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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 December 2009

11 December: Kirkus Reviews shut down | Nikola Vaptsarov centenary | Meta books and authors' (word-)fingerprints | Books of the decade
12 December: AUC's Center for Translation Studies | Indie success in the UK | Portrait of the Writer as a Domesticated Animal review
13 December: Retroactive e-book rights ? | Diana Athill profile | Literatus honored in Myanmar | Saudi literary conference | A Happy Man review
14 December: Czech fake author scandal | Call for translators in ... the Philippines | Stephen Toulmin (1922-2009) | Bonjour Tristesse review
15 December: My 'year in books' | Translation in ... Viet Nam
16 December: Another The Little Golden Calf-translation | Literary agents in ... France | Dead Clever review
17 December: Best unread books of the decade ? | International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist | Interview about the Bolaño interviews | UK playwriting success | The Last Reader review
18 December: Début advances down to as low as £500 ? | Death knell of the Israeli book market ? | MLA jobs forecast | In a Dark Wood review
19 December: Missed and underappreciated | Amélie Nothomb interview | Solomon and Marcolf review
20 December: Kertész Imre interview | Best lists abroad | Hotel Iris review

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20 December 2009 - Sunday

Kertész Imre interview | Best lists abroad | Hotel Iris review

       Kertész Imre interview

       hlo offer an English translation of Kőbányai János' interview with Nobel laureate Kertész Imre (originally published in Múlt és Jövő), Dilemmas of a 21st-century Lot.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Best lists abroad

       There are surprisingly few best-of-the-year lists to be found in the foreign press (at least at this before-the-actual-end-of-the-year time) -- certainly nowhere near as many as in the US and UK, where this exercise is so widely practiced.
       Among the few are at least some semi-useful ones -- because they list English-language titles. These include Nilanjana S. Roy's list of "the top 50 books of 2009", Under the tome, at the (Indian) Business Standard, as well as the Final word on the year's best reading, where a number of reviewers at The Japan Times each select their top three titles. Both are obviously locale-influenced; still I'd also love to see some truly local lists from elsewhere too .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Hotel Iris review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ogawa Yoko's Hotel Iris, due out in English in a few months.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

19 December 2009 - Saturday

Missed and underappreciated | Amélie Nothomb interview
Solomon and Marcolf review

       Missed and underappreciated

       In The Guardian Kate Figes has her entertaining annual feature, The publishing year, in which she: "asks publishers about the books they wish they'd bagged and those that should have done better".

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Amélie Nothomb interview

       Maud Newton points me to Heather Hartley's A Conversation with Amélie Nothomb at Tin House.
       Good news: Europa Editions will (finally) be bringing out her first work, the very enjoyable Hygiène de l'assassin.
       (See also the complete review Amélie Nothomb-page.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Solomon and Marcolf review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the medieval Latin Solomon and Marcolf, translated and with commentary by Jan M. Ziolkowski.
       Amazingly enough, that's the first originally-written-in-Latin text reviewed at the complete review.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

18 December 2009 - Friday

Début advances down to as low as £500 ? | Death knell of the Israeli book market ?
MLA jobs forecast | In a Dark Wood review

       Début advances down to as low as £500 ?

       In The Bookseller Benedicte Page reports that in the UK Literary début advances fall as low as £500:
Advances for some literary fiction débuts have dropped to as little as £500, according to agents and publishers.

Advances of £1,000 or £2,000 are becoming increasingly common although other débuts still command good figures.
       Certainly a change:
Derek Johns at A P Watt said: "It certainly used to be the case that anything below £10,000 was unacceptable" but that in some instances agents now had to consider those offers.
       Not being a great fan of the advance-system (unless, of course, someone wants to offer me a huge one ...), I can sort of understand this. But it has to be a matter of some concern, given the increasing reliance on so-called literary agents: authors might be willing to put up with tiny advances, but agents have considerably less incentive to handle titles that will only bring in so little money upfront. An agent's cut of £500 barely covers even the smallest expenses, after all ..... (Of course, I'm no big fan of agents being in the middle of this whole business either, but that is the way it currently 'works'.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Death knell of the Israeli book market ?

