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Friday November 30

IN AN INSTANT: Get ready for a big slug of books related to 9-11. "They are known in the trade as 'instant books'- publications that are fast-tracked through a traditionally sluggish editorial process in a bid to feed the public's appetite for fresh information. The 1997 death of Princess Diana was the last time the market's hunger for instant books was so voracious." The Age (Melbourne) 11/30/01

THE LONELIEST CRITICS: Book critics are having a hard time these days. Many papers are eliminating stand-alone book review sections, more and more authors are striking back at reviewers who displease them, and, let's face it, a lot of people simply don't do a lot of reading these days. So are book reviews still relevant, or even necessary? Gulp. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/30/01

A SEPARATE PASSING: Author John Knowles has died at the age of 75. His classic novel of wartime and adolescent conflict, A Separate Peace, has been required reading since its publication in 1959. Nando Times (AP) 11/30/01

Thursday November 29

BEST-SELLING BOY POET: "Who could possibly have conjured the idea that two of the biggest word-of-mouth best sellers of the year would be written by a boy who is 11 years old? A boy suffering a chronic, life-threatening disease? And both of them books of poetry? There is something irresistibly appealing about how undaunted this boy has been in creating his art, a particularly dreamy story for a season that is supposed to be jolly but will be somewhat less so this year for many people." The New York Times 11/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ECONOMICS OF CANADIANISM: Canadian writers are hot these days. They're also heavily subsidized. With the Canadian dollar at a deep discount to the American, Canadian writing is cheap. It's now to the point where it costs less to read Canadian than American. On top of this, must we also have national chauvinism? National Post (Canada) 11/26/01

THE BIGGEST BLOWHARD: Call it Dork Wars, if you like. The intellectual battles between New York literary giants of the mid-20th century have become legend in an age where highbrow figures are no longer in the public eye as they once were. But of all the blustering minds the wars brought to the cultural fore, none was more disputatious, more ready for a fight, than Dwight Macdonald. A new collection of letters illustrates the point. National Post (Canada) 11/29/01

Wednesday November 28

POETIC PERSISTENCE: Forty years ago, Alan Dugan won the National Book Award for poetry. A couple weeks ago, he won it again. Along the way - like most poets - he had some lousy jobs. And along the way - like all good poets - he kept on writing. "There are 345 poems in his book, which seems like a lot, but he says, 'That's not so many for someone who is 78 years old'." Boston Globe 11/28/01

Tuesday November 27

FIRST REACTIONS: Writers have been rushing to weigh in with reactions to the events of Sepetmber 11. "Usually it takes years for any culture to come to artistic terms with an event that has shocked and changed it. War and Peace came decades after the Napoleonic Wars. We are still obsessing about the Second World War. But something different is at work now. No one seems the least bit worried about making instant artistic judgments that could look plain silly once we agree how to remember this strange autumn." The Times (UK) 11/27/01

LITERARY PRIZE WITHHELD: "A controversy has broken out over the most important literary prize in the Dutch-speaking world after the winner - the 77-year-old Dutch author Gerard Reve - was prevented from picking up the award because his homosexual partner is under investigation for a sexual incident involving a young boy." The Guardian (UK) 11/26/01

THE FIRST BILLIONAIRE AUTHOR: JK Rowling is on her way to becoming the world's first billionaire author. She's sold 124 million books, but the real money is coming from numerous merchandising deals. "Rowling received an advance of around $3000 (US) for the first story of her schoolboy wizard hero, ahead of publication in 1997. Her negotiating position has strengthened immeasurably since then." The Age (Melbourne) 11/27/01

LINING UP HEAVYWEIGHT NOVELISTS: "Phyllis Grann, former CEO of Penguin Putnam, is heading to Random House Inc. as vice chairman. Most observers believe the move sets the stage for a titanic struggle for star authors such as Tom Clancy and Patricia Cornwell with her old employer. Grann is also credited with helping shape the careers of other strong-selling authors, including Robin Cook, Dick Francis, Alice Hoffman, Nora Roberts and Amy Tan." New York Post 11/27/01

BOOKS THAT WRITERS READ: "Every once in a while, a rumor burns through the tentative, decentralized community of American writers that a certain book must be owned. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, a new collection by Alice Munro, her tenth, has already incited writers to call one another on the telephone, to send e-mail exhortations, and — in the extreme (writers are not profligate) — to pay retail for more than one copy in order to give the book away." The Atlantic Monthly December 2001

