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Tuesday, September 30

Watch For Nobel Literature Prize Announcement The Nobel Prize for Literature - traditionally the first of the Nobels to be announced - will be revealed this Thursday. "The Nobel Literature Prize is the only Nobel Prize whose announcement date is revealed only two days in advance, and the prizewinner's name is traditionally made public on a Thursday." The Age (Melbourne) 10/01/03

Detroit Newspaper Kills Negative Book Review Of One Of Its Own The Detroit Free Press has killed a review it had commissioned of a book by Mitch Albom, the newspaper's star sports columnist, because the review came in negative. The paper's executive editor "confirmed that she decided not to run the review by freelance writer Carlo Wolff simply because the reviewer didn't much like the book. She said Albom was not involved in the decision. The book is titled 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven.' 'I was not really comfortable with disparaging one of my employees that way. Yes, it's because the review was negative'." The Sun-Sentinel (Florida) 09/27/03

Monday, September 29

Do Book Reviews Matter? Do book reviews matter one whit to anyone? Okay, maybe the author. But "I believe we are at best traffic wardens. It's a free-for-all out there. I have seen books praised to the skies that have scarcely troubled the check-out clerks at Borders or Hatchards. I have watched books comprehensively ignored by The Observer, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph being lugged out of Waterstone's, Books etc, Ottakars and Menzies by the bagload." The Observer (UK) 09/28/03

Attack Dog - Why Must Critic Bloom Be So Negative? Literary critic Harold Bloom has been quick to condemn awarding the National Book Award to Stephen King. While Steve Almond doesn't necessarily disagree with Bloom about King, he is confused as to Bloom's purpose in attacking: "What I don't quite get—and maybe this is because I haven't spent long enough in academia—is why Bloom feels it necessary to sound off against writers he deems inferior, as opposed to celebrating the writers (and the ideas) he admires. And, furthermore, why he chooses to do so in such a lazy manner." MobyLives 09/29/03

The Amazon Factor Amazon's book-selling rankings are becoming increasingly influential in promoting a book. "Amazon is an early indicator of consumer enthusiasm. It's a place where you look to for early signals as to a book's potential in the marketplace.' Authors indeed are paying increasing heed to Amazon's unique and influential role in publicizing and selling books. While the company doesn't break out its books sales, it sold $1.7 billion worth of books, music, videos and DVDs for the first half of the year." Seattle Times 09/29/03

Sunday, September 28

Fighting Ashcroft Makes Reading/Libraries Glamorous? American librarians have been fighting Attorney General John Ashcroft and his attacks on readers' privacy. But "for book lovers, Ashcroft versus the librarians is some thing else - one of those spectacles that manage, like book bannings in suburban schools or the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, to glamorize reading and make it seem to be, as it sometimes and in some places actually is, a high-stakes activity. Suddenly, your unprepossessing branch library - a low-slung 60's building, perhaps, and not in the greatest repair - looms as an epic battleground of ideas." New York Times Magazine 09/28/03

On The Same Page - Paper That Can Show Movies Paper that can display electronic "ink" is now advanced enough that it will be able to show video images. A single sheet looks pretty much like ordinary paper. But the ink can be rearranged electronically fast enough to show video movies." Nature 09/25/03

Friday, September 26

Why Not Just Pass A Law And Make Everyone Read It? Apparently, it's not enough to have produced the best-selling children's book series of all time. The good folks at Scholastic, American publisher of the Harry Potter books, are launching a new ad campaign designed to draw adults of all demographics into the Hogwartian fold. A new series of print ads aimed at the 18-35 set, and specifically focusing on such voracious consumers of literature as bikers and skate punks, will begin running in select magazines this fall. Chicago Tribune (AP) 09/26/03

Thursday, September 25

Star Spanish Writer Accused Of Plagiarism "Spain's top-selling novelist, Arturo Perez-Reverte, was called before a judge yesterday to answer allegations of plagiarism in a battle with a fellow Spanish novelist over the script of the film Gypsy." The Guardian (UK) 09/26/03

