I remember when I first starting hanging around in this racket, about 12 or 13 years back. I was fresh faced and full of optimism. I saw guys and gals no better than me having dumptrucks full of cash driven up to their doors for 60 pages of an unrealized novel. I thought, there’s no rush to publish. This gravy train has a lot of track under it, baby. Thankfully, I didn’t publish those early rantings, but I’ve also apparently missed out on ever making any money for my work. Even established authors are taking huge pay cuts to their book advances—up to 50%. Of course, the amounts were getting fucking ridiculous, weren’t they? So I suppose a correction was in order. Why can’t baseball and hockey just do what publishers have done and inform the talent that the time has come? Oh, right, because people would care if those guys stopped playing. Sigh. Regardless, the party’s over, people. Put the coke back in the baggie and get those hookers out of here. It’s time to start polishing that resume.
Earlier this week Little, Brown author Iain Banks spoke publicly about taking a pay cut, telling the Guardian: “I’m getting less money for my next book contract. But I’ve heard of writers having their advances cut by 80%, and others getting nothing.” Agent Mic Cheetham, who represents Banks, said: “The climate has changed. I think it’s called ‘a haircut’—a little trim. You have to look to keep the haircut to an absolute minimum.”
Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander said: “For an established author who is not a bestseller, the advance may be down by as much as 50%, or books may not be being bought at all. The decline has been very steep since the end of last year.” Mark Le Fanu, general secretary of the Society of Authors, also estimated the drop in general author advances at 30% to 50%.
Publishers told The Bookseller that author advances had to be in line with a previous title’s sales record, with advances for bestselling authors beloved of supermarkets more robust. “We have had to say in some cases ‘We cannot continue to pay you what we have been paying you,’” said one. Alexander said: “If you get into the top 20 in hardback and paperback, there will be no decline, and maybe even an increase. The bestselling authors are bigger than ever.”
Robert McCrum provides a glossary of terms publishers use to spin books, along with what they really mean. Very useful for outfits such as Bookninja. I’d add “protean”, which means “hard to follow”, and “tells us our own story”, which means “it’s about your grandmother”. Any others?
Word-of-mouth sensation: thank God for Amazon.
Multicultural phenomenon: no one can pronounce the author’s name.
American bestseller: someone had a long lunch in New York.
Manga novel: a comic book.
Cult manga sensation: a comic book that’s won a prize.
Bestselling manga sensation: DreamWorks has bought the film rights.
European sensation: we got drunk at Frankfurt.
- Hackers have co-opted an online game tied to the marketing campaign for the new Dan Brown novel… tee hee… Need I say it? If you were suckered into playing this, you’ve probably already got a wide variety of compu-VD anyway because you’re gullible and can’t resist shiny, darting objects in flash presentations… lesson learned: shiny=cyber-clap.
- Asus is looking at very cheap ebook reader
- DC comics becomes DC entertainment, movies to follow
- Slaughterhouse 90210
- How old are you in “writer’s years”? Equation here. (from @Meanjin)
- Fairy tales go back further than we think
Increasing pressure from big box retail venues and supermarkets to deeply discount books is a good part of the reason the UK has lost Marion Boyers. And you can be pretty sure this story is playing out around the world. Anecdotes? Solutions? Assuaging words of perspective?
The company, which started out in the 1960s as Calder and Boyars and has been run by Marion Boyars’ daughter Kilgarriff since 1999, gave the news in a letter to trade customers.
Kilgarriff told The Bookseller: “It was the discounts that got me, and the fact I was not able to publish without the confidence that we would get into one of those [special deal] offers. And even if we did, you have to kick back something to get there, so in the end we were lucky even just covering costs.
“Without Borders [being so active], the whole retail end is uneven. You have one company dominating the high street, one online, so it’s impossible for independent publishers to budget with any kind of confidence”.
She added the costs of marketing a book that was shortlisted for an award were prohibitive “which meant I was no longer wanting to take on literary fiction, because I couldn’t afford to enter prizes”.
New snapshots from a recently updated Hubble telescope have been released. I’m something of an armchair science nerd, but by no means an expert in any field. That said, I’m pretty much prepared to declare the Hubble Space Telescope the most successful experiment of all time (at least in terms of science/public relations). Wow. It completely baffles me that anyone would suggest cutting funding to this kind research. We get any closer to the edge of heaven, we’re going to start seeing wings.
Philip Pullman is surely living up to his promise that he doesn’t hate Catholics by steering totally clear of religious controversy in his next nov—-wait, what’s that? This just in: everything I said before this sentence is false.
The book will provide a new account of the life of Jesus, challenging the gospels and arguing that the version in the New Testament was shaped by the apostle Paul. “By the time the gospels were being written, Paul had already begun to transform the story of Jesus into something altogether new and extraordinary, and some of his version influenced what the gospel writers put in theirs,” said Pullman, who last year pronounced himself delighted that the His Dark Materials trilogy was one of the most “challenged” series in America’s libraries, boasting the most requests for removal from the shelves because of its “religious viewpoint”.
