In Forbes Dirk Smillie runs down The Highest-Paid Authors -- noting that while it may be tough going for some in the literary world:
But the world's 10 top-earning authors are making out just fine, earning a combined $270 million over the 12 months to June 1.
Top of the (earnings) class is James Patterson, with $70 million in earnings.
Most depressing statistic I've come across in a while: "One out of every 17 novels bought in the U.S. are authored by Patterson" (though presumably a more accurate statement would be that the name 'James Patterson' appears on 1 out of every 17 titles sold; the extent of his 'authorship' is, after all, often very limited).
So there have been a number of newspaper stories reporting on the 'Waterstone's ComRes survey of MPs' about their planned summer reading, but why not check out the actual ComRes press release, Waterstone's MP Summer Reading Poll August 2010 ?
There they note, for example:
The Third Man by Peter Mandelson is the book MPs are most likely to be found reading this summer recess, with 5% of MPs surveyed said that they would be reading the former Business Secretary's memoir of New Labour this summer, either at home or on holiday.
Put this way the results sound ... almost interesting -- but better yet, check out the actual exact breakdown, available as a download (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- where you suddenly realize that ... it's all of 8 MPs who plan to read the Mandelson.
Tied for second most popular answer -- with all of four MPs admitting to it -- is "trashy novels/escapism/non-political" (and I do have to admit some admiration that an MP is willing to own up to going for trashy or escapist fiction -- though of course I would imagine Tony Blair's forthcoming memoir could qualify as such as well).
Scroll further down and you find that two MPs are only now getting to Harry Potter, while one is going to read a "musical text book".
Most impressive -- or bizarre --: the MP planning on reading the "Microsoft Office manual" .....
As to the value of the survey: well, consider that 34 (22%) can't be bothered to answer, 13 aren't sure yet, and 9 aren't planning on reading anything.
With the 'rentrée littéraire' now upon us (or at least upon the French), Joffrey Bollée runs down Le calendrier des prix de la rentrée littéraire in L'Express, with all the dates of the many rounds of all the fall's major French literary prizes (long- and shortlists won't do for some of these prizes that go through as many as four rounds).
They've announced the 20-title strong longlist for the German Book Prize, the Man Booker-imitating literary prize that seems to have quickly established itself as the premier German-language book award (though several of the German author awards are surely still considered more prestigious).
The 20 titles were selected from 148 titles, 135 of which were submitted by publishers (who, outrageously -- just like with the Man Booker -- are limited to two entries per house).
Two publishers -- KiWi and Hanser -- did place three titles apiece on the longlist (meaning at least one each was a 'called-in' title).
None of these titles are under review at the complete review, though several other works by some of the authors are: Alina Bronsky (Broken Glass Park), Thomas Lehr (Nabokovs Katze, 42), and Martin Mosebach (Der Mond und das Mädchen).
The shortlist will be announced on 8 September, and the winner will be announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
"What worries me is that a load of shite has been talked about digitisation as being the new Gutenberg, but the fact is that Gutenberg led to books being put in shelves, and digitisation is taking books off shelves," said Winterson.
"If you start taking books off shelves then you are only going to find what you are looking for, which does not help those who do not know what they are looking for."
At the Christian Science Monitor's book blog, Chapter & Verse, Marjorie Kehe valiantly (?) tries to offer Beyond flooding and fundamentalism: best books about Pakistan -- though admitting: "This is a woefully limited list -- I know that".
Bonus points for digging up good old Zulfikar Ghose (while noting that he suits more categories than you can count, beginning or ending with his B.S.Johnson connection), but when the list doesn't include a single work in translation you have to figure it's pretty limited; astonishingly, she also missed the recent and (relatively) big-in-the-US (and obvious selection) A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif (which is exactly the kind of book that usually winds up featured on these types of lists).
In this age of mass-digitizing I'm astonished to see a report that China sets up microfilm records for ancient books (at Xinhuanet, with nice pictures).
I didn't think anyone was microfilming any longer -- though of course there's something to be said for it.
But how can they not go straight to digital ?
"A friend of mine gave me a book of the best European short stories of 2009.
I was instantly struck by how dry and academic they were, and not in the best way, in a cheap, shitey way," he told the Edinburgh international book festival.
He added: "They didn't talk about the real.
I want something more rigorous, more challenging than I am finding at the moment."
You know the columnists (and bloggers) are desperate for news when someone's opinion, based on nothing more than a few short stories in an anthology, is transformed into wholesale condemnation of an entire continent's fiction-output .....
