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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 January 2009

11 January: The Satanic Verses, 20 years on | Celebrity books in ... Korea
12 January: Contemporary Chinese fiction | Schlink on The Reader (the movie) | More Americans reading fiction ! | Fifty-to-One profile | The Howling Miller review
13 January: Nigerian literary landscape - 2008 | Slumdog Millionaire does well at Golden Globes | Malkovich to film The Story of my Baldness ? | The Proof of the Honey review
14 January: Turkish overview | New Statesman redundancies ? | Natasha Wimmer profile | The Morning News Tournament of Books | Cody's autopsy | Croatian book sale numbers
15 January: 'Persian Sensation' exhibit | New transforum | The Enormity of the Tragedy review
16 January: 2008 bestsellers/sales numbers: France | UK | Global | Akutagawa and Naoki Prize winners | Another Wimmer profile | Book selling in ... Finland
17 January: New Bookforum | Roberto Bolaño profile | Embracing fiction ! | Miguel Syjuco profile | Vikas Swarup profile | A Mind at Peace review
18 January: Do we hear 10,000 ? | Sex in Indian lit ? | The Albanian Affairs review
19 January: Literature teachers in ... East Africa | David Hare profile | Achebe in Nigeria
20 January: UK 2008 paperback sales numbers | John Crowley on Thomas Disch | Wetlands-author interview | The Housekeeper and the Professor review


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20 January 2009 - Tuesday

UK 2008 paperback sales numbers | John Crowley on Thomas Disch
Wetlands-author interview | The Housekeeper and the Professor review

       UK 2008 paperback sales numbers

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       John Crowley on Thomas Disch

       In the Boston Review John Crowley writes on 'Remembering Thomas Disch' in Worldmaker.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Wetlands-author interview

       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.
       Clever.

       (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".

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       The Housekeeper and the Professor review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Ogawa Yoko's The Housekeeper and the Professor.
       (Note also that they're currently discussing Ogawa's The Diving Pool at the Words without Borders book club.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



19 January 2009 - Monday

Literature teachers in ... East Africa | David Hare profile | Achebe in Nigeria

       Literature teachers in ... East Africa

       In The Standard John Kariuki offers an amusing look at the Strange world of literature teachers in East Africa.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       David Hare profile

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Achebe in Nigeria

       Chinua Achebe is vising Nigeria for the first time in a while, and they're all excited there. See, for example:        He'll be appearing at the First International Conference on Igbo Civilization; see additional information about that here.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



18 January 2009 - Sunday

Do we hear 10,000 ? | Sex in Indian lit ? | The Albanian Affairs review

       Do we hear 10,000 ?

       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 .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Sex in Indian lit ?

       In Outlook India Khushwant Singh finds that 'Once prissy, Indian fiction has embraced Eros, the negater of evil', in considering Desire Between The Bookends.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       The Albanian Affairs review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Susana Fortes' The Albanian Affairs.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



17 January 2009 - Saturday

New Bookforum | Roberto Bolaño profile | Embracing fiction !
Miguel Syjuco profile | Vikas Swarup profile | A Mind at Peace review

       New Bookforum

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Roberto Bolaño profile

       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 .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Embracing fiction !

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Miguel Syjuco profile

       In The Australian Emma-Kate Symons profiles Man 'Asian' Literary Prize-winner Miguel Syjuco, in Prizewinning writer keen to cause a stir:
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.
       Hmmm.
       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."

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Vikas Swarup profile

       In The Guardian Stuart Jeffries profiles Vikas Swarup, the author of Q & A (now republished as Slumdog Millionaire).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       A Mind at Peace review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar's Turkish classic, A Mind at Peace, finally available in English.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



16 January 2009 - Friday

2008 bestsellers/sales numbers: France | UK | Global
Akutagawa and Naoki Prize winners | Another Wimmer profile
Book selling in ... Finland

       2008 bestsellers/sales numbers: France

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       2008 bestsellers/sales numbers: UK

       At The Bookseller Philip Stone considers the 2008 British book sales numbers, in Book sales: a tale of two halves; click on the charts at the bottom of the page for all the hard numbers.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       2008 bestsellers/sales numbers: Global

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Akutagawa and Naoki Prize winners

       They've announced the winners of the prestigious Japanese literary prizes, the Akutagawa and Naoki; see, for example, Yomiuri Shimbun's Winners announced for top literary prizes.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Another Wimmer profile

