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Monday, July 31

Kerouac Manuscript To Be Published "It's literary legend: how Jack Kerouac wrote his breakthrough novel On the Road in a three-week frenzy of creativity in spring 1951, typing the story without paragraphs or page breaks onto a 36-metre scroll of nearly-translucent paper. In fact, he revised the book many times before it was published six years later, and while the scroll came to symbolise the spontaneity of the Beat Generation, the early, unedited version never reached the public. Now, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the novel's publication, the original, scroll-written version of On the Road will be published next year in book form for the first time." Sydney Morning Herald 07/29/06

The Trouble With Workshops Workshops are a popular activity among playwrights, a chance to learn about the craft from others who have achieved success in the field. But playwright Mark Ravenhill says that the whole concept seems more than a bit fraudulent. "There is the unspoken expectation that in two hours, to a group of complete strangers, I am going to deliver a fundamental insight into playwriting, if not all the fundamental insights into playwriting... Tell a workshop participant that there are no rules, that they need to discover what a play means to them and write something that is unique to their sense of the world, and you are likely to be faced with a sullen customer who feels they aren't getting their money's worth." The Guardian (UK) 07/31/06

Sunday, July 30

Three Years, 60 Million Copies, And One Movie Later ... "Simmered by three years of lawsuits, religious debates and conspiracy theories, brought to a boil in May by the Hollywood movie, the craze for all things 'Da Vinci Code' is finally fading, publishers and booksellers agree." Plain Dealer (Cleveland) (AP) 7/30/06

No Author Photo? Maybe There's No Author. Before James Frey and JT LeRoy, there was Vicki Johnson, who claimed to be the adoptive mother of a boy dying of AIDS. Too sick to meet anyone, ever, the boy nonetheless published an autobiography, sans author photo. Writer Armistead Maupin, who befriended the teen without ever actually laying eyes on him, was only one of Johnson's many celebrity dupes. New York Post 7/30/06

Using TV Talk To Sell Books (Not Just An Oprah Trick) Ever since Oprah Winfrey got interested in books, the American publishing industry has known that getting a title on Oprah's list is as good as buying a spot on the bestseller list. But Oprah isn't the only one who can sell books: meet Richard and Judy, the UK's favorite afternoon talk hosts, whose own televised book club is making major waves in Britain's publishing world. The New York Times 07/29/06

Thursday, July 27

Australia's Unique Solution To Illegal Copying An Australian cultural fund called Copyright Agency Limited has been quietly assisting writers and publishers in protecting their work and ideas for more than 20 years, and in this age of digital information access, its work is becoming ever more important. "With digital copying gradually being corralled along with photocopying, the agency's revenues have grown from $72 million in 2003-04 to $86 million in 2004-05 and more than $100 million in the past financial year. This will be distributed in roughly 5000 payments to its members." Sydney Morning Herald 07/28/06

Wednesday, July 26

Iran Bans Da Vinci Code The Da Vinci Code has been banned in Iran after complaints by Christians. "Eight previous editions of the Persian translation of Dan Brown's book will remain in the country's shops but no further versions can be produced. The Da Vinci Code has sold 40 million copies worldwide and was turned into a film, which was not released in Iran." BBC 07/26/06

Fewer Canadians Buying Magazines "Canadian periodicals continue to occupy only about 15 per cent of the rack space in any decent Canadian newsstand, with U.S. titles taking up most of the remaining 85 per cent. But in the past quarter-century, the total number of these titles purchased by Canadians has dropped by 30 per cent, while the average circulation per American title has been slashed in half, to 13,243 in 2005 from 26,303 in 1983." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/26/06

Tuesday, July 25

US Judge To Miami-Dade Library: Cuban Book Stays "A federal judge Monday temporarily barred the Miami-Dade County School District from removing a children's book on Cuba from school libraries. Last month, the Miami-Dade school board voted to remove the book from its elementary schools after a parent complained that its depiction of life in the communist nation was overly rosy." Yahoo! (AP) 07/25/06

Monday, July 24

Book TV Would Be Big Jerome Weeks thinks books could be big on TV. "Here's my pitch: a book (or arts) program with news reports, stories from the field and irreverent opinions. Think of it as The Daily Show on books. In fact, Jon Stewart already interviews authors a great deal, so it's not such a stretch to move the emphasis from politics to books. Do I really think this'll fly on cable? Or even on satellite radio? Well, Dan Rather tells me that Mark Cuban's hiring. HDNet can sure use some fresh programming." Dallas Morning News 07/24/06

Comics 101 Comics are increasingly attracting scholarly interest. "There's now an academic journal and a scholar's discussion list for those who study comics. While they didn't have exact numbers, scholars at Comic-Con estimated that hundreds of academics in the U.S. are specializing in comics." Wired 07/24/06

