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Tuesday, November 30

Best Of Nothing Who looks at those best-of-the-year book lists? "Every year, literary editors feel that there is nothing their readers want more than a group of superannuated literary types telling them what they have enjoyed during the previous 12 months. There is no evidence that anyone reads these self-satisfied musings, but the papers persist anyway, competing desperately for the glitziest names." The Guardian (UK) 12/01/04

Issue: Does A Critic Own Review Copies He's Been Sent? When Greg Gatenby was director of Toronto's Harbourfront Centre's literary programming, he collected review copies of books. Thousands of them. Now he's planning to sell about 28,000 volumes worth an estimated $2-million, amassed in part during his time as director of Harbourfront. The issue (and the controversy): "When publishers send out free review copies of a book for promotional purposes, are they sending them to the individual or to the institution the individual works for? Gatenby maintained that the publishing industry sends them to the person and that the books then become that person's property. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/27/04

Monday, November 29

Independent Bookstore Takes Aim At Manhattan With small independent bookstores being squeezed out of business all over America, a new private venture aims to succeed in lower Manhattan... The New York Times 11/30/04

Book Aid To Fight AIDS A group of 21 prominent authors have contributed stories to a book project to raise money to fight AIDS in Southern Africa. "Telling Tales, a collection of short stories by Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Gabriel García Márquez, Susan Sontag, Woody Allen, John Updike and 15 others, will be launched at the United Nations headquarters in New York by Kofi Annan tomorrow, before World Aids Day." The Guardian (UK) 11/29/04

Sunday, November 28

Nothing Like A Good (Free) Book It's not a bookstore, not a library, and definitely not a profit-driven enterprise. It's Book Thing, the Baltimore-based book exchange where rich meets poor, elitism dances with populism, and everyone goes away with either a good book or a good feeling. Washington Post 11/27/04

Wednesday, November 24

Borders Reluctantly Signs Union Deal A Borders bookstore in Minneapolis has approved a new union contract for its workers. The move is significant because the outlet is only the second Borders store in the country to go union, and the contract comes more than two years after workers had initially voted to unionize. During the interim, the workers who organized the union drive quit in disgust and the company was accused of trying to break the workers' resolve through intimidation. Now, the hope from the union is that the contract will provide it an opening into other area booksellers. City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 11/24/04

Tuesday, November 23

In Search Of Stories Where is the best storytelling today? Not in books, alas. "In the cinema, a core of narrative innocence survives across a spectrum of values represented by Spielberg at one end and Abbas Kiarostami at the other. In the novel, however, story has gone down in a blaze of modernist attitudes." Prospect 11/04

Neal Pollack's Bad Book Tour Neal Pollack says writers have little if any voice in America these days. "Do you have any clue as to the monumental public indifference that awaits the average author on the American road? Writers get less respect in this country than people who eat live bugs on television for money! I just got off three-plus weeks on tour, and I was lucky to get an audience of 15 people--in blue states. It took everything I had just to get someone to buy a copy of my stupid book, much less bring about a permanent transformation of American politics." The Stranger (Seattle) 11/23/04

Lit Idol Want to be a literary star? Lit Idol is based on the format of TV's Pop Idol. "Writers must submit up to 10,000 words from the opening chapters of their novels and a synopsis. Professional readers will choose a shortlist of five following the competition closing date on 14 January. The final five will then have to read their work in front of judging panel. A public vote will also take place, which will account for 25% of the final decision." BBC 11/22/04

Cleaning Up After Devastating Book Fire Restorers are working on 62,000 heavily damaged rare books from a fire at the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar in September. "About 10 percent of the library's collection of a million books has been irreparably damaged, library officials say. But the 600-piece Bible collection, including Martin Luther's 1534 copy, and the huge Faust and Shakespeare collections have been saved or only slightly damaged. And between 25,000 and 30,000 other rare books are presumed lost, listed like missing persons in a databank on the library's Web site." The New York Times 11/20/04

