AJ Logo Get ArtsJournal in your inbox
for FREE every morning!

Wednesday, April 30

So You're Getting Published....Greaaaat So you got that book of yours published. Great. And against all the odds. You're so lucky. Lucky, lucky, lucky. But by the time your words finally get made into a book, you're feeling compromised and abused and... Poets & Writers 05/03

The Death Of Poetry? "Consider that poetry is the only art form where the number of people creating it is far greater than the number of people appreciating it. Anyone can write a bad poem. To appreciate a good one, though, takes knowledge and commitment. As a society, we lack this knowledge and commitment. People don’t possess the patience to read a poem 20 times before the sound and sense of it takes hold. They aren’t willing to let the words wash over them like a wave, demanding instead for the meaning to flow clearly and quickly. They want narrative-driven forms, stand-alone art that doesn’t require an understanding of the larger context." Newsweek 04/29/03

Tuesday, April 29

Poetry's Popular - But Not Some Poetry... "The great tradition of English poetry has become an almost exclusively academic interest. The days when every literate household contained a copy of Palgrave's Golden Treasury are long gone. Spenser, Sidney and Milton don't benefit from popularity-boosting costume dramas. They demand a sort of concentration we are reluctant to give - you can't read them in the bath or on the train. Even the more accessible Romantics, such as Coleridge and Shelley, engage us more as psychological cases than as versifiers. The idea of a poet is more alluring than the idea of a poem. We're a cynical, materialistic lot, and we want language to be functional, not fanciful. Yet at a shallow level we consume more poetry than ever before." The Telegraph (UK) 04/30/03

Language Police - Sensitizing Away All The Juice "In 'The Language Police', Diane Ravitch — a historian of education at New York University and the author of "Left Back," a 2000 book about failed school reform — provides an impassioned examination of how right-wing and left-wing pressure groups have succeeded in sanitizing textbooks and tests, how educational publishers have conspired in this censorship, and how this development over the last three decades is eviscerating the teaching of literature and history. The 'bias and sensitivity reviewers' employed by educational publishers, she argues, 'work with assumptions that have the inevitable effect of stripping away everything that is potentially thought-provoking and colorful from the texts that children encounter,' and as a result, school curriculums are being reduced to 'bland pabulum'." The New York Times 04/29/03

Dick Lit - Oh, The Tales I Could Tell... "A new brand of literature has arisen to feed the 20-something guys' need to read. An antithesis to Chick Lit, this hot new typology has been dubbed Dick Lit by pundits and the British press. The term implies if the penis could talk it'd tell a travelogue's worth of tawdry tales of the places it has been. The common thread, however, is not the search for sex, but success." Toronto Star 04/29/03

Harry By-The-Numbers "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix goes on sale June 21 with a record printing of 8.5 million copies. Priced at $29.99, it is 896 pages long, has 36 chapters and 255,000 words. The not-so-simple questions: Is 'Phoenix,' the most expensive children's novel, priced too high? Will there be sticker shock? Will children read a book 896 pages long? Will libraries be able to afford enough copies in an era of budget cuts?" New York Daily News 04/29/03

Monday, April 28

Give Me Some Of That Publishing Mojo Everyone, it seems wants to publish a book. "The lines for 'How to Get an Agent,' a panel over the weekend at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, had been rock-concert long. And it was pretty clear from the wildly waving hands that marked the beginning of the question-answer period that these folks wanted answers." Los Angeles Times 04/28/03

George Orwell - A Prophet For Our Times George Orwell "was so ahead of his time that we are only now catching up with him. The concepts of Big Brother, the Thought Police, Doublethink and Newspeak are all his inventions, and they resonate in our time with even greater force than they did in his. So how did a crusty Englishman who was born 100 years ago, and who died in 1950, see all these horrors coming our way? Was he simply gifted with incredible foresight?" The Telegraph (UK) 04/29/03

Where's The Diversity? Children's Books Get An "F" The Cooperative Children's Book Center has been tracking diversity in children's books in America. "Of the 5,000 children's books published in 2002, the center looked at 3,150. Of those, 235 were by and/or about African-Americans, 94 by and/or about Latinos, 91 by and/or about Asian/Pacific Americans and 64 by and/or about American Indians. While those numbers are really shockingly low, they are still higher than they were 15 years ago. In 1985, the center found that 18 books of the 2,500 published that year were created by African-Americans." Houston Chronicle 04/28/03

Failure To (Teach) Writing A new report says that writing is not being well-taught in American schools. "The commission's report asserts that writing is among the most important skills students can learn, that it is the mechanism through which they learn to connect the dots in their knowledge — and that it is now woefully ignored in most American schools. Writing, always time-consuming for student and teacher, is today hard-pressed in the American classroom. Of the three R's, writing is clearly the most neglected." The New York Times 04/26/03

