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Thursday, April 29

Strong Short List For Australia's Top Lit Prize "Australia's premier prize for writing, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, has arguably its strongest shortlist in recent history and its most lucrative prizemoney. The six novelists on the list include a Nobel Prize winner, a Booker Prize winner and a US National Book Award winner". Sydney Morning Herald 04/30/04

A Tale Of Two Book Festivals "For obvious cultural and plainly practical reasons, it runs counter to logic that Spokane should have a better literary festival than Seattle does. The disparity between what Get Lit!'s organizers have to work with and what Bookfest's organizers have to work with is staggering. Bookfest has name recognition, a 10-year history, and a $600,000 annual budget. Get Lit! has hardly any name recognition, a six-year history, and a $180,000 budget. And don't forget that it takes place in Spokane. So how is it possible that Bookfest fails on so many levels where Get Lit! succeeds? How can it be that Spokane, a city so putatively inferior, does this book-festival thing so much better than we do?" The Stranger (Seattle) 04/28/04

Wednesday, April 28

The Writing Soldiers A new National Endowment for the Arts program aims to teach soldiers how to write. The program will involve some popular literary stars. "Workshops in fiction and non-fiction will be open to U.S. military personnel and their families, at bases across America and elsewhere in the world. The instructors will include poet Marilyn Nelson, as well as Tom Clancy, the author of best-selling technothrillers, and the award winning novelists and short story writers Bobbie Ann Mason and Tobias Wolff." Voice of America 04/28/04

Tuesday, April 27

Are E-Books About To Break Through? New e-book readers are hitting the market. But "if the e-book is going to be a hit, a few things have to happen. First there has to be a good selection of material to read, and, for publishers, that means taking the risk that their best titles may wind up being distributed for free on the Internet. The recording industry has struggled with this problem in ways both overt and subtle: It has sued batches of pirate downloaders but also circulated its own falsely labeled music files intended to frustrate and dissuade would-be pirates." Forbes 04/27/04

Grammar Book Becomes Global Hit What is it about Lynne Truss'little book of grammar "Eats, Shoots & Leaves?" "The slim volume, subtitled The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, is storming bookshops in country after country, entrancing pedants everywhere from Saudi Arabia to South Korea. It has soared to number one in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa." The Guardian (UK) 04/25/04

  • In Praise Of Rules (For Grammar, At Least) There seems to be new interest in the rules of grammar. So how come, and why now? "This new passion for grammatical rigour indicates a cultural sea change - in this country, any road. I'm not sure what kind of sea change it indicates in Hong Kong." Maybe it's a simple as wanting to impose a little more order on the world, rejecting the idea that perhaps there are no right answers... The Guardian (UK) 04/27/04

Nigerian Named Orange Prize Finalist Twenty-five-year-old Nigerian teacher Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been chosen for the short list of this year's £30,000 Orange award, "defeating more than a dozen highly tipped and experienced authors. Adichie is up against the Booker prizewinner Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, Gillian Slovo's panoramic vision of communist Russia, The Ice Road, and three other novels." The Guardian (UK) 04/27/04

Ganging Up To Refute The Da Vinci Code Some six million copies of The Da Vinci Code have been sold in the past year. Now there is a wave of books coming to refute the idea that "Christianity was founded on a cover-up — that the church has conspired for centuries to hide evidence that Jesus was a mere mortal, married Mary Magdalene and had children whose descendants live in France. More than 10 books are being released, most in April and May, with titles that promise to break, crack, unlock or decode "The Da Vinci Code." Churches are offering pamphlets and study guides for readers who may have been prompted by the novel to question their faith. Large audiences are showing up for Da Vinci Code lectures and sermons." The New York Times 04/27/04

Control Your Book Self-published print-on-demand books are becoming more and more popular with writers. It's all about control. "Why do all the work for a paltry 10 to 15 per cent when you can make triple that or more? Authors today like to be in control of their own destinies. The thought of a big publishing house changing their title, dressing the book or rearranging text is unacceptable." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/27/04

Monday, April 26

The Next Great Novel What determines whether a book will endure or be considered great? "It comes down to relevance, what people are looking for today and how they can apply what the author is talking about to their lives." Denver Post 04/26/04

Sunday, April 25

Timbuktu: City Of Letters Timbuktu is legendarily at the ends of the earth. "But it is here that some of the most astonishing developments in African intellectual history have been occurring. In recent years, thousands of medieval manuscripts that include poetry by women, legal reflections and innovative scientific treatises have come to light, reshaping ideas about African and Islamic civilizations. Yet even as this cache is being discovered, it is in danger of disappearing, as sand and other grit are abrading many of the aging texts, causing them to disintegrate." The New York Times 04/26/04

