The bookselling giant Waterstone's yesterday pulled advertising for a new novel about suicide bombers creating mayhem in London.
The book is Chris Cleave's Incendiary, published on Thursday (in the UK) -- and:
The novel remains on sale despite the events of Thursday.
"The book stands as a woman trying to make sense of her life after a tragedy," said a spokesman for the publisher, Chatto and Windus.
But beside the Waterstone's efforts they've scaled back what seems to have been a pretty big publicity campaign: the most noteworthy change (not mentioned by Higgins) is the re-routing away from the dedicated minisite the publishers had set up at http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/incendiary/.
A Flash-advert that began with a big boom, it has now been axed, the URL now forwarding users to the plain-vanilla (and far less 'incendiary') publicity page.
The book will probably still do well enough.
Too bad: we found it piss-poor.
The 1985 Nobel laureate, Claude Simon, -- we're pretty sure he's the only laureate who was born in Madagascar ! -- has passed away.
Shockingly little death-coverage so far: even the French reports available online at, e.g., Le Fiagro and Le Monde are based on AFP and Reuters reports.
For some English coverage, see the BBC and Reuters, for a German dpa report, see the FAZ.
Il Viaggiatore Notturno ('The Night Traveller') by Maurizio Maggiani takes this year's Premio Strega, probably the top Italian literary prize.
(Previous winners include: Cesare Pavese, Alberto Moravia, Giorgio Bassani, Elsa Morante, Dino Buzzati, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Natalia Ginzburg, Primo Levi, Umberto Eco, and Gesualdo Bufalino.
See this official site or (slightly less up-to-date) this one, as well as this brief report about the five finalists.
ANSA offers a report,which begins:
Former plumber Maurizio Maggiani picked up this year's prestigious Strega Prize for Italian literature
We hope he still has a plunger he can employ on the journalist who penned that .....
For additional information, see also the Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore publicity page -- or get your copy of the Italian edition at Amazon.co.uk (Amazon.com doesn't carry it; other works by Maurizio Maggiani have been translated into French, German, etc., but apparently none are available in English).
The first British review of Elias Canetti's Party in the Blitz we've seen, and wouldn't you know it, The Guardian gets Iris Murdoch-biographer Peter Conradi to tackle it.
He likes it well enough (he calls it: "splendidly entertaining") -- and still gets to bash Canetti, with much of the review devoted to the Murdoch-aspects.
In The Guardian Douglas Kennedy tries to explain the evangelical fiction phenomenon in the US to a (presumably baffled) UK audience, in Selling rapture.
Says Kate Duffy, an editor at the New York publishing house, Kensington: "There are two types of books that are really selling in America these days: erotica and inspirational romance," she says.
So what we're wondering is when the first erotic inspirational romances (i.e. evangelical porn) will start appearing (or have they already ?)
Kennedy doesn't quite get it all:
Many a troubled American secularist (this one included) wouldn't mind the sort of divine intervention depicted in LaHaye's Left Behind series, in which all true believers get whisked off to paradise, leaving the rest of us fallen souls to ricochet doubtfully through the one and only life we will ever have.
But, alas, the rapture isn't on the cards just yet.
Howard Jacobson thinks things have gotten too serious, going so far as to diagnose that: "We are back in a new dark age of the imagination."
This in The joke's on us in -- yet again ! -- The Guardian:
By some perverse twist of intellectual history, the very reason we once read novels -- to be liberated from solemnity and absurdity, to be engaged in a merry war with everything around us -- is the very reason we won't read novels which perform such a service now.
The isolation of comedy from everything else we do is symptomatic of this.
We are right to shrink from the very idea of a "funny" book.
There should be no such genre. We should expect laughter to be integral to the business of being serious.
We are back in a new dark age of the imagination. We read to sleep.
Worth thinking about.
Also worth thinking about: Jacobson is probably the most popular British author who, despite repeated efforts, has had the least success in the US (the similarly comic Nigel Williams is among the few other contenders for the title that come to mind); recall his recent (US) flop, The Making of Henry.
If this sort of light fiction has a tough time in the UK, it's absolutely D.O.A. in the US.
And one more piece from today's issue of The Guardian: in Journey to the interior Lisa St Aubin de Teran writes about her adventures in African literature.
