AJ Logo


Monday September 30

OUT OF TOUCH: Are American writers out of touch with real life? Stanley Crouch thinks so: "While those who profess to be literary types surely should live through books on a profound level, they would do well to move beyond the segregated cocktail parties, English departments and other places where they gather to talk about books they have read, and what they or anybody else thinks about them. But since they don't do much of that, it is easy to understand why our writing is so far behind the best of our television dramas and our films, both of which represent, at their finest, an America quite different from the one we see over and over in American fiction: a body of work that almost always submits to a separatist agenda in which Jews write about Jews, Negroes about Negroes and so on and on. Ugh. Corny and not true and cowardly. One more time: cowardly." Washington Post 09/29/02

FRANZEN STIRS CONTROVERSY AGAIN: Why did the rich Jonathan Franzen get an award of $20,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts? "Franzen had applied for the award, supposedly intended to help struggling writers, after signing his million–dollar contract for the book and movie versions of The Corrections. What's more, his good friend Rick Moody had been on the judging panel." Trying to defuse the controversy, Franzen said he used the money to buy art. But the excuse backfired when it was pointed out his contract on accepting NEA required him to use the money for his writing. MobyLives 09/27/02

FUN WITH PUBLISHING: Dave Eggars' new book is self-published. He's limited the copies to be printed, and he'll distribute only through independent booksellers. Some complain the move is just a publicity gimmick. But "Eggers is not churlishly walking away from an industry that helped him achieve fame. He's merely trying something different. For the hell of it. 'This stuff, publishing books, should be fun. So I try to make it fun'." Sydney Morning Herald 09/30/02

ALL ABOUT THE BACKLIST: The glamor might be in publishing new books, but for many publishers, the backlist is what keeps them solvent. "A very strong backlist is more dependable than frontlist fiction, except from repeating genre writers who turn up dependably year after year. In my view, a healthy backlist provides up to 50 percent of a publisher's volume and with a lot less work" than new books. The Star-Tribune (Cox) 09/30/02

POET STANDOFF: Amiri Baraka became the Poet Laureate of New Jersey last month. This month, the governor of New Jersey asked him to resign the job because "a poem he read at a recent poetry festival implies that Israel knew about the Sept. 11 attack in advance. But Mr. Baraka said he would not resign, creating an unusual political quandary. Aides to the governor said he did not have the power to remove Mr. Baraka because Mr. McGreevey had not directly selected him. And a member of the committee of poets and cultural officials who chose Mr. Baraka said that group had no power to remove him either." The New York Times 09/28/02

Sunday September 29

CENSORING A BOOK ABOUT CENSORSHIP? Richard Meyer's book Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art has been getting good reviews in the US press. But evidently Oxford University Press, the book's publisher, is squeamish about some of the photographs in the book, asking Meyer to remove some of them. When he refused, Oxford decided not to publish in the UK (or Canada). Says Meyer: "I mean, the whole book is about censorship, about images that are troublesome, about intellectual and artistic freedom. I just didn't think the book should end up colluding in the very thing it was exploring." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/28/02

THE STORY'S THE THING: This year's Booker short list is controversial not for the books that made it, but for the comments of the jury who chose them. "Not since Andrew Marr, chairman of the Samuel Johnson Prize, decided non-fiction was the new rock'n'roll has a literary prize judge provoked so much commentary. If this year's crop defines 'a new era,' as claimed by jury chairwoman Lisa Jardine, that new era is old values. 'Narrative is back in fashion. The favourite, William Trevor, actually proclaims it in his title (The Story of Lucy Gault) and at least three of the other five titles (Life of Pi, Family Matters and Fingersmith) wholeheartedly embrace strong plotting and believable, sympathetic characterisation." The Observer (UK) 09/29/02

  • WHOSE/WHO'S BEST? Lisa Jardine's cry to include lighter work points up a tension in choosing "best" novels. " 'Ideally we would have gone to a bookshop looking for books we have missed,' because publishers, it seems, cannot be trusted to submit their best authors. They tended to enter only 'heavyweight' and humourless books, she complained. 'I think there's lots of popular fiction which could easily be submitted for the Booker,' opined another judge, David Baddiel, a comedian and author of popular fiction." The Guardian (UK) 09/28/02

