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Friday, November 29

Dumas To Be Moved To Pantheon Alexandre Dumas is one of the most popular French novelists of all time. But he's not been officially honored. That changes this week when his remains are moved to the Pantheon in Paris. "He will then be laid to rest alongside other French literary greats such as Victor Hugo and Emile Zola." BBC 11/28/02

Supplementary Pleasures Everything about The Times Literary Supplement, that "coded message to the intellectual elite whose 36 pages of densely packed articles have come out regularly for the past century and a bit" is "endearingly odd." The TLS's "circulation has never topped 50,000 and is now level-pegging at about 35,000 worldwide" but its influence is enormous. The Times (UK) 11/29/02

Art Of Words An American designer has produced "an interactive program (found at Textarc.org) that reproduces the text of more than 2,000 books as works of art. The software converts the text into an interactive map that allows viewers to quickly see relationships between words and characters at a glance, even without having read the book." BBC 11/28/02

Wednesday, November 27

Another Swipe At Lilly Meghan O'Rourke suggests that Ruth Lilly's gift of $100 million to Poetry Magazine is a bad idea. "The gift, though well-intentioned, is foolish. The real problem is that the gift is the essence of bad philanthropy—an overblown act of generosity that undermines its own possible efficacy. Poetry, which had a staff of four, an annual budget of $600,000, and a circulation of approximately 12,000, is suddenly among the best-endowed cultural institutions in the world. If Lilly were truly interested in advancing poetry, the best way to do it would have been to spread the wealth around. Lilly should have given $10 million to 10 different magazines or started a nonprofit foundation with an elected board to hand out grants to writers. This would have started a conversation, not a cultural hegemony." Slate 11/26/02

Share The Wealth So many resources in the hands of so few. "The vision of an 800-pound tastemaking gorilla, no matter how august, is not a rosy one for all concerned." There are many other ways Lilly could have made a bigger contribution to the cause of poetry. How about giving a lot of it away to other magazines? Village Voice 11/27/02

Writing For $133 A Word Any doubt modern publishing is big business? In 1975, the year’s best-selling book, E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime sold 232,000. By 2000, John Grisham’s The Brethren exceeded the sales total of “Ragtime” by twelvefold. So what do the big-time authors make? A New York Magazine survey does the math: Tom Clancy gets $45 million for two books, which works out to an advance of $42,694 per page, or $133 per word. See what some of the others make... New York 11/24/02

Book Clubs Rise Again After nearly flaming out in the early-90s, writes Thomas Winship, book clubs have become hugely popular again. But today's book clubs serve more niche audiences... Nando Times (UPI) 11/26/02

Attacking The Judge Who Didn't Read Michael Kinsley's claim not to have read all the books as a judge of this year's National Book Awards has a fellow judge annoyed. "His failure to read more books represents an abdication of responsibility—and a cynicism about the literary enterprise. When was the last time someone boasted in print of not doing his job? Which raises the question: Why did he agree to judge the National Book Award?" Slate 11/26/02

After 2000 Years - He Has A New Book Out For much of the past 2,200 years, the Greek poet Posidippus was at best a footnote in history. But scolars found a collection of his work on papyrus that had been cut up for scrap as a mummy casing. And now there are conferences on his work, and - after 2000, a new book of his work... Chronicle of Higher Education 11/24/02

Tuesday, November 26

Publishing Groups Sue Over SC Censorship Law A group of publishing industry groups is suing to overturn a South Carolina law that prohibits posting images on the internet that the state considers unfit for children. The law was passed by legislators last year, and "prosecutors say the lawsuit is premature because the law it challenges has never been enforced." FreedomForum (AP) 11/25/02

All Funded And No Place To Go? Many applaud heiress Ruth Lilly's gift of $100 million to Poetry magazine. And yes - giving money to something so worthwhile as poetry is a good thing. But really - what can a big slug of money do to help the cause? It's not like funding our way to the moon, or underwriting research for a new drug. "The fact is, poetry's current problems aren't the sort that are easily solved by large infusions of money." OpinionJournal.com 11/26/02

