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Tuesday, February 28

In The Politics Of Plagiarizing Joseph Epstein discovers someone has plagiarized his work. That gets him to thinking: "I have myself always been terrified of plagiarism--of being accused of it, that is. Every writer is a thief, though some of us are more clever than others at disguising our robberies. The reason writers are such slow readers is that we are ceaselessly searching for things we can steal and then pass off as our own: a natty bit of syntax, a seamless transition, a metaphor that jumps to its target like an arrow shot from an aluminum crossbow." The Weekly Standard 03/06/06

Monday, February 27

DaVinci In The Dock As opening arguments were heard Monday in the DaVinci Code copyright infringement case in London, the web of plots and subplots had become so tangled as to nearly approximate the book at the center of the storm. But while the details may be confusing, what is at stake in the case is abundantly clear. DaVinci is the greatest money-making machine the publishing world has at the moment, and if it is found to have been illegally cribbed from the work of others, the whole synergistic apparatus could come crashing down. The New York Times 02/28/06

Foer To Head TNR The enigmatic political magazine everyone loves to hate has a new editor, and for once, the transition seems as if it will be an easy one. The New Republic, which has regularly drawn the ire of partisans on both side of the American political divide, named Franklin Foer as its newest editor-in-chief, succeeding Peter Beinart, who is stepping down of his own volition. The New York Times 02/28/06

What Shakespeare Looked Like? Who Cares? "Why all the fuss about Professor Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel's "discovery" that the Davenant bust in the Garrick club matches the Darmstadt death mask in Germany and must, therefore, be a true representation of Shakespeare's physiognomy? Since the provenance of both artefacts depends on the size of a growth on Sheakespeare's forehead, some people will argue that the revelation ought to be of interest only to a pathologist. And they would be right. What Shakespeare looked like is of no consequence. All that matters is the text and how the author intended it to be interpreted." The Guardian (UK) 02/27/06

Sunday, February 26

Court Ruling Might Undermine Google Book Project A court ruling last week might undermine Google's case to be able to digitize books. The judge said "Google's use of thumbnail-sized reproductions in its image search program violated the copyright of Perfect 10, a publisher of X-rated magazines and Web sites, because it undermined that company's ability to license those images for sale to mobile phone users." The New York Times 02/25/06

Did Brown Steal Da Vinci Code Plot? Dan Brown, whose "Da Vinci Code" has become the bestselling hardback adult novel of all time, has been accused of stealing his plot for the book from a non-fiction work called The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. If they win, the plaintiffs "will seek an injunction preventing further infringement of their copyright. In theory, this could bar Random House from publishing Brown's book, which has sold more than 40 million copies, and even threaten the British release of the £53m film adaptation, starring Tom Hanks." The Observer (UK) 02/25/06

UK Plagiarism Case Heads To The High Court "On Monday, the High Court in London will hear a lawsuit which will either make publishing history or be dismissed as a storm in a teacup. The reason for the fuss is that it relates to one of the most successful novels of modern times and the lifting of "the whole architecture" of a body of research, a largely intangible entity which, not without reason, has caused paranoia throughout the literary world. Plagiarism is not a grounds for litigation in the UK, so instead the plaintiffs are alleging copyright infringement, which, of course, amounts to much the same thing. What makes the situation all the more titillating, and bizarre, however, is that they are suing their own publisher." The Scotsman (UK) 02/26/06

Thursday, February 23

Does Google To Be An "Instant" Publisher? So Google has these big book digitization projects going. The project seems to violate copyrights. So what's the point? "Some in the industry wonder whether Google's long-term aim isn't to set itself up as a sort of instant publisher; that once it has all those books in its index, it could generate a print-on-demand shop that would bypass publishers, shipping a book to you even though it is officially out of print." The Guardian (UK) 02/23/06

Frey Loses Book Deal First James Frey's agent dropped him. Now his publisher has backed out of the rest of its multi-book deal. "A publishing source told PAGE SIX's Jared Paul Stern that Riverhead decided the author was too much of a liability and has just nixed the deal after much discussion. 'That is correct, and we have no comment,' Frey's rep says. New York Post 02/23/06

Canada's Queen Of Fluff At 49, Lise Ravary is sitting on top of Canada's ever-expanding world of magazines, and she thrives on a synthesis of serious journalism and celeb-soaked pop culture that publishers can't get enough of. "Arguably, Ravary is the most pivotal force in Canadian consumer publishing today. And in both official languages ó probably no one else more closely experiences this country's two cultures of magazine journalism." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/23/06

