In the Christian Science Monitor Teresa Méndez tries to explain Why book tours are passé.
Theoretically, anything that means seeing less of authors is something we'd applaud, but, of course, that's not what's happening -- it's just that you're more likely to be spared authors popping up at your local bookstore, and now instead find them popping up on your computer.
Obviously, there's some great potential here, and sites like BookVideos.tv -- "Watch the story behind the story" -- probably serve some use, but we don't have the patience for any of it.
Give us the words and leave us alone .....
My next-to-last post in the book-group discussion of Akutagawa's Mandarins, focused on the piece The Life of a Fool, is now up at Words without Borders.
Still lots of time for you to have your say, too .....
Nigeria was once the centre of literary publishing in west Africa -- not just for local companies but international houses as well.
But when military rule and economic decline saw much of the middle class flee in the 1980s, the publishers left too.
Today, there is no distribution network and scant demand for fiction.
Our core objective is to make quality contemporary literature available to the West African market at an affordable price.
And in the allAfrica.com article Bibi Bakare-Yusuf says:
"I’m interested in the bottom of the pyramid; the top can go to London to buy books.
If I can get books to the masses, conversations about literature will start, a questioning spirit will develop," she explains.
Sounds good -- and it's good to see them getting the press-attention.
For the third time in four years the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature will not be attending the awards-ceremony.
After Jelinek in 2004 and Pinter in 2005 Doris Lessing now unfortunately finds herself in no condition to go; see, for example, Lessing to miss Nobel investiture at the BBC.
Polling our nearly 800 members, as well as all the former finalists and winners of our book prize, we asked, What 2007 books have you read that you have truly loved ?
This is to be a monthly feature, and sounds like it has some promise; certainly these first results -- along with the additional information on offer here (what titles got multiple votes, explanations of their choices by a few of the voters) -- are of some interest.
(Local barkeep and NBCC member M.A.Orthofer also participated.)
The TLS generally put together a pretty interesting 'Books of the Year'-list, and now they offer: a selection from it.
Among the selections (and explanations) of interest: Michel Tournier's choice of Amélie Nothomb's Ni d'Eve, ni d'Adam: "The new novel is, in my view, the best of the lot."
As widely noted, The New York Times Book Review has unveiled its selection of The 10 Best Books of 2007.
Five fiction, five non -- and of the five fiction two works in translation -- the two titles from this list we have under review, Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson and The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño.
Incentive -- or wake-up call -- for Tanenhaus to review more books-in-translation ?
Somehow we doubt he'll see it that way.
All of these mighty oaks being felled in France's cultural forest make barely a sound in the wider world.
Once admired for the dominating excellence of its writers, artists and musicians, France today is a wilting power in the global cultural marketplace.
Quite a bit about literature, including:
Only a handful of the season's new novels will find a publisher outside France.
Fewer than a dozen make it to the U.S. in a typical year, while about 30% of all fiction sold in France is translated from English.
That's about the same percentage as in Germany, but there the total number of English translations has nearly halved in the past decade, while it's still growing in France.
Earlier generations of French writers -- from Molière, Hugo, Balzac and Flaubert to Proust, Sartre, Camus and Malraux -- did not lack for an audience abroad.
The dozen-per-year number sounds like a serious under-estimate; as best we can tell, we've already reviewed nine French novels first published in the US this year, and have that many again lying around -- and we'd be surprised if we there weren't several times over that many which we haven't gotten our hands on.
Still, some observations of note (though we've heard most of this before), including:
Certain aspects of national character may also play a role.
Abstraction and theory have long been prized in France's intellectual life and emphasized in its schools.
Nowhere is that tendency more apparent than in French fiction, which still suffers from the introspective 1950s nouveau roman (new novel) movement.
Many of today's most critically revered French novelists write spare, elegant fiction that doesn't travel well.
Others practice what the French call autofiction -- thinly veiled memoirs that make no bones about being conceived in deep self-absorption.
Christine Angot received the 2006 Prix de Flore for her latest work, Rendez-vous, an exhaustively introspective dissection of her love affairs.