His new book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, will be published next Easter as part of Scottish independent press Canongate’s Myths series, which has also seen Margaret Atwood tackle The Odyssey from the perspective of Odysseus’s wife Penelope, Jeanette Winterson retell the myth of Atlas and Heracles and Michel Faber take on Prometheus with a modern retelling which sees an academic discover a fifth gospel. In Faber’s version, Jesus’s last words on the cross are “please, somebody, please finish me”, and one of his last actions is to urinate on the head of the gospel’s author.
In the UK, poets take a break from their brooding to give back to the community.
Read is one of a quartet of poets who each spent the day at a hospice or care home, then translated their experiences into a poem dedicated to the role of British carers. The poems accompany images of carers as part of a booklet entitled People Who Care, which will be distributed free to 7,000 carers in recognition of their efforts.
Read visited Rainbows Children’s hospice in Loughborough, Leicestershire. In an extract from her poem, Ocean Drum, she writes: “White roar, gritty peter to silence. The woman’s not your mother. . . but she’s learnt to read you from the angles of your head, smiles that seem like the flutter of a divining-rod miles above water.”
Although her aim was to celebrate the carers’ role, Read also had to face the realities of a hospice when she was taken to the Quiet Room. “It was most touching to see where the children are laid out,” she says. “It looked like a child’s bedroom. I was in tears. The poems I write are often about loss and pain. For me, as a parent, you don’t like to deal with these things.”
Which authors are worth their own conference? For me, that depends. Are we discussing their writing or their lives? Cause my lists might be different then.
Heyer isn’t the only author with a conference to her name this autumn: we’ve just missed the first, on David Mitchell, which St Andrews held at the end of last week. Discussions included “Intertextual Doppelganger: David Mitchell’s number9dream and Japan”, and “A Portrait of the Young Man as an Escape Artist”, and Mitchell himself even put in an appearance, reading to delegates and taking questions. And in July, Imogen Russell-Williams enjoyed a weekend-long conference on the works of Diana Wynne Jones.
A Slate authors is going to try to throw together a chicklit novel in less than a month (about two weeks longer than a profession chicklit author might take, but she’s learning, people), and will be taking suggestions from readers. This might be an innovative way to create the scattered narrative and questionable language of the genre, but I worry that internet participation will enable a diversity of thought and opinion that will stymie any attempt to create a genuine chicklit book.
A note regarding shoes: I can make no promises.
My plan is to write at least a chapter a day, probably more if I want to finish this. Because I am, first and foremost, a Supreme Court reporter, I turn back into a pumpkin on the first Monday in October, whether I finish this book or not. In addition to writing the book itself, I am going to annotate as I go along. To follow along, just look for this symbol:That means that in addition to reading the novel, you can also read about how I came up with ideas, why I am abandoning a character, or what chick-lit convention I might be honoring or jettisoning. I will also try to file something longer at the end of each week, detailing how the project is going, what I am struggling with, and whether I have yet taken to drinking at noon.
Is it completely insane to try to finish a first draft of an entire novel in three weeks? I think so. Have I mentioned that as of this writing, our child care situation has gone from bleak to hopeless? Is there something quintessentially chick-lit-ish about trying to do something patently impossible and overreaching? Yes! But that’s where you come in. This project will rise or fall with your reader feedback: plot ideas, character ideas, funny stories about your nanny, funny stories about your wife or your e-mail. Suggestions for names, locations, twists, and resolutions are desperately sought.
A British survey has found that indy presses can compete, salary-wise, with large conglomerates. So, why are you still pulling levers in the cubicle matrix, chivato? Ah, I see. And what did you get in return for this “soul” thing of which you speak? Ah, the job. Right. Well, let me know how that works out for you. Will you even notice when you’re switched from your desk to Hell? (I’m kidding people. We all know you’re working there because it shields you from the grinding drudgery and sense of hopeless futility that is independent publishing.) … Well, that’s just about everyone now offended… My work here is done.
Independent publishers offer an average salary which “competes, at the very least” with that earned by staff at conglomerate houses, according to research by the Independent Publishers Guild.
The 2009 Salary Survey found that although rates of pay fluctuated quite widely, the average basic salary for managing directors and proprietors of publishing houses was just under £56,000, before bonuses and benefits.
At director level, the most common pay bracket — earned by more than a third of staff — was more than £60,000. Managers most frequently earned between £25-30,000, with no manager earning less than £15,000. Editors, executives and coordinators tended to earn £20-25,000. Assistants most commonly earned between £15,000 and £20,000.
Well, from now until I kill the year with several stiff shots of Bushmills, I suspect you’ll be getting some series of stories about awards. Booker, Giller, GG, Pulitzer, IMPAC, yadda yadda… So enjoy the spectacle and and join me in ridiculing it at every opportunity! Unless my guys win, in which case the award becomes a sacred cow for the rest of the year and your ridicule will be considered insubordination and grounds for dismissal (read screaming death) from the ranks of Shadowy Minions.
Seems like who you think is favoured to win has less to do with actual odds and more to do with what paper you work at:
Oh, wait, I was wrong, apparently there IS a pretty clear consensus. (In your face, Sam Jordison.) Also:
And I your uncaring slumlord.
