In the Boston Globe Craig Fehrman looks at 'The strange afterlife of authors' book collections', in Lost libraries -- beginning with but not limited to David Markson's collection.
Particularly disappointing to read:
Why not make the list of an author's books before dispersing them ?
The answer, usually, is time.
Book dealers, Wronoski says, can't assemble scholarly lists while also moving enough inventory to stay in business.
When Wallace's widow and his literary agent, Bonnie Nadell, sorted through his library, they sent only the books he had annotated to the Ransom Center.
The others, more than 30 boxes' worth, they donated to charity.
There was no chance to make a list, Nadell says, because another professor needed to move into Wallace's office.
"We were just speed skimming for markings of any kind."
Come on, people -- how long does it take to inventory/list ?
They announced the longlists for the prix Femina and the prix Médicis last week -- both of which also have a foreign book category which, surprisingly, wasn't completely dominated by English-language titles (with, for example, Sofi Oksanen's Purge making both lists; good also to see Gonçalo M. Tavares getting some attention).
Houellebecq also made the Femina longlist, but not the Médicis.
To the End of the Land is the novel that was (in)famously 'blurbed' by Jonathan Safran Foer's wife, Nicole Krauss ("Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same", etc.) -- see, for example, The Book Haven's take, The whoredom of the blurb, with most of the pertinent links.
Amazingly, Knopf went with the blurb on the finished copy, too (though on the galley, which I did not see, it was apparently "plastered right on the galley’s front cover in a largish font" -- so Scott Esposito at his Conversational Reading -- while here it is on the back cover); there's also an over-the-top blurb by Paul Auster ("Flaubert created his Emma, Tolstoy made his Anna, and now we have Grossman's Ora [.....] I devoured this long novel in a feverish trance").
It seems an awful lot of expectation to burden a book with -- but then again, perhaps the publishing wisdom is that no one is going to read such a fat tome anyway (and thus realize the blurbs were ... exaggerations) and the point is to shift copies, which the blurb may accomplish: when guests drop in and pick up the book on your coffee table and read the fantastic blurb they'll be impressed by your refined taste, etc.
(Well meaning though Krauss and Auster presumably were, I can only assume that they were both in one hell of a "feverish trance" when reading this: it's a perfectly fine novel, which certainly impresses in part, but come on ..... )
At Qantara.de Fakhri Saleh writes on the 'Literary Awakening in Saudi Arabia', in A Distant Echo of 9/11.
Among his observations:
Girls of Riyadh lifts the veil on an obscure world, but cannot be considered a masterpiece in Arabic narrative; it is a bestseller, but too simple in style and worldview.
The novelists who really lift the veil on the Saudi world are Abdo Khal, Yousef Al-Mohaimeedeed and Leila Al-Johani.
They held a Murakamifestival at the Litteraturhuset in Oslo 20 to 23 August, and Murakami was in attendance; at Asahi Shimbun Shigeki Tosa and Takehiko Ito report at some length on A different face of Haruki Murakami, which includes a lot of Murakami's own words and answers to audience questions.
Be warned, however: questions included the likes of:
Which hair conditioner do you use ?
We really admire your hair.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o wants writers, especially young ones, to publicise their works as widely as possible, even if it means resorting to self-publishing.
Ngugi singles out The Kwani? group as an example of young writers who are keeping the local literary flame burning.
He, however, says The Kwani? journal needs to emulate what Transition Magazine did for writers of Ngugi’s generation.
Tunc has been translating Nigerian poetry into Turkish for a few years now.
He presents his translated poems to poetry lovers in a weekly book magazine, which is delivered as a free supplement of a newspaper.
Only one page of the supplement is assigned for poetry translation, and the translators send their translation works to the editor of the page voluntarily.
He does not receive money from doing this.
His intention is to give the Nigerian poet a place in the minds of lovers of poetry in Turkish language.
His sole inspiration and driver is to enable Turkish readers to meet Nigerian poetry through his translations.
In The Guardian Richard Lea profiles the Argentinian novelist, in Why Martin Kohan won't tango.
Kohan's novel, Seconds Out
, is now out (in the UK -- get your copy at Amazon.co.uk --; in the US, not so much), and looks pretty interesting.
