said the process of publishing books in Australia was lacking.
"We judges frankly read too many submitted books that did not have enough textual and structural editing ... [many books] were being published too early, which doesn't serve writers or readers."
Sad to hear: publishers have few things going for them in the current (and future) climate, but distribution and editorial oversight are the two areas where they can prove their worth; too bad they don't seem to want to bother.
The British Library has bought Wendy Cope's "hybrid archive"; see the official press release.
Naturally, this was immediately spun in the media -- here by Rob Sharp in The Independent -- as: British Library buys poet's 40,000 emails.
Yes, apparently 40,000 of her e-mails -- "2004 to the present" -- are included in the (rather paltry £32,000) deal.
I'm guessing the more interesting part is to be found elsewhere:
At the core of the archive are 67 poetry notebooks dating from 1973 up to the present day.
The notebooks include drafts of poems, jottings of ideas, notes on form and rhyme scheme juxtaposed with transitory glimpses of everyday life, for example in the meticulous 'to do' lists.
Of course, the comprehensiveness of the archive may go a bit too far:
A 1957 school exercise book includes stories by the 12 year old Wendy Cope called 'The Adventures of a Lost Umbrella', 'How the Zebra got his stripes' and 'The Story of a Sixpence'.
They've announced the finalists for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust 2011 Book Awards (mortgage ? investment ? trust ? I hope none of these authors are counting on that cash prize ...).
None of the titles are under review at the complete review -- though I do hope to get to Leila Aboulela's Lyrics Alley.
I've frequently mentioned Chinese online entertainment juggernaut Shanda and its (apparent) success with its online literary sites -- and always wondered why the English-language media (business and publishing) hasn't taken a closer look at this.
Maybe it now will: as, for example, Fang Yunyu reports in the Global Times, Shanda Interactive Entertainment unit mulling US IPO, as:
Nasdaq-listed Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd announced on Monday that its online literature business unit, Cloudary Corp, has already submitted a draft registration statement to the US Securities and Exchange Commission for a possible initial public offering (IPO).
For more about the company, see the official Shanda Literature Corporation site (and note the banner-picture, as well as that on the first page (which comes with the claim 'Shanda Shines with Literary Stars': somehow I don't see any of the good folk pictured there as ... literary stars (and compare also with the ... different looking folk on the Chinese page ...))).
The American Pulitzer Prizes have been announced; the Fiction prize went to A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, beating out other finalists The Privileges by Jonathan Dee and The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee.
(None of these titles are under review at the complete review -- indeed, none of the finalists in any of the categories are under review .....)
The Criticism prize went to someone from the Boston Globe "for his vivid and exuberant writing about art"; he beat out a restaurant critic and an architecture critic.
I.e. no literary critics were in the running.
Go here for all the prizes.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Anna Gavalda's French Leave (to be published in the UK as Breaking Away).
I know, I know: what was I thinking ?
Anna Gavalda ?
(And it's the third book of hers under review at the complete review, no less .....).
But those locally bestselling authors (and Gavalda is huge in France) do fascinate me.
And, hey, at least I haven't reviewed any Marc Levy yet, right ?
(Amusing Anna Gavalda aside: among the many, many odd search queries that have led readers to this site, Is Anna Gavalda a good speller? certainly ranks among the oddest.)
In the Daily Independent Yemi Adebisi reports on Crusading for Nigerian Writers' Village, an ambitious project that sounds like it has some potential -- even if the vision isn't entirely ... cohesive yet.
Aspects certainly sound very promising:
"No other country in the world has a writers' village of the magnitude we envisage.
With the writers' village, Nigeria will become the de-facto capital and destination of African writers and regain her place as prime mover of literary culture on the continent.
The village will have a library of African and World Literature that will have a copy of every work published in Africa, that is, serving as a depository, while representing the literatures of other lands and providing a bookshop culture beyond existing ones.
And they have high hopes for it:
The Writers' Village will become the single most potent symbol of Africa creative and intellectual independence.
Nigerian authors will be able to organise residency programmes for qualified writers on a basis comparable to the best residency programmes anywhere in the world.
The Writers' Village will correct the break in the symbiotic relationship between literature and film, a break, which has subsisted for far too long.
