In The Bookseller Benedicte Page interviews Peter Carey on Fakes, frauds, lies and hoaxes.
There's a bit about Carey's forthcoming novel, Theft (see also the Faber publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), a book we'll certainly be covering.
Also fun: Carey weighs in on the whole James Frey-situation:
It's trite to say it, but the US is a country run by liars going to war on a fantasy, so it's interesting to see people getting self-righteous about James Frey.
And by the way, if you're going to publish a memoir by an addict in rehab, everyone knows that one of the corollaries of addiction is lying.
So I don't see why everyone gets into such a fucking uproar because an addict is a liar !
Oprah acted like a total bully: talk about about crushing a butterfly on a wheel -- or a cockroach on a wheel -- because that's what she did on television to this little creep.
I should add, though, that since I also enter triathlons these days, I have added biking and swimming to my workouts.
As such, I am now running only 3 or 4 days a week.
- There's going to be a two-day symposium, Wild Haruki Chase -- How the World is Reading and Translating Murakami, 25 and 26 March in Japan, with commentators and translators from 16 countries or territories -- though not the author.
The opening address will be a speech by Richard Powers on "the cosmopolitan nature of Murakami's works".
See the Mainichi Daily News' Experts team up for a 'Wild Haruki Chase' symposium on author Murakami, as well as information at JS-Net, and find the list of speakers here.
- Currently playing at the Long Wharf Theatre, Frank Galati's adaptation of After the Quake (see also our review of the book).
As our readers know, our understanding of how the publishing 'business' works is limited indeed.
Here yet another move that we can't fathom:
We recently mentionedThe Observer's list of Our top 50 players in the world of books.
Number 2 on the list is a Caroline Ridding, described as the: "Books buying manager, Tesco":
Caroline Ridding decides which few books out of the 200,000 published each year will make it to the shelves of the UK's dominant supermarket. Publishers know that each of her choices will be seen by millions of people each week; it is near-impossible to reach No 1 in the bestseller charts without Ridding's support. Her rapid-fire buying meetings with publishers are legendary; her word on a jacket design or even a book's title can be final. Publishers will do anything to woo Ridding, flying her to exotic locales to meet authors.
The woman responsible for picking which books are sold by Tesco, considered one of the most powerful posts in the publishing world, has left the British supermarkets chain to join HarperCollins.
Ridding, who could not be reached to explain her decision, will be given the task of boosting HarperCollins' share of the market for general-interest books in the newly created role of director of special publishing projects.
A spokeswoman for the publisher could not provide any more detail.
We look forward to the explanations what this is all about and what the consequences might be.
Leading DIY print on demand publisher Lulu.com is getting a lot of press these days, and while the 'Blookers' are getting a lot of that attention (see our mention yesterday), the far more interesting news is that they're expanding their operations in Europe.
As the BBC reports in Online publisher's European move, they've announced five new European sites, in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Holland.
We're thrilled by this expansion (indeed, our only complaint is that others aren't jumping on the bandwagon and providing the same services, to make for some healthy price competition).
We love what they're doing, and are very pleased to hear:
More than 1,000 new titles a week are now published on Lulu.
That is more than twice the combined output of North America's 10 largest traditional publishers.
Sure, most of it is probably crap, but given how publishers have failed in their gate-keeping role we're all for this alternative.
The more the merrier, and we look forward to the day when they're churning out 10,000 new titles a week.
(Yes, separating the wheat from the chaff gets to be a bigger and bigger problem, but we still think it's preferable to the publisher-dominated alternative, given how that's gone.)
In The Badger Herald Meghan Dunlap argues that Superb books deserve awards -- and takes the (American) National Book Awards as an example, noting that:
Thousands of books are submitted annually for the National Book Award.
To be nominated in the top five of any category is a great accomplishment, just as it is to be nominated for an Oscar.
It is a significant accomplishment for the new authors being honored as well as the veterans.
With spring break upon us, many will take the opportunity to see movies honored at the Academy Awards.