Friday September 27

NEW (SHORTER) OED: "The first new edition in nearly a decade of the short version of the classic word bible will appear Thursday, with 3,500 new entries, from 'ass-backwards' to 'warp drive'." Yahoo! (Reuters) 09/26/02

NEW CELEBRITY BOOK MAGAZINES: New magazines devoted to books and authors treats writers as celebrities. And that has brought some criticism. "The criticism that most of these publications turn serious writers into celebrities is a strange one, as if that necessarily subtracted the amount of literature that would be written and published every year. Unfortunately there are other forces cutting back on the literary. And we are still a long way from seeing kids trading author cards." The New York Times 09/26/02

THE BOOKER OF CLASSIC LITERATURE: The BBC plays a game of what-if, holding pretend competitions for the Booker Prize in classic years of great literature. "The programme has chosen four vintage years for consideration: 1847, 1928, 1934 and 1961. The judging is harsh — and quite unlike, in my experience, the judging of the Man Booker Prize, or any other prize, in that books are booted out one by one. 'Who hates this book, then?' was not a question I’ve ever heard in the course of judging." The Times (UK) 09/27/02

Thursday September 26

WHY SO SERIOUS? The jury for this year's Booker Prize declared war on "pompous, portentous and pretentious fiction," which they said was well-represented in the books submitted for this year's prize. "There were far too many books with an obvious gravitas - heavyweight books that are written with the clear agenda of 'this is going to win a major prize'. It's like a formula. They attempt to grab big themes, and have a vulgar obvious seriousness, yes, even a kind of pompous pretentiousness about them." The Guardian (UK) 09/26/02

Wednesday September 25

THE CANADIAN BOOKER: "Canadians make up half the list for this year's Booker Prize. Books by Yann Martel, Carol Shields and Rohinton Mistry were among six on the short list announced today in London for the literary award worth 50,000 pounds (almost $120,000 Cdn). The three Canadians are joined by William Trevor, Sarah Waters and Tim Winton." Toronto Star 09/24/02

  • CANADA'S GOLDEN AGE: "Perhaps typically, Canadians have taken the honours heaped on their writers with a mix of pride and unease. 'Damn, Canadian authors can hold their own and more with the best of the rest of the world" is often followed by, 'Gee, are we really that good'?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/25/02

BANNED BOOKS WEEK: The American Library Association is holding its annual banned books week to draw attention to threats to free speech. But there are fewer "banned" books to report this year. "The number of times a book was removed from school reading lists or libraries dropped to an estimated 20-25 last year, far below the estimated 200 or higher of the early 1980s, when the ALA started its program. The ALA reported 448 challenges in 2001, compared to more than 900 in 1981." Nando Times (AP) 09/24/02

IN PRAISE OF TRANSLATORS: A good translator can illuminate a writer's work in an entirely new way, writes Wendy Lesser. "No translator wants his achievement stolen or denied; yet just as certainly, no translator wants her voice to overpower that of her source author. It's a very careful balance: However well the disappearing act is done, something of the translator's own sensibility invariably enters into the work we're given in English." Chronicle of Higher Education 09/22/02

Tuesday September 24

SLIPPERY SLOPE OF CENSORSHIP: Should America's small presses be prohibited from publishing sensitive political material? The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof suggested as much earlier this week. "Our small presses could end up helping terrorists much more than Saddam ever has" Kristof wrote. In addition to war, he said, we should "consider other distasteful steps that could also make us safer." The idea drew an angry response from the presses. "If we agreed to suspend the First Amendment and broadly criminalize the dissemination of 'dangerous information' in books, where would we begin? With information about chemical and biological agents? Where would we end? With schedules of commercial airline flights?" Publishers Weekly 09/24/02