Madonna Book Breaks Record Madonna's first literary effort - a children's book - has become the fastest selling children's picture book of all time. The Age (Melbourne) 09/26/03

Hillary, Abridged Hillary Clinton's memoir is making a huge splash in China, where a translated version of the book is topping bestseller lists. But New York's junior senator is furious with Chinese authorities for censoring the book, removing all passages critical of the Chinese government before releasing it for domestic consumption. Washington Post 09/25/03

Wednesday, September 24

Ferlinghetti: Beats Weren't So Great Lawrence Ferlinghetti says the Beat poets have been over-romanticized. "It is really much more interesting today than in the 50's. There has been all of this mythologizing of the 50's and the Beat generation in San Francisco and so forth, but it has been wildly overdone, because it was a really depressing period, I thought, on account of the general repressive atmosphere and the political climate. Mr. Ferlinghetti described the Beats in San Francisco as 'New York carpetbaggers' who were fixated on an America that doesn't exist anymore." The New York Times 09/25/03

Story: Trying To Publish Hitler "Thirty years after Hitler wrote his last and largely unknown book, it was discovered by Jewish scholar Gerhard Weinberg - who has spent four decades trying to publish it in English." The Telegraph (UK) 09/25/03

The Killer Preview Review When newspapers review a book before it's actually been published, it lets the air out of publication. "Early reviewing means that books don't get a fair shake. Why, I asked a friend at Viking, don't they act against editors who infringe the embargo notice? Why not sue, or collectively boycott, offending journals - either directly or through the Publishers' Association? The fact is that publishers are frightened of editors. So are authors." The Guardian (UK) 09/22/03

Harry Potter For Adults "Having conquered the children's market, Scholastic Inc., the U.S. publisher of J.K. Rowling's multimillion-selling series, is targeting adults, ages 18 to 35. Potter ads featuring bikers, skateboarders and couch potatoes will appear in Rolling Stone and other magazines throughout October. 'We felt we needed to think out of the box and reach out to readers who would not normally pick up a copy of Harry Potter unless somebody placed it in their hands'." Washington Post (AP) 09/24/03

What's A Language Without Snollygoster? The new Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary is out, and it includes 10,000 new words. But there were many words that had to be taken out to make room. "Among these ghost words, the most unjustly cashiered may well be "snollygoster." A snollygoster is . . . a snollygoster is . . . actually, without a previous edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary handy, there's no telling anymore what a snollygoster is. Luckily -- and here's a phrase that must give every last lexicographer at Merriam-Webster the fantods - - that's what Google's for." San Francisco Chronicle 09/24/03

Tuesday, September 23

Dewey Sues Hotel... Who Knew? Many people were surprised this week that a library-themed hotel in New York was being sued for using the Dewey Decimal System as a theme. Who knew someone actually "owned" Dewey? "The Online Computer Library Center is seeking damages of three times the profits the hotel has made since it opened. Dewey, a librarian, invented the Dewey Decimal Classification in 1874 and devoted his life to spreading it. Over time, it became the most widely employed cataloging system in the world, used today in 95 percent of public libraries in the United States." The New York Times 09/23/03

  • Previously: Dewey Decimal Sues Hotel "The nonprofit library cooperative that owns the Dewey Decimal system has filed suit against a library-themed luxury hotel in Manhattan for trademark infringement. The Library Hotel, which overlooks the New York Public Library, is divided according to the classification system, with each floor dedicated to one of Dewey's 10 categories. Room 700.003 includes books on the performing arts, for example, while room 800.001 has a collection of erotic literature." Washington Post (AP) 09/22/03

Dear Mr. King: Decline Book columnist J. Peder Zane writes an open letter to Stephen King about his pending National Book Award. "I am writing to ask you to do something that only one in a million in your position would even contemplate. I am beseeching you to perform a truly heroic act that could influence the direction of American culture. Respectfully, I am urging you to decline this award." The News & Observer (Raleigh) 09/21/03

