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Note: Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, much of the April archive is unavailable. 

Wednesday May 31

  • WRITER IN SOCIALIST CLOTHING: George Orwell was not a socialist, even if he might have had the reputation as a "secular saint" of socialism. It was a reputation built on sand, argues a critic. New Statesman 05/29/00
  • JUST MEAN AND PETTY: "Eager scholars send their precious manuscripts off to journals in the hope that maybe, just maybe, this time they will be published. Months later, their papers come back with rejection letters from editors and accompanying anonymous reviews. Those reviews are supposed to help the writer improve his or her work, but many reviews do not offer constructive criticism. Some are simply critical. Others are downright abusive." Chronicle of Higher Education 06/02/00

Tuesday May 30

  • A TIGHTLY-GUARDED STORY: It's been 30 years since T.S. Eliot died, but still there hasn't been an authorized biography - that is, one written with full access to the author's estate.  That's because Eliot's "fiercely loyal" widow Valerie controls all the copyrights. "If Eliot scholars want to print quotations from the poet's work, they have to go through her - and this, by all accounts, is not at all straightforward. If Valerie does not like a critic's line, she may well feel disinclined to grant permissions. In some cases, her refusal could scupper a scholar's entire project." New Statesman 05/30/00
  • THE GRAYED AMERICAN NOVELISTS: It's a bountiful spring for challenging American fiction. New books by Joseph Heller (posthumous) Saul Bellow (84), E.L. Doctorow (69), Philip Roth (67) and John Updike (68) are on the shelves. "Because their long-in-the-tooth novels are so creative, challenging, outrageous and well crafted, this is arguably one of the merriest seasons for American literature in decades." Washington Post 05/30/00
  • THE "REAL" SYLVIA PLATH: "At long last, Sylvia Plath's uncensored journals are published. "Almost from the day she died, readers and scholars, faced with the huge, faceless enigma of her suicide, have been perplexed and thwarted by Plath's mental condition. The unabridged journals and other new information, some of it reported here for the first time, lend credence to a little-noticed theory that Sylvia Plath suffered not just from some form of mental illness (probably manic depression) but also from severe PMS." Salon 05/30/00

Monday May 29

  • TO THE WEB FOR THE SOURCE: Increasingly, publishers of academic books favor removing bibliographies from the printed book and posting them on the web. It makes for shorter books and greater access to scholarly addenda online. New York Times 05/28/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Saturday May 27

  • THE DARTH VADER OF BOOKS: "As one of Canada's most controversial CEOs, Chapters Books' Larry Stevenson has undoubtedly learned to be careful. And, in many ways, it's funny that such a correct and controlled man should be considered one of the more malevolent forces on Canada's cultural landscape. Then again, if you hatch a bold business plan that can be summarized quickly as a war against the quaint neighborhood bookstore, you can't expect to be loved." National Post (Canada) 05/27/00
  • WRITERS AGAINST WAR: A few years ago it seemed like a good idea to hold the international PEN conference of writers in Russia. But the war in Chechnya has changed all that and the meeting this week in Moscow has been marked by bubbling anger over the war. New York Times 05/27/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Friday May 26

  • BY THE SKIN OF HIS BOOK: A Canadian author has found a bizarre way to put his all into his latest book. Portions of Kenneth J. Harvey's flesh, containing his DNA, will be embedded in small, pink swatches of paper stitched on to the cover of an abridged edition of his 11th book, "Skin Hound (There Are No Words)", a book whose protagonist is a serial-killing English professor with a penchant for cutting away his victim's skin. National Post (Canada) 05/25/00

Thursday May 25

  • WHERE THE BUZZ STARTS: Even as many independent bookstores have gone out of business in recent years, the remaining indies still play an important role beyond the sheer number of titles they push out the door. “The best marketing for books remains word-of-mouth passion, and often the first mouths to send the word with fervor are the independent bookstores, particularly for literary fiction and literary nonfiction.” New York Times 05/25/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • I-PUBLISHING: Some day in the not too distant future, books will be published electronically first, then if they're good enough - make that popular enough - they'll see the traditional printed page. "The best of the best will be published as e-books first and then possibly make it into print." Wired 05/25/00

Wednesday May 24

  • TWO E-BOOK INITIATIVES: Publishers announce new initiatives to exploit new e-book technoilogies. "An explosion of content is about to occur." Variety 05/24/00

Sunday May 21

  • SURVIVOR: Much has happened to Susan Sontag in the past few years - getting caught in a war, getting hit by a car, being diagnosed with cancer - yet Sontag's new book is remarkably untouched by her personal life, which she talks about in this interview. The Observer (London) 05/21/00

