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Thursday, September 28

Blogger Books Failing? Books by bloggers haven't sold well despite considerable hype. "I think that (publishing bloggers) is something you have to scrutinize very carefully. If a blog gets the attention of the public, then we are at the point knowing that we really have to look at it and determine if there’s something beyond it. Having a popular blog isn’t enough to get a book deal anymore." Boston Herald 09/23/06

Long Lost Frost Poem Discovered "An unpublished Robert Frost poem, a tribute to a friend killed during World War I, has been rediscovered and will appear next week in the fall issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review." Los Angeles Times (AP) 09/28/06

Wednesday, September 27

Chomsky Book Still Riding High After Chavez Plug The Venezuelan leader held up Noam Chomsky's book last week at the UN. It soared to No. 1 on Amazon, "and publisher Henry Holt last week announced a new printing of 25,000. On Wednesday, with Chomsky at No. 2 on Amazon, another 25,000 paperback copies were commissioned." Yahoo! (AP) 09/27/06

Tuesday, September 26

The Nobels That Almost Weren't "When Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and more powerful explosives, died in 1896, he bequeathed the bulk of his fortune to create five annual prizes honoring ingenuity. The chemistry, medicine and physics prizes have come to be widely regarded as the most esteemed in their fields. The two others, literature and peace, are more controversial. Yet in a little known story, the Nobel Prizes, the first of which will be announced on Monday, almost never came to be, largely because of the unsophisticated way Nobel drew up his will." The New York Times 09/26/06

Thais Pressured Yale Not To Publish Book "A new and comprehensive history of the Thai modern monarchy, written by an American journalist, Paul M. Handley, and banned in Thailand, argues that in his 60-year reign King Bhumibol Adulyadej has generally exercised a preference for order over democracy. ... The book’s publisher, Yale University Press, said it came under heavy pressure from the Thai government not to publish it. The director of Yale University Press, John Donatich, said the pressure included a visit to New Haven by a delegation of Thai officials, including the cabinet secretary general, Bowornsak Uwanno, and the Thai ambassador to the United States, Virasakdi Futrakul." The New York Times 09/25/06

Murakami Wins Richest Story Prize Haruki Murakami has won the second Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. "The €35,000 (£23,000) prize, which is awarded to new collections published in English during the last 12 months, is the world's richest short story prize." The Guardian (UK) 09/25/06

Sunday, September 24

How Do You Sell Engineers On Poetry? "We're trying to diminish the stereotype of the poet as some dreamy bozo who wanders around and then all of a sudden gets struck by inspiration," says Lux. "Poems are made things. They have everything to do with intense emotions ... but poems are made things. They don't just happen." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 09/24/06

Taking Stock Of Gunther Grass's Book "As a moral reckoning with the Nazi past, however, Peeling the Onion is a failure – and not even an honourable one. For a writer who has built his entire reputation on his indictment of an older generation for supposedly evading responsibility, Grass shows little awareness of his own bad faith in concealing the shameful facts about himself. Though he constantly interrogates his younger self in a rhetorical manner, the older Grass does his best to avoid confronting the awful truth." The Telegraph (UK) 09/23/06

Author Accused of Lying May Have The Last Word Kathy O'Beirne stunned the Irish literary world when her memoir of "a life of child rape, abuse and violence that implicates nuns in the Catholic clergy as well as her late father" was released. But since publication, O'Beirne has been repeatedly accused of making the whole story up, and several of her own relatives have called the book a fraud. Now, O'Beirne believes she has the evidence to prove that her horrific story is true. The Observer (UK) 09/24/06

Friday, September 22

Slow Down, You're Reading Too Fast "The amount of printed material increases exponentially, but the time available for reading remains static or, in many cases, decreases arithmetically. So once we have decided what to read, the question then becomes, How to read? And the paradoxical answer is, Much more slowly." The New York Times 09/22/06

Thursday, September 21

Truth Squad - Prove Your Pain There are so many pain-and-suffering memoirs out there, and enough that are of questionable veracity to create a sub-section of their own. So what proof should we require from authors who spill their hard times? The Guardian (UK) 09/21/06

