Kertész Imre's Fatelessness is getting some decent UK coverage.
Today David Cesarani reviews it in The Guardian -- but will the publishers dare use this obviously catchy comparison as a blurb on the next edition ?
It is almost like reading Catcher in the Rye transferred to Auschwitz.
This week it is The Times that offers a puffy Salman Rushdie profile, as he: "talks to Ginny Dougary about the war on terror, wonderful women -- and why he thinks Joanna Trollope is cool"
Marianne Wiggins -- one of his many wives, and the one who recently got in trouble for reviewing his buddy John Irving's Until I Find You -- briefly came up, but unfortunately Ginny doesn't do much with this promising topic:
When I ask him about her, he says: "Do not start me on Marianne Wiggins."
Oh, it’s like that still, is it ?
"Yes, it is."
So we hope one of the next interviewers isn't so soft and does get him started on her.
Stuart Kelly's The Book of Lost Books is due out soon (in the UK; in the US you'll have to wait until April), so he's getting some decent coverage for his intriguing-sounding book.
In The Independent they give him space to write about The missing masterpieces, while in The Times Katherine Swift offered a sort of description/review of the book.
As to The Book of Lost Books, see the Viking publicity page (as well as the still uninformative Random House one), get your copy at Amazon.co.uk, or pre-order at Amazon.com.
Philip Roth's The Plot Against America is about to appear on the German market (as Verschwörung gegen Amerika).
Readers may recall the to-do at last fall's Frankfurt Book Fair, when copies of the book with its swastika-emblazoned cover caused a fuss.
The cover of the German edition "fixes" that problem .....
Meanwhile, Roth is doing his best to push the book: last week we mentioned his interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, this week he talks to Die Zeit.
Unfortunately some kid (Sacha Verna) conducts the interview, which is less than brilliant.
Still, Roth does knock the jr.Bush administration:
ROTH: Sie versucht, sämtliche Errungenschaften der Roosevelt-Ära, des New Deal zu demontieren.
Sie versucht, alles zu eliminieren, was auch nur entfernt die Züge eines Wohlfahrtsstaats trägt.
Das ist natürlich kriminell.
Hätten die Ereignisse vom 11. September nun nicht stattgefunden ... der islamische fundamentalistische Faschismus würde sich trotzdem Gehör verschaffen.
Es wäre irgendwann sowieso zum Showdown gekommen zwischen Amerika und dem Islam und Europa und dem Islam.
Die Welt sähe also möglicherweise gar nicht so anders aus.
Die Zeit: Und die Kriege in Afghanistan und dem Irak ?
ROTH: Ohne den 11. September hätten wir vermutlich keinen Krieg in Afghanistan.
Den Krieg im Irak wollte Bush ja offensichtlich seit seinem Amtsantritt.
Diese Regierung hätte auch ohne die Anschläge Vorwände gefunden, in der Welt den Schaden anzurichten, den sie derzeit anrichtet.
(ROTH: They're trying to dismantle all the accomplishments of the Roosevelt era, the New Deal.
They're trying to eliminate everything that in any way suggests a welfare state.
That is, of course, criminal.
If we hadn't had September 11th ... Islamic fundamentalist fascism would still have made itself heard.
It would have come to a showdown between America and Islam and Europe and Islam sometime anyway.
So the world might not have looked so different after all.
Die Zeit: And the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ?
ROTH: Without September 11th we presumably wouldn't have the war in Afghanistan.
Bush clearly wanted war in Iraq from the day he took office.
Even without the 9/11 attacks this administration would have found excuses to do the damage abroad that it is currently wreaking.
"I was going to be in all the shop windows, I was going to be on TV, I was going to have print advertisements taken out for months," Cleave says.
"It was going to be on two-for-three promotions, 'Best Summer Reads.'"
Then all the shiny new Incendiary posters that decorated the tube stations were promptly taken down.
Waterstone's, Britain's famed bookstore chain, also pulled its in-store displays.
Cleave says he agreed with the decisions: "It was a huge book.
And now it's a small book in the U.K."