One of the few contemporary French writers widely published abroad, Michel Houellebecq, is known chiefly for misogyny, misanthropy and an obsession with sex.
"In America, a writer wants to work hard and be successful," says François Busnel, editorial director of Lire, a popular magazine about books (only in France !).
"French writers think they have to be intellectuals."
Conversely, foreign fiction -- especially topical, realistic novels -- sells well in France.
Such story-driven Anglo-Saxon authors as William Boyd, John le Carré and Ian McEwan are over-represented on French best-seller lists, while Americans such as Paul Auster and Douglas Kennedy are considered adopted sons.
"This is a place where literature is still taken seriously," says Kennedy, whose The Woman in the Fifth was a recent best seller in French translation.
"But if you look at American fiction, it deals with the American condition, one way or another.
French novelists produce interesting stuff, but what they are not doing is looking at France."
This year's Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award has gone to the late Norman Mailer for a description of oral sex in his final novel, The Castle in the Forest, in which a male member is likened to a "coil of excrement".
At Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Faraj Sarkouhi finds Book Censorship The Rule, Not The Exception in Iran, offering an overview of the difficulties publishers have in getting books on the market -- even books that previously were given the okay:
From the moment that Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi took office in 2005, the list of prohibited books in Iran started growing.
A quick look at the books on the list confirms that there has been an increase in the intensity and recklessness of censorship in all areas.
The wide range of the banned literature includes Persian classical literature and gnosticism, a wide array of academic university books, some of the best-known world literature, and books illustrating a number of famous people from the Islamic world.
'Recklessness of censorship' sounds about right .....
We already had our review-overview of J.M.Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year up, but now we finally got a copy (of the attractive US edition -- though its on-sale date is only 31 December) and have added our own review.
And, yes, Coetzee remains one of the most interesting novelists out there -- well worth your while.
Siyahi -- 'A Literary Consultancy' -- sounds like it has considerable potential:
Siyahi is a platform for Indian literature.
We are a team of literature experts looking to bring your talent to print and introducing publishers to new, fresh and exciting voices from Indian languages.
The mission, Kapur says, is to bring literature in all regional languages to the forefront by ensuring cross-language translations globally.
The next five years will see the consultancy serve an intermediary role in the publication of 10-12 books each year through mainstream publishers, nationally and internationally.
We've long lamented the lack of translations of Indian-language fiction, and this looks like it might help change that.
The Translating Bharat events at the Jaipur Literature Festival also sounds like they could be productive.
Sitting at my desk at the Ortigas Foundation Library in Pasig, surrounded by 16,000 books and periodicals relating to Philippine history, culture and the arts, I realize over 90 percent are in English, with maybe another 500 vintage titles in Spanish and very few in Filipino.
This breakdown is probably not unlike many other major reference libraries in Manila.
And he notes:
By the 1920s and onwards Filipinos such as Maximo M. Kalaw, Claro M. Recto, Manuel Quezon, Camilo Osias and Rafael Palma were writing in both Spanish and English.
After World War II, major Filipino writers wrote mostly in English, including National Artists for Literature Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose and Bien Lumbrera.
Political theorists like Renato Constantino and eminent historians O. D. Corpuz and Resil B. Mojares also chose English.
Today the large majority of Filipino writers, historians, scholars and journalists are working almost entirely in English.
Andrew Franklin explains, "If they can get a £50,000 advance, they won't come to us, where they would get £20,000.
We have to get books from elsewhere, so we are bypassing gatekeepers who consume such a lot of publishers' time."
We're all for bypassing gatekeepers !
All of these small publishers have experienced success with literary fiction, which is considered to have almost leper status in mainstream publishing these days, with much moaning about how "difficult" it all is.
Andrew Franklin agrees that publishing fiction is tough.
"It's hard to get the very best fiction if you are an independent, because advances are high. One way is to go to the great wells of European and international fiction."
And, lest this conjure images of the tweed jacket and leather elbow patches, some of the biggest successes in recent years have been fiction in translation, big European titles which have sold foreign rights all over the place, such as Carlos Ruiz Zafon's In the Shadow of the Wind.
