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Thursday, November 30

How To Compost O.J. In canceling publication of O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It," Rupert Murdoch created something of a waste-management dilemma. "Now, HarperCollins has nearly half a million books to destroy. If the books weigh about a pound each, that comes out to 200 tons of paper. I have one word for the publisher: compost. ... So, here's the plan: Give out one copy apiece of If I Did It to individual organic gardeners, and get them to sign a pledge not to read the book or sell it on eBay." Slate 11/29/06

Houghton Mifflin Becomes A Dubliner "Riverdeep Holdings, an Irish educational software company, agreed yesterday to acquire the American textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin for $1.75 billion. Houghton Mifflin will be combined with Riverdeep into a new company, HM Rivergroup, which is based in Dublin." The New York Times (Bloomberg News) 11/30/06

Wednesday, November 29

What's Worse Than Bad Sex? Reading About It. The literary award no author ever wants to receive has been announced yet again. This year's honoree for Bad Sex In Fiction is Iain Hollingshead, who is appropriately chastened by the dubious honor. "Writing about sex is rather more technical, and less fun, than doing it. Either you descend into flowery metaphor or you indulge in the 'naming of parts'. Both are more likely to be laughable than erotic... I blush to read my offending prose now." The Telegraph (UK) 11/30/06

Interestingly, At Least Two Of Those Adjectives Also Describe Coffee The shortlist of nominees is out for the prize formerly known as the Whitbread, and it appears that the judges "have marked its shift to sponsorship by the Costa coffee chain by shifting their taste towards the thriller. Two of the four books picked for the novels shortlist released last night for the inaugural £50,000 Costa award are marketed by their publishers as 'gripping', 'tremendously exciting', 'gritty' and 'thrilling'." The Guardian (UK) 11/30/06

Two Classic Bookstores Close. Will We Know Enough To Miss Them? Toronto is losing two beloved second-hand bookshops, and the closings are a reminder of just how quickly the bookselling business is evolving. "The venues for physically presenting books are being superceded. It's hard to imagine there will be any book collectors among young people, because they won't have the opportunity to handle older books and acquire a taste for it." Toronto Star 11/29/06

Canadian Mega-Chain To Offer Self-Published Titles "Canada's largest retail book chain, Indigo Books & Music, has agreed to carry a selection of books by self-published Canadian authors... There's a selection process for all titles and those chosen will be displayed in 'high-traffic areas' of Chapters, Indigo and Coles stores 'for at least 60 days -- longer if the book keeps selling.'" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/29/06

Tuesday, November 28

Ah, Latin: It's Catnip To Book-Buyers "It is a thoroughly unlikely publishing phenomenon. A book about Latin - that is, about how to learn Latin, with dozens of verb tables and explanations of the ablative absolute and the gerundive - has crept up, unexpectedly but persistently, as high as number 14 in the Amazon bestseller list in the all-important weeks before Christmas." The Guardian (UK) 11/28/06

Monday, November 27

McEwen: I'm No Plagiarist Bestselling author Ian McEwen was accused this past weekend of copying the work of another writer in his novel, Atonement. But McEwen says that he only drew on historical record as background for certain scenes, and he further points out that he acknowledged the author he is accused of stealing from in his book, and says that he has been crediting her with filling in gaps in his knowledge at speaking engagements ever since Atonement was released. The Guardian (UK) 11/27/06

Sunday, November 26

Giving The Comic Book A Shot Of Estrogen Girls have never been a big focus of the comic book industry's sales strategy. But that could be changing, as one of the dominant companies in the comics business begins a major push to get teenage girls reading what are now called graphic novels. "The stories will be far removed from the superheroes who more typically appeal to young males." The New York Times 11/25/06

Wednesday, November 22

Published Battle To Publish Lost O'Neill A bidding war has erupted over a long-lost never-published manuscript by Eugene O'Neill. " 'The Screenews of War,' one of the few short stories he ever wrote, is believed to have been penned 90 years ago but was quickly forgotten. Today, at least two major magazines and a book publisher are said to be intrigued by the 40-odd-page manuscript, which has been quietly circulated over the past week by the professor who made the astounding find." New York Post 11/22/06

