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APRIL 2001

Monday April 30

CUTTING BOOK REVIEWS: Some of the most prominent American newspapers are reducing or cutting their book sections. Why? The newspaper business is currently in a down cycle and newspapers are looking for ways to slim down. "Publishers generally cite finances — costs have gone up and readership down. Plus, book sections rarely bring in much advertising — in fact, less now than formerly." Mobylives 04/29/01

DROPPING THE HABIT? A major new Australian study measures the reading habits of students. "While 45 per cent of primary school students enjoy reading, read frequently and see reading in a positive light, only 24 per cent of secondary students are as enthusiastic. Older boys are more likely than girls to find reading boring and nerdy." Sydney Morning Herald 04/30/01

Friday April 27

RACISM IS... Last week, a panel of teachers in South Africa ruled that Nadine Gordimer's book July's People was unsuitable for high schools, and, said the panel of white South Africans, the novel was "deeply racist, superior and patronizing. It is no wonder that this message is not very popular in South Africa, even 10 years after the end of apartheid: It is one of those unpleasant truths that are likely to be ignored or suppressed for the sake of political correctness." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/27/01

WRITING MANUAL: Want to be a writer? Here are 13 helpful rules to getting in print - "Avoid cliches like the plague." National Post 04/26/01

Thursday April 26

THE BOOK DONE GONE: The author of The Wind Done Gone, a parody of Gone with the Wind says she's shocked at the outcome of a court case that says she ripped off characters from the original Gone with the Wind and that she violated copyright. "I did not seek to exploit `Gone With The Wind.' I wanted to explode it." The New York Times 04/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE GHOST TOWNS OF SCHOLARSHIP: Most unpublished manuscripts probably don't merit publication. Others - new studies of the American West, the revolution which provoked US intervention in Grenada, and the heritage of indigenous Mexicans - seem not only worthy but essential. Yet for various reasons, their authors are reluctant to finish and release them. Chronicle of Higher Education 04/27/01

THE BAD BOY OF BRITISH FICTION: "Everything Welsh has written is, in one way or another, about a struggle to find community in environments where the idea of community seems redundant, where physical appetite and brutal self-interest are rampant, and where authority is synonymous only with repression." Prospect 05/01

WRITERS' BLOCK? NO PROBLEM: "It's not a problem for me," says the new Pulitzer winner for fiction, "and it's not for any writer that has a regular work schedule. It's not a problem generating new material." What can be problematic is wrapping it up. Like the nearly-abandoned 2600-page draft of a previous book. Financial Times 04/23/01

BELFAST POET WINS QUEEN'S GOLD MEDAL: Michael Longley was successful through the Sixties, but stopped publishing in the Eighties. Now he's at it again, saying "at the ripe old age of 61, I feel as though I've just started." His friend Nobelist Seamus Heaney calls Longley "a keeper of the artistic estate, a custodian of griefs and wonders." The Guardian (London) 04/24/01

THE CASE OF THE IMPROBABLE VILLAIN: Ever wondered about that Holmes-Moriarty confrontation at the Reichenbach Falls? Didn't Sherlock's explanation ring hollow? Now the truth can be told. The Guardian 04/26/01

DID WELLS STEAL? In 1925 an unknown Canadian writer sued HG Wells for ripping off her work for Wells' Outline of History. The suit was dismissed, but should it have been? Had it had fair consideration "the case would have been one of the most notorious literary scandals of the twentieth century." Lingua Franca 04/23/01

Wednesday April 25

A MINDBLOWING AUTHOR OF STAGGERING EGO: Dave Eggers has become well-known in journalistic circles as the toughest interview on the literary scene today. The best-selling author, who has developed a cult following of David Sedaris-like proportions, only conducts interviews by e-mail, and has publicly savaged critics whose profiles he dislikes. But to fans of his work, he is the most accessible writer to come along in years. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/25/01

