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MARCH 2001

Friday March 30

THE FAKE POETRY BENEFACTOR? A year ago reputed dot-com whiz Ravi Desai lit up the poetry world with his pledge to give $2 million to the University of Washington to support the study of poetry. But now, after a number of discrepancies in Desai's story, it's looking increasingly unlikely that the university will ever see the money. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 03/24/01

POETS-IN-TRAINING: Ride a train in Sicily this month and you'll be greeted with poetry. "Around 50 Italian poets - from famous names to up-and-coming authors - are climbing aboard to chat to unsuspecting passengers and read their works to what is in effect a captive audience in southern Italy." BBC 03/30/01

LOVE IT TO DEATH: Is National Poetry Month a bad idea? "National Poetry Month is about making poetry safe for readers by promoting examples of the art form at its most bland and its most morally 'positive.' The message is: Poetry is good for you. But, unfortunately, promoting poetry as if it were an 'easy listening' station just reinforces the idea that poetry is culturally irrelevant and has done a disservice not only to poetry deemed too controversial or difficult to promote but also to the poetry it puts forward in this way." University of Chicago Press 04/01

PROTO-HOLMES: A ghost story written 125 years ago by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he was an 18 years old will be published for the first time today. Scholars believe the story’s characters are precursors of Doyle’s most famous creations, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The Telegraph (London) 3/30/01

Thursday March 29

FOR POETRY, APRIL IS THE COOLEST MONTH: In spite of Eliot's line about the cruelest month - or perhaps because of it - April has been named National Poetry Month. It's not a bad idea, and might even generate some interest in what seems to be a deteriorating art form: more and more people writing it, fewer and fewer reading it. Publishers Weekly 03/26/01

DON'T MESS WITH HARRY: The author claiming JK Rowling ripped off key ideas for the popular Harry Potter books has quickly annoyed Rowling and her publisher with her claims - there is that expensive movie coming out, after all. So this week Rowling's publisher and movie producer filed a preemptive suit against Nancy Stouffer. But don't expect Stouffer to stage a quick retreat any time soon. Washington Post 03/28/01

THE WAR OF THE WINDS: A book titled The Wind Done Gone is ready for publication; it's a version of Gone With the Wind, told from the perspective of an ex-slave. The new book's publisher calls it fair comment "on a book that has taken on mythic status in American culture." The estate of Margaret Mitchell calls it copyright infringement, and is suing to block its publication. CNN (AP) 03/28/01

LOOKS SELL BOOKS: It’s old news that beauty sells - but it’s a hard truth to swallow for those in the book business, where what’s between the covers is supposed to matter more than whose face is on them. But to the chagrin of many, "whether a new author is seen as gorgeous or not - has become a key criterion in deciding whether a book gets the kind of marketing push that will give it a chance of selling." The Guardian (London) 3/38/01

SHAKESPEARE'S PROBLEM? WORDS: For half a century, Frank Kermode resisted the temptation to write a book about Shakespeare. But he finally gave in. "[M]ine would have to be an old-fashioned book, in that it would be as far as possible about the words; and further, I would not spend a lot of time talking about plays I thought 'not done in the best fashion' except to say, if I could, why I thought that to be the case; and even to say why I think that Shakespeare as he went on to his finest plays, increasingly and even exultantly skilful, cruel and powerful, was all the more likely to fall over his own feet, to obscure his meaning with his words." London Review 12/09/99

HOW TO MAKE A PROFIT PUBLISHING: British publisher Bloomsbury doubled its pre-tax profits last year. What helped was that Bloomsbury published Margaret Atwood's Booker-prize-winning novel The Blind Assassin. What really helped is that Bloomsbury publishes Harry Potter. The Guardian (London) 03/29/01

Wednesday March 28

LEARNING ABOUT BOOKS: Australia's book industry has mostly run its business by the seat of its pants. It's difficult to know who reads what and why. "However, under economic and technological pressure to perform better, that has begun to change. This year government- and industry-funded programs have begun to gather information on who reads books, who doesn't and why, and what sort of books we like best." Sydney Morning Herald 03/28/01

WE MADE A MISTAKE? Why would a publisher go to the expense of printing a book, sending it to critics, then ask for it back? Dennis Loy Johnson went looking for the answer... The Idler 03/27/01

EARLY THIS MORNING, IT WAS NUMBER 46: What do the Amazon book-sales figures mean? There's a big difference between number 16 and number 42,000, but maybe not quite as big as you'd think. Slate 03/26/01

