In the poem Ms Duffy makes sarcastic use of phrases such as Tony Blair’s “education, education, education” and Gordon Brown’s “moral compass”.
Duffy is the first female poet laureate in the post’s 341-year history.
The poem aims to attack the effect of politics on idealism.
It begins: “How it makes of your face a stone that aches to weep, of your heart a fist, clenched or thumping, sweating blood, of your tongue an iron latch with no door.”
So, S&S has signed with Scribd to compete directly with Amazon and Kindle, but they might not be going it alone. Former Scribd critic Hachette is open to signing as well. Is a tide turning or is Amazon still taking over? Time Magazine ponders just this.
No question, Amazon is the most forward-thinking company in the book business. If there’s a Steve Jobs of books, it’s Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos. His vision is defining the way books will be bought and sold and written and read in the digital world — which is to say, the world. The question is whether there will be room in it for anyone besides Amazon.
With publicity and marketing increasingly reliant on web technologies, is it likely that a company already entrenched here will win the day? Should publishers be partnering against or with Amazon? What is the future of book in a digital world? Clive Thompson says we shouldn’t ask that question, but rather ask, What is the future of reading?
Books are the last bastion of the old business model—the only major medium that still hasn’t embraced the digital age. Publishers and author advocates have generally refused to put books online for fear the content will be Napsterized. And you can understand their terror, because the publishing industry is in big financial trouble, rife with layoffs and restructurings. Literary pundits are fretting: Can books survive in this Facebooked, ADD, multichannel universe?
To which I reply: Sure they can. But only if publishers adopt Wark’s perspective and provide new ways for people to encounter the written word. We need to stop thinking about the future of publishing and think instead about the future of reading.
Every other form of media that’s gone digital has been transformed by its audience. Whenever a newspaper story or TV clip or blog post or white paper goes online, readers and viewers begin commenting about it on blogs, snipping their favorite sections, passing them along. The only reason the same thing doesn’t happen to books is that they’re locked into ink on paper.
But can you really get an author to sign an e-book? Yes.
Stop picking at it! Some of what oozes from this post may fascinate or disgust you.
A smear campaign on a candidate for the highest office in the land, dark cabals plotting the downfall of enemies, secret packages sent by anonymous informants, allegations of criminal behaviour, resignations and public shame. Is this a John Grisham novel, a day in the life of the Bush/Cheney Whitehouse, or a bunch of bored poet-crows pecking at each others eyes over one of the poetry world’s shiny marbles? If you guessed all three, you’re right! Now, though, a mysterious new party has entered the fray, publishing in Oxford Poetry a poem about the events so far. Editors say this individual will run for the seat when the election restarts. Can you guess who it is?
There’s another venom-spitting and anonymous circular on the Oxford poetry professorship in circulation. Still, this one doesn’t just feature photocopies from an old book of allegations but an actual, original poem. In fact, to my eyes, it’s rather a good one dealing with the unseemly nature of the attacks on Derek Walcott.
The poem, Smear, was being distributed by the two editors of the newly reborn Oxford Poetry, who hawked it freely throughout the back streets and beer gardens of Hay over the last week having being banned, intriguingly, from the festival site itself. What makes the situation interesting is that poem was given to Oxford Poetry by someone they describe as a “very high-profile poet”, who is apparently likely to run for the first time when Oxford organises the election of Ruth Padel’s replacement.
AL Kennedy thinks so. You have to read for a bit to get to the meat of this, but it’s pretty interesting. Audience reaction can teach you to write. Hm. Sounds a bit like a committee to me. I find giving readings helps me with one thing only: attaining new levels of high blood pressure.
I’ve always been in favour of writers working with their voices. Although we are usually fugitive creatures, often grating (at best) in person and rambling of tongue – writers (especially poets) will almost inevitably end up reading their work in public for many pressing financial reasons. This will very often involve standing in a space specifically designed to make spoken-word events impossible and to irritate as many of those involved as possible. There will be noise, there will be atrocious sight-lines, there will be non-functioning mikes, there will be wild pigs in the foyer … you simply have to accept that nothing will run smoothly. Meanwhile, as the writer, you have to make the experience as nice as possible for the ladies and gentlemen (I never like kiddies to hear my versions of adult life in case they become disheartened and go all Tin Drum and stunted) who have turned out for the event – who may even have paid money for it to happen at them. This is not only polite, it’s also deeply practical.
If a writer can experience their words being enjoyed by others, can make strangers laugh, or go “hmmmmm…” or sigh, or cry, or clap, or sit, alarmingly, with eyes closed in an attitude of profound concentration, sleep, or death – then the writer can feel more confidence in his or her words and move forward with them. This short-circuits something of that “playing alone with people you made up earlier for the benefit of strangers” aspect of the typing life.
What do you think?
The publisher who released the book claiming to be a sequel to Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye has been revealed as the author of the book itself. Uht-oh, Spanky. The Smoking Gun took a break from shaming meth addicts and revelling in celebrity trainwrecks to report. Looks like the dude’s previous work signal a real class act here.
What is it good for? Cutting into Amazon’s ebook monopoly. Simon and Schuster has signed up with Scribd to deliver 5000 titles in pdf forms that can be read by everything except the Kindle. Peow! Moby considers what this means in a more lengthy, interested depth than I could possibly fake.