The Poets Die Young Why is it that poets die younger than most other artists? A new study is revealing: "Overall, poets lived an average of 62.2 years, compared with nonfiction writers, who lived the longest at 67.9 years. Playwrights lived an average of 63.4 years; novelists, 66 years. The differences between poetry and prose were pronounced among Americans, where poets lived an average of 66.2 years, and nonfiction writers lived an average of 72.7 years." The New York Times 04/24/04

Premium Onion Comes With A Price Readers of online newspapers are used to their favorite publications suddenly deciding to charge for access to certain stories. But The Onion? The satirical newsweekly launches a new subscription-based site this week, offering readers more content and no ads in exchange for $7 per month. In addition to the standard content that appears in the paper's print edition, the premium site will allow staffers to be more experimental, and to develop animations, slide shows, and other web-based projects that wouldn't necessarily work on paper. Wired 04/24/04

Friday, April 23

Football Club Hires Poet-In-Residence "Sarah Wardle, 34, has become poet in residence at Premiership club Tottenham Hotspur, in north London. The published poet and university lecturer produces pieces which are inspired by the club, its ground and the supporters." BBC 04/23/04

Thursday, April 22

The Electronic Paper Book (Wow!) A new electronic book reader mimics the look of paper. "The quality of the display will come as quite a shock to any seasoned user of mobile devices; it looks more like paper than the computer screen it is. The closest comparison is to think of old-fashioned ink on pulp you're likely holding now, unless you're reading this online, in which case the Librie looks far better. In fact, as it's a reflective screen, it looks the same whether you read it indoors or out." The Guardian (UK) 04/23/04

Whatever Happened to the Political Novel? Is the socially conscious novel a dead genre? Whatever happened to the idea that a book can change the world? Are authors so intent on their own characters that they can't be bothered to make their plots politically relevant to our increasingly dangerous world? Ray Conlogue is only asking, but modern authors seem increasingly hostile to the notion that they could actually advance political ideas or social agendas with their works of fiction. These days, novelists are perfectly within their rights to spend hours working on behalf of whatever causes they support, but to put the crusade to paper would apparently cross some invisible line of decorum. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/22/04

So You're A Poet? Better Watch Your Back. Maybe it's that poets tend to be such tortured souls. Or maybe the constant battle for public understanding and acceptance is just too much for some. But whatever the reason, a new study makes it perfectly clear: poets die younger than other writers. "On average, a poet had a life-expectancy of only 62... compared to playwrights' average age 63 years, novelists' 66 years and non-fiction writers' 68 years."
BBC 04/22/04

Tuesday, April 20

NEA Announces New Writing Program For Troops "The NEA this week is unveiling 'Operation Homecoming,' in which troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will attend workshops run by such writers as Tom Clancy, Tobias Wolff and James McBride. The best submissions will be published in an anthology, scheduled to come out at the end of 2005. 'I've always believed that one of the signs of a healthy society is when all aspects of that society communicate with each other,' NEA chairman Dana Gioia said." Los Angeles Times (AP) 04/20/04

Wanted: Poet Laureate Canada is looking for a new poet laureate. "Officially the Parliamentary Librarian is looking for someone who can, according to their press release, 'demonstrate literary excellence though a substantial history of published works, including poetry; have written work reflecting Canada and the Canadian experience; have made a contribution to the writing community; have influenced other writers; and be a Canadian resident.' Not everyone thinks having a veteran as the officially endorsed face of Canadian poetry is the best idea, however." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/20/04

Monday, April 19

Running The Poetry Foundation And Its Cash John W. Barr is in charge of the Poetry Foundation and caretaker of its $100 million windfall. "I don't see any reason why a cultural organization can't be run like a good corporation. If we can do that, we'll not only be on the road to success ourselves but may even be able to give some ideas to other arts groups." The New York Times 04/20/04

Chick Lit's Mixed Blessing There are now several publishing devoted to the genre. "Score one for the ladies, right? Not exactly. It seems that many observers are up in arms about what they perceive to be antifeminist pabulum. 'Many of these titles really are trash: trash that imitates other, better books that could have ushered in a new wave of smart, postfeminist writing, and trash that threatens to flood the market in women's reading'." Utne Reader 04/04

Denver's Library Saloon Tradition According to the Hennen's American Public Library Rating index, between 1999 and 2001, the Denver Public Library was America's No. 1 library. But budget cuts last year have closed the library one day a week and forced other cutbacks. Does this mean the city will have to return to its past, when its first libraries were located in saloons? Rocky Mountain News 04/18/04

