Time offers its list of All-TIME 100 Best Nonfiction Books -- which isn't an 'all-time' list, but rather just considers the "best and most influential written in English since 1923" (when Time was founded -- hence 'all-TIME').
Not surprisingly, only a single title seems to be under review at the complete review -- Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.
Still, I can't help but admire a list like this that has the chutzpah to include among the categories that of: 'Nonfiction novels'.
(Recall also that The Guardian offered a similar exercise just over two months ago: see their more expansive (not limited to written-in-English, not limited to 1923-present ...) list of The 100 greatest non-fiction books.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's The Truth about Marie, due out any day now from Dalkey Archive Press.
That's now the eighth (!) Toussaint title under review at the complete review -- though this is again one of those cases that sometimes leads me to wonder why I bother: total page views for all seven Toussaint reviews on Sunday ? Two.
On Monday ? Two.
It's very sad and disappointing to hear that the Harud Literary Festival, due to run 24 to 26 September, has been postponed; scroll down on that official page for the announcement, which notes:
Born out of the best intentions to platform work of emerging and established writers in Kashmir, the festival has been hijacked by those who hold extreme views in the name of free speech.
You know something has gone really, really wrong when the organizers have to state:
The festival had invited approx 30 authors from Jammu and Kashmir and 20 from other parts of India.
The festival had neither invited nor was planning to invite Salman Rushdie.
Yes, apparently a rumor that Rushdie had been invited is the main reason why they had to cancel this event .....
To the nuts who somehow think this would have been a bad thing I can only say: you should have been so lucky.
Rushdie may be over the hill as a creative writer but you couldn't ask for a better festival-guest: that's where he's most in his element -- and I suspect that, for the most part, he's also entirely sympathetic to local concerns (excepting, of course, those of the gun-toting folks) and he'd put on a damn good show for you.
But, of course, this is all just fantasy -- after all: the guy wasn't even invited.
(Why is Rushdie such a contentious figure there ?
Sigh, it's still those damn The Satanic Verses (one of his best books, by the way), which remains a supposedly blasphemous symbol that a surprising number of folk still rail against (not that the vast majority of them are likely to have seen a copy, much less read one ... as best I can tell, the book is still banned (!) in India).)
This literary festival sounds like exactly the sort of dialogue and activity Kashmir could use, and it's very disappointing that it was sabotaged in this way; I hope they can regroup and that this does turn out to be merely a postponement, and not a complete cancellation.
(And, boy, do I look forward to the day when they not only can invite Salman Rushdie to appear, but when even just the rumor that they did is greeted by rapturous enthusiasm.
But I fear that day -- and Rushdie's appearance there -- is a long, long way off.)
The (American) roll-out for Murakami Haruki's 1Q84 -- publication date in October -- continues apace (though not so apace as that I'd have gotten a copy yet -- though one is due here in a couple of weeks; I keep my fingers crossed ...).
The New Yorker gets to publish an excerpt, Town of Cats, and there's a Q & A to go with it (though I find it hard to believe that Murakami 'forgot' the source of his cat-town tale ...).
And the Publishers Weeklyreview -- starred, of course -- is now up; not as detailed as mine, but the harbinger of the flood of American reviews to follow .....
(The trickle of French reviews has also begun; as always, I'll be updating my review-page as reviews come in.)
At The Telegraph Mark Sanderson is calling it quits, at least as regards the Literary Life-column that he's been writing since April 1999: the August 28 column is the end of the road.
I'm a fan of these kinds of columns (like NB on the back page of the TLS), and even though weblogs have long offered similar material (and many of these columns have long relied on weblog posts for ... inspiration for at least some of their items ...) I still like to find some print-counterparts.
I hope The Telegraph continues the column in some form.
As Denis Scott Chabrol reports at Demerara Waves, the Guyana Prize for Literature 2010 short-list announced (with the winners to be announced shortly, on 1 September).
I must say, I am ... intrigued by the fiction finalists (read the brief descriptions).
But it is a bit disappointing to find:
Best First Book of Poetry
Best First Book of Fiction
No nominations. The judges note that though there are several promising first books of fiction, they regret to announce that none measured up to the criteria of excellence.
