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Friday August 30

PESSIMISTIC ABOUT BOOK SALES: Publishing industry stocks have been falling, and sales projections for the rest of this year are down. "A fragile economy, the stock market meltdown, the lack of job growth, huge government deficits, fears of war and the dampening affect of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks are working together to make analysts pessimistic about retail sales for much of the rest of the year." Publishers Weekly 08/28/02

Thursday August 29

CRITIC WINS GOETHE PRIZE: German literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki has been awarded this year's Goethe prize for his life's work. "Known as the pope of German literary criticism, Mr Reich-Ranicki, 82, has himself been a best-selling author." Earlier this yearhe was in the news "as the inspiration for a controversial book by Martin Walser called Death Of A Critic, which was widely criticised for anti-Semitism." BBC 08/29/02

MISSING THE MOB: Simon & Schuster is suing a Hollywood talent agency for misrepresenting the identity of a writer. S&S paid $500,000 to the author of The Honored Society, who was represented as " the highest ranking mob member ever to record the innermost workings" of the Mafia. The writer was said to be the grandson of mobster Carlo Gambino, but is not. Nando Times (AP) 08/29/02

SCOTLAND IS FOR WRITERS: Scotland is attracting writers - particularly women writers - from abroad. "Scotland has the most fantastic opportunities for first time writers. In Edinburgh, not only are there some brilliant publishing houses like Canongate, but with the city being so compact there is a real writing community that is facilitated by the Scottish Art Council which is fantastically supportive in the way of grants and advice for first time writers." The Scotsman 08/29/02

POETIC PORTRAIT OF A CITY: Really - do your run-of-the-mill postcards capture the sense of a city? Doubtful. So along comes a new project that puts poetry of postcards. "Chosen in an open competition, with winners recently selected, poetic likenesses of L.A. will begin appearing on thousands of free postcards around the city in November." Los Angeles Times 08/28/02

Wednesday August 28

THIS YEAR'S PUBLISHING PREOCCUPATION: Hundreds of books about 9/11 are being published as the one-year anniversary approaches. "At Barnes & Noble bookstores in New York, tables are stacked high with titles related to 9/11, a grouping that includes not just books about Sept. 11, but also picture-book tributes to the World Trade Center, poetry anthologies about New York, coffee-table books about the American flag and stocking-stuffer-type books on the inspirational words of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani." The New York Times 08/28/02

JUST THINK OF THE CLASH OF ACCENTS: Canada is justifiably proud of its writers, and a huge contingent of Canucks is present at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival. Among other things, it is starting to become clear that Canada's writers share a common sense of humor and appreciation for the theatrical, and that they further their own cause in the global publishing world with their lack of pretense (as compared with, say American authors.) Edinburgh has been particularly kind to the Canadians this year, thanks to the festival's organizer, Catherine Lockerbie. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/28/02

Tuesday August 27

BOOK SALES UP: This is turning out to be a pretty good year for book sales. Revenues for America's three largest bookstore chains increased 3.9%, to $1.73 billion in the second quarter. "The increase was slower than the 4.8% increase recorded by the booksellers in the first quarter." Publishers Weekly 08/26/02

REMIND YOU OF ANYONE? Books no longer stand by themselves - they're all planned and marketed to make the potential reader relate them to successful books which have come before. It's "harder all the time, however, to distinguish the descendants from the ancestor, and at some stage, when the proliferation of similar titles—with their sometimes intentionally confusing similarity of cover designs and jacket copy—reaches a true saturation point, it ceases to matter. How many long-dead statesmen can the market bear? How many fatal voyages, doomed expeditions, valiant racehorses, Tuscan reveries, and tales of botanical obsession?" Speakeasy 08/02

NAME AUCTION: An e-author auctions off the names of dogs in her new novel as a way of raising money for rescued greyhounds. "More than 4,000 greyhound lovers unleashed online bids to name canine characters in best-selling author Cyn Mobley's first self-published novel, Greyhound Dancing." The book has already sold enough to cover its production costs. Wired 08/27/02

Monday August 26

SMUGGLED TREASURE FOR SALE: A set of scrolls known as Buddhism's "Dead Sea Scrolls" are about to be sold for £70 million. But there's a moral issue about the sale. The scrolls are owned by a Norwegian collector, who bought them after they were smuggled out of Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. They are believed to come from the Bamiyan area, and at least one expert believes that "this cache of manuscripts, although obviously very different, is of 'comparable importance' to the Buddha statues, which were destroyed by the Taliban last year." The Art Newspaper 08/23/02

