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Hearsay Archive:

Here we store old Hearsay items (including their discussion links). You don't have to register or sign in for discussions, you can just click the "Post a new message" button and go.

Some of the links are likely to rot over time. Sorry about that, but our fridge isn't working.


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December 2005:



NYT's top of the pops
The New York Times, never one to be outdone by the Globe and Mail (wait...), releases its own Top 100. In the spirit of inclusivity, there's even a Top 10 for the attention challenged. ... And so that's why sparrows are disgusting creatures.... huh? Richard Wilbur!? Gets me all hot, baby! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Poetry archive
Andrew Motion has started an online poetry audio archive to ensure that today's voices don't disappear. Please, Andrew, for the love of God, let some of them disappear. (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Papa Bear
Stan Berenstein, dead at 82. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

I'm on the Moby podcast today doing a Canada report. Who knew there was so little news? I have to get used to this format. Does my voice really sound like that? (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Thank god I was not born 330 million years ago...
A giant Scottish scorpion? Aye... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Librarians save the day again
When I was teaching, I told my students I didn't really care if they plagiarized -- as long as they did it creatively. This guy can't even come up with creative excuses.

Butler alerted her boss at the library, Assistant Director Elizabeth Bradt, and together the two librarians began to highlight other passages containing identical wording, eventually identifying more than a dozen examples, some of them running more than a hundred words. Even the titles were alike: Vice called his story "Tuscaloosa Knights," while the original was from a section called "Tuscaloosa Nights."

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Are there any great women comic-book artists?
I hadn't really thought about it until I read this article, but the comics I read are almost exclusively written and illustrated by men. Huh. But there is a whole history of women comic artists, and, luckily, it's on the rise again.

Back when comics were a newsman's game in the first two decades of the 20th century, few women became comic-strippers. But Trina Robbins, a cartoonist and independent comic-art historian, points to some pre-women's-lib comic artists who drew and thrived. There was Nell Brinkley, who contributed The Brinkley Girl to Hearst papers before World War II; Grace Drayton, who created the Campbell Kids in the 1930s; and Dale Messick, whose Brenda Starr, globe-trotting girl reporter, inspired legions of preteen investigators in the 1940s and 50s. Brinkley girls, says Robbins, were "romantic, beautifully dressed girls, not naked babes," who took off on adventures and even went surfing. Many of the extant Brinkley drawings have been found in scrapbooks made by young girls. But she and other early women comic artists "have been lost in the semi-official history," says Robbins, because of a prevailing esthetic mindset that values explosive drawing — SPLAT, BOOM, POW — and adventure stories over more girlish themes and styles. The exhibition doesn't emphasize superhero comics, but the style, picked up so forcefully by Roy Lichtenstein, arguably casts a shadow over the entire field. Female comic artists also faced overt discrimination: Messick, the first woman to have a syndicated comic strip, changed her name from Dalia to get more jobs.

(From AL Daily) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

In defence of Narnia?
The Chronicle considers Philip Pullman's attacks on the classic children's series.

Pullman is the author of His Dark Materials, a three-volume children's book series that has won popular and critical acclaim rivaling that of the half-century-old, seven-book The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, of which The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first volume. In articles, interviews, and speeches, Pullman has described The Chronicles not just as "propaganda in the cause of the religion [Lewis] believed in," but also as guilty of advancing views such as, "Death is better than life; boys are better than girls; light-colored people are better than dark-colored people; and so on." And those are just Pullman's G-rated charges. He also has blasted The Chronicles in public forums as "one of the most ugly and poisonous things I've ever read," "propaganda in the service of a life-hating ideology," "blatantly racist," "monumentally disparaging of girls and women," and marked by a "sadomasochistic relish for violence."

(From AL Daily) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)



Bookninja's Advent calendar just for you
Check it out on the left. Check it out every day.

Norwegian filmmaker unmasks JK Rowling
Conspiracies aside, Nina Grünfeld 'simply thinks the rags-to-riches story of JK Rowling is too good to be true.' Grünfeld suggests instead that the woman portraying Rowling is a composite designed by a team of marketers. While this may sound suspicious, the plot thickens. It tuns out that as soon as, ahem, Miss 'Rowlings' caught wind of this shocking revelation, she decided to change her name. Put two and two together for yourselves, folks, but don't say you didn't hear it here first. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Good sex. Bad sex. Whatever. At least it's sex
Food critic's book, Winkler wins the day or the night or the afternoon; I prefer afternoons, but I still don't see what's so 'bad' about that line. Anyone? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Reference books for my stocking
The Independent gives a nice list of useful reference books for the scholar who has everything. Here's my favourite in case you wanted to gift me this year:

And The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod (Penguin, £10) wittily gathers words from 280 tongues with no English equivalent. In your office you no doubt endure a Radfahrer or two (German; one who flatters superiors and browbeats subordinates), who will zealously pursue employees who fucha (Polish; to use company time for one's own purposes) and prefers to zhengquan-duoli (Chinese; to jockey for power and profit) all the time rather than sit chatting about what they saw last night on the dinnilos-dicking-muktar (Romany; television or "fool's looking box")

Gift me! Isn't that the most stupid verbed word ever? The best verbed (reverberated?) word, of course, is vaccuum. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Weekend Edition:

