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Friday, September 30

Anonymous Five The lack of any marquee names on this year's shortlist for the Giller Prize could be seen as a PR misstep, especially since the CBC lockout virtually guarantees that the award will not be televised for the first time in recent memory. But where there are no superstars, everyone becomes a frontrunner, and the unusual shortlist could also be a unique opportunity for fresh new literary voices to emerge from the vast sea of Canadian literature. Toronto Star 09/29/05

Thursday, September 29

And Just In Time For The Movie Release, Too! Random House has announced that Truman Capote's long-lost first novel will be published next month. The manuscript for Summer Crossing, which Capote wrote beginning in 1943, was found in 2004 in a box of the author's papers put up for auction. "Set in New York just after World War II, Summer Crossing is the story of a young lighthearted socialite, Grady McNeil, whose parents leave her alone in their Manhattan penthouse for the summer while they travel to France to check on their war-torn villa." The Age (Reuters) 09/30/05

Giller Shortlist Released Canada's Giller Prize, which awards $40,000 for the best homegrown novel, got new life this month when a major bank stepped up to sponsor the competition. Now, the five-author shortlist has been released, and there are a few surprises. Well-reviewed author Joseph Boyden was left off, and some of the finalists are not terribly well-known. But now the prognosticating can begin, and nearly 100 libraries across Canada will be participating in a "Guess the Giller" contest over the next several weeks. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/29/05

Wednesday, September 28

Internet Sales Dominate Used-Books Trade "In barely a decade, online booksellers have grown to account for two-thirds of the market for general-interest used books, a trend that calls into question the future of brick-and-mortar stores devoted to used books, according to a study financed by the publishing industry and released yesterday." The New York Times 09/29/05

America's Banned Book Week, 2005 Edition "Three of the most challenged books of 2004 - King and King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky, and Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - have been criticised for their homosexual themes. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, meanwhile, has attracted complaints for its alleged depictions of racism and sexism and its use of violent language." BBC 09/28/05

Tuesday, September 27

Your Name Here Nineteen bidders raised $90,000 "by paying for the right to be named a character — or a place or thing — in works by such authors as John Grisham, Stephen King, Amy Tan and Lemony Snicket." The money goes to charity. Yahoo! (AP) 09/27/05

Debating Google Print Some publishers are complaining that Google's print project violates their copyrights. But Google believes it has enough restrictions on searches that copyright is not in danger. "Under Google's strictures, readers can see just five pages at a time of publisher-submitted titles -- and no more than 20 percent of an entire book through multiple searches. For books in the public domain, they can read the entire book online. Not all publishers are opposed." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (AP) 09/27/05

Monday, September 26

Tilting At Windmills - Quixote's Enduring Popularity "Some writers achieve great popularity and then disappear forever. The bestseller lists of the past fifty years are, with a few lively exceptions, a somber graveyard of dead books. Yet permanence is not a wilful proposition. No one can write a book aspiring to immortality, for it would then court both ridicule and certain mortality." And yet, "Don Quixote was a big bestseller when it first appeared in 1605, and has continued to sell ever since." Sign & Sight 09/13/05

Hard Times For Russian Literature "Publishing experts admit Russian literature is in a state of crisis and up-and-coming authors have been reduced to asking would-be readers to pay for books in advance in order to make sure they get published. The crisis in Russian publishing has seen the country's own authors squeezed while publishing companies rely on cheap-and-cheerful detective and war novels and translations of foreign books." Scotland On Sunday 09/25/05

A Challenge To France's Mental Health A new book says French psychologists have it all wrong. "The Livre Noir de la Psychanalyse (The Black Book of Psychoanalysis) claims French mind-healers have become 'fossilised' in the 'marginal, discredited' teachings of Sigmund Freud. The practitioners have been saved from total disgrace, claims the book, only by the complicity of the French Foreign Minister. But France's 6,000 psychoanalysts question the book's motivation, claiming that its authors advocate cut-price American-style therapies, of the kind that involve locking up arachnophobes with spiders." The Observer (UK) 09/25/05

Banned In America - Books That Get Noticed "Since 1991, the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom has compiled an annual list of books that librarians, teachers or others report have been challenged; there were 547 challenges in 2004, up 25 percent from 2003. This wave started with the religious right around 1980. And it's contagious. It has spread, so that anybody, including the liberal left, can say, 'I don't want my kid to read that book, therefore I don't want that book around for any kid to read.' " The New York Times 09/26/05

