Adam Mars-Jones does a nice number on John Irving's new novel, Until I Find You in The Observer today.
His good and to-the-point lines reminded us that Mars-Jones was once a promising fiction-writer -- named, for example, one of Granta's 'Best Young British Novelists' in both 1983 and 1993 (no mean feat).
The problem being that he hasn't proven to be much of a novelist -- one novel to his name, and no fiction-publications in ages.
On the one hand we think: too bad (his early efforts showed considerable promise).
On the other hand, we have great admiration for any writer who knows his limitations and won't write when they don't have anything to write (a lesson Mr Irving (and thousands of other writers) have obviously not learnt).
But now his CV at agent PFD lists two forthcoming titles that sound fictional, Box Hill and Everything is Different in our House (not very appealing descriptions, however) -- no listings for either at Amazon.co.uk, but publisher Faber does acknowledge the latter (without providing any additional information).
The most recent Harry Potter again brings up the issue of book-piracy -- especially for foreign versions, since the official translators only got the book upon English publication, giving them no head-start over any amateur translators.
Murdo Macleod writes about this problem in Rowling's millions get lost in translation in Scotland on Sunday.
At Cybernoon Tina Aranha describes some Indian pirate-sales in Signal pirates sell Harry Potter for 600! -- not much of a discount (especially since it's a soft-cover version, unlike the official hardback)
Meanwhile, in writing that Potter translation pushes ahead the Shanghai Daily News claims there is some tolerance for unofficial versions:
Neil Blair, the lawyer for author J.K.Rowling, confirmed in an e-mail that non-commercial fan fictions including online translations are permitted.
Tong agreed that online translation works by fans might be used to produce pirated books, but he said it is hard to fight with pirated book producers and sellers.
That Harry Potter is a desirable piracy-target -- especially in translation, where official versions aren't yet available (or English originals in short supply, as seems the case in India) -- is understandable, as is a market for pirated versions of exorbitantly priced textbooks, but we're a bit surprised to hear about more widespread book-piracy.
In the Times of India they report: Pirated books worth Rs 1.25 crore seized, and write:
How many times have you bought a bestseller from a bookstore only to see its pirated version lined at the 'patri' right outside for one-tenth the price you paid for the original.
Perhaps every time.
We've never come across pirated prints at one-tenth the price (stolen copies at half price seems the US standard) -- and we're wondering about the economics here.
Given that production costs are (supposedly) such a major part of book-production, how can pirates print the stuff and sell it at one-tenth the price ?
Shoddy printing surely only makes for so much cost-savings -- so what the hell kind of margin are Indian publishers working with ?
PTI also write about the crack-down, mentioning some of the titles being pirated, including The Da Vinci Code and -- you've got to be kidding -- Vikram Seth's An Equal Music.
But we like the sinister sound of:
Police seized the printing paraphernalia used to produce the books from Wadhwani's godown in Shalimar Bagh in north Delhi.
As if books in translation don't face enough problems, here's a new one: we recently got a copy of the University of Nebraska Press' forthcoming Red Haze by Christian Gailly (review to follow soon; see also their publicity page), a translation of his Nuage Rouge.
What gives ?
Well, a translator's note explains:
Nuage Rouge, Gailly's French title, literally translates as "Red Cloud."
This edition is titled "Red Haze" to avoid possible confusion with other books published by the University of Nebraska Press.
Yes, we've heard of title-troubles with different publishers offering books with similar or identical titles, but never a publisher having that problem with their own books -- but, yes, the University of Nebraska Press published Frank Goodyear's Red Cloud just two years ago (see their publicity page), as well as James Olson's Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem (see their publicity page).
We recently mentioned that North and South Korean writers recently got together officially for the first time in decades.
They issued a June 15 joint declaration, the text of which can be found here.
Nice ambition, but we're not too sure how this will work out:
We fully support the proposal for awarding the "June 15 Prize for Reunification Literature" to those who make a literary contribution to national reunification as a commendation to be made on behalf of the nation and will work hard to have the honor of receiving the prize.
There's also a (German) report on the meeting, Der kleine Mauerfall, by Hoo Nam Seelmann in today's issue of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (link likely only very short-lasting).
an Australian Government initiative that aims to encourage all Australians to experience the joys of reading.
What does that mean ?
