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MARCH 2000

  • DYNAMIC DUO: The lives of two of Britain's most revered writers, father and son Kingsley and Martin Amis, are due to cross paths in May with the release of the father's collected letters and the son's long-awaited autobiography. "To have Kingsley's chronic hatred of phonies, philistines, tight-fisted drinking companions, bullying officials, mouthy women, pompous barmen, and pretentious artists and have all his opinions raw, unconstrained by any shreds of tact, and his pungent stories about his peers unmediated by the filter of fiction, is a treat. To have the inside story on Martin Amis, the writer who has influenced more prose styles than any other in the last two decades, runs it a close second." The Independent 3/31/00

  • POTTER PANIC: The news that Chris Columbus has been chosen to direct the Harry Potter movies has some fans lamenting. "There's nothing in [Chris Columbus'] filmography that suggests to me that he has any understanding of the inner lives and imagination of children." Salon 03/30/00

    • Potter books banned from English religious school because they don't conform with Bible's teachings. CBC 03/30/00

  • BOOK SALES by chain stores were up 11 percent in 1999. Publishers' Weekly 03/30/00

  • REALLY AT RISK: Conventional wisdom has it that publishers are the ones most at risk in the e-book revolution. After all, why does a successful writer need an expensive publisher taking a cut, when the writer can take it to the net herself? But the Endangered Species List is longer than you think. Salon 03/29/00 

  • CULTURAL COLD WAR: A new book documents the CIA's "promotion of a non-Communist left" through lavish post-war funding of American intellectuals and artists. "The most disturbing revelations of the book are not so much what the CIA did as whom it persuaded-openly or under cover-to do the dirty work of propaganda." The roster includes some decidedly unusual suspects: Stephen Spender, Mark Rothko, Mary McCarthy, Dizzy Gillespie, Robert Lowell, Peter Matthiessen, and many others. "Such people were foot soldiers in a cultural cold war. For two decades they accepted grants, travel stipends, and commissions from a wide variety of CIA front organizations designed to win the hearts and minds of intellectuals tempted by 'neutralism.'"
    Chronicle of Higher Education 3/31/00

  • EDITORIAL SEX APPEAL: Salon and Slate, two of best political and cultural affairs sites on the Web, have had a healthy, erudite rivalry going for some time. But arguments turned personal in a recent volley of remarks between Salon editor, David Talbot, and Slate editor, Michael Kinsley. Talbot: "'Mike Kinsley, if you've ever seen him, is not the sexiest guy in the world, and that's reflected in his product.'" Kinsley (after calling Talbot's remarks "moronic"): "'How sexually appealing the editor of Salon finds the editor of Slate is of no practical interest to the editor of Slate -- or, presumably, to the editor of Salon. The trouble with `editor's sexiness' as a metric is that it is hard to quantify objectively.'" The Chicago Tribune 03/28/00

  • PULL UP A COUCH: Novelist Alain de Botton created a literary stir in 1997 with the release of his tongue-in-cheek philosophical musings in  "How Proust Can Change Your Life." Readers praised his invention of "a new genre: part self-help, part ethics primer, and part confessional." Now de Botton is back as host of a TV show in which guests are invited to share their personal problems - from broken hearts to road rage. Distilling 2,400 years of Western thought into an hour of advice, de Botton "seeks to show that Epicurus, Montaigne, and Schopenhauer have many sensible things to say to an anxious modern audience." Good luck! The Observer 03/19/00

  • E-LIVRE: The e-book is getting a lot of attention (and praise) at this week's Salon du livre in Paris. The prestigious exhibition - the creme de la creme of European publishing events - attracts over 220,000 visitors and 750 exhibitors. Wired 03/21/00

  • WELCOME BACK, RABBIT!: A decade after his creator proclaimed him dead, John Updike's beloved character Harry "Rabbit" Armstrong will return - sort of - in a new work this fall. "Rabbit Remembered," a novella to be published as part of the upcoming collection "Licks of Love," begins where "Rabbit at Rest" left off, exploring the world of friends and lovers "Rabbit" left behind. "I thought somebody might be curious what happened to the people who knew him," said Updike. CNN 3/21/00