NOW THEY LISTEN: When he was alive, Kenneth Burke's books and ideas puzzled his colleagues. "But in recent years, critics have read them with something like deja vu: Burke's literary analysis extends to the most far-reaching speculations about those familiar topics in contemporary theory: language, power, and identity." Chronicle of Higher Education 04/23/01

GONE WITH THE COURT RULING: "Houghton Mifflin Co., which hopes to publish a fictional ''antidote'' to ''Gone With the Wind,'' filed an appeal in Atlanta's 11th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday, contending that the book is political parody protected by the First Amendment." Boston Globe 04/25/01

Tuesday April 24

DIFFICULT TRANSITION: "As if in microcosm of the rest of society, the book business is being changed by the rise of mega–corporations and new technology. It's being made further tumultuous by issues of consumerism and individual rights that can't keep up. And the spate of court cases may have just put the tumult into hyperdrive." Mobylives 04/22/01

FLAT BOOKS: Exports of American books to the rest of the world stayed flat last year. It "marked the fourth year in a row of little change in book exports with export sales ranging between $1.90 billion and $1.84 billion in the 1997 through 2000 period. Exports to the top 15 markets for American books rose 0.4% in 2000, to $1.662 billion, and represented 88.5% of all exports." Publishers Weekly 04/23/01

Monday April 23

THE E-MAIL EFFECT: Is the informality of e-mail dumbing down our literateness? There's no question it's having an influence. The e-mail genre affects "contemporary American writing courses, in particular the principle that content is not to be sacrificed to form. Thus creative writing, according to the latest methodology and the e-mail genre, gives preference to the spontaneous word over all formalism - a bold thought that provokes contradiction." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/23/01

BOOK CUTS: As newspapers cut budgets to cope with a downturn, one of the first targets of cuts is book coverage - several newspapers are folding their standalone book reviews. The New York Times 04/23/01 (one-time registration required)

WORLD WAR II, CLOSE UP AND FAR AWAY: At least from the time of Homer, writers have tried to put war into words. But what is written about war - even one particular war - can change over time. "The novels of the immediate postwar era... were often exercises in retrospective fixing [while] a modern novelist is likely to be interested in more elemental themes of loss, betrayal and divided loyalty or questions of national identity." The Guardian (London) 04/21/01

THE MAGIC OF THAT FIRST BOOK: An author always remembers the thrill of seeing that first book in print. "Whether you're a novelist, a poet or a nonfiction writer, initially there's something giddy and unreckonable to that process by which an untidy manuscript is converted into the neat, durable-looking, hinged rectangle of a book." The New York Times 04/23/01 (one-time registration required)

Sunday April 22

OF REPUTATION AND FAME: "He has written seven novels, widely acclaimed but is scarcely heard of outside the literary world. He is regularly compared to Thomas Pynchon and Don Delillo, and these are not rhetorical devices. His subjects are universals: the power of science, the power of the human mind, computers, artificial intelligence, the meaning of thought, love, loneliness and friendship. He is a rigorous intellectual and a powerful advocate of emotion, and sometimes even sentiment. Why then is he not better known?" The Telegraph (UK) 04/21/01

DIALOGUE BETWEEN LEGENDS: "The Harlem Renaissance was divided between those who saw the value of the arts primarily in terms of service to civil rights and those who believed that artistic and literary freedom were the only civil rights worth having." A new book detailing the 20-year correpondence between black poet Langston Hughes and white critic Carl van Vechten examines the intricacies of the debate. The New York Times Book Review 04/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

RIGHTS TO PASTERNAK ARCHIVES SETTLED: "The court dismissed an appeal by the family of Olga Ivinskaya, on whom Pasternak based the character of Lara in his novel Doctor Zhivago, leaving his daughter-in- law, Natalya Pasternak, as sole inheritor of his manuscripts and notes." The New York Times 04/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday April 20

SOME GOLDEN AGE: Editors/publishers are idiots. They're paid to select writers and books they think will sell. And repeatedly they pass over quality work. A look at the trove of publishers' rejections from the Alfred A Knopf archives reveals some major blunders. National Post (Canada) 04/17/01

