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Monday, March 31

The Cool New Magazine A new magazine started showing up in bookstores last week. "In lieu of a title page, there is an unsigned list of the monthly magazine's intentions, including a 'focus on writers and books we like' and a nod to 'the concept of the Inherent Good'; and an editor says they also hope to include an interview with a philosopher in every issue. On the back cover, there is only a small hint at the cool orbit in which the Believer already spins." It's the new McSweeney's endeavor... Los Angeles Times 03/31/03

Examining The Poetics Of Protest On March 5, Poets Against The War presented Congress with 13,000 poems protesting the drive to war on Iraq. "To say that this was an unprecedented publishing event is putting it mildly. It may have been the beginning of a sea change—not only in the way that poems are published and circulated, but in the way that they are thought of in terms of their cultural role. The presentation capped off the most visible organized poetic protest against war with Iraq." Publishers Weekly 03/31/03

The Poetic Pope The Pope has published another book of poetry. So how is it? Dan Chiasson is impressed: "It's hard to get a sense of the pope's poetics, in the broadest sense, but I can say that he seems to favor end-stopped vers libre—surprising, given his investment elsewhere in order and hierarchy. There are biblical cadences, to be sure, but mostly the poems strike the secular-didactic tone of self-help literature. Very little hellfire; what we get instead is mostly 'Chicken Soup for the Aging Pontiff's Soul.' Still, what I've read of 'Roman Triptych' is rather good, in the way most celebrity poetry is rather good." Slate 03/31/03

Sunday, March 30

Oprah's Classic Depression - Back In The Book Business So Oprah's back in the business of choosing books, a year after getting peeved at Jonathan Franzen's snub of her book club. Only this time she's recommending classics. "Choosing classics is a good way to avoid the heat from literary snobs like Franzen. Who would dare accuse Faulkner and Fitzgerald of pandering to the masses? Still, the whole thing gives me a chuckle. Is Oprah really improving things by turning to the classics? One of the main complaints Oprah suffered from the last book club, Franzen's barbs notwithstanding, was that her book choices were too depressing, that they were nothing more than soap-opera sagas filled with family dysfunction and unrelenting sorrow. So are the classics a laugh riot?" Rocky Mountain News 03/30/03

Challenge To Aussie Writers: Quit "Exalting The Average" Writer John Marr says that Australian writers have become stuck in mediocrity in their "exaltation of the average" and need to develop sharper voices. Marr says what is needed it to "start focusing on what is happening in this country, looking Australia in the face, not flinching, coming to grips with the fact that we have been on a long loop through time that has brought us back almost - but not quite - to where we were." Marr suggested that political and business elites had "inverted that term and directed it towards mostly poor and marginal artists. In response, literary novelists had retreated from the sharp edge of public debate." Sydney Morning Herald 03/31/03

Saturday, March 29

What And How We Read How do Britons read? And what? A survey asks the questions. "Those who study the bestseller lists with bewilderment each week can take comfort from the fact that the sales of new books don't necessarily reflect what the nation is reading. Seventy-three per cent of people buy new books, but 41 per cent borrow library books, 42 per cent borrow books from friends and family, and 41 per cent buy from secondhand shops." The Telegraph (UK) 03/23/03

Griffin Prize (Poetry's Richest) Shortlist Announced The three nominees for the Griffin Prize's Canadian short list and the four nominees in its international competition were announced yesterday in Toronto by the prize's founder, Scott Griffin. The $40,000 prize - the richest in poetry - attracted 320 entries... National Post 03/29/03

Saving Afghan Books "New York University has just begun an ambitious project to digitize all the books printed in Afghanistan from 1871 to 1930, the earliest period of publishing there, and to catalog them and make them available electronically. The effort to preserve and widely disseminate the rare Afghan books is a counterpoint to decades of destruction of the country's art, books and monuments. In the early 1990's alone, tens of thousands of books in both the Kabul Public Library and the Kabul University Library were destroyed under Taliban rule." The New York Times 03/30/03

A Poetry Award With Narrow Scope So the organizers of the new $10,000 Trillium Prize for a first book of poetry by an Ontario resident couldn't find enough entrants to even mount a shortlist. Can we really be surprised? wonders Alex Good. How many good new debut poetry books by an Ontario resident are there in a given year. Who are the people running this award? A check of the group's website reveals an intimidating corporate "mission statement": "Our focus is to build capacity and competitiveness of Ontario's cultural media industry, individually and across the sectors and to provide opportunities that encourage business alliances across the cultural industries." GoodReports 03/30/03