  • "B" IS FOR BIO: As in Australia's National Biography Awards. This year's short list suggests that contemporary biographers have thrown out the old rulebooks on writing someone's life. Sydney Morning Herald 03/22/00

  • NOT JUST FOR LIT. MAJORS: Just when it seems modern literary standards are being dictated by Oprah, a thousand-year-old epic poem finds a surprising show of support. Seamus Heaney's Whitbread Prize-winning translation of "Beowulf" is climbing its way to the top of bestseller lists. "It's oddly fitting that "Beowulf" should go platinum. The poem describes a society utterly consumed with the idea of fame." Feed 0 3/20/00

  • IN "E" VITABLE: E-books are here to stay, no matter how much romantic gush you hear from the lovers of dead trees. Last week's Stephen King success was only the first salvo of the mass-market revolution. MSNBC (Washington Post) 03/21/00

  • IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING ABOUT THE FUTURE: "The print and hardcover market is drying up," says an e-book publisher. "The cost of production is out of sight; the big companies are circling the wagons. If your name isn't Stephen King, you don't get considered for print. With e-books, we still have to pay editors and artists, but we don't have to pay those print production costs." Hartford Courant 03/20/00

  • PEN/FAULKNER BOOK PRIZE NOMINEES: This year's five candidates are: Frederick Busch's "The Night Inspector," Ha Jin's "Waiting," Ken Kalfus' "PU-239 and Other Russian Fantasies," Elizabeth Strout's "Amy and Isabelle," and Lily Tuck's "SIAM Or The Woman Who Shot A Man." Chicago Tribune (Reuters) 03/20/00

  • I REGRET TO INFORM YOU... I'm sorry, but your recent rejections of my work have not been up to our standards. "We will not consider previously sent rejections. We want fresh, original work. Be creative. Have fun. Multiple rejections make us mad. Very mad." We are writers, after all. Salon 03/17/00

  • LITERARY E-VASION: "Authors and readers in censored countries are discovering ways around the Internet filters installed by their governments. They now can obtain information on topics that would never be available in their local bookstores, including religion, government and sexual topics considered taboo. And they can distribute their information to the masses through electronic publishing." Intellectual Capital 03/17/00

  • PITTER POTTER: American writer sues JK Rowling saying that Rowling stole ideas for "Harry Potter" from her 1984 book. BBC 03/17/00

  • DOWNLOAD HORROR: Stephen King's latest book was published on the web yesterday, but who could get it? The publisher's website was churning at 100 percent capacity all day, while all over America, many who tried to download the horror tome found their computers crashing. Boston Globe 03/15/00

  • NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS AWARD WINNERS are announced. The 650-member organization honors "works that are more scholarly, literary and often just more maverick than those recognized by the mainstream Pulitzer Prizes." Dallas Morning News 03/14/00

    • ALL CACHET/NO CASH: "It's not about us as book critics. We want to deliver the books that are best to our audience and that's what we did." The winners: "Jonathan Lethem for "Motherless Brooklyn," Henry Wiencek for "The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White," Jonathan Weiner for "Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior," Jorge Luis Borges for "Selected Non-Fictions," and Ruth Stone for "Ordinary Words." Washington Post 03/14/00

    • Awards like a North Beach coffee house, circa 1962. San Francisco Chronicle 03/14/00

  • CHILD'S PLAY: With children's books dominating a recent British poll of most-loved literature, one critic wonders if this means we're in a Golden Age for young fiction. London Telegraph 03/14/00