And, as a Wall Street Journal report details, the S&S ebooks sold on Scribd will be available as Adobe Acrobat files that can be read but not printed out on computers and iPhones and Sony Readers — “but not on Amazon’s Kindle.”
Further, “Several thousand Simon & Schuster titles that haven’t yet been published as e-books will be available for preview on Scribd via a search-and-browsing option. Readers will be able to buy the print edition of those books from Simon & Schuster directly or from various online retailers” — in other words, the early stages of an attempt to break Amazon’s overwhelming dominance of online retail by helping to develop alternatives, including directing customers back to the publisher.
In the face of rising upset amongst publishers that they simply can’t make books for the discounted pricing demanded by Amazon — and yet can’t do without what has become for many their leading retailer — the Scribd deal is attractive in other ways, too.
What oozes from the infected gash the internet leaves in your mind.
- Debut novelist, and possibly the prettiest man alive, Michael Thomas, wins Dublin IMPAC
- Waterstone’s goes 3 for 2 on all books
- Lowry Wuthering painting up for sale
- CRAP paper accepted by peer-reviewed journal—doesn’t quite prove my theory that no knows what the hell they’re talking about, but it does prove my theory that entire wings of academia are run by conmen
- Hebrew Book Week in Israel leads to awesomeness at Haaretz as journos kicked out in favour of poets and novelists
Daily Dose of Digital
“You’re Lazy.” Can’t. Stop. Laughing. [Reports of NSFW imagery on this page]
You have the right to remain groovy!
Esquire sends their critic to look at some sure fire “summer reading” hits, and he delivers a painfully honest review in the form of a critically bookended list of what he learned from reading a pile of crap.
This is the point where I’m supposed to find something positive to say about these books. That’s how it works. You’re supposed to get all counterintuitive and say that Sarah Palin is so freakishly stupid, she’s actually some kind of genius. Here’s what I can say: The Coben is not quite as bad as the Baldacci, which is not as god-awful as the Koontz.
It seems it’s widely considered bad form to call stupid things stupid. But that’s mostly what these books are. They’ll cost you $25 a pop, waste a half day of your life, and leave you neither smarter nor happier, just kind of bored and a little depressed.
Wow, the entries to guest blog here at Bookninja in July are rolling in. And some of them are really good! It’s going to be a tough choice. Thanks to those who’ve applied and to the generous paper coverage and siginificant “retwitting” campaign on Twitter. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then you haven’t been reading closely. Go here to catch up. Short story: I’m headed to Ireland to work on a novel and I’m holding a contest to pick five bloggers to run the site while I’m gone. We’ve got average readers and established authors applying. Why don’t you apply too? If you get in, there’s a t-shirt in it for you, and perhaps even something else (what size thong do you take? I kid.) Come on, on why you should rule the roost and fling shuriken of shadowy death at the ridiculousness of it all.
‘Ninja reader and occasional novelist Margaret Atwood has written 14 hymns to accompany her latest book, another speculative work that uses some of the minor characters from Oryx and Crake and follows a sect trying to merge science and religion. Oooh! Delicious! God, I hope there are more killer pigs in this one.
Sitting in a deck chair in Green Park, central London, Margaret Atwood explains that writing a selection of hymns—including one praising the “tiny perfect moles that garden underground”—for her latest novel, was perfectly natural. “They would have hymns,” she says, simply. The “they” Atwood refers to are the God’s Gardeners—a sect with an ideology that attempts to fuse science with Judaeo-Christianity and who believe that animals have souls. Atwood has written 14 hymns interspersed throughout the novel setting out the religion’s creed. These have now been set to music and will be used at the book’s launch.
The God’s Gardeners are the focus of the novel—and the book’s working title, which probably would have stuck, Atwood says, had it not been objected to for having “too much god in it”. The Gardeners first appeared in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003), set at a time of environmental dystopia. This is the first time Atwood has revisited a previous novel. However, she is keen to explain that The Year of the Flood is not a prequel—although it may be difficult to turn back the tide of a mounting publicity campaign that is already describing it as such. She says, “It’s not a sequel and it’s not a prequel—it’s a ’simultaneouel’ in that it takes place during the same time span and with a number of people in it who are peripheral in Oryx and Crake but are central in The Year of the Flood.”
The pyramid scheme known as the MFA in Creative Writing examined in the New Yorker. But it’s a good job if you can get it, and it keeps poets off the streets, and some of them not writing, which is often a good thing. If there were only a way to use it as an research program to ID undesirables and ship them off to special cloisters… Hmm…
reative-writing programs are designed on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem. The fruit of the theory is the writing workshop, a combination of ritual scarring and twelve-on-one group therapy where aspiring writers offer their views of the efforts of other aspiring writers. People who take creative-writing workshops get course credit and can, ultimately, receive an academic degree in the subject; but a workshop is not a course in the normal sense—a scene of instruction in which some body of knowledge is transmitted by means of a curricular script. The workshop is a process, an unscripted performance space, a regime for forcing people to do two things that are fundamentally contrary to human nature: actually write stuff (as opposed to planning to write stuff very, very soon), and then sit there while strangers tear it apart. There is one person in the room, the instructor, who has (usually) published a poem. But workshop protocol requires the instructor to shepherd the discussion, not to lead it, and in any case the instructor is either a product of the same process—a person with an academic degree in creative writing—or a successful writer who has had no training as a teacher of anything, and who is probably grimly or jovially skeptical of the premise on which the whole enterprise is based: that creative writing is something that can be taught.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Millionth Word in the English Language: “Web 2.0″. And to present the award, I’d like you all to give a big round of applause to the last of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, DEATH!!!