Monday September 23

WHY SHOULD THE BRITS HAVE ALL THE FUN? "In England, literary criticism is a blood sport. Critics choose authors' ex-lovers, political opponents or former friends who are owed money to make snide remarks about their victim's personal habits, morals, current lovers and latest embarrassments while occasionally mentioning the book. In one instance, Martin Amis was denounced for his dental work. It's great entertainment and, in the end, probably not taken very seriously." But in America, it's big news when one writer trashes another in print. Isn't there maybe a happy medium somewhere in between full contact and hands-off reviewing? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/22/02

WRITING ON DEMAND: "Authors write books for almost as many reasons as readers read them. Historically, writers have written because they have had a compulsion to do so and, assuming they could afford to continue, money hasn’t - on their side - entered the equation." But as publishing stakes have become higher, the pressure on publishers to deliver big sales and on authors to produce on demand grows. Surely this can't be good for quality... The Scotsman 09/22/02

BUCKING THE TREND: "You might have to be little crazy or a dreamer to think about starting a publisher these days. The heads of large American publishers are beset with stagnant sales, while their mostly foreign owners... are roiling in financial or management difficulty. Meanwhile, several small local book publishers have foundered or stalled in recent years." But that hasn't stopped a Boston teacher from starting Handsel Books, a publisher specializing in those most unprofitable of all genres - literature and poetry. The teacher insists, "We want to make books that are as beautiful to hold and read as the big houses... without entering into the corporate mentality." Boston Globe 09/23/02

DO TITLES MATTER? "Before a book comes out, everyone (author, agent, publisher) fusses inordinately over what to call it. Once the deed is done and the book is published, the title, for better or worse, becomes part of the proposition offered to the prospective reader and is taken for granted. If people want to read something badly enough, the packaging is neither here nor there. But is the book's title just part of the packaging? Many writers would vehemently disagree." The Observer (UK) 09/22/02

CHILD'S PLAY: A number of big-name adult fiction writers are about to release books aimed at children. But the adult market for children's books has expanded too. "The reasons so many adults are reading books written for children seem pretty simple. A good book is a good book is a good book. What holds true about movies made for children is also true of books written for them: There is no truly good one that adults can't enjoy as well. It may also be that for adult readers, kids books offer the strong, straightforward storytelling that reminds them of why they first started to read fiction." Salon 09/21/02

NOT SUCH A BIG LEAP: When Anna Quindlen went from being a columnist for the New York Times to writing novels, she found that many of her readers were confused by the switch, and viewed the two vocations as opposite ends of the literary spectrum. She disagrees: "The truth is that the best preparation I could have had for a life as a novelist was life as a reporter. At a time when more impressionistic renderings of events were beginning to creep into the news pages, I learned to look always for the telling detail: the Yankees cap, the neon sign in the club window, the striped towel on the deserted beach. Those things that, taken incrementally, make a convincing picture of real life, and maybe get you onto Page 1, too." The New York Times 09/23/02

Sunday September 22

HAVANA OPENS A DOOR: "The Cuban government has agreed to allow access to a trove of Ernest Hemingway's papers that experts say promises to illuminate the period in which he wrote some of his most significant works... Those who helped persuade the Cubans to open the collection, ending an impasse that has frustrated American scholars for 40 years, say they have seen just a small fraction of it, but it already offers hints of Hemingway's creative process: raw fragments of stories scribbled on paper and book jackets, galleys and early drafts of major works, and a poetry anthology in which he circled 'No man is an island.'" The New York Times 09/21/02

SIZE MATTERS: Author Dave Eggers, who has shaken up the publishing industry more than once, is doing so again. The author of the surprise best-selling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is coming out with his first novel, and the big players in the industry aren't invited to the party. Eggers is publishing the novel under his own McSweeney's imprint, and is refusing to allow the mega-chain booksellers to sell the book. Selected independent booksellers across the U.S. are offering copies, but if there isn't one near you, you'll have to get the book on Egger's own web site. The author admits that the strategy is a gamble, but one he thinks is worth the effort if it makes a badly needed point about the dominance of corporate booksellers. Toronto Star 09/22/02