This is done through The 2005 Books Alive Great Read Guide, your personal guide to 50 remarkable books compiled by a trusted team from the book industry.
The website page with the list of the 50 books did not reveal what the books were last we checked (29 July, Australian time, despite the page promising the books would be announced on the 27th ...), so we're not overly impressed by the handling of things at this point.
Some, of course, quickly found reason to be outraged: in The Australian Rosalie Higson reports that Books list an affront.
The reviews for Elias Canetti's Party in the Blitz continue to roll in -- including what appears to be the first US review, Eric Ormsby's unfortunately not freely accessible online review in the 27 July issue of The New York Sun.
Ormsby's take is also entertaining because he's almost creepily Canetti-obsessed:
I can't really claim dispassion.
Canetti's writings, over some 30 years now, have provoked, inspired, consoled, and needled me to such an extent that for long intervals I simply had to refrain from reading him at all.
He naturally also focusses on the notorious Iris Murdoch passages and (despite the fact that he finds her novels unreadable) calls it "a despicable chapter" -- but thinks Canetti was just trying to get her out of his system and: "I doubt he would have included it in the finished memoir."
A Leaf is an A6 book that is small enough to fit into a pocket.
Each Leaf contains one complete high quality short story or short piece of non-fiction written by established and new writers.
The books have a colourful, simple design and are to be colour-coded by genre.
Each story is approximately 4000 words long, so that it may be read in one sitting.
Leaf will be available in coffee shops, tea rooms, cafes, hotel bars -- in fact anywhere where people might be alone with five or ten minutes to spare.
Williamson also mentions that: "Six new books (...) will be published every fortnight", which sounds very ambitious.
No plans for August ?
Why not read the entire Man Booker Prize longlist (to be announced 10 August), 20 books in 28 days.
Bookish makes us aware of this bizarre BBC undertaking, soliciting for Booker pundits:
We’re looking for six enthusiastic, energetic and dedicated people to take part in this book marathon for a programme called Bookered Out.
You don’t have to be a book worm or a literature buff to take part.
Novice readers are more than welcome !
You'll need to read every book on this year's Booker Prize longlist and decide which six you would shortlist.
In addition to reading the books, you must also keep a video diary of your month (cameras and training provided).
Cameras and training provided ... too bad we're already Bookered out .....
Even the Chinese now recognise the value of book award controversy, though they took their sweet time about it this time around: Xinhuanet reports that Critics debate value of literature, taking on the venerable Mao Dun Literary Award ("History shows us that the Mao Dun is the only literary award that can boost sales") -- the results of which were announced in April.
Julian Evans wrote about Man Booker International prizewinner Ismail Kadare in The Guardian at the beginning of June (and mentioned: "Because he survived Hoxha, he has been criticised for not being enough of a dissident. But to read his novels is to find an army of writings to challenge Hoxha's pillboxes that encircled a country and pinned down a people" -- though the recent smack-down at MobyLives (see also our comments) suggests Kadare-bashing is still popular sport).
Now Evans' piece in the July Prospect, Albanian Witness, is also freely accessible.
Evans does note that: "Kadare was a participant in Hoxha's madness", but is relatively forgiving:
However, and rightly, he says that he is not a political writer: "Being critical of a regime is a normal state of affairs for a writer.
The only act of resistance possible in a classic Stalinist regime was to write -- or you could go to a meeting and say something very courageous, and then be shot."
Evans also provides these interesting titbits:
He may owe his survival to two factors: a residual respect for literature in his country, and the fact that he and Hoxha both came from Gjirokastër; in fact they came from the same street, the "Madmen's Street."
"It was a strange coincidence," he says, "we were both writers; well, he thought he was a writer.
For years we had the same translator."
We finally tackled some Edmond Jabès, and Rosmarie Waldrop's book on Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jabès, and threw in a review of a recent poetry collection of hers for good measure: the most recent additions to the complete review are our reviews of:
Rosmarie Waldrop's Lavish Absence (among the books we've been most eager to review ever since we first heard about it -- not that the publishers would send us a copy (which is why we had to wait until we could find a cheap second-hand copy))
Nice to see some more literary weblog attention: Forbes Best of Web selections are out, and they have a literary weblogs-category -- and since we make the cut we certainly won't complain about their selection.
The weblogs they selected are also individually discussed, and their review of us (and the others) show they've actually looked around and have a pretty good feel for the place.