I hope students will also take advantage of the week of relaxation and look into reading some of the award-winning literature they may have previously overlooked.
In fact, there were only 1,195 entries (for all the categories together) for the award last year (see their overview) -- about the number that Lulu.com (see above) puts out every week (though admittedly many of those probably aren't prize-worthy).
Readers should also remember that the National Book Awards are only open to authors who are US nationals.
Fair enough -- it's a national book award, after all -- but, despite what Sam Tanenhaus (an English-language first and only kind of guy) thinks, that excludes much of the best literature being published nowadays (even if terribly little appears in English translation).
The National Book Critics Circle Awards are probably the most open American awards in regards to truly considering the best that's out there, but even they have their limitations.
Pretty sad, that no American book award comes close to having Oscar-like clout (like the Man Booker undeniably does in the UK).
In the TLS Elaine Showalter reviews James F. English's much-discussed book on contemporary prize-mania, The Economy of Prestige.
TLS editor Peter Stothard comments at his weblog, no longer sounding quite so enthusiastic about playing along in the prize-game.
At least it's not a book prize -- and at least it's the only blook prize: the Lulu Blooker Prize -- "the world's first literary prize devoted to 'blooks': books based on blogs or websites" -- has announced its shortlists (in three categories !).
Hey, there were 89 entries !
To follow all the excitement, check out the Lulu Blooker Blog -- which, no doubt, is destined to be turned into a "blook", and will contend for next year's prize .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Yuri Andrukhovych's Perverzion -- which, despite the spelling of the title, is available in English translation (as part of the great Northwestern University Press Writings from an Unbound Europe-series).
Sure enough, The New Yorker quoted liberally from Lyngstad's translations.
But it never credited his work.
When Lyngstad contacted the magazine, he was told that editors feared that including his name would "clutter" the piece.
After much back and forth, The New Yorker finally agreed to print a shortened version of his letter to the editor, in the Feb. 27 issue.
Sadly, of course, it's not at all uncommon to ignore the translator -- on the rare occasion when texts originally written in foreign languages are bothered with at all .....
Anyway, Zane brings this and other translation issues up; we hope it does some good.
(See also comments at Collected Miscellany.)
The Charkin blog makes us aware that the Irish Book Awards have been announced.
There doesn't appear to be an official site, but see, for example, this report.
John Banville's The Sea took the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year; other awards given out were the Argosy Irish Non-Fiction Book of the Year and the Dublin Airport Authority Irish Children's Book of the Year.
Yeah, those prize-names are going to catch on .....
What is it with the Irish and book award names (this is the country of the International IMPAC Dublin Award, too) ?
The Hughes & Hughes folk have been doing the Irish Novel of the Year-thing for a couple of years (they started in 2002, and handed it out in 2003 and 2004), but now they're just part of this larger 'Irish Book Awards' concept, which is apparently brand new.
Information isn't easy to come by online: Hughes & Hughes doesn't appear to have a separate page for this year's awards (just some information on their home page) -- but Argosy has a bit more.
The big literary event of Sunday ?
Apparently the official unveiling of Margaret Atwood's long-distance signing device, Long Pen™.
The official Unotchit website has been redesigned and now offers considerably more information -- including a video demonstration, as well as a FAQ-page, where: "Margaret Atwood answers your most intimate questions about her Unotchit remote book-signing device".
We still figure the big money for her is in having trademarked the slogan: "Writing around the World™" -- careful that you don't use it, or she'll probably sue you for all you got !
Anyway, there are tons of reports about this thing.
See, for example the AP report by Jill Lawless, With LongPen, author signs books from afar (here at USA Today), or Electronic pen allows Atwood to reach the world from home by Terry Kirby in The Independent.
There are, however, apparently still a few kinks in the system: Oliver Burkeman reports on the New York unveiling for The Guardian, but there Atwood sign of the times draws blank:
"Something just happened of a technological nature," Ms Atwood explained cryptically via videoconference from the London Book Fair to her audience in New York.
