AJ Logo Get ArtsJournal in your inbox
for FREE every morning!

Thursday, July 31

Gutenberg On The Web The University of Texas is the latest to digitize and post a copy of the Gutenberg Bible on the internet. "Just as Johann Gutenberg made knowledge more accessible with the invention of the printing process, this digitization project continues that legacy." CNN 07/31/03

The Serious Side Of Comic Books...Er... "Graphic Novels" "A generation of ambitious, serious artists and writers have been applying vast amounts of their creative energy into a milieu which is essentially the visual equivalent of the rock opera: the "graphic novel"—that is, a full-length book in comics format (cartoon drawings with word balloons for dialogue) printed between hard covers or glossy soft-cover. The idea is not new." New York Review Of Books 08/14/03

Russian Writers Protest Removal Of Books Top Russian writers are protesting plans by their government to remove Russian literary classics about the repression of the Soviet era from school curriculums. "The protesters allege that bureaucrats are trying to keep literature dealing with the purges of the Soviet era away from schoolchildren, presenting an anodyne version of the nation's former imperial glory." The Guadian (UK) 07/28/03

A Rollicking, On-The-Edge History Of Libraries So you thought libraries were staid, quiet places? "In Library: An Unquiet History, Matthew Battles, the Harvard rare-books librarian tells the story of that peculiar institution, whose fortunes, since man first etched a symbol in stone, have been governed as much by mass uninterest and bureaucratic incompetence as by war and natural disaster. 'Libraries are as much about losing the truth ... as about discovering it,' writes Battles, pointing out that much of what has survived through the ages is owing not to public institutions but to private collectors, who were better able to weather the tides of biblioclasm - the destruction of books - that have periodically swept the world." National Post (Canada) 07/31/03

Wednesday, July 30

Getting Right The Sweep Of History The best writers prefer ideas to brand-name description. "Perhaps one could say that a classic novelist recreates an era from the inside out and concentrates on rendering rather than discussing the great social and political and intellectual currents of the period, whereas a lesser novelist attempts to make up for an insufficient grasp of the Zeitgeist by devoting himself or herself to its upholstery. Today the historical novel has been rehabilitated because it has radically changed its ways. The new historical novel is shorter or at least more crisply written than ever before, full of unexpected twists and turns in language, and rich in those 'little true facts'." Times Literary Supplement 07/23/03

Chinese Harry Fans Give Up Waiting On Translation - Do Their Own Chinese fans of Harry Potter are impatient. The book hasn't been published in Chinese yet. "The English-language edition of the Order of the Phoenix was published worldwide in June by Bloomsbury, but an official Chinese translation is not due for publication until September. Chinese fans of the teenage sorcerer have decided they cannot wait and amateur translators have so far posted 35 of the book's 38 chapters on the Internet." Sydney Morning Herald 07/31/03

The Mining Town That Reinvented As A Center Of Books It's a grand experiment - last month a small derelict mining town tried to reinvent itself as a town of books - opening nine bookstores. "Can books rejuvenate the depressed town and revitalise the local economy? July in booktown saw hostile locals and tarot card wars. The Guardian (UK) 07/30/03

Big Sellers In A Depressed Book Market There have been some very big-selling books this summer, and you'd think the publishing industry would be happy about it. Not exactly. They're cutting staff and complaining of a slump. Big "sales don't necessarily mean big profits, especially if everyone is expecting a hit. With Hillary Clinton receiving an $8 million advance, Simon & Schuster needed hundreds of thousands of sales to make money on the book. And Amazon.com, anticipating tremendous competition for the Potter book, offered a 40 percent discount on the $29.99 suggested price. The result: Despite more than 1 million sales worldwide, the online retailer announced it essentially broke even with Order of the Phoenix." Yahoo! (AP) 07/29/03

How Do You Preserve Digital Info For The Future? "Increasingly, academic journals are published online; many are not even available in print. As a result, libraries are losing the option of maintaining local collections—but are leery of discontinuing paper subscriptions. That makes them sound like Luddites stuck in a world of paper. After all, they could make digital back-ups. What is more, publishers often grant perpetual access to their journals and provide subscribers with CD-ROM versions. As a last resort, there is always the Library of Congress in America and other national libraries around the world where copies of most publications are kept. In the very long run, however, such solutions are not all that viable..." The Economist 06/19/03