How are those Amazon Shorts doing anyway?
Slate takes a look at the, uh, shortcomings of the Shorts program. I love the idea of Amazon Shorts, and I've had nice feedback on my own contribution to it, but I have to agree with the article that Amazon needs to do a little more with the program. (From the Saloon) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Not for resale
Galleycat looks at the problem of review copies and advance reading copies winding up for sale on places like eBay. It's a problem all right. I can see why publishers don't want to send out book-like review material -- the used-book sites are being flooded with review copies, which cuts into legitimate sales. On the other hand, as a books-page editor I kind of need the real books, especially if I'm going to use them as a graphic element on the page (yeah, I know I can always request a JPEG file from the publisher, but that doesn't work so well when I'm putting together the page at 10 p.m. on a Friday night for the next issue). I'm not sure what the answer is, although numbering proofs, as William Morrow apparently did with Anansi Boys, may be an option. Maybe those green bound galleys, along with a CD of any relevant graphics? That would cover my needs. But not those big exercise-book type galleys. I hate those. I'd be interested in hearing other ideas. (For those publishers who wonder what happens to all those books that get sent to newspapers, the standard operating procedure is to have internal book sales once a year, with the profits given to some charitable cause such as women's shelters, books for tots, etc. We do have to clear the books out of the office, and it's too expensive for us to send them all back.) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

"Canadian fiction in general is not selling"
The Globe looks for something to blame. Harry Potter? The Da Vinci Code? Bin Laden? Too many writing programs? Bookninja? (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Magic realism? We don't need no stinking magic realism!
Latin American writers are turning their backs on magic realism and embracing more urban styles. Some of the titles sound just as interesting, like "Batman and Robin's Mutual Masturbation Techniques." Can't wait to read the translation of that. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)


That would be me. Okay, today's Christmas Days excerpt will appear this evening instead of this morning. Lady Ninja is on her bi-weekly jaunt to NYC and I am alone with Baby Ninja. Between juggling showers, breakfasts, and coats this morning, I'm lucky I remembered to wear pants, much less bring McCormack's book with me. Personally, I'm quite enjoying the book. And I've heard this from a couple people: the way McCormack twists the absurdity of the tradition is actually making me crave the tradition again. I'm just a ring-jing-jingly these days. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Ode to George Bush?
Insidious ode has been deleted from Pakistani textbooks. No sixteen year old should have to endure analysing a poem that sneaks in George Bush. I can just imagine it -- God's on our side with/Evangelical zeal/O of his mouth when he is surprised...sheesh. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Finally, we can put this to bed
A book dispelling black sexuality by one brave black man.

Apparently, there aren't a lot of resources to turn to for this kind of comparison. Poulson-Bryant quotes an article he found on the Internet site, the-penis.com, as saying the average black penis size is 6.25 to 8 inches in length and 2 inches in diameter, compared to 5.5 to 6 inches in length and 1.5 inches in diameter for whites.

At any rate, the fact that he didn't live up to the stereotype was a source of deep embarrassment for Poulson-Bryant, who wrote, "Why the shame? What had seeped into my consciousness about my emotional self that could be so affected by a quantitative judgment about my physical self?"

Poulson-Bryant must feel so very alone. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Scottish gangsters buying stolen books
About themselves.

Crooked stall-holders are placing orders for hundreds more in the run-up to Christmas. One trader said: "Vendetta and Crimelord are very popular among crooks - and the Barras is a place where crooks go shopping.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Torstar buys 20% of the Globe
This is just so wrong on so many levels. Am I being naive to assume someone will step in and put a stop to this? I see "requires regulatory approval" and I hope, you know...? But on the bright side, it might mean the Globe could soon start reporting the news. (Thanks, Jonathan) Oh, and this and this. (discuss) (Posted by George)

English language fiction sales get hit with the ugly stick
Welcome to my world, you pampered novelists. Ladies and gentlemen, I would definitely say it's time to panic. Please prepare to run amok in an orgy of grief and, in turn, violence. Apparently we can blame the trend on either Dan Brown, Harry Potter or Osama Bin Laden. That's just spooky, because those are the exact same three suspects for who left the empty toilet paper roll in the bathroom at our house this weekend past...! Coincidence? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Keep a barf bag handy
A scathing review for Narnia? Gosh, I really didn't see that coming. I wonder if the Christian papers are saying the same things... My big question all along has been: during the crucifixion, how are they going to get the loin cloth to stay on the lion? That alone must be worth the price of admission. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Shit sells
Crap books make a lot of money. Hm. Kind of makes me feel better. But only kind of... Because then you read it and find out it's actually about shit, not quality. Or quality shit. (From Lit Saloon) (discuss) (Posted by George)

How did NaNoWriMo go?
Do you really care? In case you do. I would rename it it NaMoWriMo, but that's my own issue. (discuss) (Posted by George)

I wonder if his proby officer was there...
Jeffrey Archer launches first book since prison release. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Explained. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Is your dog laughing at you?
Dogs laugh, and yours in particular is laughing at you. Try putting him out of the room while you eat, workout or have sex. That oughtta cut out the majority of the times you look funny. ("Heh heh, they think I'm just a stupid dog that waits on their approval and will eat anything... heh heh... Oooh, spilled corn!") (discuss) (Posted by George)


The dreaded fiction machine
More on the dreaded writing workshop -- including a delightful illustration.

Professors teach primarily as a means of supporting themselves as writers.
This was in fact one of the founding intentions of the writing program—a way to give writers time and money to write; a form of patronage—and it was a noble intention indeed until writers began to make halfhearted careers out of what was meant as a short term sinecure. The plan began to go awry once writers became so accustomed to the relatively cushy role of "professor" that they took for granted (and they universally take it for granted) that they were qualified to teach writing without having arrived as great writers themselves. An enfeebling paradox has resulted: Professors with little calling to teach give only part of their attention to their classes, yet devoutly cling to their positions, sometimes for the rest of their lives, vacillating in a vocational purgatory, neither wholly writing nor wholly teaching.