THE POETRY PROBLEM: "No one, other than poets themselves, really gives a damn about poetry. There was a time when daily newspapers published poems regularly. What U.S. daily would publish poetry today? These days newspapers rarely review poetry, much less print it. Ask any editor of a periodical devoted to poetry and he or she will tell you that the number of submissions are quite a bit higher than the number of subscribers." Baltimore City Paper 04/18/01

(ABANDON)(REJECT)(DISCARD) YOUR ROGET: Who needs a thesaurus? It was only good for crossword puzzles anyway. It "fostered poor writing. It offered facile answers to complex linguistic questions... It enabled students to appear learned without ever helping to make them so. It encouraged a malaprop society. It made for literary window dressing. It was meretricious." Atlantic Monthly May 2001

A LITTLE SHUFFLING DOES NOT A POEM MAKE: When you shuffle those little words scattered on a refrigerator door, are you, as the makers of Magnetic Poetry insist, "responding to some of the deepest urges in the human animal?" Hah! "A lot of people might consider singing in the shower the satisfaction of an urge, but I don't think that when I yodel an approximation of an aria, it helps me appreciate Verdi." Slate 04/19/01

DOESN'T ANYONE WRITE ORIGINAL STUFF ANY MORE? In a new first novel titled The Persia Cafe, several passages are identical to passages from Barbara Kingsolver's novel The Bean Trees. The offending novelist offered to apologize privately to Kingsolver, but refuses to issue a public apology. Inside 04/19/01

PASSING THE PROSE: Raymond Carver's place in American letters is secure. But the style of prose he wrote has passed on. "If we think of prose style not as an adornment but as a kind of ethics-cum-aesthetics, then the passing of the restrained, noun-centered mode can be seen to map a broader, more encompassing shift in the Zeitgeist." The Atlantic 01/01

Wednesday April 18

BOOKS, BOOKS, AND MORE BOOKS: The online economy may be tanking, but bookseller Barnes & Noble says its sales in the first quarter of this year are up a whopping 23 percent - far outstripping Amazon's increase. Inside.com 04/18/01

Tuesday April 17

E-BOOKS LAWSUIT: "Authors and agents say what's at stake in the upcoming lawsuit over interpretation of book contracts is the entire future of the electronic publishing industry. In Random House v. Rosettabooks...Random House alleges it owns the electronic titles based on a clause in the author's original contracts that gives the publisher the right to 'print, publish and sell in book form.'" Wired 04/17/01

A REAL OLD-SCHOOL BAD BOY: "Camus described Arthur Rimbaud as 'the poet of revolt, and the greatest of them all.' When Rimbaud died of bone cancer at 37, he was virtually unknown beyond the world of the literary avant-garde. Biographer Graham Robb says, 'the list of his known crimes is longer than the list of his published poems.'" Naturally, all this is making him increasingly popular today. CBC 04/17/01

Monday April 16

TOO MUCH: Are university presses turning out too many books? "The currency of books is becoming deflated in a way that is reminiscent of the decline of the German deutsche mark in the early 1920's, and the culprit is the same: hyperinflation. Our system of book publishing, which rests on the premise that we promote people who publish, is spiraling out of control. Indeed, the whole system needs to be changed." Chronicle of Higher Education 04/16/01

ONLINE SLOWDOWN: After several years of phenomenal growth, sales of books online seem to be slowing. "Some analysts warn that the slowdown in online book sales bodes ill for sales of other products that are not as well suited for Internet transactions." New York Times 04/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

UP THE AMAZON: So Amazon is taking over Borders' online opeations. The benefits to Borders are clear - the operation was a money-loser. But what's in it for Amazon? Publishers Weekly 04/16/01

Sunday April 15

DESTROYING THE WRITTEN RECORD: In some cases, there are only a couple of complete original paper collections of major newspapers left in existence. So why are major libraries destroying them? Los Angeles Times 04/15/01

