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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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June 2005:



Harmful if swallowed
I find this article harmful but who am I? The top ten most harmful books of the l19th and 20th centuries decided by a panel of...well, who am I? Should these books be muzzled or put down? You be the judge. Personally, I'd like a mite more information. Why are these books harmful? Do they bite? Are they poisonous if eaten? Please. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Dumbing up
This is great. Someone has been retelling The Book of Mormon in comic form, I guess to make it more palatable to the young, impressionable and about-to-be indoctrinated. My question: can you dumb down anything this dumb already? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Everyone's writing kidlit these days
Even Buzz Aldrin.

The book, titled "Buzz Aldrin: Reaching for the Moon", is aimed at six to nine year-olds and is by illustrator Wendell Minor. It tells Aldrin's story, beginning with his childhood in New Jersey, up to the moment of the moon landing on 20 July 1969. In it, Aldrin speculates that mankind will eventually colonise the moon, and other planets in the solar system.

I wonder if he mentions that he and Neil left little sacks of pee-pee up there with the flag and whatnot. Just like space dogs. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Men read books by other men

Who'd have thunk it? You mean, 10,000 years of old boys' club-ism ain't over yet?

But a gender gap remains in what people choose to read, at least among the cultural elite. Four out of five men said the last novel they read was by a man, whereas women were almost as likely to have read a book by a male author as a female. When asked what novel by a woman they had read most recently, a majority of men found it hard to recall or could not answer. Women, however, often gave several titles. The report said: 'Men who read fiction tend to read fiction by men, while women read fiction by both women and men.

'Consequently, fiction by women remains "special interest", while fiction by men still sets the standard for quality, narrative and style.'

On the other hand... who cares? If women buy the majority of books, men can be considered a niche market. (discuss) (Posted by George)

And speaking of the gender gap
Ladies and gentlemen, the 100,000th Orange Prize article of 2005! (discuss) (Posted by George)

And I wonder how many women these guys are reading

The newsman should be the thinking man, right?

They both already have more books than they know what to do with. "I'm afraid I find it very difficult to part with a book," Snow says. "I've kept more or less everything I have ever read." Recently, he paid £1,000 at auction for a collection of every work of poetry Faber has ever published. "I just couldn't bear to see it go," he says. "But I've never been able to take them out of their boxes. I've got nowhere to put them. They're in my office, actually. My office is full of poetry." Marr, by contrast, says he throws away "all fiction that I know I will never read again ... Life is just too short." He only keeps "the really good stuff". "So what is the really good stuff?" Snow asks. "Proust!" replies Marr.

Actually, that was a pretty good deal. I'd part with £1,000 for that box. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Buying in
Ok, so the whole Moleskine thing is a big marketing ploy. That much is obvious. But a few years ago I ordered one from the US (because I couldn't find one here) to see what they were about. Now I don't write longhand in anything else. They really are a superior product. That said, I've noticed some inconsistencies in the quality, book to book, which is no doubt a side effect of mass production. Considering the price and that the books are shrink-wrapped in the store, I'd either like to feel more secure in the quality or be able to leaf through the book before I buy. My new elastic is not as tight as the last one and there are some loose threads in the pages here and there... still the best book to write in, for my money. They take quite a beating and still look great. There's a reason, other than the clever viral marketing campaign, these things have a loyal, somewhat fanatical, following. (A while back I had a hard time finding new copies of the large lined one, so I did some internet searching and read that they are discontinuing them in favour of a soft back, saddle stitched version of the same. Say goodbye to my dollars, Moleskine.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The little magazine
In search of the perfect little magazine.

Publishing can present tensions, too. Through the magazine, Mr. Najafi said, one can make friends, but one can also lose them by rejecting their work. (Ms. Lesser said many writers disappointed with rejection do not necessarily read the publications themselves unless they’re published in it.) Ms. Oates said that, in the audacity of youth, she once asked Saul Bellow for a submission. “He just sent a self-interview that he had done with himself.” Bellow’s agent found out and called her, wanting it back.“Well, it’s too late,” she replied — adding that now, even if it weren’t, she still would have said it.

(From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Hollywood producers...
Is there anything they CAN'T do? (discuss) (Posted by George)


Another control freak

A Christian mom in Fayetteville, Arkansas, has succeeded in getting the city's school board to remove three books endorsing offensive sexual practices and pornography from the district's elementary and middle school libraries.

Christian mom? What does that make me, a heathen mom? I was expecting the books in question to be really steamy but it turns out two of them are about the best sex ed books around for children. Fayetteville can ban them but I highly recommend It's Perfectly Normal and It's so Amazing. They might not be for Christian moms, though, just NORMAL ones. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Rajasthani women's groups smoking
Has the world gone mad?

Over a dozen women's organisations have demanded the resignation of Rajasthan Minister of State for Tourism and Devasthan Usha Punia against the glorification of sati in a state government book.

Sati as a tourist attraction? Oh my... (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

We are approaching Archie Manga here
My dream may come true. Harlequin goes manga in North America.

DARK HORSE will publish the first two North American HARLEQUIN manga titles -- Harlequin Ginger Blossom: A Girl in a Million written by Betty Neels with art by Kako Itoh, and Harlequin Ginger Blossom: Response written by Penny Jordan with art by Takako Hashimoto -- in December 2005.

This sounds amusing. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Love you forever

I would like to think having your face splashed across a page in the NYT might give you pause for reflection and shame, but it's likely this lady is rather pleased to be thought of as the book banning mum. What a sad state of affairs when parents cling to restrictive power over their children's intellectual lives right at the point when a little freedom to experiment might make them better people and give them the tools to make decisions for themselves later on (rather than following the crowd, ie, middle America -- see background of photo). (It reminds me of that inordinately creepy kiddie book that some people inexplicably seem to think cute: Love You Forever. That mother is a psychopath! That boy has to be Norman Bates. Ew ew ew ew ew.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Form over content
Why can't American college grads string together a sentence? Bad role models?

WE are at that time of year when millions of American college and high school students will stride across the stage, take diploma in hand and set out to the wider world, most of them utterly unable to write a clear and coherent English sentence. How is this possible? The answer is simple and even obvious: Students can't write clean English sentences because they are not being taught what sentences are.

Most composition courses that American students take today emphasize content rather than form, on the theory that if you chew over big ideas long enough, the ability to write about them will (mysteriously) follow. The theory is wrong. Content is a lure and a delusion, and it should be banished from the classroom. Form is the way.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

First Mordecai takes Manhattan
Stop smirking, Berlin. You're next. Mordecai Richler and his place in the world. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The ransom model of publishing...
Clive points to an example of a couple of dudes reinventing a way to sell e-books over the internet. Interesting concept, especially for e-publishing. I wonder if it will ever fall prey to bystander syndrome -- wherein every person hoping to get the book thinks someone else will make the donations needed and nobody makes a move. If I held my book ransom, I'd have to eventually cut it's pinky off and send it to myself in the mail. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Amazon link unavailable...

They don't get much rarer than this... La Difesa, signed by the author. Some guy named Galileo. To an astronomer, owning this would be like a Christian owning a copy of the Book of Revelations signed in stigmata blood by Jesus. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Candy Bushnell
Deal-breaker? This poor poor man has not only been taken for a financial ride, he's also had his trust violated. Um, idiot. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The giving tree keeps on giving...
Remembering Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree author Shel Silverstein, who has just published a new book, Runny Babbit, six years after his death. (discuss) (Posted by George)


More Griffin updates
Well, it was quite an event. If you've never been (and this was my first time), you can't conceive of how much MONEY is spent on this thing. I went because my friends from New York were there this year: Matthew Rohrer nominated in the international category and his publisher Matthew Zapruder on hand as well. Great guys who I seldom get to see, so I thought it would be a good idea to catch up with them in my home town and cheer Rohrer on. I had had lunch with Zapruder earlier in the day to catch up, and it was a good thing, because given the scope of the event, I barely saw them.