Sunday, July 23

Looking For A Piece Of The Hollywood Pie When a book becomes a hit movie, you'd figure that the publisher who got the whole thing started would come in for a healthy slice of the profits. You'd be wrong - they generally don't see a dime. "Galled by decades of this kind of equation, New York publishing houses have launched ventures intended to get a bigger piece of the Hollywood action. And who could blame them? Publishers hardly ever control the film rights to the books they put on the market." Toronto Star 07/22/06

Thursday, July 20

Publish-On-Demand Goes Mainstream "The print-on-demand business is gradually moving toward the center of the marketplace. What began as a way for publishers to reduce their inventory and stop wasting paper is becoming a tool for anyone who needs a bound document. Short-run presses can turn out books economically in small quantities or singly, and new software simplifies the process of designing a book." The New York Times 07/20/06

New Method Teaching Deaf Improves Literacy Rates "Advocates say a phonetically based technique called cued speech can improve literacy rates among deaf students even if not used primarily for speaking. They point out that the average 18-year-old deaf high school graduate reads on a third- or fourth-grade level. The system is gaining popularity with new research, a grass-roots movement and new funding aimed at improving reading scores under the federal No Child Left Behind Law." Yahoo! (AP) 07/20/06

The Pynchon Is Coming! As usual, the release of a new Thomas Pynchon book is shouded in mystery. "This much is known about the new book: It's called "Against the Day" and will be published by Penguin Press. It will run at least 900 pages and the author will not be going on a promotional tour." Yahoo! (AP) 07/20/06

Who's Blogging Now? A new survey of the online blogosphere, as it's come to be known, reveals that fully 8% of Internet users now keep a blog of some description, and that bloggers in general are "a mostly young, racially diverse group of people who have never been published anywhere else and who most often use cyberspace to talk about their personal lives." The New York Times 07/20/06

Wednesday, July 19

The New Pynchon? (Or A Hoax) "Last week, Amazon.com put up a page that listed Untitled Thomas Pynchon at a svelte 992 pages and bore a description purportedly written by the master himself. In fact, it purported quite well indeed and also rather charmingly, promising an archetypal Pynchonian buffet of settings, characters, and old tricks ("Characters stop what they're doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically.") Then the description just vanished from the page. Was this a hoax?" Slate 07/19/06

Will New Borders Chief Reinvent Bookseller's Brand? George L. Jones has been appointed new head of Borders. Jones helped turn Target develop its "bargain upscale aesthetic" and revived the Scooby-Doo character for Warner Brothers. And for Borders? Jones isn't saying yet, except to say he wants to better distinguish the chain from cmpetitor Barnes & Noble... The New York Times 07/19/06

Tuesday, July 18

NYer "Talk" Rejects Find A Home It's really difficult to get a piece published in the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town." "The section receives upwards of 100 pitches and submissions weekly, while only greenlighting about 10 unsolicited contributions per year." So one frustrated contributor-wannabe decided to build a website to publish rejected "Talk" pieces, in something he calls a tribute to the real thing... Village Voice 07/18/06

Book Sales Up In May "After falling for three consecutive months, bookstore sales rose 1.2% in May, to $1.11 billion." Publishers Weekly 07/18/06

New Poet Laureate To Bow At First Lady's Book Fest "The sixth annual Laura Bush National Book Festival Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C., will give new U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall his first public platform since he was named to the ceremonial post last month." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/18/06

Bad Writing After Good English, once thought to be the heart of humanities, is in a bad way. It has been "theorised" to destruction, writes John Sutherland. The Guardian (UK) 07/14/06

Sunday, July 16

Not Enough Good Fiction In Toronto? Toronto Life's last annual fiction issue has gone to press. Why no more? Not enough good writing to be found? "Spurred by the realization that Toronto had become one of the world's literary hot spots, the annual fiction issue was launched in 1997, and has received as many as 200 submissions annually. The magazine canvassed publishers, agents, members of the Writers' Union and others to gather a range of material. The idea was to find stories consistent with the mandate of the magazine, and for the first three years this proved feasible. But by the fourth year, the magazine was inviting submissions from across the country." And not finding them. Toronto Star 07/16/06

What's A Memoir Without Some Pain And Suffering? "Contemporary memoirs tend to be either convalescent or nostalgic in mood. Suffering produces meaning. Life is what happens to you, not what you do. Victim and hero are one. Hence the preponderance of memoirs having to do with mental illness, sexual and other violence, drug and alcohol addiction, bad parents and/or mad or missing loved ones." The New York Times 07/16/06