- Amish romances—the love that dare not punch back (mmmmm, beardy….)
- Aussies could teach those hot-blooded Amish a thing or two about eschewing the gooier prose stylings
- Stores and publishers jockeying for Christmas pole position… oh wait, was that off colour or just a mixed metaphor?
- Europe’s getting it’s lederhosen in a twist over Google and the Goog is playing “throw ‘em a bone”
- The top 10 most pirated eBooks of 2009 (hint: they’re mostly about sex and home reno)
- Let your furry little feet dance! The Hobbit gets a greenlight from the Tolkien gaolers
- James Patterson signs 17 book deal with Hachette, no word yet on what will happen when he fulfills those obligations by late 2010…
- Random Canada and M&S have cut their foreign rights departments… Ouch. Dean Cooke and folks will be under contract to sell rights. One of my favourite people at M&S is gone, Marilyn Biderman. Any publisher with half a brain will be waiting outside the M&S office on her last day with a job offer in hand…
- Is the C-word losing its teeth? … … … Um… … This is the stuff of nightmarish myths… … …
I don’t remember receiving a membership announcement that Coupland had been licensed to write and wear a beard. This is a serious breach of the Hemingway Protocol and needs to be addressed by the National Council, post-haste! Coupland appears profiled in the Guardian where they call him the author that sees the future, but with his new look and health complaints, he comes off more like a writer with an increasing amount of past.
He always describes himself as “pro future” – or a “futurist” – and his reputation as a techno-cultural soothsayer, established by Generation X, was confirmed by later bestsellers such as Microserfs, the first literary work to recognise the power of Microsoft. He is even said to greet old friends by reference to technological innovations – “Hey, I haven’t seen you since the iPhone was invented,” and so on. And yet the protagonists of Generation X were already nostalgic for the past era of Eisenhower plenty, and the future depicted in Generation A is a dark conflation of recession, climate change, globalisation and lonely alienation.
Surely, I say, a man who predicts a future like that – and won’t even sell a house he has outgrown – has to be more of a nostalgist than a futurist? He smiles slowly.
“Well, the phrase I would use now is that I’m quite open about the future. I’m curious. In my mind I’ve always checked out in 2037; that’s always been my expiration date. I’ll be 75. And I just go fucking nuts not being able to know what comes after that.”
Guy posts his font experiments on a blog and takes user feedback. A noble gesture and cause. However, at least above the cyberfold, I find virtually all of these headache inducing. (Thanks, P)
- Israeli scientists come up with a program for deciphering ancient texts
- Kirkus—selling you reviews of your work since they first figured out they could
- Science prize shortlist in UK
- Canadian authors write books for low literacy adults—now on purpose (thanks, JB)
- Ex-governor,current-douchebag Rod Blagojevich releases memoir into the wild
- Harry Potter is the most popular book among detainees at Guantanamo Bay… … … … This is part of the torture program, right?
Daily Dose of Digital
- That’s it, Goog. You’ve gone too far. You will die. And painfully. Major Aneurysm, release the Bloom…!
- New book will allow readers to annotate new book live… Naw! Nothing bad could ever come of this!
- E-Book users want more shit, stuff that works
- EU looks at digital copyright overhaul
- Libraries of the FUTURE!!! (According to CNN)
- Poetry lives on: on Twitter… Now, the Kool-Aid is all gone people, but I’ve still got three nooses and a whole bowl full of razor blades here. Two clear lines, ladies and gentlemen, two clear lines…
It’s looking like insanity at the bookshop in the coming weeks as Dan Brown extends his head and turtleneck from the shell of his tan jacket. Also coming, memoirs from a dead Kennedy (that one’s for you, my youth), and something to do with something called “sports”, which is the ritualistic process by which grown human men get to rub against one another and maintain the illusion of their heterosexuality. But while your local candle/frame/paperproducts emporium might be eager, many independent booksellers are not. This is either because historial data shows the futility of their lives or because they’re a bunch of whiny, bitter, sallow-faced shutins who really need to get some fresh air. One of the two.
In general, independent booksellers are not as excited about “The Lost Symbol” as they were for the Harry Potter books, which many heralded with elaborate parties and readings. Although many have ordered large quantities, some have decided to stay below the fray, figuring that customers will go for the discounts at the chain booksellers or mass-market discounters like Wal-Mart, which is currently offering buyers who preorder “The Lost Symbol” online a 52 percent discount off the $29.99 cover price. Barnes & Noble and Borders are discounting the title by 40 percent.
“That doesn’t work for us,” said Frank Reiss, owner of A Cappella Books in Atlanta, the kind of bookstore that stayed open until after midnight when the last two Thomas Pynchon novels came out. Mr. Reiss said, though, that the bookstore had ordered 12 copies of “The Lost Symbol,” exceeding the store’s standard orders on commercial titles.
