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Friday, January 31

Those Pesky Poets Get Into More Trouble The White House "postponement" of a planned poetry event in February because of a planned protest by some of the invited poets is rousing lots of speculation. Some poets wanted to protest the war and resented the possible appearance of their support for war policies by their attendance. Plans to speak out againt a war with Iraq worried the White House and so the event was put off. Says one poet: "It tells you how little they understand poetry and poets, including the poets under discussion. It's a way to co-opt people, makes them look like they are interested in the arts without bothering to understand the arts." Boston Globe 01/31/03

  • Poetic Protest "Most of the invited poets are vocal opponents of the Bush administration, including [protest organizer and Copper Canyon Press founder] Sam Hamill, an award-winning poet and publisher with a long history of protesting against U.S. military aggression." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/31/03

  • Former Poets Laureate Add To Protest Former American poets laureate Stanley Kunitz and Rita Dove characterized the decision to postpone the event as "an example of the Bush administration's hostility to dissenting or creative voices."
    Yahoo! (AP) 01/30/03

Thursday, January 30

Any Hope For The NYer Slushpile? Aspiring writers everywhere have submited fiction to The New Yorker in hopes of getting published. Indeed, the magazine gets some 4000 unsolicited manuscripts every month. So will submissions to the slush pile have a shot at getting into the NYer under new fiction editor Deborah Treisman? "Someone who’s submitting themselves directly to the fiction editor probably isn’t all that savvy about publishing and probably not about writing either." Hmmmn...guess not. The Morning News 01/29/03

White House Poetry Event Cancelled It was to be a poetry forum featuring some of America's top poets, the latest in a succession of literary and educational events hosted at the White House by former librarian First Lady Laura Bush. Past forums hosted by Mrs. Bush have been lauded as serious literary discussions, "often turning into lively debates." Apparently, though, executive branch officials thought this debate might turn a but too lively, and have cancelled the event after learning that several of the participants planned to use the spotlight to protest the Bush administration's Iraq policy. BBC 01/30/03

Not That Anyone Would Be Surprised If This Actually Happened... An Australian writer has penned a novel in which the shoe company Nike develops a marketing plan which includes the murder of 10 teenagers "who buy the company's latest shoes, to make it seem as though people are killing each other over the new product. The result is instant street credibility and record sales." Astonishingly, a major publishing house was willing to put out the satire, and perhaps even more shockingly, the real-life Nike swears it has no plans to sue the author. National Post (Canada) 01/30/03

Wednesday, January 29

Okri: UK Writers Need More Respect... Why is Britain sliding into "imaginative impotence"? Novelist Ben Okri says its because the country's writers have little status at home. "Our novelists and poets are unappreciated in their own land, beaten down with defeatism and saddled with an inferiority complex in comparison to their lionised American counterparts, the Nigerian-born author of The Famished Road claimed. 'It is all very well celebrating the dead, but we are deaf to what living writers are saying, particularly about the war situation we now find ourselves in'." The Guardian (UK) 01/30/03

An Encyclopedia Where Readers Are Editors "Last week, the English-language version of Wikipedia, a free multilingual encyclopedia created entirely by volunteers on the Internet, published its 100,000th article. More than 37,000 articles populate the non-English editions. Unlike traditional encyclopedias, which are written and edited by professionals, Wikipedia is the result of work by thousands of volunteers. Anyone can contribute an article - or edit an existing one - at any time." Wired 01/29/03

Low-Tech, Outdated, Expensive, And Still Going Strong In this age of corporate publishing monoliths and high-tech innovations such as on-demand publishing, is there any room left for those old, traditional leather-bound tomes that lined your grandfather's library? Boston's Harcourt Bindery thinks so, and its president is still running a highly profitable business by appealing to the indulgent side of the reading public. "In the world of handmade bookbindings in leather or cloth, tooled with gold, the line between classic and contemporary is hard to find. It's all based... on 'the economics of desire.'" Boston Globe 01/29/03

Tuesday, January 28

Tomalin Wins Whitbread Claire Tomalin wins the £30,000 Whitbread book of the year award for her biography of Samuel Pepys, "just as her husband Michael Frayn [also nominated] had predicted all along." The Guardian (UK) 01/29/03