We always like it when someone realises there's a world out there:
For readers and writers alike, African literature can be a revelation.
It gave me an entirely new dimension to everything I knew and thought I understood, not only about writing but also about life. Such is the impact, the culture-rush, the sensory enhancement and the emotional excitement of such a discovery that it cannot easily be described or categorised other than as an experience of which one can say, "there was my life prior to and after encountering it".
And it doesn't just work for African literature !
Fiction in translation, for example, often offers similar experiences -- as do other approaches in your local literature !
Experiment, look around, try different stuff !
But, yeah, African literature ain't a bad place to start.
We recently mentioned that George 'not that George' Bush's Prophet Mohamed biography (from which even the US State Department had felt compelled to distance itself) had passed the Egyptian censors.
In Al-Ahram Weekly Gihan Shahine now reports that not everybody is very happy about the decision, in Bush book incites controversy.
Our favourite titbit:
An Arabic translation of the Bush book, appended with a refutation of the 1938 edition, has been reprinted five times since it was published in 2004, and is currently available in bookstores.
Abdallah El-Maged, the book's Saudi Arabian publisher, told the Weekly that after 9/11, "we wanted to explore the books available [in the West] to understand the western mentality and refute misconceptions.
We decided to start with this book because it is particularly offensive to Arabs and Islam."
(Reminder: this book was basically unavailable for ages in 'the West' -- see, for example, the State Department press release -- and surely there are literally thousands of books that would give a better perception of "western mentality" (most surely also filled with quite as many misconceptions ...).
But maybe its antique feel (first published in the 1830s) make it seem more authoritative and significant.
Or maybe just the fun fact that its author has the same name as the sitting American president makes it more appealing .....)
Ferry, who is 81, has published five books of poems (primarily his own, with some translations) between 1960 and 1999.
In 1992, he published a "verse rendering" -- he says it's not a translation -- of the 3,000-year-old Sumerian epic Gilgamesh.
Then he turned to the classic Roman poets Horace and Virgil, with The Odes of Horace and The Epistles of Horace, The Eclogues of Virgil and, just published, The Georgics of Virgil.
So it's been over a week since they gave Ismail Kadare the Man Booker International Prize in Edinburgh (see, for example, our mentions here), and we're amazed by how little coverage there has been.
The British media did a decent (if largely unexceptional) job of covering the prize and the ceremony (with more focus on John Carey's speech than Kadare's).
Elsewhere -- notably the US, but surprisingly also in France -- coverage was poor (to non-existent), which leads us to wonder how much impact the prize will have (remember: it's only awarded bi-annually, making it even harder to remember).
It's certainly not anywhere near Nobel-competition yet, and looks to be overshadowed even outside the UK by the traditional Man Booker prize.
How will they ever keep up interest in it, when there's so little interest now ?
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has a long (German) interview with Orhan Pamuk.
Among the interesting points: he thinks that of the 35 languages his books have been translated into, German was the one in which he was least-best well-known, at least until Snow (and, now, of course, his getting the German Peace Prize).
Lizzie Murphy reports that Writer battles on with more war books at 78.
Charles Whiting apparently churns them out at a Simenon-like pace: "Over the past 51 years the York man has written, on average, six books a year" -- he's working on number 326 (and 327).
Admirable, of course, in a perverse way, but we do hope he slows down sometime over the next few decades.
You've read the articles in the US and the UK press (and presumably you're very, very tired of them -- we know we are), but look: it's an international phenomenon !
Seo Jee-yeon reports in The Korea Times that Blogs Emerge as New Book Marketing Tool.
Yes, they can quote people who acknowledge:
We confirmed that blogs can be used effectively as a word-of-mouth marketing tool
And at least these are probably examples you haven't read about before.
Given the ubiquity of Amazon.com it's hard to believe (for us, at least) that they opened shop a mere decade ago.
But that's the case: 16 July marks the ten-year anniversary.
Marking the occasion, Elizabeth Gillespie writes that In 10 years, Amazon.com became a best seller of its own in a widely reproduced AP report.