A SLAMMIN' STRATEGY FOR POETRY: The poetry slam would seem to be about lone poets getting up and talking. "Yet this seemingly ego-centered solo art masks a complex game of tournament strategy, of regional differences and scoring psychouts. The slam may look like poetry-as-therapy onstage, but off-stage, it's poetry-as-team-sport. It's the most personal artistic expression tied to the kind of competitive game plans you'd find in football or basketball." Dallas Morning News 08/25/02

  • Previously: SLAMMIN' JAM: The 12th annual National Poetry Slam was held in Minneapolis this weekend. "The slam, founded by ex-construction worker Marc Smith, was meant to liberate poetry from its academic ghetto. It took its cue from wrestling, relying on audience participation to judge victors. Slam turned into something else - mostly a way to get dates. Many of the poems still sound like come-ons. Like hip-hop, which it has influenced and from which it borrows performance techniques, this fluid form is so much more." The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 08/18/02

SANDBURG FIND: An antiques dealer in Pennsylvania was getting rid of some old boxes last year when he discovered a cache of writings by Carl Sandburg. "The collection includes manuscripts with handwritten revisions, correspondence with the likes of the late Illinois governor and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, and 12 photos of Sandburg's 75th birthday party, taken by his brother-in-law, photographer Edward Steichen." The papers will be auctioned off this week. Nando Times (AP) 08/25/02

DOROTHY HEWETT, 79: Yesterday morning, Australian literature lost, if not one of its saints, than one of its most cherished and authentic larrikins, when Hewett, poet, playwright and novelist, died, aged 79. The Age (Melbourne) 08/26/02

  • A GREAT AUSTRALIAN: "Dorothy was one of the most inspirational women I know. A great writer and poet with a lifelong commitment to her craft, she never lost her passion for social justice or her courage in supporting left-wing causes. Her sardonic irreverence, intellect, honesty, warm heart, her encyclopedic knowledge of Australian literature and history were some of the qualities that made her a formidable friend, a wonderfully talented writer and a great Australian." Sydney Morning Herald 08/26/02

Sunday August 25

A BOY AND HIS (IRREPLACEABLE) TOY: Jim Irsay - owner of an Elvis guitar and the NFL's Indianapolis Colts - bought the manuscript of Jack Karouac's On the Road last year. And scolars and historians are dismayed. "Whether he's stubbing out cigarettes just inches away from his fragile and irreplaceable draft of On the Road or fondly recalling how he gave reporters the finger after buying the manuscript, or stripping down to a tie, an artfully placed guitar and little else in the course of a photo shoot, Irsay is, depending how you look at it, either a party permanently in progress or an accident waiting to happen. 'To me, it's already got this mystical aura to it. And it would be really cool to add to that. And I think I have the capabilities and the creative thinking to do that in a way that's viewed as fun, but universally viewed as safe and respectful." Baltimore Sun 08/24/02

WHAT'S PLAYING: Publishing the theatre world's most-widely-used program book is not such an easy matter. With daily, weekly and monthly publications, Playbill is a complicated business. The magazine's circulation has increased some 350 percent, to 3.7 million copies a month, and the demise of Stagebill, its main competitor, means Playbill dominates its market like no other. The New York Times 08/25/02

Friday August 23

WHO BOUGHT WHAT WHEN: A group of publishing associations wants to know how much snooping the US government has done on book sales information. "Section 215 of the Patriot Act [passed last fall] grants the FBI the ability to demand that any person or business immediately turn over records of books purchased or borrowed by anyone suspected of involvement with 'international terrorism' or 'clandestine activities.' The act includes a 'gag order,' preventing a bookstore or library from discussing of the matter with anyone or announcing the matter to the press. A bookstore may phone its attorney at the time of the request, but it can be done only as an afterthought, as the information must be supplied to the FBI immediately, or the employee risks arrest." Publishers Weekly 08/22/02

POETS QUIT OVER RACISM CHARGES: More than 100 poets are boycotting Chicago's largest annual poetry reading. The festival's poetry coordinator quit after the Bucktown Arts Festival director "ordered him to ban poets who were the targets of hecklers" at another festival last month. "The problem is that all 'those' poets are primarily black and Latino," charges C.J. Laity, the poetry coordinator. So Laity quit, and so did 100 of the poets, forcing cancellation of the event. Chicago Sun-Times 08/23/02