With more than 1.53 billion speakers around the world, and more than 600,000 words listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, the English language dwarfs neighbouring European tongues. French registers a mere 100,000 words, while the Spanish fare only slightly better with 250,000.
GLM’s figure gives English twice as many words as Mandarin Chinese, the world’s second most abundant language.
“The million-word milestone brings to notice the coming of age of English as the first truly global language,” saidPayack.
Needless to say, academics are sceptical. Professor David Crystal, professor of linguistics at Bangor University, called the idea “the biggest load of rubbish I’ve heard in years”.
He said: “It is total nonsense. English reached 1 million words years ago. It’s like someone standing by the side of the road counting cars, and when they get to 1 million pronouncing that to be the millionth car in the world. It’s extraordinary.”
The tube down which the fish heads and entrails of news go to make their way back to the sea of infochum.
- Kinsella wins lifetime achievement award
- Granta seems to be cleaning house… another editor has left and for explanation Granta has left a terse message on the website saying to forward correspondence to the owner and publisher
- US looking deeper into possible antitrust stuff around The Goog
- Yann Martel finally gets an answer from “Harper”
- Oh SNAP! You go, boyfriend! (Male bests all female contenders for romance award)
- Picasso book stolen from museum—thieves presumed to be hiding, flipping pages, going, “Pffft! My KID could do that”
- On the art of the Jane Austen cover
Do not try this at home.
An Israeli bill would freeze the prices of books for first two years to combat big box deep discounting. Drool away, my publishing friends. And get that Hebrew imprint going.
The proposal, modeled after a law in France, would help regulate Israel’s volatile publishing industry and protect the earnings of authors and publishers, Horowitz said.
Hebrew Book Week, which has been an annual event since 1926, is taking place under a cloud of publishers’ deep concern over the continued viability of their industry, which has undergone a dramatic upheaval during the last 10 years.
After decades of near-total dominance by bookstore chain Steimatzky, a new chain of book retailers, Tzomet Sfarim, entered the market, and has successfully challenged the 170-store veteran bookseller with an aggressive price-cutting strategy.
John Freeman is everywhere these days. But mostly at Granta, which might be the world’s best literary magazine, and where he’s the new editor. It’s at least the best known. The Observer profiles him here and the ever-on-top-of-things National Post (still can’t believe this) has an interview here.
“I spent ten years as a book critic,” says Freeman, “Monday morning quarterbacking writers and their decisions. After a while they can be a little tedious, if only because I admire what writers do and I want to help good writers get published. And I also just loved Granta’s history, its past, and also what it represents. I feel like it’s a cultural space. It’s in-between countries and it has the ability — because of the lack of length requirements and the flexibility of its artistic vision — to change things … If we can tell important stories to people, to a group of 55,000 world readers — tell them about something they don’t know about, that they need to know about, and in a compelling way — that can be an element for good in the world. That sounds optimistic and hopeful, but I don’t think that anyone who publishes writing at all ever can separate themselves from that instinct: to make the world, in some ways, a better place. A more complex place. A more beautifully represented place.”
As headline writers around the world wrack their brains for applicable Arnie quotes to be read aloud in thick Austrian accents, Governor Schwartzenpooper has declared war on expensive textbooks. This is progress, right? Wrong? Regardless, if we could just clear up this whole “Republican” thing he’s got going, things would be better. I wonder if he’s tried penicilan…
Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, plans to replace printed education titles with digital delivery, according to various reports. The move, which Schwarzenegger set out in the San Jose Mercury News newspaper, caused the share price of education publisher Pearson to fall 14.5p to 622.5p, with traders attributing some of the fall to events in California.
Schwarzenegger, trying to plug a budget hole of $24.3bn (£15bn), thinks he can make savings by getting rid of what he decries as expensive textbooks.
Though not everyone agrees with this move. As the Independent notes, books and computers aren’t natural enemies. That would be humans and computers, as per the paradoxical history of the Terminator universe. There, I squeezed it in.
As soon as you go online, a dizzying array of information is a few clicks away: yes, you could brush up on that science module, or you could log on to Twitter and see what your friends are saying about last night’s episode of Skins. Even if a textbook was stored on a handheld device and used offline, the multiple files alongside it would offer more avenues for distraction than the pages of Tricolore.
The main problem, though, is that all this makes it sound as though books and computers are natural enemies. Governor Schwarzenegger is only the latest figure to predict the end of the book as we know it, as if technological innovation was engaged in a one-sided battle against the defenceless paperback. In fact, the internet, often lambasted as a philistine’s paradise, is a cultural cornucopia – if you know where to look. Bibliophiles can create a virtual bookshelf on LibraryThing and swap recommendations with like-minded readers. They can listen to an audio clip of Chaucerian English to get the correct pronunciation; read daily extracts from the diaries of Pepys or Orwell; or buy rare titles on websites such as The Book Depository, which will republish some 300,000 out-of-print titles on demand.