Wednesday, February 22

The Pope - Copyrighted The vatican wants publishers to pay royalties on the Pope's writing. "The demand by the Vatican to respect copyright on the pontiff's writings and pay for their use has triggered hot debate: Should an institution which exists to spread the word of God be putting a price on papal writ? Unthinkable, say some authors. Not so, counters the Vatican; the authors are being paid for their efforts, so why not the church?" Yahoo! (AP) 02/22/06

Tuesday, February 21

South African Writer Accused Of Plagiarism Stephen Watson, a poet and the head of the University of Cape Town's English department has accused Antjie Krog, the Afrikaner author of Country of My Skull, of "lifting material from a range of writers, including the late British poet laureate Ted Hughes and two 19th-century European linguists. He said Country of My Skull, an award-winning account of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was recently turned into a Hollywood film, used words and phrases from Hughes's 1976 essay Myth and Education." The Guardian (UK) 02/21/06

Romance Novels - The New Erotica The big thing in romance novels these days? Not so much with the wooing and courtship. What do readers want? Erotica, and today's romance novels are spicing it up as the genre grows by double digits. "Publishing goes in cycles. Erotica now seems to be the new hot thing." USAToday 02/21/06

Doctorow Wins Pen/Faulkner E.L. Doctorow has won this year's PEN/Faulkner Foundation fiction award for his novel "The March." "It is the second PEN/Faulkner award for the much-honored Doctorow, who won in 1990 for "Billy Bathgate" and whose 1975 novel "Ragtime" established him as a writer capable of combining literary ambition and commercial success." Washington Post 02/21/06

Sunday, February 19

Whom Cares The word "whom" is heading off to join "thou" and "ye" in pronoun heaven. Should we care? Boston Globe 02/19/06

Slash Fiction: Have It Your Way "In the unregulated hothouse which is the Internet, new literary life forms appear and change at the speed at which fruit flies mutate. Among the fastest growing - and changing - of web-spawned literary species is 'slash fiction'." The Telegraph (UK) 02/14/06

Thursday, February 16

Police Almost Had Stolen Munches Norwegian police were only a few steps away from two two stolen Edvard Munch paintings last year, but didn't know it. "A month after the thieves struck, police were following a suspect, 30-year-old Stian Skjold, when he met another man at a gas station and the two drove to a farmhouse outside Oslo. Police didn't know at the time that the paintings were hidden in an abandoned bus on the farm." Toronto Star 02/15/06

Self-Publishing Goes Mainstream "The technology to self-publish, using print-on-demand facilities, has been around for years but is now getting cheaper and easier with the publisher doing everything from the ISBN number to placing your tome on Amazon. Judging by the number of self-publishing websites, it may not be long before we reach the tipping point of mass adoption." The Guardian (UK) 02/16/06

Wednesday, February 15

Bookstores Have An Off Year In '05 According to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, bookstore sales declined 1.8% last year, to $15.92 billion. Publishers Weekly 02/15/06

Warning: Talking To This Author Can Be Hazardous To Your Reputation When author John Berendt laid the city of Savannah, Georgia bare in his bestselling book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, many of the town's residents were aghast at what they saw as an invasion of civic privacy and a betrayal of their good will. Now, months after Berendt's latest tome (an examination of the burning of Venice's La Fenice opera house,) the complaints are starting up all over again - this time, in Italian. The New York Times 02/15/06

Tuesday, February 14

Paperbacks For The Price Of Postage It's a swapping scheme, whereby you list books to share, and in return choose books to read. "At PaperBackSwap.com, members list at least nine paperbacks, earning three credits. Credits allow them to search available titles and choose up to three. Senders pay the postage. They receive one credit for each book they mail, enabling them to order other titles. The website formats a mailing wrapper. The sender then prints out the wrapper, adds stamps, and mails the book." Christian Science Monitor 02/15/06

Book Review Overload There are so many book reviews available now, they've lost their impact on much of the public. "This is why recommendation from a friend is an increasingly powerful factor in book purchases. It is why reading groups are growing in size and stature. And it is why the recommendations of an unlikely pair such as Richard and Judy can carry such weight. They are all examples of recommendations by people who readers have a relationship with and trust." theBookseller.com 02/10/06

Monday, February 13

Cure For The Phony Writer Is there a cure for the fraud and misrepresentation by prominent authors? Bob Hoover suggests that it's too much of a focus on the writers' backstories. "The more outrageous the incidents, the darker the personal descent, the more heroic the climb to redemption combined with the acting talent to perform in front of a camera -- that's what makes 'a writer!' It doesn't, of course. I suggest, for a change, that we try getting back to the books themselves and appreciate again the pure experience of reading." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02/12/06