Let me set the scene for you, because today it all feels so surreal, I'm not sure I was there. You walk in over a bridged pond in which float moss, candles and pillows with the word "poetry" spelled out in colourful letters (for some reason) down a green, fake grass carpet to shake hands with Scott Griffin on camera. There is dry ice. Lots of dry ice. It's like being on stage with Floyd. Except it's Scott Griffin (who's very gracious and smiley, even to people he didn't recognize).

Anyway, then you're in this big room that's about 97 degrees, surrounded by other sweltering guests wondering who are all these people and how come they don't come in their expensive suits to your readings. There were several TV cameras roaming and some nice people from CBC who said, "Hey! There's that guy from Bookninja! He'll say something funny." Then there's a microphone under your nose and you seize up like an engine full of refined sugar (remind me to tell you about the chocolate fountain later), and you say a few dry, inane things hoping you get another chance later. The chance does not come.

Then you file in to sit at a table to eat. The table centre piece is dry mossy stuff with candles in it (a bright idea). A poet friend sits with you and then two novelists sit down. Four writers and their partners at one table. The conversation is lovely. Nino Ricci and Joseph Boyden turn out to be really nice guys. Ricci and you spend some time wondering where you've hung out before and settle on the North York library, even though you can never remember having stepped foot in it. Ricci begins to grill your partner on her thesis, very interested in the connections between artists and sociology. Food is being served. Then uber editor Louis Dennys comes by and whispers in the novelists ears. They rise sheepishly and inform you that they've been asked to move to another table. There is much apologising from the novelists. The editor hasn't even glanced your way. There is a long silence as a half moon of empty chairs stares at you. You look at your poet friend as though to say, "Did that just really happen?" It did.

There are several small fires over the course of the night, moss and candles being a curiously unstable combination, including at your table. You try to daub delicately to smother the flames with your napkin but it just spreads the fire around. You're pretty sure you're channelling Peter Sellers. A waitress puts it out by dumping a glass of water on it. The table is soaked and kind of smokey. And not the least because your poet friend must have smoked 10,000 cigarettes over the course of the night.

After a long dinner, the awards begin with a very long, epilepsy-inducing montage of poets and their names. When you say very long, you mean, like five minutes of flashing faces and names with driving music. It was stylish, and neat though. Then Griffin gets up and introduces poetry to the crowd. Then August Kleinzhaler gets up and tells what is a long, at first funny, then baffling, then funny, story about poetry and his ideal reader. Then Erin Moure gets up and talks, no word of a lie, for at least 15 minutes about... um, you're not sure, but there were a lot of big words in it. She used the word "idiom" nine times in three languages. The international winner is Charles Simic whose blissfully short and classy acceptance speech was about being caught speechless. Nice guy. Then Simon Armitage takes the stage. For you, this is like the Rolling Stones standing a dinner roll's throw away. His speech is funny and gracious and to the point. The national winner is Roo Borson who is as shocked as anyone that she beat Don McKay.

Then the dancing commences and you retire to the bar to watch famous writers cut a rug. You have spent every joule of social energy you had. It is gone. Several times over the course of the night Nino Ricci catches your eye apologetically. Louise Dennys even talks to you. "Excuse me," she says, on the way to someone else. Michael Ondaatje is dancing madly in front of you, Adrienne Clarkson is dancing as though on stilts in some strange outfit while several large guys with plugs in their ears stand nearby and try to look inconspicuous. Margaret Atwood must have bolted as soon as the awards were over, but given the advent of her Frankenhand, you would have liked have seen her do the Robot to "Let's Groove Tonight" by Earth, Wind and Fire. No luck.

There is a chocolate fondue fountain that's nice. It begs to have an entire hand stuck in it, but the servers look pretty vigilant. Free booze, free food, free everything. Thousands and thousands of dollars given away and spent on entertaining poets and allied tradespeople. All in all, who could ever complain? It's really amazing that something like this is being done at all. One person (Borson, you think... you'd stopped listening) thanked Griffin for bringing poetry to people who didn't really know it was out there. And she was right. Poetry beamed out through TV cameras to Joes Blow everywhere. You can only hope you either didn't make it into the broadcast or that if you did you weren't doing something stupid. But that's you, you neurotic freak. Everyone else had a blast. I'm just floored at how much MONEY was there. I need to get to know more millionaires. Anyway, there you are. More later. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Borson and Simic win Griffin Prize
Your cub reporter, fresh and sweaty from the fray, will bring you more details in the morning... (discuss) (Posted by George)


Real Chicklit
None of this how many boys can I slew with one come hither look books. Chicklit by real chicks, I mean. Are we destined for small press?

"People don't sell us rights without having tried the big houses first. So most of these books have been turned down by quite a few editors before they come to us," he said.

"The big publishers are cutting back on the number of titles they publish. They are counting more and more on big books that their marketing people think can sell a shedload of copies. They've become more conservative, which is good news for us."

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Thomas the Tank Engine tanks out
He failed to show at his own birthday party . The nerve. Actually, this doesn't surprise me; the naughty diesels are so right -- steam engines are obsolete (Nah nah nah boo boo). Thomas is probably stuck on some siding even now.

Tony Goose, who went with his girlfriend and her family, said: "The Rev W Awdry (author of the Thomas the Tank Engine books) will no doubt be turning in his grave.

Yes, the Rev would find this very rude indeed. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Which came first?
Sure people are more focused and less able to idly browse bookstores but might this be, in part, because you can barely enter a bookstore (hell, any store) these days without being queried by a smiling, uniformed clerk or sometimes several smiling, uniformed clerks as to how you might be helped. No wonder no one feels they can hang out. The other problem is that rarely does one find something truly unusual in a bookstore any longer unless , of course, you are where I was this weekend or somewhere like it. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Pay to play

See those books at the front of the store? They're squeezing yours to the back. Why? Cause your publisher can't (or won't) pay.

If you walk around any Barnes & Noble or other large bookseller right about now, there's a good chance you will notice prominent stacks of a thick hardcover with an eye-catching jacket and the title ''Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power.'' The book, written by a former Clinton administration official, David J. Rothkopf, and published by PublicAffairs, is based on interviews with foreign policy insiders like Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice, and offers itself as a definitive study of the council, sometimes called the most powerful group of people in the history of the world.

Like many other customers, you might have thought the book was on display simply because the booksellers believed it was important, particularly relevant now and would practically sell itself.

This is also what Peter Osnos, the chief executive of PublicAffairs, would like to think. But he has been in the publishing business long enough to know that it's never that simple. In order to ensure the book was on display on the front tables, his company had to pay a total of about $11,000 to the large bookstore chains.

My first publisher once paid for my book to be displayed prominently on a shelf in his basement. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Oprah's back! Meedly meedly meedly nnneeeeowwowowow! (That's the sound of publishers doing excellent air guitar solos while kneeling on their desks - with whammy bar at end)

And she's picking more saccharine mental pablum for the... wait. Faulkner? As I Lay Dying? The Sound and the Fury? Light in August? (Or, shamelessly, the Willie Loves Opie Boxed Set - for the reader who doesn't care how their bookshelf looks.) There should be an emoticon for the sound a cartoon dog's cheeks make as he shakes his head in a triple take of disbelief. This should be interesting. Refresh my memory, it's been years since I read them... which one has the corn cob rape in it again? (Whew! And here I thought we were a month late with our Oprah discussion... relevancy is half timing, half luck on timing.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Cue the Imperial March
It's time to talk about... RETURNS...

