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PUBLISHING - October 2000

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Tuesday October 31

  • DOES HYPE PAY OFF? Do the books publishers spend huge sums marketing and generating pre-publication buzz for actually end up with the readership and popularity that was hoped for? Here are some real sales figures on some of the most recently hyped releases. 10/30/00
  • THE UNFORTUNATE LOT OF POETS: As a parent, one of my greatest fears is having my children tell me they've decided to be poets. Is there one profession in the world that offers less chance to generate an income? Perhaps repairing Beta video recorders." Sydney Morning Herald 10/31/00

Monday October 30

  • TWO APPROACHES TO WRITING A LIFE STORY: Recent biographies of John Updike and Saul Bellow take two very different approaches to their subjects. James Atlas "meditates on Bellow's controversial role as a public intellectual, maintaining a remarkable level of objectivity," while "William H. Pritchard, on the other hand, shies away from the personal details of Updike's life, openly deriding 'talk show revelations and displays'. He argues that 'such events pale in interest when put next to [Updike's] writings, products of all those hours sitting at the desk with pencil or typewriter or computer'." Chronicle of Higher Education 10/30/00

Thursday October 26

  • RESEARCH WEB: So what will the web mean to academics, always on the lookout for places to publish their work? "The biggest change is that publication is suddenly cheap. Academics have always had much more opportunity to write than they've had sponsorship for publication so books and articles have had to be concisely focused - optimised - to deliver the most information using the fewest words. The Web allows an entirely new, discursive style of presentation, where an author can take however much space she needs to be as clear as possible." The Idler 10/25/00
  • READING HAITI: "Whatever its roots, Haiti’s extraordinary literature provides an occasion for this sad country to transcend its own instability, and discern possibilities beyond its current disasters. To tread a razor’s edge between poetry and disaster. To come to Haiti in search of its literature is to fall in love with the place–even if, sometimes, this passion is followed by a great deal of pain." Boston Review 10/00
  • WHO REALLY WROTE "NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS'? Did Clement Clarke Moore really write the beloved Christmas poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" back in 1823? A Vassar scholar says he's uncovered evidence Moore did not. "He marshals a battery of circumstantial evidence to conclude that the poem's spirit and style are starkly at odds with the body of Moore's other writings." New York Times 10/26/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • CALL MY AGENT: As the world of publishing slices and dices, recombining in multimedia mega-companies, the role of an author's agent is changing. What are the new rules of the road? New York Times 10/26/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Wednesday October 25

  • WHY PEOPLE USE LIBRARIES: "Statistics clearly demonstrate that many people rely on libraries for their stories, and generally, librarians know what gets checked out. Unfortunately, librarians have little knowledge of why people read what they do. As a result, they lack a deeper understanding of how libraries already serve readers, and they miss evidence that they could use to convince state legislatures and other sources of financial support that spending money on stories is important." Chronicle of Higher Education 10/254/00
  • A TALE OF TWO LIT AWARDS: "The shortlists for Canada's most prominent literary awards are often described like rival high school cliques. Giller Prize nominees are the cheerleaders, football captains and student council presidents with perfect teeth who wave out from the convertible at the head of every homecoming parade. Poor Governor General's Awards nominees, on the other hand, enjoy far less prestige, like the nerdish greasers and trenchcoat types who hang out behind the portables, the jocks coming round every once in a while to bloody their noses and smash their Gothic punk CDs." National Post (Canada) 10/25/00
  • WOODSTOCK FOR WIZARDS: J.K. Rowling drew the largest audience ever to turn out for an author reading to hear her read from her Harry Potter series at Toronto’s SkyDome as part of the International Festival of Authors. An estimated more than 12,000 people attended. Yahoo! News (Reuters) 10/24/00

Tuesday October 24

  • CANADA'S GOV GEN AWARD FINALISTS: Finalists for Canada's Governor General's Awards for literature are announced: Michael Ondaatje for "Anil's Ghost," David Adams Richards for "Mercy Among the Children" and Eden Robinson for "Monkey Beach". "Margaret Atwood for "The Blind Assassin", currently on the shortlist for Britain's Booker prize. And Austin Clarke for "The Question". Ottawa Citizen (AP) 10/24/00

Monday October 23

  • WHO CARES ABOUT THE FRANKFURT BOOKFAIR? "Among the merchants who had come together in Frankfurt, it was not possible to determine whether they were doing any business at all. Everything that was dismissed here in the name of the entire publishing business ("...did all that in New York before the fair") found powerful confirmation elsewhere ("...after New York, there's always something new")." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10/23/00
  • SECOND CAREERS: What is it that has got so many of Britain's commedians writing novels? "Of course there's cachet in having published a serious novel, but what jumps out from the current batch is how much there is to praise in many of them." The Telegraph (London) 10/23/00
  • THE COMICS' TOPSY TURVEY RUN: While the business of selling monthly, comic books flails, "its companion, the graphic novel market, especially in traditional bookstores, is booming. There are more hardcover and paperback collections of comics material than there have ever been in America before, and their sales have never been better." Publishers Weekly 10/23/00

