Eurozine prints an English translation of Ivan Telebar's A completely different battle, reporting that: 'Serbia's neo-fascist political establishment is the target of Svetislav Basara's satirical novel Mein Kampf, from which not even the country's modernizing figures emerge unscathed'.
Not yet available in English (though his The Cyclist Conspiracy recently came out, and his Chinese Letter is also available in English), it sounds like it might be of interest -- see also the Laguna publicity page, as well as the Q & A at Blic with Tatjana Nježić, Stupidity is main character of my novel -- though it does include the exchange:
Q: We know the results of Hitler's struggle. What shall be the results of yours ?
'I hope many readers'.
(And, yes, I do feel a bit uneasy posting information about a book with this title on this day -- Hitler's birthday.)
At the Chronicle of Higher Education's Lingua Franca weblog Carol Saller asks When the Book Is Too Big, Are Online Supplements a Good Idea ?
Sounds like a pretty good idea to me -- except, of course, that the logistics lag behind the theory.
Hilariously, for example, there's this exchange -- apparently meant seriously:
Who will host the materials online, the author or the publisher ?
Mr. Tryneski and his colleague, Electronic Marketing Manager Dean Blobaum, agree that from the publisher's point of view it's best for the publisher to host the pages, since they are better able to ensure long-term stability.
Mr. Tryneski notes, however, that authors routinely prefer to host their own work for reasons of control, but then either fail to carry through or fail to maintain the site for more than a short while.
Publishers are: "better able to ensure long-term stability" ?
Theoretically -- sure.
But as someone who is constantly replacing dead links to publishers' sites -- to the most basic book information/ publicity pages, most of the time -- here at the complete review I can assure you publishers are, in practice, unable to to come close to ensuring long-term or indeed any stability (really: I could spend every waking hour, every day of the year, checking and replacing links (many of them admittedly to reviews and other information for which publishers aren't responsible) and the job still wouldn't get done).
University presses are slightly better than commercial ones, but over more than a dozen years that I've run this site the percentage of publisher sites I've come across that have offered reliable stability is ... practically negligible.
Yes, they keep coming up with new variations, promising to do better -- I'll believe it when I see it (and there are very few instances where I have, yet).
True, authors are pretty bad at this too, but on the whole they've proved (slightly) more reliable.
(University-affiliated authors who have their own webpages as part of the university site tend to have pretty useful and decent pages -- but these often get lost when the authors switch jobs .....)
This is again one of those few areas where publishers could actually show they add value to the whole publishing process -- i.e. that there's a reason for authors to bother with them -- but so far they haven't made the case very well.
(I would have figured this would have been one of the first things they'd embrace and show off on their websites -- all sorts of supplemental information on offer for all their titles (and on offer permanently, not just when the books comes out) -- but most don't seem to think it's worth bothering with yet.)
And then there's this:
What happens when technologies change ?
Mr. Blobaum points to an example where an author paid for the programming of materials hosted by the publisher, but IT staff have since then rewritten the site twice because the original programming language was no longer supported by their Web server.
Interesting, too -- though I have to wonder why they're switching programming languages so much .....
(But then as far as publishers (and their websites) go, there's so much that I continue to find baffling.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of David Auburn's Joe Alsop-play, The Columnist, premiering in New York next week, with John Lithgow in the lead role (one he should be able to easily milk for all it's worth).
As fascinating as I have found Alsop, since I wrote a history of political punditry 20 years ago, I nevertheless found it curious that Mr. Auburn -- the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Proof -- and the Manhattan Theater Club would think the life of this all-but-forgotten figure might generate enough interest to entice a Broadway audience.
The Los Angeles Review of Books has launched its new website, finally moving from the abomination that is the tumblr platform.
It certainly looks good -- though it may take some getting used to (reviews indexed by ... review title ?) -- and the content is certainly worthwhile.
published as a three-volume set on May 15, a spokesman for Vintage said on Tuesday.
John Gall, the art director for Vintage, designed the paperbacks to be visible through a clear plastic box, fitting together to create one image.
The list price is $29.95, and Vintage will initially print 50,000 copies.
She also writes that the hardcover has sold 210,000 copies -- pretty impressive, if true.
(The "clear plastic box"-paperback edition can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; no picture on site or elsewhere of what it will actually look like, however.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the new translation (by Olena Bormashenko) of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's classic, Roadside Picnic, that Chicago Review Press is bringing out.
