At The Daily Beast Noah Charney has a Q & A with the longtime head of The New York Times Book Review, Inside the NYT Book Review: 'How I Write' Interviews Sam Tanenhaus.
Unfortunately, there's relatively little about the inner workings (if one can call them that ...) of the NYTBR -- though Tanenhaus does note that, of the many books submitted for review: "We review about 1% of the total sent to us" -- which sounds about right (and reasonable, given the mounds of books they must get).
(By comparison, about 25 to 30% of books received at the complete review are reviewed -- though not always in a timely fashion (and occasionally in far too timely a fashion, like when the book is not yet available in English ...); I also have the luxury of making a concerted effort not to get unsolicited review copies -- i.e. I try to only get books which I'm likely to review in the first place, something the NYTBR can't get away with.)
As longtime readers know, my personal beef with the NYTBR under the Tanenhaus administration is how much it favors non over fiction, and how little in translation is reviewed in its pages.
Indifference at the NYTBR has, however, reached such a level that constant shooting-fish-in-a-barrel griping has grown quite tiresome -- but since the opportunity presents itself .....
In addition -- and always worth a mention -- as if the NYTBR's already extremely limited coverage of books in translation weren't enough, Tanenhaus has historically and very consistently favored books by dead people and/or books that have been previously translated -- Tananehaus' peculiar conservatism (death and the validation of a book being 'good/significant enough to translate again' lending a credibility he apparently can't finds elsewhere, something those "very smart colleagues" who select/vet the books are apparently fully on board with) rearing its ugly head.
So, for example, the lone review of a translated title in last week's issue was of recently deceased Carlos Fuentes's Vlad.
The lone review of a translated title the week before ?
Of long-dead Cicero's How to Win an Election, in Philip Freeman's new translation.
Okay, the week before that a couple of living first-time translated works were mentioned in the Fiction Chronicle.
The week before that ? not so much coverage of anything translated (i.e.: none).
The week before that ? not so much coverage of anything translated (i.e.: none).
The week before that ? not so much coverage of anything translated (i.e.: none).
(Do I feel like a broken record ?
But I'd suggest what's broken is the NYTBR's model for selecting what books to review.
(I might add: among other things -- but that's a whole other can of worms .....))
At Russia Beyond the Headlines they print Konstantin Milchin's look at how contemporary Russian novelists 'interpret contemporary society while paying tribute to the world’s finest literary traditions', in The seven genres of Russia's literary giants.
Yes, he finds:
During the past 20 years, Russian writers have been trying to find their place in a new reality.
The task is herculean, at best: A modern writer is expected, on the one hand, to follow a great literary tradition and, on the other hand, to interpret contemporary society.
This struggle reveals itself through several (exactly seven) categories that unite today's fiction writers.
Yes, it's an interesting idea, and amusingly done -- but, as so often, something is lost in translation, as is also hinted here in the note that: "This article has been abridged from the original Russian version".
Fortunately and admirably they do link to the Russian original -- and, as the title of the piece in the original ('Невроз времени' -- 'Neurosis time') might suggest, there's a little more to it here.
So, for example, there's a mention of Mikhail Shishkin's Maidenhair (forthcoming in English from Open Letter), which has been cut from the English translation .....
But worth a look, in either version.
Jorge Amado was born one hundred years ago today and so, for example, as Julia Dias Carneiro reports at the BBC, Jorge Amado: Brazil celebrates its master story-teller.
Penguin is bringing out two new translations of shorter Amado works soon (I'll be reviewing them shortly) -- and there will be a book presentation featuring translator Gregory Rabassa and author Rivka Galchen in New York next month.
Meanwhile, fortunately, many of his other works remain in print.
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands is as good a place as any to start: get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
In Forbes Jeff Bercovici finds Women On The Rise Among The World's Top-Earning Authors, as they have their (annoyingly presented in slideshow format ...) run-down of what they say are the world's top-earning authors.
Looks about roughly right, though I suspect foreign cash is woefully undercounted in many cases (especially of those who didn't make the list ...) -- and noteworthy that it's all English-writing authors (not entirely surprising) and almost all American authors (a bit more surprising and questionable).
In The New Republic Martin Amis offers what's billed as An unfond farewell to England (and, especially, surely, the British media), in He's Leaving Home, as he whinges about discusses the relationship between the press/media and littérateurs such as himself (looking back also to the good old more innocent times (and those wonderful £250 advances)).
When I and my wife, who is a New Yorker, entrained the epic project of moving house, from Camden Town in London to Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, I took every public opportunity to make it clear that our reasons for doing so were exclusively personal and familial, and had nothing to do with any supposed dissatisfaction with England or the English people (whom, as I truthfully stressed, I have always admired for their tolerance, generosity, and wit).