Sunday October 22

  • E-BOOK AWARDS: "E.M. Schorb and David Maraniss shared the grand prize for best original e-book at Friday's inaugural Frankfurt eBook Awards, the first designed to recognize achievements in the emerging e-book industry." Wired 10/21/00

Friday October 20

  • A LONG WAY TO MAINSTREAM: The e-book publishing community thought it was finally going to receive some overdue recognition at the first annual International eBooks Awards ceremony last week in Frankfurt. That is, until the list of finalists was announced. "Almost all of the books on the shortlist were by acclaimed print authors from big publishing houses The controversy highlights some pressing issues for e-publishing - Will e-books offer a way for writers who've been snubbed by the big houses to find success marketing their books directly to readers? Or will e-publishing simply present the same books and authors currently found in bookstores, only in a different, less tangible form?" Salon 10/19/00
  • NEW INDIE E-BOOK AWARDS ANNOUNCED AT FRANKFURT FAIR: "When the majority of Frankfurt finalists were traditional publishers and best-selling authors, we saw it as missed opportunity. At that point we decided to step in and do something for the independents who do offer quality work but don't have the finances to promote them." Wired 10/20/00

Thursday October 19

  • POP CRITIC WONDERS ABOUT THE HONESTY OF REVIEWS: The world of popular culture is filled with profanity. But you'll never read any of that included in newspapers' accounts of pop music events. Isn't the absence of same leaving out a part of the story? "Do readers really think that the sight of an f- over their morning coffee will have them unwillingly rubbing shoulders with Satan? Will an s- send them spiraling downward into a sweeping, swirling eddy of moral despair?" San Jose Mercury News 10/18/00
  • WHO'S CONTROLING WHAT WE READ? Publishing has gone to hell, says a senior publisher. And why? "Five major conglomerates control 80 percent of American book sales," he says, speaking of Bertelsmann, the mammoth German firm that owns Random House; Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.; Time Warner; Disney; and Viacom/CBS. In 1999, the top 20 publishers accounted for 93 percent of sales." Washington Post 10/18/00
  • WRITERS - WHO OWNS YOUR WORK? "The press would have you believe that the worst copyright infringement occurring on the Internet is by lone hackers sitting at their computers. However, corporate owned and controlled newspapers and television news organizations are hardly disinterested parties in this story. It may turn out that individual writers (which, potentially, could be anybody) have more to fear from people in suits trailing phalanxes of lawyers." *spark-online 10/00
  • BRAVO BOOKER JUDGES: "One of the complaints often levelled against Britain's premier literary prize is that it functions as a kind of club, nominating a certain kind of 'literary fiction' chosen from a limited pool of potential 'Booker' writers. Deliberately or not, this millennial short list has turned its back on a number of established writers, any one of whom might, in another year, deserve a place on some other ideal Booker shortlist. Daily Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 10/18/00

Wednesday October 18

  • THE MORE THINGS CHANGE… E-books are poised to transform the infrastructures and revenue structures of the publishing industry, but can the developments really be called a "revolution?" "These new technologies will alter the way books are transmitted, but the author's task will remain essentially the same as when Homer sang the Odyssey and Dickens presented his novels, chapter by chapter, before enchanted listeners." New York Review of Books 11/02/00
  • THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME: "Gutenberg's printed paper book will continue to hold its own," said an organizer of the Frankfurt Book Fair, dispelling fears that we’ll soon be curling up to read e-book screens. Yahoo! News (Reuters) 10/17/00

Tuesday October 17

  • HORRORS - KING DOUBLES COST: Stephen King said if 75 percent of those downloading chapters of his cyber-novel didn't pay $1 a chapter he would stop offering it. So far fans are paying. But now King has doubled the price of a chapter to $2. Wired 10/17/00 

Monday October 16

  • REAL NARRATIVES: Forty German writers gather to talk about a "renaissance of narration" and discover they have a hard time pinning down what "reality" is.  Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10/16/00

Sunday October 15

  • LITERARY DETECTIVE: John Sutherland is a detective of literature. He examines, "with forensic precision, neglected details and apparent anomalies in classic novels and plays," wondering - was Heathcliff a murderer? Or, posing a full evidenciary hearing about whether or not Shakespeare's Henry V, was a war criminal? His books have become best sellers. The Age (Melbourne) 10/14/00