(From the Saloon) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

OK, not the next J.K. Rowling
The CBC profiles Canuck writer Kenneth Oppel. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Canada Reads 2006
Three books by authors who are still alive. Will wonders never cease?

• Joseph Boyden's debut novel Three Day Road, a contender for the 2005 Governor General's Literary Award for English fiction, will be defended by Return to Kandahar filmmaker Nelofer Pazira.
• Frances Itani's Deafening, which was shortlisted for the lucrative IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in March, will be defended by lawyer, activist and author Maureen McTeer.
• Mordecai Richler's Cocksure, which won the 1968 Governor General's Literary Award, will be defended by actor and former Kids in the Hall member Scott Thompson.
• Al Purdy's Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets: Selected Poems, 1962-1996, which includes his award-winning poem "The Cariboo Horses," will be defended by B.C. poet Susan Musgrave.
• Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness, which won a 2004 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and was shortlisted for the 2004 Giller Prize, will be defended by Winnipeg singer John K. Samson of rock group the Weakerthans.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Bookslut interviews Annie Proulx
And Proulx reveals there's more to her story "Brokeback Mountain" than we've read.

Actually, that story was to be one of three or four stories about offbeat and difficult love situations, but I never wrote any of the others. I just wrote that one.
I had to get away from it. It just got too intense, and too much on my mind. That's when I wrote the book [That Old Ace in the Hole], but I may have to write the other stories just to clear my mind, as it were. And also because I conceived of that particular story as one of a set of stories. As it is right now, it stands out rather like a sore thumb in comparison to the rest of the work, so I think I have to do those other stories.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

More on the review copies battle
Galleycat shares some of her mail on the whole ARCs issue, including letters from writers who support ARCs being sold on eBay, etc.

Statistically it takes buzz at least eight weeks to build. But - other than bestsellers - a typical book is off the front bookstore shelves only two to four weeks after it's released and after the reviews have started to trickle in (if they come in at all) - which means word of mouth moves slower than booksellers and publishers want to deal with.
A healthy preselling of ARC is one way to get readers talking about a title a few months before it comes out.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Rare erotica
A new blog dedicated to reproducing visual and textual erotica from old books. Wow, I made that sound so academic. Old-time smut, folks, old-time smut. (NSFW?) (From Drawn) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)



Bad news for 05 sales
The publishing industry took a(nother) beating this year. Why? Too much Martha Stewart and not enough poetry. It's the age old problem. When are you execs going to wake up to reality? People want the verse, man. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The publicity machine goes Hollywood
Take note.. way in advance.

Mass merchants allow new releases only a couple of weeks to prove their popularity in the front of the store before shifting them to the back.

So publishers are taking a cue from Hollywood. "Like the movie business,'' says Mr. Bogards, "publishers are now trying to engineer campaigns so we open big on the on-sale date." Creating advance buzz is a tried and true tactic in Hollywood. Knowing that theaters will stop showing a new film if it doesn't do well in its first weekend or two, studios start marketing campaigns months -- even a year -- before a film opens.

The publicity machine has already kicked into gear for my upcoming title. I've told my dad and some people at work. I can hear the loose change rolling in already! Yeah! (discuss) (Posted by George)

POD saves academia
Now the eight people who read each book can buy all eight copies. It's so crazy it just works. (From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)

If she builds it, they will come...
See, the idea is kind of radical, see? See, we use the power of the "technology" to build a "website" on the "internet", or a "weblog" (alternately, "blog"), if you will, and we "discuss" books on it. People will flock from near and far and the discussion will change the world! It's an idea that's time has come. I mean, a few years back, but, you know, I'm in Iran and we just got Chuck Berry's first album last week. (I kid, but really: good on ya!) (discuss) (Posted by George)

New rules for Wikipedia
Rule number one: nobody talks about Wikipedia. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Turning good and evil upside down
It's books like this that, once in a blue moon, change the way we look at the world. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Shaken not stirred
Finally, we'll get to see the real inner workings of MI6. The SIS is letting Irish academic Keith Jeffery into the secret files:

In the latest in a series of moves to make it seem more accessible, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) -- the agency's official name -- selected Keith Jeffery, professor of British history at Queen's University Belfast, to write the book and granted him access to its archive.

"I feel like a child in a sweetie shop," Jeffery said on Wednesday, adding he believed he was the first outsider to be granted permission to look at the archive.

I went to a party once in Ottawa with my sister and she pointed out this couple she claimed were spies. They looked like jocks to me but that was the disguise, I guess. Spies as jocks. If I was a spy, I'd go as a frazzled mum. Hey,wait...(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Judge a book by its cover
Chip Kidd on book design. Guess what? He gets his inspiration from the manuscripts themselves. Amazing. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

On children's writing and lethal injection
Should death row inmate Stanley Tookie Willimas have his death penalty commuted? He is apparently responsible for countless deaths in the L.A. area but he has atoned and gone on to write a children's book about his experience apparently saving countless lives. Sound like a movie script? Ironically, the American people have voted for the only man on earth who could possibly sort this problem out. Rambo. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Ninja Murray reading this Saturday
Toronto ninjas! I am reading this weekend in support of the Vehicule Signal Editions poetry anthology The New Canon. Info below. Please come and introduce yourself.