Monday, September 22

Anger In Kabul (And Now In Europe) Asne Seierstad's book "The Bookseller of Kabul" is a runaway hit. It has "sold more than half a million copies in Scandinavia alone. It has been sold to publishers in 17 countries and came out to rave reviews in Britain last month. It is due out in the US in October, and is the bestselling Norwegian non-fiction book of all time." But the Afghan family on which the book is based is angry at its portrayal and the head of the family is "not only demanding 'compensation' and 'damages', but says that many people, himself included, 'would be happy to see it burned'." The Observer (UK) 09/21/03

What's Wrong With The Booker The Booker prize has, for much of its history, been anthrax for the average reader. One thing you could be guaranteed of: you might come out of the experience feeling cleverer, or more high-toned, but you’re unlikely to have had much of an enjoyable time. Furthermore, you are unlikely to have read anything contemporary, or that has anything to say about Britain today. Rather as British art abandoned painting, for decades British writing abandoned story. Plot, good characters and, God forbid, humour, have not only been largely absent from the list of Booker triumphs - they are positively reasons for exclusion, it seems sometimes." The Scotsman 09/21/03

Dewey Decimal Sues Hotel "The nonprofit library cooperative that owns the Dewey Decimal system has filed suit against a library-themed luxury hotel in Manhattan for trademark infringement. The Library Hotel, which overlooks the New York Public Library, is divided according to the classification system, with each floor dedicated to one of Dewey's 10 categories. Room 700.003 includes books on the performing arts, for example, while room 800.001 has a collection of erotic literature." Washington Post (AP) 09/22/03

Sunday, September 21

Best of Luck, Koo-Koo-Ka-Choo A new magazine called Walrus launches this month in Canada, with the aim of becoming the Canadian version of The New Yorker or The Atlantic Monthly. Other publishers have tried this sort of thing before, of course, with generally disappointing results. But many in the industry are betting that the time is right for a homegrown mag catering to the highbrow crowd to seize the Canadian consciousness. Toronto Star 09/21/03

Thursday, September 18

The Death Of Reading In Egypt? "These people, this cultured generation, there aren't any of them left. I remember how, the first day of summer vacation, women would converge at these stalls with their sons and daughters to stock up on summer readings. Now all kids want are their computer games and Game Boys. Today people have no use for a book unless it's for their Masters or Doctorate degree. No one reads for recreation. Just look around Ezbekeya at these empty stalls, and then go look at any fuul stand and see how many people are there in comparison." Egypt Today 09/18/03

Of Books And Mortality It's easy to see old brittle books and wonder at their fragility. But encountering them later in life one wonders: "What are 20 years to a book that survived the Inquisition? I, meanwhile, am more than twice the age I was when I saw it last. I am married, I have children and I am mourning my father, who died this year. I can't help thinking that part of the dread I felt seeing those fragile books as a teenager was unconscious anticipation of the moment when I would see them again as an adult and realize that I was the ephemeral one." The New York Times 09/19/03

Book Sales Figures That Put It All In Perspective "David Beckham may be barely literate, but he has outsold all six Booker Prize nominees in the first two days of his autobiography going on sale. The England soccer captain's book, My Side, sold 86,000 copies in two days, 21,000 more than the combined sales of the six shortlisted Booker candidates, which have been on sale for months. " Sydney Morning Herald 09/19/03

Agentless Rejected Author Beats Literary Majors For Booker Nomination "A piano teacher from Birmingham, whose first four novels were rejected by publishers, has beaten Martin Amis to the last six of the Man Booker Prize. 'I suppose it is a strike for all those of us who have unpublished books under our beds and wonder is it worth going on. Well it is,' Clare Morrall declared. 'Keep going'!" The Guardian (UK) 09/17/03

Small Publishing Is Big Business Sometimes it seems like big publishers increasingly own everything in the book world. But a new study reports that small publishers are a rapidly growing group. The report estimated total revenues last year for the smallest publishers of $29.4 billion and sales that have grown by 21% a year for the past five years. Publishers Weekly 09/18/03

