More UK sales numbers for 2008, as Philip Stone reports on the Hot 100 paperback writers in The Bookseller, breaking down all the numbers.
Impressive that there were:
Seventy-eight fiction titles, up seven on last year; seven children's books, up one on last year; just 15 non-fiction titles, down eight on last year: these are just some of the stand out statistics from this year's list of the top 100 paperbacks published in 2008.
Charlotte Roche's German mega-bestseller Feuchtgebiete is coming out (in the UK) in a couple of weeks, as Wetlands (see our review), and in The Guardian Decca Aitkenhead interviews her, in 'It should make you blush' (though we imagine the general reaction may be a bit more ... visceral).
Aitkenhead notes it was: "a literary sensation when it was published in Germany last year, selling well over half a million copies"; in fact it's shot past the million mark already.
Like Roche, we're curious as to how well it will do in the English-speaking markets:
Wetlands publishes in the UK next month, and Roche looks forward to seeing how it will be received by a public who have not heard of her.
"In Germany the critics can say, 'It's a famous woman talking about vaginas -- of course it's going to sell.'"
It's certainly an odd book, but also not one to be dismissed out of hand.
Meanwhile, Quill & Quire report that HarperCollins Canada is sending out ARCs with: "an all-black cover, a combination lock keeping the pages closed" -- and:
The padlock gimmick -- which Firing says is only being used for the ARCs -- requires members of the media to phone a number on the back of the lock in order to get the combination.
(The number belongs to a member of Firingís publicity team.) HarperCollins is sending out between 30 to 50 locked reading copies, in order to help gauge interest.
(Updated - 21 January): See now also a picture at the Globe & Mail's weblog, In Other Words -- though Peter Scowen complains that: "the dial on the cheapo padlock fell off".
In Time Carla Power profiles David Hare: Truth to Power.
Among his current successes: "Gethsemane, David Hare's new play about rot in British politics" and the screenplay to The Reader.
We'll presumably get to Gethsemane once we get our hands on it; meanwhile, see the National Theatre production publicity page, the Faber publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
So first The Telegraph offers up a 'selection of the essential fiction library ', in 100 novels everyone should read, and then they up the ante at The Guardian, presenting: 1,000 novels everyone must read.
(Note also the shift from suggestion to command.)
We're terrified to think what they have up their sleeves at The Times .....
The February/March issue of Bookforum is now available online.
Surprisingly few titles that we have (or might) cover, aside from Grégoire Bouillier's Report on Myself (which really was not our cuppa, but most folk seem to be enjoying ...).
And Leland de la Durantaye takes on Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones, a book we're slowly despairing of ever getting our hands on.
In The Guardian Christopher Tayler wonders: 'Does Roberto Bolaño work live up to the hype ?' in 'Experience at full speed'.
Obviously -- as Tayler agrees -- the answer is an unequivocal: yes.
We still had our doubts at The Savage Detectives, but after 2666
there's no question .....
In the Wall Street Journal Ann Patchett finds that: 'The markets may be down, but fiction is on the rise' in The Triumph of the Readers, as:
According to a recent report from the National Endowment for the Arts, our Nashville library is bearing out a national trend.
For the first time in more than 25 years, the number of people reading fiction is on the rise.
Given the explosion in the number of fiction titles being published this really isn't very surprising.
He says he hopes his debut novel, Ilustrado -- which late last year won the second Man Asian literary prize, awarded for an unpublished novel written in English by an Asian writer -- will help sweep away the privileged life that is his birthright.
Still, there's some hope, considering:
"I write against Southeast Asian exoticism and books that italicise Tagalog words or place names," Syjuco says in response.
"The Filipino or Asian experience is global. To say that a novel has to be set in Asia to be Asian is completely wrong."
In Le Figaro they take their annual look at Les dix romanciers français qui ont vendu le plus en 2008 -- the ten top-selling French authors of 2008 (not books, mind you -- they're counting total sales of all the authors' books, regardless when they were first published).
On the Romanciers: le palmarès 2008-page they have a photo-gallery with the numbers.