Launch of The New Canon
With [BRIEF] readings by:

  • Kevin Connolly
  • Pino Coluccio
  • Noah Leznoff
  • Laura Lush
  • Asa Boxer
  • Richard Greene
  • Walid Bitar
  • Adam Sol
  • Richard Sanger
  • Carla Hartsfield
  • Shane Neilson
  • Geoff Cook
  • George Murray

Saturday, December 10, 2005, 7:00 p.m.
334 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario
Subway: Osgoode

For more information:

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Desperately seeking nerdlinger
Hey, geek. I need you. I mean, I really need you. Don't get me wrong, I'm a geek too, just not geeky enough. I am trying to install WordPress and learn how to design in it. If you know how and want to make a couple bucks and earn a place on our "no shurikentothehead" white list, please email me. I mean, I really need the help and I need it before January. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Pinter the Pincer
Harold Pinter goes Doberman, using his Nobel speech to lacerate the US/UK foreign policy nightmare. Bless him. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Top 10 bookshops
Hey! Toronto's This Ain't the Rosedale Library makes the list. Suh-weet! Great bookstore staffed by great people. One of the best, for sure. I've only been to three of these stores. But I would have been to four if New York's Three Lives had made the list, as it could have on any other day. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Love letters: the competition
I submit to you that if you entered this contest, you're not really in love with anyone but yourself. (discuss) (Posted by George)

This makes my live computation device hurt
Rat brains will soon be flying fighter jets. You know, instead of the whole rat. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Weekend Edition:

The misery market
It's the next big thing!

The division redefined as "general commercial non-fiction" by Barnsley's team now publishes half as many books as it did in 2000, yet profits have doubled. This is partly because the redefinition went with a decision to include the genre known in the trade as the "misery market", alongside more esoteric self-help manuals.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Authors have power
Well, maybe British ones.

Some of Britain's best-known authors are celebrating a partial victory after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) refused to wave through Waterstone's attempt to acquire its independent rival Ottakar's.
A deluge of complaints from readers, authors and publishers prompted the competition watchdog to order an in-depth inquiry into the £96.4m bid yesterday, on the ground that it threatened a thriving book market. The Competition Commission will have until next May to decide whether to allow the creation of a bookselling powerhouse.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

King Kong roundup
The Globe's Martin Levin looks at the latest ape books. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Let it snow
Tired of the end-of-year lists and Christmas shopping? Why not relax with a little snowball fight or hey, just shovel some snow (both are flash games that have nothing to do with books... or ninjas.). (discuss)
(Posted by Peter)



I love secrets
Frank Warren has been collecting other people's secrets for a year and now he's published a book of them, PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives; so much for friends.

In what began as a community art project, Warren persuaded legions of strangers to write down their deepest secrets on postcards and mail them to him. Now a year later, he's collected more than 10,000 cards.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

New Ondaatje poetry warped
So warped House of Anansi has sent it back.

The book, called The Story, came off the printing press with a warped cover. Publisher Anansi Press has decided it can’t go on the shelves in that condition, despite the potential for sales during the holiday season. The publisher had printed 10,000 copies.

Ten thousand copies? Wow. Someone should make an art project out of those. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Francis Bacon was a hypocondriac
Okay, that's stretching it, I'll admit. But apparently he was inspired by medical textbooks.

Among the 7,500 items – including dirty paint brushes, books, photographs, drawings and slashed canvases – found strewn across the floor of Bacon’s chaotic studio in South Kensington, London, there were sheets ripped from books containing images of diseased toes.

“Twelve other medical textbooks were found in the studio. Some contain relentlessly gruesome images, such as A Colour Atlas of Forensic Pathology and A Colour Atlas of Nursing Procedures,” she wrote.

Hey, I've got that one, too. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Wiki in a teapot
Is the Wikipedia fiasco being blown out of proportion? The author of the offending passage says he wrote and posted it to play a joke on a friend. Before I introduced Tim Winton at the IFOA, I looked him up on Wikipedia and found someone had tacked a few insults on to his biography. When I checked back a day or two later (with intentions of reporting it), the insults were gone. Pretty fast, I say. But fast enough when someone might have been writing a 2am essay on Australian writers? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sad and ridiculous excuse
The Whitbread Prize is no longer. I love how the website frames the disaster. Anybody got a few mil to endow? Or just write the cheap bastards who are backing out. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Poo on Pooh
Pooh is getting even more Disneyfied by Disney. I guess that's what they do. There's also talk of Christopher Robin being replaced with a little girl. It's shameful they're so shameless. Here's hoping the Milne family wins their lawsuit. (Thanks, Terry) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Canada's first playwright-in-residence
Takes up a bed of straw in his cage at U of A. Come watch the keepers feed him Stoned Wheat Thins and brie at 12, 2, and 5. But, please, children, no hands near the bars. We wouldn't want another Pinter-like incident. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Consider yourself retired!
Old age Kiwi pensioners tackle and hogtie a burly burglar. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Have YOU ... got ... a poet...sssss voice?
I just don't know if I could convey everything I needed to with only audio. I really feel I need to wave my hands around and gesticulate in a seizure-like fashion as I speak in the unnatural modulations the best poetry requires. (From Brenda) (discuss) (Posted by George)

I used to laugh because of Calvin's antics
Now I laugh because of his parents'. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Are comic books art?
A short history of comics and the Art World. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Literary theory is dead
Long live literary theory. (From Maud) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Vanity Fair in Toronto
Who knew the literary scene in Toronto was so exotic? Who knew about these little nooks and crannies hiding such strange, underground names as "Michael Ondaatje", "Margaret Atwood" and "David Bezmozgis"? Shine the light on these darkened souls! I'm being facetious, because that's what we do here, but truly a few (other) deserving names are also mentioned, including Rabindranath Maharaj, André Alexis, Lewis DeSoto and Dione Brand. The stroking of Toronto's Manhattan-envy has created a lot of hard and wet hipsters in the Queen Street area, I'm betting. (From Quill & Quire) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Whitbread Award to become the Pizza Hut Prize?

From its somewhat cloudy press statement, it seems that Whitbread may be thinking of moving sponsorship of the country's second most prestigious literary prize on to one of its subordinate brands. Which of the Whitbread family would work best?