Collins: Why Poetry Isn't More Popular Why don't more people read poetry? American Poet Laureate Billy Collins says he knows: "There's a waiting audience out there that was frightened away by Modernist poetry in school. You feel alienated from your own language, which is unpleasant. There's a syllogism at work here. The syllogism goes like this: I can read and understand English; this poem was written in English; I can't understand this poem." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 01/28/03

Monday, January 27

America's Hurting Libraries American public libraries are in a funding crisis. "We can no longer afford to be silent about the drastic cuts forcing libraries to close early, lay off experienced staff, eliminate periodical and book budgets and reduce programs and services. Library services have gone up dramatically as the economic downturn has kicked in. That is creating a funding nightmare." Washington Post 01/28/03

The NYT And Art Coverage How will cultural coverage change at the New York Times under its new Arts & Leisure section editor? "You have a special burden when you are writing about the arts because your subject is all about creativity and narrative skill and wit and style and deep meaning, so you have to incorporate all those elements in your coverage, whether it’s straight reporting or criticism or something in between. You have to be a little showbiz about it, and I don’t mean that in a cheap or superficial way. On the one hand you are certainly not going to be competing with your subject, but you shouldn’t pale beside it either." Newsweek 01/27/03

Libraries Ordering Fewer Harrys Every time a new Harry Potter book comes out, kids flock to libraries to check out copies. That will be more difficult this summer. "Because of budget cuts, libraries are struggling to have enough Potter books. In New York City, for example, the number of ordered copies has dropped from 956 for the last release, 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,' to 560 for the new one." Yahoo! 01/27/03

Sunday, January 26

Penguin Hires Ousted Random House Editor Only two weeks after she was fired by Random House, Ann Godoff has has been hired by Penguin as the president and publisher of a new book imprint. Will she bring over some of the big authors she published at Random House? "These are people who I have a longstanding relationship with and I would be surprised if we were not able to work together again at some time." The New York Times 01/27/03

  • Previously: Random House Ousts Editor Random House has relieved Ann Godoff of her "duties as publisher/editor/patron saint of serious writers.
    To some, Godoff's send-off signals another loop in the downward spiral of literary publishing; to others it's strictly a business decision - the division under her guidance was not making enough money."
    Washington Post 01/17/03

Profit Shouldn't Be A Bad Word The shakeup at Random House in the past few weeks has many fuming about the health the quality book publishing business. But is that really what the message of this story is? So "the country's major publisher made no bones about what's important - profit. And, is that a bad thing? There's no reason why a quality piece of fiction can't make money, and so far, despite the schlock and superficiality found in the bookstores, publishers will continue to offer books worth reading because they sell, too." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 01/26/03

Missing The Boat - The Book That Got Away Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan tried and tried to get a Canadian publisher to take her book "Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World," a revisionist history of the Treaty of Versailles, but without success. Finally she flew to London and sold it there. The book has since become a big bestseller and once again editors whose job it is to pick out books to publish, missed out. How does this happen? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/25/03

Saturday, January 25

Aussie Non-Fiction Supplanting Fiction Australian non-fiction has taken over publishing. "Book after book indicating a renaissance in Australian non-fiction, incorporating everything from narrative journalism to memoir, rock'n'roll, history, philosophy, the essay and political biography. Works that often blurred the territory between these forms and fiction, part and parcel of a radical hybridisation of style and content affecting literature internationally and sending our old generic orders into meltdown. When compared with this catalogue, recent local literary fiction was not up to the same consistent standard, let alone able to match en masse the furious energy our literary non-fiction exudes." Sydney Morning Herald 01/26/03

Friday, January 24

Robbie Burns - Still Big Business These days culture is big business. Yes, that extends to poets, too. Even dead poets. A BBC documentary estimates that Scottish poet Robert Burns brings about £157m a year into the country."The biggest single source of income is Burns-related tourism. It brings in £150m, two-thirds of which goes straight to Ayrshire where Burns was born and lived most of his life." BBC 01/24/03

New NYT Arts Editor To Shake Things Up How will the New York Times' cultural coverage change under new Arts & Leisure editor Jodi Kantor? "I do think you'll see us playing around with the format, thinking up novel ways to cover culture, and developing more regular features and columns." Staffers are eager to see how Kantor reshapes her influential section, deals with senior critics and shakes up the ranks of freelance contributors while navigating the paper's often-choppy waters. New York Daily News 01/24/03