In New York they offer 'A sleuth-fiction travel guide', A World of Crime -- though disappointingly they limit themselves almost entirely to books originally written in English (i.e. don't rely on the local voices, except for Mankell).
Khairy Shalaby's The Lodging House has gotten some attention recently, as the English translation was awarded the Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation this year -- but that hasn't translated into many (any ?) reviews yet.
So we hope this is just the start: the most recent addition to the complete review is our review.
Books themselves are much cheaper than in the West; it is possible to buy a hardback for just 60 roubles (£1.20).
However, experts say there are too few bookshops and that their place was gradually usurped in the 1990s by sex shops, casinos and pirate DVD outlets.
Moscow has just eight bookshops per 100,000 people, while the national average is just four.
In Western Europe there are about 60 bookshops per 100,000 people.
Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov has suggested converting the city's 2000 casinos into bookshops or libraries, since they are due to be relocated under new gambling laws anyway.
'Tis the season when newspaper editors can't be bothered to provide much real literary coverage and resort to endless lists.
We'd prefer to avoid them, but they're everywhere .....
At the Sunday Times Peter Kemp does the honours with The glittering literary prizes of the year, 'revealing the fiction that gripped him in 2007' (and starting off with On Chesil Beach ...).
At the Telegraph it's Ruth Scurr who offers her list of Christmas books: Fiction.
At The Observer they have 'writers and other cultural figures choose their favourite books of 2007' in That's the best thing we've read all year (which disappointingly often turns out to be non-fiction ...), while at the New Statesman they have many voices offering their Books of the Year 2007.
But these are just the tip of a pretty ugly iceberg .....
In The Guardian Michelle Pauli reports that Book clubs to judge 'hidden gems' award, as part of World Book Day plans.
They've selected a longlist of 100 'hidden gems' for folk to discuss and vote on -- check out the fairly elaborate official Spread the Word-site
(where you can even arrange the books by length and a variety of other criteria
Not a list entirely shrouded in obscurity, but a somewhat interesting starting point -- and we have quite a few of the longlisted titles under review:
More fun about archiving the endless amount of books that keeping getting published, as Stuart Jeffries reports on a warehouse that's "being built to house the books and journals that no one wants", in Inside the tomb of tomes in The Guardian:
The warehouse is extraordinary because, unlike all those monstrous Tesco and Amazon depositories that litter the fringes of the motorways of the Midlands, it is being meticulously constructed to house things that no one wants.
When it is complete next year, this warehouse will be state-of-the-art, containing 262 linear kilometres of high-density, fully automated storage in a low-oxygen environment.
It will house books, journals and magazines that many of us have forgotten about or have never heard of in the first place.
A new generation of authors known as the "post-1980s writers" is emerging in China, gathering strong support from young readers.
Born in the 1980s, they are the generation that grew up under the country's one-child policy and during its opening-up process.
They wield increasing influence in society as the country's market-oriented economy develops.
Among the poster-boys: 24-year-old Guo Jingming:
Guo also is a successful businessman. He is the lead editor of monthly magazine Top Novel, which carries novels written by post-'80s writers as well as younger "post-'90s writers" and has been a huge success with a circulation of 500,000.
He also launched a pocketbook series, which contains a story per book, enhancing his reputation as a leading player in the publishing business in the market-oriented economy. According to a Chinese newspaper, Guo heads the list of the country's wealthiest writers.
We're impressed that a literary magazine of this sort (最小说 ; official site ?) has such a big circulation.
In the world of Kenyan literary award, book sales and even author recognition do not necessarily accompany the awarding of the two book fetes in the market.
This is what Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature and the recently launched Wahome Mutahi Prize for Literature have taught us.
The prizes don't seem to have been able to really establish themselves either -- no surprise when the Jomo Kenyatta Prize was launched in 1974 and then suspend from 1975 through 1992 due to lack of funds .....
And in 1999 and 2005 they didn't bother either, "after judging panels considered the submitted works below par".
They've announced the longlist for the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award -- see, for example, Authors in Bad Sex award at The Bookseller.