Monday, November 22

NBA - Payback For Stephen King? The National Book Awards went off last week. "The honors have been around since 1950 and were sponsored in part by publishers who still buy most of the $1,000-a-plate dinners at the ceremony. They were all smiles last year when rainmaker Stephen King accepted the foundation's honorary medal for distinguished contributions to American letters. They were frowning this year when the fiction finalists were announced. Only one of them had written a book that sold more than 2,000 copies. Was this payback from the literary community for King's recognition?" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/21/04

Could Computers Replace Writers? "Occasionally you hear of a Luddite novelist who shuns computers, but the truth is that most of us would be lost without them. If I rail and curse at mine, it is partly out of resentment at our miserable co-dependence. Imagine, then, the blow to my scribbler's vanity when I discovered a while back that computers might get along just fine without writers." The New York Times 11/22/04

Sunday, November 21

Canada's New Poet Laureate Pauline Marcil has been appointed Canada's new poet laureate. "Marcil, 60, wants to use her new job to bring "artists in contact with the political world." She also wants to revisit the idea of having events such as poetry and literature readings at the Parliament building." Toronto Star 11/21/04

The Myths Of Demise of The Women's Review Of Books So the Women's Review of Books is fading into history. Was it inevitable, given the times? That's too pat an explanation, writes former WRB senior editor Lynn Walterick. "In the post–November 2 United States—and certainly earlier––dialogue, reasonable disagreement, and discovery appear to have joined the ranks of endangered species. Difference is under siege; choice—on all fronts—has disappeared, is declining, or is shadowed by threat. This is no time to leave the line of battle for the bottom line." MobyLives 11/18/04

Thursday, November 18

NY Pub Library Opens Up The New York Public Library is feeling flush, and ready to restore some of the cuts in service that have been in place since 9/11. "As part of the changes, the library's landmark building, at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, will adopt a six-day schedule next month, opening on Sundays for the first time since 1970, library officials said yesterday." The New York Times 11/18/04

Tuck Wins National Book Award Lily Tuck wins this year's National Book Award with her novel The News From Paraguay. "The imagination portion in particular was evident when, in her acceptance remarks, Ms. Tuck confessed that she had never been to Paraguay and did not intend to go." The New York Times 11/18/04

Wednesday, November 17

Toews Wins GG Fiction Award Miriam Toews has won the Canadian Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction for her novel A Complicated Kindness, a "victory that surprised many, since Alice Munro's collection Runaway won the Giller Prize last week and received a rave review from U.S. novelist Jonathan Franzen in the Sunday New York Times." Toronto Star 11/17/04

In Praise Of...ABC's "We tend to take it for granted, but the alphabet was a human invention. Without it, we wouldn't read books and newspapers or write shopping lists ande-mails. We would have to rely on recitations and recordings to transmit language. But as vital and visible as the letters of the alphabet are, they usually go unappreciated." Chicago Tribune 11/17/04

Tuesday, November 16

But She's Been Such A Paragon Of Journalistic Integrity! Celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley is being sued by an Alabama writer who claims that she plagiarized parts of her recent book on the Bush family from an article he wrote for a web site. Kelley's publisher doesn't deny that parts of the article were reproduced verbatim in the book, but claims that "it was not protected by copyright, was of minimal scope, did not damage Mr. Wilson and was covered under the legal doctrine of 'fair use.'" The New York Times 11/17/04

Is Gutenberg Not The Father Of Printing? Is Gutenberg wrongly attributed with having produced the first book in moveable type? A printing expert says that "the 15th-century German printer used stamps rather than the movable type he is said to have invented between 1452 and 1455." Discovery 11/15/04

Monday, November 15

Dublin Longlist Packed With Big Names The long list of nominees for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award has been released, and some big names are on it. Former Booker prizewinners DBC Pierre, Margaret Atwood, Anita Brookner, J M Coetzee, Graham Swift and Peter Carey are nominated, as are Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown and Whitbread winner Mark Haddon. The Dublin prize comes with €100,000, making it the second largest literary award in the world. The Independent (UK) 11/16/04