Thursday, January 23

Frankfurt Fair To Stay In Frankfurt The Frankfurt Bookfair is staying in Frankfurt. The fair had threatened to move to Munich because Frankfurt hotels had inflated their prices. Last week, representatives of the book fair, the city of Frankfurt, its hotel and gastronomy industry, the German publishing association and the operator of the Frankfurt fair came to an agreement." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/24/03

How Literary...Or Is It? "What constitutes literary publishing? Is there such a thing as a purely literary publishing house? Is there a literary DNA or special skill set required to publish so-called literary fiction and nonfiction as opposed to broad mainstream books? Some publishers can be driven absolutely crazy by the notion that they aren't considered literary enough. The reality is that there is no longer any such thing as a purely literary publishing house." The New York Times 01/23/03

Bestsellers Before The First Page Is Published Books like the upcoming Harry Potter become bestsellers long before they even hit stores. "The growth of pre-sales is an interesting development in publishing. Of course in the eighteenth century an author could pre-sell his book by subscription as a way of supporting himself, but this is a different kettle of fish. Publishers love it because it lets them lock in sales without having to worry about returns. With enough hype or a strong enough brand name the whole enterprise can turn into a form of print-on-demand. It's quite a testimony to the importance of marketing." GoodReports 01/23/03

Would You Pay $5 To Check Out A Book? Would you pay $5 a book to check out books from your public library? That's what the State of California proposes. Under Governor Grey Davis' proposal released Friday, "the state would cut in half the amount of money it gives California's 179 library systems, reducing annual subsidies from about $32 million to $15 million a year. To recoup some money, Davis proposed legislation allowing county libraries to charge $1 to readers who check out books in libraries outside the county where they live, and $5 to readers who have a book sent to their home library from another county." The Press-Democrat (Santa Rosa) 01/23/03

Wednesday, January 22

Kantor Named Editor Of NYT A&E The New York Times has named Jodi Kantor as its new editor of the paper's Sunday A&E section. Kanto comes from the online magazine Slate. "At Slate, Ms. Kantor, 27, had the assignment of developing ways to use the Internet to write about the arts, ranging from short, argumentative 'Culturebox' essays to online slideshows and a weekly e-mail exchange between professional therapists about developments on 'The Sopranos.' In the past, Ms. Kantor has contributed several pieces to The Times Book Review." New York Times Press Release 01/22/03

How Random House Boss Was Ousted Why did Peter Olson fire highly respected Ann Godoff from her perch as the president of the Random House Trade Group? "Mr. Olson's motives are a matter of great consequence in the book business, where Bertelsmann's Random House division is the largest consumer publisher in the world. He said his public condemnation of Ms. Godoff's performance simply reflected honesty about a ruthless devotion to the bottom line: publishers who repeatedly fail to meet financial goals must go." She failed, so she was out. The New York Times 01/20/03

Salon's Survival At Stake? It appears as though it's the moment of truth for Salon, the online magazine. "Once the Web was crowded with nervy upstarts such as Suck and Feed, new media sites that disparaged their traditional rivals as dinosaurs but were actually the first to disappear. Salon was one of the most celebrated - and, with 30 million page views a month, one of the most popular - but the online magazine has been struggling for years to reach profitability and recently has been teetering on the edge of insolvency. Now in what may be a last-ditch effort to stay alive, Salon is about to dramatically change its business model." Los Angeles Times 01/22/03

Tuesday, January 21

Develop This - Another Gatekeeper On The Road To Getting Published "Some 13,000 new novels are published each year, a 45 per cent increase since 1998. But the deluge conceals a depressing reality for new writers. The slush pile - the derogatory term for unsolicited manuscripts that land on publishers’ desks - has been all but abandoned in this efficient age of corporate accounting and executive accountability. Publishers no longer read novels by unknowns. Nor, increasingly, do literary agents. If you are a first-timer, your chances of getting into print are almost non-existent." Enter a new form of literary life - literary development agencies that for a fee will read and critique your work and make recommendations... The Scotsman 01/21/03