       In A book in the hand in Haaretz Ariel Hirschfeld warns that: 'With their rampaging special sales, the bookstore chains are causing the destruction of Israeli culture'.
       It does sound like a suicidal business model:
Two weeks ago, the bookstore chain Tzomet Sfarim announced another "four books for NIS 100 special," in response to the "buy one, get two for free" offer by the rival chain, Steimatzky. The owners must be positively quavering with pleasure. They sell a million books in every such sale. It's a fantastic retailing achievement. What they don't understand is that, like the hordes of termites that eat the innards of a thick tree, the gorging will soon annihilate the tree itself. And then what will they eat?
       Adding to the mess: the country's largest publishing house, Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, owns the Tzomet Sfarim chain (in partnership with Modan).
       Hirschfeld thinks:
The "four for 100" deal is tolling the death knell of the book market in Israel. What executives of the chain see as a tremendous achievement ("It's expanding the culture of reading in Israel!" declared the chain's top marketing executive, Tal Plosker, to the financial newspaper Kalkalist on December 7), is a new nadir in the deterioration the Israeli bookstore chains have inflicted on the local world of books.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       MLA jobs forecast

       At Inside Higher Ed Scott Jaschik reports on Disappearing Jobs, as:
The Modern Language Association's annual forecast on job listings, being released today, predicts that positions in English language and literature will drop 35 percent from last year, while positions in languages other than English are expected to fall 39 percent this year. Given that both categories saw decreases last year, the two-year decline in available positions is 51 percent in English and 55 percent in foreign languages.
       This can't be good for the literary world, given the number of critics, translators, etc. who rely on academic jobs (or would like to ...).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       In a Dark Wood review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marcel Möring's In a Dark Wood; it came out earlier this year in the UK and will be coming out in the US in February.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

17 December 2009 - Thursday

Best unread books of the decade ? | International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist
Interview about the Bolaño interviews | UK playwriting success | The Last Reader review

       Best unread books of the decade ?

       The Guardian had a good idea when they asked a few literary folk to suggest what were The decade's best unread books, but given that among the answers were Don Quixote (granted, a specific translation, but still ...) and a Sunday Times bestseller the results were not quite as interesting as I would have hoped for.

       (What do I consider the best unread books of the decade ?
       Among those first translated into English in that span (even if they were written earlier), Irmtraud Morgner's The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by her Minstrel Laura is probably the title I'd settle on. (Has anyone -- at least anyone who hadn't heard about this book from this site -- read the English translation ?)
       Among books written during the decade ... I'd probably give the nod to Jean Echenoz's Piano; that seems to have gotten a few more readers, but also remains woefully underappreciated. )

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, 2010; see, for example, the report on the Six Finalists for Arabic Fiction Award in the Khaleej Times.

       (It's great that they're supporting Arabic literature in this way, but for all the cash they're throwing around they could really pay a bit more attention to the official site and keep it vaguely up to date: no one wants to read Keep visiting the IPAF website for the latest news about the 2008/2009 Prize when they're already on the 2010 prize (but the most recent information is, indeed, only about last year's prize; neither the longlist nor now the shortlist for this year's prize was accessible; that's unacceptable).)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Interview about the Bolaño interviews

       At the Intellectual Affairs weblog at Inside Higher Ed Scott McLemee has an e-mail exchange with Marcela Valdes about Roberto Bolaño and, specifically, the new collection, The Last Interview and Other Conversations.
       Valdes thinks one reason for Bolaño's success is that:
Bolaño was a strange combination of a fierce ironist, a technical virtuoso, and a hopeless romantic; the result is an engaging, complex perspective and voice that that I can't easily find a parallel for among English-language critics.
       She also suggests:
I don't think that Americans have a basic indifference to world literature. I think they have a basic indifference to literature, period. And that's not so different from what I've witnessed among people in Chile, Mexico, or Spain. Serious readers -- the kind of people who prefer reading a book like 2666 to the kind of pabulum that's generated to be consumed primarily on airplanes -- have always been few on the ground. And I don't see that changing anytime soon. To the extent that it does, it may change precisely because publishers and critics get better at luring general audiences to the hard stuff through narrative and persuasion, in hopes that they'll get addicted to the special highs that only great literature can provide.
       Sounds like a theory to work with .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       UK playwriting success