A lying big-Pharma exec is sentenced to write a book. Good thing the judge tacked on that hefty $5,000 fine. I mean, that’ll seriously cut into the chump change a corporate executive like this douche can afford to pay to the ghostwriter who’ll carry out his sentence for him while he hits a few balls down at the club.
In the sentencing hearing on Monday, Judge Urbina said he would like to see Dr. Bodnar write a book about the Plavix case as a cautionary tale to other executives. The case concerned accusations that Bristol-Myers had made false statements to federal investigators about the company’s attempt to resolve a patent dispute with a Canadian maker of generic drugs, Apotex.
The Justice Department contended that the company in 2006 made a secret deal, in which Apotex would hold off making a generic version of Plavix. In exchange, the Justice Department said, Bristol-Myers indicated that it would subsequently give Apotex an exclusivity period in which it could produce its Plavix generic without Bristol’s making a generic of its own.
The government said that Bristol-Myers’s actions were anticompetitive and had the potential to restrict public access to lower-priced drugs.
The backlash against Scholastic’s devolving school calendars has gone from concerned parents to concerned teachers. Over 1200 grade school cat-herders have signed a petition asking Scholastic to stop selling toys through their catalogues that have unusual access to the captive audiences we store in the classrooms of our country. Good for them. I suppose it wouldn’t be bad if the toys complimented decent books, but the books are increasingly shit too and the toys are becoming the main selling point for what’s in there. We’ve gone over this before a few times, and I was on Q to chat about it once (mp3–right click to download).
Some 1,262 teachers have signed a petition by consumer group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood asking Scholastic to stop enlisting teachers to sell toys to students.
The scolding comes at a time when the world’s largest educational publisher — which markets through schools and has sold more than 6 billion books over 60 years — is processing final summer book orders.
Scholastic also is the U.S. publisher of the Harry Potter series.
The watchdog group says one third of the items sold in Scholastic’s 2008 elementary and middle-school catalogs were either not books or books packaged with other non-book items. Besides toys, non-book items sold include stickers, science activity kits, math brain teasers, electronic dictionaries and audiobooks.
God, linking to USA Today makes me feel dirty. Been meaning to link to this, and it’s an antidote to the USA Today link: Sean Dixon’s open letter to Scholastic regarding book substitution and the marked difference between precocious heroines.
Okay, so I’m headed to Ireland in July for two weeks to research my novel in Belfast and read in Dublin. I’ll be out of here between July 2 and July 16. I know this leaves you hanging for posts, so against my better judgement, I propose the following:
Today I will start accepting applications for 5 bloggers to run the site while I’m gone. I’ll create limited accounts so those who are chosen can post and they will work out their style and content among themselves. It’ll be like an e-Lord of the Flies situation, but Ralph won’t have the conch for two weeks. (I already know who’s going to be Piggy.) I’ll post the best entries I receive and we’ll take a vote. The five highest vote-getters will take over. (With the caveat that I’ll be checking from the road to make sure Bookninja’s human rights and anti-douchery policies are not violated … beyond the usual.) Guest bloggers will receive Bookninja swag in payment for their services, but the intangible value of having your own well-attended soapbox for two weeks is incalculable. (Bookninja is not responsible for any coke-razor accidents or rehab fees necessary to bring you back from the drug-addled highs of internet celebrity.)
So if you’re interested in taking the reigns for a couple weeks, .
Quoth the Solo: “I have a bad feeling about this…”
A brief glimpse into something like my life with: ZOMBIE BABY!
Hello, Ireland! I’m in Dublin on July 14 to read at a place called Fighting Words: a very awesome charitable creative writing centre established by the great Roddy Doyle on the model of Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia. It’s a pleasure to be invited and will be a great introduction to your fair country, I’m sure.
You’ll note the minor misunderstanding (or perhaps foolhardy confidence) displayed in that “novelist” tag. I’m in that area in part to research a novel, but I haven’t yet finished or sold it. Or sent it to an agent. Or let my friends see it. Or my wife. Still, it has a nice ring to it, no?
Should we be trying to rehabilitate readers to poetry or should we be examining why they generally hate it? My answer is: “I don’t give a rat’s ass”. But I know a whole range of other folks do. So, discuss away!
I recalled some comments made to me recently at a party by an arts producer working for a national broadcaster; “I hate poetry,” said this young man and, to make matters clearer: “I don’t believe in free expression.” For all the rebarbativeness of his remarks, I felt afterwards he was being more helpful and honest than all the bland promoters of poetry, or purveyors of a product called poetry that is not the real thing.
It might be better to ask ourselves why, on the whole, we hate poetry – that is to say why we ruthlessly marginalise it and exile it to a cold place of almost total neglect – than to utter dishonest platitudes about how great it is.
