The book, declares Rushdie with satisfaction, has done terrifically well in France, getting 'the sort of rave reviews you find yourself making up in the bath'.
Over here, it had a more mixed reception, but then, as Rushdie says of himself, 'I'm not the sort of writer who ever gets five out of 10 reviews.
I tend to get 11 out of 10, or minus one out of 10.
That's all right, though; it shows that people are having strong reactions.'
In The New Yorker Sheelah Kolhatkar looks at Laura Bush's efforts to sell a book, in First Memoirs.
The reception to Mrs. Bushís pitch has been mixed so far.
"She was not forthcoming about anything that I would consider controversial," the publisher who met with her said.
"We questioned her rigorously, but it was one-word answers.
I considered it the worst, or the most frustrating, meeting of its sort that Iíve ever had."
He added, "But she really couldnít have been nicer."
Then there is this, courtesy of Curtis Sittenfeld (author of American Wife; see our review-overview):
Even Curtis Sittenfeld, who spent months researching Mrs. Bushís life story, is conflicted about the hypothetical memoir.
"Do you remember after Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston separated, it was more interesting to wonder what Aniston thought than to find out what she thinks ?" Sittenfeld said over the phone last week.
"Sometimes when people share their thoughts itís sort of disappointing."
We're afraid we do not remember that it was more interesting to wonder what Jennifer Aniston thought ... indeed, we still have no idea (or interest) in what she thinks (or her various separations or co-joinings).
But Sittenfeld does prove her point: sometimes when people share their thoughts itís sort of disappointing.
At Slate Adam Kirsch does his best in trying to present something of a review of a 'translation' of The Canterbury Tales by Burton Raffel, in The Secret of The Canterbury Tales.
He does grant:
For those readers who are absolutely unwilling to puzzle out Middle English spelling, or spend time getting acquainted with Chaucer's versification and syntax, Raffel's edition will be a useful substitute.
But he also notes:
But even Raffel, a poet who has translated everyone from Cervantes to Stendhal, seems a little curious why anyone would bother reading The Canterbury Tales in translation.
The January/February issue of World Literature Today is out -- though with a very limited amount accessible online.
But you can check out the table of contents and see why the print copy is worth getting.
In The New Republic Gabriel Sherman wrote about Wartime Lies, finding: 'An upcoming Holocaust memoir is contradicted by scholars, witnesses, and members of the writer's family. But its publisher is still defending it' -- but the house of cards has come down pretty fast, and as they and everyone else is now reporting: Publisher Cancels Rosenblat Memoir After TNR Exposes Hoax.
The book was Herman Rosenblat's Angel at the Fence -- and it's noteworthy because it was pretty high-profile, and because Oprah was duped yet again.
Wondering about Pinterís dotty political positions, I began to understand an odd natural law of literature: creative writers are often silly political commentators.
This is puzzling, because we tend to turn to creative writers for wisdom and understanding of the world.
However, it is surprisingly often true that they have nothing sensible to say outside their fiction.
In the Wall Street Journal Karl Rove offers a 'glimpse of what the president has been reading', claiming that Bush Is a Book Lover -- yes, the jr. Bush, the current office-holder .....
There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one.
Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic.
Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them, and is intellectually engaged by them.
We're not sure who has been perpetuating this myth -- surely few people believe this, if only because the first lady -- who, so the widely disseminated p.r., is a big book lover -- would surely frown on her husband consigning books to the flames.
Still, the notion that the jr. Bush might be "intellectually engaged" by books (or anything else) is pretty hard to believe.
Apparently, however, he does read them -- in friendly competition with Rove.
Only 40 in 2008 (to Rove's 64), but more in years past (despite the fact that he surely had considerably more leisure time this year).
And Rove assures us:
In the 35 years I've known George W. Bush, he's always had a book nearby.
There are some decent books among those Rove lists, but certainly far too little fiction -- though:
Each year, the president also read the Bible from cover to cover, along with a daily devotional.
We're more curious what's going to be on the new guy's reading list; we hope one of his aides shares that with the public annually as well.
Monkey hears Sunday Telegraph books editor Michael Prodger commissioned Kim Fletcher, one-time editorial director of the Telegraph Media Group, husband of one-time Sunday Telegraph editor Sarah Sands and sometimes MediaGuardian press columnist to review the book.
In came the review, Prodger gave it the thumbs up, but it was killed off higher up the editorial food chain.
One hundred Prospect writers look at 'Which political and cultural events have been most overrated and underrated this year' in 'How should we rate 2008 ?' -- annoyingly stretched out over four pages (one, two, three, and four).