Hugo Chavez Spurs Sales Of Chomsky Book In his incendiary speech at the UN Wednesday, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez held up a copy of Noam Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival". Immediately the book made a huge jump in sales. Originally published in 2003, the book "had jumped into the top 10 of Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com as of Thursday afternoon." CBC 09/21/06

Long List Gets Short Shrift Last week, Canada's $40,000 Giller Prize for Literature attempted to amp up the amount of attention it receives from press and public by announcing its first-ever "long list" of nominees. Unfortunately, they chose to release the list while a huge group of Hollywood stars was in town for Toronto's celebrated film festival, and the Giller barely made the back pages. Moreover, some observers are asking why the Giller needs a long list at all. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/21/06

Wednesday, September 20

A New York Review Of Books Without Its Founder? "Can The New York Review of Books survive without its founders’ specific genius. political and literary journalism it practices? A typical Review piece runs to 4,000 or 5,000 words, is pitched to readers who often have several advanced degrees, and may contain footnotes. Its intellectual and physical heft—the “Fall Books” issue came in at 100 pages—requires the kind of attention that becomes harder and harder to sustain with every new technological gadget we hitch to our belts or curl around our ears." New York Magazine 09/18/06

What Your Books Say About You "What interests me about other people's books is the nature of their collection. A personal library is an X-ray of the owner's soul. It offers keys to a particular temperament, an intellectual disposition, a way of being in the world. Even how the books are arranged on the shelves deserves notice, even reflection. There is probably no such thing as complete chaos in such arrangements." Chronicle of Higher Education 09/20/06

Family Decries Memoir As Fraud "The family of a bestselling author whose vivid memoir claims to document a 'hell' of sexual abuse inside a Catholic institution for fallen women denounced the book as a work of fiction yesterday." The Guardian (UK) 09/20/06

Tuesday, September 19

A Book Critic Bids His Staff Job Goodbye Longtime Dallas Morning News book columnist Jerome Weeks spent his last day on the job Friday. He offers some final thoughts in his farewell column, which the paper chose not to print. "Nowhere in films or TV do characters read -- other than the 'bookish girl' or the action hero, but only when he must desperately decipher the Sacred Inca Brain Codex for clues to foil the arch-fiend's dastardly plot -- a plot the 'bookish girl' could have figured out long ago. Still, for reviewers, one of the accidental delights of the job comes precisely from reading many of those books we'd normally use for attic insulation. It's a central pleasure of art: discovery." Critical Mass 09/19/06

Foiled By Pen, Atwood Tries Again The LongPen, intended to allow writers to sign books from wherever they happen to be, "famously flubbed at its much-anticipated international debut in March at the London Book Fair." But Margaret Atwood, author and LongPen funder, intends to give it another shot on Sunday at a Toronto book fair. Not that she will be in Toronto, of course. She'll sign books for Canadian fairgoers from Edinburgh. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 09/19/06

A Touch Of Cannibalism For The Holidays "Fans of perhaps the world’s best-known cannibal won’t have to wait much longer: seven years after the publication of 'Hannibal,' Thomas Harris has finally delivered a new novel featuring Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the serial killer most famously memorialized on film by Anthony Hopkins. In a last-minute addition to its holiday-season list, Delacorte Press, an imprint of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, is expected to announce today that it will publish 'Hannibal Rising' on Dec. 5." The New York Times 09/19/06

Monday, September 18

Previously Unpublished Tolkien To Hit Stores "An unfinished tale by J.R.R. Tolkien has been edited by his son into a completed work and will be released next spring, the U.S. and British publishers announced Monday." The Globe & Mail (Canada) (AP) 09/18/06

Sunday, September 17

Critics Dump On Prize For Unpublished Writers Entrants for the new $100,000 Sobol Prize for unpublished fiction have to have an $85 fee. "The Sobol Award is seeking as many as 50,000 unpublished fiction manuscripts, but critics say the contest's fee runs counter to industry ethical principles of not charging writers to read their work. The award was set up by tech entrepreneur Gur Shomron, who said he came up with the idea after failing to find a publisher for his novel, 'NETfold,' which he self-published last year." Yahoo! (Reuters) 09/14/06