Tuesday, July 29

A Dedicated (Writing) Life Book dedications can be over the top, but they often express a little piece of the writer's personal situation at the time the book is published. Looking back over a career of books written, one can see an archaeology of personal fragments expressed in dedications... The Guardian (UK) 07/28/03

Remembering Emerson (If Not Reading Him) It's the 200th anniversary of Ralph Waldo Emerson's birth. John Updike notes that Emerson is much honored, but less often read these days. "Emerson, with a cobbled-together mythology, in melodious accents that sincerely feigned the old Christian reassurances, sought to instill confidence and courage in his democratic audience, and it is for this, rather than for his mellowed powers of observation and wit, that he is honored, if honored more than read." The New Yorker 07/28/03

NYC Libraries Beg For Money New York City libraries are seeing their budgets slashed and their services to the public cut. So "for the first time, neighborhood branches are putting out donation boxes, in a desperate effort to offset budget cuts that mean 3,000 fewer books a year for each branch, reduced hours of operation and interminable waits for best sellers." New York Daily News 07/29/03

Monday, July 28

What A New Editor Might Mean To NYT Cultural Coverage So will New York Times' coverage of culture change under new exective editor Bill Keller? He's said to have a healthy interest in culture and can be expected to take it seriously. He "takes over with a Raines-named troika newly in charge of the NYT’s cultural coverage. In October 2002, former foreign correspondent Steven Erlanger was anointed culture editor; in January of this year, cultural kahuna Frank Rich was given even more power; and, just two weeks later, 28-year-old Jody Kantor, the New York editor for the online magazine Slate, was named editor of Arts & Leisure." LAWeekly 07/25/03

Sunday, July 27

'Posthumous' Doesn't Always Mean 'Good' "The posthumous publication of new work by great writers might properly be considered a religious rather than a literary event. When previously unpublished work appears, as has happened in recent years, by Ernest Hemingway, Robertson Davies, Lucy Maud Montgomery, I.B. Singer or Albert Camus, readers momentarily convince themselves that they are witnessing a miracle: He (or She) has risen. Hallelujah! It's an irrational reaction, of course, but how else to explain the rapture and awe such publishing events engender? Never mind that not everything a great writer ever scribbled — her notes, letters, laundry lists — is worth publishing." Toronto Star 07/27/03

Sun, Sand, And More Famous Writers Than You Can Shake A Mai-Tai At This week, a huge literary festival gets underway in, of all places, the sleepy tourist town of Parati, Brazil. The festival, which aims to promote Brazilian literature to the world, was organize by Liz Calder, a London editor who has been vacationing in Parati for a decade. Certainly, the resort atmosphere is one of the big draws for the authors and intellectuals participating in the festival, but Calder insists that the event will raise the profile of Brazilian authors worldwide. Still, not everyone in Brazil's literary world is happy, and some are claiming that Calder is only promoting the Brazilian authors whom her employer publishes. National Post 07/26/03

Is Canada's Book Culture Slipping Into Irrelevance? The seemingly forced resignation of Greg Gatenby from Toronto's Harbourfront Literary Festival is unfortunate, says Philip Marchand, since Gatenby was one of the few people left in the publishing world who truly understood the importance of nurturing intellectualism, even to the point of occasional absurd pretentiousness. But his ouster is only the latest sign in the Canadian book industry's 15-year slide towards irrelevance and oblivion. Increasing consolidation of publishing houses and the demise of countless independents has taken its toll, and while there are a few positive signs, the industry is a shadow of its former self. Toronto Star 07/26/03

  • Previously: A Backstage Drama Worthy Of A Novel "The dramatic parting of Harbourfront Centre and Greg Gatenby, announced Monday, was preceded by months of wrangling, intrigue and attempted fixes. Gatenby and Harbourfront officials are saying nothing, but based on the testimony of other players, the breakdown of the relationship emerges as a tale full of ultimatums, threats, end runs and cameo appearances by well-known personalities." Toronto Star 07/16/03

