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Thursday, September 30

Army Enlists Children's Book To Help Families "The Kissing Hand," a children's book about a raccoon trying to assuage her baby's separation anxiety, rose in popularity after 9/11, when the American Library Association recommended it. The book has just sold an additional 14,000 copies to a single customer: the U.S. Army. In a first-time effort, the army plans to distribute the story to help military families cope with wartime separation. USA Today 09/29/04

Alice vs. Harry: Who's More Dangerous? Once upon a time, the Harry Potter books could be counted on to incite the most alarm among those who seek to protect America's youth by removing objectionable books from schools and libraries. Now Harry and his magic have been toppled from their No. 1 spot by a lesser-known series: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's well-reviewed "Alice" books, whose sexual content provoked numerous challenges in 2003. USA Today 09/29/04

And Weighing In At Over 800 Pages ... Short attention span? What short attention span? In seeming contradiction to the sound-bite culture they inhabit, readers are snapping up ever-heftier books, and this fall will bring more of them. USA Today 09/29/04

Wednesday, September 29

Scottish Publisher Keeps On Growing "Scottish publisher Birlinn has added another asset to its growing business with the buy-out of Tuckwell Press, the Scottish academic publisher. Tuckwell Pressís founders and owners, John and Val Tuckwell, are to work with the Edinburgh-based Birlinn. Birlinn is riding high on the huge sales of the novels of Alexander McCall Smith. The company bought the Polygon imprint in 2002, acquiring the publisher of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series just as they exploded into a huge international success. McCall Smithís sales have helped push Birlinnís annual turnover to the £2 million mark." The Scotsman (UK) 09/29/04

A Bookstore Where The Paranormal Is The Norm Even in a market that may be tougher than ever for independent bookstores, there are niches -- like, say, the paranormal -- that the big chains just can't fill as well as a single passionate shop owner. At Germ, in Philadelphia, the "new and used books all fit under the umbrella of what might be called Apocalypse Culture: UFOs, Bigfoot, Kennedy assassination, ghosts, time travel, conspiracy, ESP, the unexplained, unknown and just plain peculiar." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/29/04

Tuesday, September 28

Emory To Become Home To Danowski Collection The largest English-language poetry collection ever amassed by an individual collector has been donated to Atlanta's Emory University. The collection of Raymond Danowski comprises "some 60,000 volumes and tens of thousands more of periodicals, posters, recordings and other items devoted to 20th-century poetry in the English language." The New York Times 09/29/04

It's Michael Chabon Calling. Please Vote ... "More than three dozen U.S. authors will spend the morning of the (presidential) election phoning students attending universities in the swing states of Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin as part of an unusual voter-registration initiative dubbed Operation Ohio." The Globe and Mail (Canada) 09/28/04

U.S. Publishers Sue Over Treasury Dept. Editing Rules A group of American publishers has sued the Treasury Department on First Amendment grounds, seeking to overturn regulations that prohibit the editing of manuscripts from countries under U.S. economic sanctions. The rules, they say, prevent them "from performing typical editing functions like reordering sentences and paragraphs, correcting grammar and adding illustrations or photographs." The New York Times 09/28/04

Monday, September 27

New Hemingway Publication Dispute "A simmering row over the modern publication of a long-lost short story by Hemingway, written in 1924 while on a drunken spree in Pamplona, Spain, has revealed the American writer as a champion luncher but a poor humorist." The story, which is a slapstick description of a bullfight, was initially intended for the magazine Vanity Fair, but was never sent. Now, the magazine stands ready to print it, but lawyers for the Hemingway estate have blocked publication without explanation. The Independent (UK) 09/28/04

Unusual Library Mulling Cross-Country Move The Brautigan Library in suburban Boston may be the only library conjured into existence by a 1960s counterculture novel. It is almost certainly the only library to consist entirely of unpublished work: "From 1990 to 1996, the Brautigan Library accepted manuscripts from all over the world, as long as the authors paid binding costs." But like all good '60s icons, the Brautigan collection looks likely to spend its mature years in Northern California - specifically, in the Presidio Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Boston Globe 09/27/04