There are two Time Warner Book Group warehouses on the outskirts of Indianapolis. Although separated by only an eighth of a mile, between them stretches a gulf of disappointment.

One building, dubbed the "happy warehouse" by one publishing executive, is filled with about 60 million hardcover books and paperbacks waiting to be distributed to stores across the U.S. The other is the "sad" warehouse. Piled high are some of the 20 million books returned every year by retailers. Many will be resold at cut-rate prices. Two million to four million will have their spines sliced off before being piled into a recycling machine the size of a Dumpster, chewed up and spat out as bales of paper.

I feel a cold shiver and see a light at the end of a long tunnel... but I'm going the other way. (From LitSaloon) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The sexy world of concordance
Is there anything hotter than lining up all those words and running your eyes over them thousands of times to get things right? Yes. Doing that on a computer.

Why did they labor so? Monks used concordances to ferret out connections among the Gospels. Christian theologians relied on them in their quest for proof that the Old Testament contained proleptic visions of the New. For philologists, concordances provide a way of defining obscure words; if you gather enough examples of a word in context, you may be able to divine its meaning. Similarly, concordances help scholars attribute texts of uncertain provenance by allowing them to see who might have used certain words in a certain way. For readers, concordances can be a guide into a writer's mind. ''A glance at the Lane Cooper concordance'' led Lionel Trilling to conclude that Wordsworth, ''whenever he has a moment of insight or happiness, talks about it in the language of light.'' (The concordance showed the word ''gleam'' as among Wordsworth's favorites).

Even word porn is now online. I would guess, from an informal concordance of the Bookninja.com inbox, we should start looking for a Lolita concordance soon. (Damn. Now my referrer logs are going to get all sticky.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Guess what my buddy Jonathan's getting for Christmas this year?
This. But only if he's good. Which means I'm off the hook for $100. Read about it here. (During the Simon Armitage reading at Nicholas Hoare on Friday night, I was standing within arm's length of the Complete New Yorker Cartoons... It's a testament to the strength of his poetry and personality that I didn't reach out to crack the book. Damn, he was good. It was like watching Stephen Hawking do physics. Except... you know...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

More books, fewer readers
Some hard numbers on our situation. It looks grim, folks. I'd pack up and head for Muskoka to wait things out like they used to back in the days of killer disease and health care that involved the liberal application of lower life forms. Hell, I'd pack up and head for Muskoka anyway. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Playing catchup on the Bookers...
It'll do you no good at the watercooler today (if you work in my literary office where people read Russian poetry, paint, and quote Szymborska - na na na nah) coming late as it does, but if you only read Bookninja (and I pity you iffen you does), you don't yet know that Ismail Kildaré won the first International Booker. For shame, Bookninja. For shame. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Self-publishing is the best thing that ever happened to me
When there's nowhere else to turn. Or when you can't wait. Or when you can't be bothered.

"I'd been looking around and I'd talked to some people who'd said, 'Don't waste two years of your life as a first time author trying to get the attention of a mainstream publisher.'"

When you put it that way... (discuss) (Posted by George)

A flash-based literary map of Manhattan. What a wonderful way to waste part of your morning! You have the whole week to catch up. Crack open that Timmy HoHo Double Double and rub some sugar from the apple fritter on your front teeth. There, now you're ready. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Where the wild thing is

NPR in conversation with Maurice Sendak. Not work safe. Just kidding. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)



A Bryson in nearly every satchel
Bill Bryson's giving a copy of A Short History of Nearly Everything to everyone; well, everyone in Britain. Nearly. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

The vultures descend
Even your grandmother? This is sick on so many levels. Granny to 'write' book on Jackson trial.

Montgomery reveals her grandmother agreed in principle to the deal immediately after being picked for the Jackson jury.

She says, "I called her back and said, 'Grandma, I would love to work with you on this but we can't even talk about it at all, because we don't wanna get you in trouble at all.'"

Sign here Grandma...no, I don't know where your bifocals are but not to worry, just sign. You're the greatest nannie. How much money does the celebrity trial generate in the US? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Ninja nerd gives sci-fi roundup

Peter's CBC article on contemporary scifi is up.

"The Gernsback Continuum" announced the death of classic sci-fi. The Vancouver-based Gibson and other members of the cyberpunk movement — mainly Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker — rejected the “architecture of broken dreams,” as a character in Gibson’s story calls it. In their novels and stories, the cyberpunk writers replaced the fanciful devices of alien invasions and jetpacks with more realistic and immediate concerns: multinational corporations run amok, the decay of urban centres, bioengineering, environmental collapse, addictions to technology. In the process, they created not only a cultural phenomenon but a brand new future.

As it turned out, the old future didn’t fade away as smoothly as the visions in Gibson’s story. In fact, as the cyberpunk movement shows the rust of its aging ideas, classic sci-fi is enjoying a sort of renaissance, thanks to a group of Canadian writers.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Buzz, buzz, buzz, I wonder why he does...
The BEA was buzzy. And confusing, I suspect. Want your photo taken with a giant weenie? Do you need to ask? Say cheese! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Awards update
Marina Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian wins the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Pfft... gunfire? Where are the shurikens, I ask?

A few measly bullets and everyone goes apeshit about Harry. Don't you people know how to catch them in your teeth like good little ninjas? I'm disappointed in you. Go to your dojo and think about what you just said. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Book-binding made easy, with photo blog. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)


Orange Prize awarded
To American Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin. I've been wanting to read this book for some time now. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Summary of Griffin readings
The Star offers a, albeit poorly written, summary of the pre-gala Griffin readings at UofT. (Word on the street has it that Rohrer, whose been given curiously short shrift at every turn in this proceedings, including a one line mention in this article, was without books at this reading because the bookstore "couldn't get them" from the distributor... the problem? The bookstore knew this a long while in advance, yet didn't tell publisher Verse so they could bring books with them from New York. Imagine: you're with a small press and your book is shortlisted for the world's biggest poetry award, and there are no copies to sell at what might be the biggest reading of your life thus far...) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Corn and peanuts

More faintings at Chuck Palahniuk (seen here looking curiously like Jimmy Stewart) readings. I love it.

So far, 67 people have fainted while I've read Guts. For a nine-page story, some nights it takes 30 minutes to read. In the first half, you're pausing for so much laughter from your audience. In the second half, you're pausing as your audience is revived.

My goal was to write a new form of horror story, something based on the ordinary world, without supernatural monsters or magic. Guts, and the book that contained it, would be a trapdoor down into some place dark. A place only you could go, alone. Only books have that power.

You know, I can relate to this... I've lost consciousness at plenty of readings. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Academia in the shitter
Moby points us to this column by Alex Beam. Legitimate questions are raised. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Hell in a handbasket, says I!
Ads in your kids' textbooks. Time to homeschool, mamas and papas. Straight through to PhD. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Authors on the radio

Everyone and their dog interviewed at a CBS radio program's archive. (From Maud) (discuss)
(Posted by George)


US BookExpo
A very interesting overview article on the state of publishing. That is, not great.

Readers aren't just buying fewer books total, they're buying fewer different books. As conglomerates like WalMart come to dominate a larger and larger slice of the book market, the much smaller selection in stores like theirs has real consequences for the biodiversity of American thought. On Saturday, the audience at a C-SPAN2 panel laughed when I suggested that no bookstore should stock more than a single copy of any one book at a time. But is that any more absurd than the alternative we're fast approaching, when stores will finally stock thousands of copies of only one book?