  • Previously: Poetry Jury Fails To Field Shortlist - Poetry Fans Protest Poetry fans are protesting that the jury for the new $10,000 Trillium Prize for poetry in Canada were unable to come up with a shortlist for the prize. "There were very few titles published in 2002 that met the criteria of a first book of poetry by a poet resident in Ontario for three of the last five years." Only ten books were submitted, but protesters want a new jury to be chosen and the deadline to be extended. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/27/03
Thursday, March 27

Driven To Read "There is a natural symbiosis between long-distance truckers and the audio book business. Just about anyone who has taken a road trip knows the boredom of the long empty stretches. For truckers who have the interstate system memorized, a story well told can make miles go by faster. Truck drivers have a critical underground that passes judgment mercilessly on recorded books. They swap tapes and book advice at freight terminals and at truck stops, where taped books are often available to rent. Reviews of audio books are a feature of trucking magazines and Web sites. Drivers tend to disdain abridged versions." The New York Times 03/28/03

War Pushes book Promotion Out Of Spotlight Publishers rushing to promote war-relevant books, are abandoning other books as TV promotion concentrates on the war on Iraq. "Books, perhaps even more than movies or music, depend on the news media for publicity. And for now, TV news is all war, all the time. That means some authors are being unceremoniously bumped, while others who had trouble attracting publishers a few years ago suddenly are welcomed as experts." USAToday 03/27/03

Poetry Jury Fails To Field Shortlist - Poetry Fans Protest Poetry fans are protesting that the jury for the new $10,000 Trillium Prize for poetry in Canada were unable to come up with a shortlist for the prize. "There were very few titles published in 2002 that met the criteria of a first book of poetry by a poet resident in Ontario for three of the last five years." Only ten books were submitted, but protesters want a new jury to be chosen and the deadline to be extended. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/27/03

Library Workers File Complaint About Porn Access Some employees at the Minneapolis Public Library have filed a complaint against the library for allowing free access to porn sites on public computers. The say that "the library's policies have attracted hard-core pornography users who monopolize the library's computers and 'would react angrily and at times violently if any effort was made to interfere (with) or halt their access to pornographic materials'," in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. St. Paul Pioneer-Press 03/27/03

Wednesday, March 26

Dante - Burn Baby Burn "We're living in a golden age of Dante translation. Former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky touched it off when he published an excellent, widely acclaimed verse translation of the Inferno in 1995. In just the last year, five new editions of the Inferno have appeared, including a reprint of Longfellow's landmark version. Still more surprising, there are three new translations of the much less popular Purgatorio, the second of the Comedy's three 'canticles.' And the torrent doesn't stop there." Slate 03/26/03

Tuesday, March 25

Dumb And Dumber - Just How Do These Books Get Published? It's supposed to be really difficult to get a book published, right? So how to account for all the really dumb books out there? "What were they thinking? I'm not talking here about bad books. Though they exist, books that are just plain and irredeemably awful are too sad to waste time thinking about. No: the books I'm presently pondering aren't necessarily bad - though some of them are - they're just so... well... dumb and unplaceable, it's difficult to imagine book store owners knowing what to do with them, let alone book buyers." January Magazine 03/03

Publishers Scramble For Sales With War Backdrop "The weak economy and the growing availability of books at discounted prices have made this an especially difficult retail climate for publishers." In addition, war coverage is pushing everything else off the usual publicity circuit. But publishers have high hopes for two books about Iraq due to come out this week... Yahoo! (WSJ) 03/25/03

Monday, March 24

What Our Kids Are Reading Which children's books sold in 2002? A list of the top titles shows Lemony Snicket on top. But clocking in at No. 3 is former NEH chairman and present vice-presidential wife Lynne Cheney with "America: A Patriotic Primer." Publishers Weekly 03/24/03

Are Your Passports In Order? Why is it that some books travel well and others can't at all? There seems to be no pattern, no formula that predicts books with an international appeal. Indeed, some books seem to do better abroad than they do at home... The Observer (UK) 03/23/03