Sunday, September 25

Petitioning For Library Privacy More than 200,000 petitions have been gathered to repeal the section of the Patriot Act that pertains to libraries. "The Campaign for Reader Privacy has been collecting petitions at libraries and bookstores since March 2004. It gathered 100,000 last year. Supporters are the Association of American Publishers, the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association and PEN American Center. There's more urgency this year because of the law's expiration date." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/25/05

The Language Of Global Warming (Where Is It?) "Where is the literature of climate change? Where is the creative response to what Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, has famously described as "the most severe problem faced by the world"? Cultural absences are always more difficult to document than cultural outpourings. But the deficiency of a creative response to climate change is increasingly visible. It becomes unignorable if we contrast it with the abundance of literature produced in response to the other great eschatological crisis of the past half-century - the nuclear threat." The Guardian (UK) 09/24/05

Friday, September 23

What Sells? Celebs... Circulation for celebrity magazines is soaring. "Over the past year, Us Weekly and its competitors have soared in popularity even as the circulations of newspapers, business weeklies and practically every other print publication have been falling. The September cover of Conde Nast Publications Inc.'s Vanity Fair, featuring an exclusive interview with a tearful Aniston, was its highest selling issue ever. With Americans confronting grim news every day about war and natural disasters, "celebrities have become a sort of national distraction. They are hired entertainers, and the public demands to be entertained almost constantly. Washington Post 09/23/05

Google Legal Woes Slow Books Project Google has wandered into a mess of copyright traps with its attempts to make books searchable. "The legal action comes as yet another setback to Google's goal of serving as a clearinghouse of a wide range of global information, legal scholars say. In addition to its publishing woes, Google has also drawn the ire of TV networks for its Google Video, which records and stores TV programs." BusinessWeek 09/23/05

Thursday, September 22

Oprah Books Back To The Present After two years of reading classics, Oprah's Book Club is going contemporary again. Oprah has chosen James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" It "was No. 1 on Amazon.com as of Thursday night. "I wanted to open the door and broaden the field. That allows me the opportunity to do what I like to do most, which is sit and talk to authors about their work. It's kind of hard to do that when they're dead." The New York Times 09/22/05

Harry Passes 11 Million Mark The sixth installment of the Harry Potter franchise has sold more than 11 million copies. "Published nine weeks ago, the American edition of the book sold 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours." BBC 09/22/05

ScotiaBank To Bail Out Giller Prize "The Bank of Nova Scotia is preparing to unveil itself as the financial saviour of the Giller Prize, cementing Bay Street's growing reputation as the deep-pocketed patron of the national arts community... The prize pays $25,000 to the best novel or collection of short stories written in English, but the cost of staging the extravagant black-tie event is said to be several times that amount." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/22/05

Are Copyright Hawks Shooting Themselves In The Foot? Google has been sued by two authors over its plans to create a searchable archive of academic libraries, and the editors at Wired say that the lawsuit represents a short-sighted attempt to stifle a worthy program. "There are fundamental differences between copying analog works into a digital format for the purposes of piracy, and copying the same works to create a service that conforms to copyright laws in making that data available to the public. What happens on the backend should be of little or no interest to copyright holders, so long as rights are respected on the front end, where control over a work really counts." Wired 09/22/05

Blogging For A Living? Can you actually earn a reasonable income from your blog? That'd be news to ArtsJournal's bloggers, but according to some in the blog biz, ad revenue for high-traffic blogs has been going up steadily, and some bloggers are even getting paid directly for their work. "On average, Weblog salaries are about a quarter to half what a mid-level editorial job would pay, without the daily office commute... What do you have to do to earn $500? Publish 125 entries a month, monitor comments, respond to readers and delete offensive comments -- all for about $4 a post." Wired 09/22/05

Wednesday, September 21

Won't You Please Take This Book? Ian McEwan goes for a stroll in London trying to give away books. "We moved through the lunchtime office crowds picnicking on the grass. In less than five minutes we gave away 30 novels. Every young woman we approached - in central London practically everyone seems young - was eager and grateful to take a book. Some riffled through the pile murmuring, 'Read that, read that, read that ...' before making a choice. Others asked for two, or even three. The guys were a different proposition. They frowned in suspicion, or distaste. When they were assured they would not have to part with their money, they still could not be persuaded. 'Nah, nah. Not for me. Thanks mate, but no.' Only one sensitive male soul was tempted." The Guardian (UK) 09/21/05

