, having been exiled from our own version of innocence by a cunningly knowing authorial manipulator.
For McEwan, I suspect, a story is indeed a long string or fuse of heaped improbabilities, and he delights in the way that, retrospectively, all these improbabilities have been neatly made sense of, have been made hermeneutically legible, turned into necessities, forcing us to say to ourselves: ‘it could not have been any other way.’ Leonard Marnham, reflecting on the fact that his engagement party became a fight, then a murder, then a sawing-up of body parts, thinks ‘how all along the way each successive step had seemed logical enough, consistent with the one before, and how no one was to blame’. But if narrative secrets of this kind – narrative improbabilities – must always become, in the end, narrative predictabilities, then such novels will find it much harder to dramatise meaningfully the impact of contingency on ordinary lives. Contingency is accident, but there is nothing accidental about these highly-strung narratives, which in fact attempt to contain and hold accident.
Scottish novelist Kelman, who apparently moonlights as Ben on Lost, profiled at The Times, rues the day he won the Booker Prize. You didn’t see that one coming, did you?
Scotland’s most influential living writer says winning the Booker prize damaged his career by making his work harder to sell.
James Kelman collected Britain’s most prestigious fiction prize in 1994 for his novel How Late It Was, How Late. The award normally lifts a writer’s sales and status but Kelman, 62, says the controversy that followed deterred publishers from promoting subsequent books.
When Kelman collected the Booker, one judge, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, threatened to resign in protest, claiming the decision was “a disgrace” and the book was “crap, quite frankly”.
As a result, his work was barred from some libraries and bookshops and his later novels failed to sell as well.
Novelist known for spare style returns to his verse (presumably because he can afford to) for one night only—world declines opportunity to implode under pressure of popular apathy.
Invited to read at the annual Adamson writing awards ceremony of CMU’s English Department, Johnson said he expected to draw on his prose, but Costanzo urged him to revisit his “verse” instead. Terrance Hayes, another CMU poet, urged him on from the audience as well.
Costanzo introduced the writer as someone who has achieved “cult status,” particularly for his earlier collection of short stories, “Jesus’ Son,” tales of drugged-out losers in the Midwest. Johnson grimaced at the reference, then hunted through a book for hazily recalled poems, most of which he couldn’t find.
But once he did locate one and read it, haltingly at first, the effect was a two-fold revelation. The listeners were treated to a seldom-seen side of the writer while Johnson, 60, himself had a good time rediscovering poems he had written 30 years ago.
Inc. on Wednesday plans to unveil a new version of its Kindle e-book reader with a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers, according to people familiar with the matter.
Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school’s chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.
The proposed settlement, which requires court approval, would create …
… a books registry to keep track of copyrights and dole out money based on how Google profits from digitized books. As of November, Google had scanned about 8 million books through a partnership with libraries. In exchange, Google has promised to give each library a single free terminal for patrons to read the books, but not print or copy any of the works. For broader access, libraries would have to pay an institutional subscription fee that has not yet been determined.
Many librarians also fret about the effect the settlement would have on free access, a fundamental value of libraries. “To digitize collections and sell products in ways that fail to guarantee wide access … would turn the Internet into an instrument for privatizing knowledge that belongs in the public sphere,”
Canada now joins a group of countries designated as being especially lax in protecting intellectual property, including Algeria, China, Russia, Pakistan, Indonesia and Venezuela. No other advanced Western democracy is on the list and Canada is regarded as a lawless hub for bootleg movies, ripped-off software and pirated chips that bypass copyright protections.
“The decision was not an easy one but we believed that high standards are appropriate in Canada,” Mr. McCoy said. It was clear that Washington’s patience with Ottawa’s repeatedly broken promises has run out, perhaps also a reflection of the greater status and power of the digital and entertainment sectors in the era of the net-savvy Obama administration.
A short piece in the WSJ looks at the use of reviewers going on beyond the simple opinion that a book is bad. Why do we kill the beast and then chop it into hamburger? they ask. My answer: because then we can have hamburgers. Duh.