WHY THE BOOK AND THE MOVIE ARE DIFFERENT: It's said that no decent person would want to see what goes into the making of sausage, or of laws. That may also be true of turning a book into a movie. "The business of selling books to Hollywood is straightforward in appearance only. Simmering below the surface is a reality far more byzantine, rife with moles and secret deals and clandestine alliances. Quite often, the book itself is secondary to the events surrounding it." Publishers Weekly 03/26/01

HIS AND HERS JURIES: The richest literary award in England - the £30,000 Orange Prize - is open to women only. Until this year, the judges also were women only. Now a second jury - all men - has been asked to rate the contenders as well. Are the women giving in? "It hadn't occurred to me at all that we are giving in to men. It doesn't matter what they come up with. It's the old story: we don't have to listen to them." Guardian (London) 03/27/01

THE ORIGINAL WOLFE: Thomas Wolfe's "Look Homeward Angel" began as a huge manuscript, which editor Maxwell Perkins helped trim into a novel. A new un-edited version finally shows what was cut. "Wolfe was a Mahler, who believed that 'a symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.' Perkins sought to transpose him into a Bruckner, homely, sublime, and unfailing in the magisterial flow of his logic." Boston Globe 03/27/01

Tuesday March 27

BAD TIME FOR BOOKS: Australian booksellers are in despair. "Many bookshops reported their worst year of trade ever last year, with sales commonly down 20 per cent after the introduction of the GST and the Olympics. Their problems are compounded by the economic slump, the continuing fall in the dollar and rise in paper costs. Now a new threat looms. Sydney Morning Herald 03/27/01

BOOK SAVIOUR? "All too often, a university-press book is published, sells through its printing in several years, and then goes out of stock, often indefinitely, despite the fact that some demand for it still exists." Enter print-on-demand. "Making use of the latest printing technology, numerous university presses -- Cambridge, Johns Hopkins, N.Y.U., Oxford, and Princeton, to name but a few -- are currently engaged in major initiatives to breathe new life into hundreds of books that have gone out of print or are in danger of going out of stock." Chronicle of Higher Education 03/20/01

  • SAVIOUR OF WHAT? "For many authors, the technology is a godsend, making their out-of-print books available for libraries and future generations of scholars and students. For others, however, the technology raises ethical and legal issues, some of which are so potentially serious that they can impede a professor's productivity." Chronicle of Higher Education 03/30/01

BEGGING FOR COMPETENCE: Canada's authors are on a roll, scooping up literature prize nominations all over. But "our authors are so fine, why can't our publishers and booksellers get it together?" National Post (Canada) 03/27/01

AUTHOR ANXIETY: "Writers may face anxiety at any stage of creation, as they move from feeling to thought, thought to page, page to publisher, but women 'freeze up earlier in the process.' Women are more likely to be anxious about the value of their ideas in the first place, while for men, the issue is how to deal with the competition." The New York Times 03/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)

OVERWHELMED IN LEIPZIG: Attendees at the Leipzig Book Fair are overwhelmed. "As the number of books increases to bewildering proportions, the spectrum of publishing houses is becoming increasingly streamlined. Even previously small market segments, such as audio books, have expanded to an extent which even specialists find overwhelming."  Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 03/26/01

Monday March 26

THE BORROWERS: "It is high time creative writers reclaimed their right to borrow from others, without shame. If we go back to pre-romantic times, the heinous crime known as plagiarism simply did not exist. There were many sins a writer could commit - bombast, bathos and prolixity - but borrowing was not one of them. Everyone picked and stole from everyone else and English literature was a patchwork quilt of cross-reference, allusion and misquotation, in short, exuberant word-play." The Observer (London) 03/25/01

THE RELUCTANT BIGWIG: "Who is Ann Godoff? At 30, the president of Random House was an aimless temp. At 40, she was quietly editing for the two biggest party boys in publishing. By 50, she'd beaten all comers to lead the most important imprint in the book business. How'd she do it? Well, she doesn't want to talk about it." New York Magazine 03/26/01

Sunday March 25

THE DEATH OF LIT CRIT: What, wonders Martin Amis, has happened to literary criticism? Answer: it democratized and died. "You can become famous without having any talent (by abasing yourself on some TV nerd-othon: a clear improvement on the older method of simply killing a celebrity and inheriting the aura). But you cannot become talented without having any talent. Therefore, talent must go." The Guardian (London) 03/24/01