Backed up by lavish misquotes together with satirical impersonations ("cod" interviews and the like), the impression given was that I was leaving because of a vicious hatred of my native land and because I could no longer bear the well-aimed barbs of patriotic journalists.
Granted, I only saw what was available on the Internet, but that certainly wasn't my impression; regardless, you'd think that by now he'd be experienced enough to know that misquotes are par for the course and that, where possible, journalists (and bloggers) invariably try to put the most outrageous spin on any and all of his statements (and, let's face it, few make it easier, what with the stuff he spouts).
What always baffles me about this guy is not what he takes "every public opportunity" to do, but rather that he feels so perversely compelled to take "every public opportunity".
I'm not a big fan of the author as public figure under any circumstances, but the author as this kind of public figure, elbowing his way onto every stage (and every magazines' pages ...), all the while posing like he's the one being put out by all this 'unwanted' attention ... well, it hardly can get more annoying.
I'm also puzzled by these defensive contortions (could he kowtow any more obsequiously (and preposterously) to the English, with their: "literary tradition of unparalleled magnificence", etc. ?) -- but certainly no more proof is needed that he hasn't been able to leave England behind him, or forget about those nasty British journalists.
I also dread the fact that it's another two weeks before the official US launch date for Lionel Asbo, meaning the Amis-appearances on the pages of all and sundry publications are just beginning .....
(I now see Malcolm Forbes profiled him in The Washington Times yesterday -- and begins the piece, hilariously, by noting that: "Martin Amis is a decidedly reluctant interviewee, a publicist at Knopf had warned".
True, the media no doubt clamor for any Amis-interaction they can get, which helps explain what seems to be his omnipresence in every last rag, but I can't think of any author who plays along (by actively participating) so readily.)
At Tablet Zackary Sholem Berger reports on 'The writers and editors behind the astonishing rise of Orthodox magazines and fiction', in Haredi Women's Lit Explodes.
Not books I'm familiar with, and I have my doubts I'll get to any of them; still, pretty interesting.
In Frontline Ken Walibora Waliaula considers The Asian 'other', noting that: 'East African literature has elected not only to celebrate but condone the cultural cross-pollination by its unflattering depiction of Asians'.
Award winning novelist John Banville will write a new novel about Raymond Chandler's beloved private detective, Philip Marlowe.
Henry Holt will publish the book in 2013 under Banville's pen name, Benjamin Black.
Much as I love Banville's work, Chandler set the bar pretty damn high and I have my serious doubts about this.
My preference would be for Marlowe to be left well enough alone.
But I "understand" that literary estates must sell their souls milk themselves for all they're worth, while they can .....
(Meanwhile, note that Ariel S. Winter's The Twenty-Year Death -- one third of which is a Chandler-homage (but, fortunately, does not involve Marlowe) -- just came out.)
Alambique (ISSN 2167-6577) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal devoted to scholarly research and criticism in the fields of science fiction and fantasy originally composed in Spanish or Portuguese.
Of particular interest:
In addition, Alambique intends to publish old and/or largely forgotten literary works that helped forge the Spanish and Portuguese tradition in science fiction and fantasy.
These texts, whenever possible, will have accompanying English translation.
I'd love to see that.
(Issue number 1 is scheduled for publication in August 2013; submissions welcome through 28 February2013.)
I recommend Kristín Ómarsdóttir. Her novel Children in Reindeer Woods has just been published by Open Letter Books in the US.
And for the deceased ones, I recommend our Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness.
I am especially fond of his turn of the 20th century novel The Fish Can Sing.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Basque author Bernardo Atxaga's Belgian Congo-novel, Seven Houses in France.
Disappointingly, the novel is translated not directly from the Basque it was written in, but rather the Spanish translation of the novel.
I suppose one might argue that this is almost excusable, since Atxaga himself was responsible for the translation from the Basque into the Spanish (along with Asun Garikano); nevertheless, given the great differences in the two languages (it's not like Basque is a Romance language) I don't think that's quite good enough.
Last year, long before this time of summer, there was already a flurry of betting opportunities on the Nobel Prize in Literature; see, for example, my 1 July (!) discussion from last year.
True, most of this was a lot of empty noise: most of these betting shops closed down their Nobel betting long before the prize was awarded (as Ladbrokes remains, basically, the only Nobel game in town (or online, or anywhere)).
But, surprisingly, this year no one has set any odds yet.
(Ladbrokes traditionally only enters the game relatively late -- it'll be a few more weeks until they set and post their odds; don't worry, I'll let you know when they do.)
