At hlo they preview the English translation of Barnás Ferenc's The Ninth, in Giving voice to the forgotten.
It sounds fairly interesting, but what's also interesting is that they note:
Northwestern University Press chose this novel as one of the books to launch the new design for their Unbound Europe series.
Writings from an Unbound Europe is one of my favorite publisher-series -- see all the titles from the series under review at the complete review (this despite the fact that I've rarely managed to convince them to send me review copies, and hence have trouble getting my hands on all the titles of interest) -- and aside from the actual content, one of the things I've loved about this series is the uniform look of the books (though the supposedly bland covers have been much derided elsewhere).
Yes, I've always been completely baffled by American talk about book-covers and making them eye-catching and appealing.
What I love is simple, bland uniformity that doesn't distract from the content: the French excel at it -- the Gallimard, Éditions de Minuit, P.O.L., Albin Michel titles, etc.: that's how books should be presented.
Indeed, outside the English-speaking market such uniformity is fairly common.
But in the US (and, to some extent, the UK -- although, for example, Faber long gave had a good uniform run, and those retro Penguins seem to be doing just fine (as are the Penguin Classics)) marketing departments have successfully convinced everyone that it's unthinkable to strive for uniformity, much less simplicity (well, outside the Library of America, I guess -- though even they have tried to jazz things up).
Anyway, I think the new design for the Unbound series -- at least on the basis of this cover -- is horrific.
But what do I know ?
See also the Northwestern University Press publicity page for The Ninth, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (who knows when I'll get my hands on a copy ...).
And see also Barnás' offical site.
U.S. book production rose and fell in 2008, according to preliminary statistics released this morning by Bowker.
The number of new and revised titles produced by traditional production methods fell 3% in 2008, to 275,232, but the number of on-demand and short run titles soared 132%, to 285,394.
(Note -- as too many people don't -- that these numbers refer to "new and revised titles", i.e. that these aren't just new titles but rather include many repackaged old one (paperback editions of hardcovers, etc.).)
Still, the total is impressive: "Taken together, total output rose 38%, to 560,626 titles."
In The Washington Post Lyndsey Layton reports on how the American copyright system has gotten bogged down:
The problem has tripled the processing time for a copyright from six to 18 months, and delays are expected to get worse in coming months.
The library's inspector general has warned that the backlog threatens the integrity of the U.S. copyright system.
The irony is that the slowdown stems from a new $52 million electronic process that is supposed to speed the way writers and others register their literary, musical or visual work.
It does not look good:
Of the 10,000 applications that pour into the Copyright Office each week, the staff can process about 7,000, adding 3,000 untouched applications to a growing pile that currently totals about 523,000.
Workers are now handling paper applications received in late 2007.
The Book City, which the government plans to set up by end of this year, will provide an avenue for publishers and writers to expand the scope and quality of their work, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said.
The 'Book City' turns out to be "a building in Kuala Lumpur", but still .....
In Haaretz Maya Sela reports on the difficulties the Israeli Sapir Prize for Literature (פרס ספיר לספרות) is having, in Critic slams head of Sapir panel.
After a good run 2001 to 2003 -- the winners were David Grossman, Gail Hareven, and Amir Gutfreund -- they've had trouble honoring the cream of the crop, as:
Prof. Menachem Perry, has been boycotting the prize since 2004 and does not submit his writers for the competition.
He explained that the prize engages in the futile promotion of books without any literary value and misses out on books of real value.
As a result of the boycott, David Grossman's book, Isha Borahat Mabesora (English title: "Until the End of the Land") whose publication was one of the most important cultural events of the year, is not on the list.
Another problem with the prize is that some of the country's most important writers refuse to submit their candidacy for it, including Meir Shalev, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz.
I've never understood why authors or (more often) publishers have any say in whether or not their books are in the running for a prize: any prize that seeks to reward the best there is has a duty to seek that out, not depend on who deigns to play along.
(The most absurd is, of course, the Man Booker, which only allows publishers to submit titles -- and only two apiece (!) at that -- with only a few other possibilities for books to be considered (some do get called in on the judges' own initiative ...), guaranteeing that many of the best titles aren't even in the running for the prize either (but the Man Booker is much better at keeping secret whose books have been submitted and whose haven't).)
Sure, selecting a book by an author who has no respect for the prize in question runs the risk of the author turning the prize down -- but even that is surely good publicity.
And it's the book that counts, not the author .....
Once only; that was 50 years ago in the States. To teach creative writing well requires a particular kind of self-confidence which I didnít possess. Looking back over so many years I feel more sorry for the students than for myself. It must have been a dismal experience for them also.
Uruguayan author Mario Benedetti has passed away; see, for example, the brief obituary at CNN.
Not much is available in English, though Host did bring out his Only in the Meantime & Office Poems recently; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Sophie Kerr Prize remains one of America's richest literary prizes -- worth $68,814 this year --, but the winner is drawn from a very small pool: it is awarded to the graduating senior at Washington College who demonstrates the greatest "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor".