It is a book in which one man, living in a totalitarian society a number of years in the future, gradually finds himself rebelling against the dehumanising forces of an omnipotent, omniscient dictator. Encouraged by a woman who seems to represent the political and sexual freedom of the pre-revolutionary era (and with whom he sleeps in an ancient house that is one of the few manifestations of a former world), he writes down his thoughts of rebellion – perhaps rather imprudently – as a 24-hour clock ticks in his grim, lonely flat. In the end, the system discovers both the man and the woman, and after a period of physical and mental trauma the protagonist discovers he loves the state that has oppressed him throughout, and betrays his fellow rebels. The story is intended as a warning against and a prediction of the natural conclusions of totalitarianism.
This is a description of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was first published 60 years ago on Monday. But it is also the plot of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, a Russian novel originally published in English in 1924.
A tightly-wound bookseller comes up with a list of “customer types“. Hopefully this research model can lead to better tagging and tracking of customers before their numbers dwindle beyond the reach of the industry’s conservation efforts.
Technically a subclass of Seeker, these ‘customers’ deserve their own listing:
Yeah, I get it, the cover of the book is red. Can you recall even one word in the title? Or the author’s first name? Or if it’s fiction or non-fiction? Color, while vivid in your own memory, is in fact the least helpful detail you can give us about any book. Prominent sub-type:
* Saw it in the New York Times. Granted, we have the NYT Book Review; I can walk the three feet from the info desk to the display where we stock it, I can open up the paper and read it, to find the title that you can’t remember; I can even do this right in front of you, to give the illusion that you’ve provided the information that I need to find the book you’re looking for. This exercise, repeated with different customers at least twice a week, is routine – but it doesn’t make you less of an idiot.
Grazers don’t need a book, or want a book, but they love coming in to the bookstore, and love lingering leisurely over all the tables, racks, endcaps, promotional displays, and front-of-store placements. If they can do this while a bookseller is attempting to replenish or reset the display, all the better.
The only redeeming feature of a grazer is that they can only accomplish their task with a cup of coffee in their hand – pardon, with a $4 half-soy-half-decaf-latte-with-a-shot-of-pretention – and while they clog the main aisle and generally pose a hazard to navigation, they are mostly harmless. They might try to casually engage you conversation, “How’s Business?”, but they don’t really care. Their primary goal is being in a bookstore for an hour each week so they can insert an off-hand, “oh I saw that the other day at Big Box Books” in later conversations, proving to their friends that they are topical and literate.
Bonus: They buy coffee. Margins on coffee are excellent.
Also in selling news: Dover introduces flat discounts. I know that’s important in some way or another so I chucked it in there.
- A new children’s laureate in the UK
- HC makes cuts in kids section
- UK kids book award goes to clone novel (isn’t that what James Patterson writes? ZING!)
- On the children’s lit traditions that laid the groundwork for Up (that new talkie made on difference engines)
- 12 year old author deals with fame
If anyone was going to call for a return to evil vampires, it would have to be Guillermo del Toro, whose very name curdles my skin with fear. It’s like he has a private window into Hell. Did you see Pan’s Labyrinth? That shit was fucked UP! And six ways from awesome. One of the best movies I’d seen in years. (I heard he’s directing The Hobbit. Expect Bilbo to have miniature mouths on his neck or an extendable tongue with fingers on it or something.)
Del Toro, who is best known for his Oscar-winning movie Pan’s Labyrinth, spent four years working on the novel, the first of a trilogy he is penning with crime writer Chuck Hogan, he said in interview with CBC Radio’s Q cultural affairs show.
“The whole idea was to go back to one of the branches of vampire fiction that seems to be vacant, tragically vacant in the last few years, which is not a romantic, tragically misunderstood male lead like in a romance novel but as a creature of alternate history, biology and anatomy that is essentially a parasite or a predator hunting humans,” del Toro said.
As usual mostly bad news. I’m sure I could dig up a few positives here, but it’s cloudy and cold today, so you all suffer.
- Reader’s Digest offers abridged sales
- Arcade goes bankrupt
- Readerville closes down (I somehow never got around to visiting this blog until today… Sad that I missed it all!)
- Pirated books sadly more common than pirates themselves, yar…
- Penguin is being boycotted after signing an exclusivity deal with WH Smith (which you pronounce “Whuh-Smith”)
Nothing like starting the morning with a look back and where you’ve been, animal-logo-style. I think this would have been more effective for publishing if it had been done as that evolution chart showing a series of monkeys evloving into erect men—but with Rupert’s face on the monkey, Judith Reagan’s face on the half-monkey, etc. But that’s just me.
Apparently, he’s finally come out of hiding—not just to sue someone, but to relax.
Famed literary giant and notorious recluse J.D. Salinger, who has not published any new work since 1965, came out of hiding Monday to gush about the new film Terminator Salvation, offering the world its first glimpse into his private life since his last interview nearly 30 years ago.
I believe that a writer’s privacy is among his most precious possessions, in that personal information about him distracts readers from what is most important: the work itself,” the author of The Catcher In The Rye told reporters outside the Claremont Cinema 6 theater, moments after seeing the film for the third time. “But on the other hand, the new revival of the Terminator franchise is just way too awesome for me to remain quiet any longer. Hello? Time-travel paradoxes? Freaking amazing!”