Sunday, April 27

State Poets Laureate Convene A first-ever meeting of American states' poets laureate gathered in New Hampshire. "There was an aura of self-congratulation about the conference, with many of the poets extolling what they said was poetry's newfound power. Many said the best thing that ever happened to them was the postponement by the first lady, Laura Bush, of a White House poetry conference this year after she learned that the invited poets were sending antiwar poems to one of the scheduled participants, Sam Hamill, who was organizing a protest. "Ever since Laura Bush, my readings have been crowded," said Grace Paley, poet laureate of Vermont and, at 80, a rabble-rouser. "Even if they're not about the war, they've been crowded." The New York Times 04/28/03

The Barnes & Noble Way Dennis Loy Johnson has noticed that Barnes & Noble seems to be less interested in selling new books these days. It follows the B&N formula: "Remember the scenario? It was enacted across America — B&N comes to town and builds a super store right next to the best independent bookstore around. They promise to enhance the local book culture, to spawn a local literary café society, by letting people making all kinds of periodicals available in the entrance way, where people can also post notice of literary events and reading groups. The store also hosts lots of readings by local writers, and organizes reading groups. It'll be good for all the bookstores and book lovers around! they proclaim. Meanwhile, they sell books at a drastic discount until all the local competition has gone under. Then they stop discounting, prevent anyone from putting free periodicals in the entry way, take down the bulletin board and stop hosting readings and reading groups." MobyLives 04/27/03

Naming The Top 50 Women Writers - What's Wong With This Picture The Orange Prize is holding a vote on the best books of all time by women writers. "But 50 Best Books by women? The old arguments that greeted the establishment of the Orange Prize itself are immediately unrolled for another airing: chiefly, that women are not a minority group and good writing transcends boundaries of gender, therefore to treat women writers as belonging to a separate category serves to perpetuate divisions rather than address and erase them. The notion of a literary prize exclusively for white writers or, indeed, for men, is untenable, so the defence for a women-only prize must be that we consider ourselves sidelined. Is it still true that women writers are undervalued?" The Observer (UK) 04/27/03

Orange Prize Shortlist Plays It Safe Big names dominate the shortlist of six for this year's Orange Prize. "The triumvirate of Donna Tartt, who shot to worldwide fame with her debut novel The Secret History, Zadie Smith, another novelist who struck gold first time with White Teeth, and the grand dame of Canadian letters, Carol Shields, are the favourites for the £30,000 award, which is for women writers only. The Scottish novelist Shena Mackay, nominated for the Booker for her bestseller The Orchard On Fire, is the fourth heavyweight on the list with her book Heligoland." The Guardian (UK) 04/25/03

London Book Review Opens Small Bookstore - But Will It Succeed? The London Review of Books is opening a small bookstore in London. The venture "poses a large question about the way we buy books in this country. Are we ready to break the chains of corporate bookselling, which have strangled so many independents? The shop, on Bury Place, will stock the kinds of books that the LRB reviews - political polemics, biographies, philosophical tracts, slim volumes of poetry and literary novels. Whereas most big stores now carry 60-70,000 titles, the LRB shop has only 20,000. And while chains like Borders and Waterstone's stock multiple copies of most books, the LRB shop has only one of each." The Observer (UK) 04/27/03

Voting On A Book For A Country To Read A CBC radio panel has chosen Hubert Aquin's controversial "Prochain Episode" as the book it would most like Canadians to read in this year's Canada Reads program. Over several programs the panel voted off other books under consideration. The final two books for the winning slot were the Aquin and Wayne Johnston's The 'Colony of Unrequited Dreams'. In previous days, they had debated the merits of, and had voted off, Paul Hiebert's 'Sarah Binks', Yann Martel's 'Life of Pi' and Helen Humphreys's 'The Lost Garden'. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/26/03

Judge Restores Harry Potter Books To Arkansas Library Shelves A judge has ruled that an Arkansas school district must return Harry Potter books to its shelves. The Cedarville school district had voted that children wanting to check out the books had to get parental permission. "The Harry Potter books have been assailed by some Christian groups for their themes of witchcraft. The American Library Association says the books were the most frequently challenged of 2002, but rarely did those challenges lead to restrictions or bans." CNN 04/23/03

Friday, April 25

"Fastest Book" Sells Out The "fastest book in the world" - conceived, written and printed in 12 hours by a group of 40 German writers this week, has immediately sold out of the 1000 copies printed. Expatica 04/24/03

  • Previously: Going For The Fastest Book Forty German writers are hoping to set a record for the fastest book by conceiving, writing and printing a book in 12 hours. "After the authors have finished their writing, the contributions will be subbed by editors and then sent to the publishers. Organisers hope to have 1,000 copies printed before the 12 hours is up, and a party is planned to celebrate the record attempt." BBC 04/23/03