Lee To Head Booker Jury Hermione Lee has been named to head this year's Booker Prize jury. "Lee was the first woman to occupy the posts of Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature at Oxford and Professorial Fellow of New College Oxford. Before taking up the posts she taught for 20 years at the University of York." BBC 02/13/06

Sunday, February 12

Scots Switching From Romance To Crime Crime novels are gaining in popularity in Scottish libraries as romance novels wane. "Total loans for the year were 341 million, or more than five books for every man, woman and child. This year sees crime fiction stealing a march on romance. Maybe this is an indication that national tastes are becoming increasingly macabre." The Scotsman 02/12/06

Thursday, February 9

Journalism In the Age Of Petroleum Geoloists The American Association of Petroleum Geologists has awarded its annual journalism award this year to Michael Crichton, the science fiction writer whose latest book, "State of Fear," dismisses global warming as a largely imaginary threat embraced by malignant scientists for their own ends. "It is fiction," conceded Larry Nation, communications director for the association. "But it has the absolute ring of truth." The New York Times 02/09/06

HarperCollins Racks Record Profits Thanks to its 170 Narnia titles, HarperCollins has had one of its most profitable quarters ever. "Operating income jumped 24% at HarperCollins in the second quarter of fiscal 2006 ended December 31, to $77 million, despite revenue increasing less than 4%, to $390 million." Publishers Weekly 02/09/06

So We Should All Read The Classics In School? (What A Turn-Off) Carol Sarler doesn't read books. Really. She blames it on school. "We read the books, we were tested on them and we passed or failed accordingly. Reading books was, therefore, the stuff of school in exactly the same way as was trigonometry or chucking a javelin ó and since leaving my esteemed seat of learning, I am as likely to curl up with Jane Austen for the fun of it as I am to flirt with a cosine or risk the wrong end of a spear." The Times (UK) 02/06/06

Wednesday, February 8

Shopping Spree - Europeans Buy US European companies are buying up US publishers. "Why do foreign media firms find American publishers attractive even as U.S. media conglomerates look to dump them? For American companies, book publishing is a slow-growth niche business. For the Europeans, it's something quite different. These foreign companies that now own U.S. publishers generally lack the scale of U.S. media conglomerates." Slate 02/08/06

Tuesday, February 7

Zadie Smith Wins Commonwealth Zadie Smith beats Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro and Nick Hornby to win the Eurasian regional heat of the Commonwealth Writers' prize with her latest novel, On Beauty. The Guardian (UK0 02/08/06

Let's Stop Making Books That Don't Need To Be Books Where do books fit in to the modern culture? "Nobody, not even academics, who are hardier than most, want books in any other form than books. At the same time, we acknowledge that books have become as throwaway as everything else in our culture, so what do we do? First, we stop publishing books that neednít be books. People who donít really read donít really need books ó so let them have Jordan and Becks in lots of other ways. Audio, animated-audio, that is, audio with pictures ó is just about right for most celebrity publications." The Times (UK) 02/04/06

Read The Book, See The Movie (Together) Publishers are experimenting with pairing classic books with DVD copies of the movies. So far sales have been mixed (and for various reasons). Still, putting books and movie together seems like a smart idea. "Academics used to heap disdain on movie versions of great literature, but no longer. In contrast to their predecessors, many college literature professors today routinely bring films into the classroom to complement the reading of the classics." Chicago Tribune 02/07/06

Monday, February 6

The Case Of The Mysterious JT Leroy "A central figure in the case of the mysterious writer JT Leroy has come forward to say that no one named JT Leroy exists, and that the books published under that name were actually written by a San Francisco woman named Laura Albert." The New York Times 02/07/06

Harper Collins Online Harper Collins has announced plans to offer excerpts of books it publishes for free on the internet. "We hope this pilot will demonstrate a win-win for publishers, authors and search engines. The new era does not need to be a zero sum game." Yahoo! (AP) 02/06/06

Frey's Editor: I Was A Victim Too James Frey's editor now says he was duped by the author, and believed that everything in the book was true. "Throughout the editing process, I raised questions with James about the veracity of events he recounted in the book and in each instance he assured me that his account was accurate and true. The only things in 'A Million Little Pieces' that I understood were altered were the names and identifying characteristics of some of the people in the book to protect their real identities." The New York Times 02/04/06