The anthology in question is surely Dalkey Archive Press' Best European Fiction 2010 (despite the dates-mix-up; see the Dalkey publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
I'm desperately hoping they'll use this quote as a blurb on any new printings -- or, if Tsiolkas takes the Man Booker, in full-page adverts:
(D)ry and academic (...) and not in the best way, in a cheap, shitey way.
You can't buy this kind of publicity .....
Anyway, if Tsiolkas bases his opinion of European fiction on an anthology, even a fine one like the Dalkey one ... come on .....
But everyone is milking it for all it's worth -- see, for example, Charlotte Higgins asking at The Guardian's book blog, European fiction: dry and academic ?
What I find curious is that no one has picked up or commented on what else he says -- such as his condemnation of the English-language novel (and here he's referring to novels, not just a story collection):
He said: "In the English-language novel there is a fear of writing about the real world.
I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction that's true to the world.
I read to have my assumptions challenged, to be scared, to cry.
That novel isn't being written at the moment."
(I do have to admit that he's probably right in his complaint that "Europeans are so much more class bound", which remains tremendously irritating (consider the ultimate example, the (in that respect) ridiculous The Elegance of the Hedgehog).)
It's almost time for the French rentrée littéraire, with its flood of new books.
This attracts even foreign media attention -- though, alas, reporting tends to be of the kind found here in The Independent, where Molly Guinness finds nothing better to report on than Bonjour jeunesse: new French literary star is 15.
'Literary star' is surely an exaggeration; the lass gets some attention because of her age and will be forgotten soon enough.
The book promises some titillation -- it's "about a 14-year-old girl losing her virginity" (what else would a fifteen-year-old girl have to write about ?) -- prolonging her shelf-life by a week or two, but surely the attention she's getting now, before too many people have actually read the book, is going to be the highpoint of her life and literary career.
As to how this thing got published -- after all, she's surely not the only French teen writing about a teen losing her virginity -- Guinness notes:
But it may not have been a complete disadvantage to have famous parents who are writers. (...)
Ms Bramly's father, Serge Bramly won the Interallié prize in 2008 and is one of the stars of the JC Lattès publishing house, which is bringing out his daughter's book.
And enough written, about her and her book.
Writing in prose that is at once visceral and lapidary, Mr. Franzen shows us how his characters strive to navigate a world of technological gadgetry and ever-shifting mores, how they struggle to balance the equation between their expectations of life and dull reality, their political ideals and mercenary personal urges.
He proves himself as adept at adolescent comedy (what happens to Joey after he accidentally swallows his wedding ring right before a vacation with his dream girl) as he is at grown-up tragedy (what happens to Walter's assistant and new beloved when she sets off alone on a trip to West Virginia coal country); as skilled at holding a mirror to the world his people inhabit day by dreary day as he is at limning their messy inner lives.
(Does the Kakutani ever approve of a book in which she can't find some good limning going on ?)
See also the FSG publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; as I've noted, I haven't received a copy yet.
(Updated - 17 August): As widely noted, at least the Kakutani does not appear to hold a grudge: as reported in 2008 by, for example, The Harvard Crimson and The New York Observer, Franzen opined that: "the stupidest person in New York City is currently the lead reviewer of fiction for the New York Times" -- meaning, of course, the Kakutani.
No big fan of hyperbole, I'm disappointed that Franzen would make such a remark; however little one thinks of the Kakutani -- and many think very, very little of her -- there are surely several milion New Yorkers of greater stupidity (albeit not in such visible positions).
While different publishers put varying levels of effort into the covers of the books they publish, generally, if a book is thought to be a potential best-seller more effort will go into its cover.
"If the book is quite sure to be a best-seller the publisher will take more care on the cover than usual to show their generosity toward the readers.
Some books are published in many editions by different publishers so they try to distinguish between each other’s editions," says San Oo.
In Unresolved mystery from the mind of Murakami in The Japan Times Daniel Morales reviews the (so far) last volume -- book three -- of Murakami Haruki's massive (and still only available in Japanese (well, and Dutch and Korean, etc. but obviously not English)) epic, 1Q84.
One particularly interesting (and, to me, shocking) observation is:
The one downside to this increase in fame is that Murakami no longer has the luxury of being abridged in translation.
Previously, publishers made major cuts in his longer books -- Dance Dance Dance and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
This editing managed to disguise one of Murakami's biggest weaknesses as a writer -- his pacing.
Readers must be patient as he slowly constructs reality around the characters.
They take long walks, meditate on life and loss, sip glasses of single malt and listen to records.
At some point Murakami breaks the repetition with a mysterious change in the world he has built, occasionally managing to shock the reader.