In fact, of course, the publicity about this loss of publicity more than made up for it: few books this summer were this talked about.
But it's a crap book, and while some of the reviews were good (some even, astonishingly, very good) many were also properly dismissive.
(No doubt: it also got a lot more review coverage than it would have otherwise -- especially in the US -- with, of course, absolutely every post- 7 July review mentioning the publication-day fiasco.)
But he managed to convince de la Torre, who actually writes:
While Incendiary had a first printing of 25,000 copies in Britain (an exceptional number for an unknown author), criticism surrounding its timing and gore has slowed sales.
How about the fact that it is just not very good (indeed, we would argue it's pretty damned bad) ?
Interesting, however, to learn:
Knopf originally trumpeted a U.S. printing of 100,000 copies; when it was released this month, that number had been reduced to 50,000.
Still, the American reviews have been surprisingly good (surprising because its weaknesses seem, to us, glaring and overwhelming), and that and all the attention (articles such as de la Torre's included) will certainly make for greater sales than this book deserves.
It's that time of the month: Al-Ahram Weekly serves up another issue of the Cairo Review of Books.
As always, the At a glance-overview of recent publications offers an interesting peek at the Arabic-publishing scene.
Also of interest: Amina Rachid's Obituary of Arabian Nights-translator, Jamal-Eddine Bencheikh.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Xu Xing's Shengxia de dou shuyu ni.
Don't roll your eyes like that: it is available in both French and German !
(It's similar in its cross-China reach (and brief European visit) to Dai Sijie's Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch, though it doesn't try quite as hard.)
Xu Xing isn't entirely unknown in the English-speaking world -- Wild Peony have brought out a story collection, Variations Without a Theme; see their publicity page (scroll down to number 11), where they write:
Xu Xing’s fiction fuses Daoist traditions with Western nihilism.
These short stories on the surface are facetious, but are in fact strident indictments of contemporary Chinese society.
(They actually sound a bit more interesting than the novel .....)
Get your copy of Variations Without a Theme from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- not that anyone (despite the customer reviews) ever seems to have done so.
As we mentioned a few days ago, Vicky 'Posh Spice' Beckham's admission that she never bothered to read a book generated a lot of commentary.
As widely noted, the BBC now points out in Can read, won't read books that she's far from alone -- not reading is very popular.
And in The Guardian Hester Lacey even complains about The tyranny of reading, arguing: "there are plenty of people out there who don't read books and who are none the worse for it".
It is pretty amazing how reading is seen as a very positive thing -- despite the fact that many literature-lover, poetry-spouting, novel-quoting folk have adversely affected much of humanity with their actions.
The PR-value of claiming bookishness (at least at a very low level) has again been demonstrated by the jr. Bush administration's recent wild claims that the American president actually has taken along three books for vacation reading; see Bookworm Bush's holiday reading by Jamie Wilson in The Guardian and Bookworm Bush ? Take it with grain of salt by Ellis Henican in Newsday, for example.
Being a reader is, of course, something different: a token dip in some non-fiction books -- like a book-a-day habit of Harlequin romances of Agatha Christies -- truly is no better than watching TV.
But we (obsessive, and swimming -- drowning ! -- in books) still can't help but feel that if you really go at it there's little that can improve and enrich the life-experience as much as reading.
And those that don't see and reap the rewards just aren't going at it right (and no matter how hard she tries, Posh's leafing through fashion magazine won't ever give her anything approaching that satisfaction).
Forget about books on grammar or the finer details of the English language, even bestsellers like Harry Potter and Enid Blyton are unavailable for Kashmir's youngsters.
The state was once famous for its culture, its English and its reading habit. Time was when a book hit the shelves in the capital New Delhi and would find its way to bookshops in Srinagar the very next day
As in so many places, both supply and demand are a problem:
"The culture of book reading is dead.
All you can buy and look for in a bookstore in Kashmir now are just books prescribed in the course for various examinations," said Shabir Ahmad, a college teacher here.
He argued that even parents were discouraging extracurricular reading by children.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics have released their publisher-statistics: find a summary here, or download the whole thing here.