Eliot Letters Net Thousands "A collection of letters written by poet T.S. Eliot to a beloved godson sold at auction Tuesday for $82,300, auctioneer Bonhams said. The series of 50 letters to Thomas Faber, a member of the Faber and Faber publishing family, includes poems and illustrations that formed the basis of Eliot's 1939 children's book, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, which was dedicated to Faber." The amount of the sale was nearly double the estimated value of the collection. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 09/21/05

Venice Gets The Berendt Treatment John Berendt, the popular and controversial author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, has a new book out focusing on the fire that destroyed Venice's Fenice Opera House in 1996, and like his earlier blockbuster, it purports to be a work of nonfiction that reads like a novel. Berendt admitted in an author's note that some of the events of Midnight were made up or reordered for "storytelling effect," an admission which may have cost him the Pulitzer Prize. And, while he insists that he hasn't done the same with the new book, there's little question that Berendt's work, while undeniably engaging to read, treads that uncomfortable line between reportorial fact and factually inspired fiction. The New York Times 09/21/05

Tuesday, September 20

Mailer, Ferlinghetti Honored By National Book Foundation Norman Mailer has been chosen to receive the 2005 medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet, publisher and bookseller at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco gets the foundation's first Literarian Award. The New York Times 09/21/05

Authors Sue Google Over Book Copying The 8000-member Authors Guild has sued Google to block it from copying books in big libraries. "The lawsuit asked the court to block Google from copying the books so the authors would not suffer irreparable harm by being deprived of the right to control reproduction of their works. It sought class-action status on behalf of anyone or any entity with a copyright to a literary work at the University of Michigan library." BusinessWeek 09/20/05

Monday, September 19

Find A Book, Leave A Book Bookcrossing is founded on the idea of registering a book, then leaving it somewhere in public for someone else to find and read. The group now has 400,000 participants in 120 countries. "The founders of BookCrossing.com compare their online book club to a virus, one that has reached far-flung places carried by members who heed the philosophy: if you love a book, set it free. One selling point is that it costs nothing to join. Members include literature buffs determined to share their passion or thin out their shelves and travelers who simply love a good book — although here the books do most of the traveling." Yahoo! (AP) 09/19/05

Mr. Big: The Man Who Buys For Waterstone's Scott Pack buys books for Waterstone's, which means he has a lot of power over what people in the UK will read. He is "keen to suggest, of course, that he does not have anything like the power that publishers and authors ascribe to him, that he is simply one more filter for the ridiculous volume of books that are published. All he does really, he says, is decide which books Waterstone's will promote, which ones will make it on to the coveted tables that greet customers as they walk into the shops. He thinks it fair enough that publishers should fork out to have their books included in these promotions and, stubbornly, does not see how this policy might favour the big corporate publishers who can afford to pay over the odds." The Guardian (UK) 09/17/05

French Fiction On The Decline Has the quality of French writing declined? "This month, 633 titles will be published in French, in a ritual known as la rentrée littéraire, a publishing blitz that the reading public finds increasingly bewildering. This year's list is double the length of that six years ago, and many titles end up unsold in the stockroom. Some hard questions are now being raised. How many of these novels are really worth reading? And why are so few of these authors known outside France? Even francophiles in the English-speaking world find it hard to list many contemporary French novelists." The Economist 09/17/05

Sunday, September 18

New Orleans As A Literary Character Setting a book in any city helps define the story. But New Orleans isn't just any city; the city is a powerful character. "Gertrude Stein famously complained that when it came to Oakland, Calif., there was no "there" there. New Orleans, conversely, could be accused of having too much "there" there: It's a city stuffed with ambience, bursting at the scenes with color and flavor and sound." Chicago Tribune 09/17/05

Thursday, September 15

Meet The New Paris Review Nearly everything about the rickety old Paris Review has been brushed off and upgraded to a shiny new standard as part of a summer-long restructuring led by Philip Gourevitch that makes the new Review seem practically … corporate. The new issue is larger than the old one, slim and elegant and more magazine-like, printed on buttery paper. Rather than featuring graphic artwork, the cover displays a sepia-toned photograph of a solemn little child in galoshes—the adorably plump Salman Rushdie as a boy in Bombay, looking serious beyond his years and cute enough to eat." New York Observer 09/15/05

A Famous DC Literary Bookstore Vies To Be Non-Profit Washington DC's literary bookstore Chapters is 20 years old. But to make it to 21, the store is attempting a radical reinvention. "Without help -- in the form of a fundraising drive that will allow it to be bought out by a nonprofit foundation -- the bookstore may have trouble making it to 21. The strategy is similar to that employed by the Avalon Theatre Project, which succeeded two years ago in reopening Washington's oldest surviving movie house by converting it to nonprofit status." Washington Post 09/15/05