"Beefeater Literary Awards" would retain the British flavour, although since CJD the national dish will always have a slightly sinister aftertaste to it. And a surprising number of writers are vegetarian - or of Indian extraction.

"Pizza Hut (UK) Literary Prizes" sounds downright tatty. And, despite the parenthesis, distinctly un-English. Can you imagine Harold Pinter accepting it?

"TGI Friday's" doesn't really evoke images of curling up with Claire Tomalin, or going head to head with Salman about whether Peter Kemp was right to describe his latest (favourite for this year's, last ever, fiction prize) as a rest home for geriatric magic realism cliches (bastard).

"Yum! Literary Awards" has a certain zing to it. But, like the others, it sadly lacks the gravitas the book world likes.

In Canada it could become the Tim Horton's Prize for Sugar Coated Literature. Now that's a delicious prospect! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Harper Collins to Google: Na na na na na naaah!
HC will digitize its own library. After that, its taking its ball an going home. (Hopefully, they'll digitize Rupert Murdoch too. Did I say "digitize"? Sorry. I meant "plasticize".) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Speaking of digiture...

Project Gutenberg vs. Google. The cage match! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Wrist-slitter of the day
Yes, you've been struggling with your manuscript for years. No, you can't get anyone to look at it or take you seriously. But you're not a ten-year-old girl writing about surviving a divorce, are you? Oh, you are? Loser. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Göknar on Pamuk
Pamuk's trial for allegedly blaspheming Turkishness is set for Friday. His English translator considers the outcome of the trial to be a 'harbinger for relations between the West and Muslim nations.' This worries me. It seems to me this is only so if the outcome is negative for Pamuk. A positive verdict will ostracize Turkey from certain other Muslim nations and potentially fuel the fire, no?

“Responses from within the E.U. during the trial will be symbolic, too,” Göknar said. “Politicians in E.U. countries could let Turkey work out its political freedoms or they could try to stir up resentment against Turkish immigrants in their countries and fuel  jingoism.”

Pamuk's got a roster of elite literary superstars behind him now, too. I hope this helps because things sure look ugly. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Santa in a Speedo
Ethan Matsuda is so worried about the effect of global warming on the north pole, he's written abook about it called, The North Pole is Sinking.

Ethan is a science fan, an enthusiastic reader of National Geographic Kids. He's been reading about global warming and concerns that pollution and reckless use of energy could be warming the Earth's atmosphere.And that, he concluded, could be threatening the ice around the North Pole.

"There's a lot we need to do," Ethan says. "People should be thinking about Santa."

I wish I could find it cute, but today I just find it depressing. Go and frolick, little Ethan. Fly. Fly. Also, forget about Santa. He's at the mall doing aerobics with the blank-faced believers; he hasn't set foot in the north for years, ever since he was co-opted by a beverage company. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Children are instinctive poets...
And poets, ladies and gentlemen, are... well, you get the picture. Can I get a rimshot, please? The article begins:

At the heart of every childhood is a true innocence, the birthright we all come in with, protected or damaged as we grow, depending on our circumstances. The language innocence attracts to itself (as love, in its different way, does) is the language of poetry - rhyme, rhythm, nonsense, beauty, lyricism, magic, fun - and this language spools out from the nursery rhyme to the fairy tale. "Tell me a story," our children say. "Read me a poem."

See, I have a problem with this Blake shit. Thanks for inventing childhood, Bill, but it's obsolete. There are plenty of children without innocence. I guarantee that if you open your front door right now, you'll see at least one. You may not know it, but come on, a little perspective.

Poetry, in its turn, is the most innocent of literary forms - open, risk-taking, unselfconscious, in a thousand and one different ways. On the simplest level, poetry makes us see things differently.

Oh god, don't even get me started here. But the article's still worth a read. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Philip Roth spits in Death's eye
Roth, interviewed. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Groovy, baby, yeah!
More Esquire covers than you can shake a stoned Go-Go dancer at. (From Boing Boing) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Are you on Richard and Judy's list for 06?
Of course you aren't. Other than Barnes, I don't know any of these books. But that likely says more about my reading habits of late than it does about the list. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Newsflash: Harvard elitist!
Even it's glossy magazines. (discuss) (Posted by George)

We regret the error...
The year in newspaper corrections. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Don't bite the nose that feeds you...
Egad. Can you imagine? A lifetime of knowing the nose on your face was not only in a dog's mouth, but in its stomach. That's halfway to its ass! It's like some terrible Seinfeld nightmare. Here's hoping the kid doesn't start sniffing his friends crotches at parties. Or maybe, on reflection, here's hoping he does... (discuss) (Posted by George)

The US government is spying on its peace activists
When will you people take to the streets with pitchforks and torches? Oh, wait, let me just check this database. I think the date is in here. (discuss ... at your own risk)
(Posted by Deep Throat)


Is publishing going Hollywood?
An interesting piece on how publishers spend small fortunes on acquiring world rights to books (Little Brown acquiring The Historian for a couple mil, for instance) and use the buzz to make large fortunes in foreign sales.

The tipping point, such as it is, seems to be the big sale itself, which brings the foreign publishers to the table aggressively and leverages the risks involved. For LB, I know this was true: the book was essentially preordained to be a money-maker for LB at the time they spent the money -- what was not preordained was that the book would work as well as it has in our market (your point about it hooking readers is well taken on that one).
But I think, frankly, spending $2 million for world rights (knowing when you spend it that the foreign publishers are eager to give you a lot of money back) is a far better bet than spending, say, $400K or more for North American rights.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Marvel online
In what may be the next big thing, Marvel is experimenting with digital comics. The interface is a bit awkward at times but not bad overall. I like it. But when did Captain America become a commie? (From Galleycat) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

A Christmas Carol
The Penguin podcast. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Pamuk on Pamuk
In a comment piece in the New Yorker, Pamuk lands right where you'd expect a novelist to land – right in the space between one and the other, simply observing.