However, the natives and the literati are apparently getting restless, and two of the most active discussion fora have opened up discussion threads -- which have quickly attracted a lot of activity:
Both of these are worth bookmarking, as discussion is sure to continue for the next two months; if your Russian (or at least Cyrillic) is up to snuff, this Russian forum's Нобель 2012-thread is also worth following.
(There was also some discussion earlier in the year at A Forum of Ice and Fire, but that seems to have been a brief fling.)
What do we know so far ?
The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded on a Thursday in October -- but they only announce which one on the Monday before.
With the earliest other Nobel announcement this year due 8 October, it is very likely the announcement will be on 11 October (the latest since 2005) -- though there's an outside chance they'll take advantage of having the stage and attention all to themselves and announce on the 4th.
As head Nobel-man Peter Englund revealed at his weblog earlier this year, the Swedish Academy received 288 valid nominations for this year's prize: 210 names, of which, 46 are first time nominees (possibly much less than usual, as the official site claims: "There are usually about 350 proposals each year").
Very few of these names are known -- I'll try and collect the handful that have been made public (usually by overeager national literary organizations of countries whose authors have no chance of getting the prize) and list them sometime in the next weeks (even as the Swedish Academy is now already working with a shortlist of about five names ...).
That's pretty much all we know, so far.
Which, of course, won't stop us -- and me, in particular -- from guessing.
It gets more fun once the first odds are up, which gives everyone more names to play with -- and I refer you also to what I think are the useful lessons learnt that I posted in last year's Nobel Prize 2011: Prediction post-mortem.
(Among them -- and I hope this catches on --: one name not to play with, ever: Bob Dylan.
Can we all agree just to leave him out of it ?)
As the post-mortem also notes, those Ladbrokes odds, when they come out, are worth playing close attention to.
Tomas Tranströmer barely registered in any of the speculation last year, but he started out as the second favorite as far the Ladbrokes odds went .....
Stay tuned: obviously, I'll be milking this for all it's worth, for the next two months.
The summer issue of Wag's Revue is up, and while I find 'leafing' through the pages of the online edition essentially unbearable (single-page, people ! simplest HTML, people !), the content -- including a long Q & A with Geoff Dyer -- almost makes it worthwhile.
(I'd get the print edition instead, if I could, but apparently it's online only .....)
In Folha de S.Paulo Rodrigo Levino profiles mega-bestselling international sensation Paulo Coelho and there, among the wisdom on offer, is, as the headline has it, the bold claim: Ulysses was harmful to literature, says Coelho.
I don't know about you, but ... well, if Paulo Coelho says so, how can one even argue ?
What he says, specifically, is that:
"Today writers want to impress other writers," he says.
And then names the culprit: "One of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce's Ulysses, which is pure style.
There is nothing there. Stripped down, Ulysses is a twit," he says.
I must have missed something, back when I read Ulysses -- I thought it was a great read, and a pretty darn good story at that.
But now, thanks to the wisdom of this Coelho fella, I know better.
Sure, those generalizations -- lumping 'writers' into one big ugly pile, for example -- worry me a bit, but, after all, this guy is: "Internationally acclaimed, with 140 million books sold in 160 countries and translated into 73 languages", so surely he knows what he's talking about, and must be right about this (and everything).
I guess that's the last we need to mention (much less read) Joyce, right ?
Let's get back on track, away from style and ... twitdom ? twitiness ?
Monday morning, I'm going to see if I can trade in my foolishly well-worn copy of Ulysses for a couple of these Coelho novels.
They sound ... positively inspirational.
(On the other hand, Coelho does seem to be onto something when he says he won't allow anything of his to be published after his death:
He fears his heirs will fight over copyrights, or, even worse, publish his works without authorization.
"It happened to Nabokov. It is terrible."
Anyone who bashes Dmitri Nabokov and estate-'handler' Andrew Wylie for what they did can't be all bad or wrong .....
Now if we could only get Coelho to see the wisdom of not waiting until he isn't around any longer and actually get him to stop publishing his 'books' sooner .....)
In The Hindu Rasana Atreya descibes My self-publishing journey, as she turned down a traditional publishing contract for her prize-winning manuscript, unwilling to sign away the electronic rights.
Self-publishing is clearly not as advanced in India yet, at least in the print sector -- most of her success was via Amazon, and in electronic form, with print (on demand) copies too expensive for the Indian market -- but clearly the self-publishing hurdles are getting lower all the time even internationally.
In The Scotsman Susan Mansfield has a profile of James Kelman, author of Mo Thought She Was Quirky.
One small problem: Kelman's book is titled Mo Said She Was Quirky .....
(But, hey, at least they're consistently wrong throughout the piece.)