Her team had been up until 3am on Saturday, buying new electronic parts and trying to fix the problem, but to no avail.
"Unfortunately, we are going to have to sign your books here and then send them to New York.
Please make sure to leave your addresses."
It's a slow book-news day, so we might as well just rag on our favourite rag, The New York Times Book Review.
In the 5 March issue one book in translation rates a mention (hey, it's something) even if only as part of the pathetic 'Fiction-Chronicle' round-up.
Full length fiction reviews ?
Three titles -- versus eight non-fiction titles that each get the full length review-treatment.
(Plus: one full length review discussing two non-fiction titles, one discussing one fiction and one non-fiction title by the same author, and that 'Fiction-Chronicle', briefly mentioning five titles.)
Also disturbing: that same sexist divide we observed last month: the two full-length reviews of fiction titles by women are written by women, the one full length review of a fiction title by a man is written by a man.
(The 'Fiction Chronicle' -- four-fifths female -- is written by a woman.)
The full length review devoted to two titles by Gail Godwin (one fiction, one non) is by a woman.
Nine of the non-fiction titles covered are authored by men, two by women (including the Gail Godwin), while Geno was written by a man but along 'with Jackie MacMullan'.
All the reviewers of these non-fiction titles, except for of the Godwin and of Mark Kurlansky's The Big Oyster, are men (i.e. only two of the ten reviews discussing non-fiction titles are by a member of the sex opposite that of the author(s)).
Draw your own conclusions.
Apropos of the NBCCAs, Chad Post (of Alexievich-publishing Dalkey Archive Press) made a suggestion at the Words without Borders weblog:
What I think would be great for international fiction as a whole is an annual award for the best works of international fiction and nonfiction published in a given year.
Not the best translation -- there are a few (still not enough, but a few) awards for translators given out every year.
An award of this type would help bring some attention to deserving works of literature from around the world.
Someone should step up and do this and promote the hell out of it.
We'd be all for it too !
What's particularly cool -- though also somewhat depressing -- is that so little (popular and literary) fiction and non-fiction in translation is published in the US that it would be entirely feasible to consider all of them for the prize (unlike most literary prizes, which only consider a tiny number of the theoretically eligible titles).
So who is going to set this thing up ?
The National Book Critics Circle also held a panel discussion on Friday, 'The Critic and the Memoir', moderated by Laura Miller and with The New York Times Book Review-head Sam Tanenhaus, Kathryn Harrison, Vivian Gornick, and Betsy Lerner.
At his House of Mirth weblog James Marcus offers a good summary.
Among the points of interest: Tanenhaus' opinion that: "What used to be the novel has migrated into the memoir" -- which perhaps explains, in part, his lack of interest in covering fiction at the NYTBR.
(It's a somewhat interesting idea -- worth a bit of debate, certainly --, but obviously a blinkered vision of what fiction is.)
In The Observer Robert McCrum offers Our top 50 players in the world of books, a look at what they believe are the power-players in the British book world, "the 50 most influential people in the British book trade".
The emphasis seems to have been very much on: trade .....
Particularly noteworthy is the fact that not a single critic cracks the list -- a couple of editors and publishers (of the Daily Mail, TLS, and LRB, for example), and a couple of authors who write reviews, but no one who is primarily known as a critic or reviewer.
McCrum does explain:
The English-speaking world still divides along a US-UK fault line: absent here are the bloggers and literary hatchet-men such as Dale Peck who enjoy such influence in America.
In Britain we have many fine critics at work, but none of these has quite the power to persuade wielded by previous generations.
No doubt, Oprah would top the US list (interestingly this list is topped not by Richard &/or Judy, but Amanda Ross, "Creator, Richard & Judy Book Club" ...).
But last we heard, Dale Peck had retired ... and we wonder whether any in the blogging world wield enough clout yet to really matter.
(But how many American critics are influential, too ?