Tuesday, November 21

Relief Over OJ Cancellation Booksellers are relieved that the OJ book has been canceled. It put them in an awkward spot. Three-hundred tousand copies were printed; they'll be destroyed. And Judith Regan, responsible for publishing it? Publishers Weekly 11/21/06

First-Time Novelist Wins Governor General Peter Behrens has won this year's Governor General's Award for fiction. The Law of Dreams is a "tale of a young man's journey to the New World during the Irish potato famine. Behrens, a Montreal-born screenwriter who lives most of the year in Maine, is a first-time novelist and author of the short story collection Night Driving." CBC 11/21/06

Murdoch, Regan Almost Had It Both Ways Rupert Murdoch and Judith Regan have backed away from O.J. Simpson's blood-soaked book and TV special, but let's not be too quick to hand out the gold stars. "Like Mr. Simpson himself, they were hoping to have it both ways. The conceit of selling Mr. Simpson’s hypothetical guilt is despicable, as is Ms. Regan’s argument that this was her way of eliciting his 'confession' and giving herself closure for her own history as a victim of abuse. Even the American obsession with 'closure' as a therapeutic concept can’t begin to justify 'If I Did It.' " The New York Times 11/21/06

Sinister-Looking Singleton Seeks Same "Perhaps only someone from Britain could genuinely believe that a personal ad beginning, 'Baste me in butter and call me Slappy,' might lead to romance with an actual, nonincarcerated person. But in the strange alternate universe that is the personals column in the London Review of Books, a fetish for even the naughtiest dairy product is considered a perfectly reasonable basis for a relationship. Rejecting the earnest self-promotion of most personal ads, the correspondents in the London Review column tend instead to present themselves as idiosyncratic, even actively repellent." The New York Times 11/21/06

Monday, November 20

Why Poetry Matters "There's actually an odd correlation between these ideas: poetry is either inadequate, even immoral, in the face of human suffering, or it's unprofitable, hence useless. Either way, poets are advised to hang our heads or fold our tents. Yet in fact, throughout the world, transfusions of poetic language can and do quite literally keep bodies and souls together - and more." The Guardian (UK) 11/20/06

Do Poetry Prizes Matter? The market for poetry in Canda is tiny. Miniscule. So do prizes for poetry help sales at all? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/20/06

News Corp (Rupert Murdoch) Cancels OJ Book, TV "The cancellation comes after as many as a dozen Fox affiliate stations refused to air the show, which was scheduled to run during so-called sweeps, the period when Nielsen Media Research collects viewer data used to set local TV advertising rates. ReganBooks paid Simpson an advance of $3.5 million, according to Newsweek magazine." Bloomberg.com 11/20/06

Bookstores On OJ Book - Some Will Sell, Others Won't Bookstores in the US are mixed about whether they will stock OJ Simpson's confession book. "The book, due to be published on November 30 by ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins, has drawn a firestorm of criticism from members of the publishing community, media commentators, and relatives of the victims." Yahoo! (Reuters) 11/17/06

  • Borders On OJ: We'll Sell, But Donate Profits Borders says it will sell O.J. Simpson's new book. A spokesman says the company expects the widely condemned new book to have "strong sales," but will donate profits to charity. Yahoo! (AP) 11/17/06

Sunday, November 19

Iran Bans Dozens Of Classics "Dozens of literary masterpieces and international bestsellers have been banned in Iran in a dramatic rise in censorship that has plunged the country's publishing industry into crisis." The Guardian (UK) 11/17/06

Privitizing Your Local Newspaper "Though most newspapers today are owned by publicly traded corporations, that's a relatively recent development. Fifty years ago, almost all of the nation's newspapers were privately owned, in many cases by the families that had founded them." Now, as newspapers struggle, corporations are thinking about unloading, and there appears to be interest among private buyers. Boston Globe 11/19/06