You Mean There Are Other Countries Besides America? "Writers, publishers and cultural critics have long lamented the difficulty of interesting American readers in translated literature, and now some say the market for these books is smaller than it has been in generations." Even small university presses which have specialized in the world literature market are cutting back or pulling out of the genre altogether, and literary experts say that such narrowing of the range of available books in the US is nothing short of a crisis. Not only does the dearth of titles in translation mean that there is less for Americans to read, it also has a profound impact on the ability of foreign authors to get their books translated into other languages. The New York Times 07/26/03

When Is A Memoir Not A Memoir? With the increased interest in personal memoirs of ordinary people, the market has become saturated with autobiographies that read like novels, astounding tales of people overcoming terrible childhoods and debilitating diseases to become happy, productive adults. But is anyone fact-checking these tales of personal heroism? A recently released memoir by James Frey has a number of reviewers questioning whether many of the events he describes could have actually occurred. Frey hasn't bothered to defend himself too heavily, either: "I wrote what was true to me and true to the experience," he said recently. "If people want to pick the facts apart, they can." Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/27/03

Friday, July 25

Turgeon's Bilingual House Hit With A Lawsuit Stephen Williams, the Canadian author who has sold 37,000 copies of his book Karla: A Pact With The Devil since it was released five months ago, is suing publisher Pierre Turgeon and his bilingual publishing house, Cantos, claiming that Williams has been paid only a fraction of what he is due from the book's proceeds. The book in question, which examines the case of a notorious Canadian serial killer, has been exceedingly controversial, and was at one point thought to be in violation of a gag order issued in the case. Turgeon claims that the controversy has hurt sales, and denies that the book has turned a profit. Toronto Star 07/25/03

Thursday, July 24

The Bible Of Editing Is Back Let's say you're writing down a quotation of a sentence fragment, and you want to continue your sentence after the quoted material. On which side of the closing quotation mark do you place your comma? Who cares, right? Thousands upon thousands of writers, editors, and other word geeks care, as it turns out, and with the new 15th edition of the legendary Chicago Manual of Style set to hit shelves soon, we can all nitpick to our hearts' content. The Chronicle of Higher Education 07/25/03

Wednesday, July 23

Navel-Gazing: Not Just For American Writers Anymore If every generation has a hallmark literary style, Generation X has certainly laid claim to the autobiographical essay. But the all-about-me style is not just an American phenomenon. A new generation of German writers are making a name for themselves with a similar style. "World War II and the Holocaust are no longer the dominant themes in these existential tales by the young writers. Instead, they are writing about the role of the artist after the fall of the wall, the life of the immigrant and, obsessively it seems, about the elusive nature of happiness. Some wonder if fiction should not have a longer memory." The New York Times 07/24/03

The Me(moir) Generation Is there anyone left who hasn't written their memoirs? Autobiography is a time-honored literary tradition, but lately, it seems as if anyone and everyone believes that their own life is so fascinating that the world cannot survive another minute without having it committed to paper. Linton Weeks is not a big fan of the trend: "I feel that the memoir is the genre of our generations. The Me Decades are stretching out into the Memoir Millennium. The I's have it." Washington Post 07/23/03

Tuesday, July 22

Putting Business Before Books? "Peter Olson, the C.E.O. of Random House, has no use for the sentimental yearnings of the book-publishing elite. They whipped him when he crudely fired Ann Godoff, but he's in a different publishing business than they are, the only one he thinks can survive... In January, when Olson fired Godoff, editor in chief and publisher of the Random House Adult Trade Group division, many in the insular publishing world felt that Olson's love of books was trumped by his crude business tactics... By firing Godoff, by stating plainly that he was in the book business, Olson was not so much revolutionizing the industry as giving vent to what it has long and carefully repressed. Book publishing has always been a mix of high and low, but the business side of the industry has been de-emphasized." New York Times Magazine 07/20/03

The Eggers Plan For World Domination Continues "Nestled in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, The McSweeney's Store is a secretive enclave of extremely strange, random products. After the success of author Dave Eggers' book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the Forest Lake native launched his own publishing company, and with it, an eccentric flagship store. With items ranging from sanitary dental trays to magnetic powder dispensers, the store fascinates with the vast array of seemingly useless goods. And then, of course, there are the books." Chicago Tribune 07/22/03