At Barnes & Noble, advance orders for “The Lost Symbol” have outpaced all other previous adult titles, said Patricia Bostelman, vice president for marketing, although J. K. Rowling still holds the all-time record. Advance orders for “The Lost Symbol” made it the No. 1 best seller on Amazon last week, followed by Kennedy’s “True Compass.” A person familiar with the Amazon order said that by last week customers had preordered close to 70,000 copies of “The Lost Symbol.”
Over the weekend, I laboured at updating the backend software that runs the smoothly sailing ship Bookninja, so if you notice any bugs, please let me know by email (). Otherwise, as you were.
Whoa, heavyweight city. Should be an interesting race. At least in terms of what mud Byatt can sling at her opponents in a graceless attempt to affect the outcome of the prize.
The Children’s Book by A S Byatt (Random House, Chatto and Windus)
Summertime by J M Coetzee (Random House, Harvill Secker)
The Quickening Maze by Adam Fould (Random House, Jonathan Cape)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (HarperCollins, Fourth Estate)
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer (Little, Brown)
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Little, Brown, Virago)
A long, in depth article in the NYT Magazine on bringing Sendak’s masterpiece to the screen, via Spike Jonze, who is apparently all kinds fo awesome. I have such high hopes for this film. I just hope my boy doesn’t freak out when he sees it. He forced me to turn off Stuart Little twenty minutes in because he was so disgusted by the liberties taken with the plot. Honestly, he was INCENSED. “How DARE they?” he asked. And has since refused to rent Charlotte’s Web, Despereaux or any other book-to-movie adaptation. I’m kind of proud, but we’re running out of movies.
In Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” a child hammers some nails into a wall, is sent to his room without any supper and finds solace and wild fun on an island of monsters who pronounce him king. Considering Jonze’s own propensity toward mischief, it was tempting to see his fight with the studio (which, by the time I sat down with him, was more than a year old) as an embodiment of the eternal struggle between freedom-seeking child and authoritarian parent. Jonze chose a different family metaphor. “It’s like the studio was expecting a boy, and I gave birth to a girl,” he told me. “And now they’re learning to love and accept their daughter.”
The studio, for its part, was doing its best to give the impression that it had fully embraced Jonze’s vision. “This is an incredibly personal and intimate movie, and that’s going to work with all audiences,” Sue Kroll, the head of marketing at Warner Brothers, assured me. But observers both inside and outside of Hollywood remained skeptical. One former high-placed Warner Brothers executive I spoke to said that the studio had, in recent years, become less hospitable to unconventional directors like Jonze. Faced with a strange beast like “Where the Wild Things Are,” he explained, Warner’s executives didn’t always know what to do. “The studio is set up to be a big-movie, big-star, big-spectacle money-making machine,” he said, “and it views anything other than that with enormous trepidation.”
For a time, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the prospects for unorthodox moviemaking in Hollywood appeared promising. Prompted by the phenomenal success of “Pulp Fiction” in 1994, the big Hollywood studios tentatively opened their gates (and their wallets) to a new generation of “independent” directors, among them Jonze and his friends David O. Russell and Alexander Payne. In 2003, when Jonze was just starting work on “Where the Wild Things Are,” Warner Brothers established a boutique division that went on to put out movies like “Before Sunset” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.” But five years later, Warner Brothers Independent, like many other prestige units in Hollywood, was shut down by its parent studio, and “Where the Wild Things Are” began to feel a little like a relic, an artifact from some freewheeling, irretrievable past. When I sat down with Jonze, I’d just seen a rough cut of the movie, and although I’d been expecting something unusual, I hadn’t quite been prepared for either the Cassavetes-speak or the lack of any clear conflict or resolution. I told Jonze I’d imagined something more along the lines of a traditional children’s fantasy film, something like “Harry Potter,” for example.
He looked at me as if I’d let him down. “It’s in the visual language of, like, some sort of fantasy film, and it is a fantasy film to some degree,” he acknowledged, “but the tone of it is its own tone. We wanted it all to feel true to a 9-year-old and not have some big movie speech where a 9-year-old is suddenly reciting the wisdom of the sage.” He hadn’t set out to make a children’s movie, he said, so much as to accurately depict childhood. “Everything we did, all the decisions that we made, were to try to capture the feeling of what it is to be 9.”
Profiled at the Independent. Could her eyes sparkle any more impishly? Does she use drops in the green room? I sometimes swear she’s about to sprinkle dust on me and turn me into something. But what? WHAT?
It’s hard to know if Atwood is jesting. The Canadian writer sitting before me, bird-like, with sparkling blue eyes, appears to have mastered the art of a deadpan delivery of her punch-lines, reserving an ironic smile for her firmly-held views. But she’s here today on a very serious environmental purpose.
Her new novel, The Year of the Flood, by Bloomsbury (£18.99), features a dystopia in which science has had cataclysmic consequences on the environment, and it represents Atwood’s call on “greenies” to mobilise.
Its publication is marked by a series of “musical” book readings at which Atwood will read from the book’s “green hymns”, and is accompanied by local musicians and environmentally-friendly props made from re-usable Sainsbury’s bags and bric-à-brac reclaimed from rubbish dumps. The proceeds are dedicated to bird organisations, including the RSPB, of which Atwood is a passionate supporter.