Thursday March 22

GETTING PAID: This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that could have huge implications for publications that reproduce their print editions online. The plaintiffs contend that newspapers and magazines have no right to reproduce the work of freelancers online without compensating the authors. The defendants include The New York Times, Lexis/Nexis, and a host of other publishing giants. Wired 03/22/01

SELLING IT: As the publishing world continues to look to new technologies to boost sagging sales and reinvigorate the book-buying public, one company is relying on what has always made it a success: marketing, marketing, and more marketing. "Between 1995 and 1999, [Sourcebooks] notched a 542 percent increase in sales and was ranked last year 494th on Inc. magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the nation." Chicago Tribune 03/22/01

KEEPING THE HOMEFIRES BURNING: Chapters, Canada's answer to Barnes & Noble, has fallen on hard times recently, and the sales slump has panicked Canadian publishing houses. Now, the country's largest publisher is insisting that reports that it plans to slash the number of "homegrown" titles it puts out are false, despite recent reports to the contrary. National Post (Canada) 03/22/01

BEAT BLEAT ON THE BLOCK: Jack Kerouac composed his paean to American life, "On the Road," in a caffeine-and-drug-induced three-week typing binge, single-spaced on a 120-foot long scroll of hand-cut paper. He was fond of unrolling it to its full incredible length, so that friends could view the manuscript itself as a road to be travelled. The original scroll will be auctioned off this spring at Christie's in New York, an irony that will not escape any fan of the author's work. The New York Times 03/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A GERMAN BOOK OSCAR: "The German publishing world wanted a big-time spectacle, and so it invented a 'German Book Prize,' an award without prize money. Instead, this honor is intended to eclipse all the other 750 literature awards in Germany." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 03/22/01

Wednesday March 21

EMERGENCY AID: The Canadian government is giving $1.3 million to 22 publishers to help them out after financially-strapped bookseller Chapters returned a huge number of unsold books rather than pay for them. "Industry insiders estimate that Chapters has returned as many as 50 per cent of its books instead of paying publishers for the merchandise." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/20/01

LESSING WINS BRITAIN'S RICHEST BOOK PRIZE: At 81, Doris Lessing has been awarded the £30,000 David Cohen prize for a lifetime of excellence, "52 years after she arrived in Britain from Rhodesia, to be confronted by a media article announcing that the novel was dead as a literary form. But in her suitcase was a manuscript [The Grass Is Singing] which helped restore the novel to blazing life when it reached bookshops the following year, 1950." The Guardian (London) 03/21/01

CHECK-OUT COUNTER READING GETS DULL: Those breathy - or breathless - erotic tease lines are disappearing from the covers of women's magazines. The change is prompted more by demographics than by morality. "I think that beyond the 'ick' factor, there is a boredom factor. Once you've found out how to supersize your sex life four different ways, the fifth is not all that interesting." Inside 03/20/01

Tuesday March 20

THE FUTURE IS "E": "In five years, the consumer e-book market (according to figures from Accenture) could be roughly 10% of the $22 billion consumer book market - not counting print-on-demand, which could double the total. Major publishers, are casting their P&Ls aside... to invest in the e-book market, there is more than $100 million in investment by the major publishers into e-books and the digital infrastructure required to store and retrieve them." Publishers Weekly 03/19/01

ARE YOU READY TO DIE FOR NORMAN MAILER? "One does, in the course of a writing life, create a lot of hostility. I think I'd almost rather have it that way than have people say, ‘Oh, what a nice guy.' I think a healthy person should be able to die for a few ideas — and can feel well loved if a few are ready to go all the way for him or her." Poets & Writers 03/01

THE SUBTLE POLITICS OF SPELL-CHECK: "Suppose you type in Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Mao. Word 97 knows them all. Try Ghandi, however, and you get a red squiggle underneath. Good guys have no place in the modern cultural consciousness. Your computer knows baddies Lenin and Trotsky, but not peace lovers Lennon, McCartney, and Starr. It remembers Auschwitz but not Woodstock." Exquisite Corpse Issue #8

NAPSTER WAS JUST THE BEGINING: Many writers are asking to be paid extra when their published work goes into an electronic archive. "The case turns on the question of ownership. Changes that Congress made in the copyright laws ...made it clear that these writers still own their articles after publication, but that publishers could still include them in 'revised' versions of the newspaper. Now, do electronic archives qualify as a 'revision'?" The New York Times 03/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Monday March 19