How does the writer fit into this publishing template? Is there a place for art-making here? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Bach spotted in Germany
A new handwritten aria has been found in a book of poetry that Bach apparently gave to the Duke of Weimar. No mention of who the poet was. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Wal-Mart official fired over Holocaust ad
No. Not fired. I didn't mean fired. I meant...oh, forget it. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Harmful books

In response to the US conservative list of the most harmful books of the last century, an editorial at Toronto's eye magazine comes up with it's own list.

The net result of all this harm: labour unions, welfare states, female doctors and lawyers, increased acceptance of homosexuality and a history guided more by modern science than thousand-year-old religious doctrine.

Naturally, we think these are all good things, because our definition of harm is more objective: we would never drive cars off cliffs, take bubble baths with electric appliances, or call Shaquille O'Neal a "punk-ass bitch," because we know these things would certainly result in our deaths. As such, our list of Most Harmful Books would include titles that actually inspired or resulted in grievous harm of some kind.

Some brave choices in there (must have been written by Bert Archer). Can't wait to see the letter bag. (Check out their summer reading list here.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Toronto Book Award finalists announced
It's nice to see that poor, over-looked Bezmozgis boy getting some attention. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Jewish Book Award announced...
It's nice to see that poor, over-looked Bezmozgis boy getting some attention. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Insert Michael Jackson joke here

Thriller writers band together to bring us bad writing in group form.

The idea for the group had been simmering for years and finally erupted out of a conversation between Lynds and David Morrell, the other cofounder and co-president. ''The organization was designed to broaden appreciation of thrillers and deepen the quality of what thrillers can be," says Morrell, creator of Rambo and author of 28 books. His forthcoming ''Creepers" plunges into the underworld of urban explorers.

How ironic. (Explanation for the young people - Michael Jackson, back when he was black and a musician instead of a piece of pedophilic performance art sculpture, made an album called "Thriller") (discuss) (Posted by George)

Shelley letters fetch pretty penny
Or shilling, as the case may be. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Nunavut literary prize awarded
Residents of Nunavut vote for family camping trip gone awry story. Of course, quorum in Nunavut is two people... (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Blown to the winds
Forty boxes packed with the torn-out leaves of medieval books. Thirty-three have been found. At least one is being sold, page by page, on eBay.

Being the genuinely compassionate collector that he was, Ege thought it would be a good idea to spread the wealth around. He tore the leaves made of prepared sheep- and calfskin from these hand-written books (the printing press wasn't invented until 1450), divided them among 40 boxes and sold the boxes around the world. The pages were etched mostly in Latin by monks from Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands, almost all of them religious passages.

Ege was "interested in the different kinds of writing that monks used -- the different shapes of letters, the different inks they used," Stoicheff said.

His purpose was to provide as many people as possible with access to many different kinds of medieval manuscripts. As he wrote in defence of his practice: "Few, indeed, can hope to own a complete manuscript book; hundreds, however, may own a leaf."

Stoicheff explained: "His reasoning was that for the price of one book, you could have an entire box that spans several centuries. He was quite genuine. He wasn't about exploiting these pages for their revenue."

Unlike the knob on eBay. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Well, it's about squeaky-bum time...
The Collins English dictionary... good for translating the English. If these words were any weirder, they'd be Australian. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Get fontified!

Turn your handwriting into a font. Note: not guaranteed to make your handwriting readable. (Have we posted this before?) (Thanks, Heather!) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Journal writing

For mental health. (discuss)
(Posted by George)


Ancient Chinese proverb
Writing fortune cookie fortunes sounds more fun than, well, naming IKEA products or Benjamin Moore paints. Lau on his Wonton career:

These days, he cycles selections from his vast oeuvre in and out of circulation. He is worried that readers will notice that the cookies are in reruns, which might result in Wonton’s losing its edge on the competition. (This is unlikely. Although there are about forty fortune-cookie companies in the United States, few have Wonton’s manufacturing capabilities.) So Lau has decided to bring in new blood. The company will soon advertise for a new fortune writer, and Lau will make the transition to editor. “Maybe when I retire I’ll write again—perhaps a book about writing fortunes,” he said. Returning to form, he summarized the thrust of the book with two simple axioms. “Don’t have too complicated a mind,” he said. “Think in ten-word sentences.”

I bet there'll be stiff competition for this job. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

I hope there's chocolate
Roald Dahl museum opens in Great Missenden. Wonder if it covers the adult fiction as well? I seem to recall a story about cattle insemination. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Child prodigy
16 year old Sophie Codman is, at least, savvy enough to take a pen name. How many child writers are mortified by their early publications? Here's an excerpt:

Stepping into The Drunken Hedgehog, Jed surveyed the dark corners warily. The grimy floor held footprints and leaves that had been blown in by a gust from the street. When most wizards step into a building the door flies open and a burst of air flaps their cape forwards, swirling it around them majestically. Jed had no such luck. Instead the door had creaked open stiffly, nearly rebounded into his face and everyone stopped talking to stare at him. It reminded him of a scene from one of the books he had favoured in his childhood years, where a stranger walks into the tavern and everything stops whilst he orders a drink and appears at ease. Then the fight always breaks out.

I especially like 'whilst'. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Potty for Potter
Long article on Beatrix Potter. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Appignanesi on Simone de Beauvoi

When I was growing up in the 60s, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were a model couple, already legendary creatures, rebels with a great many causes, and leaders of what could be called the first postwar youth movement: existentialism - a philosophy that rejected all absolutes and talked of freedom, authenticity, and difficult choices. It had its own music and garb of sophisticated black which looked wonderful against a cafe backdrop. Sartre and De Beauvoir were its Bogart and Bacall, partners in a gloriously modern love affair lived out between jazz club, cafe and writing desk, with forays on to the platforms and streets of protest. Despite being indissolubly united and bound by ideas, they remained unmarried and free to engage openly in any number of relationships. This radical departure from convention seemed breathtaking at the time.

This sounds like a great book. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Susan Swan's hotel preference
The Chelsea, naturally. Swan, whom I've only met briefly, is one of my heros, not because of her work, which I also admire, but for being quoted in The Globe and Mail some years ago on the topic of one of the Giller administrators. She called him a 'Tweedy Poo-bah', an expression for which I am eternally grateful. (from PFW) (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Self-publishing gone very weird
Bristol biology teacher uses handmade textbook to impart Creationism. For fifteen years. You have to wonder why it took fifteen years for this information to reach administrators. Well, I thought it was a very strange story until I realised it was not England but Bristol, U.S.A. at which point I was no longer shocked and awed, just depressed. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


You sank my flagship!
The original Crapters superstore at Bloor and Bay is going the way of the many independent bookstores it forced out of business. What we need in that space is a big honking shoe store or a high end boutique of some kind. Yeah, something Yorkville doesn't have. Oh, and Crapters? Take that Indigo with you when you go. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Speaking of the superstore question...
This piece seems to have an answer, if not the answer.

Virgil can't turn away from a volume about "Sex and the City." John Milton is locked in a staring contest with "Dealmaking in the Film and Television Industry From Negotiation to Final Contracts." Such a cruel irony of juxtaposition. And yet that's the essence of the contemporary bookstore -- a place of clashing cultural interests and dueling human needs.
That has always been the magic of a Barnes & Noble. It manages to seem friendly and folksy even while you know -- you know -- that every nook and niche has been vetted by multiple focus groups, that every detail has been polished for maximum consumer appeal. Yet even with all the hyper-charged corporate scrutiny, a Barnes & Noble never feels cold or sterile. You can chalk up this phenomenon to two factors: The softly comforting presence of books; and the inarguable truth that if you can fake sincerity, then you've really got it made.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

National Magazine Awards
Maisy wins the President's medal. Yeehaw for the homeboys there. Oh, and some other people won some other things. (Foul!) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Undiscovered country
The gay romance novel is in full bloom. [Insert joke about page count here.]