Among the interesting statistics: non-fiction dominance (59 per cent of titles, v. just 25 for fiction and 16 for children's) -- though presumably that is arrived at by counting everything that isn't fiction as 'non-fiction' (including cookbooks, dictionaries, etc. etc. -- i.e. not the way it's usually done).
New titles accounted for 53% of total book sales
Australian titles accounted for 60% of total book sales
There were 8,602 new Australian titles published during 2003-04. Over one-half of these printed titles (55% or 4,610) were educational. Of the 3,724 general-content titles, 44% were trade paperbacks, 40% were mass-market paperbacks and the remaining 16% were hardbacks (table 15).
Book publishers and other major contributors employed a total of 5,300 people. Of these, 1,848 (35%) were males and 3,452 (65%) were females.
There has been an incredible proliferation of literary weblogs, and we've finally gotten around to a major overhaul of our Links to Literary weblogs-list.
Only a few additions and subtractions (the much missed CESLIT among them !) since we keep the list fairly up-to-date, but we've moved from four to five categories and added more brief site-descriptions.
The numbers are pretty staggering -- 45 weblogs that are updated pretty much (week)daily, 86 more that are updated less frequently (sometimes only slightly less so), etc.
We hope users find the links list useful (and can easily make the transition to the new list).
And for at least a day or two there shouldn't be any dead or mis-leading links .....
Planet of the Apes is an interesting book because of the prominent place of the movie versions in the popular imagination, raising the question of whether it is even really possible to read this text without being overwhelmed by the extraneous iconic imagery (sorry, there's no Statue of Liberty sighting in the book).
This is one of the books that was made into a movie and was then re-novelised -- see William T. Quick's version (get your copy at Amazon.com).
The movies -- different from the book -- do, in a sense overwhelm it.
Two weeks back we mentioned David Bellos' letter to the editor in the TLS regarding the question of whether or not Ismail Kadare is or isn't or claims to be or is a prototypical or can't be considered etc. etc. a dissident.
Now, in the 12 August issue, Barry Baldwin responds with a letter of his own (briefly available at the TLS site (third letter down)).
I quoted Bellos’s sensible criticisms of the common third-hand English versions of Kadare from French translations of the Albanian originals, published in the electronic Complete Review Quarterly.
Bellos denies that Kadare calls himself a dissident.
I do not understand how anyone can read the specified interviews with David Binder and Robin Smyth, or Kadare’s self-aggrandizing claims in Albanian Spring and the published Dialogue with the tame French journalist Alain Bosquet, and believe this.
Fun though this back and forth and these arguments are, we look forward to the expanded version which actually makes the relevant statements (and other evidence) accessible to one and all (Bellos' reliance on an unpublished interview last time 'round was similarly unhelpful).
There have been several articles about this recently, as publishers now offer a new excuse for moving away from the mass-market format and offering larger-size titles (with a bigger profit margin).
As Carol Memmott reports in USA Today, Paperback publishers put premium on size.
As in much of the previous coverage, consumers are told that the bigger book-size is due to the bigger print-size, which is easier for the older readers to handle.
Oddly, no one seems to mention that book-size has nothing to do with type-size -- a mass-market format title can accommodate larger print as well as a book twice as tall or wide.
Just use bigger type.
The only possible advantage for consumers is that larger-sized books can accommodate more larger-sized words per page, making for fewer pages to turn
The advantage for publishers is obvious: premium pricing, i.e. fatter margins (which is presumably why authors and booksellers don't complain either).
We understand that there are readers out there who actually like the trade-paperback and similarly oversized books (independent of type-size), but we'd like to voice support for the mass-market paperback size again -- our hands-down favourite.
To us smaller is obviously preferable -- as far as book size goes.
Trade-paperbacks are unwieldy, hard to handle and hold and, especially, to lug around.
Pocket-books are a wonderful thing -- indeed, we'd actually be willing to pay a premium for that format !