The guy’s not even dead yet, and publishing vultures are already hovering over his unseen manuscript possiblity like a brood of soulless adult children waiting for daddy to finally kick the bucket so they can divvy up his stuff. This is the same guy who was all for getting Baby Nabokov to publish Daddy Nabokov’s explicitly verboten unfinished manuscript for Laura. Now he’s insinuating recluse Salinger is a danger to his own hoarded product (should there be any) and we should get ready to swoop down on the archives like a municipal expropriation order. Fie! says I. Fie!
Other reports make him seem so strange that it’s possible he could be typing out the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit over and over again. (Eastern religions played an increasingly important role in his post-Catcher work, starting with the famous epigraph to Nine Stories, the Zen koan: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”) Perhaps he’s writing not for publication but for God, which would mean there’d be no need to preserve any material traces of his work. For all we know, he’s planning on destroying it—or has already.
But what if there were real stuff up there? Real Salinger-esque stuff. (Wouldn’t it be a brilliant jest on us all, for example, if Salinger himself had actually written the Holden Caulfield sequel 60 years later, hired this (apparently) Swedish guy to impersonate the pseudonymous author, then sued himself to insure no one would guess the real author? It reminds me of radio talker John Calvin Batchelor’s brilliant stunt: a mock-scholarly speculative essay published in the mid-’70s considering whether Salinger was Thomas Pynchon, who would then have been not a recluse but a pseudonym.)
If there is real manuscript stuff there—and I’m inclined to believe that there is, that he made a decision that he didn’t need to publish what he wrote while he was alive—I want to know what will happen to it after his death. As far as we know, no decision has been made.
1984 is 60. This confuses me, but one of the theoretical mathematicians I keep on staff here assures me it’s true. The Independent asks a bunch of authors to reflect on this and to compare its influence on them to other books.
Philip Pullman The Bible
1984 set a climate of opinion on the way we regard totalitarian states and ideas about language. If we reduce the words available your capacity for thinking is reduced. It is a very important novel, but is it of the same rank as Bleak House, or Middlemarch? I’m not sure.
The most influential book for me is the Bible. That was all around me when I was a child and I absorbed the stories of the Old and New Testaments at a very early age. They are part of how I think and feel. I don’t believe they are the word of God. As a literary work it has great poetry, dramatic stories, myths – and it’s the work of so many different hands, too.
As mentioned below, a first ed of the book went for a ludicrous amount, but the average Joe can enjoy the book (albiet in a less dear edition) because it’s really a book about the blue collar set. Yeah, I can see that working. Hey man, this is about YOU, ordinary old YOU. It just looks like you need a PhD to read it because, well, we’re trying to fuck the eggheads over. See, they think there’s more to it when really it’s just about wandering around with nothing to do. Shh! Teehee!
The middle decades of the 20th century were the years in which the idea of a common culture was abandoned — yet Ulysses depends on that very notion. Joyce himself was not forbiddingly learned. He cut more classes at University College Dublin than he attended and averaged less than 50 per cent in many of his exams. His classmate Con Curran noted that he made the little he learnt there go a very long way. When Joyce left secondary school at 18 he knew most of the basic things that you need for reading (or writing) Ulysses — the Mass in Latin, the life and themes of Shakespeare, how electricity works, how water gets from a reservoir to the domestic tap, Charles Lamb’s version of The Adventures of Ulysses.
In his youth Joyce described himself as a socialist artist and a believer in participatory democracy — that everyone, whether wealthy enough to have a higher education or not, should have equal access to this common culture. To his brother Stanislaus he wrote from Austria in May 1905: “It is a mistake for you to imagine that my political opinions are those of a universal lover: but they are those of a socialistic artist. I cannot tell you how strange I sometimes feel in my attempt to live a more civilised life than my contemporaries.”
What happens to drama when we read it instead of watching it? For me, the biggest advantage here is not having to hug people in the lobby before and afterward. I mean, what the HELL is it with theatre people and touching? I actually quit acting because of it. We are not in a club with an unwritten open contract of intimate contact, people. We just happened to watch or be in a show together, so get your paws off me. Hell, I’m a touchy sort of person and I can’t stand how much you all have to stroke and embrace each other all the time! FACK!
The excuses for not theater-going are easy to list: it’s hell to find a babysitter, Netflix is a lovely narcotic, and it’s hard to commit to loading that much money onto a Visa card. You could just about fly to Dublin and back for the price of a Broadway ticket and a decent meal. But what’s the excuse for not reading some of these plays?
The Guardian bobs and weaves on the tradition of lining up to hear pasty, largely unattractive writers read aloud on the festival circuit. Stuart Walton is cautiously optimistic about what’s gained, while Robert McCrum is crankier and a little more skeptical.
As the literary festival season swings into action across the shires of Middle England, there are many things you may want to say about this phenomenon, but one thing is indisputable: there is now an inexhaustible public appetite for meeting writers, in tents and church halls.
When you stop to think about it, this is quite strange. The English are not inclined to celebrate culture or to favour artists and intellectuals. We are more interested in pop idols and sporting heroes. But there it is. The public wants to spend time in proximity with poets and historians, novelists and biographers. Then get them to sign books.