''Are these books targeted to the person who spends 90 percent of his time in Manhattan, 5 percent in Europe and 5 percent on Fire Island?'' he asked. ''Maybe. I am convinced that most bitter gay men are deep sentimentalists and rarely let that come out. They are filled with yearning for Mr. Right and want to refer to someone as 'my husband.' What's erotic about gay erotica is the stranger and the strangeness, a complete lack of affection. In our books, the two people know each other. There's a tenderness to it. If you don't want that, then it isn't for you.''

Anyone want to review one of these for us? Knowledge of romance genre and queerdom essential. Or not. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Buy from Brick so they can keep up their schtick
As you may remember, Brick is auctioning off some original manuscript pages donated by their authors in an effort to stave off the grim reaper for one more year. God bless em. If you can afford it, you should get in there. Brick is not only one of the good ones, it's Canada's best. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

I will line up in vat of napalm to read this
Fucking Oprah got me hooked on Michael Cunningham. Naw, just joshin. I found him myself one day in the Three Lives bookstore in the Village. The author, not the book.

The city's past features prominently in Cunningham's long-awaited new novel, Specimen Days, as well as its present and a distant future. For that matter, readers will be reminded of Cunningham's own professional past. Like his most famous book, 1998's The Hours, which slowly unveiled three interlocking tales of women connected across the decades by a single piece of literature -- Virginia Woolf's seminal Mrs. Dalloway -- Specimen Days is a triptych of discrete stories haunted by the American poet Walt Whitman and his life's masterwork, Leaves of Grass.

He was a nice fellah who seemed to know the staff. So I bought Home at the End of the World and then The Hours (which is about Three Lives... hmmm...) He's really very good. (discuss) (Posted by George)

One thinks the good doctor would have approved
Hunter S. beer labels. (From BoingBoing) (discuss)
(Posted by George)



Extremely Dead and Incredibly Bad
There's hope yet for all you very bad poets out there. Scottish eccentric Sir William Topaz McGonagall is feted every year in his home town.

For all his failings, McGonagall was a character and the Scottish psyche reserves a deep fondness and admiration for such people. The knowledge that he was indisputably worse than any other writer who put pen to paper can inspire as much national pride as the notion that Robert Burns was greater than William Shakespeare. The opening lines of McGonagall's obituary in the People's Journal, just after his death in September 1902, neatly summed up the feeling of the nation.

Poor old McGonagall has gone the way of all flesh, and the world is certainly the poorer in some respects. Whatever might be thought of his 'poetry', there never was any difference of opinion as to the amusement it afforded; and if the world did not always take him at his own valuation, it could never be disputed that he believed in himself, and sincerity is the first requisite in men, even if 'poets'.

Who is our equivalent? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Fire's Burning. Draw nearer
David Cowan, author and expert on famous Chicago fires stands accused of arson. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Gone over to the dark side
Two Brits caught stealing pre-release of Harry Potter. Naturally, Voldemort is at the bottom of this. One of the thieves was apparently brandishing a replica weapon. I love the way The Scotsman puts it:

Muscular Lambert, wearing a beige t-shirt and black jeans, is accused of possessing an imitation firearm, a replica handgun with intent to cause Mr Askill to fear unlawful violence.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Is Google politically biased?
Eric Jackson thinks so.

Jackson says Google's online ad guidelines make no mention of political content being disallowed.

He points out that while ads for the anti-Clinton book -- which featured images of the book's cover and pictures of the former first couple -- were deemed offensive, the company continues to run ads for overtly liberal advertisers with headlines such as "Hate Bush? So Do We," and "George W. Bush fart doll."

George Bush fart doll. Fart doll. Fart. Don't forget to listen to the sound samples. Especially number seven. Oh my, I think my bias is showing. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Shriver on winning
Lionel Shriver, winner of the Orange Prize for We Need to Talk About Kevin, says women can't compete.

Throughout the whole Orange prize experience I was confronted with evidence that women are uncomfortable with naked ambition, trained to have low expectations, embarrassed by head-to-head competition, and virtually obliged to act abashed when they win. In contrast to a certain other sex that will go unmentioned.
Another hunch: men who win big literary prizes are rarely asked if they are "surprised", much less required to be. On TV, I watched Alan Hollinghurst win the Booker for The Line of Beauty last autumn, and his lengthy acceptance speech was clearly prepared. I doubt that any journalist asked him afterwards if he was surprised. He was expected to have faith in his work, and so to be honoured and gratified but not embarrassed or shocked. And a man, even an American man in Britain, would much more readily get away with that "subterranean suspicion" remark without seeming brash. Men who believe in the value of their work and expect its quality to be rewarded are confident. Women of the same ilk are uppity.

Interesting theory. And I think largely right. But I do have to say, I've been doing the "I'm not gonna win" thing for years. Mostly with the lottery, but I do it. (discuss) (Posted by George)

NYPL goes digital... um, more digital... with sound... um... audigital...
Audio books for download. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Only in the world according to BoingBoing
Cory Doctorow, the sci-fi author and blogger, will be having a virtual book launch for his next book, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, "in" the world of Second Life -- a massively multi player gaming environment in which players can not only assume alter egos, but can actually "own" property, items, and money, and design and build the world around them. Some players have helped create an environment for his launch and are working on an Doctorow avatar. Let's hope they get the glasses and copyright outrage down. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Are we allowed to prosecute muscular people?
Brad Pitt's stunt double in Harry Potter trouble. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Haruki Murakami
Author of Kafka on the Shore, profiled in the NYT. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Roald Dahl museum
A museum dedicated to the life and works of the beloved children's author is set to open in his hometown. Mostly, this article is an excuse for me to ask whether you've seen the trailer for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That Depp is one fucked up bird. I love him. I took Kathryn's boys to see Star Wars on Sunday and two very depressing things happened. One, John Cusack appeared on a television monitor in the lobby and I spent about ten minutes trying to explain who he was and why he was so important to me when he'd never been in The Lord of the Rings, and two, there was this trailer for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which the kids thought was great, but didn't seem to understand the sheer power and range of Depp's ability. I restrained myself and said with a chuckle, "Oompah-loompah." Then we watched the suck-assed-yet-ten-times-better-than-the-last-two movie. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

TV Guide
Steve Almond has decided to give up literary writing in favour of script writing for television. It's about time. (discuss)
(Posted by George)


Chibikuro Sambo
Little Black Sambo defies catcalls of racism in Japan to become bestseller. This controversy raises its head every so often and I have always felt the book to be at least uncomfortable at most out of date and racist until I read storyteller/author Joan Bodger's account of storytelling to black kids in Nyack in the 1960s (A Crack In The Teacup). All they wanted was Little Black Sambo. A black hero or a racist representation? Is Sambo a bestseller in Japan because the Japanese are racist? It seems a bit far-fetched to me. Maybe kids just like Sambo because he is a brave child hero. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Jonathan Coe wins Samuel Johnson prize
For Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B S Johnson. Another eccentric depressive's life laid bare. How thin the line between genius and madman. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Wrong war poetry
Students in England were taught the wrong syllabus for their GCSE English exams. Is this a Monty Python skit? Could this be a clue as to why testing is inherently ludicrous and teaching to a test even more so? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Holy Book, batman
Is this a tit for a tat? Saudi Arabia clamps down on heathenism, that is, Christianity. More Holy Book desecration.