As tomorrow’s novelists prepare to narrate the private lives of the new élites, they are no doubt expecting the West to criticize the limits that their states place on freedom of expression. But these days the lies about the war in Iraq and the reports of secret C.I.A. prisons have so damaged the West’s credibility in Turkey and in other nations that it is more and more difficult for people like me to make the case for true Western democracy in my part of the world.

If people are over-dramatising his case, which, after Göknar's views earlier might lead one to believe, it is not for want of compassion. It may be that it looks like an East-West symbolic trial, even though the defendant sees himself neither here nor there; it's a schoolyard dictum 'two wrongs don't make a right,' isn't it? Maybe, there isn't anything to do but stand by and witness. Now I'm going to curl up in bed and weep all day. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Mr Bean is the reincarnation of AA Milne
An obscure and long forgotten Milne has been republished. Oh, joy. Oh, small joy. It's a collection of short stories for adults entitled The Sunny Side. This one The Guardian has published is the written equivalent of a Mr Bean episode. These are great festive tricks to entertain your guests with over the hols. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Sex sells
An uneducated, illiterate Kerala prostitute, who orally (sic) transmitted her story to a social activist has become a best selling author in India; Indian feminists are not best pleased but:

For her part, Jameela intends to continue with sex work as long as she stays healthy, saying she has had more freedom as a sex worker than she has ever had as a wife. "Looking back, I find life as a sex worker more enjoyable. As a wife one has to listen, to always be dominated by someone," Jameela said. "I like being a sex worker. Some become lawyers, doctors. It was my choice to become to a sex worker."

One has to listen. Oh god, how I know. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Digital dreams

Publishers look to the internet as a saviour. I know I've bought some titles direct from publisher websites, and I've been pretty happy with the results. It's still cheaper to get books through online stores, especially when they're offering free shipping and whatnot, but when it's a smaller press, or a press I love, I try to buy direct from the website, if the structure is available. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Turns out things aren't so bad at the Wiki after all. A study at the journal Nature reports that Britannica averages three mistakes per article and Wiki averages four. Not bad for a bunch of putzes like us. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Discounting Christmas sales
British chain Ottakar's admits it can't compete with the deep discounting of supermarkets and other rivals. It's strategy? Don't engage them in the price war. Hear that sound? It's the Ottakar's stock price taking a dive. Ouch. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Wharton comes across the pond
Edith Wharton's library is coming to America. Expect hijinks to ensue. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Short on reference texts?
How about mixing things up with a Dodo atlas to highlight the world's extinction hotspots. Coincidentally, they coincide with the world's fat-white- men-vacation-here-to-enjoy-nature-and-kill-it hotspots. Oh, and the indiginous-folk-can-only-make-money-by-razing-their-own-land hotspots. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Organize your library online
Bibliophil. Neato. Free. Really neato! (discuss) (Posted by George)


The year in menaces to free speech
Now this is the kind of end-of-year round-up we need. How about one dedicated to the top 10 political decisions that didn't cause a violent uprising? How would you choose? (discuss) (Posted by George)

That hideous bastard Philip Roth was wrong. Dead wrong...
About religion and violence. See, religion is about what religious people say. And they say it's not about violence. It's about love and sharing and sharing your love with uncivilized folk even if love isn't needed or wanted. And they'll kill your fucking ass dead if you disagree. (discuss) (Posted by George)

That's their gimmick, see?
Gimmicky books suck as gifts.

Why? Because they're so much easier to give than they are to receive. They're so much more gratifying to gift givers than they are to recipients. And the act of follow-through is not often a big part of these transactions. A gift book may be chosen on impulse, but it can confound whoever winds up with it for a long, long time. Here's a selection of this year's offerings, and a guide to which make good company - and which do not.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Joan Didion
Interviewed about how she's getting on alone. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Lady Chatterley's garter

DH Lawrence's estate is outraged about the release of a line of lingerie named after the famous novel. No sex please! We're British. And, you know, he hated women, right? Wouldn't want to have him rolling in his grave. (The article stole the best headline. Fucking primary source crimping my style.) (From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Is there anything they can't prove? (discuss) (Posted by George)

And on the sad side of married life...
Sniff. (discuss) (Posted by George)

It's just like Warhammer 40,000
Has fantasy ruined sci-fi? SF writer Gregory Benford thinks it's ruining the whole damned world. Of course, the bloggers respond. Galleycat has it all for you. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Heather Reisman's favourite books
And not a Canadian title to be found.... (From Quill) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Did Don DeLillo predict the Buncefield explosions?
The Guardian considers the eerie similarity between the recent explosions in England and DeLillo's White Noise. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)



Intelligent design: the last word
That just about wraps things up, doesn't it? (Thanks, Art) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Guess what? Controversy sells books, sells out?
The author of a forthcoming book investigating the intricacies of the CIA, James Risen, who is also a staff reporter for The NY Times, has penned a NY Times article disclosing that under the Patriot Act, the National Security Agency has been spying on US citizens (guess what? Your e-mail is not private!) on the eve of the act's possible renewal. Across the States, people have their say. And so far, no one, okay The Right, doesn't seem too thrilled with what The NY Times has done with this information -- information that they apparently withheld for a year (inexplicably). According to a book I'm currently reading by Steve Coll, called Ghost Wars (awesome, by the way), the CIA 'was created to prevent another Pearl Harbour. But in the aftermath of a catastrophic war against Nazism, Congress also sought to protect the American people from the rise of anything like Hitler's Gestapo, a secret force that combined spying and police methods. The CIA was therefore prohibited from spying on Americans or using intelligence it collected abroad to support directly criminal prosecutions in the American court system.' How times have changed, lordy Lord. Is The NY Times noble or incorrigible? Have they interfered with justice? You be the judge. P.S. We post frequently from The NY Times and every time we do, I have this sinking feeling. It's not that the articles aren't interesting or pertinent, it's just that I have a hard time respecting an editorial staff that writes the plural of 1970 as 1970's. If they can't even get that right, how are they on substantive issues?(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

All that learnin' is gonna get him inta some hat wah-tah...