The Thousand-Page Harry Within days of the announcement that the new installment of Harry Potter would be published in June, Amazon reported 30,000 orders. Book stores plan to be open at midnight on the first day the book is sold, and already it's a bestseller before a single page is printed. But this installment looks to be more than 1000 pages long. Isn't that a little long for a kid's book? Boston Globe 01/21/03

Monday, January 20

The Orwell Contradiction How is it that George Orwell is interpreted in such contradictory ways? "Legacy is not the best word to use to describe Orwell's influence. He was a contradictory fellow: people read him in his own time in part because they didn't know what he would think about an issue, and he often took positions against the conventional wisdom of even the political groups with which he was most closely allied. So it is impossible to know what Orwell would have said about anything. Yet people have been playing that game for fifty years." The New Yorker 01/20/03

Sunday, January 19

What Books Sold In 2002 There were some changes in the types of books that made the bestseller lists in 2002. Of 120,000 books published last year, 421 books made the bestseller lists, "down a bit from the record set in 2001, when 433 books made a first landing. The previous high was 385 books, back in 2000. The only weekly list that had more players in 2002 was hardcover nonfiction, where a record 90 books made an appearance, breaking the record of 83 books set in 2001. There were 126 hardcover fiction first appearances last year, down just one from the record 127 in 2001." Publishers Weekly 01/13/03

Even Literary Books Have To Make Money Now Why is Random House cutting up one of its most-praised divisions? The literary world is apalled. "Despite the many core strengths of the Random House Trade Group, they have been the only Random House, Inc. publishing division to consistently fall short of their profit targets. To ensure its publishing continuity, it has become imperative to improve the Random House Trade Group's financial success." Publishers Weekly 01/20/03

Saturday, January 18

How The Book Industry Has Changed "After 20 or more years of consolidation and commercialization, the book publishing industry and most of its components — authors, agents, publishers, marketers and retailers — have resigned themselves to the businesslike, margin-driven culture of the industry today. Even if some still pine for the gentlemanly days of gentlemen editors, most are too busy trying to get the attention of Oprah Winfrey or NBC's 'Today' show to waste time on nostalgia." The New York Times 01/18/03

True Lies - The Novelist's Responsibility Do novelists have a responsibility to make their fiction true? That is - is it permissible to change historical dates of events to fit the stories you tell, even if they're the historical dates or events aren't "accurate"? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/18/03

That's Rich - Frank Goes Back To A&E So is Frank Rich's move from the New York Times' Op-ed page to the A&E section a promotion or a demotion? “Knowing that I had no interest in running a department and never had," Rich says, NYT editor Howell Raines said "he would exploit my ideas to advise him and a new culture editor.” Which makes Erlanger the manager and Rich, essentially kibitzing, a sort of “nanny-in-residence” to the former Berlin bureau chief, as one Times reporter put it. New York Magazine 01/13/03

  • Previously: Frank Rich Rejoins NYT Culture Pages Frank Rich, considered the most-feared theatre critic in New York during the 1980s when he was theatre critic at the New York Times, is moving back to the NYT culture pages. For the past eight years Rich has been writing an op-ed on the NYT editorial pages. "We plan for his column to be an anchor of the Arts & Leisure section. In addition, he will work closely with Steve Erlanger, our newly appointed cultural news editor, in planning coverage and the overall design of the culture pages." The New York Times 01/08/03
Friday, January 17

Random House Ousts Editor Random House has relieved Ann Godoff of her "duties as publisher/editor/patron saint of serious writers.
To some, Godoff's send-off signals another loop in the downward spiral of literary publishing; to others it's strictly a business decision - the division under her guidance was not making enough money."
Washington Post 01/17/03

  • Random House Purge - End Of An Era "The decision by Random House Inc., a division of Bertelsmann and the largest consumer book publisher in the world, to merge the Random House Trade Group with its sister unit, Ballantine Books, startled the literary world. The Random House Trade Group, along with its internal rival, Knopf, was one of the few publishers that combined literary prestige, financial resources and marketing power." The New York Times 01/17/03

Thursday, January 16

US Government Demanded Borrowing Records From 545 Libraries Last Year The American Patriot Act allows the US government to require public libraries to hand over patrons' book-borrowing and Internet-surfing records to investigate terrorist leads. "It also prohibits library staff from publicizing law enforcement requests for such materials." A study of 906 libraries by the Library Research Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign finds "that in the year following the Sept. 11 attacks, federal and local law enforcement agents visited at least 545 libraries to inquire after patrons' records." And were records turned over? About half the bibraries complied with the orders. Wired 01/16/03