As usual, Marc Levy tops the list, with 1,516,000 copies of his books sold.
But the number two -- Guillaume Musso, with 1,378,000 -- comes as a bit of a surprise.
Amélie Nothomb fares as well as usual -- number five, with 734,000 books sold --, while the Nobel win certainly helped Jean-Marie Le Clézio (see, for example, our review of The Interrogation) up to number eight with 497,000 copies sold.
And Muriel Barbery continues to ride The Elegance of the Hedgehog's success, which made up for the most of her 401,000 in sales and puts her in tenth position.
These ten authors sold 8.4 million books (for 96,5 millions euros) -- an impressive/scary 20 per cent of all the French fiction sold.
Usefully they also figure out the 'box-office' of the authors -- i.e. how much money the sales brought in, with Levy way on top with 17,7 million euros worth shifted; Anna Gavalda's apparently more expensive books shot her up a few spots here, as they took in 15,4 million euros.
Also at The Bookseller: Philip Jones finds Hosseini and Follett are global hits, as they undertook an "analysis of the 2008 international fiction bestsellers published by book trade magazines" from nine countries -- a somewhat questionable exercise (since it focusses only on bestseller-chart positions, not actual sales).
Stieg Larsson was somewhat of a surprise at number two, Anna Gavalda very much a surprise to us at number seven (and ahead of both Grisham and J.K.Rowling) -- though it came as quite a relief to find that Paulo Coelho barely registered, just slipping in to the twentieth spot.
Matthew Shaer's profile of 2666-translator
Natasha Wimmer in the Christian Science Monitor may be titled A translator's task -- to disappear but with no living author to focus on that's apparently not feasible -- publicity must be served !
We don't mind (too much): it's nice to see translators getting a bit more attention.
A new issue of the Austrian Cultural Forum - NY's transforum is now available, with a variety of literary coverage (along with a good deal else).
On the Literature page there's an excerpt from a work by Verena Rossbacher, as well as Martin Rauchbauer's interview with Clemens Setz; both Rossbacher and Setz will also be appearing at the Krautgarden in March.
Scrolling to the bottom of that page you'll also find information about the Austrian Cultural Forum Translation Prize, an initiative which: "will support translators of contemporary Austrian Literature into English with a grant of EUR 3000" (that's still over US$ 4000 at today's exchange rate); apparently local barkeep M.A.Orthofer will be part of the "transatlantic advisory board" evaluating applications.
Meanwhile, on the On Books page there are reviews of two works we also have under review: Thomas Glavinic's Night Work and Wolf Haas' The Weather Fifteen Years Ago.
Another important novelist you should look out for is Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar.
Outside of both the social realist and the village novel traditions, he illustrates impressively the clash between East and West in modern Turkish culture and society.
Keep an eye on the more modernist and existentialist Oğuz Atay and his novel Beyaz Mantolu Adam (Man in a White Coat, 1975), the often surrealistic Onat Kutlar with İshak (Isaac, 1959) and never miss out on the perfectly satirical short story writer Aziz Nesin !
Of course, part of the difficulty is finding works by these authors -- but a trickle of Tanpınar has been appearing in English, including A Mind at Peace, just out (after a bit of a delay) from Archipelago Books (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk); we were very excited to get our copy and should be getting to it soon.
The New Statesman's associate editor, Barbara Gunnell, and literary editor, Ian Irvine, are facing redundancy.
This after arts editor Alice O'Keefe already resigned .....
After the redundancy process is completed, the three-day-a-week arts editor and three-day-a-week literary editor posts will be merged.
The magazine plans to appoint a full-time culture editor, which Irvine is free to apply for.
We've always enjoyed New Statesman's books-coverage, but this does not sound promising.
At Publishers Weekly Craig Morgan Teicher profiles Natasha Wimmer, translator of Roberto Bolaño's 2666.
Wimmer's 'Advice for publishers of translations':
"It might sell better if publishers made it seem like it was some sort of sexy thing that the book was translated and had a translator.