Plagiarism Charges Haunt Stegner's Legacy Did Wallace Stegner, the "dean" of American Western writers, get "more credit than he deserved for a book he wrote based on the life of fellow Western writer Mary Hallock Foote? Stegner had lifted large amounts of Foote's writing nearly verbatim from her lifetime of correspondence for his most famous novel, 'Angle of Repose.' Stegner's biographers and others long ago conceded his heavy reliance on the Foote material, but for the most part they dismissed the concerns as misplaced. Recently, though, the issue has again begun seeping into public debate. Many new voices are not so forgiving." Los Angeles Times Magazine 03/23/03

Friday, March 21

An Adult Cover-up For Harry So you love Harry Potter, but you feel kind of funny toting around a kid's book? Harry's publishers have the solution - two covers - one for kids, the other for adults. "Bloomsbury Publishers unveiled the designs Thursday. The adult edition of 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' features a somber black and white picture of a phoenix, while the children's version of the boy wizard book is illustrated with a more vibrant red and orange bird rising from flames. Newsday (AP) 03/21/03

Struggling To Get By On $111 Million Profit The book business is good. At least good enough for superstore Barnes & Noble to earn $111 million profit in the fourth quarter of last year. But though that's up 32 percent from the previous year, the company's spin makes it seem like the company is barely getting by. "Barnes & Noble store sales were $1.2 billion for the quarter, an increase of 4 percent. Sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales, fell 3 percent." Yahoo! (AP) 03/21/03

Thursday, March 20

Book-Of-The-Month Club Going Global "The popularity of books tends not to cross borders as easily as movies and pop music. Many readers prefer homegrown writers and resist what could be called literary globalization." Still the Book of the Month Club is planning to launch a "global marketing initiative" for its selections. "For the first time, it's offering an International Book of the Month, recommending the same title to readers around the world." USAToday 03/21/03

Competing Against The Superstores When superstore bookseller Borders came to Carlton Australia, local independent bookstores feared business would go down 15-30 percent, as it has elasewhere where Borders entered the market. But after a few months business is down only one percent. Why? One theory is that there's a new kind of customer developing - the "neo-consumer." These are people who are looking for public spaces to connect with. "Many people are seeking a home away from home, a place to hang out, and they are finding it in cosy bookshops, cafes and bars." The Age (Melbourne) 03/21/03

Wednesday, March 19

Pasternak's House In Jeopardy "One of Russian literature's most famous houses, where the writer Boris Pasternak lived and composed his best work, including Dr Zhivago, will soon be 'ruined' by the construction of an estate of holiday homes opposite it, according to his relatives." The Guardian (UK) 03/20/03

Tuesday, March 18

Are British Readers Abandoning Newspapers? British newspapers are ailing. "Advertising revenue shows no signs of recovering after falling for the past two years, and the latest circulation figures suggest that nearly all titles have lost sales over the past year. Journalists are worrying about their jobs, and managers about the newspapers they manage. An article in the Economist suggests that the newspaper industry is in long-term decline, and that even those young people who can actually read are turning away from papers in increasing numbers. The sense of gloom is infectious." The Spectator 03/03

Monday, March 17

Anti-War Words "The Iraq crisis, following on from 11 September, has set off an unprecedented explosion of anti-war poetry. A bad time for the world has turned into a boom time for people with an itch to express themselves in lines which don't quite reach the edge of the page. The internet is much to blame, of course." London Evening Standard 03/17/03

Will Soft Bestseller Market Affect Literary Market? "Book sales, particularly fiction, have been suffering since 11 September, and the impending war is prolonging the depression. You wouldn't know it from a glance at the New York Times bestseller list - John Grisham, James Patterson, Michael Crichton, Jeffrey Archer - but the thriller market especially seems to be suffering. One publisher estimates that submissions of thrillers from agents are down by 30 per cent on previous years. Some agents fear that if publishers are not making the expected returns on their guaranteed big-hitters, the first casualty will be the debut novels and literary fiction that represent more of a gamble. Not everyone agrees, however." The Observer (UK) 03/16/03

War Stories That Can't Be Sold? Elite British fighters in Afghanistan have some action-packed stories. "Publishers and agents calculated that an action-packed book by one of these heroes would be worth £1 million, more if Hollywood bought the rights. But none of them wanted to write a book. Since 1996, members of the Regiment, as the SAS is known to special forces' cognoscenti, and the SBS had been ordered to sign confidentiality agreements, prohibiting them from discussing their time as elite soldiers without official sanction. If they refused to sign, they were thrown out. New recruits had to sign as a condition of service." The Guardian (UK) 03/16/03