Censorship, Fear, And The 'Comics Code' It wasn't too terribly long ago that a German psychologist penned a best-selling book which announced as absolute fact that the comic books being devoured by America's youth were turning our kids into a generation of delinquents, homosexuals, and worse. Such claims seem absurd and even quaint today, but in the 1950s, Dr. Fredric Wertham's tome was taken very seriously, and the comic book industry fell all over itself to reassure the public that comics were wholesome. The unfortunate result of such obsequiousness was the Comics Code, with which the industry "castrated itself with a code that sent it into the dark ages for 10 years." Wired 07/22/03

Sunday, July 20

Harry Potter And The Academic Obsession No, you can't major in Harry Potter. Not yet, anyway. But JK Rowling's boy wizard is becoming a figure of increasing interest to academics and intellectuals who are spending hours at prestigious conferences deconstructing the world of Hogwarts and matching it up with minutiae from the history of various real-world intellectual movements. "A bit enthusiastic, perhaps, but such outsize claims may spring from insecurity. After all, no less a figure than Harold Bloom has derided Ms. Rowling's writing as 'goo,' while William Safire... scornfully (though presciently) predicted that 'scholarly tomes will be written about the underlying motifs of the Potter series,' despite its being largely 'a waste of adult time.'" The New York Times 07/19/03

Gatenby Exit Prompts Resignations, Festival Boycott "At least one international author will not be coming to Harbourfront's International Festival of Authors this fall as a direct result of the recent resignation of Greg Gatenby as the festival's artistic director and the Harbourfront Reading Series. Argentinian-born author Alberto Manguel, who now lives in France, said in an interview he faxed a letter on Tuesday or Wednesday to Harbourfront officials saying his participation is off because Gatenby is no longer involved. Manguel's decision follows the resignations of five festival board members, including three high-profile Canadian authors." Toronto Star 07/19/03

  • Previously: A Backstage Drama Worthy Of A Novel "The dramatic parting of Harbourfront Centre and Greg Gatenby, announced Monday, was preceded by months of wrangling, intrigue and attempted fixes. Gatenby and Harbourfront officials are saying nothing, but based on the testimony of other players, the breakdown of the relationship emerges as a tale full of ultimatums, threats, end runs and cameo appearances by well-known personalities." Toronto Star 07/16/03
Friday, July 18

For All That Reading, They Sure Can't Write... "Scholars in the humanities spend much of their time writing, and are forced constantly to read the work of superb writers. Yet they pour out streams of gnarled and barbarous sentences and don't even know they are doing it. Professors in English departments, after lives spent close to the best literature, usually produce the worst prose." How could this be? National Post 07/15/03

Thursday, July 17

In Praise Of One's Self (Or Paying Others To Do It) "Soliciting quotes for the jackets of books ahead of publication is an increasingly important part of the way books are now published. The novel, micro-history or popular science book which arrives on the shelf pre-approved by another writer established in the field stands a considerably stronger chance than the one which does not." The Telegraph (UK) 07/14/03

How Costco Hurts The Book Business Blockbuster books have led to huge sales this summer at places like Costco and Walmart - as well as smaller bookstores everywhere. But bookstore owners are not smiling. "The major discounting efforts of these non–bookstore chains are not stimulating and growing the market but simply shifting consumer dollars away from bookstores and other potential book sales. Consumers buying a mega–seller at a Walmart will not be discovering a book of promise, as such chains do not invest in authors and non–bestselling books. Bookstores do, and we are losing an opportunity to handsell other good books to these consumers who do not regularly visit and browse in a bookstore." MobyLives 07/15/03

Wednesday, July 16

Book Sales Down This Year The balance sheet for publishing is not looking good so far this year. Book sales were down again in May, and while Harry Potter sales should give the industry a bump, overall things are gloomy. "For the first five months of 2003, bookstore sales were down 1.7%, to $6.12 billion, with sales falling in three of the first five months of the year." Publishers Weekly 07/16/03

The Old Write Way "Fountain pens are no longer remembrances, as they were a generation ago. Nor are they simply faddish symbols of resistance to technology. That counter-trend peaked a few years back. Today, this old and stylish implement has achieved an uneasy peace with the PDA and the keyboard. We deploy our pens less often these days, true. But we find that this makes them all the more important when we do. At least that's the rationale behind the lively and mostly under-noticed global enterprise of quality 21st century fountain pens." Los Angeles Times 07/16/03