Monday November 26

THE MEANING OF AWARDS: Everyone assumes that winning a big literary award helps the sales of a book. But how much? "After four years of effort, Bookscan has managed for the first time to sign up enough bookstores to make a credible measurement of the award's impact on a book's sales before and after." The answer is - if the book is not well-known before the award it can help enormously - this year's National Book Award poetry winner sold 12 times as many books the week after winning. But sales of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, already the talk of the season, were unchanged from the previous week. The New York Times 11/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

JOYCE CLEAN-UP NO-NO: A new edition of James Joyce's Ulysses that cleaned up punctuation mistakes has been ruled in violation of copyright by British courts. "The Reader's Edition of Ulysses, published in the UK by Macmillan, included spelling and punctuation corrections, and some unpublished material. But the Joyce estate said the new material, taken from archive manuscripts, was protected by copyright and should not have been published." BBC 11/23/01

Sunday November 25

SONTAG CANCELS ADELAIDE: Susan Sontag was scheduled to be one of the main attractions at next year's Adelaide Festival Writer's Week. But she's withdrawn from the festival after her friend Peter Sellars was ousted as director of the event. The Age (Melbourne) 11/25/01

Friday November 23

PLEDGE DRIVE PUBLISHING? "Non-profit book publishing has long been largely dependent on foundation money. But as grants dry up and sales become increasingly unreliable as a source of revenue, many literary non-profits are turning to an area they once ignored: The individual contributor. The result, experts say, is a model that every day looks less like that of, say, an art gallery and more like the democratically funded approach of public television." Publishers Weekly 11/19/01

Thursday November 22

ALL ABOUT ME: In an increasingly globalised world, where chain stores and franchises replicate and spread with only scant reference to pre-existing culture, where is the value in going anywhere?" So travel writing has increasingly become more about the traveler than the place. "This sense of the travel writer inserting his or her personal frame of reference into the narrative is so commonplace these days that it seems obvious." The Age (Melbourne) 11/22/01

WHAT STUTTGART ASPIRES TO BE: "Until now, Stuttgart, the urban center of Swabian diligence and pietistic inwardness, has been better known as a stronghold of the visual arts and theater." But the city has just opened a new writers' center called Literaturhaus, and meant to be "a meeting ground for modern culture." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/22/01

Wednesday November 21

BOOK SALES DOWN: "With terrorism, war and the threat of recession dominating consumers' attention this autumn, the major publishers are having decreases in their sales of as much as 15 percent from the lackluster levels of last year, according to executives at several big publishers and distributors. . Publishers say that sales of the best-selling novels, even by blockbuster authors, are off by 25 percent to 40 from last year." International Herald Tribune (NYT) 11/21/01

Tuesday November 20

BE-LITTLED: Why did Lingua Franca Magazine fold, despite its glowing reputation? Because it's a little magazine. "The problem with little magazines is that they're little. Their limited subject matter consigns them to audiences so small no one can make money off them. Big magazines make their money on advertising, but advertisers aren't interested in little-magazine-size audiences." The New York Times 11/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A POEM IS LIKE... Why study poetry? Billy Collins suggests that "to study poetry was to replicate the way we learn and think. When we read a poem, we enter the consciousness of another. It requires that we loosen some of our fixed notions in order to accommodate another point of view - which is a model of the kind of intellectual openness and conceptual sympathy that a liberal education seeks to encourage." Chronicle of Higher Education 11/19/01

Monday November 19

SUBSIDIZING THE WRITING LIFE: The sad fact is that even good writers with reputations can't make a living from their art these days. They have to subsidize their writing with other jobs. "Forget about the National Endowment for the Arts or Humanities. What underwrites culture in America are libraries, newspapers, schools, foundations, magazines, flop films and, yes, tips in restaurants. And let's not forget spouses. If an author isn't making a living, the wife or husband often is." Dallas Morning News 11/19/01

NO-STYLE SCHOOL: Why do so many writers on today's bestseller lists have no style? In great literature - that is, the swirling, surprising and sometimes unsettling prose that saves souls and redefines reality - plot, detail, language, characters, point of view, truth, beauty and other intangibles all clamor to be at the top." The no-style school of writing goes "for a rhythmless beat, and a straightforward approach to writing that ranks zippy, superinventive plot first, stating the obvious second, concrete details third, and language, artistry, character development and the exploration of universal truths somewhere near the bottom of the list." Washington Post 11/19/01