In the latest round of persecution, the kingdom's religious enforcers arrested eight Indian nationals for attending Christian fellowship meetings. ICC reports one of the prisoners, Samkutty Varghese, received a sentence of 10 months in prison along with 'numerous lashes.'

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Indigo goes generic
Watch out for their new line of green products. Folks, its another big corporate squeeze. President's Choice is busy putting small operation farmers out of business; what will this mean to the our small presses? Ack! Spread the word before it's too late. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Me so sick, me wake up late - you suffer with list of links instead of cynical commentary
Okay, why do I get all my colds and flus now, in a two week span of unbearable heat?

More later if I don't dissolve into a pool of phlegm. (Posted by George)


Norman Levine obit
Caldwell writes a fine obit on Norman Levine, who died at 81 on Tuesday. For more, much more on Levine see Canadian Notes and Queries, No. 60, 2001, John Metcalf's Quarterly. And here is Metcalf on Levine:

"He was around a great deal of technical talk all the time about technique, which he transferred from visual terms into terms of rhetoric, so he was absorbing the lessons of painters and ways of looking and forging his own style," said Mr. Metcalf. "He was forging a style that was quite new, fragmentary and imagistic. He was stripping ruthlessly down to the bone, the language got cleaner and cleaner. He denied all the conventional expectations of rhythms."

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Books 'til the cows come home
Couple in Connecticut convert their silo into a large library. Local farmers rally. Okay, there aren't any local farmers anymore. You're right. And we shouldn't be alarmed; we should be happy especially in light of the fact that all the other local barns and silos have been converted to fancy houses or video/DVD rental outlets. What's it good for, indeed! (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Huntynge and Fysshynge
and mass murderynge. Autographed Mien Kampf, one of those harmful books, fetches big bucks at an auction yesterday. But the angling book takes all. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Hostage who talked her aggressor down with a passage from a spiritual self-help book gets book deal. I'll let her speak for herself:

"I'm uncomfortable becoming the focus of this event, which left so many families in tragedy," she said in a news release. "But after prayerful consideration, I believe that God is calling me to use this opportunity to not only turn my own life around but also to inspire others to do that, too."

Jesus Christ Almighty on a stick. I'm sure it'll be very po-mo. A new form -- Christo-po-mo. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


Edward P. Jones wins
IMPAC award winner, The Known World, the story of a black slave owner, is a nuanced, fascinating portrait of a much suppressed historical reality. This book has been winning all sorts of accolades, not the least of which is the Pulitzer. And to boot, Edward P. Jones appears to be the real thing. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Terrorist bookshop browsers and library users safe
US Congress votes to repeal an anti-terror law that allows the government to gather information of what people buy from bookstores and borrow from libraries.

But Assistant Attorney General William Moschella lambasted the amendment in a letter to Congress.

"[Bookshops and libraries] should not be carved out as safe havens for terrorists and spies, who have, in fact, used public libraries to do research and communicate with their co-conspirators," he wrote.

All you inquisitive people, you think you're so smart. Line up against the wall and we'll see how smart you really are, huh?(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Contest of Fools
Guardian Unlimited has teamed up with HarperCollins with a new contest. It works like this. You answer a bunch of questions about your personal finances, contact information, and maybe one or two about literature, they give you a book, which you review for free. So, what do we win, though? Not even a pint? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Steve Jobs commences
This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Heartwarming. (Thanks cfg) (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


Hornby and suicide prevention
Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down -- hated by some, becomes Australia's answer to its depressive jumpers. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Book babes
Well, that's what Good Housekeeping calls them. They look like librarians to me but, forsooth, I know a few guys who go for librarians. I guess Handsome Book Ladies isn't as catchy. Dammit, I wanna be a book babe. How does one apply? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Armenian horses
A very old handwritten Armenian veternarian manual has been discovered and translated into German. I don't know why exactly this excites me. I like the drawing and it reminds me of Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

No. 1 Tourist Detective Agency
swarms Botwana.

In Mochudi, fans can visit a traditional home like the one the detective grew up in, complete with cow-dung floors and homemade beer brewing in pots out back.

Still, the books, for all their adoring legions of international fans, have never made much of a splash in Botswana.
"People here don't read novels a lot," said Gladys Mokhawa, a university lecturer. She hopes to get to the book series one day, she says.

Even staff members of Botswana's tourism office confessed they hadn't heard of the mystery-solving Botswana sleuth until recently.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Debating the merits of the Books Section
Do they matter anymore? Do buyers actually read them? Books sections should

cut through hype and act as a filter for literary culture, offering an objective appraisal of what is good and what is not. It's a nice theory, anyway. That books pages - and individual critics - very often fail in these noble aims is an ancient complaint, and there is never any shortage of new literary magazines being founded in the name of 'pure' criticism to counter the vendettas and hidden agendas perceived to exist in the mainstream reviewing culture.

Hell, I just scan them and read one or two reviews a week. Sad, but true. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The cold, cold nights at Casa del Foetry
A long look at the Foetry War so far, and its affect on the star-crossed couple at its core. For my feelings, see the words of William Logan. Actually, that's often the case in my life. Something happens and I just cock my thumb at William Logan. What he said. (Is it just me or does Janet Holmes come off like a screeching harpy here?) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Peggy on the whereabouts of angels and demons
Margaret Atwood defines her terms before dusting off the bullet points to defend SF.

If you're writing about the future and you aren't doing forecast journalism, you'll probably be writing something people will call either science fiction or speculative fiction. I like to make a distinction between science fiction proper and speculative fiction. For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can't yet do, such as going through a wormhole in space to another universe; and speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand, such as DNA identification and credit cards, and that takes place on Planet Earth.

I guess that makes Oryx and Crake (a good book, btw) a hybrid between speculative fiction and scifi... Cause, aside from the blue-penised weirdos, there were DVD players in the distant future (which is odd, because there won't be DVD players in about 10 years). (discuss) (Posted by George)

Hang in there, kiddo
Worried about how long it's taking you to get published? Here's a story that should make you feel... better. It took this poor lady eight years to get her book published. Eight years. That's 100 percent of her life. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Yo, ho ho and a bottle of rum

The economics of piracy.

Here’s what the rough economics of book-pirating look like: After numerous calls to Kinkos and awkward conversations with vanity presses and POD publishers (kids, and adults, should not try this at home), The Book Standard staffers determined that a potential Potter pirate would have to team up with a particularly unscrupulous—or clueless—printer in order to produce a significant number of illegal copies of a book. One estimate suggested that 10,000 copies of a book about the expected size of Harry Potter—672 pages—could be printed for less than $30,000, which puts the cost per book at $3.00. Shipping and handling is another matter, but could be figured at 10% of the production cost. Sell each copy at $10, and your criminal entrepreneur is raking in approximately a 200% profit.

But what about the budget for the coke and hookers? Where does that figure in? Oh wait. Are we talking about books? I thought we were talking about Royal Dalton figurines. That's one hardcore world you don't want to get mixed up in, mofo. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Neal Pollack: you can almost like him
An excerpt from Neal Pollack's memoir.* No, really, it's actually kind of fun and enlightening and he rags on himself and Eggers like you never got to to their faces. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Refusing the Queen

Authors refusing to bow to HRM? Don't you think she's used to this? Come on, I bet Phillip says no on a regular basis... Oh my! (Just close your eyes, Philly. Think of the old nickel and do it for England!) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

The Anti-Truss
The case for poor punctuation and slang: Weeds in the Garden of Words: Further Observations on the Tangled History of the English Language.