And I like Kohan's attitude towards historical fiction:
Seconds Out is no straightforward piece of historical fiction, as the author is at pains to insist.
"The whole of my investigation consisted of reading two pages of a sports magazine. Seven minutes of research," he says.
"The rest is made up."
I'm amused to see that while the Financial Times article on the shortlist -- bizarrely, not freely accessible online -- is headlined: 'Shortlist looks beyond the financial crisis', Reuters is having none of that, headlining their piece Financial crisis dominates business book shortlist.
I was amused to see that Glenn Garvin's article in The Miami Herald, Back to the USSR: There's red on the horizon for a new wave of authors, which goes on at some length about the current popularity of crime fiction set Russia (albeit in in Soviet times), fails to mention any Russian-writing authors.
Crime fiction is big in contemporary Russia -- though generally not focused on Soviet times (it's either Czarist -- think Boris Akunin -- or contemporary).
Will the likes of mega-bestsellers Alexandra Marinina, Polina Dashkova, and Daria Donzova ever catch on in English ?
(They're pretty big throughout Europe; maybe, as happened with the Scandinavians, the US/UK publishers are just retarded, and will jump on board the bandwagon five or ten years late.)
MobyLives has been sure for a while now -- now even offering proof (of sorts) -- and now everyone seems pretty much convinced: on her show today Oprah Winfrey is going to announce that Jonathan Franzen's Freedom is her book club selection (even if this is perhaps the one book out now that doesn't need the added publicity ...).
Well, we'll find out soon enough.
Given how things went last time she selected a Franzen title -- see the cr Quarterly piece on A Book, an Author, and a Talk Show Host: Some Notes on the Oprah-Franzen Debacle -- I have my doubts about the wisdom of this choice, but what do I know ?
My one reason for hoping that Freedomis her choice is that maybe that's why FSG haven't yet sent me a review-copy (despite my many entreaties): maybe they're waiting to send me one of those with a nice Oprah-sticker on it.
(Updated - 18 September): And, indeed Freedom is Oprah's choice -- and, coincidentally (?), a few hours after she announced the choice a messenger
delivered a copy to me (sans Oprah sticker, however) -- much appreciated !
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vladislav Todorov's Zift.
Billed as Socialist Noir, this is a rare translation-from-the-Bulgarian; it's good to see, but considering the constellation it makes one wonder whether a book and author without the right connections and in the right circumstances can ever get published in English translation: Todorov teaches at a university in Pennsylvania -- so obviously he speaks English well (he got a second PhD in the States, too) and is presumably available for author appearances and interviews; his publisher, Paul Dry Books, is nearby; the book was made into a film that's already out on DVD -- and is scheduled for a Hollywood remake.
Would there have been interest in this book otherwise ?
While the trend in global and US markets clearly shows a rise in sales of e-books with readability on computers, iPhones, iPads, Blackberrys and Android Phones, the fad in Pakistan is more difficult to determine in the absence of proper records.
The trend is undeniable, but the figures Amazon makes public hardly count as 'proper records' either, and so exactly how significant and rapid the spread of e-reading is remains veiled in several mysteries.
But they really think Pakistan is way behind on this particular wave:
"I don't think reading e-books is a growing trend in Pakistan," says Rabia Garib, Editor-in-Chief of CIO Pakistan, a technology and business magazine in Pakistan.
"(This is) simply because the general trend of reading isn't growing in Pakistan.
Yes, that would have an impact too, wouldn't it ?
(Maybe things will improve now that Pakistani writing is apparently getting 'hot': Granta 112, the fall issue, is devoted to Pakistan, while Dalkey Archive Press is bringing out an impressive-looking anthology, Modern Poetry of Pakistan (see their publicity page, or pre-order at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).)
In The Nation Noah Isenberg reviews Ingo Schulze's recently translated One More Story: Thirteen Stories in the Time-Honored Mode (originally published in German as Handy, the sorry word the Germans have adopted for cell/mobile telephone; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), in A Matter of Memory: On Ingo Schulze.
Looking over Schulze's œuvre, Isenberg finds:
German fiction writer Ingo Schulze has distinguished himself as an exceptionally sober-minded, unsentimental chronicler of postunification Germany.
