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JULY 2000

Monday July 31

  • CHARACTERS WITH OPINIONS: Louis de Berniere, author of the best selling novel "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," says the main character of his book is purely fictional. But An 89 year-old Italian veteran, who wartime experiences seem to uncannily match those of the fictional Captain Corelli, speaks out, saying the author was not only rewriting history, but is a racist to boot. BBC 06/29/00
  • ROMANCE WRITERS UNITE: Last week over 2000 female writers, aspiring writers, agents and publishers attended the 20th Annual Romance Writers of America Conference. "These nice ladies are actually serious pros - just looking at them, you can tell who makes the really big money, and who writes the nasty sex scenes and who doesn't. We're talking some of the best research and writing craft on the shelves." Washington Post 07/31/00
  • YOU EITHER LIKE MUSICAL THEATRE OR... James Joyce's grandson wants to stop the staging of a musical adaptation of Joyce's "Ulysses." "Stephen Joyce has threatened legal action over the production of Molly Bloom, A Musical Dream, which is due to be premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe." BBC 07/31/00

Sunday July 30

  • CHAPTERS IN ARREARS: HarperCollins cuts off deliveries of books to Chapters, Canada's largest bookstore chain, says National Post. Chapters owes as much as $11- million in unpaid bills dating back to 1999, and there are fears the superstore bookseller may be in deep financial distress. National Post (Canada) 07/29/00
    • SO MUCH FOR THE EVIL EMPIRE: "The bankruptcy of Chapters would be a calamity that might set publishing back two decades. One publisher told me this week that about four out of five Canadian publishing houses will go under if Chapters goes bankrupt." National Post (Canada) 07/29/00
  • JUST IN TIME: Stanley Kunitz will be named America's new Poet Laureate. What a birthday present - he turns 95 today. The nonagenarian is the 10th laureate in an impressive succession. He follows in the wake of Robert Penn Warren, Howard Nemerov, Mona Van Duyn, Rita Dove and Robert Hass. Robert Pinsky has been poet laureate for the last three years. Washington Post 07/30/00
  • TELLING STORIES: Saul Bellow, Arthur Miller, Philip Rother, John Updike - they're all old and they're all American. "But they have two further features in common. First, they are all prophetic; they map, analyse and judge the condition of their nation and they consider its future. Second, they are, in this, completely unlike any British writers. We simply do not have a single writer of stature who feels obliged to tell our national story. Sunday Times 07/30/00

Thursday July 27

  • "IT SUFFERED DEEP MEAT WOUNDS": Translating devices are making their appearance, helping to bridge the communication gap between languages. Or do they? A writer takes one of the devices for a spin: "The bear nut/mother attacked and bit the attendant into the legs, levers and the basin area." Feed 07/27/00

Wednesday July 26

  • DOES A NEW LIBRARY REALLY NEED BOOKS? Marquette University is building a new library. Only one problem - too many books to get in the way. Originally the $70 million library was to be conventional - just bigger. "But that began to seem old-fashioned. Now, the proposal is to keep books in the old library, and in the new one create a cyber cafe, complete with Internet hookups, a 'technology warehouse,' and spaces for live video conferences and large, computer-driven presentations. " Chicago Tribune 07/26/00

Tuesday July 25

  • 41,000 DOWNLOADS LATER, Stephen King has confirmed his faith in the popularity of internet publishing. Fans flocked to his website Monday as soon as the first installment of his new novel “The Plant” was posted. An amazing 78% abided by the honor system and actually paid the $1 download fee. Inside.com 07/24/00 
    • THE HORROR: "King is one of about 25 fiction writers capable of pulling off this sort of thing: He has a substantial, loyal fan base; he has developed a solid relationship with his readers through his Web site and various fan organs; and he writes the kind of fiction that's really, really hard to stop reading once you start." Salon 07/25/00
    • NOT QUITE THE MONSTER: " 'The Plant' is a story recycled, in part, from a manuscript begun in the 1980s. Despite a flurry of interest from the press, it hasn't received much publicity. And at its current rate of sales, it remains to be seen whether the book will prove very profitable for any of the parties involved." Variety 07/25/00
  • THE "POPE OF LITERATURE": "Marcel Reich-Ranicki is not merely the most influential literary critic in Germany--the country which created modern criticism - he is also an educator and an impresario of literature; the man who has made housewives read serious novels and poetry. By exploiting the postmodern media, he has enabled millions of ordinary Germans to rediscover the premodern pleasures of the literary imagination." Prospect 07/25/00
  • IDENTITY ISSUES: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri (“Interpreter of Maladies”) reflects on the elusive nature of identity politics and the need of readers and critics alike to compartmentalize authors. “Take, for instance, the various ways I am described: as an American author, as an Indian-American author, as a British-born author, as an Anglo-Indian author, as an NRI (non-resident Indian) author, as an ABCD author (ABCD stands for American born confused "desi"). According to Indian academics, I've written something known as "Diaspora fiction"; in the U.S., it's "immigrant fiction." In a way, all of this amuses me.” Feed 07/24/00 

