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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 June 2010

21 June: The One Hundred and One Nights | Prizes: Society of Authors' awards - Bessie Head awards | Borges reviews
22 June: E-reader price wars ? | Crime fiction ... down under | Seed review
23 June: Truth takes Miles Franklin Literary Award | Slushy slush coverage | Finnish lit superior to Dutch ? | 'Fiction has become culturally irrelevant' ? | Miri Jiyori review
24 June: Literature from ... Laos | Erofeyev in Iran | Ingeborg Bachmann Preis | Moscow Book Festival
25 June: Tim Parks review | Worst ... retitling ... ever ? | Translation from ... Albanian | Murakami Haruki in Chinese translation | Found in Translation Festival | New World Literature Today | French summer reading suggestions ?
26 June: Profiles: Dario Fo - Juan Gabriel Vásquez - Yaşar Kemal - Kim Yeong-nang | Hypercomplexity ? | Miyabe reviews
27 June: Sonallah Ibrahim profile | Audition review
28 June: Literaturhäuser | Bachmann prize to Peter Wawerzinek | Crap fiction, Indian style | Andrew Wylie profile | From Fatwa to Jihad review
29 June: Andreas Okopenko (1930-2010) | Worlds Literature Festival reports | World Literature Weekend report | New Swedish Book Review | Joyce Carol Oates interview
30 June: Dalit lit | Bougainville Library Trust | The Jokers review


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30 June 2010 - Wednesday

Dalit lit | Bougainville Library Trust | The Jokers review

       Dalit lit

       In The Independent Andrew Buncombe finds that The rise of 'Dalit lit' marks a new chapter for India's untouchables -- though:
One breakthrough these writers have yet to make is getting published in English. Partly that is because the writers prefer to work in a medium that their main audience can understand. But Ms Bharti and others say that getting the attention of the "elite" English-language media is still a challenge.
       (Note, however, that John Krich already realized that 'India's Dalit writers come into their own', in Words That Touch in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago .....)

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



       Bougainville Library Trust

       In the Guardian Weekly David Cohen reports that The real Mister Pip founds a library, as:
A New Zealand author who went from relative literary obscurity to being a frontrunner for the Man Booker Prize in 2007 has established a novel development project.

Lloyd Jones, whose Mister Pip sold 300,000 copies in Britain after it reached the Booker shortlist, is hoping to arouse similar enthusiasm for his venture in support of the real-life inhabitants of the island where his novel was set.
       The project is the Bougainville Library Trust.
       And:
The library plans to stock 15,000 books. Selecting titles is a delicate task, Jones says. "The first thing people often want to do is donate books," he reflects, "But often those books are discards. Schools do this, Rotarians too. They're looking to get rid of their stock, but it's often third-hand, fourth-hand, fifth-hand stuff -- you know, The Life and Times of Donald Trump. Hopelessly inappropriate. And bad books can be a real put-off."

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



       The Jokers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Albert Cossery's The Jokers, a 1964 novel that's finally available in English, from New York Review Books.
       Cossery's death in 2008 seems to have attracted both the attention of New Directions -- they just brought out A Splendid Conspiracy -- and NYRB, as each also has another Cossery title due out soon -- though that still leaves quite a few re-issues left to go (his older stuff is almost impossible to find at the moment). He certainly looks like the author-re-discovery of 2010 -- these books both impress.
       (Note also that at (overeager ?) Google Books they show the provisional NYRB edition of The Jokers, with different cover image and a more literal title-translation, Violence and Derision.)

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



29 June 2010 - Tuesday

Andreas Okopenko (1930-2010) | Worlds Literature Festival reports
World Literature Weekend report | New Swedish Book Review
Joyce Carol Oates interview

       Andreas Okopenko (1930-2010)

       Andreas Okopenko has passed away. The only one of his works that appears to have been translated into English is Child Nazi -- see the Ariadne publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but he did quite a bit of interesting experimental stuff; there's also his involvement with the hypermedial ELEX -- 'Der elektronische Lexikon-Roman' ('The electronic encyclopedia-novel').
       See, for example, (German) reports including Bettina Steiner's obituary in Die Presse and Der Standard's Der Standard -- and even Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann weighed in .....