Foreign Invasion - Outsiders Take French Book Prizes This fall, four out of six of France's top novel prizes went to non-French writers. So what does this mean about the state of French literature? The New York Times 11/18/06

We Must Protect The Children From Gay Penguins! Parents at a school in Illinois want the school to move "a picture book about two male penguins raising a baby penguin" to a restricted section of the library. Why? "Complaining about the book's homosexual undertones, some parents of Shiloh Elementary School students believe the book — available to be checked out of the school's library in this 11,000-resident town 20 miles east of St. Louis — tackles topics their children aren't ready to handle." Yahoo! (AP) 11/17/06

Friday, November 17

Put Book To Nose. Inhale Deeply. "There I was, reading On Opera by the late philosopher Bernard Williams, and I was suddenly transported back to my childhood. How so? Because of the way it smelled. ... How to describe why one book smells nicer than another? I could burble on about the Williams book's hints of musk, fresh grass, and topnotes of vanilla, but you can see that I'd never make it as a wine writer. But maybe there is a secret community of book-sniffers out there who know what I mean." The Guardian (UK) 11/17/06

Steal A Name And Your Book May Be Pulped With his novel, "Johnny Come Home," Jake Arnott inadvertently libelled a man who shares a name and other traits with a fictional character. "Where real names are involved, an author cannot hide behind that all-purpose shield: 'any resemblance is purely coincidental'. Nor do the courts accept ignorance as a defence. If you can be shown, by using a real-life name, to have injured a real-life reputation, then you will pay. The law is right alongside the Bard: 'He who steals my purse, steals trash. But he who steals my good name, steals all that I have.' You're safe, of course, if your named victim has no good name to lose." The Guardian (UK) 11/17/06

University Gets Lost Poem By Canadian Rebel Leader "In the weeks leading up to his hanging for high treason 121 years ago today, Louis Riel struck up a friendship with his jailer. This week, a poem the Métis leader wrote for Robert Gordon becomes a prized part of the archives at the University of Saskatchewan. ..." Written in English "in Riel's flowing script, the poem was apparently penned at Mr. Gordon's request. The loose pages, now yellowed with time, are dated Oct. 27, 1885. Riel was hanged about three weeks later on Nov. 16." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 11/16/06

At Last, All Of Solzhenitsyn In Russian "Alexander Solzhenitsyn's wife on Thursday presented the initial three volumes of the first full collection of his works to be published in Russia, a country still struggling with the legacy of the oppressive era he documented. It was a cherished moment for the aging Nobel laureate, who has been through prison camps and exile and, Natalya Solzhenitsyn said, feels the 'draining of the life force' as his 88th birthday approaches. He was not at the presentation and his wife did not elaborate on his health." Los Angeles Times (AP) 11/17/06

Thursday, November 16

Iran Cracks Down On Publishers "Dozens of literary masterpieces and international bestsellers have been banned in Iran in a dramatic rise in censorship that has plunged the country's publishing industry into crisis... The clampdown has been headed by the hardline culture minister, Mohammed Hossein Saffar Harandi, a former revolutionary guard and close ally of [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. It follows a relative thaw during the eight-year presidency of Mr Ahmadinejad's reformist predecessor, Mohammed Khatami." The Guardian (UK) 11/17/06

Wednesday, November 15

"Echo" Wins National Book Award Richard Powers' "The Echo Maker," a scientific tale of memory and identity in the age of Sept. 11 and the Iraq war, has won the National Book Award for fiction. Yahoo! (AP) 11/15/06

Tuesday, November 14

What Makes A Great Thriller? Jerome Weeks is on the case: "The best spy thrillers, it seems, have told three central stories..." Book/Daddy (AJBlogs) 11/14/06

Monday, November 13

Press And University Part Ways "A noted publisher of literary translations and experimental fiction, Dalkey Archive Press, and the University of Rochester have decided to part ways following a recent announcement that the press, whose titles include work by Gertrude Stein, Aldous Huxley, and Carlos Fuentes, was moving to the upstate campus." New York Sun 11/14/06