But the theme park-aspect is a bit troubling:
Ododo emphasised the fact that among the buildings planned for the project are models of the Egyptian Pyramids, Roman Columns, the Taj Mahal in India, Chinese Pagodas, the Zimbabwean columns, Nigerian palace architectures, and the ubiquitous African Hut.
He said that school children on excursion would also be able to see replicas of the various architectural styles that they encounter in literature.
Maybe that shouldn't be the highest priority .....
Last month I complained how Google's new algorithm affected the complete review -- with pages from the site no longer figuring anywhere near as high, for the most part, when title/author searches were conducted on Google -- and I expressed my concern about the impact once this 'Panda' update spread to the other Googles.
That has now happened, with the predictable results.
Yes, the Google Webmaster Central Blog cheerfully announced High-quality sites algorithm goes global, incorporates user feedback.
"Based on our testing, we’ve found the algorithm is very accurate at detecting site quality", they write.
Well, they could have (and certainly did) fool me.
Aside from moaning about the complete review faring worse under the new algorithm (see more below) my greater complaint is that, at least for what I search for -- book reviews and book information -- Google results are now almost unusable.
I spend a lot of time hunting down book review information on the Internet, and it looks like I will now have to spend a lot more; for the past month I've been using foreign Googles (google.fr, for example) while they still used the old algorithm, but now even they have been compromised.
Case in point: the links I found for my new review of Darkly Dreaming Dexter.
A search for "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" Jeff Lindsay does, in fact, bring up a few reviews of the book relatively high up in the Google results.
But there are seven review summaries (and links to those reviews) of the book I provide -- reviews from Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, The NY Times, The NY Times Book Review (yes, it was reviewed in both), The New Yorker, The Telegraph, and USA Today, which I imagine would be of greatest interest to potential readers -- and not one of these figures among Google's top-100 results for that search for "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" Jeff Lindsay (which is actually more like 150 or 200, since I block results from all sorts of torrent and bookshop sites).
Maybe this isn't the best example -- it's an older title, there's the confusion with the TV series (though the title-specific search should cancel most of that out), its downloadable at many sites (which Google seems to highly approve of ...), sites like The New York Times' are only limitedly accessible, some of these are very short reviews, etc. -- but still ......
And sure, some of the weblog/website review are pretty good (okay, not many, in this case, but there are some that are more useful than some of these mainstream media reviews).
Still, these newspaper/magazine reviews are reviews I'd want to be aware of -- which is why I make you aware of them.
Too bad Google doesn't make me aware of them.
(Yes, you can find them easily -- but only if you know where to look; I would figure a search for "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" Jeff Lindsay would do it, but it sure as hell doesn't.)
(Jennifer Reese's Entertainment Weeklyreview, in particular, is likely of interest: it's blurbed on the paperback editions of both the Dexter books I reviewed -- though she gave the book a "C" ... something readers might be curious about.)
(And while it's too early to see where the complete reviewreview of Darkly Dreaming Dexter settles in but I note that while Google almost immediately picked it up -- as they always do -- last I checked it was on page six of the results for that "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" Jeff Lindsay-search -- and that's page six at a hundred results per page (and that with hundreds of sites blocked ...).)
So sorry if I'm underwhelmed and unimpressed (and mightily irritated) by Google's rejigged algorithm -- not so much regarding where complete review-content figures (I'm too close to that to judge where pages from the site deserve to be in the search results hierarchy) but where all other book review and information content figures.
It makes for a hell of a lot more work for me, if I expect to continue to be able to provide you with links to the reviews of greatest interest to readers.
Since Google won't do it.
(The Google results are now dominated by commercial and illegal download sites -- and, hey, maybe that is what Internet users are most interested in and what is most useful to them.
But if I want to buy (or il/legally download) a copy of a book I think I'll be able to figure out how to find a site where I can do that; what I'd like is actual information about the book.
The Google blog proudly claims: "searchers are finding better results"; obviously I was not consulted: I can categorically state that I am not.)
That, above, is the general beef; as to the local effects -- wow !