       An interesting piece in The Guardian, where Andrew Dickson wonders: "With so much new work in circulation, how do script departments forge strong relationships with writers, to help them produce their best work? And how do they handle plays that don't make the grade?": The slush stops here.
       It begins with the somewhat surprising observation:
What's Britain's biggest growth industry? Playwriting, apparently. According to a recent report by Arts Council England, the amount of new writing produced by mainstream, subsidised theatre has more than doubled in the last six years.
       The Arts Council report, Writ large: new writing on the English stage 2003–2009, can be found here (in your choice -- ughh -- of either pdf or 'Word'). Interesting reading -- but note that it is an Arts Council report and that obviously they're pleased (and presumably were also determined ...) to find that pumping so much money into theater (and theaters) pays off in some measurable way .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Last Reader review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of David Toscana's The Last Reader.
       A pleasant surprise -- though more of a surprise than I care for: Toscana isn't unknown hereabouts (several of his books have been translated into English), but I heard nothing about this becoming available in English and just happened to chance upon it. (Chad Post did mention it at Three Percent when it was due out a few weeks back (and PW did review it (scroll down)), but otherwise this seems to have gotten practically no attention so far -- and it certainly deserves at least some .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

16 December 2009 - Wednesday

Another The Little Golden Calf-translation | Literary agents in ... France
Dead Clever review

       Another The Little Golden Calf-translation

       Open Letter has just come out with their new translation of the classic, The Golden Calf, by Ilf and Petrov -- see my review -- but it turns out they're not the only ones with a new translation: Russian Information Services have also just brought one out -- as The Little Golden Calf -- by Anne O. Fisher; see their publicity page, or get your copy at
       I haven't seen it, and I don't have the time/patience to compare translations and editions (though I like the sound of those heavy annotations ...), but I figure it's a book that you're unlikely to go wrong with .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Literary agents in ... France

       At Publishing Perspectives Olivia Snaije reports that French Literary Agents Stage a Quiet Revolution as, like cockroaches, they have begun to spread there as well -- though for now, apparently:
Today, there are only handful of major agents working here, each with a very different style.
       Not being a great fan of middle(wo)men in any capacity, I'm none too thrilled -- but three cheers for the likes of Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens:
With the exception of a few editors such as Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens, director of Editions POL, who has publicly said that he will not consider a manuscript that has been submitted by an agent, most editors are grudgingly coming around to the fact that agents are here to stay.
       Petty as I am, I did particularly enjoy one part of this piece, where Laure Pécher is quoted:
There is a risk, she adds, that the small number of agents in France means that French authors may turn to using British or American agents, much like French President Nicolas Sarkozy has done by using Andrew Wiley as his agent.
       Yes, despite all his notoriety they manage to spell the much-reviled über-agent's name wrong .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Dead Clever review

       With a few months still until Scarlett Thomas' next novel is out I'm biding my time with her Lily Pascale-series, and so the most recent addition to the complete review is my review of her Dead Clever.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

15 December 2009 - Tuesday

My 'year in books' | Translation in ... Viet Nam

       My 'year in books'

       'Tis the season, and faced with so many lists of best/favorite/recommended books even I grow retrospective. Yet aside from the fact that the year isn't over yet (i.e. there's still hope, of finding that great, overlooked book), I'm finding it difficult to come up with a plain top ten (or three, or whatever), or even any sort of sensible list of recommendations. All those caveats and complications ... but, anyway: here's my best shot:

       Not entirely unsurprisingly, several of my favorite books have not (yet) been translated into English, notably:
  • Tirza by Arnon Grunberg, which was fairly clearly the best novel I read this year

  • Meine Preise by Thomas Bernhard -- his prize acceptance-speeches, which fortunately will soon be available in English
       (Also worth a mention: The Discoverer, by Jan Kjærstad -- the final volume in his Wergeland-trilogy, and my favorite of the lot; I read and reviewed it back in 2005, but it finally came out in English (and, this year, finally came out in a US edition ...); Tom Shone's ridiculous review in The New York Times Book Review shouldn't put readers off this great series. And, speaking of parts of trilogies, there's also Peter Pišt'anek's Rivers of Babylon-trilogy: volumes two (The Wooden Village) and three (The End of Freddy) came out in English in 2008 but I only got around to them this year, and they were also among the year's highlights.)