Sunday, April 18

University Buys Murdoch Library The University of Surrey has bought the personal library of writer Iris Murdoch. "The collection of more than 1,000 books - many of them with her own remarks in the margins - surrounded and influenced her from 1952, when she began writing the first of her 26 novels, until a few years before she died of Alzheimer's disease in 1999." The Observer (UK) 04/18/04

Art From Vandalized Books For a year, someone came into the San Francisco Library and destroyed books with gay or lesbian themes. The culprit was finally caught, but until after many books were vandalized. Loath to throw out the books, librarians gave them to artists so they could make art from them. The resulting projects are now on display Slate 04/16/04

This Just In: The Current Thinking On Virgil Dr. Robert Fagles has spent painstaking years translating Virgil's Aeneid - "nearly as long as it took Virgil to write the epic poem." And why, when there are already translations available? "Every age needs classics translated into the idiom of the moment. It gives the works new vitality, new meaning. It offers to the living a connection with those who went before, the accumulated wisdom of the past, a protection from a dangerous provincialism." The New York Times 04/17/04

Thursday, April 15

Shaking Up Canada's Canonical Publisher "Venerable Canadian publishing company McClelland & Stewart is shaking off its dust jackets with the announcement that Doug Pepper will replace Douglas Gibson as the company's new publisher and president, effective May 31. Gibson, who became publisher of M&S in 1988 and president in 2000 will continue to work at M&S, returning to oversee the imprint Douglas Gibson Books, which he founded in 1986, on a full-time basis... Founded in 1906, M&S's catalogue is often viewed as the canon of Canadian literature with a list of authors that includes Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry, Alice Munro and Guy Vanderhaeghe, many of whom came to international prominence during Gibson's tenure." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/15/04

A Dictionary For The Clueless And Uncreative Everyone hates cliches, but no one does anything about them. In fact, at the end of the day, most of us would have to admit, with all due respect, that we are driven round the bend on a daily basis by friends and co-workers who can't stop tossing out overused metaphors and meaningless catchphrases. So what to do? Run right out and pick yourself up a copy of "The Dimwit's Dictionary," a compendium of 5,000 of the worst abuses of the English language, as well as reasonable alternatives for the more overused and irritating entries, all authored by the man who wrote the book on tired expressions. The tome may be a work in progress, but it's almost sure to be an overnight success with language geeks. Chicago Tribune 04/15/04

Wednesday, April 14

All In The Family - The Pulitzer Franz Wright won this year's Pulitzer Prize for poetry, but he's not the first in his family to win one. His father - James Wright, who died in 1980, "won the Pulitzer for poetry in 1972; the two Wrights are believed to be the first father and son ever to win the award." The New York Times 04/15/04

Nabokov: Plagiarist or Cryptomnesiac? The allegation that Vladimir Nabokov may have lifted the plot of Lolita from another author's work has Ron Rosenbaum fascinated. "It’s not so much a scandal as a literary mystery — a mystery about the mind of one of the great artists of our era. And second, the alleged scandal turns on the question of a literary-psychological term that was new to me, but that has now become one of my favorites: 'cryptomnesia.'" The term mean just what it sounds like: it describes an author who has read another author's work, but completely forgotten about it, to the extent that he appropriates the plot without ever realizing that he has done so. New York Observer 04/19/04

Perhaps A Satire Warning Label Would Help In an age when a fake news show (Comedy Central's The Daily Show) serves as a more reliable news delivery vehicle than some real news networks, and when it is increasingly difficult to distinguish opinioniated hype from objective fact in the national media, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the satirical newspaper The Onion has a bit of an ongoing problem with people who take their stories seriously. The paper's deadpan style may have something to do with it, but another factor is emerging as well: in a society so politically and culturally divided as the US seems to be at the moment, people are ready to believe anything that validates their personal point of view, no matter how absurd it may seem. Wired 04/14/04

Tuesday, April 13

The Humiliations Of Being A Writer Writers are constantly being humiliated. Is it their nature? Take the book tour stop: "Most frequently, though, no one shows up. Carl Hiaasen arrived for a reading in Arkansas and found a chili-cooking class and a University of Arkansas Razorbacks game scheduled in town at the same time. He ended up autographing books for the salesmen. William Trevor drove for hours to a reading and found the place empty. So he read to the cabdriver and two people who wandered in." The New York Times 04/14/04