In a counter-argument to Truss's book, which sets out to preserve the traditional conventions of grammar, Kate Burridge, professor of linguistics at Monash University in Australia, even calls for the apostrophe to be dropped. "When I suggested on radio that the possessive apostrophe should be dropped from the language because people get it wrong so often, you would have thought that a public flogging would not have been a severe enough punishment," she said. "I received hate mail, and letters from the apostrophe support group, though not all of them used the apostrophe correctly."

God, that sounds hot. The Apostrophe Support Group. I bet their AGM turns into a big orgy every year. (discuss) (Posted by George)

9/11 art

An artist recreates falls from a building in an attempt to expressly mimic the falls of 9/11 victims from the top floors of the World Trade Center. Speaking as someone who was standing a couple hundred feet away watching these people hit the pavement, I can say without at doubt that the sick feeling this leaves in my stomach is how I know it's good art. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

The Golden Anne
First print of Anne goes fro $24G. Niiice. Now if only I could unload this unprinted final manuscript, Anne of Shadypines and the Thick-Wristed Nurses of Eastern Canada, I would be set. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Sartre is the new Sartre

Sartre's back and this time, he's not taking any prisoners. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

It depends on your point of view on dumpsters, really
In refurbishing it's library, the University of London decided to get rid of some books the old fashioned way. Garbage. Some people call books in a dumpster a tragedy. As a shameless poet always three seconds away from a dumpster dive, I call it a bonanza. (Here's some news: nobody has taken out Voltaire for 30 years...) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

John Ciardi
Profiled. (My favourite verse translations of Dante were done by Ciardi.) (From Bookslut) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

78 years late

No, not the advent of spray cheese... A library book.

Library spokeswoman Kathleen Hirooka said that even the 78-year absence is still well short of the Oakland record for returning a missing library book. The record was set in 1995 when "Ghetto Comedies" by Israel Zangwill was returned 88 years after it was checked out from the Oakland Free Library in 1907. A local contractor discovered the book in a house he was refurbishing. No late fees were assessed in that case either.

(discuss) (Posted by George)


Down with MFAs
A Moby opinion piece about the use of the ubiquitous institution of the MFA is already generating discussion in the letters page. While the piece itself is somewhat light, it raises some good points. I've always thought the system smacked of an Amway-like pyramid scheme. That said, were I down there, I'd probably be teaching in one instead of working a day job. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Elegant elf Atwood

Profiled in a LONG piece at the Herald. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

The (bad) luck of the Irish
Ireland is thinking of abandon tax breaks for writers. Pub owners are quaking in their boots. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Text message: books in need of revision

More on the sad state of textbooks and how they're held hostage by conservative states.

Today's most marketable textbooks are often not the work of committed scholars who want to explain the intricacies of their subject in the most engaging way. Instead, Whitman says, "textbooks are hurriedly put together by teams of hack writers from `development houses,' known as `chop shops.' Publishers are preoccupied with scrubbing textbooks of any references that adoption panels in California and Texas might object to."

Somebody think of the children! Wait, stop that. Stop thinking of the children. Think of the adults you'd like them to become. (discuss) (Posted by George)

It's not like you're losing a daughter... it's like your gaining a highly skilled assassin...
Oh. My. God. I promised myself I wasn't going to cry... Woo. I just can't help it. Congratulations to Peter and Elaine, married this weekend past in Toronto. My Lady Ninja finally has someone to head to the Little Ninja's Room with, for the powdering of noses, sharpening of tanto blades and dispersion of caltrops.

Pictured above: George "My-Head-Feels-Like-Minced-Meat" Murray on left, Jonathan "Anybody-Got-a-Tissue?" Bennett on right, and Peter "I-Can't-Believe-She-Fell-For-It" Darbyshire in centre. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Lost in translation
Mary Duncan on the fate of her Moscovian Shakespeare & Co. bookstore.

At that time, Moscow didn't have an English language bookstore that specialized in American books. We opened on April Fool's Day, snubbing our noses at the naysayers, who said we were fools to risk our money in an emerging economy. "You'll be run out by the mafia. No one has money for imported American books, employees will steal, and bureaucrats will extort bribes until you have to close," they warned. Of all the dire warnings, only the last one was true.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Sex and the burqa
The Almond, written by a 40-something North African woman going under the pseudonym, Nedjme is causing stirs in unlikely places. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

What do you get when you cross a scientist with a poet?
Money in the form of grants, that's what. Here's an ingenious new approach to research and development that, being open-hearted, I will not hoard, but will give unto you, my little children. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Harbourfront goes for the younguns
Whippersnappers Foer and Oyeyemi top the IFOA list this year, along with old fogies John Irving, Julian Barnes and Vikram Seth. Did people really think the festival would suffer from a change in leadership? (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Author turns writing into family business

Ironically, this NYT article reporting on the successful self-promotion of author seems unaware it's part of author's successful self-promotion.

"I'm a writer, but this is a business," she said. "You have to look at it in the way you would look at any business. You have to have honesty to the product. You have to meet consumer expectations. You give them value for their money and give them a product that they need. I don't see anything wrong with all these things. And I don't think it's a bad thing to meet consumers' expectations."

Survey says?! MAH! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Drinking deep of the TPO Kool-Aid

The Hardcover vs. TPO debate begun here in the spring, now from the publisher's perspective.

What really changed my mind about TPOs, though, was learning more about just how much the rules of hardback publishing have evolved. As I see it, the hardback format is actually making it more difficult for many books to find traction in the marketplace. With so many new hardbacks sluicing into stores each week, there’s intense pressure to keep them moving across the new-release tables. Even books with good placement and strong advance-order presence in stores will get pushed off the tables fairly quickly if they don’t sell in significant numbers. And once they lose their place on the tables, where does that stack of your new-release copies go? If you’re lucky, they might end up face-out on the shelf, where they can continue to attract attention. But the majority tend to get packed up and sent back. Then what?

(discuss) (Posted by George)

University presses: in no danger
University presses are publishing plenty of books and doing well-enough by sticking to their niche guns. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Own a piece of Quebec history
No, no, a good piece! A handwritten poem manuscript by Emille Nelligan up for sale. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

"Fat Britney Chosen for New Holostamps" "Million Robot March Attended by Exactly 1,000,000 Robots" "Final Installment of Frogger Trilogy Poised to Sweep Oscars"
The Onion has released a "2056" sci-fi issue this week that has to be read. Go have some Wednesday fun. (discuss)
(Posted by George)


Forget gay romance, try ousted dictator romances
Saddam Hussein's new novel, Damed One, Get Out of Here, is sure to be a bestseller somewhere.

A novel said to have been penned by ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein telling the story of an Arab warrior who saves a town from a plot to overthrow its ruler is to be published soon, a newspaper reported Thursday.

(disgust) (Posted by Kathryn)

Come hither, little kiddies
I'm not much of a Scholastics fan; many of the books they offer in their catalogues have toy tie-ins and those that don't are usually books you can pick up second hand or more responsibly at your local indie store (assuming these outfits haven't squashed it). Turns out they've been trying to dupe customers. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Roosevelt Franklin, heyheyhey
Remember that great Sesame Street riff? Well, this has nothing to do with it. Sorry. Eleanor Roosevelt's grandson is carrying a torch, though.

In an interview, Roosevelt said his grandmother's close friendship with several women could be explained as a product of the time, her Victorian upbringing and emotional distance in her own marriage, which was troubled by FDR's affair with Lucy Mercer, who had been Eleanor's social secretary.

It was not unusual for women to form close bonds and hold hands, he said.

"But if she were a lesbian, I say 'who cares?' It doesn't affect her accomplishments," Roosevelt said.