Gatenby Resignation Raises Questions When Greg Gatenby abruptly resigned from the directorship of Toronto's International Festival of Authors earlier this week, speculation raged about what bizarre set of behind-the-scenes circumstances could have led to the departure of such a popular figure from one of Canada's most high-profile literary organizations. The full story still isn't known, and may never be, but the often-frosty relationship between Gatenby and Harbourfront Centre chief William Boyle seems to be at the center of the story. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/16/03

  • A Backstage Drama Worthy Of A Novel "The dramatic parting of Harbourfront Centre and Greg Gatenby, announced Monday, was preceded by months of wrangling, intrigue and attempted fixes. Gatenby and Harbourfront officials are saying nothing, but based on the testimony of other players, the breakdown of the relationship emerges as a tale full of ultimatums, threats, end runs and cameo appearances by well-known personalities." Toronto Star 07/16/03

Tuesday, July 15

Kenyan Wins African Writing Prize Kenyan author Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor has won the Caine Prize for African Writing. "Her story is written in the voice of an aristocratic Rwandan refugee in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. The prize, worth $15,000, is given for a short story written in English by an African author and is considered one of the most prestigious awards for African literature." BBC 07/16/03

Monday, July 14

Moving Forward "US Poet Laureate Billy Collins leads the nominees for the UK's richest annual poetry award, the Forward Prize. Collins joins Ciaran Carson, Ian Duhig, Lavinia Greenlaw and Paul Muldoon on the shortlist for the £10,000 prize for the best published poetry collection." BBC 07/14/03

Nothing But The Best (Seller?) What books really make the British best sller lists? One reporter reads the top ten to see if he had discern a common thread. "The idea, if I remember it rightly - it seems so very long ago - was really two ideas. First, why these particular books, these particular, very big books, out of the thousand or so new novels available, have risen to the top of the pile. And, second, what it might say about the great British reading public that these are the fictions we most want to escape into in the middle of July 2003. One of the things about reading many different books sequentially, many long and different books, is that they all come to seem a little like chapters in the same story." The Guardian (UK) 07/14/03

The Atlantic In LA The Atlantic Magazine is moving its literary operations out of Boston to LA. "Since taking over as the Atlantic Monthly's literary editor three years ago, 39-year-old Yale- and Oxford-trained historian Benjamin Schwarz has reshaped the venerable magazine's book section into the shrewdest, best-written and most surprising cultural report currently on offer between slick covers. Now, Schwarz plans to break with 146 years of tradition and move the Atlantic's literary editorship from Boston, where the magazine was founded and will continue to publish, to set up shop in Los Angeles." Los Angeles Times 07/14/03

View From The Top - America's Most "Literate" Cities "A survey of literacy in 64 cities confirmed what Seattle bookworms have long suspected. It named Seattle as one of the country's two most-literate cities, edged out for No. 1 only by Minneapolis. Jack Miller, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater chancellor and education professor, used statistics in five categories and 13 different measures of literacy to provide a 'literacy profile' of all American cities with populations of 250,000 or more." Seattle Times 07/13/03

  • Dallas: A View From The Middle Dallas ranks in the middle of "literate" US cities at No. 36. "The surprise is that Dallas ranks above New York City (No. 47), Los Angeles (No. 54) and Chicago (No. 45). In fact, Dallas is the highest-ranked big city. All of the cities that placed above it have populations well below 1 million, while Dallas has 1,006,877 people. The study's author says it "does tend to penalize the biggest cities. New York and L.A. have very high numbers of publications, colleges and newspaper readers, but their populations are so big and varied that they offset any literary concentrations those cities might enjoy." Dallas Morning News 07/15/03

E-Book Piracy Comes Of Age Book piracy hasn't been a huge issue up til now. But the new Harry Potter book is being scanned, electronically published and downloaded all over the internet. "Last week, enthusiastic readers put unofficially translated portions of 'Order of the Phoenix' on the Web in German and Czech, only to remove them after the publishers that own the rights in their respective countries threatened legal action." The New York Times 07/14/03