The 'luxury of being abridged' ?
Is he serious ?
I prefer even poor translation, if it's in some respect literally faithful to the original, to abridged translation .....
And I've always liked Murakami's leisurely pacing
In any case:
Readers in English will have access to the complete text when 1Q84 is translated: Books 1 and 2 will be translated into English by Jay Rubin and released in 2011, and Book 3 will follow as a separate edition with a translation by Phillip Gabriel.
How English readers will react to this version of Murakami -- him at his lengthiest and seemingly least self-edited -- will be interesting to see.
So far he has been received well domestically, but unfortunately 1Q84 Book 3 has made it clear that Murakami is at his strongest when writing in a much shorter form.
We'll see .....
(Though not nearly soon enough .....)
In The Reporter Yelibenwork Ayele considers 'Ethiopian authors and the dilemma of writing in English', in To write or not to write, as:
Ethiopian authors have not produced many works of literature in English.
As a result their works are not reaching the international audience and not contributing to introducing the country to the world.
Some people were criticizing the Ethiopian Writers Association for not encouraging Ethiopian novelists and poets to write in English or taking the initiative to translate them.
I'd love some translation initiative, but I can certainly do well enough without them turning to English as the language they write in.
With The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, Volume II now out it's time for another profile of publisher Blaft: this time Vinita Bharadwaj does the honors in The National, in Chennai publishers revive Tamil pulp fiction.
Glad to see they get the deserved attention; I should get around to reviewing volume one eventually; meanwhile, get your copy of volume two at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Released as paperback originals, Albert Cossery's A Splendid Conspiracy and The Jokers haven't gotten nearly the attention they deserve, but it's great to see David L. Ulin review both in The Los Angeles Times -- and begin his review:
Albert Cossery, who died in 2008 at age 94, ought to be a household name.
He's that good: an elegant stylist, an unrelenting ironist, his great subject the futility of ambition "in a world where everything is false."
For me, Cossery has definitely been the author-discovery of the year, and I'm incredibly disappointed that his other books -- several others have previously been translated but are long out of print -- are impossible to get a hold of.
Yes, more are coming -- both New Directions and New York Review Books are readying additional titles -- but he should already be attracting more attention with these.
Maybe now he will .....
Publishing Pespectives now offers the second part of Chad Post's look at Building a Case for Translations; among other things he looks at misguided (large-)publisher efforts to repeat what's worked before (leading to that complaint that: "It's not The Elegance of the Hedgehog").
Among the points of interest: Chad notes:
This is why publishing houses with strong brands -- Archipelago, Europa Editions, New Directions -- do better with literature than some of the major commercial houses.
They may not have the distributing power, but they draw this other group of readers to them.
In some ways, they’re in a better position to successfully publish a "non-commercial" translation than a Random House.
In the Buenos Aires Herald Ana Laura Caruso writes that 'Independent publishers showcase their best books in select bookstores this week' in Hot 20, as:
In Buenos Aires, until next Sunday, indie publisher association Alianza de Editores Independientes de la Argentina (EDINAR) presents a Hot List with what's hot in the indie literature world.
EDINAR, which comprises 30 publishing houses, was created in 2005 in order to defend diversity in the publishing environment. This time, 20 publishers chose one book each from their catalogues to be part of a Hot List, available and prominently displayed at different bookstores – these are not their best sellers, but the books that they feel deserve more of the spotlight than they're currently getting. The Hot List comprises a great variety of genres such as novels, short stories books, poetry, and essays.
Caruso runs down all twenty titles in English, but see also the EDINAR hotLIST page; authors include Macedonio Fernández, Ricardo Piglia, and ... Gary Snyder
And Caruso notes:
Perhaps the best writing of today is being published through small presses, who are keeping the independent spirit of literature alive.
New small publishing houses are born every month but they can die out easily due to financial problems.
There's a lot of new things shimmering right now, so let that best-seller book drop off your hand and get to know what's hot today in Argentine literature.
As widely, widely reported Jonathan Franzen is the first living author to make the cover of Time magazine in quite a while; he appears on the 23 August issue cover.
Lev Grossman writes the accompanying article, an abridged version of which is available online; more usefully, there's also Franzen's Bookshelf, where 'Jonathan Franzen offers his take on five novels that inspired him recently' (okay, it's not much more useful; still ...).
Franzen, of course, has a new and much anticipated book coming out, Freedom; see the FSG publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(If/when I get my hands on a copy of the book I'll review it; so far, despite having reviewed all his previous work (even that translation of Speing Awakening), my efforts to obtain one have not met with any success.)