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



       Worlds Literature Festival reports

       The Writers' Centre Norwich recently had a Worlds Literature Festival, and among the reports about it is that at The National, where they found J.M.Coetzee was -- apparently surprisingly to them -- Seriously funny:
laughs were the last thing anyone expected from his appearance at the Writers' Centre Worlds Literature Festival in Norwich last week.

On an impressive bill with three other South African writers -- Gabeba Baderoon, CJ Driver and Zoe Wicomb -- didn't take the stage until after the interval, and when he did, read just one unpublished short story.

He left almost as suddenly as he'd arrived. But for those 20 minutes, Coetzee had the audience roaring as he railed against the ridiculousness of the once-fertile Karoo area of South Africa, now only good for eco-tourism, and of a whole country's "light grade of sorryness".
       Elsewhere, Katy Carr also found that Coetzee Rocks the House.

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



       World Literature Weekend report

       The London Review Bookshop recently held a World Literature Weekend, and in the Saudi Gazette Susannah Tarbush offers a round-up, World Literature Weekend: Spotlight on language and exile.

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



       New Swedish Book Review

       A new issue of the Swedish Book Review -- a Crime Fiction Special -- is now out, with a limited amount of the material available online.
       Among the accessible pieces: Paul Berf's survey of Swedish Literature in Germany -- A Success Story, Only Slightly Flawed, where he notes:
the range of Swedish books published in Germany since the mid-nineties has extended beyond crime novels to cover the whole spectrum of genres. Swedish literature generally, not just crime fiction, is now well established as an integral part of the German book market. Swedish books in translation were formerly the preserve of a small number of German publishers and only a few authors such as Per Olof Enquist and Lars Gustafsson were represented, whereas nowadays numerous publishing houses with widely differing profiles go out of their way to incorporate Swedish titles into their programmes. It is more or less impossible to ignore Swedish literature. And as a result, Swedish is now one of the languages most frequently translated into German: no other Scandinavian country can compete with Sweden when it comes to the number of titles on German publishers' lists.
       There's also Anna Paterson look at Kerstin Ekman and Swedish Crime. (Recall that Ekman is -- officially -- a member of the Nobel-deciding Swedish Academy, though she chooses not to take part in Academy work (in protest over the Academy's (non-)reaction to the Rushdie fatwa).)

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



       Joyce Carol Oates interview

       In The Oxonian Review Rhoda Feng interviews Joyce Carol Oates.
       Among the interesting responses:
I don't envision any "ideal readers" -- or any readers at all, I suppose. My imagination doesn't work in that way. My concentration is turned inward, upon the work itself -- beyond its perimeters, I can't speculate.

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



28 June 2010 - Monday

Literaturhäuser | Bachmann prize to Peter Wawerzinek | Crap fiction, Indian style
Andrew Wylie profile | From Fatwa to Jihad review

       Literaturhäuser

       At DeutscheWelle Heide Soltau looks at the Literaturhaus-phenomenon, in Germany's 'literature houses' stress reading books over selling them:
Germany's first literature house was founded in Berlin in 1986, even before American bookstores started selling cappuccinos. Now, the concept of a non-commercial meeting place for book lovers has caught on.
       They are, indeed, pretty neat institutions -- and:
In 2002, 11 literature houses across Germany and Austria formed an umbrella organization, Literaturhaus.net, run by Moritz. The houses plan joint projects and organize a literary prize each year; the winner is then invited to conduct readings at all 11 locations.
       And:
Despite occasional financial difficulties, the literature house concept has established itself so well that it's been exported to other European cities, including Prague, Copenhagen and Oslo. In Prague and Copenhagen, the houses are even identified by the German word..

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



       Bachmann prize to Peter Wawerzinek

       Peter Wawerzinek has won the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Preis, for his story Ich finde dich/Rabenliebe (also available in Stefan Tobler's translation, as I'll find you/Bad love).
       See also, for example, Holly Fox's report at DeutscheWelle, Germany's Wawerzinek wins Bachmann literature prize.