In this craze to connect with authors and books, we have to ask: is it mutual? Is it a two-way street ? Do writers have the same interest in satisfying their public? Take novelists, for instance. Does the author of the well-reviewed literary novel that’s promoted at Hay or Edinburgh have any sense of an informal contract with his or her audience? Answer: not a chance.
- Record price for 1st ed. Ulysses
- CWA awards shortlist
- Booked Up titles revealed in UK
- “New” Hughes poem discovered
- Cambridge puts oldest books online (took forever to stuff them through the USB port on Gerald’s computer…)
- Bottled narrative-stink for books? Madre dios…
- And in related news: for those who miss the musty smell of someone else’s basement when reading your PD James on your ereader—ebook smell enhancer
English reaches 1,000,000 words and evolves into a second stage fire-based Pokemon with the unstoppable power of CultureGobble! Sorry, real life invading my post. As Simon Winchester (whose book on the OED I quite liked back in the day) writes, things aren’t all bad. Unless you don’t speak English, I suppose.
It is not known which the millionth word will be, but those on the brink of entering the language as finalists for the one millionth English-language word include “zombie banks”, or those banks that would be defunct without government intervention; the pejorative “noob”, referring to a newcomer to a given task or community, as in “She’s a complete noob to guerrilla gardening”; and “quendy-trendy”, meaning hip or up-to-date.
I relish them all and, quite frankly, blame my father, plus whoever it was in New York who invented the crossword in the 1920s, for my passion. For my father was a fanatic, and he urged me as a callow teenager to compete with him to see who could do this paper’s crossword the faster, a cornflakes box as a barrier between us. We did The Times and The Telegraph, but for difficult words preferred Ximenes in The Observer, and I came to love Chambers 20th Century dictionary, with all its obscure Scots words that the crossword-setter demanded.
And then, of course, it was but a slow progression from buying Chambers, to owning the OED. I bought my first 17-volume set back in the Eighties, in Hong Kong. I will long remember carrying the books downstairs from a shop in On Lan Street, and stuffing them into the boot of my car during a furious typhoon, sheeting rain and lightning.
I’ve never been without an OED since. I have three complete sets, including one, bound in dark blue leather and titled in gold, that OUP gave me for writing about the history of what someone called “the greatest piece of sensational serial literature ever written”.
Why is some bloke named Stephen Moss standing for the Oxford Poetry Prof job when it’s still covered in the gooey cooties of the last couple months of English/Classics dept jerking around? ‘Cause.
I want immediately to put forward two big ideas. First, should I win, the £6,000 stipend will be made available to assist struggling poets and poetic ventures, with a portion set aside for small donations to Oxford graduates who have fallen on hard times. Second, I believe election day itself should be a great celebration of poetry, so intend to set up a couple of barrels of Brakspear’s outside the polling station. Bitter without bitterness will be my mantra.
But does my poetry stand up? It is not essential to be a poet to be Oxford professor – the current holder of the post is the critic Christopher Ricks – but most observers would prefer the professorship to go to a practising poet. And I can say, without fear of contradiction, that I am most definitely practising.
I have written poetry since I was 14 – indeed teenagehood and my 20s were my most fecund period. I came third in my school Eisteddfod at about that age and had several poems published in my college magazine. And although I was a little disconcerted when I Twittered a couple of poems last week, under the name Benonix, only to receive a message offering me money if I would stop tweeting in verse, the key test comes with this visit to the Poetry Society. I am meeting both Palmer and, more worryingly, Fiona Sampson, editor of Poetry Review. If I fail this test, I will not stand. I have selected seven poems from the poetic slag heap that has accrued over the past four decades to show them.
“I have certainly read worse,” says Palmer.
Toni Morrison defends “sacred” books from censorship. Mostly by standing in front of stores waving one of those highly-unlikely curved blades that Klingons use in Star Trek. But also with words. Words, man. Do you see the levels of meaning piling up on each other here? Words.
Just a few weeks after one of her own books was removed from a high school curriculum, Toni Morrison has spoken out against censorship and about the importance – the “sacredness” – of access to books.
The Nobel prize-winning author’s novel Song of Solomon, which traces the life of Macon “Milkman” Dead, was suspended from and then reinstated to the curriculum at a school in Shelby, Michigan in May following complaints from parents about sexual and violent content. Some parents called the novel pornography: “You get graphic images in your mind that’s not going to leave you. Where do we stop here? Where do we draw the line?” a resident told local press.
Speaking at an event in New York to launch the National Coalition Against Censorship’s new initiative, the Free Speech Leadership Council, the 78-year-old Morrison said that there was an “enormous sacredness” attached to reading in her family. “It was extraordinary,” she said.
As Jessa points out, this creates rather disturbing imagery. Not all of us are as hot as me and Jessa, see. But I digress. Apparently Bookninja was part of wave 1.5, after old folk like Moby, Maud and Jessa. And this wave structure creates certain realities for publicists pitching to us vs. the new kids on the block.
“Wave two are the book blogs [of which] there are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples. The emphasis is less on ‘blog-as-professional vehicle’ and more on community, on having conversations about books, often active ones, with a small but devoted following of readers.”
(And in an earlier Follow the Reader interview with The Book Maven’s Bethanne Patrick, Patrick also spoke about “professional” versus “community” book bloggers.)