Africa's Next-Generation Bookmobile A digitally outfitted bookmobile funded by a grant from the World Bank has spent the last year traversing some of Africa's poorest rural areas, and providing the youth of the continent with print-to-order copies of great children's books. The project has proved wildly popular with the kids, and now that the initial grant has run out, the bookmobile is working with librarians and various foundations to keep the presses rolling. Wired 09/27/04

Sunday, September 26

By Writers, For Writers Literary journals, long a staple of university presses, seem to be enjoying a renaissance in Pittsburgh, courtesy of online publishing innovations and an influx of new writers willing to take risks. The city currently has no fewer than five new journals attempting to build a sizable readership, despite the fact that such publications traditionally bleed money. "The world of publishing is becoming so competitively commercial that there's no room for the serious writer. And the reason journals and small literary presses are beginning to survive is that there are more and more writers." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/26/04

The Writers Who Never Seem To Finish "Like general contractors, writers are famously optimistic when it comes to estimating how long a project will take. Fortunately, publishers are more forgiving than homeowners; deadlines are routinely extended one, two, even three years. But there is another category of writer, one for whom the laws of space and time seem to disappear altogether. Years bleed into one another as file cabinets bulge with extraneous information... Only by scratching away the layers of Liquid Paper on the line of the contract reading 'delivery date,' as if it were an instant lottery ticket, is it possible to ascertain when exactly the manuscript was first due." The New York Times 09/26/04

But No Lap Dances From Margaret Atwood! "The organizers of the first-ever Descant Book Ball, to be held Thursday, have concocted a truly unusual fundraising scheme to support [Canadian Literature]. For a nominal fee, guests will be escorted to a private peep-show salon, where the ball's organizers promise they'll get 'up-close and personal' with their favourite artist or literary figure... For $20, fans will get five to 10 minutes of one-on-one time with their CanLit idol of choice, say, a private reading from novelist Russell Smith, a personal sketch from illustrator Laurie McGaw, or take part in a sexually liberating video and poetry experiment with Louise Bak." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/25/04

Are eBooks Finally Ready To Take Over? Ever since the mid-1990s, tech-obsessives have insisted that the printed page is on its last legs, and that the eBook is the wave of the future. So far, such bold predictions have proved to be almost completely unfounded, despite the increasingly popularity of online periodicals. "But advances in hardware, coupled with figures showing a growth in sales, suggest that more than a decade after ebooks first came on to the market the concept could finally be about to take off." The Independent (UK) 09/25/04

Thursday, September 23

Laughing To Keep From Crying The U.S. is as politically polarized as it has been in decades, politicians can't seem to stop smearing each other, and oh yes, there's always that terrorism threat to consider in case you were thinking of feeling upbeat today. All that gloom and doom may explain why the political satire is suddenly hot again in the literary world, and several new offerings from well-known authors are testing the limits of dark comedy concerning world events. The New York Times 09/24/04

The Swimsuit Issue's Fiercest Defenders: Librarians "Librarians consider themselves defenders of the First Amendment. On philosophical grounds, they are loath to restrict access to material." So Banned Book Week, which begins Saturday, is a platform for some of their most elemental beliefs. The Plain Dealer 09/23/04

Book Clubs To Candidates: Read The Bible A Bookspan survey of avid readers finds the Bible is the book they most recommend to President Bush and Sen. John Kerry. John McCain's "Why Courage Matters" and Walter Isaacson's "Benjamin Franklin" were also favorites. USA Today 09/22/04

Wednesday, September 22

Words Fail Us (But Not Them, Clearly) If you like British history and scholarly biography, it's time to clear some space in the library, and possibly invest in some reinforced shelving as well: The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is ready for shipping. Speaking of which, you may want to make that parcel post, since the collection weighs in at 280 pounds, with 60 volumes containing a thousand pages each. The project, which chronicles the lives of the great (and not-so-great) men and women of Great Britain over the last 1,000 years or so, was 12 years in the making, and more than 10,000 authors are represented in its pages. The New York Times 09/23/04

Assessing The Booker Shortlist This year's shortlist for the Man Booker prize is long on star power and short on women. David Mitchell, a veteran of the shortlist, is considered the favorite, but he's up against two other heavyweights in Alan Hollinghurst and Colm Toibin. The panel of judges was reportedly well split between the finalists, and if history is any indication, there will be plenty of speculation in the weeks to come. The Booker will be awarded on October 19. The Independent (UK) 09/22/04