Thursday August 22

HE'S BAAACK: B.R. Myers is back with his manifesto against the quality of contemporary writing and the structure that props it up. "Boiled down to its essence, his message is this: Contemporary fiction is overrated; you’re better off reading Balzac. The last half of that claim has been true for more than 150 years, but never mind—let’s grant Mr. Myers the main point: The novels published today are almost never the marvels critics regularly make them out to be. The vast majority of contemporary writers are indeed overrated. Creeping grade inflation has made it too easy for accessible, intelligent and moving—but hardly perfect or transcendent—novels like, say, Mr. Franzen’s The Corrections to receive the critical equivalent of straight A’s." New York Observer 08/21/02

Wednesday August 21

FROM WEB TO PRINT: Launching a new magazine is tough, particularly one about books. Book publishers have killed most of their print advertising in favor of in-store promotion. But the Readerville Journal is launching in September with a built in online audience of 20,000. "It's as if a focus group of several thousand people met round-the-clock for two years to lay out an agenda for this content. What kills many magazine startups is the cost of building circulation in the early stages. We have the luxury of not having to spend huge sums of money to go hunting for subscribers." Wired 08/21/02

Tuesday August 20

BOOKER FINALISTS ANNOUNCED: "Jon McGregor's first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, yesterday catapulted him on to this year's Booker longlist, alongside Anita Brookner, William Trevor, Michael Frayn, Zadie Smith, and 25 other writers. The field was picked from an original entry of 130 books. From it a shortlist will be chosen next month." The Guardian (UK) 08/20/02

NEW LIFE FOR LINGUA FRANCA? Is Lingua Franca about to be revived? "Jeffrey Kittay, a former professor of French who created the magazine in 1990 but had to discontinue it after last November's issue, when his major backer withdrew financing, said he had made a bid to buy the magazine's assets from the bankruptcy court." The New York Times 08/19/02

CAN'T TELL A BOOK BY ITS PUBLISHER: Do readers care who published the book they're thinking of buying? A new study says not at all. "Readers simply don't pay any mind to who has published a book. If they do think about publishers at all, they don't think of them as part of the creative process of book production, merely as making money from it. It wasn't always so. In the past, many imprints won great loyalty and affection from readers." London Evening Standard 08/19/02

WHERE TO PUT POETRY? "Poetry, the cornerstone of most cultures' bodies of literature, was always meant for a listening audience rather than a private reader. Written poetry today - with the exception of The Nation's Favourite anthologies and Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters - is a poor cousin in the world of published literature. Yet all over the UK, in poetry cafés, arts centres and comedy clubs, poetry is blending with music, rap, stand-up and performance art and attracting an enthusiastic younger, multicultural following." The Observer (UK) 08/18/02

Monday August 19

TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK... "Literary theories from formalism to Marxism to postmodernism are all pretty much agreed on the fact that the author, once he or she has put the final full stop on the final redraft, becomes irrelevant. What a writer intended to say is unimportant. What the book actually does say is all that matters. Odd, then, that every year thousands of people pay good money to listen to authors talk about their work, their motivations, hobbies, influences, tastes in music, and — a question guaranteed to produce a shudder of horror in even the most gregarious festival guest — where they get their ideas from." The Age (Melbourne) 08/19/02

SLAMMIN' JAM: The 12th annual National Poetry Slam was held in Minneapolis this weekend. "The slam, founded by ex-construction worker Marc Smith, was meant to liberate poetry from its academic ghetto. It took its cue from wrestling, relying on audience participation to judge victors. Slam turned into something else - mostly a way to get dates. Many of the poems still sound like come-ons. Like hip-hop, which it has influenced and from which it borrows performance techniques, this fluid form is so much more." The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 08/18/02

CUT RATE BOOKS: Book remainders can crank out extra profits for publishers and booksellers. "For publishers and booksellers, it's all pretty slick and efficient. Unfortunately, the system leaves authors out in the cold. A typical book contract gives the author a royalty on each book sold in the first round. But in most cases, if the book is remaindered, the author gets nothing except the right to buy his or her own book for a song." Boston Globe 08/19/02

THIS IS LITERATURE? BR Myers roiled the literary world last year with his attack in the Atlantic magazine on modern writing and on critics who support inferior prose. Now his manifesto is being published in book form. "It takes a lot of arrogance to disagree with the consensus of critics … But this is precisely what we readers need. Our own taste is the only authority we should listen to." FoxNews.com 08/08/02