It's a slow literary time of year, so we'll even link you to such pieces as this list of the Top 10 love stories, as determined by a survey by "Tango, a new magazine dedicated to love and relationships"
Hey, Pride and Prejudice tied with Bridges of Madison County ... for tenth place -- both managing to get beaten out by ninth-ranked Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
Not reading can get you more attention than picking up a book: there's been an incredible amount of coverage of Victoria 'Posh Spice Girl' Beckham and her hardly stunning admission (to Spanish magazine Chic) that:
I haven't read a book in my life.
I don't have the time.
I prefer listening to music, although I do love fashion magazines.
The vacuous Ms. Beckham is an easy target, but she's far from alone -- and given her experiences with the publishing industry (cynically packaging, selling, and profiting from her 'autobiography', Learning to Fly), it's no wonder she finds these book-objects hard to take seriously.
They are products and fashion accessories; content is irrelevant.
Nice to see her acknowledge her priorities: fashion magazines are obviously more useful to her than reading a book (any book !).
Interesting, too, to learn that for her the concept of reading and listening to music at the same time is simply too ambitious.
(Come to think of it, we've never seen pictures of her walking and chewing gum at the same time either.)
Fortunately, we can't imagine there's anyone out there who sees Ms. Beckham as a role model.
Though maybe our time too would be better spent leafing through fashion magazines than bothering with these book thingees .....
In the Asia Times James Card amusingly describes the Literary crimes of the Daewoo chief in his merciless review of Kim Woo-choong's Every Street Is Paved with Gold: The Real Road to Success (get your own copy at Amazon.com !):
After five years and eight months in exile as a laxly pursued fugitive, Kim Woo-choong returned to the motherland in June to face charges of political payoffs, illegal loans and accounting fraud.
There is one charge that is missing from the list, and that is being a literary fraud.
2002 Nobel laureate Kertész Imre's Fatelessness is finally coming out in the UK (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk), and George Szirtes reviews it in The Times today.
There is a second translation now because the first to appear was graceless and was published only in the United States, and the Kertész book that followed it, Kaddish for a Child Not Yet Born, was almost unreadable.
This meant that Kertész remained more or less unknown in the English-speaking world and the awarding of the prize came rather out of the blue for Anglophone readers.
Sadly, Kertész remains more or less unknown in the English-speaking world -- American publication of the new translations of Fatelessness and Kaddish for an Unborn Child (as well as of the previously untranslated Liquidation) was not exactly greeted with much interest.
A pretty poor publicity campaign by Vintage didn't help with the new translations -- but the situation in the US is still far preferable than in the UK, where Fatelessness is the only one of the lot to be published, the rest set aside for the time being.
In The lost sub-continent William Dalrymple offers a good overview of Indian writing -- both in India and, especially, abroad.
He notes how tiny the market for English-language literature in India itself remains, and reminds readers:
And then of course there is the great Elephant in the Living Room that is so often ignored in discussion of Indian writing in English: the whole wider universe of Indian vernacular writers, especially in Hindi, Bengali and Marathi, where authors such as Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, UR Ananthmurthy and Paul Zakaria can sell tens of thousands of copies -- much more than most Indian writers in English -- but remain untranslated and largely unknown to readers in the west.
A spokeswoman for Bloomsbury told The Independent:
"We currently have no plans for a paperback edition.
Judith is mortified by what has happened.
We take responsibility for the book and we have withdrawn it until we can be certain there be will no further problems."
Sadly, previous scandals about unoriginal memoirs have done little to dent the proliferation of this horrible genre, so we don't expect this to turn public opinion against them either -- people continue to buy this crap, regardless.
Inostrannaya Literatura (Иностранная литература) is the venerable Russian literary journal specialising in works of literature in (Russian) translation (tackling, among others, Elfriede Jelinek in the current issue, for example).
Victor Sonkin profiles it in The Moscow Times today -- noting also some of the hardships it faces (common to translated literature everywhere):
The amount of money it pays for an essay or a medium-sized translation can buy the author one tank of gas -- that's what I used to do after a visit to the journal's cash office.
That being said, Inostranka remains a refuge of quality hard to find in today's commerce-driven environment.