With a full week now of the Google algorithm near universally applied traffic has been rather hard-hit hereabouts:
- the Literary Saloon had less traffic this last week than during the dreaded Christmas-New Years week (when pretty much no one shows up) this year
- week-to-week comparisons are problematic (last week included low(er)-traffic Good Friday and Easter Sunday), but versus the same time-span last year traffic was down:
34% from google.com (while it was up 45% from Bing and 24% from Yahoo)
down from all major visitor countries, including 32% from the US, 34% from the UK, 37% from Canada, and 17% from India
(The only two top-ten nations from which traffic was up over last year are the Netherlands (+6.5%) and Sweden (+15%)
It's still too early to see what the full effect will be, but obviously fewer visitors are likely to find their way to the complete review if this is the way the algorithm now works.
Too bad: I think these pages on the site provide information that people might find fairly useful (but. like I say, I'm hardly objective in assessing the value of what I do -- maybe Google is correct in finding that these pages should be buried far, far out of sight).
And, of course, if Google maintains this crap algorithm I'll be less likely to find other useful links to put on the review pages, diminishing the pages' value and thus justifying their lower placings on Google search-results .....
While he is full of praise for what Egyptians achieved in the cauldron of Tahrir, Goytisolo's modest take on the role of his art prevents him from being so bold as to offer words of advice.
"I have no message but would like to put my experience at the service of people ... the true writer is a point of view.
He has to ask questions and let people think, not present ready answers.
I'm now going to start publishing e-books of my own, and I'm planning to do this in a major way. (...)
The business plan I'm about to begin executing is an aggressive one (I never do things halfway).
I'm going to publish one book a month for the next twelve months.
Very ambitious indeed, but the idea of using the weblog as a starting point for several of the volumes is certainly a promising one; I'd love to see more sites/weblogs do this (and I'm sure more will ...).
The first volume, Why Ayn Rand Is Wrong (and Why It Matters) (adapted from a series of posts at the weblog) is now available; download your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Winstonsdad's Blog has a Q & A with translator Frank Wynne.
(Quite a few of his translations are under review at the complete review: among those mentioned in the interview: Frédéric Beigbeder's Windows on the World, Michel Houellebecq's Atomised, and Ahmadou Kourouma's Allah is not Obliged and Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote.)
I was also amused to see that in response to the question Is there a book you wish you could translate ? Wynne names not one but two books previously translated by Ralph Manheim -- Céline's Journey to the End of Night ("Manheim seem to me to miss the vituperative immediacy of the invective, the vernacular") and Romain Gary's (writing as Émile Ajar) The Life Before Us (also published as Madame Rosa) ("To my ear, Manheim misses some of the playful, chaotic language of the original").
In China Daily they profile Chi Li, in Buying into romance of Chinese literature
Chi is described as: "one of the country's best-known writers in the West", but it should come as no surprise that that 'West' doesn't include much of the English-speaking world: Apart from Love appears the only volume translated into English, and I'm pretty sure most of you don't have a copy of that Foreign Languages Press edition (so get yours at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk ...).
Meanwhile, however, Actes Sud list a dozen titles in French translation -- and say: "Elle est considérée comme l'auteur le plus représentatif du courant néoréalistechinois
(I guess Chinese neorealism just hasn't caught on in the same way in the US and UK .....)
They've announced the Wales Book of the Year longlist, with the shortlist due 19 May.
Okay, maybe not the literary prize you're most excited about -- but worth prominent mention and high praise for their making publicly available (as every literary prize should !) the list of eligible books, i.e. all the titles that were considered for the prize.
(Recall that practically every other literary prize -- most notoriously the Man Booker -- doesn't tell you which books are submitted and hence in the running.)
(Of course, this particular list of eligible titles also throws up a few interesting questions, as books by authors such as Martin Amis, Ken Follett, and Geoffrey Hill were considered (but didn't make the longlist ...).)
The Palestine Festival of Literature runs 15 to 20 April, and should be fairly interesting yet again (though I fear media coverage will again be dominated by stories of harassment and interference by the authorities ...).
In his most recent 'Literary Life'-column in The Telegraph Mark Sanderson writes about Stéphane Hessel's mega-bestselling(-in-France) pamphlet, Time for Outrage ! noting that Quartet brought out a UK-edition in February but claiming that it: "scarcely made a ripple here".