At one such reading at Manchester cathedral this week the performance is a cross between a funky church choir – her hymns were sung by the city’s lesbian and gay singers – and an enthralling storytelling session for grown-ups.
The novel is her latest addition to an oeuvre that has spanned five decades of poetry, prize-winning fiction, and critical tomes. It describes the fall-out of an immense natural disaster that leaves few human survivors and a herd of genetically-spliced animals roaming in the atrophied wilderness.
The tour is an inspired idea, but, I suggest, surely a daunting undertaking for a writer who is a stone’s throw away from turning 70? Atwood appears impervious to the expectations – and gravitational wear and tear – associated with her age. When asked about the disappearance of the elderly in popular culture, she quips: “Old people disappear from society because they keel over. Look at Diana Athill, my first editor. She’s 92 and carrying on… I always have fun with whatever I do. There’s too much around that’s not fun. People should live life as joyfully as possible,” she says before tripping herself up. “I sound like Mary Poppins.”
I can get with that. Luckily back when I was in a creative writing program, I countered the shame with arrogance and bravado. Which is why I got all my degradation in one lump some on getting the hell out of there. Once I recovered from the experience, I actually began to write well. Now, of course, there’s this whole “arts administration” thing to deal with…
Once, at a cocktail party, the famous former director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop Paul Engle described a recurring nightmare:
He was a prisoner, he said, in a concentration camp where he’d been singled out for a specially degrading punishment. Along the camp’s outer rock wall, about six feet off the ground, was a series of holes or depressions. Brought out naked before the massed prisoners, he had to bend over and grasp his ankles, then hoisted by the guards, put his feet in two of those depressions . . . proceeding around the wall like a fly. But, he said, after a while he found he could do this . . . better . . . than anyone had ever done it. In time, he was simply whizzing around the wall while guards and prisoners, no longer jeering, looked on with amazement and admiration.
The dream allegorizes Engle’s path as a promising poet who had become a teacher and administrator: The sort of jobholding that any Romantic poet would have held in contempt proved to be Engle’s métier. Just this kind of exposure and humiliation, and the transformation of shameful discipline into a mode of genius, reflects the writing-program experience as McGurl identifies it. Within the workshop structure, each student introduces private writing for public scrutiny, critique, and correction by competitor-collaborators and an instructor-judge. The risk of embarrassment is curbed only by the cult of revision, which leaves no work subject to final judgment; all writing is in progress, and a fetish is made of the expertise that moves a comma or does fifteen drafts; while the exposed self can be redeemed by a mature perspective (of dissociation or wistful regret) woven into the telling.
- Sign of the times item for Friday: publishers cancelling books in order to save money
- In Tennessee it takes a court order to get textbooks for your children… plinkplink plink plink plink plink plink plink plinnnnnk…
- Maud points to this annoying, but awesome, website where you can adopt an endangered word (move your mouse near the page edges to scroll) I adopted Teliferous, which I think jives nicely with the site…
- Googles news search now indexes idiocy, much like it’s web search
- Salinger sequel may or may not be illegal, but judge is sure of one thing: it sucks
- Seattle libraries forced to close for week to save money—people turned out onto street gravitate to coffee and pot… sorry, let me reprhase that: “people turned out onto street gravitate BACK to coffee and pot”
- News to me: There’s room for independents in e-book retailing
- “The day after Amazon.com filed its objections to the settlement in federal court, the Authors Guild fired back with a letter accusing the book retailing giant of wanting to corner the market on e-books“
John Freeman, the new editor at Granta, is shaking things up by bringing Granta to the world and the world to Granta. Mostly through Chicago. Which is truly a great city. My time there a couple years ago was fantastic.
Why so hot on Chicago? Were any other cities aced out?
It wasn’t even close! It had to be Chicago, or we would have just turned to another theme. London was the only other city issue we did, 10 years ago, and it was our best-selling issue in British history. It would be nice if the same thing happened in America with the Chicago issue, but it will also be so interesting to our readers in England. Right now, Chicago is having a real cultural moment. There are so many good writers coming out of the city, and the city itself is evolving out of its industrial past, accepting new immigrants from many different parts of the world, so the heady mix of the city’s population is changing too, and obviously Barack Obama is also a powerful symbol of that. But if Chicagoans read the issue and feel this is exactly what the city is like, that will be the toughest litmus test for me. I’m not from Chicago, so we relied on the writers to tell us the stories that mattered. I hope everyone feels it does the city justice, not as boosterism, but as a work of art.
How do I do this again? On the other hand, $60 for poetry isn’t necessarily that far off industry standard…. The intrepid boy reporter, Mark Medley, files this story.
While institutional opposition to the settlement is mounting, the choice of opting in or out still falls to publishers and authors, who would receive 63% of revenues generated by the project.
“Every time I try to read about what the Google settlement actually means — in legal terms, and actual dollars — my eyes start to glaze over,” best-selling author Linwood Barclay wrote in an email. “I’ve not opted out –but mainly for the same reason that I do not switch gas or long distance suppliers. I haven’t the time or energy to sit down and seriously weigh the pros and cons.”