Critics are especially useful when a book is published to great arm-waving fanfare, as “The Kindly Ones” by Jonathan Littell recently was. The novel was a prize-winning bestseller in Europe, and Mr. Littell’s U.S. publishers reportedly paid a seven-figure advance for it. I read several reviews of “The Kindly Ones” on the Complete Review Web site, which links to quality publications around the world. Reviewers loved and hated the book; based on their hamburger, I decided it wasn’t for me. The phrase “death porn” haunted me.
I’ve been thinking about this much lately. I recently received my first ever really bad review. Really bad. Ham. Burg. Er. My understanding is that it’s by a guy who’s quite intelligent, and perhaps even likable, despite his obviously poor taste in literature. But it really does add an element of “truth” to the whole process. Not the “truth” that the book is good or bad, but that not everyone will have the same opinion of it. And that there may be space, in some ways, for specific disagreement and skepticism within the general positive response of mainstream reviewing. Can a negative review, in the face of the many, many other positive ones, somehow validate the entire process of reviewing? (And, let me repeat: many, many other positive ones.)
Robert McCrum writes on why the much-derided prize, accused of everything from discrimination to ghettoization, has accomplished its goal of bringing female writers to readers (read: women), and so much more.
In 1996, I was not alone in wondering how long this quixotic attempt to redress the wrongs inflicted by generations of literary turkey cocks would last. For instance, would an upstart mobile phone company indefinitely squander a massive publicity budget on champagne and canapes for a bunch of pushy metropolitan literati?
Yet Mosse and her friends had a point. In 1996, no question, literary London was a boy’s club. The imprints were run by men. The books they published were mainly written by men and the critics who reviewed them would mostly pass in the catalogue as members of the male gender. Sex is a poor basis on which to evaluate a work of art, but the dominance of the male in the book world was hard to overlook.
Yet here was the puzzling thing. None of this bore any relationship to the truth about the reading public. Everyone in publishing knew it was women who were the devoted fiction buyers, women who avidly read and discussed novels and women who kept the business ticking over.
Chicken or egg? If fiction by women came into vogue, was this a cause or an effect of Orange?
NINE- TO 12-YEAR-OLDS
War Horse/Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo: All of the Laureates will contribute to the classics of the future but Morpurgo’s incredibly moving stories of war stand among the very best.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke: Funke has captured the magic of reading perfectly in this captivating tale that brings children’s books to vivid life. A world every child wishes they could fall into.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer: Colfer gets the mix of action, suspense and humour just right in this very cool read with a vivid and unique story that will continue to enthral new readers.
Yet despite his opposition (or ambivalence) to the public and its modes of communication, he still has many fans, and fansites. He draws traditional forms of critical acclaim: Hill recently received the 2009 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism. There’s a Facebook page dedicated to discussions of his work. He’s on YouTube. Andrew Nixon, at Think of England, provides a recent (January 2008) interview Hill gave to a French interviewer, which contains this biting remark:
The great poet has no social function. The mediocre, yes, he finds himself delivering fashionable platitudes to the public. The true poet is completely isolated.
As a poet, separate from critic and blogger, I tend to agree. As a blogger given to insouciance and flippant remarks, I say: I doubt Hill’s sample of what constitutes a “good” poet is large enough for statistical analysis.
And rightly so, says poet-me.
But still, says blogger-me.
Shut up you two, says critic-me, and add something valuable to the conversation.
You’re a douche, says blogger-me.
I’m leaving, says poet-me, you’re both an embarrassment and impediment to my art.
Well, La-di-da, says critic-me, look who thinks he’s making “art”.
NEEEERRRRDS! says blogger-me.