The Essence Of The Literary Magazine "Where indeed in the independent 'little' literary magazines does the pleasure lie? The exercise of judgment, the settling of scores, the advocacy or the pillorying of the new: each magazine has an area of rhetorical specialism, a politics, and advances or counters the interests of a movement or a generation. In the past three decades, which magazines have made a substantial mark, a difference, a contribution?" The Guardian (UK) 07/16/06

Friday, July 14

Canadian Bookstore Ban Of Harper's Results In Bestseller Last month Indigo, Canada's largest bookstore chain, decided to ban Harper's Magazine from its racks because of some of the magazine's content. But the controversy over the move helped make the June issue of Harper's a best-seller in canada, as readers flocked to other outlets to buy the magazine. Toronto Star 07/14/06

Thursday, July 13

Shakespeare - Sold For $5 Million A rare folio of complete Shakespeare has sold for $5 million. "London dealer Simon Finch Rare Books purchased the book — still in its original 17th-century calfskin binding — during a sale at Sotheby's. The book is one of about 40 complete copies known to exist and one of the few in private hands. Its value was estimated at between $4.6 million and 6.4 million." Yahoo! (AP) 07/13/06

Unknown Shelley Poem Surfaces A 200-year-old poem by Shelley had been found. "The 172-line poem was included in Shelley's pamphlet Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things, which was printed in Oxford in 1811. The political work was never published again and its existence has been doubted by some until now." BBC 07/13/06

But It's Educational Porn, Right? Student magazines used to trend either to the ultra-serious or the supremely satirical. But these days, there's a new campus publishing trend in the mix, and it's enough to make the boys at the Harvard Lampoon blush. Student-run sex magazines have been around for years, but never before have such erotic publications gained such legitimacy as they now have on college campuses across the U.S. Chicago Tribune 07/13/06

Paperback Boom Why would a book that sold only modestly when it first hit stores suddenly become a huge hit in paperback? The answer is complicated, but suffice to say that book clubs, word of mouth, and the influence of big-box retailers all have something to do with it. The New York Times 07/13/06

Wednesday, July 12

What Makes A Shakespeare Folio So Valuable? The earliest collected edition of Shakespeare's works is being sold at aucion and is expected to sell for between £2.5m and £3.5 million. "What makes a book so valuable? And why would even a multi-millionaire be prepared to pay such a sum? However ludicrous the prices fetched by paintings, you can see why a wealthy person or institution would be willing to stump up. There it is on the wall: beautiful, unique, luminous. But the First Folio is not aesthetically delectable. The print quality is not wonderful and there are many printing errors. It contains an artwork, the Martin Droeshout engraving that is our only certain likeness of the bard, but it is a cack-handed portraiture. And the book is not unique. It is not even rare." The Guardian (UK) 07/13/06

Who's The Voice Of A New Generation? "It's not an idle question. The novel is one of the most vital cultural resources we have--a private, potent means of sharing the unspeakableness of daily life with one another. So it's only natural to wonder who's taking care of the novel--who's taking up the torch and where exactly they're taking it. Or whether it has gone out. The novel is one of the platforms from which the voice of a generation speaks. And if you listen closely, you'll start to wonder if the current generation has a voice at all." Time 07/10/06

Tuesday, July 11

Writing Worse Than Before? It's an oft-repeated charge that students' writing is worse than it used to be. But is that provably true? InsideHigherEd 07/11/06

The Book Storage Problem Storing data for the future is getting more difficult, not less. To start, what form do you store books in? "We're talking of moving past gigabytes of information into terrabytes [a thousand gigabytes], into petabytes [a thousand terrabytes], and into exobytes [a thousand petabytes]. We need to install now an architecture into which you will be able to plug in whatever is the storage system of the day, in the future." The Guardian (UK) 07/11/06

Bad Writing, Truly Jim Guigli has won this year's San Jose State University bad writing competition with this passage: "Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean." Yahoo! (AP) 07/11/06

Monday, July 10

Meet Wales' New Poet Laureate Gwyn Thomas has been named Wales' second poet laureate. "Thomas stated his intention to use the role to raise the profile of his country's poets, saying that he hopes to draw attention to the poets of Wales and their work, and try to show that poetry is a unique medium to respond to the world in which we live." The Guardian (UK) 07/10/06

Historians To Appeal Da Vinci Code Case Two historians who lost their case charging Dan Brown with plagiarizing "The Da Vinci Code" have decided to appeal. "Random House, which won the copyright case earlier this year at the High Court in London, expressed disappointment at the decision by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh to appeal." Yahoo! (Reuters) 07/10/06

Sunday, July 9

The Family Business - Writing (Now If Only They Could Agree On What Happened) The seven brothers and sisters of the Minot family are all writers. "Taken together, their books constitute a kind of New England ‘Rashomon,’ divergent and sometimes conflicting accounts of their collective past. And while no one would want to read their novels as coded autobiography or reduce them to dispatches from the family front, the Minots themselves keep revisiting the subject of their childhood as if it were possible to rewrite life." The New York Times Magazine 07/09/06