WRITING OVER REWARDS: Charles Webb had a big success with his novel The Graduate back in 1962. "With its subversive rejection of materialism and middle-class mores, The Graduate captured the nascent mood of rebellion that was to sweep through the 1960s. But somewhere along the way, Webb's urge to write was swamped by his urge to reject material rewards and disappear. They were set for life. They found this oppressive." So Webb and his wife gave away all their money to live in poverty... The Age (Melbourne) 08/19/02

Sunday August 18

QUIET TIME TO WRITE: Prison hasn't slowed down author Jeffrey Archer. This week he "signed a three-book deal with Macmillan/St. Martin's reportedly worth millions of pounds - from his jail cell, where he is doing four years for lying on the stand. His agent told the press that, because Archer has 'never been writing better,' he jokes that he's leading a campaign to keep him inside." San Francisco Chronicle 08/17/02

Thursday August 15

BRITISH LIBRARY STRIKE CANCELED: Workers at the British Library had planned to go on strike Monday, protesting the Library's pay proposal. But negotiations have moved ahead better than expected, and the union has called off the strike. "We are hopeful that the suspension of strike action will provide an opportunity for a fair pay settlement to be reached." BBC 08/14/02

Wednesday August 14

BAILING OUT PUBLISHERS: Canadian publishers were caught in financial trouble earlier this year when the country's largest book distributor went out of business owing a lot of money. But various levels of government have stepped in to bail out struggling publishers. "As publishing goes through changes in Canada, we want to make sure that the really good publishers, who do outstanding literature and who are professionally excellent, can survive and thrive." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/14/02

AROUND-THE-WORLD BOOKS: San Francisco artist Brian Singer created 1000 journals, then released them into the world with strangers where they were to be passed on from person to person until the pages of the books are filled. Their progress can be followed on the web at www.1000journals.com. "The journals have crisscrossed North America and travelled to more than 30 other countries, from Guam to South Africa, from China to the Netherlands. But most unexpected has been how the journals have taken on lives of their own: "A lot of people are writing in the journals about the journals. These journals are having their own unique adventures." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/14/02

LUSH LIFE: "The rampant alcoholism of so many major American writers would be enough to put any young writer off drink for life. Problem-drinking was once so pervasive in the US literary scene that Sinclair Lewis used to challenge people to name five American writers since Poe who did not die from alcoholism. Ernest Hemingway famously insisted that all good writers are drinking writers, and once upon a time in America so they were." The Age (Melbourne) 08/14/02

Tuesday August 13

ONLINE TREASURE: The £15 million Sherborne Missal is the first important UK document to go online for the public in a digitization project to put virtual copies of important rare documents online. The manuscript "was created in the early 15th Century at Sherborne Abbey, Dorset, and is regarded as a major masterpiece of UK medieval art." BBC 08/13/02

A BESTSELLER SECRET? They don't get much respect in the literary world, but Britain's top-selling authors - among them Barbara Cartland, Jackie Collins and Jeffrey Archer - have sold 3.5 billion books. "What is it that makes these authors - often ridiculed but obsessively read - so stupendously successful? Literary merit? Perhaps not. Some have sold their souls brilliantly to the media, while others simply had the knack or luck of perfect timing. And their rewards continue to amass." London Evening Standard (UK) 08/12/02

Monday August 12

TO BLURB OR NOT TO BLURB: Blurbing a book is - more often than not - an act of politics. Getting the right blurber for your cover requires strategy. "Nonfeasance is the norm in blurbing. Publishers expect little. Several galleys per week arrive at my door. I always open the envelope, and I always read the editor's letter. I like the personal, the flattering, the imploring: 'In so many ways this book reminds me of yours... The New York Times 08/12/02

SUBVERTING THE SPIN: Publishers try to orchestra the best media flurry they can when an important new book comes out. For big authors this means negotiating serialization rights and making sure the biggest critics and publications get first whack. But in the age of the internet, traditional embargos on reviewing books don't make an awful lot of sense. The Observer (UK) 08/11/02

PEER (NET) REVIEW: Internationally, about 25,000 science, technical and medical journals are peer-reviewed, meaning they are vetted by two or three specialists, plus the journals' editors. The authors and reviewers, who work as volunteers, can be anywhere in the world, and many journals' editors work off site. With such far-flung participants, the submission and assessment process for peer-reviewed articles has traditionally involved lengthy mail delays, high postage costs and cumbersome administration. But in the past few years new software has dramtically cut don turnaround time. And it's changing the peer review process. The New York Times 08/12/02