Monday July 24

  • IS STEPHEN KING LEADING A REVOLUTION in book publishing, as he’d have us believe, or “just exploring the power of celebrity in the digital age?" After the success of his earlier e-tale, King releases his next e-novel - this time available in installments over the net. "The launch has touched off a debate over whether the Web can liberate authors from their dependence on publishers, or just make it easier for truly famous people to rally their fans.” New York Times 07/24/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 

Sunday July 23

  • RETHINKING VANITY PRESS: "While in the past, self-publishing meant paying for costly print runs and then praying the books would sell, new digital technology enables books to be printed on demand quickly and inexpensively. Barnes & Noble is already using print-on-demand machines in their regional centres, and in July Simon & Schuster enlisted the Lightning Source unit of Ingram Industries to fulfill its print-on-demand orders." National Post (Canada) 07/22/00

Thursday July 20

  • ORIGINAL CHAUCER ANYONE? In the 1560s Archbishop Thomas traveled England looking for the oldest books and manuscripts he could find to try to prove that the Church of England was the true church. That collection sat in a library in Cambridge, available only to scholars all these years. The school recently had the 500 manuscripts appraised and discovered they were worth about £500 million, forcing the school to try to build a proper home for the collection and open it to the public for the first time. Financial Times 07/20/00
  • KING OF THE WEB, PART II: Stephen King plans to publish his next novel online in installments, beginning Monday. Readers would pay through the honor system - "to send King a check or money order for $1 per installment in a direct transaction that King describes as a way to thumb your nose at the publishing industry." Seattle Times (AP) 07/20/00

Wednesday July 19

  • IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES: "American poetry has never passed through such a scattered era. This diffusion may be a result of the deaths in the last few decades of so many of its ablest practitioners and guides (Eliot, Frost, Roethke, Bishop, Berryman—and these but begin the unhappy list), or perhaps it is tied to the larger directionlessness that seems presently to haunt so many of the arts." New Criterion Summer '00
  • THE BIRTH OF A PHENOM: How could Amazon afford to give away the costly overnight shipping of "Harry Potter" books? "Harry's initial success is key to Amazon's initial success, which is key to the rise in the Internet-stock market, which is key to Amazon's ability to spend on promotion more than it makes on sales, which is how it can FedEx 250,000 Harrys for free. This helps to create the biggest publishing event of all time, which actually does not even primarily benefit Amazon (which will sell fewer than 10 percent of Harrys sold) but in fact benefits most of all its primary competitor, Barnes & Noble, which will sell far and away the lion's share of Harry." New York Magazine 07/17/00
    • HARRY LOVES A PARTY: While Barnes & Noble and Amazon sold about a million copies between them on the opening weekend of "Harry," independent bookstores used the occasion to throw elaborate parties, many of them beginning with the midnight release of the book. Publishers Weekly 07/18/00

Tuesday July 18

  • WRITERS FESTIVAL CANCELED: Next year's Perth Writers' Festival has been canceled after the festival's artistic director quits in a dispute with the organization's management. Sydney Morning Herald 07/18/00

Monday July 17

  • MISTAKEN IDENTITY: A famous photo, thought to be of Oscar Wilde in drag, turns out to be a Hungarian opera singer instead. The Age (The Telegraph) 07/17/00
  • WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT GREAT BOOKS? "Many of the Great Books contain allegories for the journey of the soul from one's particular time, place and attachments to a transcendental perspective, where the mysteries of human existence, love, faith and longing are illuminated. After this journey to the heights of insight, we return to our own time and place better able to appreciate both its shortcomings and its virtues." National Post (Canada) 07/17/00
  • POETRY IN THE FAST LANE: In 1992 the annual Poetry Publication Showcase was begun.  "In 1992 the mood was feisty but beleaguered: 'We few, we happy few, we band of poets' went the boast. Now there's a sense that poetry's making it, moving rapidly to the center(s) of our cultural life. Poets House executive director Lee Briccetti, who dreamed up the Showcase as a way to bring attention to a severely marginalized literary form, hopes the poetry world is poised to take advantage of what she terms 'a moment of cultural readiness.' " The Nation 07/17/00