       One of the other clear stand-outs of the year was Georges Perec's The Machine -- not published as a separate book, but rather in a Georges Perec-issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction.

       A few novels stood out specifically for the tone the writers adopted, and these were among the best I read this year, specifically:

       There are any number of books that impressed me that haven't gotten the attention they deserve, including:
  • Op Oloop by Juan Filloy -- the first of his novels to be translated into English, and I'm desperately hoping there will be more

  • My Bird by Fariba Vafi, an unexpected piece of contemporary Iranian fiction

  • Brecht at Night by Mati Unt

  • Anonymous Celebrity by Ignácio de Loyola Brandão

  • The Golden Calf by Ilf and Petrov, in a new translation (but that just came out, so maybe all the attention it deserves is well on its way ...)

       Among the big-name titles to come out this year, two flawed but interesting works made the biggest impression on me:

       The obviously worst best book of the year was actually a twofer-- two bad books in one ! -- the brilliant edition of Douglas Hofstadter's translation of Françoise Sagan's That Mad Ache, coupled with his essay on that translation, Translator, Trader (yet another book which also hasn't gotten the attention it deserves).

       Finally, as always, for the most part non-fiction made less of an impression, but among the noteworthy titles of the year were:

       Not that there wasn't a good deal else of note and worth -- a couple of Bolaños, the new Pynchon, the new Byatt, and a good deal else (especially additional titles from Dalkey Archive Press, Open Letter, and similarly inclined independents) -- but this probably covers most of the cream of the crop. (Time will tell, of course; it's far too soon to be making such lists .....)
       I also have quite a few to-read books that I suspect are similarly praise-worthy (the final volume of the Marías trilogy ? the García Márquez biography ?). And then there are the books I haven't gotten my hands on yet, such as the new Pamuk .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Translation in ... Viet Nam

       In Viet Nam News Lan Hoang reports that New translators keep readers in the loop, as:
a new generation of young translators has come to the fore in Viet Nam in recent years, bringing local readers the latest best-sellers.
       They do note that:
the translation of the Da Vinci Code was regarded as terrible by many, due to language and technical linguistic errors.
       Don't they think that might be due to language and technical linguistic errors in the English original ?

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

14 December 2009 - Monday

Czech fake author scandal | Call for translators in ... the Philippines
Stephen Toulmin (1922-2009) | Bonjour Tristesse review

       Czech fake author scandal

       The Czech Republic has its own JT LeRoy, as the veneer of 'authenticity' apparently needed to make a book successful again proves to be thinner than it first seemed: earlier this year Vietnamese teenager Lan Pham Thi won a prestigious literary prize for her novel, Bílej kůň, žlutej drak ('The White Horse, the Yellow Dragon'), describing the life of the Vietnamese minority in the Czech Republic. Now it turns out there is no 'Lan Pham Thi', and that the book was actually written (and the stunt orchestrated) by one Jan Cempirek.
       Tuoi Tre has a good overview of The literary scandal that rocked the Czech Republic in VietNamNet Bridge, and see also Awarded Czech novel not written by ethnic Vietnamese in The Prague Monitor -- where they report:
Student Thu Ha Nguyen, member of the Viet-Czech Friends group, said she and her friends discussed the book a lot and that they were proud of the author.

She said was well written and correctly described the problems between the majority society and ethnic Vietnamese.
       (See also Pavel Mandys' Potvrzeno. Vietnamský román napsal Jan Cempírek in Týden, one of the outlets to break the story.)
       In Respekt Jaroslav Formánek speaks with a defiant Cempirek, who explains his actions, in The Dragon from Budejovice.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Call for translators in ... the Philippines

       In The Philippine Star Butch Dalisay makes clear: Wanted: more literary translators, finding that in the Philippines:
What’s been sorely lacking is a systematic, adequately funded program of translation, from our own languages into English and other international languages.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Stephen Toulmin (1922-2009)

       Stephen Toulmin has passed away; see, for example, William Grimes' obituary in The New York Times.
       The only title by Toulmin under review at the complete review is his Return to Reason.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Bonjour Tristesse review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse -- one of the rare works of translated fiction that has made it to number one on The New York Times' bestseller list.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

13 December 2009 - Sunday

Retroactive e-book rights ? | Diana Athill profile | Literatus honored in Myanmar
Saudi literary conference | A Happy Man review

       Retroactive e-book rights ?