The basis for Andrei Tarkovsky's film, Stalker -- which has been getting more attention again recently because of Geoff Dyer's Zona (review forthcoming, once I get my hands on a copy of the book ...) -- Roadside Picnic deserves more attention too.
And there are a whole lot of still-to-be-translated Strugatsky-works out there (as well as a few that should be re-issued -- not much in print at the moment ...).
The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday -- except in Fiction (and Editorial Writing), where they couldn't settle on a winner and so decided: no prize.
The three fiction finalists were Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia ! by Karen Russell, and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (yes, death can't keep you from a Pulitzer -- but the Pulitzer board can).
Not surprisingly, none of these titles are under review at the complete review, so I can't judge whether anyone got shafted (though I am surprised they didn't just give the award to someone ...).
Not giving out the prize actually isn't that uncommon: it is the first time in over a quarter of a century they failed, but they had a good streak going in the 1970s -- no fiction prizes awarded 1971, 1974, or 1977 -- and they usually skipped about one a decade.
At Salon one-time Pulitzer fiction prize juror Laura Miller offers a bit more background regarding the whole selection process, in Pulitzers snub fiction, noting that:
From the many submissions, the jury picks three titles to recommend to the Pulitzer Board, and the board picks the actual winner, as well as selecting the winners of all the other Pulitzer Prizes.
The board does have the option to select a title not on the jury’s list, but it rarely does so nowadays.
(The board is, of course, made up of journalism-folk -- "most with a deep respect for literature but relatively little familiarity with the literary world", as Miller diplomatically puts it .....)
(Updated): It's good to hear that the: Pulitzer Jurors Are Shocked That No Fiction Prize Was Awarded, as Mark Memmott reports at npr.
(Note also that: "Anyone can submit his or her book to the Pulitzer competition for a small fee, and believe me: anyone does", but that is, of course, an exaggeration, and no doubt many worthy titles go unsubmitted every year because the publisher or writer wasn't willing to pay the $50.00 "handling fee" (plus four copies of the book) -- note for example that The New York Times couldn't even be bothered to submit International Reporting-winner Jeffrey Gettleman's reports; he submitted them himself ... (see, for example, Amy Chozick's report).)
The April issue of Asymptote -- a journal: "dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing" -- is now available online, and there is a lot of good stuff here: check it out.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jens Lapidus' Easy Money.
Yet another 'next Stieg Larsson' contender/wannabe out of Scandinavia -- and, yes, the first novel in a trilogy -- US/UK publishers are again pretty late on the bandwagon with this 2006 novel -- though in fact they held on even longer than apparently initially planned: ready to go in 2011 (that's the copyright date in the US edition, too), it just came out recently -- apparently in the hope of getting some movie-tie-in action (yeah, good luck with that ...).
Probably the most interesting question raised by the trilogy is how they'll translate the title of the next installment, Aldrig fucka upp (and, yes, I think it's a safe bet that the publishers will somehow manage to, eh, fucka that upp (see also my next complaint); Peter Mendelsund's covers designs (scroll down) suggest Never Fukka Up (or rather -- don't get me started ... -- Nëver Fukka Üp) is being considered ... seriously ?).
As longtime readers know, I'm not a big fan of (elaborate) book covers -- the simpler the better (preferably: title; author name; and no 'design' or illustrations).
But a particular pet peeve I have is the (ab)use of foreign alphabets in the writing of cover-text.
The worst example I have come across in recent years is the cover of Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia -- a book I'm curious about but can't bring myself to handle because of this abomination:
This pseudo-use of Cyrillic is just confusing -- anyone who is familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet surely wonders why the title transliterates as something like 'Ooelloshch Vltse Tivid' (and the author's last name as: 'Roveyats').
I bring this up because the cover of the US edition of the most recently reviewed title at the complete review -- Jens Lapidus' Easy Money -- also plays (if less egregiously) with a foreign character:
'Easy Møney' -- oh, yeah, that's ha ha clever.....
I might have been willing to let it pass as just a really lazy design, if not for the fact that Lapidus' novel is Swedish -- as, of course, the Swedish alphabet does not have the character ø.
(Danish/Norwegian, yes; Swedish, no.)
I guess the fact that it 'looks' Scandinavian was good enough for the publishers, but come on .....
(The design is by Peter Mendelsund; scroll down here for this and other cover designs (many quite familiar -- and including some Jo Nesbø books; maybe that's where he got the idea ...), including others in Lapidus' series.