- The supply chain vs. ebooks
- US opens Google anti-trust case (listen, will this affect my email and calendar? Then I don’t care)
- Wired on the Goog vs. lybaries
- The “secret” behind the Goog’s bookscanning project
- Why old people love the Kindle…
- …And why the Kindle, like many old people, is about to die
- Undoubtedly thumb-crippled dude writes 400 page novel on cell phone, gets big in Poland
- Email responsible for rise questionable rise in exclamation
Boy, the time sure does fly. Last I remember it was Monday and here it is, Monday again. This isn’t the first time I’ve lost a week of memory, though it is the first time I haven’t had a hangover at the end of it. Though I don’t remember much from the last week, with the exception of a scantily-clad, green-antennaed Lisa Loeb approaching me with a hose and suction cup that looked like it might be from a factory farming dairy operation, I feel strangely serene and in need of several cigarettes. Much thanks to Claire Cameron, who rocked your world while I was… gone.
- Magazine awards in the US
- Rare Darwin goes at auction
- Help find a US poet gone missing in Japan
- File under “No Shit”: High school teachers influence student opinions on evolution/creationism…
- Nerds freakout for Tolkien book they’ll never read
- Major breakthrough in realism for video game technology
- The National Post has a great series of interviews with artists from the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (this kind of comprehensive thing is why the Post is winning the mainstream media arts blogging competition)
- U LeGuin throws another Nebula on the stack
- Brass balls pilot Sully Sullenberger gets co-author and title… Presumably studded leather collar for use in post-apocalyptic survivor tribe leadership role to follow…
- Children’s laureates pick favourite books, Harry Potter gets kicked to the curb
- Magazine turmoil Down Under
- Note to self: being a teacher pushing your bodice ripper on colleagues is like showing people photos of yourself in a speedo
- Cohen comeback in UK!
- Every Penguin scifi cover since 1935
The Edgar’s were given out last night. The winners are announced on the Mystery Writers of America website. The award is named after ‘The Father of the Detective Story’ Edgar Allan Poe.
While on the subject, The New Yorker has a piece on Poe this week. While slightly dour, the article is very good on framing Poe’s contempt for his readers, critics and literary trends:
He also found grossly offensive the prevailing fashion for a national literature, and waged a one-man campaign against the Young Americans, charging them with adhering to “the gross paradox of liking a stupid book the better, because, sure enough, its stupidity is American.” Poe also hated Transcendentalists and literary Bostonians, because, “self-bepuffed,” they praised one another’s work. He began his review of one much hyped novel, “For the sake of everything puffed, puffing and puffable, let us take a peep at its contents!”
And speaking of critics, the Book Lover column in The Wall Street Journal mulls over bearing knives in book reviews:
As the English author Stephen Potter (who popularized the word “gamesmanship”) wrote, the reviewer’s mission “is to show that it is really you yourself who should have written the book, if you had had the time, and since you hadn’t, you are glad that someone else has, although obviously it might have been done better.”
Balldroppings The name is a bit odd, but the site is worth some wasted time.
Also, I want to make sure you keep well back from the screen while you read this, because I have a sniffle. I coughed twice and am feeling flushed. Is it possible? Do I have pig flu?
(via The Rumpus)
Carol Ann Duffy, the bookies favourite, is the new Poet Laureate. She is the first woman to be named to the post in the 341 years it has been running.
The Guardian reports with glee:
The excitement of welcoming the first woman to the post of poet laureate is similar to the emotion with which a supporter of an under-rated football team greets a goal. It’s all about that deep atavastic solidarity with your own tribe – if you’re a woman, that is. Then, of course, for both genders, there’s the moral satisfaction, and political buzz, in seeing the re-balancing of old inequalities.
But makes the point that we should look past her gender to her work:
Her best poems have huge freshness and force. They are colloquial, energetic and contemporary but shaped with a strong sense of line and stanza. Under their sparkle they are solidly built.
And the BBC points out:
Part of Duffy’s role over the next 10 years will be to write works commemorating royal events.
Her predecessor, Motion, told the BBC he had found these “very difficult poems to write” and there are signs Duffy may also struggle with this side of the job.
After being passed over for the Laureate job in 1999, she commented: “I will not write a poem for Edward and Sophie. No self-respecting poet should have to.”
If you want to brush up on your Duffy, I recommended The World’s Wife, a series of monologues told from the point of view of famous men’s wives.