Friday October 13

  • CORPORATE READ: "American life is affected by the seemingly never-ending growth of large corporations... Will it change fundamentally the way we read and what books are available to us? The big publishers, who comprise some eighty percent of all publishing volume, are largely owned by media conglomerates who are accustomed to earning profitability ratios of their other media holdings. Book publishing often disappoints those expectations and has to turn to a kind of publishing that will 'please their parents'." Feed 10/11/00
  • CHINESE GOVERNMENT CLAIMS POLITICAL BIAS IN AWARD: The Chinese government says that awarding this year's Nobel Prize for Literature to Gao Xingjian is a political act. "[This] shows again the Nobel Literature Prize has been used for ulterior political motives, and it is not worth commenting on". Gao's works are banned in China. BBC 10/13/00
  • WHO IS GAO XINGJIAN? Gao is considered the leading contemporary Chinese dramatist. His plays, which combine Zen philosophy and a modern worldview, have been performed all over the world, from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Australia to the Ivory Coast, the United States, France, Germany and other European countries. China Times (Taiwan) 10/13/00
    • A TRUE EXILE WRITER: Those familiar with Gao's work say he rankles the pro-democracy movement as well as China's communist government. Washington Post 10/13/00
    • WHO, AGAIN? "Xingjian is apparently the creator of Chinese oral theatre as well the author of a classic novel, 'Soul Mountain'. I have never heard of him and neither - shameful to relate - had anyone else whose opinion I canvassed in the half-hour or so following the announcement, but then neither had many westerners heard of the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz before his triumph in 1988 or Polish poet Wislawa Symborska in 1996." The Guardian (London) 10/13/00

Thursday October 12

  • CHINESE DISSIDENT WINS NOBEL: Gao Xingjian, an exiled dissident author whose works are banned in his native China, won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday - the first Chinese to win the award in its 100-year history. Ottawa Citizen (AP) 10/12/00
  • BIG NAMES FOR NATIONAL BOOK AWARD: The 20 nominees. Washington Post 10/12/00
  • HANDICAPPING THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS: Sontag and Oates the early favorites for the Lit prize? 10/11/00
  • THE NEW NEW YORKER: Editor David Remnick says the magazine is becoming more focused on New York, that it doesn't yet make money but will someday, and that the New Yorker will soon be available on the web. 10/12/00

Wednesday October 11

  • BANNED, NOT ONCE BUT TWICE: South African novelist Christopher Hope holds the rare distinction of having had his work banned by both his government’s old and new regimes. Wasn’t apartheid’s pervasive censorship supposed to end with the transition to democracy? "It goes on - this urge to shut people up. Anyone visiting South Africa and looking at the papers or the TV will catch, before long, a whiff of paranoia in the air." The Guardian (London) 10/11/00
  • WHEN "BIBLIOMANIA" IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT: When Seymour Durst died five years ago, his book collection about New York City had outgrown his five-story townhouse. Last month, his vast collection was donated by his family to the City University of New York's Graduate Center, "to honor [his] wish to keep his 10,000 books, 20,000 postcards, 3,000 photographs and stacks of other New Yorkiana together under one roof." New York Times 10/11/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • THE 60s IN POETRY: An upcoming academic conference on poetry in the 1960s gives one of the first glimpses at "how the academy - or at least the progressive/experimental poetry wing of the academy - will be canonizing the period." Accordingly of the 200 papers to be presented, "there were 151 US poets in the 1960's who are now worthy of study. Twenty-seven are the subjects of multiple papers." Exquisite Corpse 10/00

Tuesday October 10

  • WORD MACHINE: Stephen King is a writing industry. He writes 2,000 words a day and churns out a new book every three months or so. "According to Forbes magazine, he makes in excess of $50,000,000 a year (and I didn't accidentally add a few zeros)." The Age (Melbourne) 10/10/00

  • POET OR FRAUD? Andreas Karavis has become something of a literary sensation, with his work turning up in prestigious publications. But he's never granted an interview, and some wonder whether he exists. Poet David Solway, who speaks on Karavis' behalf "may well simply be the man who discovered Karavis and been responsible for promoting his work in Canada. Or, according to a growing body of conspiratorial thought among the literati, he and Karavis may be one and the same." The Globe and Mail 10/10/00

  • POWER OF THE PRESS: In China, an editor is arrested as his subversive publication is distributed everywhere. "I understood that the Chinese government was more and more angry that this issue was everywhere in the country, in the cities and outside. They said they saw it everywhere, even in bookstores, and they didn't like it." New York Times 10/10/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Monday October 9

  • THIS YEAR'S NOBEL LITERATURE PRIZE... The Nobel committee failed to reach a decision last week on a winner for this year's Nobel Prize for literature. "Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro are among a list of contenders for the $1.35-million prize that includes Chinese writer Bei Dao, Belgian author Ugo Claus, Trinidad's V.S. Naipaul and Ireland short story author William Trevor." National Post (Canada) 10/09/00