BRAIN DRAIN: "The notion of summer reading appears to stem from the belief that since everything else shuts down during the hot months, so, too, should our brains. It's a holdover, of sorts, from early school days, when we were programmed to regard cerebration and summer as at odds. And the publishing industry only reinforces this precept, tending to save its weightier tomes and big-name writers for fall lists." National Post (Canada) 08/10/02

Friday August 9

MOVING BOOKS ONLINE: Struggling used-book sellers in Australia are closing up their storefronts. But they're not going out of business - they're moving online, where the business seems brisker (and cheaper to run). "The success of online selling may soon see the second-hand book lover struggling to locate a suburban seller." Sydney Morning Herald 08/09/02

FLUSHING OUT AMAZON: The Canadian Booksellers Association and Indigo, the country's largest bookstore chain, have appealed to the Canadian government to stop Amazon from operating a Canadian version of its online business. Canadian booksellers say Amazon unfairly finessed its way around Canada's foreign ownership laws. Wired 08/09/02

A MATTER OF BIAS: Do different standards apply when reviewing books by African-Americans? Critic Wanda Coleman believes so. "Critically reviewing the creative efforts of present-day African-American writers, no matter their origin, is a minefield of a task complicated by the social residuals of slavery and the shifting currents in American publishing. Into this 21st century, African-Americans are still denied full and open participation in the larger culture. Thus, our books remain repositories for the complaints and resentments harbored against the nation we love, as well as paeans to the courage, fortitude and sacrifice of peers and forebears." LAWeekly 08/08/02

BATTLING SUPERHEROES: Selling comic books is not like selling books. In book sales, if you order too many copies, you get to return the unsold volumes. But comic book sellers have to guess how many copies will sell, and eat the ones that don't Now a small Bay Area comic book seller is suing giant Marvel Comics (home of Spiderman) over sloppy returns policies. Sure Brian Hibbs is only out $2000, but when he certified a class action, the amount soared to millions... SFWeekly 08/08/02

Thursday August 8

TORONTO FINALISTS ANNOUNCED: "A translation of a Portugese long poem, three novels, an autobiography and a biography are the nominees for the 2002 Toronto Book Awards. The finalists, announced yesterday, were selected from 83 submissions by a six-member judging committee... The top prize is $10,000 while each of the finalists will receive $1,000. The winner will be announced at the Word On the Street festival on Sept. 29." National Post (Canada) 08/08/02

SPEAKING OF BOOKS: Writers who can talk find there's an increasingly eager audience for what they have to say (as opposed to what they write?). "The fee scale for writers in this country ranges from two thousand dollars for a well-respected poet to over a hundred thousand for a high-profile, celebrity writer." Poets & Writers 08/02

BRITISH LIBRARY STRIKE, PART II: "Staff at the British Library are to hold a 48-hour pay strike on Thursday and Friday... Members of the Public And Commercial Services Union (PCS) took similar action in pursuit of a pay claim on 29 July but the impact was said to be minimal... The last strike forced the closure of reading rooms in the St Pancras Building in Central London, but the library remained open." BBC 08/08/02

Wednesday August 7

CANCON MISUSED? Indigo Books, Canada's largest bookseller, is suing to prevent Amazon from making inroads into the country, and some critics aren't happy. "Canada has rules protecting cultural industries in Canada. Those rules limit, among other things, foreign ownership of bookstores and publishers. The idea is to create a balance between nurturing indigenous cultural products and fostering competition that favours consumers. Too often, in my view, consumers are shortchanged in this equation. I'm all for government-sponsored encouragement for the writing and publishing of Canadian books. But why... are we protecting booksellers from foreign competition?" The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/07/02

SCHAMA SIGNS RECORD DEAL: Simon Schama has signed a £3 million book/TV deal for a series focusing on Anglo-American relations. "The book deal from HarperCollins for the non-UK rights to Mr Schama's books is worth £2 million, thought to be the single biggest advance ever paid for history titles. The BBC, which is paying the remaining £1 million for the British rights to the books and to the two television series, said it thought Prof Schama was worth 'every penny'." The Telegraph (UK) 08/04/02

Tuesday August 6

BESTSELLING WHAT? Every writer, publisher, agent - anyone, in fact, who's involved in the publication of books - pays attention to Bestseller lists. They pay attention even though everyone knows their accuracy is questionable. Some high-selling books never make it to the list, while other, lower-volume books manage to sqeak on. And then there's the whole business of in-store placement and promotion... The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/06/02