       Understandably desperate, Random House is trying to claim that older contracts that did not specifically include e-book rights nevertheless also apply to these; see, for example, Motoko Rich's piece in The New York Times, Legal Battles Over E-Book Rights to Older Books, and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg's Random House Claims Digital Rights to Past Books, where he reports:
Random House has sent a letter to literary agents claiming the digital rights to books it published before the emergence of a thriving electronic-book marketplace.

In the letter, dated Dec. 11, Markus Dohle, CEO of the Bertelsmann AG publishing arm, writes that the "vast majority of our backlist contracts grant us the exclusive right to publish books in electronic formats." Mr. Dohle writes that many of the older agreements "often give the exclusive right to publish 'in book form' or 'in any and all editions.' "
       Hmmm. So it makes you wonder why they now use language that explicitly covers 'e-books' and similar variations in their contracts.
       It seems obvious to me that they missed the boat on this one: they should simply have claimed and enforced e-book rights when the possibility of selling books in this format first came up, relying on the existing contracts (and placing the burden on authors/agents to prove otherwise). By not setting a precedent -- and by then foolishly changing the language of the contracts to explicitly include e-books -- they pretty much conceded that e-rights (etc.) are of a different category, not previously covered.
       It'll take the courts to resolve this, but even here the precedent goes against Random House et al.; presumably it's worth the longshot try for the publishers .....

       (Updated): See now also Dohle's letter (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- with the wonderfully contorted 'legal' argument on the second page --, helpfully posted at Mediabistro. (I hope that this was just the model-letter, and that the ones sent out were personalized, i.e. not all simply addressed to: 'Dear Agent' .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Diana Athill profile

       In The Observer Tim Adams profiles Diana Athill .
       (The only Diana Athill title under review at the complete review is her Stet.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Literatus honored in Myanmar

       Xinhua report that 29 literatus win literature house manuscript awards for 2008 in Myanmar, as:
A total of 29 literatus have won manuscript awards in Myanmar extended by the Sarpay Beikman (Literature House) for 2008, an announcement of the Sarpay Beikman Manuscript Awards Scrutinizing Committee said on Saturday.
       I don't know of too many other places where they honor 'literatus' -- and they sure take their time about it (2008 awards ?!?). And how many other literary prizes are awarded by a 'Scrutinizing Committee' ?
       And disappointingly:
Among the 12 genres, there was no winners in the manuscript award in political literary and translation genres, the report said

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Saudi literary conference

       In the Saudi Gazette Ayman Ankawi reports that Literary conference back to life after long absence, as:
After being bogged down for over a decade, the Saudi Literary Conference has come back to life stronger and enjoying more appreciation and recognition with the patronage of King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
       They haven't had great success in following up on the previous ones:
The conference has come to reinvigorate the life of this conference which first started in 1974 at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah and then in 1998 at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah. Only two conferences on Saudi literature in 35 years.
       But, apparently:
This third conference, however, will be the real start of more organized and recognized literary movement in Saudi Arabia, critics say.
       I'll believe it when I see it, but they are, apparently, holding this conference 14 to 17 December.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       A Happy Man review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hansjörg Schertenleib's A Happy Man, just out from Melville House.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

12 December 2009 - Saturday

AUC's Center for Translation Studies | Indie success in the UK
Portrait of the Writer as a Domesticated Animal review

       AUC's Center for Translation Studies

       The American University in Cairo has established a Center for Translation Studies (CTS), and they had an Inaugural Presentation of the Lecture Series In Translation at the beginning of the month, with the lecture held by Denys Johnson-Davies (see the complete review review of his Memories in Translation).
       In Al-Ahram Weekly Rania Khallaf reports on all this, in A new forum for translators.
       It sounds promising:
Besides the lecture series "In Translation", the CTS will convene a yearly international translation studies conference. It will also hold theoretical, historical and practical thematic workshops and seminars for researchers, students, faculty members and professional translators. Another programme, "Translators in Residence", will be held each semester and will host distinguished translation theorists and practitioners who will have a teaching role in the theoretical seminars and practical workshops. There will also be an annual bilingual journal, In Translation, to announce the best student in translation, review translations in the market, and suggest works for translation and interview translators and publishers.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Indie success in the UK