A UMass student who requested Mao's Little Red Book through an inter-library loan gets a visit from Homeland Security. You know, my Yanky brethren, they'll be making movies about this time in 50 years and shaking their heads that nobody did anything sooner... (From Boing Boing) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Cover up
Books sell by their covers, now more than ever. Give the gift of snap decisions: buy based on a pretty cover today.

As we walk into any bookshop for an impulse purchase, we base our choice on the same superficial attractions as a Casanova walking into a singles bar. And all the new places where books are now sold — the internet, the bookshop’s three-for-two tables, the supermarket — are making us even more likely to judge a book by its cover.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

BA: Not what a sheep says, despite undergraduate claims to the contrary...
This article should go over well at our house, which is hostilely occupied by fifty graduating students' papers. You should HEAR how bad they are. I can't get through five minutes of goofing off without Lady Ninja dragging me back to the office to hear how bad the writing is. She's killing me. She's killing my love of words with the semi-literate essays of fourth-year undergrads. (discuss) (Posted by George)

More on stupid books
Following that NYT story on light books, the Globe notes that it also has something to say, but cleverly ups the ante and calls these books "stupid". Oh, so clever and NAUGHTY! And ironic, considering the source. Take that, pop culture! (discuss) (Posted by George)

The death of mass media
Um. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Orange Prize jury chair picked
You remember what Susan Swan said about the Giller's... you pick your jury and you pick the winner. This Orange thing is shaping up to be a real humdinger. You can cut the tension with a butterknife. I feel all tingly in my --- oh, I can't keep this up until next year. I'm bored shitless already. Okay? Is that what you wanted to hear? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Potable quotables for $1000, Alex
The silliest quotes from the year past? Oh, you mean in print... My data bank of verbal indiscretions is much more detailed. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Taking a break
Okay, little ninjas. Have you all been good this past year? I know you haven't. Don't lie to me, you smart-mouthed brats. I know! I said, I KNOW, MOFOS! You can't lie to me! I know and see all. And I'm proud of you. But now we Bookninjas have to go to our secret hideout in the deep north where we will scheme, drink, and manufacture a line of razor sharp toys and poisonous doodads for all the good little boys and girls who read the site. (Just to make you jealous.. Last night, I unwrapped a gi ft... Guess what it was?! Woohoo!)

We may update occasionally over the next two weeks, but will certainly not be regular. As you might have guessed, I can be a little obsessive about the posting, so there might be a few things up here and there, as time, turkey and tobogganing permit. The stress of dealing with family (as opposed to "dealing" with family) means that each of us will likely spend most of the next two weeks in a slightly vegetative state; pickled, as it were. Ah. Booze as defence mechanism... The great Canadian Yuletide tradition. Why do you Yanks think we're all so pleasant?

But look for a full return in early January with, Santa-permitting, a redesign of the site. Think RSS feeds. Also, keep an eye out for a New Year's gift in the magazine. And don't forget that the Derek McCormack / Seth Christmas Days excerpts will continue to run, just like an advent calendar, right up until the 24th. So, a very Merry Hanukkah and a Happy Christmas to you. Try to love. (discuss) (Posted by George)

HLS story true?
Was the story we linked to yesterday about a student being visited by Homeland Security agents over the borrowing of a book by Mao completely true? The reporter says so, but some blogger-types beg to differ. The realist in me says, what is truth? The conspiracy theorist in me says, smear job by HLS! Black Ops! Black Ops! Bork! Bork! Bork! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Is fiction... wait for it... wait for it.... dead?
Rachel Giese at CBC just thinks it might be. Ah, the insatiable appetite of the arts journalist/arts journalism reader for stories about the death of arts. Time for the old pin-in-the-ass test, sayest I. I'll ring up some novelist friends and ask them to bare some buttock so we can see if any of them are dead. Dennis! Andre! C'mere! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Making the switch
From corporate honcho to cowboy agent.

Mr. Kirshbaum has long been known as a master salesman. And he ended his tenure at Time Warner in character, with the success of "The Historian," the debut novel by Elizabeth Kostova, published by the Time Warner subsidiary Little, Brown & Company. The book ranked No. 1 on the New York Times fiction best-seller list in its first week on sale, a remarkable feat for a first novel.

"That didn't happen just because Little, Brown printed a few hundred thousand copies and waited for positive reviews," he said. The campaign for the book began a year ahead of time, with the company telling booksellers about it at the annual Book Expo America, then sending early copies to bookstores, setting up dinners between retailers and the author and introducing her to the company's own sales force.

After having tried it all, what's left? Do it all again from the other side of the bargaining table. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Dennis Lee: celebrating 30 years of inciting our children to violence
Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break. You. Humourless. Bureaucratic. Robots. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Was is das mit de novel-zingy?
German novels on the rise. Everybody shore up your borders! (discuss) (Posted by George)

The plight of the modern day crime writer
Ian Rankin selflessly says that snobbery stops the lit prize gravy train one town before Murderville. Those damn snobs. They've been one town over from me too for years! Welcome to the twin municipalities of Poettown and Toughshitsville, Ian. Population: you. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Chabon and Franzen in fight on Simpsons set!
Heh heh heh heh. [Dr. Hibbert laugh] No no, folks. It's all part of the script!