Sunday, November 12

A Focus On African American Books "Next week The Baltimore Times will join The New York Amsterdam News, The Philadelphia Tribune and several others in introducing Blacks & Books, a monthly insert focusing on books by or of interest to readers of African descent. The publishing industry is greeting the enterprise and its initial 100,000-copy print run with enthusiasm, and caution." The New York Times 11/12/06

Stoking Interest In Pynchon In The Digital Age Thomas Pynchon is now 69, but "time, and the Internet, have advanced in his favour. It's been nine years since his previous novel, 'Mason & Dixon,' came out, and fans have fully digitized their passion, building an online community worthy of an author who as much as anyone brought a high-tech sensibility to literary fiction." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/11/06

BookExpo To Try Its Luck In Vegas America's annual BookExpo is hading back to Las Vegas for te first time in 20 years. "The 2007 BookExpo America is scheduled for May 31 to June 3 in New York. The convention will move to Los Angeles in 2008 and back to New York in 2009 before heading to Las Vegas in 2010." Yahoo! (AP) 11/11/06

Thursday, November 9

IMPAC Long List Released "Fourteen books by Canadians made the long list for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award yesterday, including works by Margaret Atwood, David Bergen, Camilla Gibb and David Gilmour. The prestigious prize is worth about $215,000. A shortlist of up to 10 novels will be revealed in April, with the winner announced in June." The Globe & Mail (CP) 11/09/06

Wednesday, November 8

Lam Wins Giller Vincent Lam, a Toronto East General doctor who wrote a collection of short stories called Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, wins Canada's Giller Prize. "My parents came to this country when multiculturalism was just beginning to be acknowledged. As their son and as the second generation, I am proud to be here." Toronto Star 11/08/06

Tuesday, November 7

Poking And Prodding Shakespeare Ron Rosenbaum has "now done for Shakespeare studies what he did for Hitler studies: he has researched and interviewed the foremost living scholars, theater directors, actors, and critics, added summaries of the work of a few seminal critics of the last century, interjected asides concerning his own encounters with the poems and plays as well as with particularly memorable productions, and withal tried gamely to make the scholarly and critical issues being 'warred' over seem anything but parochial." Commentary 11/06

Pictures? Words? It's All Literature Should we take graphic novels (comics) seriously as literature? "Studies have shown a link between comics and increased literacy skills. Often, comics readers are just plain readers, and many fans of prose literature attribute their love of reading to comics. We also can't forget that we describe the act of reading comics as just that: reading. There's no other word that can adequately describe how we interact with stories told in that medium." Wired 11/07/06

Literary Idealism, Thriving In An Online Magazine "Noted editor Tom Jenks solicited submissions from a few of his writer friends, then published six in the inaugural issue of Narrative Magazine.... There was no test marketing, no promotion, no advertising, no nothing other than a new Web site that had a two-page editors' note and six pieces with some formidable bylines, including Joyce Carol Oates, Tobias Wolff, Jane Smiley and Rick Bass." Three years later, Narrative is a success with readers. It's also a nonprofit -- and Jenks wants access to remain free. So now comes the fundraising. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 11/07/06

Novels, The Hidden Budget-Buster In a Shouts and Murmurs piece, Ian Frazier riffs on a New York Daily News item that suggested cutting costs by borrowing novels from the library instead of buying them in hardcover. The New Yorker 11/06/06

Littell Wins Goncourt, Stays Away Jonathan Littell, the first American winner of France’s Prix Goncourt, did not attend Monday's announcement of the prize in Paris. "'He hopes his absence will not be misunderstood or, even less, be interpreted as disdain for the jury,' his French publisher, Antoine Gallimard, told reporters here. 'He has no need for publicity, both out of modesty and because he believes that literature is not part of show business, that what’s important is the book.'" Littell's novel, "Les Bienveillantes," is a huge best seller in France. The New York Times 11/07/06