Friday April 13

THE PRIZE THAT SELLS: If you want to boost sales for a book, which prize helps the most? The Nobel? The National Book Award? Nope, it's the Pulitzer. "For somebody who hasn't read about the book, who doesn't know the author, the Pulitzer is this great seal of approval that makes someone pick it up." Brill's Content 05/01

WHY EDITORS GET GRAY: Houghton Mifflin plans to publish The Wind Done Gone, a parody of Gone With the Wind. The estate of Margaret Mitchell hopes to prevent it. What's at stake here is principle, of course. Lawyers for both sides insist it's not about money. Perish the thought. Several prominent writers - including Harper Lee, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Shelby Foote, and Charles Johnson - have issued a statement supporting publication of the parody. Washington Post and Nando Times 04/13/01

THE HARRY POTTER EFFECT: Nearly half a billion juvenile books were sold last year, a third more than in 1995. "I don’t think anyone would dispute the fact that the [Potter] books have single-handedly generated enormous interest in fiction.... Potter got people reading. Will that level be maintained? I’d like to believe it, but I’m not sure." MSNBC (AP) 04/13/01

SAVING THE WORLD, AND THE TIMES, AND THE TRIB: The efficiency of electronic storage has persuaded most librarians to discard their old newspapers. Not everyone thinks that's a good idea. One writer cashed in his retirement account to buy the collection of American newspapers being jettisoned by the British Museum, and now has set up The American Newspaper Repository. Newsday and The Standard 04/12/01

Thursday April 12

UNCHAIN MY HEART: Independent bookstores are in court this week suing large book chains for trying to put the indies out of business. "A lawyer for the independents blamed their losses on private, discriminatory discounts from publishers" available only to the chains. San Francisco Chronicle 04/10/01

WHO'S THE E-GUTENBERG? Even as web publishers and content providers gasp for air to survive, many are still touting the digital e-book as inevitable. "Some compare the digital revolution to Gutenberg, public education and the mass-market paperback in its impact as a milestone in the democratization of literature." The Idler 04/12/01 

Wednesday April 11

AMAZON REDUX: Fresh from a modest Wall Street victory (first-quarter losses were smaller than expected), Amazon.com is flexing its muscles once more. At a news conference today, the world's largest on-line bookseller is expected to announce an arrangement which would, in effect, let it take over the online operations of Borders. Also, Amazon will start offering Adobe's e-book reader software on its web site, and will sell some 2000 books formatted for that reader. MSNBC and Bloomberg 04/10/01

ANOTHER PRIZE FOR ROTH: Philip Roth has won the $15,000 PEN/Faulkner award for his novel, The Human Stain. Roth also won seven years ago for Operation Shylock. He and John Edgar Wideman are the only authors to win the award twice. CNN 04/10/01

INCREASED PULITZER PAYOFF: This year's Pulitzer Prize winners in journalism, literature, and music will receive $7,500 each, an increase of $2500 from last year. The winners will be announced next Monday. Editor & Publisher 04/10/01

Tuesday April 10

SPACE SAVERS: "Librarians have purged their shelves of newspapers because they are driven by a misguided obsession with saving space. And they have deluded themselves into believing that nothing has been lost, because they have replaced the papers with microfilm. The microfilm, however, is inadequate, incomplete, faulty, and frequently illegible." New York Review of Books 04/26/01

Monday April 9

PROUST AND THE CRITICS: "Literary criticism in Germany - if one ignores the odd illusion of a lively and argumentative literary scene as served up by the mass media - continues to enjoy a poor reputation with the reading public and writers alike." Marcel Proust took on critics for sport - but only after they'd died. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/09/01

DAVID SHIELDS ON CRITICS: "I find bad reviews fascinating. They're like the proverbial train wreck, only you're in the train; will all those mangled bodies at the bottom of the ravine tell you something unexpected about yourself?" The New York Times 04/09/01 (one-time registration required)