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



       Crap fiction, Indian style

       In the Indian Express Amrita Dutta reports on 'India's booming market for quickie English paperbacks', in 'A' Literature for Rs 100 (via).
       Apparently it's simple:
Start with a horny protagonist, describe everything from sunset to smut, don't worry about dictionaries, and you have a bestseller.

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



       Andrew Wylie profile

       Yet another profile of 'literary' agent Andrew Wylie, this time by Craig Lambert, in Harvard Magazine, Fifteen Percent of Immortality (via).
       Some interesting bits about his approach:
His agency works to strengthen and maintain the value of authors like Calvino and Bellow, for example, by getting publishers to keep their works in print. It's a multinational effort. Book contracts in the United States typically remain in force as long as the copyright does, but a foreign contract is a license to publish a certain book for a specific length of time, typically seven to 10 years. "So every seven years, Philip Roth has a negotiation in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and so on," Wylie explains.
       And:
"We went after the most important writers in their respective languages," Wylie says, "and we brought to those estates the same discipline of properly assessing the value of the writer's work. What happened was an appreciation in revenue to the Calvino estate of 2,000 percent. More or less the same with [Jorge Luis] Borges. When you make that kind of difference, you recalibrate the priorities of the publishing industry somewhat, so that they place a higher value on work that lasts over time."
       Hmmm, yeah .....
       I reiterate my constant complaint about Wylie's approach: who actually benefits -- and what about the readers ? He certainly seems to do a decent profit-maximizing (or at least -increasing) job, but ... well, just to address some of the authors he mentions: The Complete Cosmicomics -- a welcome and long-overdue Calvino volume, is still only available in a UK edition (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk), the newest collections of Borges work to appear in the US -- see my previous mention, with links to the reviews -- are largely just reshuffled familiar selections -- all the more outrageous, given how much of Borges' non-fiction remains unavailable in English translation (but, sure, there's less money in doing something like that ...).
       Indeed, check out Wylie's (awesome) client list and ask your self -- as I do, shaking my head, frequently: what has he done for especially the estates and out-of-print authors in the US market -- not just recently, but ever.

       What I am intrigued by, however, are his e-plans:
Wylie's negotiations with publishers on the book industry's version of the iPod, e-books, are currently on hold across the board. He's dissatisfied with the terms publishers have been offering for e-book rights, which were not widely foreseen and are not allocated in most extant book contracts. In fact, Wylie threatens to monetize those unassigned rights by going outside the publishing business entirely: "We will take our 700 clients, see what rights are not allocated to publishers, and establish a company on their behalf to license those e-book rights directly to someone like Google, Amazon.com, or Apple. It would be another business, set up on parallel tracks to the frontlist book business."

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



       From Fatwa to Jihad review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kenan Malik on The Rushdie Affair and its Aftermath, From Fatwa to Jihad.

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



27 June 2010 - Sunday

Sonallah Ibrahim profile | Audition review

       Sonallah Ibrahim profile

       In The National Ursula Lindsey profiles Sonallah Ibrahim: closure by Stealth, focussing on his recently translated Stealth -- though noting:
The translator Hosam Aboul-Ela does a fine job but falls short of the limpidity and concision of the original (especially when compared with the superb French translation by Richard Jacquemond). This is a book whose foundation is the minute description of everyday scenes, in a language that draws no attention to itself. Aboul-Ela's translation hews too close to the words on the page, rather than on clearly rendering the sequences of actions into English, leading to awkward constructions and, in a few instances, to misapprehensions about what exactly is going on.
       I'm an Ibrahim-fan -- see reviews of Zaat and The Committee -- but I haven't seen a copy of Stealth yet. It's out from Aflame Books, who are going through a rough patch (and Stealth doesn't appear to be listed at their website at this time), but get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       See also bonus coverage from Lindsey at The Arabist, Sonallah Ibrahim, taking stock, where she gets him to answer the 'Proust Questionnaire' (including: "Who are your favourite prose authors ? Hemingway and Raymond Chandler").
       See also comments at Arabic Literature (in English) (who reviewed Stealth in The Believer).