  • THOROUGHLY THOREAU: In the years following the publication of his proto-ecological gospel "Walden," Henry David Thoreau began a series of essays that looked much more like a biologist's field notebooks - filled with taxonomical lists and seasonal charts on flowerings and seed dispersal - than a philosophical treatise. New scholarship shows Thoreau's genius is ever-present in the notebooks, which reflect the "great American prose stylist's tart wit, flinty clarity, and aphoristic bite." The Atlantic 03/00

  • OUT OF PRINT? The venerable Canadian literary magazine "Books in Canada" is in precarious condition. Writers and editors haven't been paid, and top staff left. The publication's "slow burn raises intriguing questions about the value of literary institutions in the Internet era. For some, the 28-year-old magazine - a fixture of Canadian letters and sponsor of a once prestigious first novel award - seems to be worth more dead than alive. Toronto Globe and Mail 03/14/00 

  • RIDDLES AND ANSWERS: When Vladimir Nabokov's "Pale Fire" was published in 1962, reviewers wrote that it could be enjoyed at face value, but that it obviously hid many levels of complexity. Nabokov thought "the unravelling of a riddle is the purest and most basic act of the human mind." He probably would have enjoyed one of the most remarkable academic books of this season, Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery (Princeton) by Brian Boyd, an attempt to unravel the riddles Nabokov embedded in "Pale Fire." National Post (Canada) 03/14/00

  • FIRST E-BOOK CLUB for electronic books gets underway. Wired 03/14/00

  • OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY goes online. CBC 03/14/00

  • SO WHO NEEDS A PUBLISHER? Authors have been publishing their books on the internet for some time. But when Stephen King hits the web with his latest, bypassing the traditional book process, the publishing industry gets nervous. Washington Post 03/13/00 

  • BRITAIN'S FAVORITE AUTHOR: Beating out JK Rowling, it's Roald Dahl, he of Charlie's Chocolate Factory and the Giant Peach, in a poll for World Book Day. BBC 03/12/00. 

  • C'MON, ADMIT IT: Think you're well read? At a certain point, don't you despair of the sheer volume of everything out there that's worth reading? "Let's not pretend: when did you last read a book by any of the younger Russian novelists? You've read Victor Pelevin? Really? 'Chapaev i pustota,' or the translation, 'The Clay Machine-Gun'? Did you finish it? Did you understand it?" Really? The Guardian 03/10/00

  • JANE EYRE VERSION 6.0: Why do we feel the need to remake certain stories over and over? Is it because there are things in literature that are too troubling to be left alone? On the other hand, "converting books into movies always seemed silly to me, I think. I never understood what they were for other than to rid people of the pleasure or necessity of reading. I think, though, that the point is not to see a plot enacted or certain characters embodied by actors, but to explore the question of how something will play." New York Press 03/08/00

  • KING OF THE NET: Stephen King publishes his latest book exclusively on the internet. CBC 03/09/00

  • PAST LIVES: The best writing in Australia these days isn't coming from the country's novelists. "History, and Australian history especially, is being written in a new way by a new breed of historian, who not only tells us of the events, but who explores the events in terms of their moral qualities." Sydney Morning Herald 03/08/00

  • BOOKS ONLINE: Random House has put up its first complete book online. "Most publishers have realized they need to either post more content from the book or include extra content not in the book," said Greg Durham, director of online publishing initiatives for Random House. "The ante has been upped." Wired 03/08/00

  • BUDDY OR BULLY? Independent bookstore owners in Canada say superstore giant Chapters pushes them around ("we are absolutely unable to compete with a monolith"). Because Chapters controls distribution, the book you buy for $9.95 in the US costs you $16 in Canada. But Chapters says it is good for the Canadian book business: "We believe we will bring efficiencies to the book industry that will actually make publishers more profitable, rather than less profitable." CBC 03/08/00

  • LORD OF THE RIP-OFF: "Somehow in the post-World War era of popular literature, Generic Fantasy became the be-all and end-all escape device. It was so easy to write. No bothering with grounding your book in reality, with all its annoying demands. Just assume that everything in your book takes place in a "Secondary World", and you can write anything you want. *spark-online 03/00