Friday September 20

VANDAL NABBED: "For nearly a year, someone lurked in the stacks at San Francisco's Main Library and the Chinatown branch, vandalizing books. Almost always they were volumes on gay and lesbian subjects, some of them out of print and hard to replace. Some books had cat eyes cut into the covers or pages. Others were defaced, then stuffed with Christian religious material. Sometimes, the attacker would insert the torn-off covers of romance novels." Finally, a librarian staked out the stacks and caught the culprit, a 48-year-old security guard. San Francisco Chronicle 09/19/02

KELLY SCALES BACK AT ATLANTIC: "After three successful and eventful years at the helm of The Atlantic Monthly, editor Michael Kelly will cede control of day-to-day operations to Cullen Murphy, the managing editor, to pursue other projects and obligations, the magazine announced yesterday." In reality, Murphy has already taken over many of the venerable magazine's daily editor's duties, and the change is unlikely to be very noticable to readers, since Murphy and Kelly claim to be on the same page on nearly every editorial issue. The Atlantic Monthly, one of America's oldest magazines, has flourished under Kelly, with subscriptions and newsstand sales up considerably. Boston Globe 09/20/02

WHEN DOWNTRODDEN TREAD DOWN: Twenty-something former nannies Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus scored an unexpected best-seller with their novel about nannies coping with the whims of spoiled rich Upper Eastside Manhattan families. But the success seems to have gone to the women's heads, and they've dumped agents and tried to get out of contracts as their book climbed the bestseller lists. "There’s a reason that they were able to write the book that they did. They are not the nannies, but the mother in this book." New York Observer 09/17/02

HARRY'S READY: JK Rowling has come out of hiding to say that the next installment of Harry Potter is pretty much done and will go to the printer's soon. "The novel, entitled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is already readable and she is happy with the result. She is now at the tweaking stage. So can her millions of readers expect a Christmas present? 'Possibly'. There is a deep, throaty chuckle." The Times (UK) 09/20/02

NOT JUST THE FUNNY PAGES: Once considered the exclusive realm of juvenile escapism, the comic book and graphic novel now harbour artists who are upending expectations with work that is nuanced, literate and decidedly adult." And they're winning respect (and literary awards). The Times 09/20/02

Thursday September 19

EGGERS FIRES BIG PUBLISHING: Dave Eggers has a new book coming out next week. But he's turned his back on the commercial publishers and book chains that helped his last book become a bestseller. He's self-published Velocity and "is making it available only over his own Web site and in a select group of independent bookstores known as the McSweeney's 100. Eggers says he wants to reward those who have supported his quirky quarterly literary magazine." His last book - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius made him millions of dollars. "Despite his extraordinary windfall, the experience apparently soured Eggers, 32, on dealing with large publishing houses or the totems of Big Publishing. He famously fired his literary agent and regularly dumps his publicists when visiting cities for a book tour." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/19/02

THE PARTY'S OVER: Once upon a time, book parties were standard to launch a book. But the parties have gone away. "At one time book parties created a buzz, which generated sales. Now, except for the occasional mention in a gossip column about a celebrity author, they don't. They are, publishers believe, merely writer-ego builders, and the money spent on them would be better spent on other promotions." The New York Times 09/19/02

POTTER PLAGIARISM CASE DISMISSED: A woman who brought suit against JK Rowling claiming that Rowling had plagiarized from her for the Harry Potter stories has lost her suit and been fined $50,000. "The court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that Stouffer has perpetuated a fraud ... through her submission of fraudulent documents as well as through her untruthful testimony." Nando Times (AP) 09/19/02

Wednesday September 18

AMAZON CUTS CANADIAN BOOK PRICES: Amazon, which opened its Canadian website last June, this week announced it is slashing prices on its top 40 bestsellers in Canada by 40 percent. The move substantially undercuts ChaptersIndigo.ca's prices, which discounts its own bestsellers by 30 percent. "An Amazon spokesperson sidestepped questions about whether the aggressive discounting constitutes retaliation against Indigo Books & Music for stirring up problems for Amazon.ca in Ottawa." Toronto Star 01/18/02