SARS Scare To Cancel Toronto BookExpo? The SARS scare in Toronto has the book industry wondering about cancelling two major gatherings - the annual American Library Association Show and BookExpo Canada, the country's biggest bookseller event. Publishers Weekly 04/25/03

Thursday, April 24

Reading Test - A Presidential Aspirant's Minefield One of the bigger tests for an American presidential candidate? Believe it or not it's "What's your favorite book?" This may seem an innocuous query, but it's actually one of the more treacherous a candidate can answer... Washington Monthly 04/03

Did Harry Potter Save British Tourism? Culture minister, Kim Howells has honoured the Potter books and films for their outstanding contribution to English tourism, recognising the part they have played in boosting the country's image abroad. "Many visitors cite the film as a direct reason for visiting Britain. "We [the British Tourist Authority] went to America just after foot and mouth, and brochures that detailed Harry Potter locations were snapped up - we couldn't print enough. Thousands of people have been inspired by the British actors and venues chosen in the Harry Potter films and the magical descriptions on each page of every book." The Guardian (UK) 04/24/03

Wednesday, April 23

The Oldest Writers Archaeologists have found what they believe to be the oldest examples of human writing. "Carved into 8,600-year-old tortoise shells, the pictograms were found buried with human remains in 24 graves unearthed at Jiahu in Henan province, western China. They predate the earliest recorded writings from Mesopotamia by more than 2,000 years." Discovery 04/22/03

Going For The Fastest Book Forty German writers are hoping to set a record for the fastest book by conceiving, writing and printing a book in 12 hours. "After the authors have finished their writing, the contributions will be subbed by editors and then sent to the publishers. Organisers hope to have 1,000 copies printed before the 12 hours is up, and a party is planned to celebrate the record attempt." BBC 04/23/03

Why A Top Canadian Publisher Went Out Of Business Is "trying to produce high-quality non-fiction that is reader-friendly is pretty much a losing game in Canada"? That's one of the lessons some are taking away from the failure of Canadian publisher Macfarlane Walter & Ross, which went out of business last month. "Many of the traits that writers and editors loved about MWR - the editorial nurturing of writers, the refusal to publish junk titles for a quick profit - are some of the very same factors that got the imprint into trouble and mitigated against a cutthroat salvage operation allowing a prospective buyer to cherry pick assets." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/23/03

Tuesday, April 22

Inside Hitler's Bookcases Hitler was a major bibliophile. He had an enormous collection. "By 1930, as sales of Mein Kampf bolstered his income, book buying represented his third largest tax deduction (after general travel and transportation): 1,692 marks in 1930, with similar deductions in the two years following. More telling still is the five-year insurance policy Hitler took out in October of 1934, with the Gladbacher Fire Insurance Company, on his six-room apartment on the Prinzregentenplatz, in downtown Munich. In the letter of agreement accompanying the policy Hitler valued his book collection, said to consist of 6,000 volumes, at 150,000 marks—half the value of the entire policy. The other half represented his art holdings." The Atlantic 04/03

AntiWar Books Selling Well In US Perhaps surprisingly, given Americans' high support in the polls for war, books skeptical of America's current state of politics, are doing well on the bestseller lists. "The books are comfortably outselling titles which might seem at first to better reflect the zeitgeist, such as Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism and similar." The Guardian (UK) 04/22/03

Monday, April 21

The Future Of Books (Or Something Like Them) What will books look like in the future? "In this revolutionary future, an author will still create 'a book', and a reader still read 'a book'; but the links in the chain between author and reader will not necessarily include a publisher, a printer, a distributor and a bookseller. Instead, the process will go something like this: You will step up to one of these machines and you will browse the index. You might be looking for a classic that has been out of print of years, perhaps, or the latest bestseller, or you might be looking for a book on quiltmaking. You will browse the index, and you will make your choice. You will choose the typeface, the size of the type, the binding, the cover. You will choose whether you want to listen to it or to read it. Then you will pay your money and you will punch your buttons." Sydney Morning Herald 04/22/03

Majoring In Harry "At the annual joint conference of the Popular Culture and American Culture Associations in the past week, J.K. Rowling's boy wizard is the most talked-about topic among the 1500 university professors presenting papers on a wide range of subjects from Nathaniel Hawthorne to the sitcom Friends. In a series of essays and discussions, young Master Potter is being dissected from all angles, from the class consciousness in Rowling's novels to the reaction of the religious right to the books. The phenomenal commercial success of the Harry Potter books has generated a lot of activity in the academic community." Sydney Morning Herald 04/22/03

Iraqi Libraries - Destruction Of History The destruction of Iraq's libraries is a disaster. "While the extent of the loss is not yet fully known, two great libraries, with priceless ancient collections, have been burned, and at least two others looted. In many respects, what has happened is the complete destruction of history. Manuscripts are the main materials we use to write history - it is the evidence. Books published in the last 30 years can be replaced. But rare manuscripts can never be replaced. The looting and burning of virtually all these collections is an incalculable and largely irreplaceable loss. Just imagine the Library of Congress and National Archive pillaged and burned." Boston Globe 04/21/03