I'm looking forward to it, whatever you want to call it -- though it's only coming out next April (!) in the US, from Other Press -- pre-order your copy from Amazon.com -- or get your copy from Amazon.co.uk.
If you write for an audience you are a journalist (not a writer).
There has to be an internal compulsion or some overriding ambition like my school experience.
The desire to write also comes from reading great writers.
People who say they are writing for a certain kind of audience are only creating a product to market.
Which might be one reason why you haven't heard anything from or about Ghose recently (or ever ?) .....
Don't get me wrong: I'm fully on board with him here -- and I wish he were publishing more fiction, too (yes, I've read and enjoyed those novels from back in the day) -- but let's face it .....
a major new poetry prize of £3000 aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa.
The prize is sponsored by Brunel University and partnered by Commonwealth Writers, the Africa Centre UK, and the African Poetry Book Fund USA.
It's open to: "poets who were born in Africa, or who are nationals of an African country, or whose parents are African" -- and sounds like a great idea.
Submissions are accepted 1 September to 30 November (but don't submit before then !), and should consist of: "ten poems exactly in order to encourage serious poets".
(I have no idea why or how ten poems encourages 'serious poets', and have no idea how they handle, for example, book-length epic poetry, but I'm sure they'll figure it all out .....)
Submit, African poets !
(But wait until 1 September until you do !)
Yes, for all you who thought that Fifty Shades of Grey was some sort of literary nadir: not even close.
Adding insult to injury (and financial ruin) Nick March reports in The National that Financial movers and shakers banking on literary success, as: 'The financial crisis has been a catalyst for turning bankers into budding writers, as the small but growing "cit-lit" scene in Dubai shows'.
(Briefly I was cheered by the thought (and was eager to get my hands on some) -- but, no, I misread that: it's not 'clit-lit'.)
Not that it helps much, but I've decided the proper pronunciation of "cit-lit" is, indeed: shit lit.
Please follow suit.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Borislav Pekić's 1977 The Apology and the Last Days, now available in English in Northwestern University Press' wonderful 'Writings from an Unbound Europe'-series.
Taking a general view of the country's literary scene, Azuonye said, "we don't have a healthy book review tradition in Nigeria, most book reviewers in the country do not reveal anything wrong in a book, they conceal them and make you believe all about a book is positive.
They do this so that they don't become a target, especially when the book in question concerns a celebrity."
He stated that such attitudes are not healthy to the book industry, as reviewers are expected to tell what are bad in a book, so that, authors can learn from them and improve on their works.
Obviously not the only local issue, but good to see it getting some attention.
The Thai SEA Write shortlist has been announced, and in the Bangkok Post they report that SEA Write's never wrong, offering brief descriptions of the books in the running.
Not that I'm quite sure what to make of summaries such as (re. Vipas Srithong's คนแคระ):
Three friends convert an old shop into a prison cell in which they plan to lock up someone, or perhaps it is for something.
In any case, I hope there's at least some foreign interest -- almost nothing gets translated from Thai into English.
The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two novels by Filipino author José Y. Dalisay Jr. (or, sigh, simply 'Jose Dalisay' for the US edition), published together in one volume in the US as In Flight: Two Novels of the Philippines:
The work is based on an address book that Ms. Calle found in the streets of Paris in the early 1980s.
Rather than simply return the address book, the artist first photocopied all of its contents and then called the contacts and interrogated them about the book's owner, a "scriptwriter" known simply as Pierre D.
American author and celebrity Gore Vidal has passed away -- and you can find an incredible number of articles, obituaries, tributes, dissections, etc. at all your favorite literary (and seemingly every other) sites.
I've barely read anything of his -- Creation, when it came out -- though I did happen to buy a copy of The Judgment of Paris at the local Goodwill a month ago (and though I only paid a dollar for it, that's still more than the 75 cent cover price of that 1965 Signet paperback ...); the handy pocket size as well as the back-cover copy ("the irreverent odyssey of a young American in Europe's pleasure playgrounds, and his seduction by three erotic women of an older, more pagan world") were just too good to pass up.
Argentine author Héctor Tizón has passed away; see, for example, Andrew Graham-Yooll on A great writer and a wonderful human being in the Buenos Aires Herald.
He was represented by leading 'literary' agency Schavelzon, but barely known in the US/UK, or translated into English; Fire in Casabindo is available from Amazon.com (where it has an astonishing sales rank of 10,276,787, last I checked ...) or Amazon.co.uk.
In China Daily Mei Jia reports on a Fan of literature -- who did very well recently unloading part of his collection, as:
The recent sale at auction for 216 million yuan ($33.9 million) of one quarter of the Gu family's book collection made it even harder to get a meeting with him.
He has been swamped with interview requests.
I'd love more details about the books, rather than the seller .....