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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 13 March 2006

11 March: Russian Booker sponsorship | I Tatti enthusiasm | 20 years old, £ 5 million five book deal | Back to the bus for Mills | Brecht's Mistress review
12 March: Serial fiction at the OUP weblog | NBCC on BookTV | Arabic Literature and Translation Seminar | PEN site
13 March: Rankin interview | Must read ? | Patterson profile | Richard & Judy profile | Service interruption

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13 March 2006 - Monday

Rankin interview | Must read ? | Patterson profile
Richard & Judy profile | Service interruption

       Rankin interview

       In From gritty Edinburgh, a voice of 'nouveau noir' in the Boston Globe Anna Mundow interviews Ian Rankin. The occasion appears to be the publication of "his latest, Blood Hunt", and the first question (and answer) suggest that this non-Rebus novel is something new:
Q: Did you need a break from Rebus ?
A: In a way. I knew he was creeping close to retirement; two more books and that was going to be him. So I took a year off to think about what still needed saying. I was able to reread the books for the first time in chronological order ... finding out themes I had touched on and not developed, characters I had always meant to bring back.
       Most readers surely imagine that the year he took off was to pen this 'new' novel -- but in fact Blood Hunt is old news, first published in the UK in 1995 (under the name 'Jack Harvey', the pen-name Rankin used for a couple of novels -- though the current UK and US editions both emphasise the fact that Ian Rankin is the author).
       The US publicity page also doesn't give readers a clue that this is an old(er) book (though, admittedly, it is apparently the first US publication -- and that as a fat, expensive hardback .....). Still, we would have preferred it if everybody (or anybody !) was upfront about this ..... (Get your copy at or

       Still, there is some Rebus news on offer too:
Q: And how's Rebus doing ?
A: He's doing grand, actually. I'm halfway through the next book. It's set during the G-8 meeting last year in Edinburgh when half the city marched in protest, there was rioting, and George Bush managed to fall off his bicycle. Immediately I thought there's no way Rebus could play a part in the G-8 because the upper echelons wouldn't want him anywhere near it. So the book begins with him holding the fort; he's the only cop left
       Rankin also claims once again:
Q: Will we ever see a crime novel on the Booker list ?
A: If we ever did it would no longer be a crime novel in the eyes of the judges. It would have "transcended the genre."
       As we've argued ad nauseam, in the first (and main) instance it isn't up to the poor Man Booker judges: they can only judge what the publishers submit (with a few exceptions), and because of the severe limitations on what publishers can submit (only two books apiece ! though they can suggest a few more) crime novels are unlikely ever to even be in the initial mix. We'd love to know if Rankin's publishers had ever even submitted any of his books for the Man Booker (or even just penciled him in on their list of books they'd like the judges to consider including). Our guess is: not even close -- but unfortunately both publishers and the Man Booker folk won't reveal which books are submitted, so we'll never know. (We do hope that Rankin's current contract mandates that his publisher submit his next book for Man Booker consideration !)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Must read ?

       In The Los Angeles Times Book Review one of the books Susan Salter Reynolds reviews this week is Ann Jones' Kabul in Winter (link likely only short-lived). She obviously thinks highly of the book, beginning her review with about as strong an endorsement as a reviewer can give:
Every woman must read this book.
       We do have a number of questions, however -- first and foremost being why, if it's so great or important, she doesn't consider this a book everyone must read, but rather just every woman.
       Certainly there are some books -- especially non-fiction -- that are more obviously appropriate for readers of one sex or another. But surely the horrible plight of women in Afghanistan is something that should be of concern to men too. Indeed, arguably they need the book more than women (since they may be less aware of the issues and the consequences of these conditions).
       Aside from that: what makes a book a must read ? We find it hard to imagine any title that we would call mandatory reading, no matter how enthusiastic we felt about it. And powerful though this story may be, surely the basic facts are fairly well-known and have, at least in their outlines, been (relatively) widely reported in the press.
       On the other hand, it's good to see a reviewer believe so deeply in a book that she'll recommend it so unreservedly (at least to readers of one sex ...).
       See also the Metropolitan publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Patterson profile

       In The Man Who Can't Miss in Time Lev Grossman profiles mega-bestselling writer (and co-writer) James Patterson. Fairly sympathetically, and at considerable length. We have no idea why.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Richard & Judy profile

       In the Sunday Times Deirdre Fernand profiles Richard and Judy’s cultural revolution.
       Certainly impressive, but a bit scary too:
When [Andrew] Motion met Ross at a party recently, he told her that the club had "got him reading books he wouldn’t otherwise have done".

Others appreciate the R&J phenomenon, too. [Julian] Barnes, for instance, the author of Arthur & George which was shortlisted for the Man Booker last year and was featured on the show last month, is reported as telling one literary agent that being chosen "was one of the highlights of my career".
       We can't help it; that just sends shivers up our spine.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Service interruption

       Expect nothing new here for the next ten days or so -- no daily updates, no new reviews. Sorry. But we should be back at the same old routine (weblog postings seven days a week, a regular stream of new reviews) by about 24 March, so come back then.