German Fire Ravaged 50,000 Rare Books "A fire which ripped through a historic library in Germany destroyed many more rare books than previously thought. Despite attempts by volunteers to rescue as many books as possible from Weimar's Duchess Anna Amalia Library, 50,000 were still irreparably damaged." BBC 09/22/04

  • Previously: Weimar Fire Claims Tens Of Thousands Of Books The raging fire that broke out Thursday at the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany, has destroyed as many as 30,000 irreplacable books. The damage is estimated to be in the millions of dollars, and the German culture minister has pledged that public money will play a major role in restoring the surviving books and the library building itself. The New York Times 09/04/04

Anne Rice: Satisfaction Or Your Money Back "Writer Anne Rice, whose extravagant fictions about vampires and witches have made her famous and rich, vents her anger at readers who dare criticize her latest book 'Blood Canticle' on the Amazon.com website and ends her lengthy, single-paragraph tirade by giving her home address in New Orleans and promising refunds to the disgruntled." Toronto Star 09/22/04

Tuesday, September 21

Better To Write It Than Live It A 34-year-old creative writing teacher has captured Australia's $20,000 Vogel Prize for a "gritty tale of drugs, despair and teenage runaways is set in a truck stop in the Central West of [the Australian state of New South Wales] where the teenage protagonist fries chips, fills the Coke fridge and pie-warmer and hides from the law." Julienne van Loon lives in Perth these days, but grew up in the bush town where her story, which took nearly a decade to write, is set. Sydney Morning Herald 09/22/04

A Best Seller That's Online For Free "While the 9/11 Commission Report -- a surprisingly readable work addressing an issue of supreme national importance -- is in a category of its own in the annals of government-funded literature, it's also serving as a high-profile case study of the effects of free online distribution on sales of printed works. One lesson: Just because someone can read something for free online doesn't mean they will want to." Wired 09/20/04

The Booker's Odds-On Favorite "British author David Mitchell was installed on Tuesday as the hottest favorite ever for the Booker prize with his complex time-machine of a tale: 'Cloud Atlas.'" Yahoo! (Reuters) 09/21/04

A New Character In Romantic Fiction: Jesus Novels that mix Christianity and romance are no longer a niche to be ignored. "The Christian Booksellers Association estimates that total sales of Christian fiction have topped $2 billion a year, and the market share of Christian romance has grown 25 percent a year since 2001, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association reports. As a result editors have begun targeting younger people who enjoy both Christian and romantic fiction." The New York Times 09/21/04

'Da Vinci' Author Sues Accuser "Best-selling author Dan Brown is suing a California novelist who accused him of stealing ideas for his blockbuster 'The Da Vinci Code' from two 1980s novels." New York Daily News 09/21/04

Monday, September 20

Why Not Cheat? Two recent cases of scholarly plagiarism at major American universities have been mostly focused on the role of graduate assistants in manuscript preparation. But is the larger issue being missed? According to at least one scholar, "the costs imposed upon those who are caught cheating are often insufficient to outweigh the objective benefits of cheating," and so plagiarism can often be a risk well worth taking for many writers. The Chronicle of Higher Education 09/20/04

Sunday, September 19

Everyone Knows Good Books Are Huge "The number of people who read books is getting smaller and smaller, but the size of the books they read seems to be getting bigger and bigger. Step into a Barnes & Noble or a Borders and you will see shelves sagging with supersize works, some so back-breakingly heavy they are shipped in boxes with plastic handles. Search online and you'll discover larger-than-coffee-table tomes. The illogic of this phenomenon speaks volumes -- ever-expanding volumes -- about the state of reading in contemporary civilization." Washington Post 09/19/04

Thursday, September 16

The Musical Detective Why do so many of the detectives in English fiction seem to have a big interest in classical music? Indeed, "the detective as musical amateur is an affectionate tic in British crime fiction..." The Guardian (UK) 09/17/04