The Kakutani presumably counts for something, but otherwise ? )
Interestingly, tops among the "The ones who nearly made the list", is:
Mark Thwaite, founder and editor of www.readysteadybook.com, the UK's largest independent literary website.
A librarian by trade, Thwaite writes a regular blog attracting up to 3,000 visitors per day.
It's good to see the recognition for the worthy site, but we have some doubts about the influence (and reach).
With its appealingly high standards, it surely only influences a very slight segment of the market.
(Operating in a similar segment, we note that while the complete review as a whole average considerably more than 3000 unique visitors daily, the Literary Saloon averages about one-fifth that total -- yet all indications we have are that it attracts considerably more readers than the RSB-blog.)
(Actually, we would also have figured spike (along with its splinters-weblog) to be "the UK's largest independent literary website" (an Alexa-comparison suggests as much), though perhaps it's not exclusively literary enough for them.)
Still, it's good to see some recognition of possible Internet influence !
In the Daily Star Kaelen Wilson-Goldie reports on Keepers of the word, writing about an exhibit to raise funds for the rehabilitation of Lebanon's National Library:
The show -- entitled "Works for Words" and curated by Nadine Begdache of Galerie Janine Rubeiz -- marks the latest in a series of fundraisers for the Fondation Libanaise de la Bibliothèque Nationale (FLBN), the organization fighting alongside the Ministry of Culture to revive Lebanon's National Library.
For pictures of some of the paintings on exhibit, go here.
More than 200 Arabic-language publishers were surprised to find themselves free to sell Saudi novels normally unavailable in Saudi Arabia, as well as tracts by Arab writers famed for their frank discussion of politics, sex and religion.
Still, it appears to have been something of a mixed bag:
Arab publishers are keen to plough the Saudi market, where purchasing power among the 23 million population is large.
But Islamic texts were still a major selling-point at the fair, though they are already widely available in Saudi Arabia.
"There are a lot of novelists who you canít normally find here," said Ahmed Al Dahlawi, who was sceptical about the piles of books some visitors were carting off.
"Saudis like to buy books, but whether they read them is something else," the teacher said.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Paul Berman's Power and the Idealists (Or, The Passion of Joschka Fischer and Its Aftermath).
It's just come out in German, too, and we're very curious to see what the reactions to it are there.
We mentioned early reactions to D.B.C. Pierre's Ludmila's Broken English last week, and more recent coverage is along the same lines (it's terrible).
Amazingly, however, there are critics who want to give the guy a break (rather than advise him to spare us all and give up writing), excusing it as a case of 'second novel syndrome'.
The worst instance comes from Celia Brayfield, who writes in The Times today about Blood in the water: how sharks love the scent of second novels, arguing that:
An author canít win with a second novel.
If your first novel was a flop, you know that youíll be dead in the water if you donít knock íem dead with the second.
If your first novel was a dazzling success, everyone expects you to excel yourself.
And, of course, you gave your first novel everything youíd got.
Either way, unbearable pressure.
I feel for DBC.
We, on the other hand, have no sympathy.
'DBC''s problem was that he wrote a crap but successful first novel (the bafflingly Man Booker-winning Vernon God Little), and we expected little more from him than a crap second novel.
He can't ask for much more than the extensive review coverage (and, presumably, big marketing campaign) he's getting; we, on the other hand, would like to ask for a better book.
Or for attention to be paid to the many better books out there.
(Admittedly, we have not read Ludmila's Broken English and maybe it would bowl us over, but somehow we have our doubts .....)
It's also reviewed in The Guardian today (by Patrick Ness) -- another critic who actually thought highly of Pierre's debut:
Setting aside the fact that the Booker judges rarely get it right, ignoring the hype and backlash that accompany 750,000 book sales, and forgetting the revelations of his dubious past, Pierre's debut, Vernon God Little, was a staggeringly good book. Linguistically spectacular and viciously satirical yet somehow still compassionate, nightmarishly plausible and dizzyingly funny, it remains one of the remarkable novels of the past decade.