I can't believe that this objection -- the (mis)use of a non-Swedish character to give the title a 'Swedish' feel -- didn't come up at some point in the publishing process; the fact that they still went ahead with it ... very disappointing.)
In the Independent on Sunday Doug Johnstone profiles the classic novel and its author, in Irvine Welsh: We're all Trainspotters now, where 'The Scottish author -- and the young writers he influenced -- assess the legacy of his debut'.
I was very impressed by Trainspotting when I first read it, in 1994; Welsh isn't anywhere close to the writer Alasdair Gray or James Kelman are (and he probably should have quit while he was ahead -- i.e. then and there), but Trainspotting was a hell of a reading experience for and at that time.
(Get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Of course the Review is not the first of its kind.
Literary journals designed for tablet reading have proliferated throughout the Anglosphere since Apple released the iPad two years ago.
But the Review of Australian Fiction is the most sophisticated and best-designed Australian digital-only magazine that I am aware of.
Should this idealistic yet cannily conceived venture be successful in economic terms, it will mark the moment when Australia's literary community finally found a way to make the web pay.
Of course, 'successful in economic terms' (in terms of positive cash-flow generating) is a high hurdle for most all things literary on the Internet.
I couldn't really be bothered to weigh in on the Günter Grass-poem fallout -- fascinating and entertaining though it has been -- but then you've surely been able to find your fill elsewhere.
Worth pointing to, however, is Permanent Secretary of the (Nobel-awarding) Swedish Academy Peter Englund's recent blog post, where he officially states (in several languages ...):
Regarding the current debate over Günther [sic] Grass' poem "Was gesagt werden muss" I wish to point out that Mr Grass received his Nobel Prize in 1999 on literary merit and literary merit alone -- this applies to all recipients.
There is and will be no discussion in the Swedish Academy on rescinding the award.
The idea that they should rescind Grass' Nobel is, of course, simply laughable -- but the statement is of interest for its strong claim that literary merit and literary merit alone is the deciding factor regarding Nobel-worthiness.
After all, there's lots of discussion every year as to what exactly makes an author Nobel-worthy -- and, as they even quote on the official site, Nobel himself said they should give the prize: "to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" -- which suggests there is a bit more than just literary merit to it.
So should we take Englund's statement as a sign that the Academy has moved away from Nobel's original ideals and now looks more towards the purely literary ?
Ah, more tea leaves to read !
Harry Potter-author J.K.Rowling announced that she's publishing a new (and apparently entirely muggles-populated) novel this fall, The Casual Vacancy.
I didn't really think this was of much interest to (m)any readers of the complete review, but apparently I was wrong -- not many people purchase books via the Amazon links on these pages, but two copies of The Casual Vacancy were pre-ordered by readers who clicked through to Amazon from somewhere on the site on Thursday alone.
So here a belated mention, plus the direct link for pre-orders at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; see also the Little, Brown publicity page for more information about the title.
Among reactions to the announcement, see, for example Sameer Rahim on The Casual Vacancy: why I'm dreading JK Rowling's adult novel in The Telegraph -- and John Crace already offers a 'digested read' of the novel in The Guardian.
Don't expect a review at the complete review (hey, I haven't even gotten to the Harry Potter books yet ...).
Another day, another international fiction prize shortlist: they've now announced the shortlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012.
The only title that is also a Best Translated Book Award finalist is New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani -- does that make it a favorite ?
(None of the other shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review yet -- though there is a review-overview of the inexplicably shortlisted The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco.)
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has announced its 181 Fellows for 2012.
Quite a few literary fellows, but amazingly there are more of my high school classmates (one) among the Fellows than authors under review at the complete review (zero).
There are two translation Fellows -- Damion Searls and Richard Sieburth.
Disappointingly, the information at the site offers more biographical information about each Fellow than information about their projects, which would surely be more interesting.
The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award shortlist is announced today; it's not up yet as I write this (but should be later in the day [updated: indeed, now it is, here]), but in the Irish Times Eileen Battersby reveals Ten shortlisted for IMPAC literary award -- while, in fact, only revealing eight titles, as best I can make out (none of which are under review at the complete review).
She does say there are (disappointingly) only two books in translation among the finalists: Limassol by Yishai Sarid, and The Eternal Son by Cristovão Tezza.
In the San Francisco Bay Guardian Soojin Chang has a Q & A with 1Q84-translators Jay Rubin and J.Philip Gabriel, as 'Haruki Murakami's interpreters discuss the art of building literature anew' in Found in translation.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kawamata Chiaki's killer-poem novel, Death Sentences -- featuring André Breton (as well as Duchamp, Arshile Gorky, and some other big names from the period), and with a Philip K. Dick cameo.