New NYT Book Review Chief Gets To Work Sam Tanenhaus began work this week as the new editor of the New York Times Book Review. "Since his appointment a few weeks ago, Tanenhaus' likes and dislikes, his authorship of a prize-winning biography of anti-Communist icon Whittaker Chambers and an uncompleted one of William F. Buckley -- all but his hat size has been parsed and glossed with the earnestness of old-time Kremlinology. Literary insiders have done everything to divine his standards except, typically, to read a whole book Tanenhaus wrote on the subject in 1984." San Francisco Chronicle 04/13/04

The New Yorker In California Some like to put down California for a lack of culture. So what to make of the fact that The New Yorker magazine now sells more copies in California than in New York? "For the six-month period that ended Dec. 31, California had a total paid circulation of 167,583, compared with New York's 166,630. What this will do to the well-worn clichés about California is uncertain. The Atlantic Monthly also has more subscribers here than in any other state." Los Angeles Times 04/13/04

Monday, April 12

Psychology Critique Under Attack Psychologist Lauren Slater's new book "Opening Skinner's Box" has been hailed as "a bridge the gap between academic and popular psychology," but the experts are attacking. "Some say that she put invented quotations in her new book. Others question her methods and data in her own experiment in faking mental illness or challenge the accuracy of her description of some famous past experiments. Critics have been publicizing their accusations in book reviews on Amazon.com and other Internet sites, while professors at several schools, including Harvard, Columbia and Emory universities, have been exchanging information on their views of the book's failings." The New York Times 04/12/04

Two Magazines - A Letter Between Them There's "America" magazine and "American" magazine, and they couldn't be more different. "The two magazines nicely convey the dyads: rural and urban, mass and elite, red and blue. America's America is sleek, multiracial and wonderfully coiffed. The images on the oversize, foil-edged pages are outré; in one photo essay the actress Juliette Lewis is curled up in a refrigerator, having a moment with herself. Using hip-hop as its motif the magazine roams across fashion, film and technology. It takes the reader behind the velvet ropes and assumes anyone who is reading it belongs there: America magazine defines and covers its own species. American Magazine's America seems more like a teddy bear you can hold on your lap." The New York Times 04/12/04

Sunday, April 11

Depicting Scotland Through Some Miserable Books The books chosen for Scotland's premiere tourist attraction are a scandal. "As a literary representation of Scotland, it is woeful, made worse by the far more imaginative range of books offered in the children's section. On the evidence of Historic Scotland's collection, Scots spend most of their time drinking and eating." Glasgow Herald 04/11/04

A Body Story...One Word At A Time Shelley Jackson is writing a story by tattooing one word at a time on a person. The story is a "sequence of words tattooed on the bodies of some 2,093 volunteers, several of whom are reported to have teamed up to form whole sentences. Jackson's 'story', by the way, is called Skin. Who said the avant-garde was dead? At 2,093 words, her 'story' might possibly persuade the subeditors among us to institute a search for cuts. It certainly does invite us to ask another basic question, viz: how short can a story be, and still be considered a story?" The Observer (UK) 04/11/04

A Who's Who Of The Forgotten and Ignored Two Harvard scholars have launched a wide-ranging project designed to document the lives of African-Americans throughout the centuries of U.S. existence who, for one reason or another, have fallen through the historical cracks. "It is an ambitious effort to patch the spotty historical record about the men and women who, among other things, fled slavery, created art and shepherded civil rights campaigns in the shadow of giants like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." The New York Times 04/10/04

Friday, April 9

China To Privitize Publishers China has more than 500 state-owned publishing houses. As part of the country's economic reforms, many of those publishers will be cut loose to operate as private businesses, which should revolutionize publishing in the world's most-populated country. Interfax 04/09/04

Thursday, April 8

The Great Ontario Book Bust A bad book fair is a horrible thing to witness, says Russell Smith, and the organizers of the Great Ontario Book Break (you'd think the acronym alone would have been a danger sign) should have seen that they were creating a bad book fair. "Events like these make one come close to despair about the state of the arts and the worth of public funding. Conservatives could easily point to a debacle like this and proclaim that the free market should just take over like a cleansing rain. This is like the sponsorship scandal on a smaller scale: advertising money squandered on a non-event." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/08/04

Wednesday, April 7

A High-Tech Solution To Plagiarism "For years, educators at colleges and universities have marshaled software tools to ensure that their students' work is original. Now, tainted by scandals or leery of the Internet's copy-enabling power, a growing number of newspapers, law firms and other businesses are using data-sifting tools that can cross-check billions of digital documents and swiftly recognize patterns in just seconds." CNN.com 04/07/04

