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Wednesday, November 30

Narnia Author Opposed Movie Of His Books It turns out that "CS Lewis, the author of the Narnia stories, with which Disney hopes to establish a blockbuster movie franchise to rival Harry Potter, was 'absolutely opposed' to the idea of a live action version of the stories, it has emerged. The author made clear his distaste for the idea in a hitherto unpublished letter to a BBC producer..." The Guardian (UK) 11/30/05

Voices Of Poetry "Historic recordings of poets such as Tennyson, Yeats, Kipling, Betjeman and Sassoon are being made available through a new online initiative. The Poetry Archive also aims to ensure current leading English-speaking poets are recorded reading their own work for future generations. The free archive has been created by UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and recording producer Richard Carrington." BBC 11/30/05

Tuesday, November 29

Longlist Released For Bad Sex Award The prize honors the worst literary depictions of sex. Among the 11 contenders for the prize this year are some of the biggest names in literature, including John Updike, Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Paul Theroux. Of the four, Theroux's offering, from Blinding Light, is arguably the most deserving of the prize... The Guardian (UK) 11/28/05

The Most Literate City In America? That would be Seattle, according to a new study. "America's Most Literate Cities 2005, a ranking based on the culture and resources for reading in the 69 largest U.S. cities, aims to rate cities not on whether their citizens can read, but whether they do." USAToday 11/29/05

Monday, November 28

Harper's Gets A New Editor Roger D. Hodge is being named a the new editor of Harper's Magazine. "After being turned down for an internship in 1996, he got a call back a few days later and has remained planted at the magazine since, holding a variety of jobs, most recently serving as deputy editor." The New York Times 11/29/05

The Waterstone Juggernaut Gets Bigger? "The Office of Fair Trading is due to decide whether to refer Waterstone's planned takeover of Ottakar's bookshops to the Competition Commission. If the £96.4 million deal is given the go-ahead, Waterstone's parent company, HMV, will control at least 23.6 per cent of the British book trade. Leading publishers and authors are making a last-ditch attempt this weekend to head off the deal, which some fear will mean too much power being concentrated." The Guardian (UK) 11/27/05

Big Publishing's Googlephobia "Somehow the fact that the book business has chosen to take on Google doesn’t reek of same-old same-old. It’s startling, even mildly shocking, and more than a little revealing. For no matter how the publishers’ lawsuit ultimately unfolds, it has already provided the most vivid evidence to date of a seismic shift in the business Zeitgeist: from unalloyed Googlemania to gathering Googlephobia." New York Magazine 11/28/05

The Rebirth Of LA's Libraries "Los Angeles is nearing the completion of a $317-million modernization program to build and renovate 63 branch libraries, finishing them on time and under budget. Librarians from as far away as Singapore and Sweden have come to see what the city has accomplished. This is the new face of public libraries in Los Angeles — versatile and thoroughly modern places that have fueled a 70% explosion in library usage over the last decade. It was not always so. For years, cramped and crumbling branches testified to a civic purpose sapped by riots, tax revolts and urban decay." Los Angeles Times 11/27/05

Lit Looks For E-Books "Literature, like all genres, is being reimagined and remade by the constantly unfolding extravagance of technological advances. The question of who's in charge -- the producer or the consumer -- is increasingly relevant to the literary world. The idea of the book as an inert entity is gradually giving way to the idea of the book as a fluid, formless repository for an ever-changing variety of words and ideas by a constantly modified cast of writers." Chicago Tribune 11/27/05

Sunday, November 27

Is Literature Dying? That's what two elder statesmen of American literature claim. Literature is dying. Novels will become "a footnote to our technological and advertising age," warned Norman Mailer. "Literature is an endangered species," intoned Lawrence Ferlinghetti. But is it? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/27/05

Historian Jailed For Holidays For Lying About Holocaust "David Irving, the discredited British historian of the Nazis, will spend Christmas and New Year in a Viennese jail after yesterday being refused bail and being remanded for four weeks pending trial for allegedly lying about the Holocaust." The Guardian (UK) 11/26/05