       In the Wall Street Journal Paul Sonne reports on the recent success independent publishers (especially Canongate, and also Faber) have had in the UK:
Canongate isn't the only British independent publisher recording revenue growth amid the recession. Atlantic Books' revenue more than doubled from a year earlier in the 24 weeks that ended June 13, thanks largely to Aravind Adiga's Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger, while Quercus reported 49% growth, and Faber and Faber notched a 48% revenue jump. Meanwhile, big commercial houses like Bloomsbury, Random House and Harper Collins posted double-digit percentage declines in U.K. revenues over the same period, the trade magazine The Bookseller reported.
One reason the British indies are shining is that they have scale on their side. Whereas big houses rely on recently disrupted supermarket sales for as much as 35% or 40% of their business, even the most mainstream U.K. independents like Faber count on supermarket retailing for less than 10% of sales, Mr. Atkinson said. (Faber sells more than half its books at commercial and independent book shops and about 20% online).
       It brings a smile to one's face .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Portrait of the Writer as a Domesticated Animal review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lydie Salvayre's Portrait of the Writer as a Domesticated Animal, forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press early next year.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

11 December 2009 - Friday

Kirkus Reviews shut down | Nikola Vaptsarov centenary
Meta books and authors' (word-)fingerprints | Books of the decade

       Kirkus Reviews shut down

       As widely reported, in a move that comes as somewhat of a surprise, owner Nielsen has shut down both Kirkus Reviews and Editor & Publisher.
       One of the few pre-publication review outlets that covered a large percentage of the books of any possible interest coming out on the American market, Kirkus will be missed -- though apparently not by all: Leon Neyfakh's report in The New York Observer, The End of Kirkus Provokes Some Sadness, Some Glee, Some Crickets, has some particularly nasty good-riddance quotes.
       See also, for example, Richard Pérez-Peña's report in The New York Times, Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews Close.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Nikola Vaptsarov centenary

       Bulgarian poet Nikola Vaptsarov was born on 7 December 1909, and so they just celebrated his centenary; see, for example, the Radio Bulgaria report by Veneta Pavlova, Katya Zografova: "No ideology was able to wipe out the love of Bulgarians for Vaptsarov".
       He's not all that obscure -- and, in fact, George Kalamaras had a nice write-up of him in RainTaxi last year, a review of the collection Kino: The Poetry of Nikola Vaptsarov (which was edited by no one less than Georgi Gospodinov; see, for example, the complete review review of Gospodinov's And Other Stories). (See also the Smokestack Books publicity page for Kino, or get your copy at or
       See also C.N. Subramaniam on The Poems of Nikola Vaptsarov in Revolutionary Democracy (with lots of samples of the poetry).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Meta books and authors' (word-)fingerprints

       Quite a few outlets have been reporting that, as the BBC has it in their piece, Rare words 'author's fingerprint': "Analyses of classic authors' works provide a way to "linguistically fingerprint" them, researchers say." See also, for example, Physicists develop formula to calculate 'literary footprint' by Richard Alleyne in The Telegraph.
       Of course, in cases like this it's best to go to the source, so I refer you to the article these articles refer to, Sebastian Bernhardsson, Luis Enrique Correa da Rocha, and Petter Minnhagen's piece in the New Journal of Physics, The meta book and size-dependent properties of written language.
       I'm going to have to take a look at this more closely (not that I'm sure I can make heads or tails of it anyway), but I do note that they rely on the work of only three authors, which seems rather few (and they're all authors of a bygone era -- would this also hold up for contemporary writers ?).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Books of the decade

       The 'New Statesman staff' have chosen their Top 10: books of the decade. (The only one of these under review at the complete review: Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.)

       Meanwhile, at her Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind Sarah Weinman lists The Best Crime Fiction of the Decade.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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