Wednesday, September 14

Couldn't We Use An Ode To Cricket? England has won the cricket championship. But where is the cricket literature? "I cannot think of any fictional depiction of cricket - and, even as I write this sentence, I expect to be contradicted - that goes any way towards capturing the heroism, the beauty, the sheer glory that cricket is capable of conjuring in a series like the one we have just witnessed. English cricket writing is too busy observing the social niceties and oddities of the game at a local level - where it is heavenly but not always inspiring - to raise its eyes to higher things. In this it is entirely different from American literature's treatment of baseball." The Telegraph (UK) 09/14/05

Bloomsbury Trolls For US Aquisition English publisher Bloomsbury wants to buy its way into the US market, and its fortune built on Harry Potter should make it happen. "The publisher will have an estimated cash pile of £50m by the end of the year as it reaps the benefit of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book in the teenage wizard saga. A US children's publisher with a weighty back catalogue is a priority target but the group admitted yesterday that many potential acquisitions were demanding too high a price." The Guardian (UK) 09/14/05

A Case For Zadie Stephen Metcalf appeals to the Booker jury on behalf of Zadie Smith's "On Beauty." "It is written by an exquisite writer, who has mistaken her admirable pooh-poohing of a lot of foolish publicity for a free pass to get by as an overcelebrated mediocrity. Therefore, Dear Committee, I plead with you to assist in removing the cameras and quote-mongers from Zadie Smith's life and help prevent her from blowing up into an even larger global literary darling, prone to even more gratuitous Hamlet-like maunderings, and let the woman... develop into her appointed greatness." Slate 09/13/05

Tuesday, September 13

Get Ready For The Insta-New Orleans Books They're on the way, with authors and publishers hard at work... Publishers Weekly 09/13/05

Dumbing Down The Classics? Publishers realize there are plenty of books out there that everyone knows but few have read. Is it because they're too hard? So publishers are putting out "new editions of some of the great, often unread, works with a fresh emphasis on 'accessibility'. Some may call it dumbing down. The books will be, well, simpler. One of the first to receive the treatment is Tolstoy's War and Peace, republished this month by Penguin in a new, reader-friendly translation." The Guardian (UK) 09/13/05

Monday, September 12

The Disappearing Used-Bookstores "Nearly all of the secondhand bookstores in the vicinity of Harvard University are gone. Some have relocated or become online booksellers. Others are simply out of business. Either way, the decline of secondhand bookstores represents a sad diminishment of the academic community in Cambridge, Mass., and many other university towns." Chronicle of Higher Education 09/12/05

Leading Poet On Trial In India For Insulting Goddess A leading Bengali poet has been ordered to stand trial for insulting a Hindi goddess. "In an article in Bengal's biggest newspaper this year, Sunil Gangopadhyay was quoted as saying he was "sexually aroused" by an idol of Saraswati. Retired policeman Bhibhuti Bhusan Nandy filed a lawsuit saying the comments had hurt his religious sentiments." BBC 09/12/05

Sunday, September 11

Why Hollywood Reads Hollywood loves books. Always has. "Hollywood is essentially a story maw; it gobbles up narrative from any source -- comic books have been big of late, '70s TV shows have become a staple, before that magazine articles, plays, myths, legends, songs even, all had their run as big source material. But the book, the novel particularly, has been a font of movies for seemingly ever." Washington Post 09/11/05

Is This Thompson's Suicide Note? Rolling Stone magazine has published what it says is Hunter S. Thompson's suicide note. "The scrawled words -- perhaps the last he ever committed to paper -- were written on February 16, four days before the self-described "gonzo" journalist shot himself to death at his secluded home near Aspen, Colorado, the magazine said. Yahoo! (Reuters) 09/10/05

Friday, September 9

Chicago Reading Project Goes Retro Chicago's citywide group-read project, known as "One Book, One Chicago", is four years old, and this fall, the city's mayor has decided that it's time for Chicagoans to expand their literary horizons across the Atlantic. The new selection is Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, and several academic and theatrical institutions around the city will be hosting events, lectures, and performances based on the book. As usual, Chicago booksellers and libraries were tipped off about the selection ahead of time, so as to be sure that plenty of copies will be available. Chicago Sun-Times 09/09/05