       One note: any e-mail sent to us between now and 24 March will not reach us. Not now, not ever, so if you have anything to say, wait until you see some action here again and try then. Sorry for the inconvenience.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

12 March 2006 - Sunday

Serial fiction at the OUP weblog | NBCC on BookTV
Arabic Literature and Translation Seminar | PEN site

       Serial fiction at the OUP weblog

       The Oxford University Press weblog offers a variety of good information but generally focusses on their non-fiction offerings (understandable, given that most of their offerings are non-fiction). Now, however, they're also offering some fiction for their readers -- "Classic stories in serialized form", a new installment every Friday. Not only that, the first offering is the first part of Copycat by "famed mystery writer, Jeffery Deaver". (see also, for example, his official site).
       Not exactly what we would have expected, but maybe it will draw the crowds.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       NBCC on BookTV

       The National Book Critics Circle Awards were handed out last week, and BookTV offers some related coverage.
       This being BookTV it's a strictly non-fiction affair: the Nonfiction and Biography Finalists Readings (airing at 19:00 tonight) and a talk with Svetlana Alexievich at the PEN American Center's New York Festival of International Literature last year.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Arabic Literature and Translation Seminar

       There have been quite a few reports from the London Book Fair, but what we want to hear about is the Arabic Literature and Translation Seminar: 40 participants from 10 different countries, and:
Alongside practical and logistical links, such as alternative legal copyright frameworks and rights for publishers, we will be looking at intercultural issues, asking questions such as: Why isn’t very much contemporary Arabic literature currently published in the UK ? Is this because we are not interested ? Or is the will there, but not the infrastructure ? What are the cultural differences in narrative styles and storytelling that need to be translated ? Is there work to be done to re-educate ‘Western’ readers into re-thinking what they might expect from fiction to include alternative Arabic narratives ? What needs to be done to provide UK readers with more access about contemporary Arabic thought, life and literature ?

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       PEN site

       We still don't really get Will Heinrich's PEN Blog, This Is Barnaby Sandwich, but the PEN American Center site is well worth bookmarking -- especially as the star (or at least author-) studded World Voices Festival approaches (it runs 25 to 30 April, and though we have our doubts about the theme -- "Faith and Reason" (two subjects that have always seemed to us to be mutually exclusive) -- we are looking forward to it).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

11 March 2006 - Saturday

Russian Booker sponsorship | I Tatti enthusiasm | 20 years old, £ 5 million five book deal
Back to the bus for Mills | Brecht's Mistress review

       Russian Booker sponsorship

       A while back we mentioned the Russian Booker Prize was parting ways with their big sponsor, Open Russia (the charitable arm of Russian oil giant Yukos). Now George Walden reports on who has stepped in, in BP oils wheels of Russian writing in The Times.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       I Tatti enthusiasm

       Books, Inq. points us to Adam Kirsch's piece on Rereading the Renaissance in Harvard Magazine, in which he enthuses over the remarkable HUP I Tatti Renaissance Library, several volumes of which we do hope some day to get to.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       20 years old, £ 5 million five book deal

       The money wasted on the Greenspan biography is staggering enough, but what about the £ 5 million advance HarperCollins are forking over to 20 year-old Wayne Rooney ? Sure, he's a great footballer (soccer player) -- but they're expecting five volumes of memoirs from this guy ? One book would be bad enough, but five ?
       For reports see, for example:
       (Updated - 12 March): From The Observer we now learn that Beatles biographer to write Rooney's story, as Hunter Davies has been hired to do the actual work for Rooney. No word on how much he is getting, unfortunately.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Back to the bus for Mills

       Magnus Mills famously made the jump from bus driver to Man Booker nominated author -- but it turns out he misses bus-driving. He explains in Why my career is back on route in The Times -- and notes that when he had his first success:
It was disappointing, however, that the press were barely interested in my book and only wanted to ask me about the bloody buses ! So I became the bus driver-turned-writer who was automatically consulted whenever a school bus was hit by a train on a level crossing; or when someone else wrote a book about buses. (In the same way, I suppose, Christine Keeler must get a phone call every time a new book is published about hard chairs.) I was now a full-time writer and I quickly realised that sitting in the sunshine all day was quite boring. I soon concluded that apart from paying off the mortgage, little had changed and that being a writer was no big deal. So I got a job as a van driver. That lasted for five years, but all of a sudden I heard the call of the buses again.
       Good for him !

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Brecht's Mistress review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Jacques-Pierre Amette's Brecht's Mistress.
       This book won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2003, but has attracted little notice in the UK and less in the US; indeed, other than A.N.Wilson, who loves using it to do some Brecht-bashing (see his pieces on the book here and here) it has gone largely undiscussed and unreviewed. We're not surprised that Sam Tanenhaus didn't bother with it (we're pretty sure he can't stand Brecht, and the book was written in a foreign language ...) -- though we'd bet the farm he will cover Irène Némirovsky's Suite française (just out to much acclaim and coverage in the UK); the prize it won isn't quite as prestigious, but her Antifa credentials are surely much more to his liking -- and she has that one big edge that helps get authors who write in foreign languages coverage in the NYTBR: she's dead.
       There seems to have been some delay in the US publication of Brecht's Mistress which may explain why it has passed unnoticed, but the lack of attention is surprising. It's also had an effect: the book's ranking was an abysmal 1,134,205 last we checked (which certainly means that no copies have been purchased). It's all the more surprising since they seem to have goofed with the Amazon listing: they're offering the book, which has a list price of $ 24.95, for a ridiculously discounted $ 9.98 -- so buy now, before they realise their mistake and correct the pricing.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

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