Sunday November 18

TOLKIEN RAKES IT IN: A collection of archival material from JR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy fetched nearly £59,000 at auction in London this week. The buyer remained anonymous, and phoned in his bids to Christie's, eventually paying more than half again as much as experts had expected the archive to go for. BBC 11/16/01

WHAT HO, WODEHOUSE? P.G. Wodehouse, creator of the wildly popular "Jeeves" stories, and a national hero of humor in the U.K., has been dead for more than a quarter of a century now, but still, clouds of controversy continue to swirl around the details of his life. The most disturbing allegations, which dogged the writer for his last thirty years, had Wodehouse betraying his country and siding with Hitler during World War II. In truth, writes his biographer, Wodehouse's relationship with the Third Reich was much more complex. The Observer (UK) 11/18/01

Friday November 16

SHORT LIST FOR THE WHITBREAD: The Booker sometimes gets more attention, but the Whitbread is worth twice as much in cash. The shortlist for the Whitbread novel award includes Ian McEwan, Andrew Miller, Helen Dunmore, and DJ Patrick Neate. McEwan appears to be the favorite, but then he also was the favorite for the Booker, which went to Peter Carey. The Guardian (UK) 11/14/01

MODESTY IN GREAT ONES: "Chekhov's modesty, both in his youth and when he was a mature writer, draws his reader toward him, as if it produced a kind of unspoken bond between them. Thomas Mann, a writer by no means remarkable for this virtue, observed that true modesty was the rarest gift a great writer could have, and that Chekhov not only possessed it but, like Shakespeare, gave no indication that he was even aware of the fact." New York Review of Books 11/29/01

BIG AND SMALL: Is this year's crop of Canadian books "small" because they concentrate on small-town themes? "Regionalism is dead. The notion that the particular may be made to stand for the universal in art is passé. William Carlos Williams's belief that 'localism alone can lead to culture' doesn't apply in the age of the global village." GoodReports 11/16/01

TOLKIEN TREASURES ON THE BLOCK: "A rare collection of proof copies, first editions and letters by The Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien is to be sold in London on Friday. The archive, which chronicles the development of Tolkien's best-selling creation, is expected to fetch around £35,000 at Christie's." BBC 11/16/01

Thursday November 15

FRANZEN WINS NATIONAL BOOK AWARD: Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, the most talked-about book of the season, has won the National Book Award. The New York Times 11/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SILENT WINNING: When he won the Giller Prize last week, Richard Wright was careful in commenting about his chances for the Governor General's Literary Award. He had to be; he already knew he had won both prizes, but couldn't say anything until official announcement of the GG yesterday. He had been nominated for both prizes in 1995, but won neither. National Post (CP) 11/15/01

  • Previously: AND HE PROBABLY WON'T DISS OPRAH: Author Richard B. Wright generally plays to a narrow audience. But this week he's been Mr. Glamor - first taking home Canada's top literary prize - the Giller. Now, the book is up for a Governor General's Award, with the winner to be announced Wednesday. It's a sweet moment for a retired teacher who has written his nine novels in relative obscurity." Vancouver Sun (CP) 11/12/01

THERE'LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE: Tom Carew's book Jihad! tells of his exploits with an elite British military force, training guerrillas in Afghanistan. It's a best seller in Britain. It's also, the BBC reports, a fraud. Says Carew's publisher: "Obviously we have to reconsider minor parts of Jihad! which require changes in light of this investigation." The Guardian (UK) 11/15/01

Wednesday November 14

WRIGHT SWEEPS CANADA'S TOP LIT AWARDS: Last week Richard B. White won Canada's Giller Prize. Now he's won the Governor General Award too. "Wright's winning novel, Clara Callan, tells the story of two sisters who correspond with each other during the 1930s from their respective homes in New York and the fictional Ontario village of Whitfield." National Post (CP) 11/14/01

  • Previously: AND HE PROBABLY WON'T DISS OPRAH: Author Richard B. Wright generally plays to a narrow audience. But this week he's been Mr. Glamor - first taking home Canada's top literary prize - the Giller. Now, the book is up for a Governor General's Award, with the winner to be announced Wednesday. It's a sweet moment for a retired teacher who has written his nine novels in relative obscurity." Vancouver Sun (CP) 11/12/01