At Least She's Not Sucking Up To The Judges One of the novelists shortlisted for the Booker Prize obviously isn't running for Miss Congeniality. Zadie Smith, whose latest book, On Beauty, made the shortlist, has described England, where she lives (and where the Booker is based) as being filled with "stupidity" and "vulgarity." London, in particular, is "a disgusting place," according to Smith. On the other hand, Smith doesn't cut herself or her colleagues any slack, either: in the same interview, she described novel-writing as "quite stupid work." BBC 09/09/05

Thursday, September 8

Today's Students Eschew Books For Internet College libraries are finding that students are abandoning libraries. "Today’s students can go through a semester, or even a year, without ever wandering into the stacks or opening a hardbound volume, and that’s a reality more and more librarians are recognizing. That circulation is down shows students aren’t simply using the Internet to check things out in digital form, but using it in lieu of checking things out at all." Bookstandard 09/07/05

Surprise - You're Not On The Booker List Some of the UK's biggest heavyweight writers have failed to make this year's Booker list. "Ian McEwan's tale of an extraordinary day in the life of brain surgeon Henry Perowne, has widely been seen as a shoo-in for the shortlist from the date of its publication. And he was joint favourite with Julian Barnes at the longlist stage to take home the gong for the second time. Instead, he has become the shortlist's most high-profile casualty - although with previous winners Salman Rushdie and JM Coetzee also failing to make the cut, he is in very good company." The Guardian (UK) 09/08/05

Wednesday, September 7

The Ultimate Outsider Offers A Glimpse Inside With the possible exception of Harper Lee, America may not have a more reclusive living author than S.E. Hinton, whose novel, The Outsiders, brought gangs, violence, and disaffected youth into the front of the country's consciousness in 1967. Intrepid readers could discern from various sources that the author is a woman, that she was only 17 when The Outsiders was published, and that she lives in Tulsa, but little more than that. Now, for the first time, Susan Eloise Hinton is breaking her decades-long public silence to participate in the rollout of a new recut version of Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of the book. The New York Times 09/07/05

Tuesday, September 6

The Highly profitable Jane Austen Industry "Jane Austen's peerless depictions of Regency England still chime with audiences across the globe. But in 2005 she is also a brand, perhaps the most profitable literary brand. Her stock is certain to rise again in the coming weeks as the new Hollywood version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, hits cinemas in the UK. The UK's multi-million pound Austen industry is gearing itself up for a busy autumn." The Guardian (UK) 09/05/05

Critics Circulate Embarrassing Recording To Get Back At Author French author Michel Houellebecq tired to head off potential bad reviews by witholding copies of his new book from some of France's most eminent literary critics. The critics weren't too happy. "Now they appear to have struck back by circulating an embarrassing rap album featuring the tuneless voice of the controversial author in an apparent effort to dent his reputation as the bête noire of contemporary French writing." The Guardian (UK) 09/04/05

Monday, September 5

Do You Sudoku? (Everyone Else Is) The publishing craze sudoku is sweeping America. "Three weeks ago, no sudoku books were on USA Today's top 150 list. Now, there are six. In sudoku, the game is laid out in adjoining grids. Players must figure out which numbers to put in nine rows of nine boxes so that the numbers one through nine appear just once in each column, row and three-by-three square. The phenomenon originated in 1979, when one of the grids, titled 'number place,' was published in an American puzzle magazine." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (AP) 09/05/05

Sunday, September 4

Book Challenges At American Libraries Up The number of attempts to remove books from America's public libraries has jumped in the past year. "The number of books challenged last year jumped to 547, compared to 458 in 2003, with the library association estimating four to five unreported cases for each one documented. According to the ALA, a challenge is a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness." Yahoo! (AP) 09/04/05

Thursday, September 1

Podcasting Comes To Books The latest in books? Podcasting - or "podiobooks." "Are podcast books really anything more than a trendy version of audiobooks? Since podiobooks are delivered in easy and consumable 'chunks', much of the 'bookmarking' hassle has been taken away. The ease of consumption allows you to listen to many books at one time. And Podiobooks are also free from the technology hassles of downloadable complete audio books." The Guardian (UK) 09/02/05

Reclaiming Ray Bradbury "Now that Ray Bradbury has officially been accepted into the halls of Literature, can we lesser life forms please have him back? To these eyes, many of Bradbury's most garishly 'literary' achievements are his least impressive. When the McCarthyite gloom of Fahrenheit 451 fades, it's the pulpy, childlike terrors that stick." Slate 09/01/05

Publishers Cash In On Poker Some of the hottest-selling books around these days? Books on poker. "Publishers believe the national obsession with poker is growing, and they hope to cash in. What triggered the whole poker explosion was the world poker tour on TV in 2003." Yahoo! (USAT) 09/01/05

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