Orange Prize Nominees Nominees for this year's Orange Prize - which goes to the best work of fiction by a woman writer - have been announced. "Carol Shields, who won the prize in 1998 with Larry's Party, is chosen for Unless. The other frontrunners are Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man, an examination of our modern obsession with celebrity and individualism which received mixed reviews; an Donna Tartt's The Little Friend, about the aftermath of a murder in the deep south as seen through a child's eyes. Also chosen are Alice Sebold's US bestseller The Lovely Bones, narrated from heaven by a murdered girl; Siri Hustvedt's complex saga of art and love, What I Loved; and Shena Mackay's unshowy study of ageing Bohemians, Heligoland." The Guardian (UK) 03/17/03

Shakespeare Was An Expert On How The Brain Works Modern studies of the brain suggest that Shakespeare had an intuitive understanding of how the brain works. "Modern studies have shown the more a word is used in conversation, the less the brain responds to it. Our neurones get tired of hearing it. You can see this effect in the electrical activity of the brain's word centres. They stop sparking so much. 'Shakespeare knew that intuitively. Hence the rich variety of his vocabulary and his use of unexpected words or odd combinations of them - for instance, comparing mercy with rainfall to keep us on our toes and interested and involved in what he was saying. Other examples include the use of phrases such as 'a muse of fire' or 'a quintessence of dust'. They are startling and unanticipated and keep us stimulated." The Guardian (UK) 03/16/03

Book Magazine Cuts Circulation To Survive When Book magazine made a deal with Barnes & Noble three years ago, its fortunes soared. "Over the next 18 months, circulation of Book rose to 1.2 million from 100,000." Its ad rates tripled. But the cost of putting out the magazine outstripped its success, and B&N reconsidered the venture. Now the magazine will be relaunched as Barnes & Noble Presents Book and its circulation will be drastically cut to 150,000. The New York Times 03/17/03

Sunday, March 16

Serious Magazines Get Circulation Boost "Concerned over terrorism, a looming war in Iraq, and a sputtering economy, magazine readers are showing a new gravitas, boosting the circulations of text-intensive, highbrow magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's and the New Yorker. Serious magazines saw circulations soar in the second half of 2002, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Atlantic Monthly, published 10 times a year, saw a 5.1 percent increase to 529,834, and single-copy sales spiked 52.4 percent, the second-largest percentage increase in newsstand sales for general-interest magazines behind celebrity suck-up Us Weekly." Philadelphia Inquirer 03/16/03

Record Retail For Romance Novels While some book publishers are hurting with the down economy, the romance-novel business has never been better. Harlequin reports "a revenue increase of 3.5%, to C$618.1 million ($414 million), combined with better operating efficiencies to produce record operating profits of C$119.2 million ($80 million). The company's 4th quarter was particularly strong, "when revenue increased by 8.6%, to C$164 million, and operating profit jumped 31.7%, to C$30.8 million." Publishers Weekly 03/17/03

Friday, March 14

Cutting Out The Middleman - Harry Potter Goes Direct To Schools Booksellers are protesting that the Scholastic, the publisher of the Harry Potter books, has been taking orders for the book directly from schools, bypassing the booksellers. "Publishers have an obvious motive to sell direct: They keep more of the money. Scholastic has been selling books, including the earlier Potter works, at fairs for years. But this is the first time a Potter book has been pre-sold, offered before publication. And some retailers say they can't afford to lose any sales during a difficult economic time." Baltimore Sun (AP) 03/14/03

Thursday, March 13

Protesting Aussie Writers Withdraw From Consideration For Rich Prize Some of Australia's most famous writers have withdrawn from consideration for the country's richest fiction prize. Why? "The novelists have withdrawn their names in protest at Forestry Tasmania practices, specifically the clear-felling of native forests for woodchips, and the use of 1080 poison which is claimed to be killing native and endangered animals in Tasmania's wilderness." Sydney Morning Herald 03/14/03

Porn Factor - The Modern American Library "Today it's common to walk into any public library in America and see adults and teenage students openly viewing hardcore pornography that is unavailable at home on any premium cable channel, is restricted to "adults–only" sections of video stores and, at least before the advent of the Internet, used to be purchased by church–going folks who felt compelled to don hats and fake mustaches to avoid shameful recognition. The situation is tearing at the very soul of librarians, most of whom were raised in a reverential atmosphere of uplifting ideals and lofty debates about how literature can shape and elevate the mind of man. The elevation of his other organs was simply not discussed." MobyLives 03/13/03