In the Idaho Mountain Express Sabina Dana Plasse reports on Salman Rushdie's recent appearance at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, in Rushdie mulls writing, strange times.
He seemed to vacillate on one subject, in particular:
"I am not in favor of burning books -- I have some experience with this," he said.
But then he apparently added (blurted out in a fit of honesty ?):
I would burn the books of Dan Brown (author of the Da Vinci Code).
Then he reverted to the anti-burning stance again:
In any history of the world, the most objectionable act is the public burning of books.
(Which, of course, leaves the door open (well, I suppose closed ...) for private burnings, presumably of Dan Brown's books and the like.)
My Share, the first novel by the author, features the story of an Iranian woman named Masumeh who comes from a traditional family.
She is forced to marry a man whose main concern is to achieve his revolutionary ideals rather than fulfill his family responsibilites.
She faces much hardship throughout her life and has to face life's problems by herself.
Saniei regards the major character of the story as symbolic of many Iranian women.
The book was first published by Ruzbehan publication in 2003 in Iran and since has been reprinted many times, the Persian service of ISNA reported on Tuesday.
Not a brand new text, but Sani'i has established herself in that impressive (but largely untranslated into English) post-revolutionary group of Iranian women writers that really should get more attention abroad.
It doesn't look like this one is out in French or German (where they generally do a decent job in this area -- Zoya Pirzad, etc.) either -- good for the Italians for publishing it (see also the Garzanti Libri publicity page).
The list of previous winners of the Boccaccio prize is pretty solid, so this is probably worth paying some attention to (scouts ? publishers ? maybe have a look ...).
"The Philippine book market is one of Asia's most resilient. With a more competitive mind-set, industry players initiated moves that all the more spurred its growth," said Irene Lloren, president of Primetrade Asia, in a statement.
From 1990 to 2000, the rare book industry was in its heyday.
"We didn't have internet at that time and many schools didn't have libraries, but our access to reference books was bountiful, so people who wanted to do research had to visit book shops.
"But the job is not as good as it was in the past," he says.
"Historic books have become rare, because many of them are owned by private collectors or have been bought and taken to foreign countries."
And there are also some hard numbers on offer:
After the global economic crisis last year, the price of essential commodities, including paper, increased.
However, the publishing sector still issued 24,589 titles with 274 million total copies.
In 2008, nearly 280 million copies of 25,120 titles were published.
The current issue of World Literature Today includes a profile of bestselling Dutch thriller-author Charles den Tex by J.Madison Davis (not freely accessible online), and I was curious why he hasn't been translated into English yet -- hence the most recent addition to the complete review is my review of his De macht van meneer Miller.
(Edizioni e/o recently brought out an Italian translation (see their publicity page); I'm curious whether that means Europa Editions will take a crack at it.)
The government and publishers have been called upon to come out with measures that will forestall the breeding of 'negative literature' that has the potential to corrupt society.
At the same time:
Expressing concern about the lack of reading culture among a large section of the public, he said "the habit of reading is a fundamental skill upon which all formal education depends", stressing that "unfortunately, it appears that effective and purposeful reading among students and the youth is disappearing.
Maybe if they had a chance to indulge in some 'negative literature' the habit would be forming .....
I think that's the hidden story and the beautiful story of Chile, which is related to its mining experience.
The mines made the workers organize, discover one another, educate one another, care for one another, care for their families in such ways that this is an ethos that has moved down from generation to generation.
And they're down in the mines, and they're teaching us all a lesson.
(I must say that, as incredible as this story is, I already fear the mythologizing that is going to take place, and the works of fiction (and glorious odes, etc.) that will be penned.)
(My favorite Dorfman-work remains his classic How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic; is it really possible that Disney have effectively managed to ban it in the US ?
(The editions available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk are quite outrageously expensive; there is an (ISBN-less) version apparently available from at AKPress -- and there is an edition posted at Scribd.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Massimo Carlotto's Bandit Love -- impressively quickly brought out in English translation by Europa Editions (it came out in Italy in 2009).