Alice Munro Wins Second Giller Prize "Created in 1994 by Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch in memory of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, the 11-year-old prize honours novels or short story collections. Previous winners have included Margaret Atwood, Mordecai Richler, Rohinton Mistry and M.G. Vassanji, who was a jury member this year." CBC 11/12/04

Sunday, November 14

Quick, Write A Book! "If, as some people believe, every single person has a novel inside himself, then a lot of people have been wasting a lot of time doing a lot of things other than writing." The organizer of the unexpectedly popular National Novel Writing Month, which encourages amateur Dostoyevskys everywhere to crank out a full-length work in just 30 days, has a new treatise to promote, focusing on - you guessed it - "a pragmatic, populist approach to fiction writing." Can great art actually result from this? Maybe not, but the point isn't perfection, it's encouraging the creative process in a society which has increasingly discarded it. Washington Post 11/13/04

One-Man Magazine "Esopus magazine is a thing of lavish, eccentric beauty, less flipped through than stared at, forcing readers to reconcile their expectations of what a magazine is with the strange artifact in their laps... But pull back the cover of Esopus and you will find only Tod Lippy, designer, editor, conjurer. Just Tod Lippy, with his one d and his conceit that he can make the magazine he wants and that people will give him $10 for each one and that then he can make another one. With a circulation of 5,000 and a twice-a-year schedule - it came out of nowhere in 2003 - it is not so much a magazine as a cult that meets semiannually." The New York Times 11/13/04

Friday, November 12

Da Vinci Code Tourism Thousands of Americans are flocking to places in Europe written about in The Da Vinci Code. "Wherever we walk with this book, we get a lot of looks. In France, there is a lot of resentment that — 'This is what brought you to France?' — it's not enough that (France) contains the most beautiful art and gorgeous gardens and historical monuments, but, a book? A novel?" CBSNews 11/12/04

Thursday, November 11

The Cartland Book Industry - Death Is No Impediment Barbara Cartland spent many of her 99 years writing. And she wrote so much, much of it has yet to be published. "Four years after her death, two new Cartland novels trickled on to the market yesterday. And there are 158 more to come, at the rate of one a month - enough to satisfy her admirers for about 13 years." The Guardian (UK) 11/12/04

Gaudé Wins Goncourt The Goncourt prize, France's most prestigious literary prize, has been awarded to Laurent Gaudé for The Sun of the Scortas. The Guardian (UK) 11/11/04

James: National Book Awards Marginalizes Itself Why is this year's National Book Awards shortlist so narrowly defined (in almost every way)? Caryn James writes that "by trying to strong-arm readers' taste, the judges are guaranteeing that their prize remains marginal. A National Book Award doesn't vault a writer into the upper reaches of American literature, as the Pulitzer Prize often does, and narrow-minded nominations like these help explain why." The New York Times 11/11/04

NEA Expands GI Writing Program The National Endowment for the Arts is expanding and extending its writing project for military stationed overseas. "The program has been an overwhelming success. I don't think the NEA fully appreciated the need and demand for the program when we first launched it. We have doubled the size of the program." Washington Post 11/11/04

Wednesday, November 10

The Whitbread Shortlists This year's shortlists for the Whitbread Prize have been announced. Finalists include The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst's Booker prize-winning novel. Past winners include Philip Pullman, Ted Hughes, Kate Atkinson and Kazuo Ishiguro. The Guardian (UK) 11/10/04

Women's Review Closing The Women's Review of Books is publishing its final issue. It's closing after losing money since the mid-90s. "The story sounds familiar. It involves shrinking library budgets, increasing costs for printing and postage, and changes in reading habits. The cumulative effect has been to undermine the stability of a journal that was publishing review essays by and about Kathy Acker, Raya Dunayevskaya, Marilyn Hacker, and Adrienne Rich when some of today's "third wave" feminist scholars were in kindergarten." Chronicle of Higher Education 11/12/04