Rowling On The Warpath Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is suing a Russian author and a Dutch distribution company in an effort to stop the global release of a book she says plagiarises her tales of magical teens. The book in question features a character named "Tanya Grotter," a stunningly familiar-looking cover, and several plot twists mirroring the Potter series. The book's author claims that his work is parody, and therefore protected under publishing law. BBC 03/13/03

Wednesday, March 12

Warning: Big Brother Is Watching What You Read Library patrons in Santa Cruz, California are seeing signs warning them about the snooping powers of the US Patriot Act, which allows governments authorities to see who has checked out which books. "The signs, posted in the 10 county branches last week and on the library's Web site, also inform the reader that the USA Patriot Act "prohibits library workers from informing you if federal agents have obtained records about you." San Francisco Chronicle 03/10/03

More Books, But Fewer Choices More books are being sold, thanks to a broadening of outlets and the superstores. But the personality is being wrung out of the business, and we're increasingly buying a narrower range of book. "According to a recent Bookseller, gamely surveying the trends of 2002, the range of titles sold in the high street fell by 5 per cent last year - from about 437,000 to just over 417,000. At the same time the number of different ISBNs assigned to fiction fell by 1,000, while - perhaps the most sinister figure of all - 'frontlist' sales accounted for nearly 44 per cent of total revenue. We may be buying more books, but they are increasingly the same books, sold by shops that are differentiated only by the sign on the door." The Guardian (UK) 03/12/03

Monday, March 10

Booker Prize Judges Chosen Judges for this year's Booker prize have been chosen, and jurors include a mountaineer and a philosopher. "The judging panel should reflect the widest possible range of experience and taste, compatible with wanting to read 150 books very fast. I think we meet those requirements pretty well - better than last time I was in the chair, when we lacked both a philosopher and mountaineer." BBC 03/10/03

Biography: A Creative Life "Biography is the least naturalistic of literary genres. Poetry and fiction, in comparison, are pure documentary. Think about it: the experience of living a life is nothing at all like writing or reading a Life. In real life, memory is patchy, with some scenes and events standing out in neon and large blanks of time about which you can not remember a thing. There does not seem to be any pattern to it. We live in the evershifting present, and the future is uncontrollable. The whole thing is chronically unstable." London Evening Standard 03/10/03

Adding Words - New This Year... Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the "most widely circulated of all word books", has "added a dozen or so new words this year, including blunt (a cigar hollowed out and filled with marijuana), booty (buttocks) and gearhead (a computer guru)." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 03/10/03

War Will Impact Book Industry An Iraq war will hurt the book industry in a big way. "Book publishing is almost entirely dependent on the free publicity that authors receive in newspapers and on television and radio. On important programs, the time devoted to entertainment features will shrink considerably if a war occurs," as time is given to covering the war. The New York Times 03/10/03

Sunday, March 9

Motion: Young Writers Don't Know The Classics Students aspiring to be writers have too little knowledge of classical writing, says England's Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. "We turn out students from schools and into universities who have not been educated in a rounded way. There is incredibly little time allowed for reading. It's the fault of the structure of the curriculum. They bone up on their texts, thinking they will only get questions on those." BBC 03/09/03

English Books That Fall Apart On average, books made in the UK are physically inferior; they discolor, warp and fall apart more easily than American books. Why? "England should be the very last country making bad books. In terms of its capabilities, the British print industry may be the most technologically advanced in the world, having assimilated all the tricks of the computer age by the 1980s, a decade before any of its American counterparts did. If the problem is not a technological one, what is it?" Slate 03/07/03

Authentic England - As Told By An American So UK voters in an online poll vote American Bill Bryson as the author who has best defined contemporary England. "What makes Bryson a curious choice is that, if there is one thing the English enjoy more than a bit of self-mockery, it's laughing at foreigners, especially Americans, whom we've traditionally considered as lacking our refined wit, culture and learning. But one of the claims made repeatedly for Bryson, as if it's the greatest compliment he could hope to receive, is that, having lived in England for 20 years, he - and his humour - have become sufficiently anglicised to give him honorary status and a licence to laugh at us. But is it true that, as Bryson suggests, England spent the twentieth century 'looking on itself as a chronic failure'?" The Observer (UK) 03/09/03