The most interesting titbits (to us):
"More than 900,000 third-party sellers now hawk their wares on Amazon, making up more than a quarter of last year's overall sales"
"International sales accounted for nearly half the company's revenue last year"
Not very literary, but it is a link to an article published in the London Review of Books, and it's important enough for us to bother sending you there: Ed Harriman wonders: Where has all the money gone ? as he "follows the auditors into Iraq".
Talk about depressing exercises.
Talk about lack of accountability.
Talk about .... well, we hope somebody talks about it.
The 2005 Caine Prize -- the big African short story prize -- was announced yesterday, and, as the BBC reports, Monday Morning (by Segun Afolabi) won.
For very brief excerpts from all the shortlisted works, see this BBC report -- and have a look at Wasafiri, which published the prize-winning work.
(Unfortunately practically none of the content is freely accessible online).
Yes, the Brazilian Festa Literária Internacional de Parati starts tomorrow.
Authors that will be there include: David Grossman, Enrique Vila-Matas, Jeanette Winterson, Michael Ondaatje, Orhan Pamuk, Jõ Soares, and Salman Rushdie
Luis Fernando Verissimo's Borges and the Eternal Orangutans is a perfect novel.
I'll say it again: This book is a perfect novel.
Much as we are favourably disposed to it, we can't quite agree.
In hiding rather than merely disguising the essential for most of the book (there is no way for the reader to know or even guess the truth before he chooses to reveal it) the author offers something clever, not something perfect.
Playwright Christopher Fry has passed away -- and you'll probably be forgiven if you thought that happened decades ago.
As the obituaries point out, his career peaked in the early 1950s.
As the Daily Telegraphobituary notes:
Then suddenly, in the mid-1950s, Fry's star began to fade. (...)
The critics of the late 1950s dismissed Fry's plays as escapist. (...)
A Yard of Sun, was not completed until 1970.
By that time, Fry was so unfashionable, he did not even consider offering the play to a West End producer.
In The Independent Steve Paulson tries to explain to British readers who the Kakutani is.
At least one person tries to put her (and her power) in perspective:
Paul Bogaards, publicity director for publishers Alfred A Knopf, doubts that any single reviewer has that power, not even Michiko.
"No one, with the exception of Oprah, has the ability to advance a book singlehandedly to a mainstream audience," he said.
"But there remains a coterie of readers -- readers who might be described as the high-minded literary, earnest academics and the media élite -- who view her as destination programming."
In The Hindu Suchitra Behal interviews (via e-mail) Penguin Worldwide CEO John Makinson in Shifting gears, discussing Penguin (India)'s new line of Indian-language texts (see the press release announcing it) and more.
Particularly interesting: the second (and additional) language leap -- and not just in India:
a country like India can't be looked at as a monolithic entity; it is too multicultural and diverse for that.
Many Indian languages have a massive readership.
On a global scene, it doesn't make as much sense, for instance, to publish in German or French.
But it does make sense to cater to the large Latino market in the U.S. and that's something we're looking at.
Knopf already publishes some titles in Spanish; it'll be interesting to see if Penguin jumps into that market too.
The Telegraph has a profile of writer Susan Hill, but it doesn't really touch upon her interesting new venture.
She's run a small publishing house, Long Barn Books, for a couple of years, publishing non-fiction -- and now she's trying something more adventurous, publishing some first fiction.
She explains what she's up to in In the footsteps of Virginia Woolf in The Guardian:
The initial plan is for Long Barn Books to publish one novel a year and put everything behind it.
It will be a first novel (though the writer may have brought out non-fiction).
Age and sex are immaterial though the writer must be a UK citizen.
Long Barn Books has been egalitarian from the start. Every author receives the same advance on royalties of £1,000 and the same royalty contract. The novel will come out in paperback only and the good news is that Waterstone's has agreed, sight unseen, to stock and include it in its paperback promotions. That is a deal worth having.
In The Korea Herald there's a review (second title) of Lee Jae-ho's Mistranslation of Culture, which sounds fairly interesting:
After a meticulous and comprehensive inspection of translated texts and articles in Korea, Lee, professor emeritus of Sungkyunkwan University, found abundant examples of mistranslations that he says hinders Koreans' access of foreign cultures.
The examples alone aren't too impressive, but the basic idea -- mistranslation contributing to misperception and misunderstanding (which, at 384 pages, we figure this book does eventually go into) -- is an interesting one.