And yet even someone as misguided as this opines:
Unfortunately, the best that can be said of Pierre's follow-up, Ludmila's Broken English, is that he has not rested on his laurels.
Man, this must be one terrible book.
(Updated - 5 March): For at least one positive review, see the Happy Antipodean's -- which includes some representative quotes.
Good to see some attention being paid to the awful situation there, which also affects the writing and publishing scene: in The Guardian Martin Goodman writes about Fighting for fiction in Zimbabwe.
Not that it should be the main focus of the piece, but interesting to note that some situations seem near-universal, regardless of the conditions:
Publisher Irene Staunton of Weaver Press is passionate about fiction.
Most submissions are rejected -- "pulpit writing from people who never read but want to write".
In a letter (scroll down to 'Lucid translations') to The Guardian a reader comments on their recent review of Linn Ullmann's Grace, noting:
At several points the reviewer draws attention to the language of the novel; he also refers to "Ullmann's careful, lucid prose".
Surely the translator, Barbara Haveland, deserves some credit for rendering that "lucid prose" that so impresses Mr Thompson.
Too many reviewers still assume translation is a mere typing exercise.
And he makes the amusing/depressing observation that:
Also, amazingly, the Ullmann book was the sole representative of foreign fiction in translation in the whole 24-page Review. This indifference to the wealth of foreign books in English translation is quite baffling.
Among the incredibly annoying side-effects of the current Dan Brown trial has been the many, many pieces arguing that: plagiarism - everybody does it (insofar as few writers create truly original content, and many actually base their work closely on previous works).
Today, for example, Jeanette Winterson's column in The Times notes:
The question of originality is an interesting one.
We all know that Shakespeare never invented a plot; he worked on pre-existing material that allowed him to expand into his own mind.
Much of Western culture depends on those writers, painters, musicians and sculptors who took themes and stories from the Bible and expressed them.
Originality belonged to God.
Humankind reflected and copied.
Yeah, yeah .....
The problem is that the question in the Dan Brown case (and all other recent plagiarism cases) is not one of originality, but of transgression against the modern artifice that is copyright law.
It is ridiculous to argue:
No one is going to sue Philip Pullman for retelling Miltonís Paradise Lost, because he has made that text utterly his own.
The original source is brought forward to a new generation, but Northern Lights is absolutely Pullmanís and not Miltonís.
The only reason that no one is going to sue Pullman is because nobody has the legal standing to.
If Britain amends its copyright laws to retroactively provide protection for, say, a millennium after the death of the author (as one suspects might actually happen in the ever-copyright-prolonging United States) you can bet the farm that one of Milton's heirs would sue.
Contemporary art is not a free-for-all.
Yes, you can remake the Greek myths as much as you want -- but re-working ... The Da Vinci Code (or Gone with the Wind, or whatever else was written over the past couple of decades) ... well, watch out ! -- and get ready to go to court.
And that, rather than originality, is the interesting issue raised by this and so many other cases.
In The imitation game in The Guardian Andrew Brown offers yet another take on the whole mess .....
As already impressively widely noted, a new issue of Context (issue 18) is now available online.
As usual, lots of great stuff -- especially William H. Gass' Designing The Tunnel (see also our review of The Tunnel).
In the Financial Times Angel Gurria-Quintana writes about Words on the street (link likely only short-lived), about the Mexican police:
In their struggle to keep poorly paid officers on the right side of the law Nezaís authorities are employing an unlikely weapon: literature.
Earlier this year the municipal president, Luis Sanchez, launched an initiative aimed at making Nezaís policemen better citizens.
One of its cornerstones is to stimulate reading among them.
Although book groups and programmes to encourage reading in jails are not uncommon, this is one of the rare schemes aimed at the people in charge of law enforcement.
The National Book Critics Circle Award ceremony is tonight at 18:00, and earlier in the day those in New York can enjoy a panel discussion on 'The Critic and the Memoir' featuring, among others, Sam Tanenhaus.