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



       Audition review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Murakami Ryu's Audition (yes, the novel the film is based on) -- finally also available in the US (the translation came out in the UK last year).

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



26 June 2010 - Saturday

Profiles: Dario Fo - Juan Gabriel Vásquez - Yaşar Kemal - Kim Yeong-nang
Hypercomplexity ? | Miyabe reviews

       Profile: Dario Fo

       Emily Backus profiles the Playwright of the people, 1997 Nobel laureate Dario Fo, in the Financial Times. In the 'House & Home' section.

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



       Profile: Juan Gabriel Vásquez

       In The Guardian Maya Jaggi profiles Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Informers and the new-to-the-UK (but not yet published in the US ...) The Secret History of Costaguana; see the Bloomsbury publicity page or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
       What I found most interesting in the profile:
As a trilingual translator, Vásquez has rendered works by EM Forster and John Dos Pasos, as well as Victor Hugo, into Spanish.

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



       Profile: Yaşar Kemal

       In The Nation Marc Edward Hoffman profiles Turkish great Yaşar Kemal, in As Big as Mount Ararat.
       Hoffman thinks:
If Pamuk is Turkish literature's face -- or at least the face that it turns to the West, and that the West finds most flattering -- then Kemal is Turkish literature's heart and conscience.
       (It is amazing how far out of favor the relatively well-translated-into-English Kemal has fallen in the US and UK.)

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



        Profile: Kim Yeong-nang

       In The Korea Times Chung Ah-young reports that Poet Kim Yeong-nang revisited in English, as:
Until Peonies Bloom: The Complete Poems of Kim Yeong-nang translated by Brother Anthony of Taize into English has been published in the order of the poem collection edited by Kim Hak-dong published in 1993
       Get your copy at Amazon.com.

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



       Hypercomplexity ?

       In the Wall Street Journal Terry Teachout (also of About Last Night) takes a quick look at the possibility that some art is just Too Complicated for Words, as he argues that Fred Lerdahl's notion of (musical) hypercomplexity may well apply to literary works as well.
       I look forward to seeing how readers react to this.

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



       Miyabe reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two early but only recently translated mysteries by Miyabe Miyuki:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



25 June 2010 - Friday

Tim Parks review | Worst ... retitling ... ever ?
Translation from ... Albanian | Murakami Haruki in Chinese translation
Found in Translation Festival | New World Literature Today
French summer reading suggestions ?

       Tim Parks review

       In The New York Review of Books Tim Parks covers an interesting batch of titles in a single go: Edith Grossman's Why Translation Matters, Steven Moore's The Novel: An Alternative History, Beginnings to 1600 (which I will be getting to), David Shields' much-discussed Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (which I probably won't), and the anthology, Best European Fiction 2010.
       Well worth a look, and some good points -- but I can't say I find too much I'm in agreement with. And typical of the way he presents his arguments is:
Both Grossman and Hemon applaud countries like Germany, France, and Italy where translations account for perhaps 50 percent of published fiction. What they do not say is that all but a few of these translations are from English and take the form of genre novels, detective stories, thrillers, and so on. So commercially successful are these books in a country like Italy that the newspaper Corriere della Sera splits its best-seller list into domestic and foreign fiction, since otherwise there might be times when domestic authors would not feature. Some publishers concentrate almost exclusively on translations, freeing themselves from the arduous task of finding and fostering new writers in their own language.
       "All but a few" ? Surely he knows better: regardless of how much Anglo-American schlock is translated into these languages there's just no question that more 'literary' fiction (and the cut-off point of what you consider 'literary' can be made wherever you wish for purposes of this argument) from other languages (i.e. not English) is translated into each of these languages than into English. You also have to love the idea that publishers somehow have it easier when they've freed themselves "from the arduous task of finding and fostering new writers in their own language" ... because specializing in translation is so much easier .....
       There's also stuff like: "If Americans translate little it is partly because all eyes are turned in their direction"; whether or not the latter part is true, it seems a poor explanation (even for an only partial explanation) as to why Americans translate little .....

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



       Worst ... retitling ... ever ?