Monday, November 6

Researcher: Wikipedia Is Rife With Plagiarism A longtime critic of Wikipedia says he has "found 142 instances of Wikipedia copy lifted from other sources after studying the site with a software program that picks up matches with other material anywhere on the Google search engine." CBC 11/06/06

Wanted: A Toronto To Write About Toronto is a compelling big city. Yet it doesn't show up in great fiction. "Is there something about the Toronto landscape, or the Toronto soul, or lack of soul, that discourages writers from fully engaging this city in their fiction?" Toronto Star 11/05/06

Sunday, November 5

Maybe They Need To Pay The Readers, Too Big advances and extravagant payouts for celebrity authors are common practice in the publishing world these days, but some of the highest-profile deals struck this year have ended with publishers taking a financial bath. "After shelling out for deals worth up to £1m to buy into the celebrity memoir market, many have seen little more than a trickle of sales." The Independent (UK) 11/05/06

French Critics Accused Of Corruption "Next week will see the announcement of the winner of [France's] most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, closely followed by around 3,000 others throughout November. But last week saw a revolution in France's traditionally somewhat stuffy literary world in the form of a barrage of vicious open attacks on the critics and judges themselves. The 60-odd life members of the juries of the major prizes find themselves accused of back-scratching, favouritism, self-seeking commercialism and downright corruption." The Observer (UK) 11/05/06

Never Asked For Success It's not every novelist who gets a crack at real national or international fame. But for some authors, all the attention that comes with success has a price. For Janet Fitch, author of a novel that caught the fancy of starmaker Oprah Winfrey, the price was her privacy, her peace of mind, and very nearly her creative spark. Boston Globe 11/04/06

Thursday, November 2

Local Protests Over Booker Prize-winner's Portrayal Kiran Desai is the youngest ever winner of the Booker prize. She "inadvertently lifted the town of Kalimpong out of the shadows of the Himalayas and into the glare of the media spotlight." But "what has incensed locals in Kalimpong is the portrayal of people of Nepalese descent, who form the bulk of the town's 60,000 people." The Guardian (UK) 11/02/06

A Quiet Opening In Lake Wobegon Country Radio megastar Garrison Keillor's new independent bookstore in St. Paul quietly opened its doors this week, and Keillor has laid out some lofty goals for it to live up to. "In a move to distinguish his shop from the national behemoths, he and his staff are placing special focus on local and regional authors and poetry endorsed by Keillor... Works by St. Paul native son F. Scott Fitzgerald fill an entire shelf." Still, indies have had a rough run in St. Paul recently, and Keillor's star power may be all that stands between the new store and a similar fate. St. Paul Pioneer Press 11/02/06

Because We All Know What Happens When Americans Get Offended "A French-language novel by Calgary-born Nancy Huston that was awarded France's prestigious Prix Femina this week was expected to be published in English first -- but the novelist's Canadian publisher and New York agent held off doing that this year because they wanted Huston to change portions of her text to avoid offending U.S. readers." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/02/06

Would You Like A Side Of Fiction With That? In an age when books are more accessible than ever, but independent booksellers are an endangered species, publishers are trying ever more innovative techniques to get their product in the hands of readers. The latest trend is books as a lifestyle accessory, sold alongside clothing, coffee, even lunch meat. "What began as a trickle of cookbooks in kitchen shops and do-it-yourself titles in hardware stores has become, in recent months, the fastest growing component in many major publishers’ retail strategies." The New York Times 11/02/06

Wednesday, November 1

Fellowship Of The Book There may be more unlikely publishing moguls than Viggo Mortenson, but you'd have to look hard for them. The Lord of the Rings star launched his Perceval Press shortly after the film trilogy made him an international superstar, and since then, the business has carved out a small but important niche in the industry. "The point of the enterprise is to cast light on work that might not otherwise be published, and to present artists’ work as it was intended to be seen." The New York Times 11/01/06

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