BILLY'S POETRY: Billy Collins, America's new poet laureate, is "the antithesis of virtually every cultural cliche that Americans have about poetry - that poets are pompous, that poetry is hard to read and harder to understand, that poetry is no fun." He says that much modern poetry isn't very good. How much? " 'Eighty-three percent of American poetry is not worth reading,' he said playfully, mocking the American emphasis, especially among journalists, on statistics. 'I haven't done a study, but 83 percent seems like the right number. I think 83 percent of movies aren't worth going to, and 83 percent of restaurants aren't worth eating in'." Chicago Tribune 11/14/01

Tuesday November 13

THE BATTLIN' BIBLE: What's the biggest selling book in Manhattan this week? Wrong if you answered Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (that's so last week's news). No, number one with a bullet is Desecration: Antichrist takes the Throne, a Christian book based on the Biblical book of Revelations. "The book, written from a spiritually based outline penned by LaHaye, a minister, follow the adventures of Rayford Steele and his Tribulation Force as they battle to save the world from the evil warmonger Carpathia." New York Post 11/13/01

AND HE PROBABLY WON'T DISS OPRAH: Author Richard B. Wright generally plays to a narrow audience. But this week he's been Mr. Glamor - first taking home Canada's top literary prize - the Giller. Now, the book is up for a Governor General's Award, with the winner to be announced Wednesday. It's a sweet moment for a retired teacher who has written his nine novels in relative obscurity." Vancouver Sun (CP) 11/12/01

LADY CHATTERLEY'S MULETEER: According to literary gossip, the model for Mellors in the D H Lawrence novel was a lieutenant in the Italian Army. Not true, says an Italian journalist; the real-life Mellors was actually an Italian mule-driver, whom Lawrence's wife seduced in the middle of a vineyard during a rainstorm. The Guardian (UK) 11/12/01

Monday November 12

BOOKS, BOOKS, EVERYWHERE... Last year 120,000 books were published in the UK, and the number will probably grow again this year. So there's no shortage of something to read. But what to read? Since the canon of books everyone agreed was worth reading went away, quantity has ruled over quality, and the news isn't necessarily good. The Observer (UK) 11/11/01

INSIDE THE WRITER'S MONITOR: Since September 30, Pulitzer-winning writer Robert Olen Butler has been writing a story, and the writing sessions are broadcast over the internet as he works. "This is not exactly must-see TV. Alone in his office at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Mr. Butler types, revises and swivels in his desk chair as he awaits inspiration, like any writer. But there is a camera trained on his monitor, and it shows 'every comma stroke, every lousy, rotten, awkward sentence, every blind alley, every bad metaphor,' he said." The New York Times 11/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A POSTMODERN POOH: Frederick Crews has written another parody of literary critics, using Winnie the Pooh as his subject. "Crews' targets - Deconstructionists, Poststructuralist Marxists, New Historicists and others - are so egregiously fatuous and self-righteous that Crews' parody is overshadowed by the quotations he lifts from their actual books." Toronto Star 11/11/01

TRUE TO ART: Jonathan Franzen's snub of Oprah wasn't a spontaneous slight. In an essay he wrote five years ago, he noted that: "no matter how attractively subversive self-promotion may seem in the short run, the artist who's really serious about resisting a culture of inauthentic mass-marketed image must resist becoming an image himself even at the price of certain obscurity." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/11/01

Sunday November 11

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN ART AND COMMERCE: It's easy to condemn Jonathan Franzen's tactless swat at Oprah's Book Club. But the sentiment is not foreign to serious writers - of course writers want audiences, and the bigger the better. But that doesn't mean they necessarily want to go whoring after them. Not that being an Oprah writer is whoring, but maybe... Boston Globe 11/10/01

Friday November 9

RANDOM HOUSE DROPS E-BOOK LINE: "The Random House Trade Group, one of the first publishers to announce the creation of a line of purely digital books last year, became the first to cancel that idea yesterday, quietly scuttling its AtRandom imprint in recognition of the scant consumer demand for books that can be read on screens. But the company will continue to publish electronic versions of books." The New York Times 11/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MISSING SHIELDS: Somehow no one involved with Canada's Governor General Awards (due to be awarded next week) realized that Carol Shields' book on Jane Austen was missing from consideration. "It should have been on everybody's radar. This is Carol Shields." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/08/01

POETS CUT BACK: After ousting its popular executive director earlier this week, the board of the Academy of American Poets has decided "to lay off 8 of its 17 employees and to sublease half of its office space in SoHo" in an effort to stave off a looming financial crisis. The New York Times 11/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THERE'S BONES IN THE OLD LIFE YET: Life magazine was a major US publication, a highly-visible weekly from 1936 to 1978. It continued, will less success and less attention, until last year. Then it seemed to die. But now it's back, at the projected rate of two issues every three months. First issue, not surprisingly, focuses on September 11. Washington Post 11/09/01