MYTHOLOGY OF THE BESTSELLER LISTS: What books sell well in Canada? You certainly can't tell from the Bestseller lists, which aren't compiled in any kind of scientific way. "We are in the Dark Ages. Have you noticed how when a movie opens, we know how many people went the first weekend? What we do in books is to say, 'Let's hold our finger up in the air and guess how many people bought our books over the weekend.' That would never, ever happen in a grocery store, in the movies or in the record industry." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/18/02

WHERE'S HARRY? The world is waiting for the next Harry Potter installment, and author JK Rowling is behind on delivering the manuscript. No one's more anxious about the delay than Bloomsbury, Rowling's publisher. "The Harry Potter phenomenon was identified as the main factor behind a thumping 120% increase in Bloomsbury's profits for 2001." BBC 09/17/02

Tuesday September 17

NOT JUST ABOUT THE SCHOLARSHIP: University presses are feeling a squeeze as their budgets get cut. "As budgets tighten, the people making editorial policy at university presses find themselves playing an unaccustomed and disagreeable role. They have always been proud of influencing scholarship by helping new ideas see the light of day. But now they face the challenge of determining which specialties no longer make the cut." Chronicle of Higher Education 09/16/02

COSTLY "INSULT": Prize-winning French novelist Michel Houellebecq goes on trial Tuesday in Paris on charges of "making a racial insult and inciting religious hatred. The controversial writer is being sued by four Islamic organisations in Paris after making 'insulting' remarks about the religion in an interview about his latest book." BBC 09/16/02

HARRY WHO? The children's book Tanya Grotter and Her Magical Double Bass features "a heroine who wears round spectacles, flies a magic musical instrument, has a mole on her nose and attends the Abracadabra school for young witches." Sound familiar? But it's not a rip-off of the Harry Potter story, says Tanya's Russian author. BBC 09/17/02

AUDEN RETURNS: When he died 30 years ago W.H. Auden was "the model of a modern poet who had lost his way and got stranded on an island of his own pet phrases. Yet, at the beginning of the new century, he is an indispensable poet. Even people who don't read poems often turn to poetry at moments when it matters, and Auden matters now." The New Yorker 09/16/02

Monday September 16

READ THIS. NOW! In the past, authors relied on their publishers' publicity departments to get attention for their books. But increasingly, publishers are giving the majority of their authors less and less assistance. When times are tough, publishers prefer to invest their publicity dollars in books they're fairly sure will sell - big-name authors, hot topics - rather than in promoting lesser-known or new authors, especially fiction writers. Not only that, but newspapers and magazines are trimming back their review coverage. And publishers are releasing more and more individual titles each year. The result is a lot of desperate authors who are realizing that getting published isn't the end of a long struggle but the beginning of an even harder one." Salon 09/16/02

WILL WRITE FOR ROOM: Last year novelist Fay Weldon, (best known for the book The Lives And Loves Of A She-Devil), "caused controversy last year when she signed a deal with jewellers Bulgari to mention them repeatedly in a novel." This year she's made a deal with the Savoy Hotel in London to live in the hotel while she writes her new book. "Weldon, 71, will be given a room with a view over the Thames worth £350 a night from October. The deal also includes breakfast, although she will be expected to pay for other charges incurred, including lunches, dinners and the mini-bar." BBC 09/13/02

Sunday September 15

THE GOLDEN AGE OF READING? "To everyone who remembers burying an oily adolescent schnoz in a paperback every Friday night while better-looking classmates were necking on Lovers Lane, I say: Relax. Your time has come. To that kid who boarded a school bus each day and ended up in Narnia: Strike up the band. To anyone who has ever toted a thriller to an Indians game (guilty) or who occasionally finds the company of books preferable to the company of company, I say: You are not alone... Some time between sixth grade and today, being a reader became cool." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 09/15/02

Friday September 13

NEW PUSH FOR PUSHKIN: "For Westerners Pushkin has always been more historical celebrity than poet. (Astonishingly, the first full translation of his works has only recently appeared.) If the life has overshadowed the work to such an extent, it is partly because the old truism about how much is lost in translation is even truer of Russian verse, and truest of all in the supremely musical Pushkin. But it is also because Pushkin's was an almost absurdly romantic life." A new biography is published. The Telegraph (UK) 09/13/02