Wednesday, January 15

Growth In Used-Book Sales Let's look at the used-book business. Since 1993 the used-book business has grown substantially. But "between 2000-2002, there was a 4.8% decrease in the number of open shops." Why? Though the business continues to grow, the internet is accounting for more sales. Bookhunter Press 01/03

The New Harry In June The latest installment in the Harry Potter series will be on sale June 21. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be released on a Saturday so that young fans do not have to skip school to buy it on its first day. More than a third of a million copies of the last Potter book were sold on its first day of release in July 2000 as Potter mania swept the UK." BBC 01/15/03

First Gay Bookstore To Close The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, in New York's Greenwich Village, was already a success by the time the Stonewall Riots gave rise to the modern gay rights movement in 1969. But this month, the bookstore, which is believed to have been the world's first to specialize in gay and lesbian literature, will shut its doors for the last time. Many gay bookstores have been closing in the last decade, ironic victims of the more open society they helped to create, in which gays and lesbians no longer feel the need to hide in self-contained communities, and general-interest bookstores often have gay and lesbian studies sections. Philadelphia Inquirer 01/15/03

Tuesday, January 14

The New Yorker's New Fiction Editor Deborah Treisman has taken over as fiction editor of The New Yorker. So how is her style different from Bill Buford, who just left the job after nine years? "We—probably 80 percent of the time— agree. And so in those 20 percent of stories it feels as though there's a different reason for each one. But it's never that he likes men writers and I like women writers. We both are drawn to different things in different stories. So I'm sure that things will start to feel a little different. But I'm actually looking forward to finding out how. And also, you know, neither of us works alone. There's a whole department and we do sit around and discuss things endlessly and argue about them." Book Magazine 01/03

State Of The Book Biz - Circa 2002 What sold? Familiar names..."John Grisham, James Patterson, Danielle Steel, Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark had a total of 15 books on last year's hardcover fiction charts; that's 16.6% of all available slots in the course of the year." The five biggest publishers accounted for 77 percent of all books on the Bestseller lists... Publishers Weekly 01/13/03

Monday, January 13

National Book Critics Circle Awards Nominations This year's shortlist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards is announced. "Reversing the usual trend, the critics' picks were better known than the National Book Awards, which are voted by fellow writers and were awarded in November." The New York Times 01/14/03

Sunday, January 12

Are Literary Prizes Wasted On The Young? Should Granta's list of best young novelists have used age as a criterion? What, after all, does youth have to do with promise when it comes to writing? "Is it pinpointing the best writers of this year alone, or attempting to predict who will cast a shadow over the literary landscape until the announcement of the next list in 2013? The Observer (UK) 01/12/03

Married To Competition Claire Tomalin and Michael Frayn are married to one another, but they're also finalists for a Whitbread Award and competing. "Perhaps the most startling thing the Frayn/Tomalin news has brought to light is the suspicion - or perhaps it's even a schadenfreudian certainty - that writers must not get on. They are, we seem to imagine, selfish, competitive and vampiric by nature - sucking real life and friendships dry for the sake of fiction." The Observer (UK) 01/12/03

University Press Editors - Gatekeepers To Academia To get tenure at a big university, a young professor must publish books. "Recently, chief academic administrators have begun to demand that candidates for tenure publish two books, not just one, because more is somehow better; they actually don't give a damn which presses churn out all these unreadable, uninspiring volumes." But if books are the admittance pass, the book gatekeepers - editors of the university presses - have amazing power over the careers of academics. Is this a good development? Boston Globe 01/12/03

Art Of Collecting Books Book collectors are book lovers. And book lovers love libraries, right? Uh uh. "Collectors abominate lending libraries. They are graveyards of good books. Everything a librarian does to prepare a book for lending disqualifies it as collectable. Stamps are slammed on the title page, label pockets gummed to the rear pastedown, dust wrappers discarded, covers vulcanised in plastic - or, in those days, a toffee-brown buckram tough enough to withstand acid. Restoring a library book to collectable condition is like trying to return a Kentucky Fried Chicken to the state of health where it can lay an egg." The Age 01/12/03