Language Police To The Rescue (Who Needs This Kind OF Saving?) The language police have made it a crusade to expurgate language that could be offensive to some from American schoolbooks. "On the theory that a proper K-12 education should upset no one and affirm all, elaborate protocols now exist for the content of classroom materials. Anything even remotely sexist is verboten. Banished from respectable texts are such troublemakers as 'babe,' 'chick' and 'co-ed,' but so too are solid citizens like 'actress,' 'brotherhood' and 'cattleman.' Women are not to be portrayed as frightened, indecisive or vain; men as too assertive, analytical or violent. As for race and ethnicity, perish the stereotypical thought that Asians are studious and hardworking, that blacks excel in sports and music, or that Jews ever lived in tenements..." A new book reveals how far the rewriting goes. OpinionJournal 04/22/03

  • Are European Schools Sanitizing History? Is European history, as taught to Europe's schoolchildren, being sanitized? Vikings, once referred to as "fierce raiders," are now described as "Danes [who] besides being farmers, were much better at trading than Saxons". Napoleon wasn't an invader, he was "a reformer whose code of measurement was introduced throughout Europe." "Vital pieces of history have been taken out of schoolbooks and the curriculum in the European-wide drive to pretend the union has a common identity and background." The Guardian (UK) 04/13/03

Used Bookstores See Sales Increase Independent bookstores as a group may be facing declining sales, but used bookstores are soing well. "The latest consumer book-purchase study shows that, nationally, used bookstores have increased their market share from 3% to 5% in recent years. The increasing retail prices for hardcover and paperbacks have encouraged consumers to seek out used books for better savings, according to the Book Industry Study Group. Some used-book sellers have found a way to make the Internet work for them, and most have garnered strong customer loyalty." Los Angeles Times 04/21/03

Sunday, April 20

Bookstore Sales Down Though retails sales in America rose 3.5 percent in February, bookstore sales fell 4.3 percent, to $1.07 billion. "For the first two months of the year, bookstore sales inched up 0.5%, to $3.32 billion, while sales for all of retail increased 4.6%." Publishers Weekly 04/21/03

Saving Washington's Library Washington DC's central library was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and opened in 1972. Now the city wants to redevelop the area around the library, and the building is endangered. "Already, scores of District operatives are lining up for the political staring contest. The Committee of 100 on the Federal City and the Downtown Artists Coalition want the Mies building to house books—and not under the banner of Barnes & Noble." Washington City Paper 04/18/03

FreeRiders - On The Backs Of Famous Writers A new category of novel is developing, one we might well call 'Freerider Fiction.' In these books, the author rides the reputation of some true- to-history literary figure to a place he probably would not have reached on his own. Some recent examples of Freerider Fiction (FRF) are Monique Truong's 'The Book of Salt', Kate Taylor's 'Mme. Proust and the Kosher Kitchen', Helen Humphreys' 'The Lost Garden' - and, of course, Michael Cunningham's 'The Hours'." National Post 04/20/03

Crime Does Pay? (Depending On How Many Copies You Sell...) Should criminals be allowed to earn money by writing books about what they've done? "The debate about paying criminals for their stories is an enduring one, with the slippery notion of morality at its centre." The Observer (UK) 04/20/03

Saturday, April 19

Madonna, Writer Of Children's Books, Critic Madonna says the children's books she's writing will be "moral tales based on the cabbala". "She condemned the shallow nature of most children's books, explaining that the suggestion for her project came from the teacher with whom she has been studying the cabbala for seven years. She spotted the lack of moral children's books when reading to her first child, Lourdes. 'Now I'm starting to read to my son, but I couldn't believe how vapid and vacant and empty all the stories were'." The Guardian (UK) 04/19/03

Thursday, April 17

Reading In Iraq "In Iraq, and in the Arab world as a whole, public libraries are extremely under-funded and cannot even remotely satisfy the needs of those who want to read. People like me, who had to walk long distances to visit a public library only to be asked to pay huge fees which I could never afford, had no choice but to turn to the libraries of our mosques, which were even poorer than the public ones. The network of bookshops in Iraq is denser than in many other Arab countries. People know about the Iraqis' eagerness to read. During the 1980s, Iraqi booksellers still ordered several times the volume of what their Egyptian colleagues ordered. And despite the embargo and the weak purchasing power of the past years, every new publication sold like hotcakes." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/18/03