Ashcroft: Patriot Act Library Provision Hasn't Been Used In response to enormous criticism, US Attorney General John Ashcroft says that the controversial Patriot Act provision giving federal authorities the ability to check on library and book store records has never been used. "Critics have said the FBI's authority to obtain the records threatens the privacy and First Amendment rights of library and bookstore patrons, as well as other businesses. Law enforcement officials say the power is rarely used, properly supervised by judges and essential to combat terror." Yahoo! (AP) 09/18/03

Stephen King: I'll Treasure Literary Award Stephen King is thrilled to be getting an honorary National Book Award for lifetime achievement. "This is probably the most exciting thing to happen to me in my career as a writer since the sale of my first book in 1973. I'll return the cash award to the National Book Foundation for the support of their many educational and literary outreach programs... . The medal I will keep and treasure for the rest of my life." Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 09/18/03

  • King Award Is Controversial The selection of Stephen King for an honorary National Book Award has been greeted by some with dismay. "Told of Mr. King's selection, some in the literary world responded with laughter and dismay. 'He is a man who writes what used to be called penny dreadfuls. That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy'." The New York Times 09/15/03

Cover Art - Book Design Master "In the hitherto esoteric world of book-jacket design, Chip Kidd has achieved an unusual fame, earning the awe and enmity reserved for genius. In hailing Kidd as 'the world's greatest book-jacket designer,' thriller king James Ellroy was merely adding his voice to a loud chorus of praise. Art critic Robert Hughes and novelist Paul Golding have been equally effusive." National Post (Canada) 09/18/03

Wednesday, September 17

Booker: A Surprising Year This year's Booker shortlist is something of a mystery, eschewing plenty of big names. "All but one of the big names in fiction, including that of Martin Amis, once the darling of literary London, were culled. Instead, the judges came up with one of the most surprising lists in the 35-year history of the prize. It includes the highest number of both first novelists - three - and women writers - four." The Telegraph (UK) 09/18/03

Tuesday, September 16

BBC In Print The BBC is best known as a broadcaster. But it is also one of the biggest publishers in the UK. "BBC Magazines, now the third biggest publisher in the UK behind IPC and Emap, employs 550 staff and publishes 35 titles, usually linked to successful television programmes such as Top Gear and Top of the Pops, and the many lifestyle shows." The Independent (UK) 09/16/03

Atwood, Ali Lead Booker Shortlist Margaret Atwood and newcomer Monica Ali head up the shortlist for this year's Booker Prize. Martin Amis and JM Coetzee didn't make the cut, but Zoe Heller, Damon Galgut and debut writers Clare Morrall and DBC Pierre did. Three of the nominations are for first novels. The winner is announced October 14. BBC 09/16/03

Textbooks For $120? "In the past two decades, the price of textbooks has soared. The price of educational books and supplies has risen 238 percent, while the price of consumer goods over all has increased only 51 percent, according to the Consumer Price Index. At four-year private colleges, the College Board found, students spent an average of $807 on books last year. Some students, particularly science and math majors, spent that much in one semester. At the same time, more books are being sold in shrink-wrapped bundles with supplements that a student may not need but must pay for, such as a study guide, dictionary or CD-ROM. But more and more, students are fighting back, finding ways to reduce the costs." The New York Times 09/16/03

Monday, September 15

Up The Amazon - Digitizing Non-Fiction Amazon is digitizing nonfiction books to create an online database that can be searched by keywords. Publishers are wary but going along so far. "The plan, first reported about in the New York Times in July, is seen as a way to draw more traffic to the Amazon site as it competes with search engines such as Google and Yahoo." Publishers Weekly 09/15/03

Madonna Launches Book (Without The Book) Madonna's new children's book launched over the weekend - a product of hype already makes it a best-seller. "The English Roses has already found its way into publishing history as the widest, simultaneous multi-language release, with a target of more than 100 countries in 30 languages. The US print run alone is 400,000. The massive hype of Madonna's simple fable perplexed the publishing world yesterday as she hosted an elaborate Kensington tea-party launch without a single copy of the book." The Guardian (UK) 09/15/03