Banning Da Vinci Code The Da Vinci Code has been banned in Lebanon because church officials call it ofensive to Christians. "Catholic leaders called for the book to be withdrawn because of its depiction of Christ marrying Mary Magdalene and fathering a child. Shop owners said security officials had told them to pull French, English and Arabic copies off their shelves." BBC 09/16/04

Wednesday, September 15

Canada's Largest Bookstore Chain Wants To Rely Less On Books Indigo Books, Canada's largest bookstore owner, says its diversifying its store offerings, de-emphasizing books. "We imagine over the next three or four years that books, which are now 80 or 85 per cent of our offering, will evolve to be approximately 60 per cent of our offering, although the selection will still be as meaningful." Canada.com 09/15/04

How Peanuts Saved A Comics Classic Seattle comics publisher Fantagraphics has always had a lot of critical respect. But its finances were perilous. Indeed, its survival was just about a constant question. But then it "nailed down the multiyear rights to reprint, in its entirety and in chronological order, another newspaper classic: Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts. It's a blockbuster deal that guarantees Fantagraphics will actually be around for another 12 years. Until this spring, no one at the company was certain if it would be around another 12 weeks." Seattle Weekly 09/15/04

The Radical Librarians US librarians are getting radical in their fight against the USA Patriot Act. "What got many librarians' dander up was Section 215 of the law, which stipulates that government prosecutors and FBI agents can seek permission from a secret court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to access personal records -- everything from medical histories to reading habits. They don't need a subpoena. In fact, they don't need to show that a crime has even been committed. And librarians, stymied by a gag order, are forbidden to tell anyone (except a lawyer)." Wired 09/15/04

Tuesday, September 14

Blume To Get National Book Award Children's book writer Judy Blume known for candid tales such as "Deenie" and "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret," has been named this year's winner of an honorary National Book Award for contributions to American letters. Yahoo! (AP) 09/14/04

Sunday, September 12

Scholarship By Committee? When a Harvard scholar was recently accused of lifting several paragraphs of his new book from another author, he resorted to a now-familiar defense: it was his "research assistants" who had been sloppy and allowed the unattributed quotations. But that type of buck-passing infuriates some scholars, who are loudly questioning whether works written with the aid of multiple student researchers actually qualify as scholarship at all. "We're not talking about razor blades or soap. We're talking about creative endeavors. A book that bears a name is widely presumed to be written by that author." Boston Globe 09/11/04

Thursday, September 9

How The Internet Saved Bookstores It wasn't too long ago that many were predicting that the internet would kill bookstores. "The internet was supposed to bid farewell to the need for buying books in shops. When the dotcom bubble was at its peak, web gurus claimed sites such as Amazon would undercut and undermine traditional bookstores, and that ebooks would eventually do away with "dead tree" media altogether. But what no one saw coming was that the internet would, in fact, provide a lifeline for possibly the least fashionable and most technologically backward part of the marketplace: old books." The Guardian (UK) 09/09/04

Wednesday, September 8

Lawsuit Shakes American Pen Women A bitter lawsuit has roiled the National League of American Pen Women in Washington DC. "A lawsuit between two factions in the organization alleges financial misdeeds, abuses of authority, libel and fraud. The vitriol between the opposing sides is at odds with the 4,000-member group's refined image and has disgusted many in its 176 local chapters." The New York Times 09/09/04

Bookstore Giant Grows A Publisher In the past year, bookstore giant Barnes & Noble has grown a significant publishing business of its own. This has made some publishers nervous, but the company says not to worry. "I take issue with the opinion that we are taking sales away from other publishers. This is just part of a long continuum of simply getting better at what we're doing." The New York Times 09/09/04

NEA Reading Report Is Misleading? The recent NEA report on the decline of reading in America is a flawed document, writes Paul Collins. Its methodology isn't clear, and the premise - that people aren't reading literature any more reveals a narrow perspective and misleading... Village Voice 09/07/04

First-Time Author Vs. The Publishing Machine (Is This How It Works?) A writer spends a couple of years researching and writing a long book, only to be apalled by the process of getting it to print. Where's the editing? The support? The promotion? Is this really the state of book publishing in the early 21st Century? Columbia Journalism Review 09/04