Unifying Through The King James The King James Bible, first published in 1611, isn't just a book, of course. But it isn't just a bible, either, reports a new book on the making of the King James. It "was composed in an English that had never been spoken in the street. This was the language of deliberate godliness, yet grounded in easy words and simple things: able to swoop in one verse from the sublimity of the eternal to the clumsiness of a fisherman jumping from a boat. There was a political purpose in this. James I, baptised a Catholic but brought up by Scottish Presbyterians, dreamed of bridging in this Bible his kingdom's religious divides." The Economist 04/18/03

Updike And The Gardner John Updike has written a poem about the 1990 theft of paintings from Boston's Gardner Museum. Updike felt a personal connection to the theft, he said: "It happened on my birthday night, so that I felt slightly at fault in this matter." (He has not been charged.) "It's remained in me. My wife and I do go to the museums now and then. I have always especially loved Vermeer. And so all this especially made it meaningful to me." Boston Globe 04/17/03

Wednesday, April 16

Post-Partisan Depression The demise of the Partisan Review doesn't mean the magazine will be forgotten. "From its inaugural issue as an independent journal, in 1937, which included Delmore Schwartz's short story 'In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,' a poem by Wallace Stevens and contributions by Lionel Trilling, Sidney Hook and Edmund Wilson, to its heyday in the 1940's and 50's, the journal published an astonishing range of landmark work. For many Americans, Partisan Review was their introduction to Abstract Expressionism, existentialism, New Criticism and the voices of talented young writers like Robert Lowell, Norman Mailer, Elizabeth Hardwick and Susan Sontag." The New York Times 04/17/03

Fake Harry Potters Flood The Market The fifth Harry Potter book is due out in June. But already the internet is flooded with fakes purporting to be the real thing. "There are quite a few fakes out there. It's a growing problem because the internet is becoming more and more prevalent. We monitor it very closely. Sometimes they have JK's name on it which is potentially very damaging. I find that quite annoying, we've got to take action. Sometimes they're pornographic which is even more annoying because a lot of the fans are kids." The (Melbourne) 04/16/03

America's Irish Affair Americans have long been fascinated with Irish poetry and literature. "The latest sign of our interest is the awarding of this year's Pulitzer Prize to Paul Muldoon, an excellent Irish poet now living in New Jersey. Why do we love the Irish so much? In large part it's because these poets have portrayed an Ireland that seems glamorously different from our own modern, urban, technological society." Slate 04/16/03

Why It's Difficult To Get Publishing Sales Figures "Nobody talks about publishing numbers because they are so unbelievably low. How many authors really make a living wage from their advances? How many books actually earn out, or pay their authors anything beyond the initial advance? And how many copies sold turn any particular book into a best-seller? Those are the questions all people interested in publishing think they want to know—and their answers are the ones publishing executives go out of their way not to reveal. A book can be on the best-seller lists for a couple of weeks and have sold 30,000 copies. Within publishing, that’s a reasonably good showing, but compared to, say, the music or movie or magazine business, where sales are measured in millions, it seems like nothing." New York Observer 04/16/03

Partisan Review Folds The 68-year-old Partisan Review once America's "pre-eminent journal of culture and politics," is shutting down. "The future of the quarterly journal, which is published at Boston University, was up in the air after the death of its cofounder and editor, William Phillips, in September 2002. Its heyday had clearly passed, and some critics described it as moribund." Chronicle of Higher Education 04/16/03

Tuesday, April 15

Librarians Fighting The Patriot Act Librarians across America are debating how to protect the privacy of their patrons as the government demands to see borrowing records. "There's a huge concern in the library profession about it. The idea that you're free to read, to think, without government looking over your shoulder is sacrosanct." Chicago Sun-Times 04/15/03

Mobs Burn Down Iraq's Libraries Having destroyed Iraq's art treasures in the museums, mobs moved on to Iraq's libraries, destroying the country's written history. "The National Library and Archives ­ a priceless treasure of Ottoman historical documents, including the old royal archives of Iraq ­ were turned to ashes in 3,000 degrees of heat. Then the library of Korans at the Ministry of Religious Endowment was set ablaze." The Independent (UK) 04/15/03

Monday, April 14

Kids Book - Is Everything Fair Game? It used to be that children's books were filled with niceness. It's different now: "With the exception of fantasy, most books for older children eagerly embrace 'unsuitable' subjects: mental illness, poverty, crime, sex and drugs. Perhaps childhood is disappearing. When most information, as well as entertainment, came from the printed word, it was possible to isolate what children read from the fare on offer for adults. This came to mean the sheltering of children from adult secrets, particularly sexual secrets. The growth of radio, television and the internet obviously means that this isolation is now at an end; all children now have access to information that would have been automatically denied them as little as 20 years ago." London Evening Standard 04/14/03