Wednesday, November 23

World Libraries To Contribute To International Digital Library The Library of Congress is leading a project to build a world digital libraray. "Librarian of Congress James Billington said he is looking to attract further private funding to develop bilingual projects, featuring millions of unique objects, with libraries in China, India, the Muslim world and other nations. This builds on major existing digital documentary projects by the Library of Congress -- one preserving an online record of Americana and another documenting ties between the United States and Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain." Wired 11/22/05

Tuesday, November 22

A Few Minutes With The NYer's Fiction Editor Deborah Treisman feels the weight of history as fiction editor of the New Yorker. "I carry the weight of this 80 years on my shoulders. Everyone puts the magazine on a pedestal and they spend all their time staring up at you adoringly or trying to knock you off that pedestal. There’s such an engaged relationship with the magazine because it’s been around for so long. Even though I’ve only been there for 8 or 9 years, I’m accountable for 70 years before that, somehow." The Stranger (Seattle) 11/24/05

Authors Increasingly Get Into Business For Themselves "With consolidation in the publishing industry, major publishing houses have become tougher to crack and self-publishing has become an increasingly popular alternative. Technology has fueled the trend toward self-publishing. Not only has the Internet made it easier to market and distribute books but digital technology has also made printing cheaper and given authors more flexibility in the number of copies they want. And that's encouraged a growing number of new authors to drop the idea of distributing manuscripts and take matters into their own hands." Miami Herald 11/22/05

Monday, November 21

Staff Shortages Restrict Robert Louis Stevenson Access Public access to an important trove of Robert Louis Stevenson memorabilia has been restricted because of staff shortages. "While visitors to the Writers' Museum in Edinburgh can enjoy full access to the collections of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns on the upper floor, Europe's finest Stevenson's artefacts, including photographs, letters and a pair of the author's boots, is mostly kept under lock and key in the basement because there is no attendant to keep an eye on them." The Scotsman 11/21/05

French Political Official Gets Bio Pulped "Nicolas Sarkozy, France's energetic interior minister, somehow found time while quelling suburban riots last week to ensure an authorised biography of his estranged wife, Cecilia, is unlikely to see the light of day." How? He called the publisher, who then pulped 25,000 copies before they could go on sale. The Guardian (UK) 11/19/05

Repurposing Lit Theory At each subsequent stage in the history of the modern university, English professors have repurposed literary history to suit expedient needs. When English classes were one way of carrying forward the religious mood of schools once devoted to educating a ministry, literature was made an occasion for conversion or homily. Slate 11/17/05

Sunday, November 20

Eats Shoots And (Does It Rudely) "Two years ago, Lynne Truss was vaulted into unexpected celebrity when, after a long and quiet career as a novelist and critic, she published a short, witty book on punctuation. Initially brought out in London with a hopeful first printing of 15,000 books, 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation' went on to sell some three million copies in hardcover." Now she's back with another sermon: "Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door." The book's basic contention is that people in public places no longer bother to treat one another with even a semblance of Old World courtesy or respect. The New York Times Magazine 11/19/05

Beware Your Local Library? "To those who say libraries are special because of their devotion to intellectual freedom, law enforcement officials say terrorism has raised the stakes. They say librarians are naïve to think that libraries should be treated differently from other public places where people congregate without an expectation of privacy. They also argue that shielding libraries from government surveillance will just convince everyone from terrorists to pedophiles to patronize the local library, much as some of the Sept. 11 hijackers used library computers for some of their dealings." The New York Times 11/19/05

Friday, November 18

Awards - In Praise Of America's Books "As literary awards in America grow by leaps and bounds, so does the critical backlash, which now begins before the ceremonies. Last year, the grave concern was the prizes would go to the wrong people. This year, it's, 'Do literary awards mean anything?' " Los Angeles Times 11/18/05

Writers: American Lit In Peril "America's literary tradition is in peril, said Toni Morrison, Norman Mailer and Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the 56th annual National Book Awards ceremony, an event that brings out the leaders of the publishing industry to honor the best books of the year." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/18/05