Thirty-one seniors applied, and William Bruce won; see the official announcement -- appropriately headlined: Graduating Senior Wins $68,814 .....
At Forward Gabrielle Birkner has a Q & A with Sana Krasikov who won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, which she gets to pick up later this week (a rare American literary prize actually worth more than the Sophie Kerr Prize ...).
As widely reported, Amazon.com opened the floodgates last week, making it easy for weblogs to get on Kindle.
Like their Marketplace-model, this is an easy way for them to make money as the middleman, at little cost and trouble: as they take a whopping 70% of the subscription price Kindle owners are willing to pay for this content -- a price Amazon reserves the right to set (i.e. no giving away your blog for free or at a token price) -- they should fare fairly well, even if not too many people subscribe.
Always on the lookout for any revenue stream -- and just plain curious about whether anyone really would bother to pay for a weblog freely accessible on the Internet -- I have, of course, immediately signed the Literary Saloon up.
Kindle owners, you can now subscribe to this weblog here, for $1.99.
(I was amused to note when I signed up that, as for example Erick Schonfeld points out at TechCruch, the sign-up procedure fairly easily allows anyone to sign up any weblog whatsoever (just enter the feed and URL and away you go), i.e. there was no validation procedure in place.
Amazon has now added a check-box where you confirm that: "I have the right to make this blog available in accordance with the Terms and Conditions", but it still seems a fairly lazy way
of making sure only copyright owners profit from Kindle syndication.)
There's been a rush of weblogs to join, and quite a few literary weblogs are now available on Kindle, including [updated]:
Several of these already have a sales rank, meaning that they have actual subscribers (some blogs, such as Maud Newton's, have also been available on Kindle for a longer time), so there must be some sort of market for this.
I have no idea how interested readers of the Literary Saloon might be in following the weblog on their Kindles -- hell, I still haven't even ever seen a Kindle -- but now at least they can.
(Note that I did reluctantly change the RSS feed for the Literary Saloon -- from very summary form to full-text -- in order to ... feed the Kindle version; I hope those who follow the weblog via their RSS readers don't mind the change.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ana María Shua's Microfictions.
This is a selection from four of the volumes available in Spanish; White Pine brought out another collection just a few months ago, Quick Fix, which I'll certainly keep an eye out for.
In Outlook India Salman Rushdie writes about The Trouble With Explanation -- something that really hit home for him in the wake of: "the strange hubbub that followed the publication of The Satanic Verses."
The bookstores are filled with non-fiction because we are losing faith in our dreams and believe that only the facts can tell the truth, but the most popular books of all are still fictions filled with the purest drivel.
And he finds:
Publication comes to seem like the process by which the author is persuaded to detest his book, so that he has to begin writing another story to obliterate the one he can no longer bear to discuss.
The piece is excerpted from a piece in Midnight's Diaspora: Encounters with Salman Rushdie; see the University of Michigan Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the winners of the 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas took Best Book; astonishingly, no US or UK publisher has brought it out yet, though he's had considerable success already (i.e. isn't some unknown quantity).
Does he have to win the Miles Franklin too (The Slap is on the shortlist) to get published abroad ?
See also the Allen & Unwin publicity page.
(A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif took Best First Book.)
Heís one of the best-selling authors in the Hindi language, with some 300 titles to his name and more than 25 million books sold. But heís no literary lion.
Instead, Pathak writes pulp fiction novels that are sold at drugstores and seedy railway stations.
But Blaft is now bringing out The 65 Lakh Heist -- I'd love to have a look.
(It's not (yet ?) available on the US/UK Amazons.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mati Unt's Brecht at Night.
Great to see that Dalkey Archive continues to bring out the Estonian's novels -- this is the third, and easily my favorite so far.
Of course, I'm a sucker for Brecht stories.
They've announced the finalists for the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes (though not yet at the official site, last I checked); see, for example, David Robinson's run-down in The Scotsman.
The fiction finalists are:
There hasn't been too much fuss about Turkey's notorious and ridiculous 'Article 301' recently (that fun law that makes insulting Turkey and Turkishness a crime), but here's news that will bring it to the forefront again: Turkey's top appeals court overruled the lower court decision to dismiss the Article 301-charges against Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, and it looks like proceedings against him can proceed: yes, as Hurriyet reports, Nobel laureate back in the dock.
In considerably better news, Vercihan Ziflioğlu reports -- also in Hurriyet -- that Orhan Pamuk's novel in Armenia, as Pamuk's Snow is the first Turkish work to be translated into Armenian since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
At Inside Higher Ed Scott Jaschik considers the problems facing American university-affiliated literary magazines, as:
experts on literary magazines are nonetheless surprised -- and worried -- by the announcement this week out of Middlebury College that it will cease sponsorship of The New England Review by 2011 if the publication doesn't become self-supporting.
The problem, according to the editor of the Review and experts on literary magazines, is that they don't have business models that work, and so must rely on philanthropic support (which is hard to get going now) or the sponsorship of a college (as is the case for many of the top literary magazines). In recent years, no college forced a literary magazine to fend for itself -- a move that would effectively kill most such publications.