In a post on Facebook on Saturday, Toronto writer Stuart Ross said he was opting out of the settlement.
“I didn’t opt out so I could sue. I opted out because getting $60 for each of my books, so that they could have unlimited use of the text, is a disgusting insult,” Ross says. “I don’t want to ’settle’ with Google: I didn’t enter into negotiations with them to start with. I think the whole thing is a really terrible preceden.”
This is egre-yyyyaaaawwwwwnnnnnnn-gious. Something needs to be done to rectify this as soon as poss.. possib…. pozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……………………
Doing it right depends on what exactly “it” is. Google has been something of a shape-shifter in describing the project. The company likes to refer to Google’s book search as a “library,” but it generally talks about books as just another kind of information resource to be incorporated into Greater Google. As Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, puts it: “We just feel this is part of our core mission. There is fantastic information in books. Often when I do a search, what is in a book is miles ahead of what I find on a Web site.”
Seen in that light, the quality of Google’s book search will be measured by how well it supports the familiar activity that we have come to think of as “googling,” in tribute to the company’s specialty: entering in a string of keywords in an effort to locate specific information, like the dates of the Franco-Prussian War. For those purposes, we don’t really care about metadata—the whos, whats, wheres, and whens provided by a library catalog. It’s enough just to find a chunk of a book that answers our needs and barrel into it sideways.
But we’re sometimes interested in finding a book for reasons that have nothing to do with the information it contains, and for those purposes googling is not a very efficient way to search. If you’re looking for a particular edition of Leaves of Grass and simply punch in, “I contain multitudes,” that’s what you’ll get. For those purposes, you want to be able to come in via the book’s metadata, the same way you do if you’re trying to assemble all the French editions of Rousseau’s Social Contract published before 1800 or books of Victorian sermons that talk about profanity.
Can the arrival of an Oxfam shop (used books with profits going to charity, for you NAers) destroy an indy bookstore? Well, here in Canada, Indigo, a charity shop that donates the proceeds of its sales of yoga mats and novelty pens to disadvantaged rich people who are unable to afford their third, fourth, or fifth golden backscratchers, is well known for its detrimental influence on bookselling, as well as literature, critical thinking, and taste. So, who knows?
To an outsider what seemed curious about all this was not so much that saintly Oxfam would be accused of doing in some struggling little British business in the name of doing good works elsewhere, but that Britons seemed to care so much about an obscure secondhand bookstore. The incident clearly struck a chord.
“It’s partly because of the English stereotype of the dusty bookshop,” Mr. Harrison ventured last week. He was standing outside his store, now empty, nodding gamely to passing neighbors. “But it’s also that the English have a real sense of fair play, and this isn’t fair play, whether it’s for good causes or not.”
He meant that while commercial booksellers like himself may get into the secondhand business for the pleasure of unearthing and selling odd and special volumes, their income relies on the steady sale of the same cheap used paperbacks that are Oxfam’s bread and butter. But unlike commercial dealers, Oxfam, as a charity, gets its inventory free. Its shops are staffed largely by volunteers. It enjoys generous tax benefits.
With nearly $500 million in British government support it can afford not just the higher rents on busier thoroughfares where more people shop, but also the costs of fancy remodeling. Like Barnes & Noble or Borders franchises in America, or Waterstone’s here, Oxfam bookstores are made to look alike. They’re bright, white, sleek and inviting places, branded advertisements, except not for some megabucks chain store but for a charity.
A digi-novel… Part book, part movie, part website. Damn, I’m already sick and tired of it, and I’ve just barely introduced it. If you’re going to try to make me haul my fat ass off the goddamn couch to finish the story, you obviously haven’t thought this thing through.
Zuiker has created “Level 26,” a crime novel that also invites readers to log on to a website about every 20 pages using a special code to watch a “cyber-bridge” — a three-minute film clip tied to the story.
Starting next Tuesday, readers can buy the book, visit the website, log in to watch the “cyber-bridges,” read, discuss and contribute to the story.
“Just doing one thing great is not going to sustain business,” he said. “The future of business in terms of entertainment will have to be the convergence of different mediums. So we did that — publishing, movies and a website.”
He said he did not believe the digi-novel would ever replace traditional publishing, but said the business did need a shot in the arm.
Maybe it’s me who need B12 shots in the arm or something, but this just smacks of way too much effort.
For the record, my shadowy minions, if someone set up a Murray Fellowship to help me quit my day job, I would not only accept, I would quite possibly do so through a haze of tears and hysterical cackling. And I’d offer a backrub in return. Just putting that out there. Big hands, people. Big. Hands.
The Bloomsbury group attempted to set up a fund to provide TS Eliot with a private income and allow him to give up his job at Lloyd’s, but he preferred to continue working as a bank clerk, according to a new exhibition about the poet which opens later this month.