If they made it seem like the rest of the world was more exotic and appealing instead of hiding the fact that the book was translated."
In Business Week Stacy Perman finds: 'The rise and fall of Cody's tells the story of the book business as a whole and offers a cautionary tale to independent retailers', in Autopsy of an Indie Bookseller.
Among the turning points:
"All the factors were in place.
It was a great location. We got a great deal per square foot: We had information about how much money per square foot you could make."
There was, however, another factor that Ross says he ignored at the time: "Nobody was buying books."
But since the emergence of a new generation of Nigerian writers -- the post 1960 generation -- and new publishing houses -- post 1990 companies -- it seems the gods of literature, not just of poetry (apologies Maxim Uzoatu), have begun to smile back at Nigeria.
In fact, what happened to literature in 2008 was almost something unreal: sweet soulful melody.
The film version of Vikas Swarup's Q & A -- now also republished under the movie-title, Slumdog Millionaire -- did well at the Golden Globes, winning in all four categories it was nominated in, including best drama, director, and screenplay.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Salwa Al Neimi's The Proof of the Honey.
Europa editions is already pushing this spring-release pretty hard, and it should get some attention -- Arab erotica (of sorts) ! written by a woman !
In response to this gulf between literature and popular fiction, An criticised Chinaís literati -- novelists like Mo Yan, Su Tong and Yu Hua -- for being out of touch with the present.
"They spend their time stuck in a room writing books that exaggerate the violence and greed of the Cultural Revolution, of the past," says An.
"In these peopleís books the only beauty you see is a perverse beauty." He smiles avuncularly.
"While Guo Jingming and the younger generation may not have the same grounding in literature, they write about the present and their writing reflects reality."
Recall that it is Mo Yan, Su Tong, Yu Hua, and their ilk that are available in English translation -- and Guo Jingming that's not.
We have our doubts about Guo, but it would be nice if this type of literature was at least available .....
The NEA is apparently releasing a study today [Updated - 13 December: see here], "Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy".
As Bob Thompson reports in The Washington Post, in Unexpected Twist: Fiction Reading Is Up, as:
For the first time since the NEA began surveying American reading habits in 1982 -- and less than five years after it issued its famously gloomy "Reading at Risk" report -- the percentage of American adults who report reading "novels, short stories, poems or plays" has risen instead of declining: from 46.7 percent in 2002 to 50.2 percent in 2008.
We've never understood why anyone wouldn't be reading fiction ... but note also that the report isn't quite as rosy as all this sounds.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Arto Paasilinna's The Howling Miller.
It's the fifth Paasilinna we have under review, but only the second available in English -- and that, unconscionably, via the French translation.
A 1981 novel that finally made it (sort of) into translation in 2007 -- while Paasilinna continues to churn them out .....
His works are exactly the sort of foreign fiction there should be more of: accessible, popular fiction, but with a difference -- there's no one like him in the English-speaking world.
Why hasn't he caught on here yet ?
(Well, with only two works available in translation -- and pretty old ones at that -- it's not that surprising.)
The pieces on The Satanic Verses-affair, twenty years on, keep coming, including a long one in The Observer today, Andrew Anthony considering How one book ignited a culture war.
He finds that:
What the mixed responses pointed to was that, right from the start, The Satanic Verses affair was less a theological dispute than an opportunity to exert political leverage.
And he thinks:
Who would dare to write a book like The Satanic Verses nowadays ? And if some brave or reckless author did dare, who would publish it ?
He also argues:
This has become a familiar conceit in recent years: we defend the right of freedom of expression but prefer not to exercise it in situations that might endanger us.
He mentions Kenan Malik a few times, and Malik's Hushed Into Silence recently appeared in Outlook India -- where he maintains that:
Thanks to the fatwa, the Rushdie affair became the most important free speech controversy of modern times.
It also became a watershed in our attitudes to freedom of expression. Rushdie's critics lost the battle -- The Satanic Verses continues to be published.
But they won the war.
The argument at the heart of the anti-Rushdie case -- that it is morally unacceptable to cause offence to other cultures -- is now widely accepted.