Censorship Or Taste? Do some books cause more harm than they're worth? Critics are asking the question in regards to a Canadian book that resurrects details of horrible crimes committed a decade ago. "Karla Homolka, a diabolical criminal will be a free woman in 2005, after serving only 12 years for heinous crimes against schoolgirls in a quiet Ontario town." Should the public know more about Homolka "before she disappears into Canadian society, perhaps to commit more crimes under the camouflage of a new name and an altered appearance?" But in dredging up details, "the families of the victims are publicly traumatized once again" and some booksellers have declined to carry the book.
The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/09/03

The Poetic Politics Of Poet Protest As thousands of poets protest a war with Iraq, some wonder why poets have taken a lead on the issue and what effect their art might have on the issue. Robert Pinsky: "What poetry does have is the ability to speak memorably in the breath of each reader. Poetry's strength was the inner universe. The power of poetry has to do with its intimacy and human scale. The poems that were presented to the President were an idiosyncratic mix: wildly various in content, point of view, cogency, literary distinction... That variety represents a certain power, more than a weakness. It reflects something profound about both American culture and the art of poetry". The Age (Melbourne) 03/10/03

Friday, March 7

Indie Bookstores Weathering Downturn The book business is suffering in the economic downturn, just like everything else. But there are signs that independent booksellers are weathering the downturn better than they have in the past. "Before stores might have had five employees and now they have three. People who leave aren't being replaced." Publishers Weekly 03/07/03

New Books - No Refunds, No Returns? Borders chief Greg Josefowicz suggests that it is time to stop the practice of book stores being able to return books they haven't sold to publishers. "This practice arose during the Great Depression when publishers needed a way to reduce the risk of buying books, so they gave retailers the opportunity to return unsold orders for a full refund. Today, nearly seven decades later, we're still playing by the same rules. While this certainly offers obvious benefits to companies like Borders, I wonder if it is the best way to run the book business in 2003 and beyond..." Publishers Weekly 03/07/03

Pope's Poetry An Instant Bestseller In Poland Pope John Paul II's first book of poetry since he became Pope was published this week. In Poland the book has already become a best-seller. "Buyers have locked up orders for about 80 per cent of the initial printing of 300,000 copies - a publishing phenomenon in a country where literary works reach bestseller status at 50,000. 'The Roman Triptych' was written after John Paul's emotional visit to his homeland last summer." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/07/03

Thursday, March 6

Will US Supreme Court Allow Library Internet Porn Filters? The US Supreme Court hears arguments on whether public libraries should be required to filter porn sites on their computers. "The case pits free speech rights against the government's ability to protect the public from the seamy side of the Internet. Solicitor General Theodore Olson argued that libraries don't have X-rated movies and magazines on their shelves and shouldn't have to offer access to pornography on their computers. Librarians and civil liberties groups contend that filters are censorship and that they block a vast amount of valuable information along with the pornography. Some of the justices seemed skeptical of the challenge to the Children's Internet Protection Act." Wired 03/06/03

  • Previously: US Supreme Court Hears Library Internet Censorship Appeal The US Supreme Court hears arguments this week in the US government's appeal of a Philadelphia court ruling that the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is a violation of the First Amendment. "The law, enacted in December 2000 in part to protect minors from access to Internet pornography, requires schools and libraries to use the filtering software to shield minors from adult material but, because it called for adults to get permission to access certain information, it raised the ire of the civil liberties and library groups. The law also blocked federal funding to libraries that did not install the software." dcinternet.com 03/05/03

Everybody Loves Salon. So Why Is It Broke? Salon.com is one of the original online publishing success stories. It has high-profile writers, scads of devoted readers, and a surfeit of great story ideas. So why is it constantly on the verge of going out of business? "The company ended its first quarter of 2003 with only $169,000 in cash. It stopped paying rent for its swanky San Francisco headquarters in December, and the landlord was demanding $200,000 immediately." The problem may just be that the world that Salon created - where two-way communication supercedes the 'old media' model of "I write, you read" - has become so diverse and successful that Salon itself no longer has much of a core purpose. National Post (Canada) 03/06/03

Wasn't Anyone Paying Attention? Last year, Minneapolis unveiled plans for a dramatic new downtown library designed by architect Cesar Pelli. The city then moved all the books and staff out of the current library into a temporary facility, and started demolishing the old building to make way for the new one. And then, someone pointed out that the city has no money to be building libraries. Columnist Doug Grow feels that there is something just slightly wrong with that sequence of events. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 03/06/03