Concerned that Eliot was wasting his time at Lloyd’s, and that he should devote himself full-time to writing, some of the members of the Bloomsbury group dreamed up the “Eliot Fellowship Fund”, which would see subscribers paying a contribution to create an income for the author. But Eliot enjoyed the routine of his work at the bank, and rejected the idea; letters from Virginia Woolf included in a forthcoming exhibition at the British Library show her attempting to work out his feelings on the scheme, which she describes as “that cursed fund”.
Asking Eliot to forgive her “for what I feel to be an impertinence on my part”, Woolf sets out the details of the fund, that “£500 a year is the least sum that would make it worth your while to leave the bank”, and “that you do not consider that pledges to pay a yearly contribution are a sufficient security”. She asks Eliot to “simply put ‘yes’” on a postcard if she has it right, adding that “Leonard and I entirely agree with you, if these are your views”.
- A David Mitchell short story in the Guardian (part of that all-star Amnesty anthology)
- First Pages, and now Type on the Danforth… Toronto’s independent bookstores continue flounder… maybe more CDs and scented candles, guys? How about a clothing section?
- Science and non-sense poetry, together at last
- US poetry gets Arabic audience… I’d really like to see this in reverse, first
- Today in overblown recession news: UK book trade passes £1B mark at same point as last year
- Just in time for next week: a primer on how to discuss lit/monster mash up novels (and presumably not sound like you’re stoned… No, no! I got it! Get this… Dude! Duuuuuuuude! I’m laughing so hard I can’t get it out… Okay, focus, man… M’kay, here I go: “Of Mice and Men and … Aliens or something…” I’m lawling here.)
A Congolese man is suing to have Tintin in the Congo withdrawn from publication on charges of racism. You can sue a book for “racism”? I thought you sued for “hate” and spat- and/or punched-authors-in-the-face for racism.
Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, 41, is taking legal action claiming Hergé’s controversial Tintin In The Congo is propaganda for colonialism and amounts to “racism and xenophobia”.
“Tintin’s little (black) helper is seen as stupid and without qualities. It makes people think that blacks have not evolved,” he said.
Mr Mbutu Mondondo launched a case in Belgium two years ago for symbolic damages of one euro from Tintin’s Belgian publishers Moulinsart, and demanded the book be withdrawn from the market.
No, this isn’t about The Hills* (oh, yes I did…), it’s about Barbie. A guy who did a lot of preliminary research on Barbie for his book (out 15 years back) is upset that he wasn’t credited in a new book on the culture-ruining doll.
Histories do not grow on trees. The first person to cobble out a definitive narrative has to do a ton of work. You interview hundreds of people and hunt down documents, which can be especially elusive if influential people would prefer that they stay hidden. You separate truth from hearsay. Then — with endnotes — you meticulously source all your quotations and odd facts so future scholars will know whence they came.
I did all this for “Forever Barbie,” which came out more than 15 years ago. Many of my sources are now dead. With the help of Kroll Associates, the detective agency that located deposed Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos’ ill-gotten properties in the United States, I unearthed compromising legal papers about a patent infringement suit. And I discovered bizarre facts — the way that, for example, the doll’s original production schedule had been organized around the rice harvest in Japan. (Barbie’s first clothes were hand-sewn by women workers in the Japanese countryside.)
This is why I felt so violated when Gerber apparently plucked pieces of my hard-won narrative off the history tree.
*For the record, I’ve only just recently pieced together that some network is running a show full of vapid airheads called “The Hills” from the various pop culture sites I read… I think it’s a “reality” show.
Robert McCrum, the Crime Fighting Critic, notes that the more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s so deep, man. You should totally write that down.
Just as the news from the world of books seems to point inexorably to a cyber-niscient (I just made that up, breaking several etymological principles in the process), digitised future dominated by virtual texts and e-reading, three little items (insignificant in themselves) pop up as a nice reminder that the literary process doesn’t – indeed, cannot – change as much as we might fear or imagine.
Are you a finisher or a leaverinthemiddleof-er? This woman praises just walking out on books when you’re done with them. No, silly, that’s PEOPLE you’re thinking of. Books are sacred and have feelings we need to protect from our indifference.
Some folks feel the need to finish any book once started; that this is something “owed” to the author. Some also won’t walk out on a bad film because it’s been paid for, or send back a plate of pricey dog food in this week’s hot restaurant for fear of “looking bad”. But if a close personal friend didn’t write the book, take you to the cinema, or cook the meal, why care?
- Edinburgh festival defies economic scare-mongering
- Nick Cave wants me to read books on my cell phone? Yes SIR! Anyone you need killed, m’lord?
- Fragments of world’s oldest bible discovered in Egypt* (Um, not to be dismissive but, isn’t saying you found a fragment of something old in Egypt kind of like crowing about having discovered sand there?)
- Bertrand Russell gets graphically novelized… (How does one typographically render the sound of someone chuckling while saying, “Mmmmmmmmm!” Because I’d like to stick that before “ex-CITE-ing!” to fully convey the sarcastic breadth of my doubt here)
- Amazon officially takes Google to court
- Canadian poets head to Iceland (geez, guys, traditionally we Canadians travel to Florida… It’s like you’re gluttons for cold-and-majestic-scenery punishment)
- Random Culture: Monkey’s love heavy metal (Dude, I grew up in Bradford, Ontario… I could have told you that without doing the expensive tests… From Claire’s Twitter)
- A closer look at Disney’s acquisition of Marvel… (you know, you’d think with all those deadly, closeted, be-pajamaed ‘roid freaks hanging around Marvel would have been able to mount a better defence… But I suppose in the end no one can stand against Goofey’s almighty “ah-YHUK!”)