David Beckham, Award-Winning Author "David Beckham has won a special prize at the British Book Awards for his book My Side, the fastest-selling biography or autobiography of all time. Lynne Truss' bestselling grammar guide Eats, Shoots and Leaves picked up the book of the year award, while Alexander McCall Smith was named best author." BBC 04/07/04

'Blue Metropolis' Comes Of Age "Montreal's Blue Metropolis writers' festival, which ended on Sunday, has ballooned into a major Canadian literary event in just six years. With a million-dollar budget, and headliners including Paul Auster, Yann Martel and Pico Iyer, the Blue Met is now an event on the scale of the International Festival of Authors in Toronto or the Vancouver International Writers' Festival." The festival still has a hard time drawing the superstar authors who roam the Toronto and Vancouver fests, but the lack of star power is made up for with the distinctively 'Montreal sensibility' of the whole event. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/07/04

New Kipling Story Published "A recently-discovered story by Rudyard Kipling has been published for the first time. The tale, part of the Stalky & Co saga, is called Scylla and Charybdis, and sees Stalky and his friends catch a colonel cheating on the golf course. The manuscript was uncovered by an archivist at the Haileybury and Imperial Service College in Windsor, the successor to Kipling's old school." BBC 04/07/04

Tuesday, April 6

Ruling: US Publishers Can Edit Foreign Manuscripts New US regulations might have prevented American publishers from editing manuscripts from countries such as Iran. But the policy has been reconsidered. "U.S. publishers would be free to edit scholarly manuscripts from Iran and some other off-limit countries without fear of running afoul of economic sanctions, the Bush administration has determined." San Jose Mercury-News (AP) 04/06/04

What Happened To Petrarch's Skull? Scientists who have been examining what they thought were Petrarch's remains have discovered that the skull belongs to someone else. And they suspect it could be that of a woman. 'This must have been robbery. It is not, frankly, a nice business'." The Guardian (UK) 04/07/04

Monday, April 5

Zadie Smith On The Pressures Of Being Hyped As A Young Writer: "The hype is an enormous psychological pressure on a writer. Not that anyone should weep for a writer who has earned loads of money. But the bottom line is, this is not a healthy thing to have in your head at eight in the morning when you’re trying to write something. It’s just very messy. Even in America you have a better chance of having a basically healthy literary career, at least in the beginning, than you do in England. We’re driven by the celebrity mania that this whole country is sunk in.” Bookslut 03/08/04

When Poetry Outstrips The Audience Poetry is popular but poetry doesn't sell. It doesn't get reviewed and people don't buy it. "So the situation for poetry is bleak and not because of an indifferent nation. The fault is in the poets, whose demands for attention have outstripped any possible audience. Perfect. Poetry and poets in America love a state of siege." Boston Phoenix 04/08/04

Sunday, April 4

Journalist Charges Nabokov Plagiarized Lolita Lolita is nothing if not controversial. Vladimir Nabokov's "relatives and supporters have rejected a claim that her character was plagiarised from a 1916 novel by a German journalist who went on to support Hitler. Michael Marr, a German literary scholar, suggested that a novella, Lolita, written in 1916 by Heinz von Eschwege, may have provided the foundations for the 1955 Nabokov novel." The Guardian (UK) 04/04/04

Thursday, April 1

Authors Auction Naming Rights For Book Characters For a fundraiser, leading British authors auctioned off the rights to name characters in their books. "Successful bidders at the third charity auction for victims of torture included a man who paid £1,000 to see his mother’s name appear in the next novel by the Irish writer Maeve Binchy. Another secured a role in books by two authors, bidding £950 for the children’s writer Philip Pullman and £240 for Sue Townsend, the creator of Adrian Mole." The Scotsman 04/01/04

The Way Bad Book That Sold Millions A newspaper editor had an idea. "In 1966, appalled by the best sellers of Jacqueline Susann and others, he challenged his colleagues at Newsday, where he was a distinguished editor and writer, to perpetrate a book so mindlessly crass it could not fail. 'There will be an unremitting emphasis on sex. Also, true excellence in writing will be quickly blue-penciled into oblivion'." The book went on to sell millions of copies, crack the New York Times bestseller list and earn its authors $1.25 million. Seattle Weekly 03/31/04

Big Day For Canadian Prizes The Writers' Trust of Canada has awarded this year's prize for political writing to retired Canadian lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire, for his examination of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Shake Hands With the Devil. The prize carries a CAN$15,000 cash prize, and is one of the country's most prestigious literary awards. "Elsewhere, the Griffin Trust, sponsor of the world's richest prizes for poetry -- $80,000 -- announced the 2004 nominees," including Canadian poets Leslie Greentree and Anne Simpson. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/01/04

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