(Aside: who the hell are these 'experts on literary magazines' and what qualifies one for that position ?)
It's always fun when any sort of publisher talks about business models; the university-affiliated literary magazine one always seemed entirely sensible to me: don't even bother thinking about making money (because the idea is ludicrous), and rely on outside handouts.
(It's certainly a business model I'd be glad to embrace.)
That said, Middlebury doesn't fare too badly out of this, since the mere association with the magazine has to be worth something.
Still, in desperate, penny-pinching times it might be harder to justify the largely intangible (or at least hard to measure in dollars) benefits.
Self-sustaining by 2011 ?
Looks like the only solution will be for the NER do move entirely online .....
Nobel Prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio said he expects a Korean writer to win the prestigious literature award in the near future.
"What I see is not just a possibility of a Korean writer winning Nobel Prize, but the inevitability," Le Clézio said at a news conference in downtown Seoul on Tuesday.
"When I visited Sweden to attend the award ceremony, I heard the Nobel officials talking about Korean writers and it seemed like they know fairly well about Korean literature."
He's not merely trying to be polite to his Korean hosts; he actually is fairly familiar with the local scene.
Hurriyet reports that French eroticism bit too much for censors, as three out of four books -- including one by Guillaume Apollinaire -- were not sufficiently 'literary' to excuse their erotic content.
However, Juan Manuel de Prada's Coños (not available in English, but get your copy of the Spanish version at Amazon.com) -- an examination of a particular part of the female anatomy -- did make the cut.
It's been published with its explicit title in Spanish and French (as Cons; get your copy at Amazon.fr); I'm not sure how that would fly in English (though you'll recall Stewart Home published a singular variation of it -- not something most American bookstores would have stocked (or at least displayed)).
While the Germans have a similarly harsh word at their disposal they opted for a different one in what is probably a more tantalizing title: Mösenbetrachtungen -- 'reflections on' that part of the female anatomy (get your copy at Amazon.de), with 'Möse' yet another word for what Charlotte Roche so frequently referred to as her 'Muschi' in Wetlands .....
Translator and poet James Kirkup passed away a few days ago; see, for example, obituaries in The Times and The Telegraph.
The only translation of his under review at the complete review is Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Physicists
Apparently: "his poem, The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name, sparked the last successful trial for blasphemy"
in the UK -- though as The Telegraph's obituary notes:
as a quick perusal of the internet will show (it is still illegal to publish the poem in a British newspaper), The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name, with its awkward mixture of homoeroticism and English Hymnal, could not be described as Great Art.
For an online version see, for example, here.
Impressive that it's still legally unprintable.
The Daily Monitor has an editorial promising (hoping ?): The rebirth of literature is now, as David Rubadiri recently gave the inaugural David Cook Memorial Lecture, and Dr.Cook:
bequeathed part of his wealth to Makerere University, specifically the Literature Department.
The offer, of about Shs200 million, is supposed to help in the promotion and nurturing of creative writers.
It sounds a bit more impressive in Ugandan schillings than US dollars (just over 90,000 of those, at the current exchange rate), but one hopes that will help to get a bit of a ball rolling.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pål H. Christiansen's The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow.
Between the horrific cover and the title (and, yes, the protagonist's name really is 'Hobo Highbrow') I had to overcome some initial reluctance (well, repeated reluctance, every time I saw the picture or the title) about picking up the book, but I was actually rooting for it.
And it seemed to have decent potential: I'll give any book a chance that manages to repeatedly reference the bizarre combination of Fernando Pessoa and the Norwegian band a-ha.
Essentially self-published, the author has done a decent job of garnering interest for the English translation (especially in the Boston area, where the publicist for the book has been drumming up interest in it).
But while the title even makes a bit of sense (as a-ha fans -- the band sold a lot of albums, so I figure there must be some -- will have recognized) I really think he should have found another name for his alter-ego main character -- and gone with a different title (like in the original Norwegian, where it was Drømmer om storhet ('Dreams of Greatness'), or the German (Die Ordnung der Worte: 'The Order of the Words')).
A.S.Byatt's new novel, The Children's Book is out in Canada (and the UK) -- though not, for months, in the US ... -- and in the Globe and Mail James Adams profiles her, in A naturally gloomy nature.
Adams mentions that the novel includes: "a selection of three bitter First World War poems attributed to another character, Julian Cain" -- and that one of them was printed in The New Yorker, under Byatt's own name; it's available online, as Trench Names.
It was nice to see that The Washington Timesreviews Rafik Schami's The Dark Side of Love, now available in English (see the publicity pages at Interlink or Arabia, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
As reviewer Claire Hopley notes:
Novels from Syria rarely come our way, and novels from the Syrian emigre community of Europe are scarcely more frequent, so Rafik Schami's The Dark Side of Love, first published in Germany where it was a best-seller, comes with preoccupations that are new to most of us.
But surely someone could have checked the book and discovered that the description: 'Translated from the Syrian' was not correct.
Indeed, surely the idea that anything could be translated from the Syrian should have raised some eyebrows .....