Thursday November 8

A LOVE LETTER TO LINGUA FRANCA: "Lingua Franca had been an absolutely invaluable and highly influential resource, searching out the genuinely important controversies over ideas emerging from the academic world. Searching through the vast torrents of jargon-addled dross to find and convey the rare excitement of real thinkers grappling with original ideas. And exposing the sad comedy of pretentious sophists confecting academic simulacra of real thinking." And now it's gone. New York Observer 11/06/01

THE ARTIST WITHIN: When he's not busy being a disctator, Saddam Hussein is an artist. "Underneath a seemingly tyrannical nature, there lives a passionate soul yearning to share his deepest, most delicate and intimate thoughts. Saddam has written a romance novel. Released earlier this year, Zabibah and the King appears to have won the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and made Saddam Hussein a best-selling novelist - according to the Iraq Press it has been selling out of Iraqi bookstores and there are already over 1,000,000 copies in print." The Weekly Standard 11/08/01

GO LITERARY, YOUNG MAN: A farmer who wanted to be a poet wrote letters to the leading poets of his day, and they wrote back. That was 160 years ago. Now, those letters to Abijah Metcalfe - from Poe, Emerson, Longfellow, and Lowell - will be auctioned off. Longfellows are common; his reply may fetch only $1500. But Poes are rare; his could bring $30,000. Nando Times (AP) 11/07/01

DICKENS? DOYLE? FLEMING? MILNE? NO, IT'S....Rowling who has created England's most famous imaginary hero. In a nationwide survey, asking people of all ages to name the first fictional character who came to mind, 22 percent said Harry Potter. Tied for second place, with 2 percent each, were Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist, James Bond, and Winnie the Pooh. New York Post 11/07/01

Wednesday November 7

WRIGHT WINS GILLER PRIZE: "Author Richard B. Wright expressed 'genuine surprise' last night at winning the Giller Prize, Canada's most lucrative award for fiction. Mr. Wright won for Clara Callan, his ninth novel... This year's short list was particularly notable for the number of first-time novelists that made the cut." National Post (Canada) 11/07/01

HARDY ON THE BLOCK: "A collection of Thomas Hardy's works and letters - said to be the finest left in private hands - is going under the hammer at Sotheby's in London on Wednesday. The collection, which is expected to fetch about £500,000, contains more than 260 autographed letters from Hardy - including descriptions of the hostile reception to his novel Jude The Obscure." BBC 11/07/01

POET CANNED: The American Academy of Poets has fired its popular executive director. "William Wadsworth, 51, a poet and former wine store owner, ran the 65-year-old organization for 12 years, during which he updated its image, increased its profile, created a popular Web site to encourage poetry reading and turned April into poetry month." But the organization has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt... The New York Times 11/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday November 6

GILLER PRIZE UP FOR GRABS TONIGHT: It's been a tough year in the world of Canadian publishing. But tonight, all the strife and infighting will be forgotten for a few hours, as the literary establishment gathers in Toronto for the presentation of the nation's most prestigious book prize, the Giller. The secrecy around the winner is legend, but Richard Wright and Jane Urquhart are believed to be the frontrunners. Toronto Star 11/06/01

LINGUA FRANCA ET MORT - WHY? What happened to cause the sudden demise of Lingua Franca Magazine last week? "Indications were, in fact, quite the opposite — Lingua Franca seemed to be the foundation for a steadily growing mini–empire of publications related to the academy and the world of letters." MobyLives 11/06/01

DOCTOR WINS FRANCE'S TOP BOOK PRIZE: "France's top literary award has gone to a former official of the humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres. Jean-Christophe Rufin won the award for his "ecological novel" Rouge Bresil (Red Brazil)... Each year's winner is selected by the Goncourt jury at the Drouant restaurant, near the Opera in Paris. The jury chooses what it believes to be the best new work of literature - making its author into an instant celebrity in France." BBC 11/06/01

MORE FRANZEN FALLOUT: What does the Oprah Winfrey/Jonathan Franzen flap say about today's literary world? "Franzen has to grapple with a serious paradox here, which lies in being so blatantly image-conscious, even while he criticizes the image-makers. His concern is not about what he writes, and whether it connects with readers, but how he is perceived, and what kind of readers he connects with. This is the very kind of attention to branding that he claims to deplore." National Post 11/06/01