New Yorker In The Black? The New Yorker magazine has been promising it's on the verge of profitability for years. Now it finally looks like the magazine is in the black and is expected to announce a profit of $1 million. "Since Si Newhouse took over The New Yorker 17 years ago, he's sustained losses estimated at more than $215 million - including nearly $40 million over the past five years alone." New York Post 11/26/02

Monday, November 25

Big Brother Protest George Orwell's estate is protesting the publication of a parody of the author's 1940s book Animal Farm. "The contemporary setting can only trivialize the tragedy of Orwell's mid-20th-century vision of totalitarianism. The clear references to 9/11 in the apocalyptic ending can only bring Orwell's name into disrepute in the U.S." The New York Times 11/25/02

Just A Lot Of Bad Sex It's an honor to be a finalist for the prestigious Whitbread Award. Less interesting is to be shortlisted for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Hari Kunzru's The Impressionist has been named for both prizes. "The aim of the [Bad Sex] prize is 'to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it'." BBC 11/25/02

I'm Just Writing To Say Fuhggedaboutit You can't be a writer without getting rejection letters. But, as any writer knows, it's how you're rejected by that publisher that really counts... MobyLives 11/25/02

Sunday, November 24

Famous Poets Scam A writer enters a poetry competition, then is surprised at how bad the winning poem is. "What most of the other poets I met didn't know is that the Famous Poets Society is a vanity publisher that heaps praise on even the worst poems to sell anthologies and convention tickets. The letter about the coveted Shakespeare trophy and poet-of-the-year medallion went to roughly 20,000 people, 500 of whom made the trek to Florida. Some of the poets, thinking this was a once-in-a-lifetime honor, paid for the trip with help from church groups, city councils or Rotary Club chapters." Los Angeles Times 11/24/02

Sales That Aren't Kid's Stuff We make a fuss about adult bestsellers. But classic children's books keep selling year after year. "Chris Van Allsburg's The Polar Express, which has sold more than 4 million copies since 1985, magically reappears on the bestseller list every Christmas. The Poky Little Puppy has racked up sales of more than 14 million since 1942. Goodnight Moon (1947) is still going strong at 6 million. These are among the books that never seem to date or disappear." Washington Post 11/24/02

Friday, November 22

Touch Me... Feel Me... There is a visceral thrill to collecting books. Sure they're difficult to store. But "most true book-heads will not be content with contact by catalogue alone. They must sniff the dust of ages, they must browse, they must handle the goods. Dealers have responded to this urge by peregrinating around the country offering their wares at book fairs." The Spectator 11/02

National Book Award Winners "The third time was the charm for Robert A. Caro, who finally won the nonfiction prize for the third volume of his majestic Lyndon B. Johnson biography, The Master of the Senate (Alfred A. Knopf). Caro was a finalist in 1975 and 1983. Other winners include: for fiction, Three Junes by Julia Glass; for young people's literature, The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer; and for poetry, In the Next Galaxy by Ruth Stone. Washington Post 11/21/02

  • Confessions Of A Judge Michael Kinsley ought to have known what was expected of him when he agreed to be a judge for this year's National Book Awards. "It served me right when the books started rolling in and I realized with horror that I was actually expected to read them: 402 in all. Three FedEx men and our local UPS woman had been retired on full disability by the time all these packages were lugged up our front steps. If you lined up all these books end-to-end, you would just be putting off having to open one and get cracking. Who are you trying to kid?" Slate 11/21/02

Looted Books Still Not Returned Art isn't the only thing Nazis looted. Millions of books were also stolen by the National Socialists during their cultural raids. "These are books stemming from the private libraries of Jews, who either were forced to emigrate or deported, but also books from collections that were seized by the National Socialists in occupied regions." Though many have been returned, too many have not, and the search for rightful owners has been slow. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/22/02

Kids Online A new website is putting thousands of children's books from countries around the world online. And it's free. "When it's completed in about five years, the International Children's Digital Library will hold about 10,000 books targeted at children aged three to 13. 'There are places in the world where you're going to find a computer way before you find a library or a book store'." The Age (Melbourne) 11/22/02