Good that they have standards -- but troubling to see no debut was considered even shortlist-worthy.
CNA report that Taiwanese writer wins major award in Malaysia -- as Wang Wen-hsing has taken the: "top Malaysian Chinese-language literary award", the Hua Zong Literature Award.
Good to see him get the recognition; nice to see a prize for Chinese literature awarded in Malaysia.
And, of course, Wang Wen-hsing is hardly an obscure author, even hereabouts -- see the complete review reviews of his Family Catastrophe and Backed Against the Sea.
Thierry Jonquet's Mygale (also published as Tarantula) has been made into a film by Pedro Almodóvar, The Skin I Live In, and while American audiences will have to wait for an end-of-October release it has now come out in the UK.
First reviews are now out; among them those at:
The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Delphine de Vigan's Underground Time.
I really didn't take to this, and normally wouldn't have even bothered with a review-overview, but given that it's been widely translated, and there are a fair number of reviews to link to .....
We seem to have forgotten all about reading culture, and sold out to trading culture, yes the latter yields immediate dividend but does it promote relationship between the generation ?
And he also argues:
The dearth of books is a major contributor to the decline in education in the country.
The rare sight of books has even created strangeness between books and people.
where are the books ?
Writers are willing and ready to write if printers are paid to print.
Authors are made by the publishers but where are the publishers ?
The few publishers who are willing to face the task demand so much from writers.
And he concludes:
It is from thoughts we build nations, the brain exercise in play writing, fiction writing, poetry and story writing can keep thousand of would be criminals out of mischief, both as creators hereby known of mischief, both as creators hereby known as writers, or consumers known as readers.
If the ministers of culture and information can help in this direction, we should be building a better cultured sophisticated Nigeria.
You don't hear that it'll-keep-all-those-would-be-criminals-out-of-mischief argument too often .....
Anyway: it seems worth a try to me.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jeff Lindsay's Dexter is Delicious -- the fifth in the series.
That brings us up-to-date with the series -- though note that the next installment, Double Dexter, is due out in just over a month; pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
In the Wall Street Journal Joseph Epstein reviews The Cambridge History of the American Novel -- and finds in it far too much that explains What Killed American Lit., as:
Yet, through the magic of dull and faulty prose, the contributors to The Cambridge History of the American Novel have been able to make these presumably worldly subjects seem parochial in the extreme -- of concern only to one another, which is certainly one derogatory definition of the academic.
These scholars may teach English, but they do not always write it, at least not quite.
He takes some good shots at English departments and professors -- finding:
English departments have tended to become intellectual nursing homes where old ideas go to die.
(Didn't this happen a long, long time ago ?)
See also the Cambridge University Press publicity page for The Cambridge History of the American Novel; you can get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- though I suspect you won't.
As, for example, BBC reports David Hare wins Pinter literary prize.
(There's an official PEN/Pinter Prize page, but, last I checked, they hadn't gotten around to updating it with this information yet; apparently, as so often with official pages, they're the last to know .....)
Quite a few Hare plays are under review at the complete review; see, for example, Stuff Happens.
So Rick Gekoski -- who chaired this year's Man Booker International Prize (you remember, the one which judge Carmen Callil stalked away from ...), and who has previously judged the Man Booker Prize -- writes in The Guardian that It takes judgment, not taste, to pick a Booker winner.
Among his examples: John Banville's The Sea -- about which I am in entire agreement with him, as I found it a very deserving winner.
Among the winners he completely ignores, however: D.B.C.Pierre's abomination, Vernon God Little.
How exactly does that fit in with his judgmental notions ?
Meanwhile, longlisted author Jane Rogers offers a bizarre piece titled Novelists need publishers -- though the only real reason why they might I could find in her piece is that they need publishers to submit their works to literary prizes like the Man Booker (which absurdly only accepts submissions from publishers ....), since what she's really grateful for (as well she should be -- for all her publisher's admirable work that didn't translate into too many reviews or sales, did it ?):
So thank heavens for literary prizes that cast their net wide enough to look at the independents -- they have the power to make invisible novelists visible.