See the full calendar of events here.
Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (popularly known as 'Witkacy') is one of the Polish greats (see our review of Insatiability), and beside his fiction and drama he was also an artist -- and now there's an exhibit of his Drawings from the 1930s at Ubu Gallery through 22 April.
More than sixty works on display !
(Updated - 3 March): See also Kyle Bentley's review at Artforum.
Dipping in and out of a few New York galleries last week, I found myself pausing for longest amid the paintings of an artist called Xiaoze Xie.
They were nothing dramatic: just pictures of library books with tatty bindings and typed catalogue numbers.
And yet they seemed so evocative.
They were about those dreams that rise up amid the sweet musty smell of open pages; about memories of stillness and study and (in my case, at least) dribbly slumber.
Fine words, but maybe not that evocative -- but the advantage of reading this in the online version is that a quick Google-search turns up the exhibit in question -- The MoMA Library, running 2 to 25 February at the Charles Cowles Gallery --, with all the pictures nicely accessible online.
Very cool -- and worth a link.
The Kiriyama Prize has announced the ten finalists for its tenth awards (five in the fiction category, five in the non-fiction one).
It's a bizarre award -- "awarded annually in recognition of outstanding books that promote greater understanding of and among the nations of the Pacific Rim and of South Asia" -- but we laud it annually for its wonderful (and, unfortunately, apparently almost unique) policy of making public the entire list of books submitted for consideration.
(Recall that all you favourite general literary prizes, from the Man Booker to the Pulitzers to the National Book Awards won't give you a clue as to which books are in the running, at least not until the long- or shortlist stage -- an enormous problem, because their often restrictive criteria (publishers are often only allowed to submit a limited number of titles (often as limited as: two), for example) often means that many worthy titles aren't even up for the prize (and the public never learns that).)
So, check out all the submitted titles in the fiction and non-fiction categories !
(Somewhat disappointingly, there were a mere 79 eligible fiction entries, versus 100 eligible non-fiction entries.)
Twelve writers, including Bernard-Henri Lévy, Taslima Nasreen, and Salman Rushdie signed a statement first published in the French weekly Charlie Hebdo against 'Islamism'.
See an English translation at the BBC.
After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new global totalitarian threat: Islamism.
We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all
A mysterious source was feared to have bought every copy of a best-selling novel that caused sensation and scandal in Saudi Arabia.
Still, some interesting glimpses of the Riyadh International Book Fair and the literary-freedom situation in Saudi Arabia, including:
Gharmallah al Ghamdi was pleased to hear books that contravened customs, traditions and religion would be banned from the Book Fair.
"Youth must be protected from the poisonous ideas they contain.
Art and culture should not be used as a pretext for moral decay."
But at least: "the new testament and A dialogue with atheists were on display for the first time."
And that Girls of Riyadh-novel sounds like it's of some interest as well: see, for example, Omar El Okeily's interview with the author, Rajaa Al Sanea:
Written over a six-year period, the novel includes a mix of classical and colloquial Arabic and is peppered with transliterated English phrases.
It deliberately uses an informal writing style, common in internet forums.
It also alerts the reader than thousands of accounts are posted on the internet each year but are never published.
Focusing on the opinions, situations and beliefs of women in Saudi society, the novel exposes a section of society previously hidden, because of culture, traditions and religion.
Perhaps young men will flock to the novel in an attempt to discover details they ignore about their female compatriots.
In Between the covers in the Telegraph Anne Louise Fisher "explains what goes on at the London Book Fair" -- specifically, what it means for 'literary scouts' ("Our job is to find the books that overseas publishers (...) might want to buy").
And, surprise, surprise:
Not all of this is good business: books are frequently bought for far more than they are worth.
Even experienced publishers sometimes throw caution to the winds after being caught up in the excitement of a bidding war conducted via frenzied conversations in a crowded hall.
The world is littered with books that have failed to live up to often ridiculously unrealistic expectations.
As always, these ways of the publishing 'business' mystify us .....