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Book selling in ... Finland

       Helsingin Sanomat report that Educated women in south of Finland most avid book readers in Finland, and provide a variety of book-buying statistics.
       Of note:
In 2008 individual buyers bought a total of 22 million books in Finland, which constitutes an increase of ten per cent over the previous similar study five years ago.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



15 January 2009 - Thursday

'Persian Sensation' exhibit | New transforum | The Enormity of the Tragedy review

       'Persian Sensation' exhibit

       From 3 February through 2 August the Harry Ransom Center is holding an exhibit on The Persian Sensation: 'The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám' in the West, and in the Tehran Times Kourosh Ziabari interviews Molly Schwartzburg, 'the Ransom Center's curator of British and American literature and co-curator of the exhibition'.
       See also our reviews of two Rubáiyát-translations: Edward FitzGerald's and Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs'.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       New transforum

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       The Enormity of the Tragedy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Quim Monzó's The Enormity of the Tragedy.
       This is also one of the longlisted titles for the 'Best Translated Book'-award.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



14 January 2009 - Wednesday

Turkish overview | New Statesman redundancies ?
Natasha Wimmer profile | The Morning News Tournament of Books
Cody's autopsy | Croatian book sale numbers

       Turkish overview

       At Today's Zaman Kristina Kamp offers A short history of Turkish literature -- and suggests:
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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       New Statesman redundancies ?

       In The Guardian Stephen Brook reports New Statesman journalists facing redundancy, as:
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 .....
       But, hey:
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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Natasha Wimmer profile

       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."
       Hey, whatever works .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       The Morning News Tournament of Books

       The Morning News is holding their annual Tournament of Books; we only have two of the titles under review: 2666 and Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger; see also our review-overview of Joseph O'Neill's Netherland.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Cody's autopsy

       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."

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Croatian book sale numbers

       Three Percent points us to Croatian Crescent's look at Literary life and death in Croatia. There Boris Levalle points out that:
Recent research shows Croats are among the most pessimistic peoples in the world.
       And you can sort of understand why this might be the case. The domestic bestseller sales figures truly are ... flabbergasting. Sure it's a tiny country, but still ......

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



13 January 2009 - Tuesday

Nigerian literary landscape - 2008 | Slumdog Millionaire does well at Golden Globes
Malkovich to film The Story of my Baldness ? | The Proof of the Honey review

       Nigerian literary landscape - 2008

       In The Guardian (Nigeria) Gregory Austin Nwakunor considers the Sighs, smiles of literary landscape in 2008, as:
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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Slumdog Millionaire does well at Golden Globes

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Malkovich to film The Story of my Baldness ?

       De Papieren Man points us to de Volkskrant article that John Malkovich apparently plans to film Arnon Grunberg's The Story of my Baldness (which he published under the name Marek van der Jagt) -- presumably with his Mr Mudd production company.
       See also the brief DutchNews.nl report.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       The Proof of the Honey review

       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 !

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



12 January 2009 - Monday

Contemporary Chinese fiction | Schlink on The Reader (the movie)
More Americans reading fiction ! | Fifty-to-One profile | The Howling Miller review

       Contemporary Chinese fiction

       In The National Isaac Stone Fish looks at A new leaf for China.
       Among the interesting notes:
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 .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Schlink on The Reader (the movie)

       In the Wall Street Journal Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg talks with Bernhard Schlink, as A Writer Ponders His 'Reader'.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       More Americans reading fiction !

       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.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Fifty-to-One profile

       Nice to see Carl Rosen report on 'A one-man pulp spree' in New York, in Criminally Retro, as he introduces Hard Case Crime and Charles Ardai's anniversary volume, Fifty-to-One:
Genre fans will be delighted. Yet "itís metafiction," says Ardai, "thatís clever enough to be read straight."

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       The Howling Miller review

       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.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



11 January 2009 - Sunday

The Satanic Verses, 20 years on | Celebrity books in ... Korea

       The Satanic Verses, 20 years on

       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.
       (See also Malik's Twenty years on: internalising the fatwa from the November 2008 the spiked review of books.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Celebrity books in ... Korea

       Apparently they can't keep the rot at bay there either: in The Korea Times Chung Ah-young finds that Celebrities Joining Boom of Writings, as:
The number of books penned by celebrities has soared dramatically from last year.
       And:
It's nothing new for celebrities to be published, but the genre has grown increasingly varied and one might wonder why such books are becoming increasingly popular.
       Indeed. One possibility:
However, she said the economic recession is undeniably affecting the publication industry -- part of the reason for the increase in the popularity of celebrity authors.

"Many publishers don't want to risk publishing books by unknown writers in these economically difficult times," she said.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



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