Sunday, February 5

Twain As Literary Lincoln A new biography of Mark Twain attempts to measure the author's importance to American literature: "His way of seeing and hearing things changed America's way of seeing and hearing things ... he was the Lincoln of American literature.' In his prime, a century after the Declaration of Independence, Twain was a Yankee original who rendered the vocabulary and tone of the American vernacular, previously despised, in a way that was neither parody, nor caricature, but literature." The Guardian (UK) 02/04/06

Dear Mr. Bin Laden: Please Endorse My Book "To publishers and new writers, the imprimatur of a famous author has always been gold, carrying, as it does, all the solemnity of naming a successor. But the new vogue for non-literary champions - Robert Plant or Jarvis Cocker, for example - works on a much simpler syllogism: if you like Robert Plant, and Robert Plant liked this book, why then, you'll like this book." The Observer (UK) 02/05/06

Friday, February 3

Christian Booksellers Feel The Squeeze Christian bookstores are struggling. "Association membership peaked at around 3,000 stores in the early 1990s but now totals less than 2,300. CBA said 337 retailers closed last year. To compete, independents look beyond books to sell music, gifts, jewelry, stationery, hymnals and communion supplies. Books now account for only 40 percent of sales in Christian retail stores. Religious books, primarily Christian, generated U.S. sales of nearly $338 million in 2003." Chicago Sun-Times (AP) 02/03/06

Thursday, February 2

More Post-Mortem On The Frey Affair "The Publishing industry bears the weight of contradictory expectations: It must make money, as well as maintain the illusion that itís one of the last bastions of highbrow culture. Which leaves book editors and publishers with the impossible task of creating products that will both sell at Costco and serve as intellectual currency at Upper West Side dinner parties." New York Observer 02/01/06

Page Six vs. WaPo The famously aggressive gossip columnists at the New York Post have come out swinging against Washington Post arts writer Philip Kennicott, following Kennicott's scathing review of a new book about the effort to stop the looting of Iraq's national treasures and mount a recovery effort following the American invasion. The Post calls the review "an unprovoked hatchet job... on Manhattan Assistant DA-turned-war-hero Matthew Bogdanos" and Bogdanos himself is quoted asking "What has that man [Kennicott] ever done for 'culture?'" New York Post 02/02/06

  • More Than Just A Book Review? Was Philip Kennicott's review of Thieves of Baghdad really an "unprovoked hatchet job"? He does allow that there is "a good narrative and a lot of fascinating detail in this book." But then, he also accuses author Matthew Bogdanos of subscribing to "an interpretation of military culture that goes beyond mere duty and includes a disturbing degree of entitlement -- to bend rules, disdain criticism and place oneself above the people one serves." Read the full review here... Washington Post 01/22/06

Wednesday, February 1

Frey Releases "Readers' Note" Not an apology, the note is James Frey's "explanation for making up incidents in his memoir. "I wanted the stories in the book to ebb and flow, to have dramatic arcs, to have the tension that all great stories require," Mr. Frey said, explaining the reason for the changes. "I altered events all the way through the book." The New York Times 02/01/06

Lost In Translation JM Coetzee has had his work translated into many languages. "The necessary imperfection of translation - brought about in the first place by the incapacity of any given target language to supply for each single word in the source language a corresponding single word that would cover, precisely and without overlap, the denotation of the original and its major connotations to boot - is so widely accepted that the translator becomes accustomed to aiming for the best possible translation rather than a hypothetical perfect one. But there are occasions where less than perfect translation of a key word can have serious consequences." The Australian 01/28/06

Prestiwhointhewhatnow? It's rare that a new word can be coined, popularized, and made an official part of the language through the efforts of a single individual. But that hasn't stopped Professor James Vanden Bosch of Michigan's Calvin College from pursuing a one-man crusade to get his favorite made-up word - presticogitation - into the Oxford English Dictionary. Vanden Bosch has actually done a remarkably good job of convincing his studnts over the years to use the word in their writing, but the folks at OED are a much tougher sell. Chicago Tribune 02/01/06

Frey Dropped By Agent James Frey's literary agent has dropped him in the wake of the scandal over his fictionalized memoir. The agent, Kassie Evashevski, also acknowledged that Frey inquired into the possibility of publishing A Million Little Pieces as a novel rather than a non-fiction work, but she says that the reason he gave was his desire to spare his family any embarrassment, and that he never admitted that large chunks of the book weren't true. The New York Times 02/01/06

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