SLUSH-BUSTER: Vanity press books haven't exactly improved just because digital technology makes them more viable. "Print-on-demand houses solicit clients online, then use the latest technology to crank out only enough books to meet existing orders—a run so small the book would sink in the mass market. An examination of randomly chosen Xlibris fiction titles reveals a catalog full of clichéd plots and terrible-to-middling writing, not to mention downright bizarre notions of the world." Village Voice 03/13/01

Friday March 16

COINCIDENCE OR PLAGIARISM? JK Rowling, the superstar author of the "Harry Potter" series, is under fire from a writer in Pennsylvania, who claims that her 1984 book was the inspiration for the blockbuster children's series. "Rah and the Muggles" does bear a striking similarity to Rowling's work in several ways, and even features a character called "Larry Potter." BBC 03/16/01

WHY DIDN'T WE THINK OF THIS BEFORE? Canada's Ruth Schwarz Children's Book Award is one of the country's most prestigious prizes for a category of literature that too often consists of trite teen romances and cheesy Nancy Drew knock-offs. Why is the award so coveted by authors and publishers? Well, for one thing, the judges are children themselves, and they know what they like. Ottawa Citizen 03/16/01

Thursday March 15

THE DILEMMA OF SCHOLARLY PUBLISHING: The prices of scholarly journals are rising exponentially, but payments to authors and referees are not. "When scholars and scientists realize how commercial interests have benefited from their labor, and how little say they have about the matter, they can't help but ask, 'Isn't there a better way?'" One possibility: do it yourself. Wired 03/15/01

RESCUING POETRY AND CALLIGRAPHY TOGETHER: Poetry books usually do not sell many copies anyway; the poetry of an obscure seventeenth-century Asian concubine, written in a nearly-indecipherable text, must have seemed like a particularly bad bet. But it's going into a third printing. "Ho's work really 'jumped from woodcut to digitization, skipping the whole Gutenberg process,' said John Balaban, the North Carolina poet who translated her folk poems and helped oversee their presentation in the strikingly designed book." The New York Times 03/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MAGAZINE AWARD NOMINEES: The New Yorker is the "Gladiator" of magazines this year, having been nominated for eleven National Magazine awards. Esquire is second with eight. A dozen others received multiple nominations, including Rolling Stone and Martha Stewart Living. Inside 03/14/01

COMPETING WITH HARRY: A new Potter book is coming out, complete with Muggles and... The author who is suing JK Rowling claiming Rowling stole her Harry Potter ideas, is reissuing her own Potter books, written in the 1980s. Nando Times (AP) 03/14/01

Wednesday March 14

WHEN LITERAL ISN'T SO LITERAL: A new translation of "Anna Karenina" is out. But how can the reader be sure that it's a "literal" translation? The answer - you can't. There's no such thing, and which version you like depends on your personal taste in prose. Or, you can take Dennis Loy Johnson's  "Lady With A Pet Dog In The Attic" test. The Idler

CELEBRATING JAMES MERRILL: Six years after his death, on what would have been his 75th birthday, James Merrill is being feted with the publication of an 885-page edition of his "Collected Poems" and celebratory conferences around the country. "He does with words what Mozart did with notes."New York Times 3/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

DEBUNKING A HOLOCAUST MEMOIR: Five years ago, Binjamin Wilkomirski was celebrated as a Holocaust survivor who had written a moving account of his life under the Nazis. Today he is denounced as a fraud, whose only visit to Auschwitz was as a tourist. How could he have fooled so many people? Brill's Content 03/12/01

Tuesday March 13

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS are announced. The New York Times 03/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ROTH'S AMERICA: "Philip Roth's writing is to the wallpaper of media talk what a Cezanne is to an editorial cartoon. You come to late Roth to clear your mind of shallowness and cliché, to cauterize your facile formulations, to bone your verities. This hurts. Roth can wound. Now that Roth has completed his American trilogy, you can step back from the individual plots, the varied characters and situations, and you can see the vision rising through them. It is a prospect of paradise lost." The Atlantic 03/12/01

MORE TROUBLES AT AMAZON: The Authors' Guild is planning to file a protest against Amazon.com for the online retailer's continuing practice of selling cheap, used books alongside the more expensive new copies. The Guild claims that Amazon "entices" buyers to favor the used titles. Wired 03/13/01