Unfortunately (?) we haven't found any site that cites all the longlist-worthy passages .....
Little doubt: he could have made a career in the genre.
Also noteworthy: both of these were translated into German in the early 1960s, while Gallimard brought out Epitaphe pour une garce in 1972 -- among the few Markson titles to get translated into either language.
We've been eagerly awaiting the unveiling of the Kalima (كلمة) Translation Project,
which aims to publish a large number of significant works in Arabic translation -- a most laudable ambition.
Now it's here, as they announced the first 100 Candidate Titles for Translation.
They're only 'candidate' translations -- so it's not like they're being sold on the streets of Riyadh yet (which we figure will be the ultimate test of the success of this project) -- but we're pretty impressed.
Sure, we would have preferred more fiction (but then we always prefer more fiction), and it's a bit English-heavy, but there are some pretty intriguing choices here, including:
The Complete Odes and Epodes by Horace
Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast by Giordano Bruno
Collected Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer
The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
But really, the whole list has a lot more hits (and some imaginative choices) than misses.
We only have three of the titles under review, but they're pretty good choices too:
"Funding is the least of our concerns," said Mr Nagy, who plans to arrange and distribute expanding batches of Kalima translations year by year.
"It's the quality of the translation that counts."
(That might be something of a hurdle -- especially with the classical languages (Latin, ancient Greek), or, for example, Bruno's 16th century Italian, etc.
(We hope they're not even considering translating anything second-hand (i.e. via another language)
Jeff Bell, Vice President of Marketing at Amazon UK, believes that these citizen reviewers, called ‘Vine Voices’, will be of increasing value to both book buyers and the industry as time goes on.
He said: "The more content and information we can get on the page to help buyers make their choice the better."
We have our doubts about the Vine™ idea (as we do about most ™-ed 'ideas' ...), but at least they're making some interesting choices: an early Vine™-title was Lydie Salvayre's The Power of Flies, which is why you find that unlikely title with 26 customer reviews (see the Amazon.com page).
But, despite a pretty high rating, it doesn't appear to have helped (yet ?): the Sales Rank -- last we checked -- is a pretty feeble 478,978 (which, we'd guess, amounts to less than the copies they gave away (even if they only handed out two dozen copies ...)).
The woefully under-translated Hungarian author Szabó Magda has passed away; see brief mentions by AFP (who note that: "Szabo died on Monday evening whilst reading a book at home") and Reuters.
For more information, see also the good biblio-biography (which also comes with some book summaries) at Hunlit.
She's probably best known in the UK for The Door (which has, ironically, been translated twice ...), which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2006, and took the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize (in Len Rix's translation) -- and which also picked up the Prix Femina in 2003; get your copy at Amazon.co.uk (or, not so readily, at Amazon.com)
For a sample of her writing, see the short story The Witnesses of Summer at The Hungarian Quarterly.
It's hard to imagine more won't eventually be available in translation.
Then again, it's hard to image more isn't already available .....
A version was previously available at the PEN site (as Confessions of a Silent Genre) but Esther Allen's much-linked-to Literature's invisible arbiters at The Guardian is well worth a look, providing good (and depressing) insight into the world of reader's reports (on which publishers base (some) decisions as to whether or not to publish a title).
Since 2000, 274 novels by foreign authors and set in Italy have been published, more than twice the number in the 1990s as a whole, according to a study of book reviews by Italy's International Tourism Exchange, an industry group.
The number has rocketed from about 20 in the 1950s, with Venice the most popular setting.
Thrillers and mystery novels also top love stories by more than two to one, said the survey.
Too bad more countries don't offer such surveys and/or keep track of nonsense like this.
At Ha'aretz Daniel Ben Simon tries to sell us on The French revolution over Israeli literature, but on the basis of this we're not really convinced.
French-Jewish novelist Marek Halter's evidence would sound more persuasive if a few less well-known authors also figured in the mix:
Halter remembers a time not so long ago when the mere mention of Israel would be a source of discomfort, because of the bloody conflict with the Palestinians.
Today, Israeli authors like Amos Oz and Aharon Appelfeld are enjoying new-found popularity.