(To me these articles suggest that what writers need are editors, but those seem in particularly short supply.)
More Chinese books need to be translated and more thought-provoking ideas used in novels to elevate China's literary standing in the world, some of the country's top writers said Friday.
Confusing quantity with quality is, of course, a common problem: just because you translate it doesn't mean it's any good -- and Chinese fiction has actually been getting translated in decent (if still far too limited) quantities.
As to quality ... well, from the examples on offer, I'd suggest they still have a (long) ways to go.
But writers like Liu Zhenyun insist:
"It's not the quality of work ... the lack of Chinese works translated into Chinese is one of the reasons our presence is not as strong,"
Granting that he surely means Chinese works translated into other languages [once again: are there any copy/editors left like anywhere in the world ?], I'd still argue that quality is a major hurdle.
Though at least in the US editors [hey ! apparently there still are some around -- but doing all the wrong things ...] don't -- to my mind -- seem to be doing anybody (especially not readers, or authors like Mo Yan) m/any favors by radically chopping the works down to size (i.e. 'editing' them) in translation, as they seem to love to do.
In the Philadelphia Inquirer Cary Darling thinks 'Writers from the continent may be taking the role Scandinavians recently played: Leaders in the genre', in finding Out of Africa, a new wave of crime fiction.
It might be a bit more convincing if the author Darling pays the most attention to -- Roger Smith (see his official site) -- had actually been able to find an American publisher for his latest novel .....
While his first two books were published by Henry Holt, Dust Devils -- about a Cape Town man, with a dad from Texas, who is turned into an avenging angel after his family is slaughtered -- is available only as an e-book.
In the Manila Standard-Today Jenny Ortuoste considers the literary situation in the Philippines, in Books now and ever after.
Some rather depressing conclusions, such as:
Because people donít read, they donít buy, so publishers donít publish, so writers donít write.
But the lack of buyers does not mean that writers cannot write, or should not write; it just means that they might not earn anything for their efforts.
Well, if that's all .....
She also suggests:
Multi-sectoral support is essential to the development of a better climate for the publication and reception of Filipino creative works; how to gain this support is a matter for discussion and planning
In The Bookseller Philip Stone looks at the sales boost the Man Booker longlisted titles have gotten, and finds Barnes biggest Booker book, as Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending has been -- by far -- the bestselling longlisted title.
The longlist as a whole has been fairly successful:
Sales are more than twice the size of the 2008 longlist and at least 30% higher than both the 2007 and 2006 longlists.
However, sales are down approximately 35% on last year's record-breakingly popular longlist
They've announced "the finalists for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in fiction and nonfiction".
To have been eligible:
English-language books must be published or translated into English in 2010 and address the theme of peace on a variety of levels, such as between individuals, among families and communities, or among nations, religions, or ethnic groups.
Admirably, they make the full list of nominated titles publicly available; there weren't all that many -- so if you have a book that fits the (peace-)bill maybe you want to submit it for next year's prize ... apparently all it takes its filling out a form (and paying $100.00 ...).
Works in translation are eligible -- and several were nominated -- but none were named finalists; interestingly, however, quite a few of the fiction finalists were born abroad -- with two from Ethiopia.
(And, no, none of the finalists are under review at the complete review.)
features a young couple attaching a lock to Rome's Milvian Bridge as a sign of eternal love.
The thousands of sweethearts who have decided to imitate this touching gesture are among the 2.5 million readers of the book, which charts the romantic entanglements of brooding young Romans who hang out in the upmarket streets of the Parioli district.
Surprisingly, no English-langauge publisher has picked this thing up yet (critically maligned though it may be -- but when did that ever stop them ?).
Meanwhile, get your (Italian) copy at Amazon.it.
Check out the University of Iowa's International Writing Program's 2011 Participants -- always a good mix, with some authors you'll no doubt hear more about soon -- and, indeed, some you may already know, like Louise Welsh (see her official site), Usha K.R., and Jamyang Norbu (see his weblog), author of the clever The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes (also known as Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years) (well, those are the ones whose work I'm familiar with).
ultra-cheap local versions of Mills and Boon novels are the country's most popular books, making their authors champions of conservative Christian values and unlikely heroes in the battle to improve literacy among the poor
Priced at 37 pesos (about 87 cents) and written in street-level Tagalog, the books emerged in the early 1980s when an economic crisis forced the importers of western "chick literature" paperbacks to seek out alternatives.