First-Time Literary Lottery "For thousands of would-be novelists the dream of living the New York writer’s life will never die, even if it nearly kills them to pursue it. But that doesn’t mean the nature of that pursuit is in any way constant. And as always, the goal of carving out a life of letters in the city—shared by thousands of Sarah Lawrence graduates, Starbucks baristas, and drop-out tax attorneys alike—is inextricably linked to the chilly realities of the publishing business. But rarely have the realities of the marketplace changed so jarringly as they have over the past five years. While the major publishing conglomerates continue to cut back on “midlist” authors, they’re increasingly willing to lavish astronomical sums on unknowns. So many, in fact, that since the late nineties, half a million dollars is de rigueur for a first novelist who’s perceived to have hot prospects." New York Magazine 07/14/03

Dead Poets' Society British poet laureate Andrew Motion, who is responsible for writing eulogies in the circumstances of a royal death, has "helped produce a guide to penning funeral speeches. It is estimated that funeral speeches by friends or relatives, are given at just 10% of all services." BBC 07/14/03

Because It's An Easy Read, It's An Easy Write? "Barely a week goes by without some sneering reference to chick-lit which has become all but a term of abuse. Why this should be is not clear - simple envy, perhaps, at our huge sales and concomitantly large advances. Or the belief that because these books are easy to read, they're easy to write. They're not. But I think there is something much deeper at work: a snobbish distaste for popular writing full stop." London Evening Standard 07/14/03

The Guardian: Coming To America The Guardian newspaper is planning an American edition. "Its tentative form is as a weekly magazine, quite unlike any other weekly magazine that has been started in the U.S. in the past generation. Not only is it about politics, but the magazine—meant to be 60 percent derived from the Guardian itself, with the rest to come from American contributors—has a great deal of text unbroken by design elements. This is almost an extreme notion. Quite the antithesis of what virtually every publishing professional would tell you is the key to popular and profitable publishing—having less to read, not more. Even with the Guardian’s signature sans-serif face, it looks like an old-fashioned magazine. Polemical. Written. Excessive. Contentious. Even long-winded." New York Magazine 07/08/03

America's Most Literate City? Not LA Los Angeles prides itself on being a literate city. But a recent survey of America's most literate cities places LA 54th. "To get to Los Angeles' place on the list, in fact, you must wade past Las Vegas (tied for 13th), Newark, N.J. (18) and Wichita, Kan. (39); beyond most other major California cities, including San Francisco (5), Sacramento (25), San Diego (40) and Anaheim (53), all the way down to the bottom 10 on the list, just above Fresno. Even so — Toledo?" Los Angeles Times 07/13/03

Sunday, July 13

Australia's Top 100 What do Australians like to read? If a new poll is to be believed, fantasy rules. On a list of 110 favorite books, "J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was voted the most popular book in Australia, and there were no surprises when it came to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series being voted consecutively at number two, three, four and five. Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets was the most popular of the series, being voted Australia's second-best read." The Age (Melbourne) 07/13/03

Thursday, July 10

Pakistani Profs Fear English Classics May Be Banned Professors at Pakistan's leading universities fear that a rising tide of fundamentalism may strip English classic books from university programs. "A review of books studied in the English courses at Punjab University in Lahore singled out several texts, including Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels as containing offensive sexual connotations which were deemed 'vulgar'." The Guardian (UK) 07/10/03

UK To Release Orwell's Famous "List" Fifty-four years ago George Orwel drew up a famous list of "cryto-Communists. Now the British government "has agreed to strip the final shred of secrecy from the leftwing author George and put it in the public domain. The Foreign Office is expected shortly to disgorge its copy of the document - until now held back as too sensitive. The public record office in Kew hopes to make the file openly available this summer." The Guardian (UK) 07/10/03

Jealous Muggles Hit Back It had to happen, of course. With the Harry Potter series rocketing to the top of the list of literary blockbusters, other authors are beginning to take some nasty little swipes at Potter scribe J.K. Rowling. The latest entry in the bash-Harry sweepstakes comes from Booker Award-winning author A.S. Byatt, who calls Rowling's work derivative, simple-minded, and composed "for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip." The New York Times 07/07/03