       So the UK paperback of Ammon Shea's entertaining Reading the OED is now out -- under the new title: Satisdiction.
       The subtitle is: One Man's Journey Into All The Words He'll Ever Need, but, really, that one word -- satisdiction ?!?? -- was more than any of us needed. As Christopher Hirst wonders in his mini-review in The Independent today:
Who had the idea of sexing up this book's original title, Reading the Oxford English dictionary ?
       'Sexing up' ? I'd put it a bit differently ......
       Mysterious are the ways of publishers indeed. But this can't do anything for this book's sales, can it ?

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



       Translation from ... Albanian

       At BalkanInsight.com Ben Andoni notes that Albania's Literary Treasures Lost in Translation (via), as:
Two decades after the fall of the isolated Hoxha regime, Albania's literature is still largely unknown to the outside world -- mainly because there aren't enough skilled translators.
       Yeah, I hate to break it to them, but, important though skillful translation is, that's probably not the only thing holding contemporary Albanian literature back from flooding the American market .....
       I do like what they're trying to do:
To solve this and other problems to do with translation, novelist Mira Meksi, who often doubles as translator from Spanish into Albanian, proposes the creation of an institution tasked exclusively with translating literary texts.
       I just hope they don't expect too much from it.

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



       Murakami Haruki in Chinese translation

       At Danwei Alice Xin Liu offers an interesting piece on Haruki Murakami's Chinese translators on emulating style (via), with two of Murakami's translators-into-the-Chinese weighing in.

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



       Found in Translation Festival

       This sounds like it must have been pretty interesting: the recent Found in Translation Festival in Toronto, highlighting: "authors whose works have originated in a language other than their native tongue".
       See also Daniela Fisher's re-cap in Tandem, Finding what's lost in translation.

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



       New World Literature Today

       The July/August issue of World Literature Today is now available, with a decent selection of the content accessible online. It's devoted to Sherman Alexie, but there's also considerable additional material.

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



       French summer reading suggestions ?

       So what's "La sélection du Figaro Littéraire" for summer reading ? Check out what they consider Les livres à lire cet été. (I find it rather ... underwhelming.)

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



24 June 2010 - Thursday

Literature from ... Laos | Erofeyev in Iran
Ingeborg Bachmann Preis | Moscow Book Festival

       Literature from ... Laos

       Not much from the summer issue of the Asian Literary Review is available online, but Tippaphon Keopaseut's Looking for Laos is.
       Keopaseut writes:
One thing that seemed sure was that the Lao would not find Laos in its literature. Laos, let's face it, is not internationally acclaimed for its literature. And that is not because only Lao can read Lao, although I admit it is hard to like or dislike a book if you can't read it. Like most countries, Laos, by which I mean the one with a million elephants and a white parasol, had its Golden Age. That was at least 450 years ago
       But there is mention of one interesting project:
To bring us right up to date, by delving a little more into the past, an internationally funded project had, as of January 2010, made more than 12,000 palm-leaf manuscripts available on the internet. These manuscripts took years to collect from all over Laos. Well, you can imagine my relief, and the relief of all students of Lao language and literature -- 12,000 manuscripts to wade through would have certainly changed my five-year course at the National University of Laos into a post-graduate vocation. Imagine also my excitement. Laos has a written past. 'Laos found!' It would have been nice to end my journey there. But one little problem: it's all in Tham script, I can't read a word of it.
       God forbid they'd provide the URL ... but I guess that's what I'm here for: it's the Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts and even for those (like me, too) who find the Tham script ... quite a hurdle, there's some accessible material of interest, such as some of the research papers (even if they are only available in the dreaded pdf format).

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



       Erofeyev in Iran

       Is it possible ? -- Victor Erofeyev's Хороший Сталин has been translated into Persian before it's available in English ? Apparently so: MNA report that Good Stalin reviews malevolent spirit of man: author, as:
Author of The Good Stalin Viktor Erofeyev, currently visiting Iran, attended the review session of his book at Tehranís Central branch of Book City on June 22.