Indeed, he thinks:
The fact we Britons seem to have turned a deaf ear to his words of wisdom is cause for embarrassment.
I think he'd sound more convincing if he spelled the author's name correctly .....
(They have it as "Stéphane Hassel" and "Hassel", not getting it right either time.)
And, as best I can tell, British readers have shown some interest: despite my negative review, it was -- by far -- the bestselling title among books purchased via the Amazon.co.uk-links at the complete review in March (yes, that was only eight copies -- but only a handful of titles sell multiple copies any given month via Amazon.co.uk, and it's been a while since any sold eight).
The Guardian (and The Observer) have overhauled their books page; see the official press release, or Sarah Crown on A new chapter for guardian.co.uk/books.
Apparently: "the books website is being radically expanded, with a lot more room for readers to join the conversation".
I like the expanded-idea, though I'm not that thrilled about yet more room for readers joining in (they already seem to have had ample opportunity to have their say at that site ...).
Still, as long as the usual relatively far-reaching books-coverage remains I suppose I can't complain too much (though the new layout certainly is terribly busy and hence terribly annoying, but perhaps that will just take some getting used to (as you can guess, I'm not much for change, especially as far as site-layouts go ...)).
I do like the addition of the dedicated book search, and the potential that has -- though I wonder what will happen once visitors begin to "star-rate or review it yourself" .....
They've announced that the short story collection Milli trjánna, by Icelandic author Gyrðir Elíasson, has won the Nordic Council Literature Prize, 2011.
(The prize is worth
DKK 350,000 -- a decent US$ 68,000.)
He's not entirely unknown abroad -- and Comma Press have brought out one book by him in English, Stone Tree; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
See also the author profile at Fabulous Iceland.
They've announced the shortlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction.
Aside from the ubiquitous Room by Emma Donoghue it includes works by Téa Obreht and Nicole Krauss; none of the titles, however, are under review at the complete review.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lila Azam Zanganeh on Nabokov and Happiness, in The Enchanter.
For those impressed by blurbs,
note that Azam Zanganeh scored very well, with testimonials from Orhan Pamuk and Salman Rushdie gracing the back cover.
Azar Nafisi and Dmitri Nabokov, too -- indeed, Dmitri was apparently fully on board here, allowing extensive quoting from the Nabokovian œuvre (as well as a few quotes and comments from Dmitri himself ... perhaps the price Azam Zanganeh had to pay ...).
The other two titles are: Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras and The Sickness by Alberto Barrera Tyszka.
The winner will be named 26 May.
(And remember that that other foreign fiction prize, the Best Translated Book Awards, will be announced 29 April.)
The ten-title-strong shortlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is announced today -- not yet at the official site, as I write this (though it should be up there during the course of the day), but as always Eileen Battersby gets to jump the gun at the Irish Times (scroll down for the shortlist).
As Battersby also notes, shockingly not a one of the shortlisted titles is a work in translation:
In a year in which one of the judges is poet Michael Hofmann, one of the most gifted translators today, it is disappointing to see no translated titles.
Why not Philippe Claudel's Brodeck's Report, never mind Julia Franck or 1997 winner Javier Marias, nominated for the final part of his Your Face Tomorrow trilogy.
The most important aspect of this award has not only been its campaigning international quality but the fact that it has consistently alerted readers to the range of fiction made available through the immense contribution of translators.
Not this time around .....
Predictably, then, not a one of the shortlisted titles is under review at the complete review either .....
In Mook who's talking in the Global Times Zhang Lei reports on the popularity of 'mooks' in China:
The demise of controversial blogger Han Han's magazine Party hasn't thwarted those with the same publishing dream; rather, this spring has seen the launch of several more literary "mooks" (magazine-books), though with perhaps milder intent and wider potential readership.
In The Telegraph Monica Ali argues that, as far as fiction goes, No one is sacrosant -- i.e. that the novelist has a 'right to reimagine real people' in fiction.
She has, of course, just done so, in her new book, Untold Story; get your copy at Amazon.com orAmazon.co.uk.
It has, of course, always been popular to do this; see also the extensive Index of Real People in Works of Fiction in the books under review at the complete review.