Thursday, November 17

In Praise Of Librarians "Librarians have to care, and thus suffer a slippage whereby caring for books becomes being perceived by the public as guarding them. Thereby, a mean-spirited, censorious figure is born, figured forth as a crone. (In the popular imagination, librarians are always women.) Her hair is in a bun, and a scowl is on her face. We have done something wrong merely by entering the library. How dare we? And, once inside, how dare we proceed to talk? Another slippage: the library into a shrine, wherein the god of Knowledge is to be venerated by all who enter, while Vestal Virgins preside." InsideHigherEd 11/17/05

Self-Publish... But Then What? It costs as little as $500 to have a book self-published. But what to do with the books after they're printed? "Publicity is almost nonexistent. The publishers don't run advertising campaigns or have marketing teams devoted to new titles, and they have little luck getting their books reviewed in newspapers and magazines. And forget major booksellers. When they get their titles from traditional publishing houses, they can return those that don't sell and pay for only those that do. Most print-on-demand publishers don't allow returns. As a result, stores refuse to take their books." Tallahassee Democrat 11/17/05

R U Reading Yet? (Shakespeare-As-Text-Message) Dot mobile, a British mobile-phone service aimed at students, says it plans to condense classic works of literature into SMS text messages. The company claims the service will be a valuable resource for studying for exams. Academic purists will be horrified. Hamlet's famous soliloquy, "To be or not to be, that is the question," becomes "2b? Nt2b? ???" Yahoo! (AP) 11/17/05

Recognition A Long Time Coming This year's winners of Canada's two biggest literary awards belong to a similar demographic: middle-aged writers who have toiled in relative obscurity throughout their careers, "producing novels that are tight, spare in length and written in a distinctive style" without ever capturing more than a cult following. All that has changed now for Giller winner David Bergen and Governor-General's Award winner David Gilmour, and both authors admit to a certain feeling of redemption after years of disappointment. "The real enemy for a writer, it's not booze. It's vanity that will kill you deader than anything else." Toronto Star 11/17/05

Teen Poetry Recitation Contest Announced "The Chicago-based Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts are to announce Thursday the national rollout of their verse-recitation contest for high schoolers... Some $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends are to be awarded at the national finals, including a $20,000 scholarship for the grand winner... The organizers hope to tap into the popularity of poetry slams among teens. But this contest will emphasize memorization and performance skills, not creative writing. Contestants will select poems from a special anthology to be distributed to schools or from a Web site being set up for the event." Chicago Tribune 11/17/05

Editors Jump From Penguin To Random House Two highly successful editors from the Penguin Group have announced that they will leave the company to head up a new division at Random House. "The move by the editors, Celina Spiegel and Julie Grau, was a major loss for Penguin, where [the imprint they brought to prominence] is celebrating its 10th anniversary and is having a stellar year, with nine of its books having reached The New York Times's best-seller list, two of them climbing to No. 1." The New York Times 11/17/05

Nat'l Book Awards To Vollman, Didion "Europe Central, a sprawling series of 37 intertwined stories by William T. Vollmann that examine the moral decisions of characters, some real and some fictional, in Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II, won the National Book Award for fiction on Wednesday night... It was a surprise victory over for Mr. Vollmann over E. L. Doctorow, a previous winner and literary lion; Mary Gaitskill, a sentimental favorite for her piercing stories that demonstrate a willingness to challenge societal norms; and two other finalists." In the non-fiction category, Joan Didion took home the top prize for her memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking. The New York Times 11/17/05

Wednesday, November 16

Pretend Reading (It's All The Rage) "This holiday season, a new and perverse variation on this age-old standby is making the rounds at Manhattan soirées. Instead of 'Read any good books lately?', you are far more likely to hear: 'Pretended to read any good books lately?' Yes, this season it’s all about faking it—i.e., carrying around the 'It' book but not actually bothering to read it." New York Observer 11/16/05