Last Days For Salon? Is the online magazine Salon on its last legs? This week its stock was demoted toWall Street's Little League. "The San Francisco company has said it could run out of money by Dec. 1, barring an emergency infusion of cash." In the past two years, Salon has slashed staff and scaled back. "In all, Salon had revenue of $1 million in the last quarter. That is tiny by business standards, the equivalent of sales at two neighborhood gas stations." San Francisco Chronicle 11 22/02

Art Of Familiarity Bartlett's Familiar Quotations puts out its first new edition in 10 years. "Massachusetts bookseller John Bartlett first published his book of quotations in 1855 as a literary reference work. Shakespeare still leads everybody with 1,906 of the 25,000 quotes from more than 2,500 people in the 17th edition. The Bible is next with 1,642 entries. The book quotes about 100 new people, among them Mother Teresa and Maya Angelou, Alfred Hitchcock and Hillary Clinton, Jerry Seinfeld and J.K. Rowling, Katharine Graham and Princess Diana." Chicago Tribune 11/22/02

$100 Million For Poetry? "One can but wonder what this will do for that most marginalized literary form. Visibility, for sure, since suddenly there's lots of 0000's at the end of the $$$$'s attached to the word poetry. Poets are a quirky lot, and the first, but not lasting, reaction from some was concern, since this peripheral art's loneliness was seen as part of its strength; the next common reaction was that the idea of connecting money to poetry was somehow unpoetic." The New York Times 11/21/02

  • Previously: $100 MILLION FOR POETRY? "One can but wonder what this will do for that most marginalized literary form. Visibility, for sure, since suddenly there's lots of 0000's at the end of the $$$$'s attached to the word poetry. Poets are a quirky lot, and the first, but not lasting, reaction from some was concern, since this peripheral art's loneliness was seen as part of its strength; the next common reaction was that the idea of connecting money to poetry was somehow unpoetic." The New York Times 11/21/02
Thursday, November 21

This is Getting Ridiculous If you want to get a sense of the plot of the next Harry Potter book, it'll only cost you $9500 or so. The latest installment of the wildly popular series by J.K. Rowling still has no official publication date, but Rowling has announced that she has prepared an index card with 93 'random words' on it which hint at the plot, and that card will be auctioned next month at Sotheby's in London. Seriously, an index card. Will be auctioned. At Sotheby's. New York Post 11/21/02

Wednesday, November 20

Limn This, Buster Is it because New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani is such a forceful and effective writer that everyone's jumping on her right now? And what, for a little four-letter word? MobyLives 11/19/02

Bellesiles Stands Fast Michael Bellesiles, the historian who resigned his professorship last month after a panel of his peers concluded that he had made up much of the information and many of the sources for his controversial book on the history of guns in America, remains defiant about his scholarship, insisting that his facts are good, and that he was not motivated by anti-gun political leanings. He denies that Emory University paid him off to go quietly, and continues to carry on a vigorous e-mail debate with some of his sharpest critics. Chicago Tribune 11/20/02

  • Previously: Bellesiles Resigns From Emory "Historian Michael A. Bellesiles, author of a controversial 2000 book on gun ownership in early America, resigned from Emory University in Atlanta yesterday after a devastating indictment of his research was made by an outside committee of scholars... Mainstream scholars raised questions [in 2001] about research Bellesiles did into probate records. His credibility problems were compounded when he said that he had lost all of his research notes in a flood at Emory." Boston Globe 10/26/02

Stolen Books Returned "Four rare books — including a 17th century edition by Sir Isaac Newton — were returned to Russian libraries Monday after police arrested three people suspected in their theft." Yahoo! (AP) 11/19/02

Regressing to Harry Everyone has read Harry Potter by now, of course, and the franchise shows no signs (so far) of waning in popularity among all age groups. But why are adults so interested in these books aimed at children? Certainly, they are well-written and exciting, but what is it about today's world that is making grown-ups more interested in reading about sorcerers and witchcraft than about love, sex, tragedy, and other more traditional 'adult' literary subjects? City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 11/20/02