E-Books - Will They Survive? With publishers getting out of publishing e-books, some wonder if e-publishing is dead. "E-books may find their niche with tech-savvy youth unfazed by the notion of browsing literature on a screen, and the growing legion of retirement-age readers, according to Richard Doherty, research director at Envisioneering Group. Two audiences that will benefit best are young people who loathe the idea of a library ... and aging people who want the convenience of large type on demand or freedom from lugging heavy hardcover tomes. For now, e-books are an afterthought in the publishing world." Wired 09/14/03

Sunday, September 14

Atwood's Adolescent Alliteration "If Margaret Atwood's mighty novels give you morbid migraines, don't miss her mesmerising manuscript for mini-readers, in which her mission is mainly mayhem and mischief. Also to massage the mood of her publisher Anna Porter by maybe making her millions. But after you read Atwood's new book for rugrats Rude Ramsay And The Roaring Radishes, rolling in letters R, resist the relentless repetition of the same sound at the start of every word. You will resemble a robot and be repellent to your relatives and roommates. Ridiculous? Just try to refrain." Toronto Star 09/13/03

Friday, September 12

Remnick's New Yorker: As Ever, Standing Apart The New Yorker may be the most storied magazine in American history. More than two dozen books have been written about its history, and "over the years, no magazine has succeeded as consistently in maintaining a sense of originality. True, other publications can boast a higher circulation than the New Yorker's 958,000. And many have greater reach on Main Street and Wall Street, not to mention at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But how many have a mystique for publishing memorable writing?" Under new editor David Remnick, the magazine seems to be once again reinventing itself, with Remnick insisting that he didn't sign on to be a "museum steward." But with so much protective fervor surrounding New Yorker's past, Remnick may have a difficult route to the future. CBS Marketwatch 09/12/03

A Low-Key Kind Of Publishing House Patricia Johnston runs the Afton Historical Society Press, a tiny publishing house in a little town outside St. Paul, Minnesota. You've probably never heard of the company. After all, Johnston puts out an average of four to six titles per year, and isn't really all that interested in advertising, or making sales calls, or actually marketing her product much at all. Nonetheless, the business has flourished, with word of mouth being apparently enough to sell the consistently high-quality books that Afton puts out, and many see the company as a textbook example of how an independent publisher can survive in the world of increasingly corporate bookselling. City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 09/10/03

Reason To Review "It stands to reason that book reviewers enjoy reading. After all, as was noted in the first two installments of this series, they must choose (often with the help of assigning editors), from the immense heap of books that accumulates each year, the titles to read and write about—in fewer and fewer words, under deadline, and for not much pay. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call book reviewing a labor of love, except for the fact that it is so often a vilified profession. Reviewers are accused of having agendas and of cronyism, are called show-offs and career-killers. It’s a lot of heat to take for some free books, a few bucks, and a byline. So what’s the draw?" Poets & Writers 09/03

How We Act As Reflected In Book Sales Amazon sales rankings might be must-checks for mostg authors, but they also give researchers a fascinating window on how sales are affected by prices. The New York Times 09/12/03

Wednesday, September 10

Barnes & Noble Closes Down Its E-book Business BarnesandNoble.com was one of the biggest boosters of e-books. But the company has shut down its e-book division. "BN.com's decision comes at a time when e-book sales are reported to be steadily growing, the number of retail outlets for e-books is increasing and a host of new reading devices are entering the market. It was BN.com, in collaboration with Microsoft, that led the push to sell e-books when it launched an e-book superstore in 2000." Publishers Weekly 09/10/03

Me-Too-itis Books seem to arrive in flocks these days. "Name any high-profile subject and you can pretty much bet that if one house is publishing a book on it, another house won’t be far behind. Much of the time, competing titles on the same topic appear within weeks of each other." New York Observer 09/10/03

Goading Kakutani A few years back , novelist Leslie Epstein tried to goad New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani into reviewing his book by buying tiny text ads in the Times ("YOO-HOO! MY CUTE KAKUTANI!-Leib Goldkorn is calling" read one). It didn't work. Indeed, Kakutani got the paper to stop running them. So now Epstein has a new book out and this week he got word that Kakutani was reviewing it... The New York Observer (2nd item) 09/10/03