Friday May 19

  • THE MAKING OF A WRITER: Bosnian author Aleksandar Hemon had a plan. "He spent his nights studying English and gave himself five years to learn to write in his new language. After only three years, he had finished a short story. This is where the fairy-tale part comes in: One of Hemon's first short stories in English was accepted by a small literary magazine, where it was spotted by a high-powered agent. Publishers were soon offering Hemon wheelbarrows full of money for the chance to publish his first book, a collection of stories entitled 'The Question of Bruno'." Feed 05/18/00
  • LET A HUNDRED FLOWERS BLOOM: If Harold Bloom's new book "How to Read and Why" seems smug and condescending, that's because it is. The book claims to be a practical guide to show us how to read great literature and provide the reason why. "But Professor Bloom's own rhetoric is so poisonously alienating to the general reader - with its mandarin locutions and tireless self-congratulation - that he ends up sounding like a parody of the jargon-spouting Neo-post-whatever-ists he keeps complaining about." New York Magazine 05/15/00

Thursday May 18

  • COLOSSAL MISJUDGMENT: "Flags of Our Fathers," a book about six of the men who hoisted the flag at Iwo Jima is a runaway success on the Bestseller lists. Yet it was rejected 27 times by publishers. Why is it that a book that can be so successful was turned down so emphatically by so many people whose business it is to predict what will sell? New York Times 05/18/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 
  • FACT IS TRUER THAN FICTION? Martin Amis, now 50, wants to be remembered primarily for his fiction. The possibility that a factual book, albeit a sublime essay giving shape and meaning to his chaotic life, could eclipse his reputation as a novelist is too dangerous to contemplate. National Post 05/18/00
  • “ELEGY FOR A DEAD SOLDIER”: Poet Karl Shapiro died Sunday at age 86. The longtime editor of “Poetry” magazine won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for poems he wrote during World War II while serving with a medical unit in the Pacific. NPR 05/17/00 [Real audio file]  

Wednesday May 17

  • HOW TO MAKE BIBLIOPHILES DROOL: Christie’s in London is abuzz over the upcoming sale of famous book William Foyle’s entire library. His collection includes 40 painted books of hours, all four of the Shakespeare folios, a 12th century Bible, an atlas hand-colored for the Medicis - estimated to bring in £10 million or more. London Times 05/17/00 

Tuesday May 16

  • HOOKED ON CHAPTERS: The introduction of the book superstore in Canada has been great for publishers, who have seen their orders rise. Chapters says it only represents 21% of the Canadian industry (including all retail venues), but it comprises 50%-60% of sales for many publishers. Some worry on that dependence. "If Chapters goes down, everyone will go with them. It would take down every publisher in Canada." Publishers Weekly 05/16/00
  • LITERARY STRATEGY: Internet magazine Salon.com has bought MP3Lit.com, a company that provides downloads of audio books over the internet. Publishers Weekly 05/16/00

Monday May 15

  • BUILDING ON SERVICE: We haven't seen the end of the small independent book stores, no matter how big the megastores get, says one Toronto indie. "I saw a niche in what people might like in terms of having a more intimate environment in which you can come and find a selection of books that has been well thought out." CBC 05/15/00
  • RETURN TO SENDER: Book returns are thought to be a right of bookstores. Whatever books you order and don't sell can be returned to the publisher and the store doesn't have to pay for them. But this year the returns are piling up at Canadian publishers, and the cost of this inefficient system is paid by consumers. Something's got to change. Toronto Globe and Mail 05/15/00 
  • BOOK SUPERSTORE? Maybe in Canada - but in the North American market, Chapters, the Canadian giant, is a little guy. And book returns are bringing down even the giant. National Post (Canada) 05/15/00

Sunday May 14

  • PERILS OF THE AMAZON: Amazon.com provides sales statistics and reader reviews of the books it sells. But so much information isn't necessarily a good thing for authors. "On a bad day, you'll invariably find that none of Amazon's customers has bothered to review your book since the last time you looked, and that, furthermore, the masterpiece over which you sweated blood for 18 months is languishing in 3,000,012th place in the Amazon sales charts. On an even worse one, you'll discover that some tasteless imbecile who wouldn't know what great art was if it bit him on the nose has given you a real stinker, and that your book has dropped to 3,000,013." The Telegraph (London) 05/14/00