  • Teachout To First-Time Author: Get Real Terry Teachout is a self-described "cynical old author with several books under his belt" and is amused by a first-time author's expectations of how the publishing business works. Here's "a more realistic perspective" on the way things work. About Last Night (AJBlogs) 09/08/04

Future Shock - Sci-Fi Goes Soft The world of science fiction is in crisis. Declining sales and a lack of creativity has fans of the form concerned. "It's not just an issue of whether or not the golden age of sci-fi faded with the passing of proponents such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, compounded by the fact that Ray Bradbury's only recent contribution has been to complain that Michael Moore appropriated the title of his classic book Fahrenheit 411 for his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/08/04

Tuesday, September 7

Another Who-Was-Shakespeare Book "The life and works of a man whose life is so plain and whose works are so fancy produces the kind of book that belongs less to a scholarly genre than to a performing genre, a hoop for a scholar to jump through when he no longer has anything to prove, as Lear is a role for an actor to jump through when he has done all the others. To the long run of such life-and-works books, the Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt now offers his own reading." The New Yorker 09/06/04

Monday, September 6

A Violent New "Alice In Wonderland" A new version of Alice in Wonderland, by Frank Beddor, has inflamed critics for its violent and bizarre retelling. "Mr Beddor, who produced gross-out movie There's Something About Mary, and is a former world champion skier, has transplanted Alice into a modern and violent fantasy world that could have come straight out of a computer game." But he defends the story: "Kids are used to a more violent and real world now - video games and movies are dominating, and hopefully they will love this book." BBC 09/06/04

Sunday, September 5

Handicapping The Booker "Even when it comes to inexact sciences -- beauty pageants, presidential elections -- creating odds for the Booker Prize is screwier than most." In fact, the most well-known handicappers for the UK-based literary award freely admit that they don't even read the books before setting the odds, a neat trick which allows them to post odds mere moments after the shortlist is announced. Betting on one of the world's most infamously persnickety book prizes may seem like a losing proposition anyway, but it hasn't stopped the gambling-happy Britons from making it a popular pasttime. The Globe & Mail (Britain) 09/04/04

How To Spend $100 Million The Chicago-based Poetry Foundation has finally announced a plan for how it will spend the $100 million bequest which was dropped in its lap two years ago by pharmaceutical heiress Ruth Lilly. The foundation's new initiatives will include a national study to determine current public attitudes towards poetry, an "online, electronic anthology of poetry, available to the public at no cost," and the creation of two new annual cash prizes recognizing overlooked poets and humor in verse. Chicago Tribune 09/05/04

Weimar Fire Claims Tens Of Thousands Of Books The raging fire that broke out Thursday at the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany, has destroyed as many as 30,000 irreplacable books. The damage is estimated to be in the millions of dollars, and the German culture minister has pledged that public money will play a major role in restoring the surviving books and the library building itself. The New York Times 09/04/04

  • Previously: Fire Damages Famous German Library A fire ravaged one of Germany's most famous libraries thursday - Weimar's Duchess Anna Amalia Library. "The library was opened in 1691 and housed the world's largest collection of Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who had lived in Weimer." BBC 09/03/04
Friday, September 3

Fire Damages Famous German Library A fire ravaged one of Germany's most famous libraries thursday - Weimar's Duchess Anna Amalia Library. "The library was opened in 1691 and housed the world's largest collection of Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who had lived in Weimer." BBC 09/03/04

Thursday, September 2

The Next JK Rowling? British author Michelle Paver wrote her novel Wolf Brother in 1982 and it sat on a shelf for years. So she rewrote it as a children's book, and sold the publishing rights internationally for a $US 5 million advance - the highest ever paid for a debut British children's book. "The book, which went on sale on Thursday, generated record-breaking interest in publishing houses around the world." Sydney Morning Herald 09/03/04

Conservative Authors Say Big Publishers Shut Them Out Sure, conservative books -- including "Unfit for Command," this week's No. 1 nonfiction title -- have lately occupied a hefty percentage of the best-seller list. But at a Manhattan forum this week, right-wing authors said they were feeling marginalized. "Alleging a sort of liberal conspiracy to keep conservative authors from getting their books to the reading public, conservative authors said they had been forced to turn to scrappy, little-known alternative publishers." The New York Times 09/02/2004


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