  • Previously: Minneapolis May Postpone New Central Library Minneapolis civic leaders are considering postponing construction of the new downtown central library. "Though voters approved the $122.5 million project, the library system faces a major problem: A $25 million shortfall in its operating budget over the next 10 years, even before likely cuts in state aid are taken into account. The shortfall is roughly equal to the entire cost of running the system this year." The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 03/04/03

An American in London The British people have spoken, and they have declared that the author who best exemplifies an understanding of and love for the U.K. is none other than travel author and novelist Bill Bryson. Bryson's Notes From A Small Island was chosen as the 'book that best represents England' in a poll organized for World Book Day, and it beat out Orwell's 1984, among other classic British books. Of course, Bryson is from Des Moines, Iowa... BBC 03/06/03

Wednesday, March 5

Arnold's Last 'Books Column After five years, Martin Arnold is packing in his "Making Books" column in the NYT. "I've had 212 opportunities to pronounce on what I still believe is the world's primary cultural conduit. I have chronicled and commented on all sorts of literary trends, disputes, ups and downs, but the enduring consistence of what I have learned, the unrolling thread, has been about the durability and incandescence of books themselves; the bravery of those who write them; and the instinct to gamble by many, but not all, who publish them." The New York Times 03/06/03

Norman Mailer On Writers On DH Lawrence: "He was perhaps a great writer, certainly full of faults, and abominably pedestrian in his language when the ducts of experience burned dry, he was unendurably didactic then, he was a pill, and at his worst a humourless nag...On Jonathan Franzen: "It is too full of language, even as the nouveaux riches are too full of money. He is exceptionally intelligent, but like a polymath, he lives much of the time in Wonkville Hollow, for Franzen is an intellectual dredging machine." The Telegraph (UK) 03/06/03

The Poets Who Supported WWI A large number of poets have mobilized to protest a war with Iraq. But "the mood was quite different some 89 years ago, when poets (and writers generally) deployed their pens in support of the Allied military effort during World War I." Tech Central Station 03/05/03

Why People Don't Read "Serious" Fiction Terry Teachout writes that "it's common to run across 'well-read' people who no longer read any new literary fiction at all, American or otherwise. I don't, and neither do many of the professional writers I know. Like most Americans, we go to the movies instead." So why is that, he wonders. "Our 'major' writers tend to be chronically verbose, stylistically ostentatious and agonizingly earnest (though the flippant Irony Lite of Generation X now appears to have replaced earnestness as the style du jour). Such books are unreadable, and so nobody reads them, save under academic duress." OpinionJournal.com 03/06/03

US Supreme Court Hears Library Internet Censorship Appeal The US Supreme Court hears arguments this week in the US government's appeal of a Philadelphia court ruling that the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is a violation of the First Amendment. "The law, enacted in December 2000 in part to protect minors from access to Internet pornography, requires schools and libraries to use the filtering software to shield minors from adult material but, because it called for adults to get permission to access certain information, it raised the ire of the civil liberties and library groups. The law also blocked federal funding to libraries that did not install the software." dcinternet.com 03/05/03

Tuesday, March 4

Norman Mailer On "Finding" The Book You're Trying To Write Planning out a plot isn't always a good thing. "I look to find my book as I go along. Plot comes last. I want a conception of my characters that's deep enough so that they will get me to places where I, as the author, have to live by my wits. That means my characters must keep developing. So long as they stay alive, the plot will take care of itself. Working on a book where the plot is already fully developed is like spending the rest of your life filling holes in rotten teeth when you have no skill as a dentist." The Telegraph (UK) 03/05/03

Children's Books, Madonna Style Joe Queenan's excited at the prospect of Madonna writing children's books. "The English Roses will be based on the adventures of a red fox and a young prince. Presumably, at least one will be androgynous; though probably not the fox, as the species already has enough image problems. It sounds quite fascinating. But better still are the brief outlines industry sources have leaked of the other four books in the series..." One working title: "Ricco Has Six Mothers and at Least as Many Fathers" OpinionJournal.com 03/05/03

Minneapolis May Postpone New Central Library Minneapolis civic leaders are considering postponing construction of the new downtown central library. "Though voters approved the $122.5 million project, the library system faces a major problem: A $25 million shortfall in its operating budget over the next 10 years, even before likely cuts in state aid are taken into account. The shortfall is roughly equal to the entire cost of running the system this year." The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 03/04/03