- Sometimes I forget how awesome John Lennon is…
- Publisher plans to push Pooh… heee…. hhheeeeee! It’s days like today that I love this tiny internet prison I’ve fashioned for my hopes and dreams…
*Note: not in drawer at Best Western
I posted this a few years ago, but Lady Ninja reminded me of it recently and so I thought it time to dust it off for another good larf. Fry and Laurie do Tricky Linguistics.
Atwood, the sharp-eyed prophet of quirky doom, is 69 now, but she has never, it seems, forgotten the Eden into which she was born. All of her nightmarish visions – the vicious subjugations of The Handmaid’s Tale (the Taliban’s book at bedtime), the genetically engineered hell of Oryx and Crake (to which the current book forms a kind of sequel) – have been created, you guess, in pointed contrast to her formative years. Her father was an entomologist, a taxonomer of all Linnaeus’s creatures (as such a kind of role model for Adam One, the Gardeners’ leader in The Year of the Flood).
From when she was a baby he took Atwood with him, along with her elder brother and her mother, a dietician, on expeditions from their ostensible home in Ottawa migrating north when the ice melted, south when the snow came, the time between spent in a tent or “in a cabin built by my father on a granite point a mile by water from a Quebec village so remote that the road only arrived two years before I was born”.
Pretty much what the headline says. Kind of like a bookish throwback to last year when the Bush administration’s Joe-the-Plumber appeal was waning, but a good ivory tower-bashing was still appreciated by the public… Still there are points. But I’d add this: difficult books aren’t necessarily bad, and most good books will open further on a second reading.
There was a time when difficult literature was exciting. T.S. Eliot once famously read to a whole football stadium full of fans. And it’s still exciting—when Eliot does it. But in contemporary writers it has just become a drag. Which is probably why millions of adults are cheating on the literary novel with the young-adult novel, where the unblushing embrace of storytelling is allowed, even encouraged. Sales of hardcover young-adult books are up 30.7% so far this year, through June, according to the Association of American Publishers, while adult hardcovers are down 17.8%. Nam Le’s “The Boat,” one of the best-reviewed books of fiction of 2008, has sold 16,000 copies in hardcover and trade paperback, according to Nielsen Bookscan (which admittedly doesn’t include all book retailers). In the first quarter of 2009 alone, the author of the “Twilight” series, Stephenie Meyer, sold eight million books. What are those readers looking for? You’ll find critics who say they have bad taste, or that they’re lazy and can’t hack it in the big leagues. But that’s not the case. They need something they’re not getting elsewhere. Let’s be honest: Why do so many adults read Suzanne Collins’s young-adult novel “The Hunger Games” instead of contemporary literary fiction? Because “The Hunger Games” doesn’t bore them.
All of this is changing. The revolution is under way. The novel is getting entertaining again. Writers like Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Donna Tartt, Kelly Link, Audrey Niffenegger, Richard Price, Kate Atkinson, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke, to name just a few, are busily grafting the sophisticated, intensely aware literary language of Modernism onto the sturdy narrative roots of genre fiction: fantasy, science fiction, detective fiction, romance. They’re forging connections between literary spheres that have been hermetically sealed off from one another for a century. Look at Cormac McCarthy, who for years appeared to be the oldest living Modernist in captivity, but who has inaugurated his late period with a serial-killer novel followed by a work of apocalyptic science fiction. Look at Thomas Pynchon—in “Inherent Vice” he has swapped his usual cumbersome verbal calisthenics for the more maneuverable chassis of a hard-boiled detective novel.
This is the future of fiction. The novel is finally waking up from its 100-year carbonite nap. Old hierarchies of taste are collapsing. Genres are hybridizing. The balance of power is swinging from the writer back to the reader, and compromises with the public taste are being struck all over the place. Lyricism is on the wane, and suspense and humor and pacing are shedding their stigmas and taking their place as the core literary technologies of the 21st century.
- Top 10 geekiest invented languages (somehow English, as spoken through a mouthful of Ruffles and Mountain Dew and used expressly for the purpose of arguing about the legality of play in a game of Magic cards, didn’t make the cut)
- Dudes, if you are not only an Ikea purist (ie, you’d never mix a cherry flarfenhauser with a mocha oak schuffuppenpöper), but also a font nerd, I warn you… this isn’t pretty
- Roller Derby Librarian… What does it say about me that before I got it, I thought her name, Megabeth, was a play on MacBeth?
Daily Dose of Digital
- Wikipedia to colour code entries by “trustworthiness”, simulatenously open new sub-entry for “troll”
- More on e-books as the “greener” choice… heh… greener…
- Publishers hate Amazon………………’s ebook pricing
- Cellstories to “compete” with Kindle