Sunday, April 13

Cliche Central There's a central list of words that have become cliched and ought not to be used in good writing. "This year's list consists almost entirely of pat phrases associated with '9/11' and the 'war on terror', all of which are so far beyond mockery and have been so ruthlessly dissected in the (British) press that the list seems sadly unimaginative (it's become clichéd to remark on the clichéness of the clichés). But isn't there an unforgivable fundamentalism in proscribing certain words as 'bad' English and promoting others as 'right', even when done in jest - one that is, at best, pompously pedantic and, at worst, pernicious, given that many 'wrong' words originate with ethnic or cultural groups for whom they are perfectly 'correct'?" The Observer (UK) 04/13/03

Scrutinizing The Worth Of National Poetry Month "The designation of April as 'National Poetry Month' suggests special pleading and a strategy of containment-as if all other months were thereby declared poetry-free zones. For poets, readers, and even inadvertent overhearers of poetry, however, there is a constant stream of poetic activity, private and public, involving poets both new and old." But "if National Poetry Month can offer something other than hype, let's make it an opportunity to give our national discourse the scrutiny our best poets have always given to language." Boston Globe 04/13/03

Saturday, April 12

Wordy-gig - The New "Shorter" OED Some 3,500 new words have found their ways into the new Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. "Browsing in their latest verbal treasurehouse is not only a welcome escape. At around seven pounds a volume, it's also good for those pecs." And it's got great new words - like "newzak" for those burned out on the 24-hour news cycles... The Economist 04/11/03

For 22 Years She's Been Most-Borrowed Dame Catherine Cookson, who wrote more than 70 books and died in 1998, has been the 'most borrowed author' for 22 years in British libraries. In 1988 a survey found her books accounted for a third of all British library borrowings." But her grip on the fiction hearts of Britons is waning - this past year, her books were checked out fewer than 3 million times for the first time. The Guardian (UK) 04/12/03

Friday, April 11

Small Publishers' Stock Trades Up Business analysts say that small publishers are sometimes a better business than the big publishing houses. "If these companies are publishing for the professional or children's book market, they don't need one big hit a year. They might publish hundreds of books that sell 10,000 copies each, and that's fine. They can make a profit because the books tend to be pricier than other kinds of books and because, particularly with universities and other professional markets, institutions have to buy large numbers of these books, whether they want to or not." CNN 04/11/03

Thursday, April 10

Frankfurt Fair To Stay In Frankfurt After long debates and threats to leave town, "the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing trade fair, will stay in Frankfurt. Threats to relocate to Munich have lost currency and that's the end to all that. This decision was made public Tuesday following an extraordinary meeting of the publishing association's management board." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/11/03

The Promising Young Writer Who Says He Won't Write Again Who is Dan Rhodes? "At 30, he is one of the youngest authors to be chosen for Granta's reputedly generation-defining Best Young British Novelists list. His first novel, 'Timoleon Vieta Come Home,' has attracted a flurry of plaudits." But there's a catch on the way up the literary ladder. Rhodes declared that he will never write again. The Guardian (UK) 04/09/03

Iraqi Looters Steal Everything But The Books Looters emptied the house of Iraqi vice-premier Tariq Aziz, "stealing everything from paintings to curtains, kitchen units, and even stripped the electrical wires from the villa's main switchboard. But what they left behind in his library was politically notable: the complete works of Saddam Hussein in Arabic, the mafia novels of Mario Puzo, author of the Godfather, and a book on geopolitics by Richard Nixon, former US president." Glasgow Herald 04/11/03

Suing To Sell Books On The Streets Of New Orleans On the streets of New Orleans you can sell candles, razor blades, toiletries, pencils and shoelaces. You can sell photographs, weigh people, stage art shows and hold cooking demonstrations. What you can't do is sell books. Now a move to sue to get the ordinance changed to allow bookselling. Publishers Weekly 04/09/03

Rosetta To Put Out Random House E-ditions "RosettaBooks, which in 2001 angered Random House by putting out digital versions of William Styron's Sophie's Choice and other titles without the publisher's consent, announced Wednesday it had agreed with Random House on the release of 51 e-books... Under an out-of-court settlement reached last December, Rosetta was allowed to keep publishing Sophie's Choice and the other books and collaborate with Random House on additional releases." Los Angeles Times (AP) 04/10/03

The Believer Tiptoes Into View In recent weeks, a new magazine has begun to creep quietly onto the racks at a few select independent bookstores in the Midwest. It seems to be vaguely literary in nature, but also appears to flout a great many traditional rules of literary navel-gazing. It's called The Believer, and yet it's a bit unclear what its publishers might believe in. It has a manifesto instead of a title page, and makes no effort to stand out in any way, despite a clear attempt to appeal to a young, hipster literary crowd. So what is The Believer, and who is behind it? Let's just say that the new mag is a heartbreaking periodical of staggering marketing savvy. Chicago Tribune 04/10/03