(As to their concern that we don't talk about who we are or where we are or what our qualifications are ... well, fair enough, though we're surprised anyone cares -- especially about where we are (would we be read differently depending where we we were writing from ?) and -- a perennial favourite -- our "qualifications".
Surely we've proven our basic literacy (we can read !) and surely no other qualifications are required to run a literary weblog.)
More impressive is that some of the dialogues found on literary weblogs are now worthy of very mainstream mention: James Wood, who has been known to mix it up on some literary weblogs, reviews Peter Brooks' Realist Vision in this week's issue of The New Republic (article not freely accessible online at this time) and begins his review with: "two recent statements about literary realism".
One is from a Rick Moody review in Bookforum,
And the second is by Patrick Giles, contributing to a long, raucous discussion about fiction, realism, and fictional credibility on a literary blog called "The Elegant Variation"
Okay, so the description (literary blog) and quotation marks are still necessary (though TEV also made the Forbes list), but it's nice to see that literary weblogs are now pretty much an impossible-to-ignore point of reference.
(Amusingly enough, when we made the rounds of the usual suspects in the literary weblog world before posting this we found nary a mention of this (currently) print-only-comment .....)
Way premature, but this way you have adequate time to make travel plans: the international literature festival berlin starts 6 September.
An impressive programme -- with Carlos Fuentes opening the show and a pretty decent author-list.
The long night of Albert Einstein sounds fun, too, but the absolute highlight will be the ambitious 11 September reading by Eliot Weinberger and others of his "What I Heard about Iraq" (full text available at the London Review of Books, as well as as a Verso book (in the UK; get your copy at Amazon.co.uk) and in What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles (forthcoming -- and soon to be reviewed by us; pre-prder your copy at Amazon.com)).
The first American mass-media review of Chris Cleave's Incendiary we've come across is Malcolm Jones' review in Newsweek, which we feel obligated to mention because we just can't believe that he's so impressed.
He actually believes: "This is a haunting work of art" -- what can he possibly be thinking ?!??
No, we didn't just review these to prove to the Forbes-folk (see above) how truly (and obscurely) internationally-oriented we are.
Paasilinna is enormously popular in his native Finland, and widely translated all across Europe.
The exception ?
Need we spell it out ....?
One novel -- The Year of the Hare -- has appeared in English, as part of the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works (!); see also the Peter Owen publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
We were curious about him because he clearly is a pop-fiction author, and so much of the (little) that is translated into English tends to be on the 'literary' end of the spectrum.
Would Paasilinna stand a chance in the US or UK ?
Hard to judge just from these two works (he's written about 40 novels): Paratiisisaaren vangit is pretty lazy but with the success of the TV-series Lost might be able to enjoy some success; the considerably better Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha probably wouldn't translate ideally (Scandinavian melancholy and all), but isn't half bad.
We'll try and cover some more of his titles eventually -- but he's not a high priority.
In a five-point joint statement, both sides agreed to publish a literary journal, establish a literature award and to uphold the spirit of the 2000 South-North Joint Declaration, which resulted from the 2000 summit meeting.
They also pledged to cooperate regardless of ideology, religion and birthplace.
As for the unification process, they believed unification should first be achieved in the literary world.
However, South Korean representatives who attended the event said yesterday that there was no concrete timeline given regarding when the contents of the joint statement would actually be implemented.
O dear !
The Australian tracks concerns down under about the pernicious influence of postmodernism on schoolkids.
First Luke Slattery and Sid Maher noted States deconstruct postmodern trend:
Education ministers yesterday urged parents to encourage a love of reading in their children, in the face of concerns that controversial postmodern teaching theories have infiltrated the English curriculum.
The minister responsible for Australia's biggest school system yesterday denied the presence of postmodernist influences in the general English curriculum.
NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt said postmodernism was merely a specialised unit within advanced HSC English.
Kadare is Albania's most beloved literary export and one of the central cultural figures in the recently troubled Balkan region -- but unlike many other Eastern Europeans writing under socialist regimes, he was no dissident.
(Recall that Irina Renata Dumitrascu recently made that point (considerably more forcefully -- and angrily); see also our comments.)
UK publication of Elias Canetti's Party in the Blitz coincides with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth (today), so some of the British reviews offer a bit more Canetti-coverage (notably Ferdinand Mount's pretty devastating piece in this week's issue of The Spectator -- alas, not freely accessible online), but that's about it.