  • Could This Be A Real, Live, Literary Feud? If A.S. Byatt expected the literary world to line up behind her following her tirade against Harry Potter, she's still waiting. Authors and publishers have apparently chosen their side, and are calling Byatt "a snob," "churlish," and "jealous." One book critic also notes that Byatt is the very same writer who threw a "hissy fit" when author Martin Amis accepted a hefty advance for his future work. London Evening Standard 07/10/03

Wednesday, July 9

HipHop In The OED? Editors of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary are considering the world of hiphop, and deciding which of the slang ought to make it in the new edition. "An unprecedented revision is underway that, finally, authoritatively, is expected to nail down those vexing questions of lexicology. To wit: What is the etymology of 'bling-bling'? The editors are drafting a possible entry for the hip-hop slang, which usually refers to diamonds or other flashy jewelry that clinks together." Los Angeles Times 07/09/03

Big-Time Canadian Magazines Take A Public Hit The Canadian Heritage Minister has announced a shift in the way that the nation subsidizes its periodical industry, and the fallout from the decision will cost large magazines CAN$16.7 million in public funding. The intention is to increase the ministry's support for small, independent, and aboriginal magazines which have received little public money in the past. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/09/03

Tuesday, July 8

Steinbeck Rockets Past Clinton In an average year, John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" sells 40,000 to 50,000 copies. This isn't an average year. Thanks to Oprah's Book Club, 'East of Eden' is currently No. 2 on the Bestseller list, behind Harry Potter and ahead of Hillary Clinton's book. "Set in California's Salinas Valley before World War I, Steinbeck's tale of two brothers, an unfaithful wife, death and despair has 1.2 million books in print." Not bad for a book that first came out in 1952. "Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men sells 400,000 copies and The Grapes of Wrath sells 150,000." USAToday 07/08/03

Monday, July 7

The Rise Of The Neo-Con Press "New York is currently witnessing a mirror version of the birth of feminist publishing with a surge in neo-conservative (neo-con) imprints. Both Penguin Putnam and Crown have recently announced plans to launch lists specifically devoted to Rightwing material. Bookspan, which runs Book of the Month Club, has declared the formation of an as yet unnamed new club devoted to conservatism. The Right wing, which controls the presidency and both houses of Congress, is experiencing a delicious rush of popularity, and publishing - an opportunist business if ever there were one - is responding to this powerful trend." London Evening Standard 07/07/03

Sunday, July 6

University Presses - State Of The Business University presses gather in St. Louis to talk about the "both public and private anxiety about the presses' position, at a time of diminished sales, rising returns and much disagreement as to whether publishing books with a stronger trade flavor is the best way to mend their fortunes or whether it simply leads to higher returns." Publishers Weekly 07/07/03

The Living Word Is there any way to figure out what books will live for posterity? "The idea that, although you will be dust, your words will outlive you is a potent one. Potent, but vain. The fate of most books, even successful ones, is a fairly swift rendezvous with Lethe.
Realistically calculating the odds in the posterity stakes: 'A writer's ambition should be to trade 100 contemporary readers for 10 readers in 10 years' time and for one in 100 years'."
The Observer (UK) 07/06/03

Australia In Berlin "Berlin's poetry fest, put on by the city's venerable literaturWERKstatt (literary workshop), is one of the world's most innovative literary festivals and it focused this year on Australia. The 10-day program comprised text-based works by Australian artists and writers, including collaborations with leading German writers." Sydney Morning Herald 07/07/03

Knockoff Harrys Outsell Original In Pakistan Knockoff editions of the new Harry Potter are outselling the authentic version in Pakistan. "One bookseller said at least five different versions of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix were on the market. Priced at between 295-495 rupees (£3-5, $5-8.50), they are proving hugely popular in competition with the $29.99 (£18) official version. Pakistan is ranked as one of the world's largest producers of pirated goods, including CDs, films and computer software." BBC 07/06/03

Could Technology Decipher Burned Medieval Manuscripts? Scientists suggest that technology used to scan and map planets could be used to decipher a unique library of medieval manuscripts mostly destroyed in allied bombing during World War II. "The collection, then housed in an annexe of Chartres town hall, comprised around 2,000 medieval books and parchments, many of which dated to the 12th Century. The library was considered a national treasure and a good proportion of the works were unpublished." BBC 07/05/03