Meet The Giller Finalists Who will win this week's Giller Prize for Canadian fiction (it will be announced this week)? Rebecca Caldwell talks with the six finalists... The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/10/04

Tuesday, November 9

Hollinghurst's Booker Win Breeds Bestseller Alan Hollinghurst's win of this year's Booker Prize has propelled his fourth book "The Line of Beauty," close to the top of best-seller lists and into the awareness of a vastly wider audience. Yahoo! (AP) 11/10/04

Shouldn't A State Constitution Inspire With Style? David Kipen has been reading California's state constitution - an "imperfect transcript of a continuing 155-year constitutional convention, which shows no sign of adjourning. And there's not a drop of poetry in it, unless you count the surreal juxtaposition of our right to fish in public waters and, on the very next page, the state's right to execute prisoners without falling afoul of the 'cruel and unusual punishment' clause." Compare this to the US Constitution, which is short and sings to its citizens... San Francisco Chronicle 11/09/04

Monday, November 8

Plans To Replace Nevada Poet Laureate Surprise Poet Laureate Norman Kaye, 82, a "Las Vegas resident who's written tunes for crooner Perry Como, is not happy the state wants a new promoter of the iambic pentameter. Kaye was torqued to learn the Nevada Arts Council recently sent out a press release seeking nominations for the post of poet laureate. The announcement does not mention the state has an existing poet laureate in Kaye, a grievous slight in my book." Lohantan Valley News (Nevada) 11/08/04

The Flawed Bestseller Lists Many newspapers publish their own list of bestselling book. But the methodology of the lists is flawed, and they are not timely (data is often weeks old) "It's a deeply unscientific -- one is almost tempted to call it whimsical -- compilation, which has a veneer of a certain kind of science." So why not use the more scientific Bookscan lists? Washington Post 11/08/04

Sunday, November 7

Miami Means Books The Miami Book Fair opens. "This year, 365 authors from 30 countries are participating in the eight-day fair that began on Sunday and runs until next Sunday on the downtown campus of Miami-Dade College and on the streets surrounding it. There will be readings in five languages - English, Spanish, Portuguese, Creole and French - and about half a million people are expected to attend. More than 30 writers were turned away because the full schedule could not accommodate them, organizers said." The New York Times 11/08/04

Politics & Profit Political polarization may make for a country full of angry people, but for publishers of politically themed books, the currently inflamed passions of the U.S. voting population are nothing short of a financial windfall, as readers snatch up blatantly partisan tomes by the dozens. Of course, the predominence of such aggressively one-sided books is coming at the cost of more serious and even-handed political analysis, but as one publsher puts it, "To publish for the middle of the road right now would be suicide." The New York Times 11/06/04

A Quarter-Century of Granta Literary magazines come and go like the seasons, but this year, the London-based journal Granta is celebrating its 25th anniversary, a stunning display of longevity for a magazine that has systematically refused to run with the crowd. "Throughout its quarter-century of existence, Granta has thrived on contradiction. Out of those contradictions spring its strangeness -- and success... It's unusual among literary magazines for publishing more nonfiction than fiction and hardly any poetry. Although based in London, it has numerous American contributors, and more than half of its readership is American." Boston Globe 11/06/04

Thursday, November 4

Why Doesn't Poetry Make The List? Why is it that so many who never miss the latest Pinter or David Hare or Alan Bennett in the theatre, who like to drown in Mozart or Mahler, cannot connect with poetry, particularly serious contemporary poetry? The Guardian (UK) 11/04/04

The Great Book Rescue In September, a catastrophic fire destroyed a historic library in Weimar. "Around 50,000 books, most of them from the 17th and 18th centuries, along with 35 paintings and the Duchess Anna Amalia's sheet music collection were destroyed by the flames. Some 62,000 volumes that were damaged by fire and extinguishing water, each wrapped individually in cling film, were transported to Leipzig for “first aid“ - more than 40 metric tons of librarian-style emergency cases." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/04/04