In The Independent Alice-Azania Jarvis finds: 'The art that graced the covers of short-story magazines is seducing people more than ever', in The colourful world of pulp fiction.
The senior vice-president of Heritage Auctions explains:
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ogawa Yoko's 沈黙博物館.
Despite several of her books having been translated into English in the past few years (three of them, all under review at the complete review), local publishers are still way behind the French and Germans.
In the Sunday Monitor Kamau Mutunga profiles Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- in a piece with the unfortunate title, Africa's best literary flower.
Mutunga notes that Half of a Yellow Sun "sold more than 650,000 copies in Britain alone", but I'd love to know how many it's sold in Nigeria (or Africa as a whole).
Prizes, and the Man Booker in particular, come in for all sorts of criticism, but I have to admit this is a new one to me: the relatively unobjectionable recently announced Man Booker shortlist has found some prominent detractors, as Laura Roberts reports in The Telegraph that both Philip Pullman and Philip Hensher criticise Booker Prize for including present tense novels.
How dare they -- include present tense novels, that is (as apparently half the shortlisted titles are) !
"I just don't read present-tense novels any more.
It's a silly affectation, in my view, and it does nothing but annoy."
While Hensher adds (a bit more sensibly):
"Writing is vivid if it is vivid. A shift in tense won't do that for you."
Though he also goes on to say:
"What was once a rare, interesting effect is starting to become utterly conventional.
Some of the novels on the Booker longlist just seemed to me to be following fashion blindly."
Writers following fashion blindly ... yeah, that's a rarity .....
They held the M&G Jo'burg Litfest (Mail & Guardian Johannesburg Literary Festival) last week, and David Smith now reports that 'Blacks don't read, according to a prominent African journalist. So how can such an event survive ?' in The Guardian, in Books appear as footnote at South Africa's resurrected literary festival.
The prominent journalist's column he refers to is almost exactly a year old, as Sihle Khumalo published It's a fact: darkies just don't read last September, arguing that 'We must free ourselves from the slavery of the mind'.
Such literary festivals surely must help a bit, but help is clearly still needed: the recent death of well-known author Lewis Nkosi is another case in point, as Don Makatile reports in the Sowetan that Widow bereft as Nkosi's esteemed works add up to nothing, as "Nkosi made a paltry R140 in royalties from his book in one year".
The numbers for Nkosi's most recent, critcally acclaimed book are pretty sorry:
From September 2008 to February 2009, Mandela's Ego sold 60 copies; from March 2009 to August 2009 another 77 were sold; then 49 from September 2009 to February 2010, and in the last accounting -- March to August this year -- a further 14 copies were sold.
Australian (but longtime New York resident) author Peter Carey is shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize yet again, with Parrot and Olivier in America, but, as Catherine Keenan notes in the Sydney Morning Herald, A bright star overseas dims in his homeland, as: 'The global popularity of Aust Lit's most famous son has not been reflected in Australia'.
Keenan notes that: "it's a rare critic who thinks Carey our finest living writer", and:
Yet, given this prodigious talent, few would inch him over from very good into great.
There is an edge of ambivalence towards him in the Australian literary world, often only expressed privately.
He's too uneven for some; others wonder about the heft beneath his astonishing ventriloquist's skills.
Several Carey titles are under review at the complete review -- see, for example, Theft -- and I admit I too would have trouble putting him top-o'-the-heap.
The obligatory piece by the chair of the judges -- Andrew Motion, this year -- on the Man Booker Prize and how they reached the shortlist is now available at The Guardian.
Not much of interest, of course, (i.e. no good dirt) but he does note that: "of our 140-odd, about 100 completely repaid serious attention", and that "more than half the titles were unanimous decisions" for the shortlist, and "the rest were chosen on a points system".
In The Guardian Pankaj Mishra reports that: 'A strange hysteria swept across America last month. The mania was marked by loudly competing eulogies and the monument was to Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom', in Pankaj Mishra on American literature
Still, it's very rare for the reception of a literary novel to become a sociological phenomenon.
(I must say, I'm still not feeling it -- sure there's some fuss, but is it really that manic ?
Might have to do with the fact that I still haven't gotten a copy of the book (and am wondering what the hell that's about ...).)