Friday, January 10

Cleaning Up - NY State Expunges Ethnic References In Exam Lit Examples It appears the state of New York is still "sanitizing" literary excerpts for its state high school regents exam. "State education officials had been doctoring the literary reading samples on state tests to make sure nothing offensive was included. It didn't matter if it was Anton Chekhov or Isaac Bashevis Singer, state bureaucrats removed references to race, religion, ethnicity, sex, nudity and even alcohol. 'Jews' and 'gentiles' were excised from Singer. An Annie Dillard excerpt about growing up white in a black area was purged of racial references." The New York Times 01/09/03

Wednesday, January 8

Did The Chinese Really Discover America? Gavin Menzies' new book claiming that Chinese discovered America 70 years before Columbus landed is getting lots of press. But does the research hold up? "Sadly, many observers concur that accuracy matters little to publishing houses, especially when fudged facts are almost guaranteed to generate controversy, and therefore sales. 'The publishing industry's gullibility is boundless and its devotion to the bottom line endless, so if they can maintain their fealty to P.T. Barnum and put one over on the public, they'll do so without losing a wink's worth of sleep'." Salon 01/07/03

New NYT Editor Cracks The Whip Steven Erlanger is the New York Times' new culture editor. And he's jumped into the job with a memo to his troops exhorting them to do better: "I’ve been impressed and gratified by some of what we’ve published in the last weeks of the year. But I’ve also been dismayed by some of the flat, careless and inelegant writing I’ve seen, some of which has gotten into the paper. What we do in the section matters. I’m concentrating now on understanding how it works before deciding how to make it better." The New York Times 01/08/03

Frank Rich Rejoins NYT Culture Pages Frank Rich, considered the most-feared theatre critic in New York during the 1980s when he was theatre critic at the New York Times, is moving back to the NYT culture pages. For the past eight years Rich has been writing an op-ed on the NYT editorial pages. "We plan for his column to be an anchor of the Arts & Leisure section. In addition, he will work closely with Steve Erlanger, our newly appointed cultural news editor, in planning coverage and the overall design of the culture pages." The New York Times 01/08/03

Tuesday, January 7

Critic Norman Lebrecht Wins Whitbread For First Novel The Evening Standard's Norman Lebrecht has won the Whitbread Award for a First Novel. "Starting at 54, even with this groundwork established, is still kind of late. There are precedents - Annie Proulx, Penelope Fitzgerald and most famously Mary Wesley. But why, if Lebrecht is capable of writing such a good novel, did it not spring from him sooner? Simple, he says. He wasn't ready..." The Guardian (UK) 01/08/03

The Literary Loss Between Page And Screen "Literature has always been a poisoned chalice for filmmakers. It's irresistible because it offers great stories and characters, but it often makes geographic demands that translate into huge budgets. Worse, it covers psychological and intellectual territory that nobody has ever really figured out how to translate into movies." This is especially tough in a country like Canada. Though Canadian writers have scored big internationally in recent years, getting movies made of their work is especially difficult. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/07/03

Monday, January 6

Plagiarism Bad. Very Bad. Isn't It? At a "professor-packed" session of the American Historical Association's meeting in Chicago over the weekend, plagiarism was the hot topic. "Almost everybody thinks that something ought to be done about it, but almost nobody agrees with anybody else about just what that something ought to be. And - oh, yes - there's also that annoying bugaboo of defining just what truly constitutes plagiarism." Chicago Tribune 01/06/03

Sunday, January 5

Granta's List Of Britain's Best Young Novelists Granta's one-a-decade list of Britain's best young novelists always creates a stir. "The list, like all literary prizes, is an attempt to bypass market imperfections, and is loved and loathed by publishers, who are inclined to dismiss it as irrelevant when they aren't included, and to applaud its detachment and authority when they are." This year's list has its critics and defenders. "So were there any shoo-ins? Several judges mentioned, unsurprisingly, Zadie Smith." The Observer (UK) 01/05/03

  • 20 Years Later - What Does A List Mean? A list's still a list. Yes there are stars from the previous Granta lists. But "the somewhat sadder message conveyed by the yellowing old photos of 1983 and 1993 is that many of these writers, while in middle age still going through the motions of publishing a novel every few years, are not what they were." The Telegraph (UK) 01/06/03