Friday October 6

  • NOBEL EFFORTS: Last week Czeslaw Milosz and Günter Grass traveled to Vilnius Lithuania to unveil a plaque commemorating Joseph Brodsky. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10/06/00
  • ATWOOD IS BOOKER FAVORITE: Margaret Atwood's new book, "The Blind Assassin", is the early favourite to win Britain's Booker Prize. London bookmakers posted her as the 2 to 1 favorite. National Post (Canada) 10/06/00
  • POTTERMANIA HITS CHINA: Harry Potter has come to China, creating the same sensation as it did in the rest of the world. Parents lined up for hours outside bookstores hoping to buy the latest accounts of "Ha-Li Bo-te," as Potter is known in China. BBC 10/06/00

Thursday October 5

  • BOOKER PRIZE FINALISTS ANNOUNCED: Finalists for the literary prize are: Margaret Atwood - "The Blind Assassin," Trezza Azzopardi - "The Hiding Place," Michael Collins - "The Keepers of Truth," Kazuo Ishiguro - "When We Were Orphans," Matthew Kneale - "English Passengers," and Brian O'Doherty - "The Deposition of Father McGreevy" BBC 10/05/00
  • LARGEST DONATION EVER TO LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: Billionaire John Kluge is donating $60 million to the Library of Congress. "Kluge's money is the largest single gift in the institution's 200-year history. The donation, according to a source close to the project, will be used to establish the John W. Kluge Center for scholars and a $1 million annual prize for lifetime achievement in scholarly endeavors. The center will be located in the library's Jefferson Building and, like a university, will have endowed chairs in a number of fields." Washington Post 10/05/00
  • TRADEMARK TREPIDATION: Independent electronic publishers are watching with concern the fate of a recently filed application by Gemstar-TV Guide International to trademark the word "EBOOK." "I think we independents are not nearly cut-throat enough. We should have copyrighted every doggone e-book term we came up with back in the mid '90s." Wired 10/04/00
  • HIT A POET WHILE HE'S DOWN? "It seems churlish to complain that poetry is receiving publicity, however dishonestly generated. Sales and readerships are very low; I read recently that 3% of all book sales are of poetry, and even that figure seems surprisingly high. But might we not be in danger of an inflationary rhetoric with regard to contemporary poetry, where so many superlative epithets - 'best poet of their generation', 'best American poet currently writing', and so on - are scattered like confetti over the whole crowd? The Guardian 10/05/00
  • GILLER PRIZE FINALISTS ANNOUNCED: Great excitement in Canada about the announcement of finalists for the Giller Prize (one of Canada's top literary prizes). A few reactions? "All the books have brown covers except one." "Bleak, bleak and bleaker." The list showed "big themes, big ideas and a few surprises." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/05/00

Wednesday October 4

  • THE ALLURE/DANGER OF PARIS: The French capital, for a poet, is seductive. But for an American, is there danger in losing one's voice in that seductive quality? C. K. Williams, the New Jersey native who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for poetry is quite hip to the dangers. The New York Times 10/04/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • CANADA TO SUBSIDIZE MAGAZINES: The Canadian government announces a $150 million fund to help Canadian magazines compete against American media selling their wares in Canada. The money will go to subsidize Canadian publications because "American magazines can sell ads more cheaply than Canadian competitors because the magazine's costs have already been covered by advertising and sales in the United States." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/04/00

Tuesday October 3

  • E-BOOK 'EM: Publishers anxiously at an e-book conference watch Napster case for clues to how publishers can protect themselves. "Keynote speaker Dick Brass, vice president of technology development at Microsoft, predicted that although 50 percent of all new books will be electronic in form within 10 years, widespread piracy could cripple the market." Wired 10/02/00
  • NEWS ON COMMISSION: "The worst-paid journalists on earth live in Nigeria. Because of this, Nigerian journalists do on a daily basis what would constitute a firing offence in Canada - they accept money from the people they write about. These payments, called 'commissions', are paid by companies, individuals, organizations and governments when journalists come to call." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/03/00

Monday October 2

  • WRITING BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Dissident writers in the old USSR had to be wary. Since their work could not be printed at home they memorized it "The two most important phenomena in dissident writing in the Eastern bloc surrounding Samizdat and Tamizdat were the underground press in the authors' own country and the opportunities for publication abroad." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10/01/00

Sunday October 1

  • THE NEW LIT CRIT: "Run mostly by thirtysomething writers and editors, this latest generation of New York literary journals are stylishly packaged, serving up a mix of prominent names, undiscovered aspirants, and lost treasures from the vaults. Each has staked out a different aesthetic territory, but between them they cover a wide swath of contemporary literature." Village Voice 09/00