Wednesday, April 9

The FBI Is Watching You American government law officials are visiting libraries to remove "sensitive" material, access records of what library patrons are reading, and, in at least one case, try to remove a librarian's computer hard drive because an email with the word "anthrax" had been recieved on it. Village Voice 04/08/03

The UK's Favorite Book? Let's Try To Vote Legit The BBC is conducting a public search for the UK's most-loved book. But the broadcaster wants to avoid attempted manipulation of the voting, as happened last year with the public vote that named Winston Churchill the country's Favorite Briton. "The Churchill bandwagon beat off a well-orchestrated campaign for Isambard Kingdom Brunel, headed by students at Brunel University, who voted en-masse on the internet for the man who gave their institution its name. Bookmakers were so convinced the students' campaign would work that they stopped taking bets, and the episode led to allegations that the BBC had fixed the poll by deliberately placing the Churchill documentary last in the series so he would be freshest in the viewers' memory." London Evening Standard 04/09/03

Hemingway Letters Head For Boston "A collection of intimate letters written by Ernest Hemingway to actress Marlene Dietrich has been donated to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. The collection includes 30 letters, telegrams and a Christmas card that were written between 1949 and 1959, as well as early drafts of several Hemingway poems and stories. Under the terms of the gift, donated by Dietrich's daughter, Maria Riva, the correspondence can't be opened to the public until 2007. Deborah Leff, director of the library, said Monday she had seen the letters and they were 'breathtaking.'" Toronto Star (AP) 04/09/03

Tuesday, April 8

US Libraries Vs US Patriot Act American libraries are taking steps to guard patrons' privacy from the US government. The US Patriot Act allows law enforcement to pry into the library habits of citizens. "The American Libraries Association calls the provisions a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users. The association fears library patrons or bookstore customers could become targets of suspicion simply based on what books they are reading. More importantly, they say they fear a chilling effect that could make people fearful of reading particular books or Web sites to avoid becoming targets of suspicion." Newark Star-Ledger 04/08/03

B&N Cranks Up Its "Classic Books" Line Not content to simply sell books, superstore Barnes & Noble is expanding the line of titles it publishes. "The superstore chain announced Monday it was upgrading and expanding its line of 'classic books' such as 'Moby-Dick' and 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.' Editions from the new imprint, Barnes & Noble Classics, will start coming out in May, with 100 different titles expected by June 2004." Yahoo! (AP) 04/08/03

University of Texas Buys Watergate Papers "In one of the largest such purchases in American history, the University of Texas at Austin has bought the Watergate papers of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for $5 million, the university announced today... As part of the extraordinary deal to purchase the materials, the university agreed to honor Woodward and Bernstein's long-standing commitment to protect the identity of a number of confidential sources until their deaths, including 'Deep Throat,' the Nixon administration official whose deep-background information was crucial to The Post's pursuit of the Watergate story." Washington Post 04/08/03

Macfarlane Walter & Ross To Cease Publication Another Canadian publishing house is going under. This time, it's the "elite nonfiction" publisher Macfarlane Walter & Ross, which had been operating as a division of McLelland & Stewart since 1999. MW&R had been put up for sale by McLelland & Stewart, but no buyer has been found, and publisher Doug Gibson says that MW&R will cease publication at the end of the month. However, Gibson also said that most if not all of the titles slated for publication by MW&R will be put out by McLelland & Stewart. Toronto Star 04/08/03

Libraries - Shredding The Patriot Act Librarians across the US have protested provisions in the Patriot Act that require libraries to turn over records about their patrons. Librarians in Santa Cruz have turned to the shredder for their protest. Daily they shred records that might identify patrons in some way. "The basic strategy now is to keep as little historical information as possible." The New York Times 04/07/03

Monday, April 7

Hemingway/Dietrich Letters To Kennedy Library Thirty of Ernest Hemingway's letters to Marlene Dietrich are being donated to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. "The letters, never made public, will remain sealed for four years, according to the wishes of Dietrich's heirs. 'We didn't know the collection existed,' said Deborah Leff, director of the Kennedy Library." The New York Times 04/07/03

British Museum Buys Rare Woolf Manuscripts The British Museum has bought a collection of rare handwritten manuscripts by Virginia Woolf. "The manuscripts form part of two mock newspapers composed by Woolf's nephews, Julian and Quentin Bell, as children. Some 188 editions of the partly hand-written, partly-typed newspapers - The Charleston Bulletin and The New Bulletin - were found in an old tin trunk." BBC 04/06/03

Sunday, April 6

Does An Author's Looks Matter For Book Sales? As a writer with three novels published by New York houses, I knew that each new book got harder to place. I was aware of the publishers' lust for 'new blood,' for authors with no track record, but who were therefore full of potential, vs. those who were mid-list. That's the category for authors whose average sales are in the 5,000- to 7,000-copy range, the book industry equivalent of a woman who is dismissed as 'plain.' The thinking, of course, was that vivacious and photogenic authors were more attractive to the media and more effective on book tours. For a while this worked, until every bookstore in the country had a bestselling author every other night of the week and readers looked upon the opportunity to greet their favorite author with about the same enthusiasm as for their favorite pizza topping." Hartford Courant 04/06/03