The script calls for Chabon and Franzen to brawl during a dispute about their literary influences, and standing next to each other in the recording room, the friends ready themselves for a fight. Franzen complains loudly that he has fewer lines than Chabon -- ''Only 38 words!'' -- to which Chabon responds, ``I see there's a little counting going on in the Franzenian corner.''

But I bet they secretly made some jokes about Tom Wolfe's get-up when he was in the can. (From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)


Anna Porter interviewed
Porter is interviewed by a business news press about her authors, her writing, about Key Porter and about the book business. Finally, someone out there is optimistic. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Remember when kids could be just that?
Another child prodigy emerges. Listen parents and listen up good. Next time your kid does something clever on paper, ignore it. Just once don't say, 'Aren't you wonderful, Johnny.' Say nothing. How is it going to be for these poor children when they enter the real world? Are you going to hire someone to stand behind them and compliment every brilliant business report they whip off? Please, for the sake of the future of the world, get out of your kid's face. I beg. I plead. Make it a New Year's resolution. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Would you like some Greece on your Turkey?
Turkey has charged a publisher with insulting Turkishness. Apparently, the writer of the book, who is Greek and therefore unchargeable, suggested parts of Turkey were dirty. Who thinks up this stuff? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


“Editors are noticed by what they buy, not how they edit.”
The changing roles of book editors. Are they even necessary still? I say yes, but no one ever listens to me.

Though editors have slipped to the foot of the publishing scale of prestige, most editors I know are robust in their defence of their craft. Dan Franklin, the publisher of Jonathan Cape, blames the easy gibes of reviewers: “Whenever they say ‘If only the book had been properly edited’ some poor sod has usually spent two years cutting it from 300,000 to 100,000 words.” Modern publishing just doesn’t allow for the time needed to edit a book well. The brilliant and dedicated men and women who spent their lives transforming books and caring whether they were any good, whose work could add significantly to the sales of a book and who usually did it for peanuts, have come to be regarded as superfluous.

(From the Saloon) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The literary prize economy
How will we know what's good without the ever-increasing number of prizes to tell us?

The prize system, with its own cadre of career administrators and judges, is one of the ways in which value gets “added on” to a work. Of course, we like to think that the recognition of artistic excellence is intuitive. We don’t like to think of cultural value as something that requires middlemen—people who are not artists themselves—in order to emerge. We prefer to believe that truly good literature or music or film announces itself. Which is another reason that we need prizes: so that we can insist that we don’t really need them.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Amazon Connect
There are so many new publishing technologies and trends that I can't keep track of them. For instance, I just learned about Amazon Connect, a new blogging program.

Shoppers looking to pick up Meg Wolitzer's latest novel, "The Position," on Amazon.com last week found the usual readers' comments and excerpts from reviews. They also found something unexpected - posts on the subject of literature from Ms. Wolitzer herself.
The entries were part of a new program called Amazon Connect, begun late last month to enhance the connections between authors and their fans - and to sell more books - with author blogs and extended personal profile pages on the company's online bookstore site. So far, Amazon has recruited a group of about a dozen authors, including novelists, writers of child care manuals and experts on subjects as diverse as real estate investing, science, fishing and the lyrics of the Grateful Dead.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


Strong opinions? Or cheap sensationalism?
Why are book reviewers getting meaner?

Newspapers and magazines may need to rethink their book coverage—including, as you say, both reviews of books with literary merit and the more commercially viable ones (two categories that do sometimes overlap). But I don't think the answer is to revert to promoting cat fights and name-calling.

Although Carlin Romano's attack on Dale Peck wildly overstated his case, Romano had a point when he took Peck to task for using such words as "crap" and "suck" in describing books. And is calling an author a "jackass" really very helpful? The coarseness and lack of nuance in the language used these days in many book reviews certainly is something to lament.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The top 15 richest fictional characters
According to the Economist. Make sure you check out the profiles. (From 3QuarksDaily) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)


What a coincidence... 76 is my lucky number...

Well, it is now. Thanks, CBC. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sittius downius et movius nottum!
Traumatic injuries to children go down during Potter release weekends. But the respite will end soon. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The statistics of success
How did The Da Vinci Code (known in Newfoundland as "The Da Vinci Cod") become such a blockbuster when it should have been destined for the remainder bin (it only had a 36% chance of success, apparently...)? Scientists, those wacky daffy wild and crazy guys and gals, investigate. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Favourite fonts of 2005
Typographica returns after being banished by Canadian authorities with a list of its top fonts. And it's only Part 1. Santa bless them. (From Metafilter) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Someone needs to teach Amazon some manners
Ironic it should be R. Crumb. Hey, Amazon. You're supposed to ask nicely before you go and borrow other people's property. Sheesh. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Oh oh oh oh staying alive
Artemis Fowl is to be translated into the Irish language.

“It is important for Puffin to bring contemporary books in Irish to people,” he said.

“There have been complaints from teachers that there aren’t enough contemporary children’s books as gaeilge.”

He added: “I think it is good to encourage the Irish language, it is not about money or profits, it is just about bringing Artemis Fowl to a new audience.

Sweet music. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Nafisi plans to outdo Oprah
At least intellectually. Uhm, no mean feat.

Nafisi, who teaches at Johns Hopkins University's School of International Studies in Washington, D.C., is planning an international online book club. She hopes it will be "a place for genuine debate."

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)






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