THE SHAKESPEARE FRANCHISE: "The 'did-Shakespeare-really-write-Shakespeare' debate has raged for 200 years." A new Australian documentary takes up the case and concludes that Shakespeare had some help - "that Shakespeare collaborated with Marlowe to produce the works; that Marlowe provided the great themes and learning, while Shakespeare was the voice of 'the heart and soul of merry England'." The Age (Melbourne) 08/06/02

RISE OF THE DEAL-MAKER: The literary agent is fast dying out. He's being replaced by the multimedia packager, the deal-maker capable of putting together a deal for TV, movies, newspapers and brand marketing. What's that doing to the author of work that doesn't fit into easily-recognizeable categories? London Evening Standard 08/05/02

CHICK LIT EXPLAINED: "The term 'chick lit', with its post-feminist use of the word 'chick' and its sing-song almost-rhyme, originated as a way of describing young women's fiction of any sort. Now it specifically means a 'fun', pastel-covered novel with a young, female, city-based protagonist, who has a kooky best friend, an evil boss, romantic troubles and a desire to find The One – the apparently unavailable man who is good-looking, can cook and is both passionate and considerate in bed. However, despite the Identikit covers and the join-the-dots plots, almost everyone you ask in commercial publishing says – at least publicly – that chick lit is not formulaic, exploitative or cynically produced. In fact, it is almost a conspiracy. It is virtually impossible to find anyone prepared to criticise the genre." The Independent (UK) 08/05/02

Monday August 5

WHAT BECOMES A BESTSELLER? "As books editor, I have pondered this question more than once. Sure, great content helps. But let's not be naive: Just as in dating, many other factors come into play. I have learned my lesson yet again: When it comes to books, the hype machine is an unreliable matchmaker, ruled as often by press and publishing self-interest as by literary ideals." Rocky Mountain News 08/04/02

DUMPING THE DISCOUNTS: Online booksellers have offered deep discounts in an attempt to lure customers. But Korean bookstores complained the practice is driving them out of business. So last week the Korean National Assembly passed a law that declares "online operators will not be allowed to offer discounts of more than 10 percent for book titles less than a year old." Korea Herald 08/05/02

BOOKS FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T READ: "They sell to people working at 30,000 offices, factories and schools, and 2 million more by mail order and the internet. They sell 14 million books a year, and each year they throw extraordinary parties with fairground rides and marching bands to celebrate their success. Peculiarly, unless The Book People send you their catalogues or visit your workplace every few weeks, you may never have heard of them." The Observer (UK) 08/04/02

Sunday August 4

'THE GREAT GERLACH' JUST DOESN'T SOUND RIGHT: "Was Jay Gatsby, the title character of F. Scott Fitzerald's most famous novel, a distinguished Austrian baron,or a poseur bootlegger who changed his name to cavort with the rich and famous of Prohibition-era New York? That is the question at the centre of an international literary hunt to unearth the shady details of Max von Gerlach, the man experts believe to be the prototype for the mythic American tycoon who graced the pages of the 1925 novel The Great Gatsby." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/04/02

Friday August 2

TOLSTOY GATHERING: It's being billed as the largest-ever gathering of descendants of novelist Leo Tolstoy. "About 90 of 300 known Tolstoy relatives — from Russia, Europe and the United States — will take a train today from Moscow to the writer's estate, 200 kilometres south of Moscow, said the author's great-great-grandson Vladimir Tolstoy." Toronto Star (AP) 08/02/02

Thursday August 1

FORWARD AND BACK: The lead judge for the UK's prestigious (and lucrative) Forward prize for poetry has resigned amid allegations that the prize props up a small group of poets, favors a single publisher, and ignores women. The accusations come from the head of a British publishing firm, the Forward sponsors deny them vehemently, and the resigning judge says that he is stepping down to remove even the appearance of impropriety. BBC 08/01/02

HEAVENLY REPRODUCTION: There are only four 'nearly-perfect' copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the U.S., and sadly for the type of scholars who break out in hives when they contemplate having to actually leave the Boston-New York-Washington corridor for a couple of days, one of the copies is all the way out in Austin, Texas, where an armed guard keeps it under constant watch. But the University of Texas is near completion of a project to digitize all 1300 pages of its Gutenberg, to the delight of religious scholars. Much of the book is already online, and the quality is said to be far superior to any previous reproductions of a Gutenberg. Chicago Tribune 08/01/02

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