HARRY POTTER, OCCULT SEDUCER? One of Britain's biggest teaching unions has issued a stern warning to parents and teachers that J.K. Rowling's phenomenally successful creation could lead schoolchildren into the sinister world of the occult. The Guardian (UK) 11/06/01

Monday November 5

THE LAST WORD ON OPRAH: Critic Jonathan Yardley's no Oprah fan, but he's respectful of what her book club can do for a writer. "If I were forced to choose - perish the thought - between reading a year's worth of Oprah selections or the top dozen books on the fiction bestseller list, I'd make a beeline for Oprah. The literary taste of the American mass market is execrable. Oprah Winfrey is doing her part to elevate it. If in the process she's elevating herself as well - this is, after all, the woman who publishes a magazine named after herself with her own picture always prominent on the cover - so what?" Washington Post 11/05/01

CAN'T YOU DO BETTER THAN SHALLOW ADS? The Canadian province of Newfoundland is spending $400,000 on ads promoting literacy. But the province's literary community is protesting: "I think for a tenth of the cost of that budget, the local publishers and the local writing community could do a lot to promote children's books and involve adults in delivering the stories." CBC 11/04/01

Sunday November 4

HANDICAPPING THE GILLER: "Now, in its eighth year, the Giller Prize [Canada's top literary prize] finds itself at a turning point. The year is not a stellar one for CanLit - it is without a banner novel - and the jurors face an aggrandized task. They will have to atone for last year's jury's timorous compromise - no splitting of the prize, please - and it will be tough to make a splash in what is otherwise a decidedly gloomy season. Also, they will be deciding, in the public eye (whether they like it or not), if the Giller evolves into an Academy of Letters or, true to precedent, simply opts for best book." National Post (Canada) 11/03/01

IF IT'S NOT REALLY HARRY... Last spring author NK Stouffer sued JK Rowling, claiming Rowling ripped off elements of Harry Potter from Stouffer. But though Stouffer got her book published , it's being ignored. "One review was by The Associated Press, which called it an 'excruciating mix of cliche, preachiness and just poor writing.' Meanwhile, the country's leading superstore chains, Borders and Barnes & Noble, declined to stock Stouffer's work. Baltimore Sun (AP) 11/03/01

LESSONS FROM OPRAH: "Unlike their dowdy British counterparts, fashionable new American writers like Jonathan Franzen are assured of sales in the hundreds of thousands (with corresponding remuneration). This money becomes a passport to a kind of celebrity that is, for a while at least, self-sustaining, and leads to the kind of stance that Mr Franzen is now adopting towards Oprah Winfrey, with the almost comical implication that it's she who is hitching a ride on his waggon. Worse still, in the long term, it does not generally lead to great writing." The Observer (UK) 11/04/01

Friday November 2

DEFENDING OPRAH AND HER CRITIC: "Many people think Oprah is a saint for her bookselling, so any questioning of her is Bad-Wrong-Dumb. Sorry, the problem here is that in the often dim, anti-intellectual caves of network TV, she's the only person talking about serious lit. Her tastes aren't mine, but I actually wish she had more influence – on other producers. We might get some wider-ranging book coverage. Choices. Rivalries." Dallas Morning News 11/01/01

LEAVING THE PENGUIN NEST: Penguin Putnam has lost its chief executive and several key editors; now it may also be about to lose top authors Tom Clancy and Patricia Cornwell. The key defection is that of longtime chief executive Phyllis Grann, who's leaving the end of this year after continued criticism of Pearson, parent company of the book publisher. The New York Times 11/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Thursday November 1

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Maybe it was no surprise that Jonathan Franzen put down Oprah and her book club. "What was telling about the Franzen-Winfrey contretemps was the five-alarm outrage of Manhattan’s literary publishing community. Faced with a choice—reprimanding arguably their brightest star in years or alienating a woman who spends many of her shows in the company of a bald-pated schmaltzateer named Dr. Phil—judgment was swift. New York publishing chose Oprah." New York Observer 10/31/01

A LITTLE LIGHT READING: "A children's book about life under Afghanistan's Taleban regime has been published. The novel, by Canadian author Deborah Ellis, tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old Afghan girl, and her struggles to avoid beatings, bombings and starvation. Oxford University Press, the book's publishers, said that the book was written before the current conflict began and was intended for publication later this year or early in 2002." BBC 11/01/01

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