Saturday, July 5

NJ Abolishes Poet Laureate Position The New Jersey State Legislature has passed a bill abolishing the position of state poet laureate. The move is the culmination over unhappiness over poet laureate Amiri Baraka, who wrote a poem last year suggesting Israel had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "The Assembly approved a bill Tuesday that passed the Senate in January. Gov. James E. McGreevey, who cut off the $10,000 annual stipend that goes to the poet laureate after Baraka refused to resign, intends to sign the bill, according to a spokesman." Yahoo! (AP) 07/01/03

Thursday, July 3

A Steinbeck Revival, Copyright Oprah It almost went unnoticed, what with Harry Potter and Hillary Clinton grabbing all the book-based headlines over the past month, but John Steinbeck's classic version of the Cain and Abel story, East of Eden recently sold 750,000 copies inside of a week. Why the rush on a 50-year-old novel? Oprah made it a selection of her newly-revived book club. "Organized book groups, which make reading a social experience, are springing up like weeds, especially in bookstores and libraries - providing a critical marketing opportunity for a publishing industry desperate to reverse sluggish sales numbers." Boston Globe 07/03/03

Wednesday, July 2

More Books, Fewer Reviews "This is an interesting time for books. While there are three times as many books being published now compared to 25 years ago, many magazine and newspapers that publish reviews have faced page cutbacks. A few have increased coverage—both the Los Angeles Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have fattened their review sections recently. And there are new arrivals to the scene. Last year Speakeasy, affiliated with the Loft literary center in Minneapolis, and Readerville, the print version of the Web site of the same name, were launched. In March of this year McSweeney’s introduced the Believer, a four-color monthly with long reviews (of poetry as well as fiction) and interviews. The overall trend, though, has been toward what one New York Times editor recently referred to as 'the incredible shrinking book review,' the result of a weakened economy and an accompanying decrease in advertising for the media industry." Writers & Poets Magazine 07/03

Hogwarts Students Not Welcome Here The Harry Potter series has been banned again, this time in Australia, where a Christian college is concerned that "the books promoted wizardry as normal - not a message to which students should be exposed." Since Harry's wizardry is not only not normal, but, in fact, fictional, one might be tempted to dismiss the Maranatha Christian College as a bunch of fundamentalist yahoos, but the school is only the latest in a long string of institutions worldwide which have discerned some grave threat to followers of Jesus in the works of J.K. Rowling. BBC 07/02/03

Tuesday, July 1

US Threatens To Close Iraqi Publications Right after Saddam Hussein was toppled, a flurry of new newspapers and magazines began publication in Iraq. But last week the US threatened to "fine or close down any newspapers that incite violence or endanger the security of coalition troops or any ethnic or religious group. The Americans defend their decision and consider it necessary for keeping Iraq safe and free of violence. They say the new papers lack responsibility and professionalism, and that they fabricate information. For example, one paper accused a coalition soldier of raping a woman and wrote that troops can see women naked through their night vision goggles." Village Voice 07/01/03

Bookforum's Makeover Bookforum magazine has relaunched with a new high-minded editor. Eric Banks is "an extremely smart and informed editor who we thought would re-emphasize Bookforum's coverage of scholarly and art books." And Bookforum? "Bookforum is one of those high-minded enterprises whose bills are paid by a wealthy benefactor—in this case, the profitable Artforum. Total circulation for Bookforum is about 40,000, with about 10,000 copies sold on the newsstand and about 30,000 subscriptions. (Bookforum is sent free to all Artforum subscribers.)" Village Voice 07/01/03

The First English Book To Top The French Best-Seller List For the first time ever, an English book has topped the French best-seller lists. Yes, it's Harry Potter, and the French version doesn't come out until December. But "this did not stop more than 16,000 copies in English flying off the shelves in France, where it topped sales for all categories, not just children's listings." BBC 07/01/03

Hitler And The Arts A new books examines Hitler's aesthetics. "Adolf Hitler wanted to be the greatest patron of the arts in history. 'It was a pity,' he observed, 'that I have to wage war on account of that drunk [Winston Churchill] instead of serving the works of peace'."
Boston Globe 07/01/03

Home | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©
2002 ArtsJournal. All Rights Reserved