In Die Zeit Bernd Wagner's essay Angst vor der Wirklichkeit considers why Kafka, Broch, Musil, et al. have been canonized in German literature, while popular authors such as Hans Fallada, Erich Maria Remarque und Edgar Hilsenrath are still generally looked down upon by the literary establishment.
Remarque has done exceptionally well both abroad and in Germany, and Hilsenrath has also enjoyed considerable popularity -- especially in translation.
Wagner notes that the German publishers were still reluctant to publish his Night: "während die amerikanische Übersetzung inzwischen an Tankstellen verkauft und in Schulen gelesen wurde" ("while the American translation was being sold at gas stations and taught in schools").
This book does, indeed, appear to have been successful in the US (though we missed the sight of it being sold at gas stations ... way before our time, apparently) -- but it doesn't look like it lasted: Night appears to be way out of print, with the out-of-print editions listed at Amazon.com (Manor Books) and Amazon.co.uk (W.H.Allen) dating from 1966 and 1967 respectively.
Currently Hilsenrath seems to be getting more attention in Germany than abroad -- see, for example, this interview in Der Spiegel, "I Felt Guilty Because I Survived the Holocaust".
One possible explanation for why he might have a harder time regaining the old popularity in the US can be found in the new title someone chose for the re-issue of his 1980 book, Bronskys Geständnis (get your copy at Amazon.de).
Guaranteed to be eye-catching in German bookshops, but maybe a tougher sell in the US .....
On 21 August they'll be celebrating Dorothy Parker Day.
Kathy Hall previews it at Atlanticville.com, in Dorothy Parker Day to honor a reluctant Jersey girl, while DPSNY also describes what you can look forward to (and conveniently provides a train schedule for New Yorkers heading out to the event).
Among the excitement: a plaque will be unveiled !
As you've probably heard, the Man Booker Prize longlist was announced yesterday.
Not many surprises (indeed, most of the names are disappointingly familiar), but a few points worth noting:
Only 17 titles made the longlist (out of a mere 109 entries).
There appears to be no minimum (or maximum) for the longlist (unlike the strictly six-title shortlist), but this is fewer than the past few times around.
Hamish Hamilton and Faber each managed to place three titles on the list -- not easy given the ridiculous submission requirements (publishers can only submit two titles -- though there's a free pass for previous winners and recently shortlisted authors, and other titles can be called in)
There has, of course, been extensive press coverage.
In The Guardian:
Their special report, briefly describing all the titles (and showing their covers, 'cause that's real important in judging them -- or recognising what you should scoop up at the bookshop)
An unusual problem: too many excellent, celebrated authors by D.J.Taylor (among the best takes on the selection, noting "its profound metropolitan bias" and the continued dominance of a "fiction aristocracy over which the literary media habitually crawls" -- and complaining that George Macdonald Fraser's Flashman on the March, which "knocks most of this year's 'literary fiction' into wastepaper" was overlooked)
We only have two of the titles under review -- Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and Ian McEwan's Saturday -- though we expect to cover quite a few more (the books by Banville, Barnes, Coetzee, Mantel, and Ali Smith, certainly) -- though several will probably only be readily accessible to us after US publication -- which, in some cases, looks to be after the prize has been awarded.
(Updated - 12 August): In The Bookseller Scott Pack finds a Stampede in sight -- though he reminds readers about the longlist that: "The one thing it does not do is sell books. Not many anyway. (,,,) The exception to the rule is the small presses."
The first post at the Literary Saloon went up three years ago today, on 11 August 2002 (hey, the complete review itself has been around since the spring of 1999 ...).
Not much to say about that, except: we're pleased to see how many new literary weblogs have popped up in the meantime -- and that, despite all that additional coverage that's now available, there still seems to be a place for what we do.
We do appreciate the fact that so many of you do drop by -- and we hope you do so because there's actually content of interest to you to be found here (at least occasionally).
You probably recognise the wear and tear better than we do, but we don't feel like we're tiring (yet) so you can certainly expect us to continue doing what we do (for better and worse) for ... well, the foreseeable future, at least.
Thanks again for your interest and support -- it is appreciated.