Booker Shortlist Surprises Experts It's one of the most eclectic lists in years. John Sutherland, last year's chairman and author of How to Read a Novel, said it was a "bizarre" list that might signal a changing of the literary guard. "If you compare it with last year, the average age is five or 10 years younger. What we may be seeing is a turning of the tide, the older generation giving way to the new." The Independent (UK) 09/15/06

Friday, September 15

Prairie Home Star Power How do you open a successful new indy bookstore in a town where such storefronts have been closing by the dozens? Well, you could convince Garrison Keillor to be the owner. The "Prairie Home Companion" host and author has announced plans to open just such a store in St. Paul's historic Cathedral Hill neighborhood. Rumors of Keillor's interest in such a project had been floating around the Twin Cities for some time. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 09/15/06

Books In Brooklyn. You Gadda Problem Wid Dat? What better place for a festival celebrating the great tradition of literature than... um, Brooklyn? "Is there such a thing as a Brooklyn aesthetic? A Brooklyn voice? You could make an argument for it, though the Brooklyn voice has evolved... For more than a century Brooklyn was, for writers, a place where fractured English constituted the lingua franca." The New York Times 09/15/06

Thursday, September 14

So Men Can't Write Romance Novels? That's the claim by Brit TV presenter Daisy Goodwin. Ray Connolly begs to differ: "Admittedly, men's names don't crop up so often on those displays of books with pink, frilly covers in Waterstone's and Borders, but in truth the history of literature is filled with romantic stories written by men." The Telegraph (UK) 09/14/06

Booker's Solid Shortlist Chosen Six finalists are chosen for this year's Man Booker Prize. "The shortlist was chosen from a 19-book longlist described by the Guardian's literary editor, Claire Armitstead, as 'respectable but not startling'." The Guardian (UK) 09/14/06

Wednesday, September 13

Write On - Readers In The Margins "To many people, of course, the idea of marking up a book seems distasteful – a violation of the text, a sign of disrespect for the author’s authority." But the markings of readers can also give the overlay of understanding by readers who have gone before. InsideHigherEd 09/13/06

The Book Behind The Nazi Revelation Gunther Grass caused a storm last month when he revealed he'd been a Nazi. "Somewhat lost in the scandal is the fact that Grass has written a memoir of rare literary beauty. Beginning with his childhood in Danzig and ending with the publication, in 1959, of his first and most famous novel, 'The Tin Drum,' the book is not just an autobiography but also a meditation on memory—on the tricks it plays and the way it feeds the imagination of a born storyteller." The New Yorker 09/11/06

Quality Sells - The New Yorker's A Hit Under editor David Remnick, The New Yorker has become a financial success as well as a critical one. The magazine "has the highest subscription renewal rate of any magazine in the country. It has a circulation of over 1 million, and although it is privately owned and such figures are not publicly available, it is thought to be turning a profit of around $10 million." The Guardian (UK) 09/11/06

Librarians As Defenders Of Free Speech "With the federal government ever more intent on spying on its own citizens, and on classifying, concealing and manipulating larger swaths of information and intelligence, librarians and library custodians are on the front lines protecting freedom of inquiry and our right to privacy." The Nation 09/13/06

$100,000 For Unpublished Authors "The Sobol Award offers the enormous prize for the best unreleased novel by an unrepresented author, with prizes of $25,000 and $10,000 for the runners-up and $1,000 each to seven others. The award — available only to authors in the United States — is the creation of Sobol Literary Enterprises, a for-profit venture started by technology entrepreneur Gur Shomron as a venue to discover talented, unknown fiction writers and help them get the recognition they deserve." CBC 09/13/06

Monday, September 11

Giller List Announced Fifteen Canadian writers are in the running. "This year the jury includes former governor general Adrienne Clarkson and authors Alice Munro and Michael Winter." CBC 09/12/06