Joyce Heirs Fight Hard For Copyright Retention "A lawsuit filed on June 16 by an American scholar alleges that Stephen Joyce, grandson of the writer James Joyce, along with estate trustee Sean Sweeney, improperly withheld access to materials and attempted to intimidate academics... In the struggle to define copyright as it applies to literary rights, web rights and the extent of time a work is withheld from public domain, the Joyce estate's fearsome vigilance stands out." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/08/06

Free eBook Downloads Are A Hit The publishing industry appears to be the latest corner of the arts world to discover that consumers will flock to almost anything given away for free. "That seems to be the lesson of the first few days of the World eBook Fair, a one-month experiment in free downloadable books produced by Illinois-based Project Gutenberg. The fair began Tuesday, and already more than 1.5 million books have been downloaded." Boston Globe 07/08/06

Thursday, July 6

University Presses Lag On Things Digital... University presses usually sell in small numbers, but that doesn't mean they don't want bigger audiences. So why aren't these presses taking more advantage of digital technology? InsideHigherEd 07/05/06

Not So Simple To Copy The World's Books Google wants to digitize the world's books. Publishers are balking. "The problem is that to compile the index Google uses for its search engine, it has to scan the entire book. Publishers claim this infringes copyright and want Google to ask permission for each book. The trouble is that only 20% or so of books are in print and because many titles are "orphaned" when publishers go out of business, finding out who to ask for permission could take years." The Guardian (UK) 07/06/06

See The Trailer, Buy The Book Movie trailers are effective at building hype for movies. So why not for books? "HarperCollins has produced close to a dozen trailers since early February. The motivation is 'to drive early word of mouth'. To that end, the publisher submits the videos to book bloggers, as well as sites like Google Video and YouTube.com." CBC 07/04/06

Wednesday, July 5

An Attempt To Save UK's Free Public Libraries Britain's free library service is an endangered species. "In the first six months of this year alone, 21 (1.4%) of the country's libraries have closed, five are due to close and 67 are under review for closure. So a plan to spruce up and make libraries semm more "exciting" has begun. "The idea was to make them more exciting and convenient for users as 'models of a future library service with reading at its heart'. The transformations - each costing £90,000 - are designed to turn them into national showcases demonstrating how catastrophic declines in book borrowing and visitor numbers could be reversed." The Guardian (UK) 07/06/06

Art To Help You Break The Law "Travelling Guide is written in the style of a guide-book, but is not intended for affluent Western tourists. It is a piece of controversial art which aims to 'subvert the language and purpose of the format', speaking directly to Romanian travellers and illegal immigrant workers, helping them through border controls, ports and stations into Western Europe. It contains instructions on acquiring forged identity papers, fake UK national insurance numbers, includes a bar chart grading the risk factor at each crossing point, instructions on breaking into shipping containers and safety tips." The Times (UK) 07/05/06

Authors Get Into The Audio Production Biz More and more authors are producing audio versions of their own books. Some are calling on celebrity friends to help out, producing versions with large casts... The New York Times 07/05/06

Monday, July 3

DC Bookstore Ends Era, Starts Another "Nominally a bookstore, for nearly 30 years Editorial El Mundo has purveyed so much more. There was a time when this corner was the gateway to an American life for generations of immigrants, the place in Washington where they metaphorically landed first. Editorial El Mundo was where they found help decoding the new land. It set an example for striving. Now the corner isn't so important." Washington Post 07/03/06

Blurb This, Mean That Nobody really believes those hyperbolic blurbs on the fronts of books, do they? And yet, perhaps there's a way to decipher the blurb code that can give some indication of what's in the pages? The Guardian (UK) 07/02/06

Sunday, July 2

Publishing On Your iPod "Fader magazine has made its entire summer music issue available for download on iTunes, in what it says is a publishing first. The full issue is free to download as a PDF file, which offers a digital copy of every page -- article and ads -- in the magazine. It's accompanied by a 47-minute podcast featuring music covered by the magazine. The leap off the page and into an area of the Web typically reserved for audio files is one considered natural by Fader, which has covered emerging music since 1998." Detroit Free Press (AP) 07/02/06

Samuel Beckett And His Strange Cult Of Personality "Beckett, who died in 1989, lived to see the full flowering of his fame, and the retiring Irishman was forced into a spotlight he had no desire to stand in. But what were the chances that this spotlight would shine on him in the first place? He was an obscure writer writing in a foreign language about obscure figures living in a very foreign world." Boston Globe 07/02/06

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