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



       Ingeborg Bachmann Preis

       The Ingeborg Bachmann Preis-competition starts up today -- and the texts will be available after the various readings, in English and other translations. Katy Derbyshire, who translated half of the texts, offers a bit of a preview at her weblog, love german books -- and will, no doubt, be following events closely there.

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



       Moscow Book Festival

       In The Moscow Times Boris Kagarlitsky has a bit of a look at the recently completed fifth International Book Festival in Moscow, in Trashy Novels and Bloody Noses.
       He notes:
But as the Soviet intelligentsia disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union, so did serious books. Now the only books filling Russian bookstores are cheap detective novels and other trash. Not surprisingly, the number of Russian books translated into foreign languages has fallen dramatically over the past 20 years.

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



23 June 2010 - Wednesday

Truth takes Miles Franklin Literary Award | Slushy slush coverage
Finnish lit superior to Dutch ? | 'Fiction has become culturally irrelevant' ?
Miri Jiyori review

       Truth takes Miles Franklin Literary Award

       Truth, by Peter Temple, has been awarded the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and it's widely considered noteworthy that it is a 'genre' title; compare, for example, Ian Rankin's much-publicized whining about how in the UK mysteries and thrillers get overlooked for the major literary prizes. (Of course they don't get overlooked: publishers simply refuse to submit them: they need their 'literary' titles to be in the prize-mix in the hopes of getting any attention and readers, and it wouldn't do to share that attention with books that are actually popular .....)
       Get your copy of Truth at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Slushy slush coverage

       At Salon Laura Miller tackles a perennially popular subject -- with a perennially popular slant -- as she wonders 'How do you find something good to read in a brave new self-published world ?' in The democratization of slush.
       This is hardly a new debate: I refer readers to a Literary Saloon Dialogue from nearly a decade ago, where I argued May a Hundred Million Books Bloom: In Praise of Slush -- and where I linked to, among others, a piece by ... Laura Miller, at Salon, where she moans about ... well, pretty much the same thing as she now does a decade later .....
       Before getting to the actual slush issues I have to take issue with one particular 'point' Miller makes. I've railed against this sort of misrepresentation often enough -- well, obviously not often enough: it apparently falls on deaf ears -- but here goes, one more time: Miller writes:
Did I mention that there are a whole lot of these books ? Bowker, a company that tracks industry statistics, calculated that, in 2009 alone, new titles published outside of "traditional publishing and classification definitions" numbered 764,448. Yes, you read that right: upward of three-quarters of a million books in a single year. Not all of those books were intended for a general readership, but if, say, two-thirds of them were, you could just barely manage to read the first page of every single one of them in the course of year -- provided you also gave up eating, sleeping and bathing. (I calculate about one page per minute; your mileage may, of course, vary.) And this is the situation even in the days before we've come close to hitting the crest of the new, technology-driven self-publishing boom.
       Miller actually links to the relevant Bowker press release; it's unclear that she actually read it; she certainly didn't read it closely. For one, she's flat out -- and terribly misleadingly -- wrong in her claim: Miller writes that the Bowker-calculated 764,448 titles were new titles; in fact, the Bowker press release carefully: "projects that 764,448 titles were produced", making no claim they're new.
       (The basic mistake made in citing Bowker figures -- these, or the ones Miller cited a decade ago -- is that what Bowker consider new is generally equated with 'previously unpublished'. That's not the case: my understanding is that Bowker simply tracks ISBN numbers (and corresponding titles): new ISBN -- i.e. new edition (including paperback version of a hardback published the year before) = 'new' title. But in this case Bowker doesn't even bring up the 'new'-label .....)
       The press release conveniently publishes a list of the top ten non-traditional publishers responsible for these 764,448 titles. Note, for example, BiblioBazaar and Kessinger Publishing -- responsible, between them, with 272,930 and 190,175 books respectively for well over half the total. How many of those are 'new' titles ?
       Not a one.
       As Andrew Albanese reported at PW, in BiblioBazaar: How a Company Produces 272,930 Books A Year:
All of the company's content is in the public domain, and are basically "historical reprints," Davis told PW, with foreign language books, and their "added layers of complexity" the fastest growing category of books. "Dealing with out-of-copyright materials lets us leverage our knowledge and relationships in the global bookselling industry more easily as we build out what is shaping up to be a pretty killer platform," he noted.
       Get that ? All of their books consist of previously available (but now otherwise not readily accessible) public domain material: i.e. there's nothing new here whatsoever.
       The same goes for Kessinger. So please, if you report on the Bowker 'numbers' don't misrepresent what's behind them.
       (On the other hand, as I've also mentioned before, note that the Bowker numbers claim Lulu.com is responsible for a mere 10,386 titles (and Xlibris 10,161 and AuthorHouse 9,445) while Lulu claims: "Lulu alone published over 400,000 titles last year" -- surely there's the slush Miller is looking for (or rather wants to avoid); somebody should dig into those number-discrepancies.)