Gilmour Wins Canada's Governor General David Gilmour wins this year's Governor General's award for English-language fiction for his book "A Perfect Night to go to China". "The awards were announced Wednesday morning in Montreal and will be given to the winners in Ottawa next week by Governor General Michaelle Jean. The announcement was made in Montreal in honour of the designation of Montreal as UNESCO World Book Capital for 2005-06." CBC 11/16/05

Whitbread Shortlist Announced Salman Rushdie and Nick Hornby have been shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize. "The awards recognise the 'most enjoyable' books of last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland and were established by Whitbread in 1971." BBC 11/16/05

Tuesday, November 15

Moby Sounds Off One of the best (and first) publishing blogs on the net was Moby Lives, written by Dennis Loy Johnson. But Moby took a vacation this summer, and a promised return in September was delayed. Now Moby's back - only in audio form, with interviews with such notables as David Kippen, the new director of the literature program at the National Endowment for the Arts, and Sara Nelson, an editor at Publishers Weekly. InsideHigherEd 11/15/05

Google: How About Digital Books For Rent "Apparently, the company pitched a plan to an unnamed publisher to offer short-term access (about a week) to book content for roughly 10% of the purchase price. Users could only read the book online -- they wouldn't be able to print or download the content. However, the publisher reportedly refused, saying the price was too low." Motley Fool (MSNBC) 11/15/05

Monday, November 14

Handicapping This Year's national Book Awards A look at the field and likely outcome. New York Magazine 11/14/05

Securing The Walrus "The Walrus Foundation has finally obtained charitable status from the federal government, assuring the future of The Walrus magazine. The award-winning magazine, when launched in Sept. 2003, had proclaimed itself Canada's Harper's, Atlantic and Mother Jones — essential U.S. periodicals that are also supported by non-profit foundations. The Walrus was underpinned by $1 million annually for five years, to come from the Montreal-based Chawkers charitable foundation. But the money could not flow to the Walrus Foundation until its charitable status, too, was confirmed by Revenue Canada." Toronto Star 11/13/05

Sunday, November 13

Doing The Big Read The NEA is launching 'The Big Read, its plan to 'revitalize the role of literature in American popular culture.' Set to launch early next year, its pilot effort will fund book projects in six cities. Chairman Dana Gioia said it will be 'the biggest federally run literature program in American history,' a stunning comment from an administration that has pledged to shrink government. Shades of the Federal Writers Project! The inspiration behind 'The Big Read' is community-wide efforts in cities from Seattle to Pittsburgh that use novels to encourage public discussions on social issues." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/13/05

Salinas Voters Save Their Library Last week voters in Salinas, Ca., approved adding half a cent to the sales tax to keep the town's library open. Last year the public library almost closed after losing funding. "It really struck a chord on the national level, and we became a poster child for the decline and fall of Western civilization. There was the irony of it being Steinbeck's hometown and all that stuff, and it did begin to represent something larger than just Salinas losing its libraries." San Francisco Chronicle 11/12/05

Friday, November 11

The World's Books Online "Creating a virtual Library of Alexandria has long been a dream of techies and book-lovers alike. Project Gutenberg, a digitisation initiative dating back to the 1970s, currently boasts over 17,000 books in around 45 languages. This summer, European nations backed a “digital library” plan to place literary works online. For readers, the idea of being able to access the aggregate knowledge of humanity on a single device from anywhere in the world seems a benefit of mythic proportions, and the obvious next step in man's quest —from stone slabs to papyrus to movable type to ethereal digital bits—to document the world in words and symbols." Economist 11/11/05

Thursday, November 10

Lit Prizes... Do They Mean Anything? "Some -- by now perhaps all -- cultural prizes have had the shine rubbed off them by having been given to undeserving people, an ample number of serious jackasses among them. Everyone knows that the list of writers who did not win the Nobel Prize -- Tolstoy, Proust, Henry James, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, W.H. Auden -- is much more impressive than the list of those who have. Moreover, there is something about winning the Nobel Prize in literature that makes one posthumous no matter how much longer one goes on to live." OpinionJournal.com 11/07/05