Quite a few literary mentions -- with Zoe Hellerís The Believers sharing the distinction (with the film Mamma Mia! ...) of getting both an over- (Lesley Chamberlain) and an underrated (William Skidelsky) mention.
Other literary ones include Anshuman Mondal's overrated call of:
Salman Rushdieís The Enchantress of Florence.
When John Sutherland said Rushdieís novel "rocks" he must have been off his rocker.
Yes, itís an improvement on his three previous disasters, insofar as itís readable, but the theme of east and west being mirrors of each other is hackneyed now.
While in the underrated category Trevor Dolby argues:
Philip Roth's latest Indignation was inexplicably ignored. Beautifully written, tempered with calculated anger. The critics, those who could be bothered, suggest Roth is publishing too much and quality is suffering. Balderdash.
We must have missed it getting ignored -- though that may well have been the case in the UK.
The coverage of the decline of the publishing industry continues apace, with Jason Boog writing about it Read it and weep at Salon, as: 'The economic news couldn't be worse for the book industry. Now insiders are asking how literature will survive.'
Among the observations:
At the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, Open Letter Books, a small press based at the University of Rochester, illustrated how a more nimble firm can benefit from the freeze.
The publisher bid on the English translation of Mathias Enard's novel, Zone -- a single sentence that stretches for 500 pages.
An influential translator had called the work the "book of the decade," and Open Letter director Chad Post expected tight competition for the rights.
But no one topped his offer, and he hopes to publish the translation in 2010.
"There's not much to cut at smaller presses, so they are going to stay the same -- they will have an identity coming into the recession, and they will be the same when they come out," Post says.
"It will open up opportunities for the smaller, more stable presses.
The bigger houses like Knopf and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are going through an identity shift. It will become very murky what kinds of books they produce."
Meanwhile, Tom Engelhardt's much-linked-to piece at The Nation, Reading in an Age of Depression compares publishing to the auto industry and offers awful titbits such as:
Rumor has it that some academic publishers are experiencing unheard-of return rates that can go as high as 90 percent.
Bestseller lists -- especially when limited to a few spots -- aren't necessarily very informative, but we still appreciate that Publishers Weekly's Extended International Bestsellers: December 2008 tell us the top three in China, the Netherlands, and Germany -- and we're certainly curious about those Chinese fiction titles, with titles like: Tiny Times 1.0 and A Story of LALA's Promotion.
And that Shannxi Normal University Press certainly seems to be a publishing-powerhouse.
What we need is a national policy on culture, which remains as elusive as a new constitution.
But in the meantime, we need the industry to invest a little more in imaginative ways of helping potential authors to improve the quality of their output.
I was reacquainting myself with the sales trends in order to make some judgments about the year on my beat, one that takes in not only reviews but also life on the local literary front and news from the publishing world.
In 2008, there were books by Toni Morrison, John Updike, Philip Roth, Marilynne Robinson, Salman Rushdie, Geraldine Brooks, Jhumpa Lahiri, Louis Auchincloss, Russell Banks, Louise Erdrich, Stephen King, John Grisham, Alice Hoffman, John le Carre, Danielle Steel, Mary Higgins Clark, Andre Dubus III, James Patterson, Dean Koontz and just two by Joyce Carol Oates.
Maybe that's why I was having trouble distinguishing this year from, say, the past five or six.
And it's hardly surprising, but it is still rather disturbing to learn that:
According to the Publisher's Marketplace Web site, newspaper space for reviews was down 6.4 percent this year.
He was always good for a good (or at least controversial) quote, but after ten years as the Swedish Academy's Permanent Secretary -- and hence the man to deliver all the literature-Nobel news to the press and public -- Horace Engdahl (Chair no. 17) is stepping down, and Peter Englund (Chair no. 10) will take over the position.
It's unclear whether the secretarial role gives the holder more of a say in Nobel-choice matters, but it is noteworthy that Englund, born in 1957, is the youngest Academy member (Katarina Frostenson, born 1953, is the next closest).
But maybe they just give it to the youngest member (or rather: make them take the job) .....
See, for example, Dan Nilsson's Svenska Dagbladet report, Fattade beslutet i maj.
Helped by a celebrity-windfall -- the Obama books, in this case -- Canongate publisher Jamie Byng has had a very good year ("last year's Canongate turnover was a very respectable £8m, next year's looks set to escalate even further, to an astonishing £13m"), and Sandra Dick profiles him in Another gripping chapter in story of canongate, in the Edinburgh Evening News.
At the Asia Society they had a panel on the recent attacks in Mumbai, with Salman Rushide and Suketu Mehta, among others, Understanding the Mumbai Attacks -- and on that page you can now watch a video of the whole event, or listen to the audio.
Meanwhile, at Outlook India they offer excerpts of the transcript.