Friday May 12

  • UNEARTHED JULES: A new Jules Verne book was published Thursday in France, 95 years after the author’s death. The 1901 thriller, “The Beautiful Yellow Danube,” was discovered by an Italian collector in 1977 and has since then only circulated privately. Times of India 05/12/00
  • OK, JUDGE IT BY ITS COVER: Penguin Classics, those ubiquitous UK paperbacks with the orange covers, have received serious book jacket face-lifts, and sales are now soaring. Penguin UK art director John Hamilton hired England’s best young designers to “perk up 60 of Penguin’s warhorse titles, quadrupling the sales of 20th century greats like Fitzgerald, Forster, and Camus and bringing literature in close proximity to Backstreet Boy biographies.” Metropolis 05/00

Thursday May 11

  • ANOTHER TIME AROUND: Is it okay that writers cannibalize themselves, reworking or re-releasing a book they've previously sent out into the world but dressing it up to look like something new? New York Times 05/11/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 
  • BAD (BU HAO) BOOK: Zhou Weihui's book "Shanghai Baby" has sold perhaps 100,000 copies in China, making it something of a hit. But Zhou's publisher has now had the page proofs and all of the books in stock destroyed, saying that the novel is "in poor taste and that Ms. Zhou, 27, was too outlandish." State media are denouncing Zhou as "decadent, debauched and a slave of foreign culture" and thousands of copies of the book are being destroyed even while the book seems to have found an audience.  New York Times 05/11/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 

Wednesday May 10

  • FANTASY DEAL: A 17-year-old British high school student has received an advance of $77,000 (US) - believed to be the British record for his age - for his fantasy novel “Heresy,” which he wrote while studying (or at least pretending to) for exams. The Age (Melbourne) 05/10/00

Tuesday May 9

  • A JURY OF YOUR PEERS: Is novelist Martin Amis, whose much-hyped autobiography will be released later this month, still the pinnacle of English literary fiction? Nine younger British novelists' assess his work and influence, calling him everything from “the archetypal geeky white boy” to “uncompromisingly brilliant.” The Independent 05/07/00  

Monday May 8

  • THE FICTION OF TRUTH: What is the boundary between fiction and non-fiction? Should there be a boundary? Is it arbitrary? A panel at Columbia School of Journalism debates the art of narrative non-fiction. New York Times 05/08/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • HOW DO PEOPLE READ? Researchers plan the first study of "how digital texts impact teaching, research, and learning. They also want to determine whether digital books will replace or supplement printed texts." Wired 05/08/00
  • POET'S EYE VIEW OF THE WORLD: At age 81, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is still feisty as ever. A recording company recently put out a recording of him reading his work - with musical accompaniment that makes him furious. "I find that music is a complete bring-down of the poems. They went ahead with complete disregard of my wishes in the matter." New Zealand Herald 05/06/00
  • POETRY MAKES A COMEBACK: Poetry evenings have been flourishing in Israel as "an alternative form of cultural entertainment." Ha'aretz (Israel) 05/08/00 

Sunday May 7

  • FIGHTING THROUGH THE CLUTTER: The early promise of e-publishing on the web was that anybody could get their work out there and find an audience. "In fact, the online publishing industry may be creating more obstacles than opportunities for aspiring writers. Within the next 18 months, the Web will add approximately 500,000 more titles. How can any author hope to break through those numbers?" Wired 05/07/00

Saturday May 6

  • THE AFTERLIFE OF INDEPENDENTS: It's been a year since Duthie Books, Vancouver's largest independent bookstore, succumbed to the mega-store onslaught and went out of business. Owner Celia Duthie had to do something in her next life, so she started a book-lovers retreat on the Gulf Islands.  "Book clubs have taken off across the continent over the past decade, whether they're small groups of friends who once studied English lit together or TV audiences turned on to reading by book-promoting celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey. Even the rise of megabookstores like Chapters and Indigo signal a new corporate awareness of the appetite for books and the rise of a so-called salon culture - people from all walks of life who remain interested in reading and ideas, despite the prevailing media obsession with movies, television and the Internet." National Post (Canada) 05/06/00

Friday May 5

  • THE RACE IS TO THE LUCKY: Ah yes, we all like to think that destiny, talent and hard work lead to artistic success. But these qualities aren't the determining factor when it comes to literature. "What determines a work’s longevity is in many cases an accumulation of unliterary accidents in the lives of individuals years and sometimes even decades after the writer has gone unto the white creator. 'The race is not to the swift,' Ecclesiastes tell us, 'nor the battle to the strong ... but time and chance happen to them all.' Nowhere is this truer than literary survival." Boston Review 05/00