Justice For All - The Passing Of A Poet Several distinguished poets have died this year. But with American Donald Justice’s passing last summer, it is "hard not to feel that a curtain has begun to descend over an eminent generation of American poets. From this uncertain vantage point at the outset of the century, one is hard pressed to imagine who might succeed them." Commentary 11/04

Testing America's Iran Ban An Iranian human rights activist is suing the U.S. government for the right to work with an American literary agent in the publication of her memoirs. "[U.S.] Treasury Department regulations... impose penalties on anybody who transacts business with Iran," but Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi says that she doesn't want to have to submit her manuscript to Iran's repressive mullahs for approval. U.S. law does permit "American publishers to reproduce, translate and edit 'informational materials' from countries subject to U.S. sanctions. But even advising an author how to structure a book 'would be a problem.'" Washington Post 11/04/04

Wednesday, November 3

Protests Over Graham Greene Bio The last installment of Norman Sherry's massive biography of Graham Greene was supposed to be a victory lap for the biographer. But "members of Greene's family are furious that Mr. Sherry - who had exclusive access to many of the author's papers - chose to highlight Greene's fondness for prostitutes and his sordid sexual pursuits. The new volume has received widespread praise in the United States, but critics in England have condemned its unconventional style and are livid. Mr. Sherry has interjected himself into the narrative, dropped in bits of his own poetry, even included a picture of himself riding on a donkey in Mexico as he retraced Greene's research for the novel The Power and the Glory." The New York Times 11/04/04

Cheapening The Nobel Prize How is the Nobel Prize for Literature being chosen these days? "More and more, the Nobel Prize has gone to a person who has the correct sex, geographical address, ethnic origin, and political profile—“correct” being determined by the commissars at the Swedish Academy. Laureates like Toni Morrison, Dario Fo, and José Saramago cheapen the Nobel Prize. But this year’s laureate, the Austrian novelist and playwright Elfriede Jelinek (born 1946), marks a new low." New Criterion 11/04

And Now A Bedtime Story By My Favorite Celeb Ed Koch, Madonna, John Gotti: Is there a celebrity who's not writing a children's book these days? The market is booming, but critics -- including longtime children's authors -- point out that kids don't care if a book was written by someone famous; what they want is a good story. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/3/04

Tuesday, November 2

Poets Take On Publishers Weekly (And Win) Over the summer, Publishers Weekly decided to discontinue its monthly poetry forecast. "But for many in the world of independent presses, where the bottom line is quite a bit lower than in commercial publishing, that explanation wasn’t good enough. Zaleski estimates that Publishers Weekly received approximately 150 phone calls, e-mails, and letters about the decision. The response was so great that the magazine reversed its decision and reinstituted its monthly poetry section in September." Poets & Writers 11/04

Book-Buying For Idealogues There have been lots of political books in this election season. Do their sales foretell any political direction? "Informal polls taken by our store managers indicate that some 70 percent of our customers say they have no intention of reading these books; 15 percent say they will; and 15 percent are undecided. One Kansas City customer said, 'I'm buying this book to show people where I stand.' Another in New York said, 'I'm buying this book because the author agrees with me'." The New York Times 11/02/04

Monday, November 1

Renewing Toronto Bookfest Toronto's 25th International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront ends the weekend with increased attendance under a new director... Toronto Star 11/01/04

Nobel-Winner Sues America To Publish In US When Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi went to publish her memoirs in the US she discovered that "doing so would be illegal, under a trade embargo intended to punish repressive governments such as the regime in Tehran that once sent her to jail. Last week, Ms. Ebadi and her American literary agency, the Strothman Agency of Boston, sued the Treasury Department, which enforces the sanctions, in Manhattan federal district court. The suit says the regulations ignore congressional directives to exempt information and creative works from the trade sanctions, and more broadly violate the First Amendment rights of Americans to read what they wish." Wall Street Journal 11/01/04

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