Each title gets an initial print run of 5,000 copies or more, making romance novelists the envy of critically acclaimed Filipino authors.
"They (serious authors) would be happy if their book sold 1,000 copies," Jose said.
The books have also built a huge global following, thanks to the roughly nine million Filipinos who work or live abroad
The right publishing model, competitive pricing, dependable quality (to the extent that readers know what they're getting): yes, there are still lots of viable successful publishing models for print-publishers ......
(But, sorry, none of these titles are under review at the complete review .....)
The (French) film version of Muriel Barbery's immensely popular The Elegance of the Hedgehog, directed by Mona Achache and starring Josiane Balasko and Garance Le Guillermic, actually came out two years ago, but it has only now been released in the US, as The Hedgehog (a year after the Australian release -- and they put up an official site for it, while the American distributors apparently couldn't be bothered (but see also the French official site)).
There haven't even been all that many reviews of The Hedgehog, but see, for example, those in:
The Guardian publishes a (still lengthy) shortened version of Ewan Morrison's 'bleak vision of a publishing industry in terminal decline' as he set it out at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, in Are books dead, and can authors survive ?
Lots of rather suspect or at least very selective examples -- perhaps a consequence of the piece being cut down to newspaper size -- make for questionable support of his arguments, and there's lots of oversimplification here (the 'advance' model is a relatively new phenomenon, and also brought problems/dubious incentives with it, for example).
Still, it gets the commenters riled up, and makes for fun discussion.
(And yes, he has a point that publishers are doing themselves no service barreling down the path they've chosen.)
In Poets & Writers Jane Ciabattari offers "a snapshot of the state of book reviewing today" (in the US), in Back From the Dead: The State of Book Reviewing, which offers a decent overview (and links !) of where book reviews can still be found, in print and especially online -- though mind you, there are many, many additional (often more specialized) sites providing excellent and extensive coverage as well.
They've announced the winners of the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes, with the fiction prize going to The Lotus Eaters (by Tatjani Soli) -- see the St.Martin's publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and the other one going to Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck in China (US title: Pearl Buck in China: Journey to The Good Earth), by Hilary Spurling --
see the publicity pages at Profile and Simon & Schuster, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
At Qantara.de Susannah Tarbush looks at 'Libyan Writers in Exile', in Active in Support of the Uprising.
Among the author she mentions: Ahmed Fagih, whose Homeless Rats is just out from Quartet (see their publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) --
though if you're interested in his work, why not just go right for the collection of 5 Novels (get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk); I'm tempted to, if just to improve the poor guy's Amazon rank: with a US "Amazon Bestsellers Rank" of 8,526,744, that's the lowest I can recall seeing in quite a while.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lars Kepler's The Hypnotist.
This is another one of these Scandinavian crime blockbusters, touted as an 'international bestseller', but I'm afraid it's nowhere near the upper tier of the most recent batch of these; I suspect it's been riding a combination of the artificially built-up pre-publication hype in Sweden -- where the mysterious author (who turned out to be a husband-and-wife team) managed to garner lots of attention, so people didn't really focus on the book -- that somehow carried over with its big advance and a very successful foreign rights auction (with the book presumably going to a lot of publishers who hadn't taken a closer look at it).
It has attracted attention -- my review links to 47 others, which is a large number for any title -- but, really, there are many, many books that would have deserved more.
I must say I'm also a bit disappointed that it's Farrar, Straus & Giroux that paid the heap to publish this heap; as I've often said, one of the few things publishers have going for themselves in this new publishing world is their imprint-reputation.
This thing is way below FSG's standards, and I don't think they've done themselves any favors by tainting their brand in this way -- though I suppose if they focus on it being a 'Sarah Crichton Book' maybe they can keep the worst of the taint at bay.