Amazing that this 1984 novel only now appears in translation -- courtesy of the University of Minnesota Press.
A really nice little discovery -- quirky literary sci fi, an interesting style -- and deserving of wider attention.
A solid list, I think (well, eight of my ten favored titles made the cut, so, yes, I'm fairly well pleased with it), and I look forward to the final deliberations.
The winners will be announced on Friday, 4 May at 18:00, at McNally Jackson Books in New York.
In China Daily Yang Guang reports on how much (or rather little) Chinese writers get paid, in Writing for their suppers.
According to Regulations of Remuneration for Published Written Works, promulgated by the National Copyright Administration in 1999, the basic remuneration standard for "original works" is set at 30-100 yuan ($4.80-15.90) per 1,000 words.
So, for example:
Mao Dun Literature Prize winner Bi Feiyu recalls he was paid 1,700 yuan ($270) for his debut novella, The Lonely Island, in 1991, which was equivalent then to what he would draw as three years' salary.
"The amount I am paid has increased, but it only equals one month's salary," he says.
(Ah, the good old days, when $270 was equal to ... three years' salary ??!?)
But apparently there is money to be made online -- a lot, in fact:
"Some are able to earn 10 million yuan a year," he says.
"If it were not for the pirated books, they could afford helicopters."
Since every author needs a helicopter, of course .....
Okay, so in The New York Times today Dwight Garner reviews Tyler Cowen's An Economist Gets Lunch (and, incidentally, rips it to shreds -- "It's flat, padded with filler, flecked with factual errors and swollen with a kind of reverse snobbery that's nearly as wince-inducing as anything you'll hear at the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn.", etc.).
Several Cowen titles are under review at the complete review -- see, for example, Creative Destruction -- and I am curious about this book, but here would like to address something different: the frequently cited huge numbers for search results supposedly returned on Google-searches.
In his review, Garner mentions:
Mr. Cowen later writes, "Google brings up over a million mentions for 'tofu fajitas.'"
That sounds crazy, so you check it.
It turns out that Google offers only about 30,000 mentions of "tofu fajitas"; giving it a wider search range (without quotation marks) brings it up to about 115,000.
Confidence further rattled.
Google results vary from person (well, computer) to person (computer) (depending on settings -- how much filtering you allow -- for example) and time to time, but in practically every media/book mention the total number is a grossly inflated one -- so also here (by both Cowen and Garner).
When I conduct a search for tofu fajitas on Google the top line tells me there are about: "About 484,000 results"; a search for "tofu fajitas" (i.e. with the quotation marks) returns -- much like Garner found -- "About 29,600 results".
Those top-line numbers are the ones that media-mentions etc. invariably go with.
But look at those results more closely.
I set my Google search results to return 100 results per page.
At the bottom of the first 100 I can click through to nine additional pages of search results; clicking through to the last one -- page 10 -- of the tofu fajitas search I find I don't even make it to page 10; rather I find myself on: "Page 8 of about 484,000 results".
Scrolling down to the bottom of that page I find myself pretty much at the end of the road, Google announcing:
In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 777 already displayed.
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.
So rather than 484,000 results, Google actually only offers a total of 777.
Quite a big difference, no ?
Apparently the other 483,223 results are simply "very similar" to the ones already offered.
(For "tofu fajitas" -- with quotation marks -- I get a total of 779, rather than the promised 29,600.)
In fact, try to search for more (like by including those omitted results) and you'll soon reach the point where Google lets you know: "Sorry, Google does not serve more than 1000 results for any query".
So much for the 484,000, or 29,600, etc. .....
Good for headlines, useless (because non-existent) in real life.
So, please, everyone in the media, when you make claims about X number of Google search results coming up for search Y: check to see how many really come up (it's really easy to do).
The numbers won't be nearly as impressive, but they will be much more accurate.
(Given how I've never made any inroads complaining about the misuse of statistics re. the number of titles published annually (which, for various reasons, are also grossly inflated -- though not nearly by such orders of magnitude), I'm not holding my breath.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Shiva Rahbaran's collection of interviews with contemporary Iranian authors talking about Freedom, Democracy, and the Word in Contemporary Iran, Iranian Writers Uncensored.
Several of the interviewed authors -- all working in Iran itself at the time the interviews were conducted, around 2004 -- have books under review at the complete review.