I was fascinated by what Weinman and Patrick wrote because although as a book publicist I’m familiar with both the “old” (professional) and the “new” (community) book blogs, I’d never made the distinction between the two except when it came to figuring out whether to stick a blog in the “Lit Blog” or “Book Blog” folder in my RSS reader.
Why is this important?
What it boils down to for us in book publicity is how we pitch — and work with — these bloggers. The other day, for example, a book blogger asked if there was an appropriate “waiting period” between review copy requests. I nearly toppled out of my chair — you don’t get questions like this from someone with whom you’ve worked for years — until I realized that someone new to the book blogging scene would have no reason to have any knowledge about requesting review copies from publishers. (For the record, there isn’t a waiting period.)
Now, at least according to this, we’re seventh in the world. (Not to gripe, but should McSweeney’s really be considered a “book blog”?)
What’s left at the bottom of your mug after you’ve drunk your news brew.
- New Agatha Christie stories
- Arthur Ellis Crime book awards
- Borders UK up for sale
- Dear Diary: today I was an idiot who needed a ridiculous amount of hand-holding
- Okra’s bookclub
- Photo of man actually responsible for spanking the Bronte sisters (as opposed to me who just imagines it from time to time…)
Therapists that write together, bill together. Presumably about your pathetic life you worthless piece of couch-fodder—Oi! Don’t weep on the leather and speak directly into the recorder about WHY your dad did that. SHOW, don’t TELL! I have a deadline here. Oops, time’s up. Good work today. That’ll be $150, please.
These women, some with specialties in children, trauma, Zen Buddhism and the intersection of religion and therapy, have taken inspiration from their practices to write screenplays, short stories, novels and nonfiction books. They have also used the group as a safe cocoon to vet and write unpublished prose, a dissertation, writings on traumatized Iraqi war veterans and now a book on running a writing group for psychoanalysts.
The stuff of therapy is not only a lot stranger than fiction but also contains the ever-unfolding narrative of life, with its pain and pathos, feats and failures.
That is some rich material for a writer.
“Everybody comes in with their own stories, and they can be so staggeringly original,” said Bonnie Zindel, the psychoanalyst who started the writing group seven years ago. “We all need stories to make sense of our lives, we’re all wired to tell stories, and nature gave us that. For us, we wonder, ‘What is the story that our patients are telling?’ There are mother stories, father stories, ghost stories and the eternal universal story of a child trying to separate from its mother.”
SF writing Bruce Sterling offers a list of 18 challenges facing contemporary literature. Succinct and painful.
10. Contemporary literature not confronting issues of general urgency; dominant best-sellers are in former niche genres such as fantasies, romances and teen books.
11. Barriers to publication entry have crashed, enabling huge torrent of subliterary and/or nonliterary textual expression.
12. Algorithms and social media replacing work of editors and publishing houses; network socially-generated texts replacing individually-authored texts.
13. “Convergence culture” obliterating former distinctions between media; books becoming one minor aspect of huge tweet/ blog/ comics/ games / soundtrack/ television / cinema / ancillary-merchandise pro-fan franchises.
Less than a trickle, more than moist patch.
- Marilynne Robinson gets reprint for some reason
- Publisher’s Weekly announces National Bookselling Day
- Agents happy Amazon buried the Hachette
- Dave Eggers bucks up the industry with charming shoulder chuck of an email… I can’t wait to take this to the bank for my reprieve
- Publisher strikes back at Salinger lawsuit
- Howard Dean to head “Progressive Book Club”
Fantasy author (whom I read voraciously as a child), dead at 77.
Prolific and bestselling, Eddings was the author of more than 25 books, many of them written with his wife Leigh Eddings, who passed away in 2007. Best known for his Belgariad and Mallorean series, which follow the adventures of the orphaned farm boy Garion as he fulfils an ancient prophecy, Eddings turned to fantasy after he spotted a copy of The Lord of the Rings in a bookshop, and saw that it was in its 73rd printing.
It must feel pretty good to be AF Moritz this morning. Not only are you richer, but you finally have something to point to as a concrete example of both the growing respect on the part of the national reading public and the international realization among your peers that Canada has a major poetic talent as good as any in the world. It’s difficult, because all the Griffin nominees this year were deserving, but I bet if you asked the others, despite having a need for the dosh, they’d say they’re glad Al won. It’s good to be number one. And CD Wright was a great choice for the international prize. Kudos to the judges for both the shortlists and the winners. An encouraging year!
Third novel in 28 year career wins. Something to be said for taking your time, I suppose.
Fi Glover, the broadcaster who chaired this year’s judging panel, admitted the decision had been straightforward and unanimous. Home, Robinson’s beautifully crafted exploration of family relationships and redemption, was the easy winner from the six shortlisted books, she said. “All of the judges brought a couple of books to the table which they thought were definitely the contenders and Home was in all of our choices. We were in agreement.”
Glover said she had now read Home three times and it got better, more deep and profound, each time. “It does that wonderful thing of describing life that you almost knew about but never managed to put your finger on.”
Robinson, whose day job is teaching creative writing in Iowa City, was one of three American writers shortlisted and received her award, together with a £30,000 cheque, at a ceremony in London’s Royal Festival Hall.