I remember Auberon Waugh used to review in the Seventies.
He would review books on the basis of the author’s photograph on the back cover.
This sounds like a bit of an exaggeration ... and recall that Kate Kellaway claimed: "Waugh's critical 'ethics' included admitting that if he had not read a book, he always gave it a positive notice."
Also fun: A.N.Wilson facing the consequences of reviewing Richard Adams' The Girl in a Swing ("I thought it was possibly the worst thing I had ever read"):
I met him seven years later and he proceeded to quote the whole review.
At About Last Night Terry Teachout makes us aware of a truly peculiar situation, as he writes about the forthcoming German edition of Deirdre Bair's Jung-biography.
The statement Bair wrote that will appear in that edition is reproduced there in full, and the beginning is enough to knock your socks off:
The heirs of C.G. Jung, led by their spokesperson Ulrich Hoerni, have raised objections concerning the alleged invasion of their privacy that, due to German law, has forced Knaus Verlag to include their opinions of Jung's life and work within the pages of my book.
These will appear as annotations to my extensive notes that follow the text.
This unprecedented invasion of my book by the Jung heirs is an appalling act and is happening against my will.
It's no wonder Bair is upset -- what author could stand an "invasion" of their book in this manner ? -- but we'd love to know how it came to this.
For one, we wonder why Bair is permitting publication of the book in this form at all, since it's hard to believe that her contract would not allow her to kill publication, given what is apparently such large-scale tampering.
And what German laws were involved ?
(Clearly ones that don't apply in the US or the UK, where the book appeared in unadulterated form.)
We'd love to hear the full story -- and one hopes the German press will dig into this.
(The book is only scheduled for publication in October, and a quick look around didn't uncover any relevant German-press mentions yet.)
One also wonders whether German reactions generally aren't anticipated to be more emotional (and that some people there -- more than in the US, anyway -- might actually care).
It's worth noting that the publicity page for the German edition is much more sensationalistic that that for the American edition, beginning:
Selbstverliebter Egoist, Familientyrann, Frauenheld mit peinlichen Manieren und kindischen Ausbrüchen –- an keiner Person in der Geschichte der modernen Seelenkunde scheiden sich die Geister wie an dem Schweizer C.G. Jung; keiner provozierte in gleichem Maße Hass und Bewunderung wie diese Ikone der Psychoanalyse.
(Vainglorious egoist, family tyrant, ladies' man with scrupulous manners and childish eruptions -- no other person in the history of modern psychotherapy divides opinion as much as the Swiss C.G.Jung; no one else provoked in equal measure hatred and admiration as this icon of psychoanalysis.)
We're always suspicious of literary (and similar) estates (see, for example, our piece on Literary Legacies); what Bair describes here isn't (unfortunately) a new low, but it's pretty damned bad
You will know a lot about the petty quarrels and squabbles in which Jung repeatedly engaged, and about the details of his domestic life, but relatively little about why any of these things matter in the first place.
Stephen Boykewich reports A festival pays homage to a Russian absurdist -- Daniil Kharms.
Of interest also because readers will run across the name in the story "The Kharms Case" when they read (as we hope some of you will) Dubravka Ugresic's Lend Me Your Character -- itself, somewhat confusingly, a new, polished translation ("as revised by Damion Searls") of the book previously published as In the Jaws of Life (which we have under review).
The venerable Dalkey Archive Press is behind the new version of the Ugresic book, and while we don't have a separate review-page for it yet, we soon will.
Meanwhile, see the Dalkey Archive Press publicity page (and Matthew Goulish's Reading Dubravka Ugresic Through Six Selected Sentences in Context), or get your own copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
And for a taste of Kharms, check out this online selection.
Writers and critics all noticed an obvious omission of urban literature in the award-winning works of the prestigious Luxun Literature Awards presented in Shenzhen on Sunday.
A discussion of the reasons for and solutions to this absence was initiated at a seminar on contemporary urban literature, held as part of the event.
Most critics agreed that Chinese literature was still influenced by agrarian themes and Chinese writers were more familiar with countryside subjects.
Many writers lacked the ability to judge or portray urban life, as Chinese cities had undergone rapid development within the past 20 years