Sunday July 16

  • IN RAY CARVER'S MEMORY: "The role of the famous writer's widow is an awkward one. She is the custodian of the work. She is responsible for the placement of archives, the decision about what remaining material should or should not be released to the world; the keeper of the flame. Tess Gallagher says it was never her intention to become simply 'a function of Ray's absence'. As much as she was Carver's spouse, she is also a writer herself." The Telegraph (London) 07/16/00

Friday July 14

  • HOW CAN YOU IMAGINE I WROTE THAT? A story in an Italian magazine purporting to be by Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez on how he is dying of cancer, moved a publisher to contact Marquez's agent to get reprint rights. The note back was incisive: "García Márquez is ashamed that this rubbish might be considered as a text written by him. It has gone around the world and I have no means of righting this usurpation of his name. It seems to proceed from a Colombian actor whom I hope I will never run into or I will insult him as he deserves." Sydney Morning Herald 07/14/00

Thursday July 13

  • SOMETIMES IT JUST TAKES PERSISTENCE: She wrote 13 books over the course of 50 years, only to have every one of them rejected by publishers. Then No. 14 hit and now she's a star. Sydney Morning Herald 07/13/00
  • BAD REVIEWS CAN RUIN YOU: "It has long been known that writers suffer from a much higher incidence of mood disorders, including depression and mania, than other people. The precise medical reason for this has never been adequately explained. But [an anthropologist] believes it is because writing is less a true expression of the artist's life (except in the case of the daily diarist) than it is a form of compensation and redress for denied satisfactions." National Post (Canada) 07/13/00
  • SPOILING STORIES WITH IMAGES: The New Yorker has begun publishing photos of its fiction writers. Sure we're an increasingly visual culture, and promoting the writer is all part of the package. "But there is something different about fiction, which depends for its power on our willingness to believe that it is as much about the reader's life as it is the writer's. Linking too readily the author's image with the work seems to make the story more disposable. It's just another product, just another package deal." Chicago Tribune 07/13/00

Wednesday July 12

  • THE MIGHTY HARRY: Bookstores report they have been packed continuously since last weekend's release of the new Harry Potter book. Barnes & Noble said it had its biggest weekend in history, selling 502,000 Potters as of the close of business on Sunday night. The publisher plans to print about two million more copies in the next few months, adding to the 3.8 million copies generated during the first U.S. print run. Philadelphia Inquirer 07/12/00

Tuesday July 11

  • TAILOR-MADE READING: Consolidation of the book industry is reshaping the face of publishing. But just as significant is the rise of print-on-demand publishing.  "Print-on-demand technology allows books to be produced quickly and in small quantities. It eliminates huge print runs, which require large sales to break even. It relieves publishing companies of the need to warehouse inventories and process bookstore returns." Chicago Tribune 07/11/00
  • BEST READ: What are America's top public libraries? Here's a list. Book 07/00

Monday July 10

  • THE JOYCE INDUSTRY: More exciting than a dotcom (and more profitable too), the cult around perpetuating James Joyce is a big and fascinating business. New Statesman 07/10/00
  • AN EXPENSIVE NAME: Comic book writer is told to pay a hockey player $24 million after the writer uses the name of the hockey player as a character in a comic book. The court judgment sends a chill though all those who need to name the characters in their books (or comics or songs). Inside.com 07/10/00
  • WHEN SAID MET SARTRE: Edward Said met Jean Paul Sartre in 1979: "For my generation he [Sartre] has always been one of the great intellectual heroes of the 20th century, a man whose insight and intellectual gifts were at the service of nearly every progressive cause of our time. Yet he seemed neither infallible nor prophetic. On the contrary, one admired Sartre for the efforts he made to understand situations and, when necessary, to offer solidarity to political causes. He was never condescending or evasive, even if he was given to error and overstatement. Nearly everything he wrote is interesting for its sheer audacity, its freedom (even its freedom to be verbose) and its generosity of spirit." London Review of Books 06/00