SHE REALLY REALLY LIKED IT: Need another example of the rot infecting some literary criticism? Alex Good says Salon's new list of books to read for the fall is exhibit A. He's got special scorn for the list's editor Laura Miller, who writes in over-the-top fashion about Zadie Smith: "A new novel from her feels like an occasion to open up another chamber in your heart and another lobe in your brain to take it all in; some books are expansive, hers are expanding, but never in a dreary, good-for-you way." Good Reports 09/12/02

Thursday September 12

THE ACCIDENTAL READER: Here's an idea to recycle those books you've read and no longer need. Leave them for others. BookCrossing.com is an online book club that "combines karma and kismet and encourages people to leave their books at coffee shops, parks, airports or anyplace else. Books are registered online, which allows members to follow where the books travel and who reads them. As word spreads, membership has surged, turning the world into a sort of virtual library - with no late fees." Nando Times (AP) 09/11/02

Tuesday September 10

WHERE THE AUDIENCE IS: "There are 35 million Latinos in the US, and "their purchasing power is more than half a trillion dollars and rising at more than double the rate of the rest of the United States." So some of the book world's best-known publishers are beginning to pay attention. Harper Collins and St. Martin's Press have begun imprints hoping to appeal to the growing audience. The New York Times 09/10/02

Monday September 9

ALL ABOUT THE BRAND NAME: Great painters of the Renaissance put their names on work created by members of their studios. So why can't writers so the same? Two new books carry best-selling author Tom Clancy's name, but they weren't written by him. "The name Tom Clancy generally takes up from one-third to half of the cover. But in very small letters at the bottom it says: 'Created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik, written by Jeff Rovin'." The Age (Melbourne) 09/09/02

POETIC LICENSE: Some have been surprised that poetry has become so popular after September 11. Not former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky: "We have a significant thirst for individual scale. Great poems and mediocre ones, by the singular nature of the art, share that quality of personal scale with teddy bears and photographs pinned to the chain-link fence surrounding a disaster site. Great poems and mediocre ones have been invoked, aptly and inaptly, in response to this particular calamity." Slate 09/06/02

Sunday September 8

YOU MEAN HE HASN'T BEEN KICKED OUT YET? "Lord Archer, the novelist, jailed for perjury in July 2000, faces expulsion from the House of Lords under proposals for reform of the second chamber to be presented to Parliament next month. Senior members of the cross-party group on Lords reform intend to ensure that Lord Archer is caught retrospectively by a planned bar on peers convicted of a serious criminal offence." The Telegraph (UK) 09/08/02

Friday September 6

WHERE'S HARRY? The fifth installment of the Harry Potter stories was due out by now. But there's no sign of it, and book-sellers, in need of a bestseller pick-me-up are wondering where it is. "At first we were told she [author J.K. Rowling] hadn't turned the manuscript in yet. Then they kind of dropped that story. Now they just give you more delays. The fans are anxious for it, I can tell you that. And it's funny, it's the parents who are asking more than the kids." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 09/05/02

Thursday September 5

DARING TO DIS MAYA: Wanda Coleman's scathing review of Maya Angelou's recent book is notable for the controversy it has stirred up. "The book has gotten some other poor reviews, but it seems that Coleman caused trouble by accusing Angelou of hustling the public, selling a skimpy book in large type and large hype at a high price, containing rehashed material and what may be exaggerated claims for a high-minded, race-conscious past. A book review that wouldn't begin to damage the reputation, book sales, or livelihood of the country's most popular and successful living poet became a subject of controversy as much for its rarity as for its rudeness." Village Voice 09/04/02

Wednesday September 4

AFRICA'S LOST LIBRARIES: "There generally tends to be the view that Africa is a continent of oral tradition or the continent of song and dance - that this isn't a continent that has an intellectual tradition of its own." But there are hundreds of thousands of 600-year-old manuscripts in troves around the African city of Timbuktu that prove a rich and long intellectual literate tradition. "When much of Europe was in its Dark Ages, Africa was recording its literate history." Few documents have been translated into Western languages. And many of the crumbling manuscripts are being lost to the desert. Chronicle of Higher Education 09/02/02