Industry executives say the book business is vibrant on the continent but they also face the challenges of few leisure readers, a primarily urban reach, small local print runs and a heavy reliance on skills-enhancing textbooks over fiction.
And, for example:
In Nigeria, authors have ditched publishers to self-publish at low cost, shrugging off editors, 10 percent royalties and quality-control checks.
"The transparent pseudonym is very modern," says Carmela Ciuraru, a Brooklyn-based author and editor whose book Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms comes out next year.
"It's getting to have it both ways: exploiting the popularity and safety of your own established brand while using the protective cloak of a pen name ....
It's an easy way to show off how versatile they are as a performer ....
If a critic bashes them for taking on a different genre or prose style, they've always got their own wildly successful, established name to fall back on."
Chinese online e-lit giant Shanda is in the news yet again, now with the announcement of the release of their brilliantly named Bambook e-reader (which, unfortunately, does not have a nice bamboo veneer -- maybe the deluxe edition ?), but there still hasn't been any good English-language coverage explaining their success and impact.
Instead, one just finds piece such as Alexis Madrigal's Meet China's Largest eBook Publisher, a Videogame Company (at an Atlantic-blog), which barely scratches the surface -- and doesn't convey what they do very well (after all, their model is still based on online-reading, as opposed to what e-publishing has become in the US, etc.).
In Haaretz Omri Herzog reviews Shimon Adaf's כפור -- a novel set in the 26th century, "years after Judaism has almost completely disappeared from the world and recreated itself as a secluded Orthodox community in Tel Aviv" --, in Declaration of assets, and asks:
Who other than Shimon Adaf can create such imaginative Jewish science fiction ? Nuntia (whose Hebrew title, Kfor, means frost ) creates a highly detailed futuristic world, in which one can find the special qualities that make Adaf, the much-praised Sderot-raised writer of poetry, fiction and essays, a daring and unconventional artist.
Motivated by the desire to breach consensual standards of writing, to cause friction between past and future, and to create literary, technological and linguistic worlds, Adaf is situated at the cutting edge of literary innovation in Israel.
Shimon Adaf is a genius; he is erudite, and a poet, and a man of many talents.
But this novel seems to exist primarily to proclaim his virtues, to celebrate them and to demand that they be acknowledged.
The words of literature are always a site of sacrifice, but when they worship the deified writer rather than serving the ritual of literature, they are liable to risk desecrating God's name.
Still sounds worth a look -- but no Adaf books have been translated yet (just some stray poems).
The European Union Literary Award -- a South African prize (I know there's a 'reasonable' explanation here, but, come on ...) -- has gone to Deeper than Colour by James Clelland; see, for example, Craig Mackenzie's report in the Mail & Guardian, Morbid but irresistible.
As he notes:
The Award, which consists of a R25 000 cash prize and publication by Jacana Media, aims to promote fresh South African literature that speaks not only to South Africans but also to an international audience.
This year's Man Booker longlist is the strongest-selling since 2001, with Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap (Tuskar Rock) by the far the most popular of the 13, according to Nielsen BookScan data.
Last year's winner, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate), has sold 485,000 copies to date, taking £4.3m through UK bookshop tills.
The hardback edition sold 225,000 copies, up 10,400% (or £2.7m in sales terms) on Mantel's previous novel, Beyond Black.
As widely reported (well, in the African press) Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka formed a political party (in Nigeria) a few weeks ago, the Democratic Front for Peoples Federation (DFPF); see, for example, Segun Balogun's report, Soyinka forms new party in Next.
In The East African John Mwazemba now writes about The writer who would be president.
I recently mentioned the new The Hindu Best Fiction Award -- and expressed my ... disappointment that it was restricted to English-written texts: translations need not apply.
The good folk at the The Hindu's Literary Review have now written to me, clarifying the situation, explaining that:
this award is only a prelude to something bigger next year when the Literary Review completes 20 years.
The Hindu Literary Review, as you are probably aware, has given a lot of space for reviews of regional literature/translations and author interviews.
But, since this is our initial venture into literary awards, we are focusing on Indian writing in English, which has seen a boom in the last few years.
We will be branching into more categories covering translations, regional languages and others in subsequent editions of the award.
Sounds good -- very good, in fact.
I'm just surprised they're not announcing that more prominently elsewhere.
Anyway, I look forward to those subsequent editions.
The complete review was founded more than eleven years ago, and the Literary Saloon -- this weblog part of the site -- opened its doors exactly eight years ago today.
Thanks for your continued patronage; I'll do my best to keep the ... literary spirits flowing.