ALL ABOUT THE BIO: To read the bios on some books, you'd think writers of books all lived in Brooklyn and had other, non-writerly jobs. How's that for a work of fiction? MobyLives 04/09/01

Sunday April 8

DISAPPEARING BOOKS: Libraries have been destroying books and other materials they don't know how to keep. So "how to preserve the nation's vast library collections. Books, periodicals, newspapers, recordings and digital material are all in danger of being lost. And as a new draft report by the Council on Library and Information Resources makes clear, there are no national standards for saving these resources." The New York Times 04/07/01 (one-time registration required)

WHAT I HAVEN'T READ: Everyone has books they feel they should have read, just to keep up their education. Canada's National Post canvased publishers, critics and writers to find our what books those in the business of books haven't read (and feel they ought to have). National Post (Canada) 04/07/01

OH, TO BE A CANADIAN WRITER: Something's happening to Canadian fiction. "There are more good writers writing it. There are more aggressive agents willing to flog it. There are more publishers, both domestic and foreign, interested in buying it. There is substantially more money being spent to acquire it - and, as a result, to promote it. There are more bookstores willing to showcase it. There is more prize money around to inspire it. And there are more books clubs, on-line and off, to read it." Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/07/01

Friday April 6

DEAD OR ALIVE: When Jaime Clarke's book got a bad review by an unattributed reviewer in Publishers Weekly (where all reviews are anonymous), he demanded to know who wrote the review. So he put up a thousand-dollar reward to whomever revealed the name... Mobylives 04/04/01

WEEP AND REAP: The weepy tail of tragedy as told by Asian women is a hot international publishing phenomenon. "Of course, Asian men have lived through exactly the same painful collective pasts and presumably write just as much. But they don't get agents and book contracts like their female counterparts. Why?" Far Eastern Economic Review 04/1/01

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, DOCTOR SEUSS, DOCTOR SEUSS?: What do Deborah Norville, Rosanne Cash, Dr. Ruth, Judge Judy, John Lithgow, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Sting have in common? They've all published - or are about to publish - children's books. Really. Even Dr. Laura, whose third books for kids is in the works. Washington Post 04/04/01

Wednesday April 4

"GARFIELD" THIS ISN'T: If you are already acquainted with Jimmy Corrigan (the smartest kid on earth, you know,) there is no need for you to click on this link. But if the graphic novels of Chris Ware are unfamiliar to you, read on to learn about the man who is simultaneously reinvigorating the world of alternative comics and taking the publishing world by storm. New York Times 04/04/01 (one-time registration required)

Tuesday April 3

THOSE QUIET FOLK TO THE NORTH: There are so many good Canadian writers around today, you'd think they would be recognized as a national group. Maybe they need to be more pushy. "What Canadians (even the newest) are good at is quietly subsuming themselves to bad governments, to monopolies and to other nations' cultural institutions. We are hardly the noisy patriots that, in the Commonwealth, the Australians -- and, it seems, the Indians now are." National Post (Canada) 04/02/01

CHALK UP ONE FOR NASA: For 250 years, archaeologists have known about the vast libraries buried in volcanic debris at Herculaneum. One scholar even suggested "If you were going to recover all the lost literary works of antiquity in one place, this is your best chance." The catch was, the scrolls were so badly damaged they couldn't be read. Now, with technology developed for outer space, the scrolls are being deciphered. US News 04/09/01

Monday April 2

ONE FOR THE BOOKS: Book sales in America's top three bookstore chains - Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books a Million - increased last year by 9%, to $7.21 billion. Barnes & Noble sold $3.5 billion worth of books last year. Publishers Weekly 04/02/01

Sunday April 1

MAKING BOOKS OUT OF MOVIES: The quickly cranked out book based on some popular movie or another, is a lucrative genre. Albeit one with a bit of a stigma. It's still a quick and dirty business, multiplying the 20,000 to 25,000 words of a shooting script into a 60,000- to 70,000-word manuscript. As the writer, you never have to worry about getting stuck. "The next scene is always there." The New York Times 04/01/01 (one-time registration required)

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