Wouldn't You Like To Write A Children's Book Too? So Madonna's got a contract for a series of children's books. That's got Malene Arpe thinking about other "role models" who might have a future in kiddie books. How about "Chemistry For Toddlers" by Saddam Hussein, "The Silly Silly Voices In My Head Head" by Phil Spector, or "Look At You! You Forgot Your Pants" by Pee-Wee Herman? Toronto Star 03/04/03

Monday, March 3

Alexandria Library Wants To Offer All Books In The World - Online The ancient library at Alexandria claimed to own copies of all the books in the world. Now "the directors of the new Alexandria Library, which christened a steel and glass structure with 250,000 books in October, have joined forces with an American artist and software engineers in an ambitious effort to make virtually all of the world's books available at a mouse click. Much as the ancient library nurtured Archimedes and Euclid, the new Web venture also hopes to connect scholars and students around the world." The New York Times 03/01/03

  • Fire In Alexandria Library Fire broke out in the new Alexandria Library on Sunday. "No books or Bibliotheca Alexandrina resources were damaged, according to a library spokesman. Bibliotheca Alexandrina was inaugurated in October amid great fanfare. The £150m project aspires to reflect the spirit of the ancient Alexandria library, which was founded around 295BC by Ptolemy." The Guardian (UK) 03/03/03

The Year In British Publishing Last year was a pretty good one for British publishers. "There are two universal anxieties for British publishers, one shared with their American counterparts, one not: the shared problem is that of an essentially flat book market, with sales that are simply not keeping pace with a growing population. The anguish that is special to British publishers is the extraordinary pressure on margins created by the ever-increasing push for higher discounts, especially by supermarkets that sell books." Publishers Weekly 03/03/03

Can Menaker Rescue Random House? Newly-hired Random House chief Daniel Menaker is "charged with preserving the glow of literary prestige around the imprint, which published William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Truman Capote and a long shelf of 20th-century American classics. But to do it he also needs to revive its editors' flagging morale while proving that he can work well reporting to Ms. Centrello and that he can keep important authors." Is he really up for the job? The New York Times 03/03/03

Sunday, March 2

In Quebec - A Fight To Keep A Book On The Shelves In Quebec, from 1993 until last summer it was illegal to publish biographies of "persons living or dead without permission from the subject or his or her heirs." So for seven years there were virtually no biographies published in Quebec. Just before the law's reapeal, though, a writer got stuck on the horns of the law, and the matter is now in court... Toronto Star 03/02/03

Library-Builder Extraordinaire "From Fiji to Florida to Fresno, Calif., Andrew Carnegie built 2,509 libraries between 1881 and 1917, mostly in America, the British Isles and Canada. To this day, Carnegie's free-to-the-people libraries remain Pittsburgh's most significant cultural export, a gift that has shaped the minds and lives of millions." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/02/03

What Defines A Classic - Penguin Makes A New List Penguin Classics is "freshening its lineup. That means some authors get new attention while others get dropped. "Just as editors pretend to second-guess the market (whilst in fact trying to repeat their rivals' success), so Penguin Classics has been led by the nose towards the current milch-cow of Victorian genre fiction. Readers brought up on the pastiche melodramas of Sarah Waters, Peter Ackroyd, Peter Carey, Charles Palliser, et al, are hungry for the real thing. Hence the popularity of Wilkie Collins, whose 1860s sensation novels were massive in their own time, but sank without trace during the 100 years after his death." The Observer (UK) 03/02/03

Releasing Books Into The Wild Register a book, leave it someplace, and tell where it is on the internet. Someone else will pick it up, read it and pass it on in the same way. It's called bookcrossing. "There are close to 100,000 people who have signed up as bookcrossers on the Web site, with nearly 270,000 books registered and more than 20 million hits a month. Once you have registered a title on the site, you print out a BookCrossing label, paste it into the book along with your identity number and release it into the wild. Anybody picking up the book is supposed to register the find on the Web site, post a journal entry commenting on the book and describing the release date and location. All of that information is available on-line for anybody curious enough to browse the site. There are more than 13,000 books sprinkled around Canada waiting to be claimed, read and recycled." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/01/03

Oxford Sells Off Shakespeare Folio To Raise Money Oxford University has sold "one of English literature's most valuable works - a First Folio of William Shakespeare's plays" for an estimated £3.5 million to pay for building repairs and textbooks. "The book, which was printed in 1623 and has been kept in the college's library for more than two centuries, was bought by Sir Paul Getty, the philanthropist, in a private deal concluded in New York." The Telegraph (UK) 0/3/02/03

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