How To Record History In A Disposable Age? "The National Library of Scotland, belatedly, is creating an archive of blogs, journals and e-mails written by leading Scots. Curators will harvest websites and inboxes for things of cultural significance, describing it as a 'digital repository' containing what will come to be regarded as the manuscripts of the 21st century. It all sounds very admirable: the e-mails of JK Rowling, Ian Rankin and Alasdair Gray captured for posterity. (JK's e-mails to her investment manager would be the best read of all. Except those are precisely the ones that will never be kept and never be seen.)" Glasgow Herald 09/11/06

Sunday, September 10

Suing Over James Frey's Book Is Stupid Readers are suing James Frey and his publisher for defrauding them? "Stunts like this give a bad name to class action suits that seek to redress genuine wrongs, like race or sex discrimination in the workplace, or pollution. The action against Random House also reflects an absurdly consumerist attitude toward reading: when the book - or author - isn't what you expected, demand your money back!" The Nation 09/09/06

Friday, September 8

25 Years Of The New Criterion "Launched in 1982 by Hilton Kramer and the music critic Samuel Lipman, the magazine has outlasted T.S. Eliot's Criterion, which ran for 17 years. For a quarter of a century, the New Criterion has helped its readers distinguish achievement from failure in painting, music, dance, literature, theater, and other arts. The magazine, whose circulation is 6,500, has taken a leading role in the culture wars, publishing articles whose titles are an intellectual call to arms." New York Sun 09/08/06

Thursday, September 7

Reading And Educating "This fall education is a particularly hot topic in publishing. New books raise a wealth of ticklish questions, beginning with the ones about wealthy kids. What got them into those Ivy League classrooms?" The New York Times 09/08/06

Wednesday, September 6

Author, Publisher Settle Reader Lawsuits James Frey and Random House, his publisher, have agreed on a settlement of reader claims over Frey's memoir fraud. "Neither Mr. Frey nor Random House are admitting any wrongdoing, but consumers who bought the book on or before Jan. 26 — when both the publisher and author released statements acknowledging that Mr. Frey had altered certain facts — will be eligible for a full refund." The New York Times 09/07/06

Rare Book Stolen, Substituted A rare 16th Century book was stolen out of a castle in Austria, but the theft was not noticed for a few days because the thief substituted another book. "The 1532 volume, Astronomicum Caesareum, by Petrus Apianus, disappeared from Peuerbach Castle between August 23 and 26, when a guide discovered it had gone." The Guardian (UK) 09/05/06

How Libraries Could Reassert Themselves? "Google does not have to eliminate the market in printed books to make this impossible. It merely has to shrink it so much that the price of books goes right down again. If no one gets paid for writing books, fewer will be written, which may not be an unmixed catastrophe, but very much fewer really good ones will be written. The only way out of this, it seems to me, is for libraries to pay for the right to distribute electronic texts." The Guardian (UK) 09/06/06

Tuesday, September 5

One Antidote To Escalating Textbook Prices: Ads "Selling ad space keeps newspapers, magazines, websites and television either cheap or free for users. But so far, the model hasn't caught on with college textbooks. Now, a small Minnesota start-up is trying to shake up the status quo in the $6-billion college textbook industry. Freeload Press Inc. will offer more than 100 titles this fall — mostly for business courses — completely free. After filling out a five-minute survey, students can download the text of the book, which can be stored on a hard drive and printed." Los Angeles Times (AP) 09/05/06

Monday, September 4

Biographer Admits To Bio Hoax Bevis Hillier has confessed to sending a fake letter to a fellow boigrapher and duping him. "Hillier, who spent 25 years researching and writing his own magisterial three-volume biography of Betjeman, finally decided to act when Wilson managed to bring out his book not much more than a year after his publishers had announced it. 'When a newspaper started billing Wilson’s book as ‘the big one’, it was just too much,' said Hillier, 66." The Sunday Times (UK) 09/03/06

  • Previously: The Mystery Literary Hoax A prominent British biographer is duped into using a faked letter in a new biography. Yes, there's embarrassment to have been taken in by a clever hoax. But who perpetrated it? The New York Times 08/31/06

Beating Up On The Punctuation Police "One of Britain's leading language experts has attacked Lynne Truss's bestseller Eats, Shoots and Leaves for its 'misconceived' and 'deeply unnerving' zero tolerance approach to punctuation." The Observer (UK) 09/03/06

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