Tuesday, November 8

Bergen Wins 2005 Giller Prize David Bergen beat out four other finalists Tuesday night to take home the 2005 Giller Prize, Canada's preeminent award for fiction. Bergen's novel, The Time In-Between, finished ahead of books by Joan Barfoot, Camilla Gibb, Lisa Moore, and Edeet Ravel in the lavish award ceremony broadcast across Canada. Bergen receives CAN$40,000 in prize money. CBC 11/08/05

Monday, November 7

The Spoils of Victory The best part about winning a major literary prize is usually the increased sales that go along with the honor. And this year, the candidates for Canada's Giller Prize have even more reason than usual to lick their chops at the prospect of a win. This year's shortlist is jam-packed with authors most of the public has never heard of, and such little-known writers are traditionally the ones who benefit most from the exposure a major award affords. Publishers are gearing up for tomorrow night's announcement as well: the winner will see an immediate additional print run of 20,000 copies, to be on shelves within two days. Toronto Star 11/07/05

Sunday, November 6

Amazon, Random Unveil New Pay Scheme "About one month after reports began to surface that Amazon was developing a pay-per-view program for reading books online, the company unveiled Amazon Pages, a program that will let consumers view parts of a book online for a fee. Amazon provided no details on how it will price the service and no major publishers have yet agreed to be part of the program. In a second initiative, the e-tailer announced Amazon Upgrade, which will allow customers who buy a print book to also buy access to the work online. For its part, Random has put its stake in the ground about how it expects to be compensated for books that are viewed online." Publishers Weekly 11/06/05

Searching For The Giller Algorithm Canada's Giller Prize will be awarded on Tuesday, which means the window for guessing the winner is closing quickly. But handicapping the Giller has always been tricky, and this year, even picking a frontrunner is a struggle. "What drives the Gillers? According to Calgary novelist Aritha van Herk, it's 'a weird mixture of circumstance, accident, the chemistry of jury members and the books published, what the publishers chose to submit, and the publishers who have the money to pay the entrance fee. There must be a math equation for that.'" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/05/05

DaVinci's Long Coattails How popular is The DaVinci Code? So popular that there are actually authors other than Dan Brown getting rich off it, apparently. Books about the book have been flying off the shelves, and now, two writers are about to come out with new books dedicated to speculating about what the upcoming DaVinci sequel might be about. Toronto Star 11/05/05

Friday, November 4

British Library Puts Its Books Online With the help of Microsoft, the British Library is digitizing its books that are out of copyright. "The Microsoft deal means that 25 million pages from the British Library's collections will be put online and made searchable for anyone. More works will be scanned in the future. 'This is great news for research and scholarship and will give unparalleled access to our vast collections to people all over the world: they will be available to anyone, anywhere and at anytime'." BBC 11/04/05

Thursday, November 3

Amazon: Books By The Page Amazon says it will start selling some books by the page. "The Amazon Pages service will let customers buy portions of a book online, as little as a single page. The cost for most books would be a few cents a page, though it might be higher for more specialized works." CBC 11/03/05

For Poets - A Question Of Audience? If you're a poet, would you prefer "a beautifully produced physical book, with the guarantee that it would find two thousand engaged readers?" Or "no physical book, but the guarantee that, through various means of publication—anthologies, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and so on—the poems would find an audience of twenty thousand engaged readers?" Poets & Writers 11/05

The Open Library, Open For All Brewster Kahle "made his name indexing and storing the web in his Internet Archive. His non-profit organisation, stationed in an unassuming colonial home in San Francisco's Presidio, has moved on to grab and upload all kinds of media: public domain films, audio archives, and amateur endeavours such as Project Gutenberg, which has been painstakingly hand-typing public domain texts since the 70s. Now he has taken the idea of digitising the text of books one step further, and is storing not just the text, but, incredibly, high-resolution snapshots of book pages, good enough to reproduce every fold, blotch and texture of the world's catalogue of public domain works on your screen." The Guardian (UK) 11/03/05