The Germans, on the other hand, -- despite no coinciding book publication -- offer nearly wall-to-wall coverage (and a good bit more respect for the old guy, and admiration for his work).
Some of the highlights (all in German):
Less than a week until the Zimbabwe International Book Fair is scheduled to open (it's supposed to run 31 July to 6 August).
They say 2005 Main Book Fair preps in top gear, but given that the Mugabe-regime has been busy with all sorts of other nasty undertakings, we're curious to see whether there will actually be much of a fair this year -- and representatives from what foreign countries will show up.
Silvio Berlusconi, who inexplicably remains the Prime Minister of Italy, is the butt of many jokes and target of many insults -- so he's turned the tables and cashed in: as the BBC reports, Italy PM prints books of insults:
Berlusconi ti odio (I hate you Berlusconi) is an apparent attempt by the PM to show his critics in a bad light, correspondents say.
The Frankfurt Book Fair invited Catalonia to the honoured guest in 2007, Volker Neumann looking forward to authors such as Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, and Juan Goytisolo and/or their work to figure prominently.
Unfortunately, the ultra-nationalist Catalans have other ideas: as Julius Purcell reports in Catalaphobia don't want to have anything to do with Spanish-writing authors .....
Another month, another Cairo Review of Books at Al-Ahram Weekly -- and, like the monthly Literary Review at The Hindu (first Sunday of the month), worth a look to see what's going on abroad.
Particularly noteworthy this time round: the At a glance round-up, with short descriptions of a variety of new publications, giving a nice idea of just what is happening in the Arab world.
Also of interest: Writers' reading, where "writers and critics share their reading lists".
Among the odder responses: Mourid El-Barghouti, who is reading Elfriede Jelinek's The Piano Teacher and also admits (pretty shockingly):
Whenever I have the chance to spend the summer with the family outside Cairo, I never read a single line, not even to browse through newspapers or magazines.
I become single- minded in my attention to the place I am in, contemplating every detail of it.
However, I would recommend Paulo Cohelo's novels as the kind of light reading that could be done during the long days of summer.
Incredibly, he's not the only Coelho fan (and not the only one who misspells the author's name): Abdel-Moneim Ramadan actually admits: "I am half way through Paulo Cohelho's latest novel The Zahir".
But Ramadan redeems himself by revealing:
I am also busy this summer reviewing my translation of Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. Omar Sherif was in the film version of this novel, and he won a special prize at last year's Berlin Film Festival for his role.
Nice to see that that book is coming out in Arabic.
In The Guardian Bobbie Johnson writes about the Internet as an Author's ally.
Among his examples some authors whose books we've recently reviewed: Jasper Fforde (The Big Over Easy) and Chris Cleave (Incendiary).
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Carl Shuker's The Method Actors.
It's published by American publisher Shoemaker & Hoard, but Shuker is from New Zealand, and has spent a good deal of time in Japan -- and it is, among a few other things, very much a book about the gaijin experience in Japan.
Comparisons to David Mitchell seem inevitable (though it's largely a very different book from what Mitchell does, with a few striking similarities), and so it's worthwhile having a look at what Shuker -- a frequent reviewer for the New Zealand Listener -- thinks of him.
From his review of Mitchell's Cloud Atlas:
Though he is flawed, and immature and anal and goofy, and not nearly monstrous enough, he is also a very modern writer, interested in plurality and flux and the special province of good writing, the place of the particular in all of this.
I will buy his next book, and the one after that.
In the Herald Sun Geraldine Mitchell reports on a Grocery bag ban on bus that extends to library books.
And it's not even an anti-terrorist measure.
Shopping bags and library books have been banned on a community bus service for the elderly.
Brimbank City Council, in Melbourne's west, said it feared grocery items could become dangerous missiles
A council investigation reported that drivers faced unnecessary risks and possible injury from unsecured items becoming projectiles.
Hey, there was an official investigation !
We've never encountered flying library books (or grocery items) while travelling on a bus (but will be on the lookout from now on -- and wear a helmet, just in case) -- and we'd figure that any event that turns a library book into a dangerous projectile (a very abrupt stop or the like) is much more likely to also turn an elderly passenger into a -- far more dangerous -- projectile.
But what do we know ....