BERTELSMANN BAILS ON ONLINE BOOKS: The giant European conglomerate Bertelsmann is getting rid of its internet business - Bol.com. The site is expected to lose $40 million this year. "Bol.com simply got in the game too late to compete with Amazon.com's European operation, and it was never able to compete with Amazon's cost-savings sales pitch. Bertelsmann stopped putting money into Bol.com about a year ago. At that point there was an appreciation that they were never going to beat Amazon in the business." Forbes.com 09/03/02

Tuesday September 3

ARE SOME SUBJECTS TABOO? France's literary world is in turmoil over the publishing of two books whose "heroes are an obsessive paedophile and a perverted serial killer with a preference for very young girls, including his two-year-old daughter. Publishers and a number of authors are defending the works on the grounds that violence, whether sexual or not, is an intrinsic part of contemporary society and writers are only doing their job by addressing the subject." The Observer (UK) 09/01/02

TRUTH IN FICTION: After ten books about the music business, critic Norman Lebrecht was looking for fresh game - so he crossed over to fiction and finds, on the eve of the publication of his first novel, a whole new world he'd never dreamed about. "I thank my lucky stars that I have switched from digging facts to telling tales. The creative rewards are richer and the fictions I invent can, I think, reveal deeper human truths." London Evening Standard 09/02/02

ALL ABOUT THE BRAND: The Tate Museum isn't just a museum, it's a brand. One that caters to 6 million visitors a year. So why shouldn't those visitors be a natural market for Tate, the Magazine? "It's an art institution on steroids, a mega brand, and it covets more. It's determined to raise its profile further, to up the brand by another notch. It hopes to reach right into our homes with the relaunch of its eponymous magazine, which it wants us to rush to the newsstand to buy." The Guardian (UK) 09/02/02

THE STORY OF... The world will always need a good story. Fiction plays with reality and time to help us learn about ourselves. "Rumours that fiction is dead have been around for so long now that we have good reason to be sceptical of their accuracy. The latest to spread them are the critical theorists, but their arguments are based on ways of reading so much less responsive and psychologically complex than those of the ordinary reader (they have no capacity for the sort of naivete that fiction demands) as to need no answering." The Age (Melbourne) 08/31/02

Sunday September 1

PUBLISHING HOUSE OF CARDS: All Jack Stoddart wanted to do was create a publishing empire with a distinctly Canadian identity. All he wound up with was a businessman's nightmare, complete with lawsuits, furious politicians, and the shambles of a dream. "The fall of the house of Stoddart is more than the end of a company that could count David Suzuki, M.T. Kelly, the late Carole Corbeil and Senator Keith Davey among its stable of authors. It is the public humiliation of a man who is a member of the Order of Canada, a three-term president of the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), and the head of a company that was voted publisher of the year in 1994 and 1996 and distributor of the year in 1998 by Canadian booksellers." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/31/02

THEY'LL NEVER RUN OUT OF SUBJECTS: "It is a sort of writers' colony for the mind." The Lucy Daniels Foundation is running a study of the effect of psychotherapy on the creative mind, and has enlisted the help of eight writers, described as "successful but neurotic," as test subjects. The program pays the bulk of the cost of their therapy, and the foundation, which is named for a successful novelist who was forced to undergo electroshock and other torturous methods of 'therapy' in her youth, uses the information it gathers as fodder for its main mission: to reestablish psychotherapy as a respected branch of the analytical sciences. The New York Times 08/31/02

GLIMPSES OF THE POET'S WORLD: A collection of letters, photographs and poems belonging to the American poet Carl Sandburg sold at auction this week for better than $80,000. The contents of the collection, which was owned by one of the poet's closest friends, are fascinating scholars, who say some of the pieces provide further insight into Sandburg's dalliances with espionage, his connection (however slight) to Soviet communists, and his decision to support FDR after considering a presidential run of his own in 1940. Chicago Tribune 08/31/02

Home | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©
2002 ArtsJournal. All Rights Reserved