Tuesday, September 9

From Blurber To Blurbee Steve Almond lays down some rules for the art of the book blurb. "One of my least favorite experiences as a writer, is listening to other writers whine about being asked to give a blurb. (As with most of my indictments, I am guilty of this crime myself.) What annoys me about these complaints is not just the unacknowledged narcissism — Poor me! How to bear such popularity? — but the basic ingratitude." MobyLives 09/08/03

A Poet Laureate For Our Times? "It would be invidious to suggest that Louise Glück, who last week replaced Billy Collins in the office down Library of Congress way, is the finer poet; better noted is how much more thoroughly she fits the moment. History gets the poets it deserves, and though Ms. Glück isn't as grim as the newspapers of late, nor as rapaciously bellicose as the administration, she's no good-time guy. Her poetry is no stranger to difficulty, and has shadows aplenty."
Village Voice 09/09/03

Should A Critic Be Disqualified For Being Negative? Defenders of Chuck Palahniuk's "Diary," which recently got a bad review in Salon, suggest that the critic was predisposed to not liking the book and therefore ought not to have reviewed it. Alex Good begs to differ: "This reaction struck me as bizarre. As Auden pointed out, every critic is at heart a polemicist. If you think a book is representative of something that is wrong with our literary culture you have a duty to take it on. There is nothing personal about it. Alas, in a celebrity culture everything is personal." GoodReports 09/08/03

Monday, September 8

City Lights At 50 San Francisco's City Lights is one of the world's most famous bookstores. "The shop and publishing house were founded by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the publisher Peter Martin in 1953. It became famous as the home of the beats in the 50s and 60s - the place where you bought Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady - and it has never lost its countercultural image, although tour buses no longer pause outside to show visitors the 'beatniks', as they did 40 years ago. Situated in the North Beach area, surrounded by cafes, Chinese restaurants and strip clubs, City Lights has managed to survive despite the growth of the big chains and internet bookshops." The Guardian (UK) 09/08/03

Joan Didion And The Cult Of Personality Since the publication of The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion has been celebrated as one of America's leading practitioners of a new kind of highly wrought personal journalism. In the New York Observer, Susan Faludi claimed that Didion taught a generation of writers how to make journalism "a personal expression." And Martin Amis characterized her style as "self-revealing" in an essay in which he went on to call her "a human being who managed to gauge another book out of herself rather than a writer who gets her living done on the side." But has her writing ever been that immediate, that personal, that raw? Has her confessional style ever been much more than just that—a style?" Slate 09/04/03

Sunday, September 7

The Lester Bangs Cult Lester Bangs "died in 1982 at 33, the victim of an accidental Darvon overdose. In the generation since, he has come to occupy his own corner of the pop-culture pantheon, been mentioned in songs by R.E.M. and the Ramones, and even portrayed, in a bit of fact-meets-fiction reinvention, by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film Almost Famous. The more iconified he’s become, the greater the distance between his image and his writing, between the myth of Bangs as gonzo genius and the reality of what he had to say." LAWeekly 09/04/03

Naming Harry Looking for clues as to the next Harry Potter installments? "Harry Potter and the Chariots of Light, Harry Potter and the Mudblood Revolt, Harry Potter and the Alchemist’s Cell and Harry Potter and the Quest of the Centaur have all been registered as trademarks with the UK Patent Office." The Scotsman 09/04/03

When Writer Marries Writer Two writers under one roof inevitably leads to friction. "In the nature of things, one partner usually succeeds more than the other. Or they may succeed at different times, so that literary reputation shifts within the marriage." National Post (Canada) 09/03/03

Lorca's Grave Found? "One of the mysteries of the Spanish civil war may soon be solved by the excavation of the communal grave in which the poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca is believed to have been thrown after his execution by one of Franco's death squads in August 1936. Considered by many the greatest poet and playwright of 20th-century Spain, the author of Blood Wedding and Poet in New York was killed by members of the Escuadra Negra (Black Squadron) for his left-wing sympathies and homosexuality." The Guardian (UK) 09/06/03