LUDLUM DIES: Spy novelist Robert Ludlum has died, the victim of an apparent heart attack. Ludlum's novels sold millions, and even high-minded critics admitted a secret penchant for his work. From the Washington Post, for instance: "It's a lousy book. So I stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish it." Nando Times 03/13/01

Monday March 12

BULLISH ON TECH: Technology doesn't spell the end of book publishing, Indeed, "far from being finished, some insisted, the book trade faces a future in which it is likely to flourish as never before." The Economist 03/08/01

Sunday March 11

BOOM IN BLACK LIT: Black American literature is thriving. "The boom in black fiction has led to the establishment or revival of seven black publishing imprints in the last year alone. And these have come from the biggest houses in the industry – including Strivers Row at Random House and Walk Worthy Press at Warner Books." Dallas Morning News 03/10/01

Friday March 9

WANTED: A BOOK REVIEW THAT MATTERS:  Statistically Los Angeles is the largest book market in the United States. When Steve Wasserman took over editing the LA Times Book Review he promised big things. But "the fact that no statistic or proportions can explain is this: The LA Times Book Review is boring. Wasserman clearly has good intentions, and sees himself working on the side of the angels. But the Review never happens, it never bites, it never sings, it never laughs." LA New Times 03/08/01

PEN AWARDS FOR FICTION AND POETRY: The 2001 PEN awards go to a 29-year-old investment banker and a 66-year-old jazz musician and teacher - the stipend is small, but the prestige is considerable. Akhil Sharma is the banker; his novel "An Obedient Father" won the $7500 Hemingway Foundation/PEN award for first fiction. Jay Wright is the teacher; his "Transfigurations: Collected Poems" won the $3000 Winship/PEN New England Award. The Boston Globe 03/08/01

NOTHING FICTITIOUS ABOUT RANDOM HOUSE E-BOOKS: Random House believes in e-books; it just doesn't believe in e-novels. The publisher has ten new e-books due out this Fall, all non-fiction. "All the hype is for trade books because people are fascinated by the idea of the paper novel going out of existence. But nobody thinks that way about a textbook. The e-book is going to be big in education." Meanwhile, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins are going ahead with e-novels. Salon (AP) 03/08/01

  • THE SLO-MOTION REVOLUTION: For some time now e-publishing has been the hype and hope of the publishing industry. But lately the revolution has seemed to sputter. Is it because the technology isn't there yet or is it the way publishing's power structure is set up? ArtsJournal.com 03/09/01

THE FIRST PUBLISHED POET WAS A WOMAN: Who is the earliest known author? It was Enheduanna, whose poems were scripted on clay tablets four thousand years ago. A new edition of her work is now available - this one on paper. "Enheduanna was the first theologian in the world. Her writings present a multi-faceted model of women as powerful, assertive, sexual and priestly. Many of [the goddess] Inanna's qualities foreshadow the powers of the Hebrew god Yahweh in the Old Testament." Discovery 03/05/01

LECARRE BANNED: John LeCarre’s latest novel, the bestseller "The Constant Gardener," is set entirely in modern-day Kenya, yet it can’t be found anywhere in the country. Kenyan booksellers are refusing to stock it out of fear of being punished by the authorities for promoting an entirely unfavorable portrayal of the Kenyan government. "In Kenya, the truth is always stranger than fiction." NPR 3/08/01 [Real audio file]

Thursday March 8

BATTLE OVER E-PUBLISHING RIGHTS: Some e-publishers (and authors) say publishing books in e-form is a new enterprise. Publishers object, claiming they hold rights to the books. Now Random House has sued e-publisher Rosetta over the matter. "The basic premise of Random's suit is that its contracts with authors gives it the exclusive right to publish the works in book form, which Random says includes e-book formats. Random House contends that e-books are just another way to deliver an author's words in a different format." Publishers Weekly 03/05/01

Tuesday March 6

SHORT LIST, BIG PURSE: Six fiction writers have been shortlisted for Ireland’s Impac Literary Award, notable for its wide range of foreign authors (it’s open to books of any language) and for being one of the world’s richest literary prizes. (The winner gets £100,000.) The Guardian (London) 3/06/01

SILVER LINING: A report issued yesterday showed that 10% of Britain's small independent bookshops have folded in the last five years. Sad news indeed, but "the amazing fact is not that 10% have closed, but that 90% have stayed open. The resilience of the British book industry is quite astonishing: 110,155 books published last year, more than in the US, China or anywhere; of those 110,155, a reasonably assiduous reader might get round to reading 0.02% of them." The Guardian (London) 3/06/01