       As to Miller's complaint against slush ... well, she writes:
Readers themselves rarely complain that there isn't enough of a selection on Amazon or in their local superstore; they're more likely to ask for help in narrowing down their choices. So for anyone who has, however briefly, played that reviled gatekeeper role, a darker question arises: What happens once the self-publishing revolution really gets going, when all of those previously rejected manuscripts hit the marketplace, en masse, in print and e-book form, swelling the ranks of 99-cent Kindle and iBook offerings by the millions ? Is the public prepared to meet the slush pile ?
       (Pretty much what she was complaining about a decade ago: "Perhaps that's why nobody -- and that includes authors and would-be authors -- has bothered to wonder if anyone in the modest population of regular book buyers has ever complained that there just aren't enough books out there. I'll hazard that very few readers walk into their local bookstore, look around, sigh and say, "Is that it ?"", etc. .....)
       And I still think there's too little available (though the situation has improved in the past ten years) ... but I'll revisit all my arguments on another occasion.
       For now, I'd argue Miller would do better not rehashing her arguments from yesteryear and should take a closer look at what the consequences are proving to be -- what's the impact of those 400,000 Lulu-titles (or is it only 10,386 ?), for example. And what I'd really want to hear about, for example, is the apparent ? real ? success of Shanda Literature Limited, which sounds like slush-pile-heaven: established in July 2008:
SDL has already accumulated the copyrights to the astonishing figure of almost 50 million pages worth of original Chinese literature, which is still increasing at the rate of 60,000 pages a day. The average daily page view is around 400 million while the highest has exceeded 520 million. SDL has taken up more than 90% of the online original literature market in China. It has attracted more than 43 million registered users.
       400 million daily page views ? Sounds like readers have found the slush pile and they love it .....

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



       Finnish lit superior to Dutch ?

       At Helsingin Sanomat they report that Top boss at publisher WSOY wants authors to be more visible.
       Nightmarish stuff (even if, sadly, it's probably also largely true) that Jaques Eijkens spews:
Previously, an author was someone who would sit at a desk, churning out copy that a publisher would package into book form and sell to readers. In the future, book publishing is expected to focus more on the writerís persona and brand. An author needs to be present in the media, the internet, on mobile phones, and live in person.

"It is important for there to be an interesting persona behind the publishing concept. People do not want just a book, they want an author", Eijkens says.
       But, most controversially and entertainingly, Eijkens also says:
"There are excellent authors in Finland, probably better ones than in The Netherlands, for instance, but Finland lags behind in the commercialisation of the business."
       I look forward to the Dutch reactions -- and I wonder why he picks on the Dutch, of all people (which sets the bar pretty high).

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



       'Fiction has become culturally irrelevant' ?

       In The New York Observer Lee Siegel offers a piece -- Where Have All the Mailers Gone ? -- so stunningly wrong-headed that it's hard to know where to begin
       It begins:
Amid all the hubbub provoked by The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" list, one elephant-sized fact has been hidden in plain view. Fiction has become culturally irrelevant.
       And -- amazingly -- it just goes downhill from there.
       I know I should make the counterarguments one by one but I can't keep from spluttering. Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense: I'll leave it at that for now.