Friday, September 5

Gender-typing - The Computer That Can Tell What Sex You Are? A new computer program is said to reveal whether a piece of writing is by a man or by a woman. Authors of the software claim "the simple scan of key words and syntax is around 80% accurate on both fiction and non-fiction." But let it be noted that an ArtsJournal editor testing the program was able to consistently leave the computer gender-confused...(that means wrong!). Nature 09/04/03

Wednesday, September 3

Bible As Magazine A new edition of the Bible in the form of a magazine? It's a hit with kids. "Although 82 percent of America's teenagers say that they are Christians, only 32 percent say that they read the Bible. And we decided we needed to give it to them in a format they know how to use, which is magazines." CNN.com 09/02/03

Is Living In The Midwest A Career Handicap? Charles Baxter is an accomplished writer. But he has had less attention than many other writers with his achievements. "Part of the explanation may lie with the label 'Midwestern' and the mostly dubious associations it implies that hover over his fiction like, well, storm clouds over the prairie. 'When others think about Midwesterners, they think: naïve, somewhat simple. Why else would you live here if not for some failure in judgment'?" The New York Times 09/04/03

Blog Nation: Millions Of Writers With Nothing To Say Lost in all the breathless coverage of the "blog" phenomenon is the inescapable fact that most blogs are little more than daily lists of mundane personal activities, of interest to no one but the author and the author's immediate circle of friends, if that. So what's the point? Maybe that very lack of wide appeal is the point. "The Web is a high-tech gossip network: an entirely public notice board with very private functions. There is something about publishing, even self-publishing, even Web posting, that lends an air of gravity to one's personal relations; when written, they come to seem more literary, more important." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/03/03

Tuesday, September 2

The Art Of Writing About Writing It's "such an interesting time to be writing about writing—or writing about writing for publication, anyway. Thus several recent entries in the books-on-books genre approach, with varying degrees of insight, similar prickly questions about the present state of lit, such as: Is there anything important left to write, or anyone perceptive enough to write it? And does anyone really care anymore, least of all the gluttonous media cartels increasingly footing the bills?" Village Voice 09/02/03

Most Valuable First Editions What are the most valuable first-edition English books? Sotheby's estimates that the most valuable are Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rab bit (1901) and Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows (1908), which could both fetch £50,000. The Guardian (UK) 09/02/03

Poetry Of Disaffection What poetry would Australians write? "Recently, a poetry initiative was trialled in selected schools. The intention was to enable students from different social and financial backgrounds to find a common ground in the wonderful world of words. What emerged was a tragic picture of isolated and disaffected youth striking out against the defenceless." The Age (Melbourne) 09/03/03

Monday, September 1

In Search Of Thurber James Thurber has had official honors. But "despite all this official appreciation, a doubt arises: Is Thurber still being widely read and enjoyed? The nod from the Library of America was meant as a coronation, but nobody can be funny for a thousand pages, and Thurber’s writing—occasional by definition—resists so exhaustive and formal an act of exhumation and canonization. As for the new collection of his letters, your pleasure in it will probably depend on how much of the Thurber literature you’ve been exposed to — I mean the literature about him, not the literature by him." The New Yorker 09/01/03

Trashing The Booker Judges Longtime Booker Prize administrator Martyn Goff unloads about various personalities that have been involved in judging over the years. "He recalled how one year Salman Rushdie threw a tantrum, telling Goff to 'Fuck off' before storming past. He listed the failings of numerous eminent judges, branding last year's chairwoman, Lisa Jardine, as 'bossy' and accused her colleague, David Baddiel, of saying 'stupid things'. Gerald Kaufman and Fay Weldon also came under fire, but Goff's prize for worst-ever Booker chairman went to John Bayley, widower of Iris Murdoch." The Observer (UK) 08/31/03

Ripping Off A 93-Year-Old Author (Then Offering Money) A critic discovers a book re-published without securing rights from the original publisher or author. After tracking down the 93-year-old author, the critic contacts the publisher. "Two weeks ago, it wrote, effusively, to Miss Lovett saying that 7,588 copies of her book had been sold, and that, should she be willing to give retrospective permission, a cheque for $4,530.04 was on its way." The Economist 08/28/03

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