Down With The Language Bullies "Language bullying - or prescriptivism, as it's more politely called - is conservative in the worst sense. It advances a stuffy and old-fashioned view of language, the rules of which it considers set by supposed experts, such as the authors of grammar books, rather than common usage. It is deeply anti-populist and snobby, not to mention just plain wrong and cranky. Most 'rules' cited by bullies are highly suspect." National Post (Canada) 03/26/03

Are Book Reviews "Advertising Posing As Criticism?" Heidi Julavits has largely given up on book reviews. In an essay in the new magazine Believer, she writes: "Maybe it's simply that book reviews have devolved to a point where they function as little more than advertising posing as criticism; the only books likely to be ratified by critical coverage are the books that promise to be ratified by the marketplace." Critic Bob Hoover takes offense: "The newspaper book editors I know, me included, have never written or run a review of rearranged copy cribbed from a press release or looked at the best-seller list as a source of recommendations, those titles 'ratified by the marketplace'." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04/06/03

Biblical Signs of Armageddon - Surfing/Literature Division "Roxy Girl, one of the hottest labels in girls' fashion, makes sweetly sexy, surfer-centric sportswear along with almost everything else a beach bunny would need: hats, glasses, totes, watches, sandals. Now the firm has come up with the ultimate brand-name accessory: preteen reading with the Roxy Girl label. It's the first time a clothing company has ventured into the literary field." Los Angeles Times 04/06/03

Poets Against War "By definition, wars are deadly and destructive. In Western societies at least, it takes little moral courage or imaginative reach to oppose such qualities. In aiming their fire at such easy targets as the warmongers who inflict horror on the innocent, many poets invite an interrogation: Do you accept that some wars may be necessary? If so, how do you choose which ones should be fought?" A new collection of anti-war poetry spends more time on the answers than one might expect, and as a result, actually packs a political punch at a time when many mainstream artists have been cowed into keeping their pacifist sensibilities to themselves. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/05/03

Thursday, April 3

The Danger That Is McSweeney's "The 'New Yorker short story' is no longer the hegemon it may once have been. In fact, this collection of 'thrilling tales' actually serves as a more effective counterbalance to an entirely new phenomenon. Call it the 'McSweeney's short story' — younger and hipper and more experimental, but no less influential. In some ways, McSweeney's has been a useful counterpoint to the mainstream publishing scene. Regardless of whether its self-referential play is to your taste, it's the first bona fide literary movement in decades—with all the old-fashioned energy that such a term implies. But the quality of the work inside McSweeney's has yet to live up to the promise of the magazine's gloriously designed packaging." Slate 04/03/03

Wednesday, April 2

Classics: Where The Money Is "Measured against a best seller in its first flush, sales of any classic book are piddling, of course (unless the classic has just been made into a blockbuster movie, in which case all bets are off). But the overall sales picture resembles the proverbial tortoise-and-hare scenario: As the race goes on, the classics win out. This may seem intuitive; but what's surprising is that often the race doesn't have to go on long at all." Slate 04/02/03

Tuesday, April 1

Are We Reading More Poetry Than We Used To? "On almost any day these days, somewhere in Chicago and its suburbs, a poet is conducting a reading. A poet in residence is opening a world of words to a class of wide-eyed 5th graders. An editor in a cluttered, cramped home office is lovingly cobbling together a poetry journal that will be seen by a tiny audience appreciative of its presence, concerned for its survival. A boisterous bar crowd is giving encouraging applause or withering hisses to contestants in a poetry slam. "That sure wasn't the case in the '70s or '80s. Every once in a while, there'd be a reading, but not all that often." Chicago Tribune 04/01/03

Study: As Book Review Space Declines So Do Book Sales The book business is hurting in Canada. Could it partly be because book review space in newspapers is shrinking? A survey of eight major Canadian papers (including four owned by the CanWest chain) found that "in the CanWest papers, 14 per cent fewer books were reviewed last year than five years earlier. The decline at CanWest most keenly affected Canadian authors, who received half the reviews in 1997 but only 42 per cent of a smaller total last year. Books from small presses were 18 per cent of 1997 reviews at the CanWest papers, versus 11 per cent in 2002. Reviews in the other four papers rose by 17 per cent over the same period. The Star published 100 reviews over three months last year (a 1 per cent increase), the Globe & Mail published 155 (up by 2 per cent), while the Halifax Chronicle Herald tripled its reviews from 19 to 57." Toronto Star 04/01/03

Home | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©
2002 ArtsJournal. All Rights Reserved