Struggle Behind The Publishing Of A Lost Tolkien Manuscript The medieval studies professor who discovered and edited a lost manuscript by JRR Tolkien, says dealing with Tolkien's fans was arduous over the six years it took to prepare the manuscript. "It was unfortunate that there were some obsessive fans who "whose attention one attracts by working on anything related to Tolkien. The sheer number of people who were trying to profit from Tolkien's work was astonishing, and the problems with copyright violation and outright theft were like nothing I had ever encountered in medieval studies." BBC 01/05/03

  • Previously: Tolkien Manuscript Found An unpublished manuscript by JRR Tolkien, found six years ago in a box at Oxford and is being published. "The 2000 handwritten pages include Tolkien's translation and appraisal of 'Beowulf', the epic 8th century Anglo-Saxon poem of bravery, friendship and monster-slaying that is thought to have inspired 'The Lord of the Rings'." The Australian 12/30/02

What Paperbacks Sold Last Year What were 2002's hottest UK paperback sellers? John Grisham leads the list, as expected. And there were an awful lot of manufactured celebrity books. Some 30 million paperbacks were sold in the UK in 2002, about the same as in 2001, but nearly three million down on 2001 (there was a new Harry Potter that year). Still, it's estimated that fewer than 50 percent of Britons ever buy a book. Here's the list of paperbacks most sold... The Observer (UK) 01/05/03

Book Jacket Portraying WWII Nazi Ties Upsets Swiss A new book by a Clinton administration official who led negotiations with Switzerland, Germany, France and Austria to "get nearly $8 billion in reparations for art, unpaid insurance policies and confiscated bank accounts taken from Jews during World War II" is angering the Swiss. The objections are not so much about the content, as the cover, which "has a swastika made of gold ingots spread over the red Swiss national flag." But author Stuart E. Eizenstat and his publisher say the design "accurately reflects what he learned during the negotiations in the late 1990s." Washington Post 01/05/03

Friday, January 3

The New Biographers "The old style of Canadian biography was written mainly by academic historians and characterized by a slavish devotion to the facts, and nothing but the facts, about the subject at hand." Boring. But a new generation of biographers has taken more of the novelist approach to their work. "Virginia Woolf said every biography should be written twice - once as fiction and once as fact. Fact is accessible but interpretation is not, and fact won't tell you much about character and thought." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/03/03

Thursday, January 2

Tolkien Manuscript Found An unpublished manuscript by JRR Tolkien has been found in a box at Oxford. "The 2000 handwritten pages include Tolkien's translation and appraisal of 'Beowulf', the epic 8th century Anglo-Saxon poem of bravery, friendship and monster-slaying that is thought to have inspired 'The Lord of the Rings'." The Australian 12/30/02

Hmong - Forging A New Literary Tradition Hmong society has no literary tradition. "The first Hmong writing system was developed by Catholic missionaries in the 1950s. Until then, all storytelling was spoken." So a new book collecting young Hmong writers' work is something extraordinary. Sacramento Bee 01/02/03

Wednesday, January 1

A "20 Best" List To Watch For Given Its Track Record Granta is naming its "20 Best of Young British Novelists," an exercise it indulges in every ten years. So what's the Grant track record? "When you look at the names on the original 1983 and follow-up 1993 lists, the hit-rate was impressive: Amis, Barker, Barnes, Boyd, McEwan, Rushdie, Swift, Tremain on the former; Banks, de Bernières, AL Kennedy, Kureishi, Phillips, Self and Winterson on the latter; with Ishiguro and Mars-Jones, by virtue of their early-flowering promise, on both." The Guardian (UK) 01/01/03

Speak This - Controversy of the Spoken Word "So what if Vancouver has become one of the hottest venues on the North American spoken-word circuit? Is there any correlation between the groundswell of so-called 'street poetry' in Vancouver and the West Coast's domination of all those august literary prizes?" Perhaps... but perhaps not. Even those who practice the art can't agree. Some of them don't even like one another. And they don't like the publicity. Or even necessarily the artform. "To treat poetry as performance is crude and extremely revolting." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/01/03

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