  • DUBLIN PRIZE FINALISTS: Dublin Literary Award is the richest prize for literature in the world. This year's finalists: Dubliner Colum McCann, London's Nicola Barker, Jackie Kay, a Scottish writer, and Americans Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, Michael Cunningham and Alice McDermott. Prize this year is £80,000 for a work of fiction. The Independent 03/08/00

  • WRITERS WITHOUT BORDERS: Prominent writers from around the world to gather in Korea for conference on world literature. "Writers can no longer hide behind language, culture and national borders in a world that is increasingly interdependent, pluralistic and diversified." Korea Herald 03/06/00

  • CAN YOU BE SPECIFIC? Canadian inquiry into mega-store bookseller practices hears plenty of complaints from publishers but few specifics. CBC 03/05/00 

  • IGNORED? Why do authors on book tours skip going to Philadelphia? Philadelphia Inquirer 03/05/00

  • "MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA" has sold 4 million copies and been translated into 32 languages. Steven Spielberg is set to direct the movie version of the book. But Mineko Iwasaki, the source for much of the material in the books is unhappy. "Basically, what is written in Arthur Golden's book is false," says the retired geisha, in her first interview since the book was published in Japanese in November and she was able to read it. "He got it wrong." Washington Post 03/03/00

  • CANADIAN INQUIRY into the business practices of giant bookseller Chapters hears charges of "bullying tactics" used against independent booksellers. CBC 03/02/00

  • THE MARCO POLO OF BOOKS: In a pickup truck or car she wanders southern Africa, the lands south of the Zambezi River - Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola, Lesotho, Swaziland and, of course, South Africa. She buys books at each stop with cash or through barter, books that are indigenous to the land she's in, and then sells them to customers throughout the world. Her clientele includes collectors and governments and universities. "I have standing orders from a number of American universities," she said. "Yale says it will buy everything it can get that is published in Mozambique and Namibia." New York Times 03/02/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • MEETING OF MINDS:  David Talbot's Salon Magazine gave a first-class coming-out party last week to celebrate their arrival in the capital. The dynamic: out-of-towner meets the locals and each sizes up the other. "It was, as the organizers had intended, as if an issue of Salon had jumped off the web and the bylines had leapt to life. More heat than light, but provoking an intensity of concentration among the audience unusual in a capital more accustomed to droning speakers and one-sided think-tank snooze-fests familiar to the C-Span viewing public." The Idler 03/02/00 

    • "David Talbot loves to tout Salon as cutting-edge, risk-taking, and irreverent," writes Baltimore's City Paper, "but the panel discussion he hosted that evening was nothing more than four self-promoting pundits (Arianna Huffington, David Horowitz, Joe Conason, and Stanley Crouch) trotting out what sounded like outtakes from Crossfire." Baltimore City Paper 03/02/00

  • TURKISH BAN: The Turkish government confiscated all available copies of Jonathan Amesí novel The Extra Man last week, and will try both his translator, Fatih Ozguven, and his publisher in Istanbul, Iletisim, on charges that the book is "corrupt and harmful to the morality of Turkish readers," according to a fax Amesí international rights agent Rosalie Siegel received from Istanbul. The book had been out a few months, and had been submitted to government censors for approval before publishing, as is required in Turkey. New York Press 03/02/00

  • DRIBS AND DRABS: E-authors find that doling out their work a chapter or so at a time hooks readers. And publishers are beginning to make it lucrative for these new stars. Wired 02/29/00

  • BAD DHARMA: critics have accused Indian writers who write in English of peppering their works with Sanskrit to "exoticize the Indian landscape to signal their Indianness to the West." But does inclusion of these exoticizing elements disqualify their Indian authenticness? "Believe in your mashooq and you will be Indian, a good artist or an adequate one, local and global, soft as a rose petal, and as hard as thunder, not this, not that, and everything you need to be. You will be free." Boston Review 03/00


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