Google Print Debuts The book digitizing project throws texts of books up on the web in searchable form. eWeek 11/03/05

Simon & Schuster Ed-in-Chief Quits "Michael V. Korda will step down at the end of the year as editor in chief of Simon & Schuster's trade books imprint, a post he has held since 1968, the company said yesterday. He will remain as editor in chief emeritus, editing the books of about a half dozen writers, including David McCullough, Larry McMurtry and Mary Higgins Clark." The move appears to be entirely voluntary on Mr. Korda's part. The New York Times 11/03/05

China's New Literary Star Stays In The Shadows China's most successful novel in years, which is shortly to be published in the U.S., is called Wolf Totem, and serves as a surprisingly sharp allegorical critique of Chinese culture even as it celebrates aspects of the country's long and colorful past. But perhaps the most fascinating thing about the novel is that its author has chosen to remain entirely anonymous, even in the wake of the book's stunning success, and that he has, up to this point, succeeded. The New York Times 11/03/05

Wednesday, November 2

Bookseller Of Kabul Goes On The Run Shah Mohammad Rais, better known as the "Bookseller of Kabul", says he fears blood vengeance after Åsne Seierstad's bestselling book about him has been translated in an Afghan language. Aftenposten 11/02/05

Just When You Were Afraid There Weren't Enough Novels In The World... Yup, it's National Novel Writing Month. "Now in its seventh year, this global write-fest was the brainchild of Chris Baty, a Californian freelance writer, and has grown from 21 participants in 1999 to over 42,000 last year, all trying to meet the 50,000-word finish line by midnight on the last day of the month and make it onto the NaNoWriMo roll of honour. This year, an estimated 60,000 speedwriters are taking part and there are local chapters scattered across the UK, from Brighton to Birmingham." The Guardian (UK) 11/01/05

S&S Editor Korda Retiring After 47 years at Simon & Shuster, star editor Michael Korda is retiring. "The 72-year-old industry veteran, who was born in England and remains one of the most well known and well-respected editors in New York, will leave his top post at the end of the year and take on the role of editor in chief emeritus." PublishersWeekly 11/02/05

Banville: I Love A Literary Dustup John Banville seems to be enjoying the controversy over having been chosen the winner of this year's Booker Prize. "Frankly, I am gratified to see myself vilified, and the jury being vilified. It cheers me up. I must have done something right to annoy so many people." The New York Times 11/02/05

Tuesday, November 1

How Google Print Helps Books "Imagine a card catalog that (a) lists every book in every library anywhere, (b) shows you the title of every such book containing the search phrase of your choice ('Crimean War,' 'HIV genome,' 'clown fetish'), and (c) gives you this information whether you're online in your bedroom or at an Internet café in Ulaanbaatar. This index is what Google Print is poised to be, and yes, it does stretch the definition of 'card catalog' to the breaking point. Just keep in mind the one way in which Google's version scarcely differs from the classic: If you want to read more than a snippet or two of the texts you've located, you still have to go get books." Village Voice 11/01/05

The Economics Of Textbooks "College students now spend more than five billion dollars a year on textbooks, while states spend another four billion on books for elementary and high-school students. And the revenue is not being spread around: five publishers account for eighty per cent of new college-textbook sales in North America. But dominance has its discontents, and textbook publishers are routinely denounced as price gougers. The average price of a book is around fifty dollars, and many, particularly in the sciences, will run you well over a hundred." The New Yorker 10/31/05

Google Gets Back To Digitizing After a pause to assess opposition, Google has resumed its book digitizing project. "But in an apparent attempt to reassure critics, the search giant said on its blog that it would focus on books that were out of print or in the public domain. Google is pumping $200m (£110m) into creating a digital archive of millions of books from four top US libraries - the libraries of Stanford, Michigan and Harvard universities, and of the New York Public Library - by 2015." BBC 11/01/05

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