THE EDITOR AS INTRUDER: Surely the first rule of editing ought to be not getting between the reader and the book. Yet too often with editions of classic books, the editor often introduces the edition by disclosing the plot, parading his or her "potted historical knowledge and biographical take on the author," and prescribing "whatever appraisal of the novel he or she espouses." And it gets worse. "Editors have increasingly insisted on appearing intermittently at our elbow as we read the novel, through the device of the footnote or endnote." Chronicle of Higher Education 03/09/01

Monday March 5

REPLACING PAPER: Paper has been the medium of communication for centuries. But now scientists are trying to improve the readability of computers so they'll replace paper. "There is more at stake, however, than just the physical substitution of one medium for another; it will require a huge cultural shift as society struggles to give up its addiction to paper and embrace the ethereal nature of electronics. It also has far-reaching implications for books, magazines and newspapers, not to mention libraries and museums. Ours, after all, is a well paper-trained world." Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/05/01

Sunday March 4

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN WRITERS: The modern male novelist prizes formal ingenuity, tricksiness, exuberance; flights of fancy and fireworks, that's what his genius specialises in. No doubt as he goes along he hopes to tell us something, whether obliquely or in your face, about the Modern Predicament or the Hell that is America. The female novelist, by contrast, believes that the novel at its best creates a sort of moral poetry, in that the questions of human choice and of how life is to be lived are intrinsic to it." The Guardian 02/28/01

Friday March 2

WRITING A WRONG: What do most authors do when they get a bad review? Well, absolutely nothing, other than maybe complaining to friends and moping. "But there's still an enduring category of author who feels that a bad review is no mere difference of opinion, however ill-informed and wrongheaded the reviewer's take may be. It's an injustice that must be remedied." But, calling critics at home? Offering bounties? Threatening legal recourse? Come on… Salon 3/02/01

A LAWSUIT OVER E-BOOKS - IT WON'T BE THE LAST: Did you think the Napster legal fracas was nasty and confusing? Wait until the book publishers get into it. And they're about to. RosettaBooks is publishing e-versions of novels by Kurt Vonnegut and William Styron. Random House says it didn't give permission. RosettaBooks says Vonnegut and Styron gave permission. Random House is suing. CBC 03/01/01

WHO READS THE MOST? THE SCOTS: A survey in Britain shows Scots read one and a half times as much as other residents of the UK. The English and Welsh average four hours a week or less, the Scottish nearly six. "Backing up the survey's findings, organisers said that libraries in the Scottish Highlands lent more books per head of population than the rest of the United Kingdom." ABC (Reuters) 03/01/01

THE ORIGINAL SWINGING SUPERHERO: Few people read Edgar Rice Burroughs today, but his books about Tarzan of the Apes once were staples of American popular culture. "In the first half of the 20th century, the most widely read American author was Burroughs, whose... 74 novels have sold more than 100 million copies." Not bad for a man who took up writing in his late thirties because he couldn't make a living as a pencil sharpener salesman. Smithsonian 03/01

Thursday March 1

MAGAZINES GOING POSTAL OVER MAIL COSTS: Last year, magazine publishers endured a ten-percent hike in postage rates. This year, the rate increase could be thirty-percent, and the publishers aren't going to take it any more. They're demanding the postal service make itself more efficient and cost-effective. "They ought to implement an immediate hiring freeze and somehow they need to come to grips with the fact that their clerical workers are paid twice what their counterparts in the private sector are paid." Inside.com 02/28/01

MIGHTY AS THE AMAZON? Stock in Amazon.com dropped Wednesday, amid rumors that the giant on-line bookseller was going to file for bankruptcy. The effect of the rumors, of course, was to push the stock down further still. Asked about the rumor, one Amazon spokesman said "I can tell you absolutely, positively that there is no truth whatsoever." Another said, "We've got piles of moolah. People just don't pay attention." Salon (AP) 02/28/01

TOLSTOY AND THE CHURCH, STILL AT ODDS: Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy rejected the authority of the Russian Orthodox church, for which he was excommunicated. Now, a century later, his great-great-grandson Vladimir has asked the Church to forgive the novelist. The director of the Tolstoy Museum thinks it's a bad idea: "Tolstoy never repented, nor would he have approved of his descendant's drive to reunite him with the church." The Church so far has made no definitive reply. Vancouver Sun 02/28/01

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