Thursday May 4

  • SLASH AND BURN, BABY: One might not be able to (or want to) imagine Captain Kirk, Agent Fox Mulder, and Obi-Wan Kenobi as the fodder for red-hot gay erotica, but for the burgeoning groups of writers known as "slash" or "Fan-fict" writers (mostly heterosexual women) pop culture's most famous male stars are the stuff fantasies are made of.  Largely published in print fanzines and on the web, slash writers have "elaborated the worlds they felt were ignored by the shows' producers, 'repairing or dismissing unsatisfying aspects.'" Brill's Content 05/00

Tuesday May 2

  • ODE TO AN UNKNOWN POET: Poets are largely an unsung lot. Seven established poets and critics cite their favorite under-appreciated poets. Lingua Franca 05/00

  • E-LENDING: A Canadian library adds four electronic books to its circulating collection. CBC 05/02/00

Sunday April 30

  • FOLLOW-UP: Michael Ondaatje had a respectable literary career before "The English Patient" and the movie of it made him truly famous. The author, who lives in Toronto, has been described as "the Greta Garbo of Canadian letters." With all the distraction of Hollywood, it's probably not surprising that his follow-up book took seven years to produce. The Telegraph (London) 04/30/00

Thursday April 27

  • ROTH FOR NOBEL? Ten years ago, "Philip Roth was still considered a literary troublemaker, a gleeful misogynist, a self-absorbed rake who made it impossible for an entire generation to look at liver the same way again.  But over the past decade, something magical has taken place. While his peers have slipped quietly into their literary dotage, Roth's powers have steadily waxed. Since 1991, he has pumped out six books with metronomic, superhuman regularity, winning five major awards, including a Pulitzer. Now, with the imminent publication of his new novel, The Human Stain, the unthinkable has occurred: Portnoy is a serious candidate for the Nobel Prize." New York Magazine 04/26/00

  • ROSES ARE RED... Why is it that people seem to find poetry difficult to read but easy to write? "The 'easy to write' view seems odd. No one believes it is easy to play a musical instrument. Why would anyone think the instrument of language is any easier to master?" MSNBC 04/13/00

Wednesday April 26

  • BY THE BOOK: The numbers are in - what books sold well in 1999. Publishers Weekly 04/26/00

  • UNLIMITED READ: A new hypertext book is a rabbit hole of an experience. "253" is a story of the 253 passengers (and the drive) on a train. But every sentence is filled with hypertext leading to details and subplots and descriptions of the other people on the train. No two readers are likely to read it the same way. "It's far more work than writing an ordinary story," says the author. In a traditional book, the author does not have to create everything around a character, everything they see. In hypertext, it's all there: The writer has "to create interesting material that may never be read by anybody, ever." Toronto Globe and Mail 04/26/00

  • READING REVOLUTION: New electronic publishing technologies change not only the way we'll be able to access words in the future, but also the way stories are written. The simple linear reading experience may be coming to an end. "This is either the dawn of a new age of writing or the end of Western civilization." Washington Post 04/26/00

  • AGENT FROM AFAR: Being a book agent in the US pretty well means you have to live on the east or west coasts. Of the 250 or so most influential agents, that's where 99 percent of them live. But one small agency in a Chicago suburb is finding its way by doing business a bit differently. Chicago Tribune 04/26/00

Tuesday April 25

  • "WE'VE LOST OUR GREATEST POET:" Canada's Al Purdy dies. "If there's a heaven and a hell, Al has a foot in both camps as he argues first with God and then with the Devil. I think I know who's winning the argument or, if not winning, at least breaking even in eternity. Toronto Globe and Mail 04/25/00

  • DOOMED, I TELL YOU: The old pulp 'n paper book is fated to be short-lived. The Association of American Publishers predicts that in five years 28 million people will be using electronic devices to read books. Washington Post 04/25/00

  • I LOVE MY BOOKS, DAMNIT: Movie critic Roger Ebert knows all the hype about e-books, but it doesn't matter. "Let's assume ClearType looks terrific and that Microsoft makes good on its prediction that by 2010 its e-books will weigh 8 ounces, run for 24 hours, and hold as many as a million titles. Do I want one? No. I treasure my books with a voluptuous regard." ZDNet 04/25/00

Monday April 24

  • DIARY SCANDALE: Marc-Edouard Nabe has become a sensation in France with the publication of "his 'Intimate Journal,' a ponderous diary, which to date runs to 3,915 pages and relates the day-to-day minutiae of his life and of those around him. While previous volumes passed largely unnoticed, the fourth and latest, entitled Kamikaze, has turned the author into a cult figure in Paris, much to the horror of the friends and family whose secrets he has betrayed." London Times 04/24/00

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