       (Updated - 24 June): Among the many, many reactiosn to Siegel is Carolyn Kellogg's at Jacket Copy, where she offers a more or less point-by-point refutation -- though I disagree with, for example, her point number seven where she agrees with Siegel that: "The most interesting, perceptive and provocative writers of our moment write narrative nonfiction"; that's certainly not been my experience or opinion (non-fiction, to me, is second-class fiction: fiction is what counts, fiction is what matters).

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



       Miri Jiyori review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Rajanikanta Bordoloi's 1894 Assamese novel, Miri Jiyori.

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



22 June 2010 - Tuesday

E-reader price wars ? | Crime fiction ... down under | Seed review

       E-reader price wars ?

       First Barnes & Noble cut the price of their 'Nook' e-readers -- to $199.00 for the 3G version, and $149.00 for the Wi-Fi version -- then Amazon followed suit, announcing they were slashing the price of their 'Kindle' (get yours here) from $259.00 to $189.00 .....
       It's getting interesting, as, presumably, iPad-pressure and competition from other e-readers coming to market is turning these loss-leaders into bigger-loss leaders.
       Outrageously, both Barnes & Noble and Amazon won't reveal how many (or few ?) of these things they're actually shipping, so it remains unclear whether they're clawing for market share in a tiny market, or looking to establish their devices as the default ones in a rapidly expanding one. (The 'Kindle' is going on sale at Target this week, while the 'Nook' is already available at Best Buy, as both also look to expand into (other) retail markets.)
       If this -- or the price-cuts to come -- is enough to get a lot more of these and similar devices into circulation it might certainly give a healthy boost to the e-book market.
       See also, for example, Geoffrey Fowler finding Price Cuts Electrify E-Reader Market in the Wall Street Journal -- where he writes:
Barnes & Noble said it dropped the Nook's price so it could reach a wider group of potential customers, especially ones who aren't hard-core readers. Amazon declined to comment beyond a press release that simply announced the price cut.

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



       Crime fiction ... down under

       In The Australian Graeme Blundell finds that Crime pays for writers and that, as elsewhere, crime fiction is flying off the shelves in Australia:
"In 2009, crime was worth $105 million from a total fiction market of $368 million, which is 28 per cent of the fiction market, up from 2008 -- but the increase was almost totally attributed to Dan Brown," Sean Cotcher, national account manager for Little, Brown, part of the Hachette Australia group, says. "It is the second-largest fiction genre behind general/literary fiction, which was worth $145 million in 2009."
       (Doesn't that seem like ridiculously little money, by the way ?)

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



       Seed review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sebhat Gebre Egziabher's Seed and Other Short Stories; yes, after reading this profile (see my recent previous mention) I was curious enough to seek out what appears to be the only volume of his work available in English.

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



21 June 2010 - Monday

The One Hundred and One Nights
Prizes: Society of Authors' awards - Bessie Head awards
Borges reviews

       The One Hundred and One Nights

       Yes, not the more familiar and famous One Thousand and One Nights, but rather a new mauscript of The One Hundred and One Nights apparently constitutes A New Chapter in the History of Arab Literature, and Qantara.de interviews Claudia Ott about the fact that an 'almost 800-year-old manuscript is shedding new light on one of the hidden jewels of Arabic literature' .

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



       Prizes: Society of Authors' awards

       At the Society of Authors last week Authors' Awards Announced, with twenty-two writers being awarded a total of more than £70,000 in prize money.
       Among the prizes: The Betty Trask Prize and Awards (for under 35s), with the big prize going to Nadifa Mohamed's Black Mamba Boy; see also the Somaliland Press report, Somaliland novelist wins prestige literary award, or get your copy of the novel at Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Prizes: Bessie Head awards

       The Sunday Standard reports on the Botswana's big literary prizes, The 2010 Bessie Head Literature Awards, and:
Tshetsana Senau won first prize in the category of NOVEL, for her manuscript, Travelling to the Sun: The Diary of Ruth.

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



       Borges reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of three new collections of Jorge Luis Borges' work coming out from Penguin Classics:        Unfortunately, much of the material is familiar (disappointing, given how much of his non-fiction has not yet been translated).

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



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