Tuesday, November 19

No Hard Feelings - Poet Gives Mag $100 Million Some 30 years ago, the editor of Poetry Magazine rejected a submission by one Mrs Guernsey Van Riper Jr. of Indianapolis. Over the next few decades she kept submitting poems and he kept rejecting them. It turns out she was fabulously wealthy, and, now 87 years old, has just made a gift to the influential Poetry of $100 million over the next 30 years, with "no strings attached." Chicago Tribune 11/18/02

  • Newly Rich This gift has suddenly turned Poetry from a struggling journal little known outside literary circles to one of the world's richest publications. [Editor Joseph] Parisi said it was by far the largest single donation ever made to an institution devoted to poetry. 'There just isn't anything to compare it to. We will be the largest foundation in the world devoted to poetry. It's a huge responsibility, as I'm realizing every day more and more." The New York Times 11/19/02

Zine Dreams Zines are a publishing phenomenon. They're self-published little magazines usually "written and self-published by one or two obsessed souls in places like Hoboken and Topeka, then sent out into an unsuspecting world bearing such wonderfully loopy titles as Brain Thong, and Murder Can Be Fun, and The World Would Be a Much Better Place if Everybody Wore Tight Pants." Zines are what result "when the citizens of a great nation are granted an inalienable constitutional right to publish anything they darn well please - then also granted easy access to computers and copy machines." Washington Post 11/19/02

An Indie Success Story Enough with stories about the woes of independent bookstores. Here's a success story, in a southern suburb of Miami: "At a time when book lovers are mourning the disappearance of the independent bookstore, Books & Books has become a beacon of hope for independent booksellers. It is one of the few stores in the country that have succeeded in showing that individuality, personality and a passion for books can go a long way in competing against retail giants." The New York Times 11/19/02

Magazines Too White "A survey of 471 covers from 31 magazines published in 2002 — an array of men's and women's magazines, entertainment publications and teenagers' magazines — conducted two weeks ago by The New York Times found that about one in five depicted minority members. Five years ago, according to the survey, which examined all the covers of those 31 magazines back through 1998, the figure was only 12.7 percent. And fashion magazines have more than doubled their use of nonwhite cover subjects. But in a country with a nonwhite population of almost 30 percent, the incremental progress leaves some people unimpressed." The New York Times 11/18/02

Monday, November 18

Booker Won't Admit Americans: Organizers of the Booker Prize say that they have decided not to open up the award to American writers. Earlier this year the Booker, which is given annually to an author who writes in English somewhere in the Commonwealth, toyed with the idea of including Americans in the competition. Critics complained the move would damage the tone of the award. The New York Times 11/18/02

Powell's Expands Seattle may be home to Amazon. But any Northwesterner will tell you the best bookstore is Portland-based Powell's. The independent bookstore is in no danger of going out of business. Indeed, in spite of the general corporatization of the industry, Powell's has flourished, making major expansions to its store in recent years. Now it's bought a 60,000 square-foot warehouse about two miles from its downtown location to handle its expanding online business. The new building will store one million used books. Publishers Weekly 11/18/02

The Real Dave Eggers - Who Knows? Dave Eggers has a way of polarizing opinions about him. Is he a brilliant writer, a lone wolf who has gone his own way and eschewed Big Publishing? Or is he a shrewd PR guy who's figured out how to play the fame game? "Eggers can't lose: he will either be remembered as one of the leading American writers of the twenty-first century, or as someone who discovered, nurtured and galvanised those who are." The Observer (UK) 11/17/02

Sunday, November 17

Alt-Weeklies face Antitrust Action: "The U.S. Department of Justice has begun what some legal experts believe is a serious investigation into whether the country's two largest alternative newspaper chains violated federal antitrust laws when they closed competing weeklies in Los Angeles and Cleveland, thereby dividing the markets between them." Los Angeles Times 11/16/02

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