Friday July 7

  • A DOORSTOP OF A BOOK: Jacques Barzun's new 900-page history of the last 500 years looks formidable on the bookshelf. But it's a kind of history seldom seen: a "technicolor, wide-screen, multi-media epic in print of what you missed while suffering through Western Civ. 101. Here is an intellectual Dr. Seuss: 'Oh, the Places You'll See! The People You'll Meet!' The Idler 07/07/00
  • THE NEXT BIG THING: “Why should anyone be surprised to learn that a Western nation of 18-odd million people has among it some novelists, poets and playwrights whose work is wondrous and breathtaking and reaches into all the dark corners where only art can go?” Commemorating Australia’s 100th anniversary of nationhood, London hosts a weekend-long Australian writing festival with many of the country’s literary lights in attendance. The Telegraph (London) 07/07/00
  • A NEW “NEW TESTAMENT”:  The first version of the Bible to be reproduced in English - a 1526 “New Testament” translated from the Greek - has been fully reprinted for the very first time by the British Library. Times of India (AP) 07/07/00

Thursday July 6

  • THE 411 OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN LITERATURE: That E. Ethelbert Miller is a major mover in the African American literary world is undeniable. That he is considered by many to be an outstanding poet is indisputable. "I can't think of an African American writer whose life I haven't affected." So why is Howard University - his alma mater - going out of its way to ignore him? Washington Post 07/06/00

Wednesday July 5

  • STREET-SIDE BOOKS: Contrary to popular opinion, those street-side booksellers set up on card tables in Manhattan aren't vagrants or low-lifes. "While many street booksellers resemble refugees from the Beat era, they're generally savvy and erudite - and they know their books. They have to, in order to survive" A new movie puts them in the spotlight. Publishers Weekly 07/03/00
  • NO MORE OVERDUE FINES: San Francisco's Public Library is beginning to allow readers to browse, search, borrow, read and return 1,500 electronic books from the library's collection. The process of doing so is still arduous, but if the practice catches on, doesn't that mean the end of  the publishing industry? Salon 07/05/00 
  • YOUR LIFE FOR $4,000: A new website allows visitors to commission biographies of themselves from well-known writers. It is expensive, however. CBC 07/05/00

Monday July 3

  • WILD ABOUT HARRY: The Harry Potter books have sold 21 million copies. But the hoopla over the latest book - even before it has been released, is formidable. "At least 9,000 Federal Express trucks will be deployed around the nation on that morning by the Internet retail giant Amazon.com to help deliver 250,000 presold copies of the fantasy novel." New York Times 07/03/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • INDIA'S NEW GENERATION OF WRITERS: "Although their voices are being heard much more loudly in the West than in India, they are ushering in a new era for Indian literature in English. They are often called Midnight's Grandchildren in homage to another seminal Indian novel, Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children," the dark parable of Indian history since independence that won the Booker Prize in 1981 and in 1993 won a special Booker Prize as the best British novel of the previous quarter century. Now the new generation of writers have in many ways broken away from the magic realism that characterizes much of Mr. Rushdie's work. New York Times 07/03/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • BETTER HISTORY THROUGH THE INTERNET: Academic publishing is in dismal shape. Squeezed by the rising cost of science journals, libraries have been buying fewer academic monographs. In the early 1990s, in response to dwindling library demand, the number of new titles began to decline. So Princeton professor Robert Darnton has decided to do something about it. He has become a true believer in the Internet's potential to transform academic publishing - by helping university presses publish more monographs and maybe even by enabling scholars to produce better history. Lingua Franca 07/00
  • WRITING EMPLOYMENT DOWN: Reversing five years of growth, employment for writers on TV and movie projects dropped last year. Total employment of writers was down 2.7 percent to 4,419. Inside.com 06/29/00
  • RECONSIDERING WRITING OF THE SOUTH: "The field of southern literary studies has been dominated by a huge Faulkner industry that both overshadows and tames the terms we use for reading southern women's fiction. If we are to see this fiction in all of its power, we need to change the categories we use to think about southern literature." Chronicle of Higher Education 07/03/00

Sunday July 2

  • PRIZE TO NOWHERE: It used to be that winning a major literary award was a ticket to great sales. But a look at recent book sales charts suggests that winning a big prize no longer has much impact on getting a book sold. The Independent 07/01/00
  • HANGING WITH THE WRITERS: A small unpretentious used book store in downtown New York has become a hangout for writers. The bookstore relies entirely on random donations, which come variously from people who are moving or deceased, book reviewers, literary agencies, publishers, and collectors. In selecting which books to display, the staff caters to the tastes of regulars—people who live or work in the neighborhood, book dealers, and collectors. Village Voice 07/02/00

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