I think it would make the history more interersting, no? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Born in 1985?
How dare anyone? Oyeyemi stands up for integrity.

 For Oyeyemi, that may be proving she has her own voice. She calls comparisons to other young, female writers of color, such as Zadie Smith, ``lazy reporting,'' and says she chose to write about a child rather than someone her own age because ``it was a good way to avoid being hailed as a voice of a generation of young black writers.''

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

I'm melting! I'm melting!
My kids would be slipping on purpose. Snapple fails to enter Guinness Book of World Records with largest popsicle treat; instead a disaster ensues as sticky treat reacts to, uhm, weather! Actually, I think this is the perfect combo of Guinness and popsicle. It may not win a record but it sure looks refreshing. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Too sacred for comics?

Jewish leaders are upset about two comic books, Auschwitz and Yossel, graphically depicting the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Two new comic books confront young Germans with the most graphic accounts ever of their country’s Nazi past. “You think it’s just going to be another story,” said Andreas Munch, 11, “and then, pow!” German officers are shown screaming at prisoners as they pile up corpses retrieved from the gas chambers. “All this has to be converted into cinders and ashes by the evening!” says the speech bubble in the story Auschwitz by the French artist Pascal Croci.

A second comic book, Yossel, by the American artist Joe Kubert, shows a boy being electrocuted as he tries to escape beneath the wires of a concentration camp fence. No concession is made to the sensibilities of the young readers; the dead bodies are portrayed as graphically as if they were the fictional victims of Batman or some other superhero.
The fear in the Jewish community is that comic books could end up as collectors’ items for far-right activists. Crude anti-Semitic comics already circulate in the neo- Nazi underground in Germany and Italy. Camp commanders depicted as monsters in the comic strips are perversely often attractive to teenagers with ultra-nationalist sympathies.

While I can understand the fear of these becoming beacons for the criminally insane, I suspect the criminally insane already have no shortage of beacons and will be drawn to their life of darkness regardless of a comic book. But how ridiculous to think the form can't encompass the story. I can't vouch for these two books in particular, having not read them, but it seems to me the genre doesn't need to rise to anything, it's already there. It's understandable that older people would be suspicious of the form, I suppose. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Google as bestseller list
Galleycat points to an interesting use of Google to rate writers by how often they are searched. (Thanks, Ern) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

And speaking of Google...
Publishers are getting all twisted in the knickers about Google's project to scan books. Now they have obtained a copy of the contract between Google and a library and are quite frightened about certain copyright issues. Big publishers are screaming, "Won't somebody think of the children!?" But unfortunately it comes out as, "Won't somebody think of the paycheques?!" (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Agent Orange

Do women need their own literary prizes? Do women need their own literary prizes? Do women need their own literary prizes? Am I having a deja vu?

Until the 1970's, in most cultural fields, men created and women consumed. Today, across the West, women are well represented in art, architecture, music and film schools and account for a majority of students attending college literature and creative writing courses. Yet while women no longer regard the creative arts as a male province, when it comes to winning or even making the short list of prizes in fiction, poetry, art, architecture and music, they still fare poorly. Are there fewer women in these fields, are they less talented than men, or are women simply being denied equal opportunity?

Speaking of feminism: Hey, Shriver! Nice gams! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Just in time for the movie! What a coincidence!
The tales of the Brothers Grimm gets added to the world heritage list. As I understand it, this means you can't spit within 200 feet of a copy and must say, "Let it be so" in six languages on opening the cover of the book. The movie using their name looks Barfalicious! But I love Gilliam. So conflicted. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Solidarity forever

An effort is underway to unionize reality show writers. Yes, writers. You didn't think average people could be interesting on their own, did you? Of course, it's being filmed and will appear on Fox next year as "Pasty Eggheads Gone Wild!" (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Madonna disappoints
You have to have expectations to be disappointed. I've always thought the woman to be a sham. It must be hard when a fan interviews her and finds out for herself.

By now, big fan that I am, I am feeling rather depressed. Madonna's a keynote figure in our household - my husband's daughter Chloe dresses up as Madonna on the Jewish festival of Purim, and any other day she can get away with it. Desperately Seeking Susan is my all-time favourite movie. Bagging this interview with Madonna was like winning the lottery - only cooler.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Bookninja's first mention in Time
The 50 coolest websites. Naw, not us, but apparently we make The Complete Review cool. We're like the black, lesbian friend of cool websites. (Thanks, Michael) (discuss)
(Posted by George)


I come before you to stand behind you
Where do you stand on civil liberty? Is it a joke to even think one has privacy?

New polls show that a clear majority supports the Patriot Act. Meanwhile, the number of Americans staying up nights worrying about their vulnerable library records does not appear to be spiraling out of control. The public is willing to sacrifice some privacy to beat terrorism. If you disagree and expect to be taken seriously as a privacy champion, go after the IRS. To prove you are on the level, attack the hard targets, not the easy ones. And let the FBI get back to business.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Cult or culture?
An Irish councillor is getting high and mighty about an upcoming midnight launch of the new Harry Potter book.

Describing the specific time chosen for the launch as "suspicious", the DUP councillor said people would do better to buy a bible.

I'd like to see a Quidditch match with the Cult of HP versing (as my poetic boys put it) the Cult of JC. Settle this matter once and for all, I say. And, by the way, if anyone in Toronto is interested, Harbourfront & Mabel's Fables are doing a similar launch on July 15th. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

When less is more

Tired of weightlifting while reading? Maybe your books need to go on a diet. The NYT looks at the benefits of skinny books.

All books should be exactly as long as they need to be. There is no ideal length. But like mainstream Hollywood films, nonfiction books have shown a tendency to expand in recent years, for no particular reason. Directors cannot bring a film in at 90 minutes anymore. Likewise, my shelves are overloaded with nonfiction titles that, 30 years ago, would have been 225 or 250 pages. I'm not sure why. Fatter spines do look more imposing, and readers may feel, subconsciously, that $30 should buy them a thick, substantial volume. But time and again, I find, the extra weight comes from empty calories.

What an age we live in when such heart-pounding, mind-blowing criticism is being written. I stand speechless in the face of such deep thought. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Ismail Kadare
International Booker prizewinner, profiled. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

"Well, of course I knew it would be bad. I just didn't know that it would be that bad."
Christopher Hitchens reads The Da Vinci Code. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Battle royalle over Houellebecq
Besides the peculiar personality of a great French author, one of the more interesting things that keeps this longish profile of Michel Houellebecq humming is the duel between the several journalists on hand to interview him. No one wants to leave first in case they miss something. It becomes a reality show-like game in which the last one standing will get the best article.

Outside the restaurant, Houellebecq took a break to smoke a small cigar and talk about his literary rivals in France. “People claim to attack each other for ideological reasons, but it’s much more animalistic than that — it’s because they inhabit the same space.” Then he dropped into a martial-arts crouch and looked quickly from side to side. “They come from the left, they come from the right — it’s the kung fu littéraire!” he said, launching himself into a series of surprisingly deft swivels and kicks, dispatching his enemies one after another. But when it came to Bernard-Henri Lévy, the celebrated French philosopher known by his initials, “BHL,” Houellebecq transformed himself into a raptor out of a cheap Japanese horror movie and bit Lévy’s head off. “That was BHL, folks!”

By midnight, only the usual suspects, Christophe, Lipsyte and myself, joined this time by the leggy essayist and critic Cristina Nehring, were still at the table. Though he would be rising at dawn to drive back to San Francisco before flying home to Dublin, Houellebecq ordered another triple espresso and a further glass of red wine. A few minutes later, he asked for yet another espresso, and was told the kitchen was closed. Where else could we find some? he wanted to know. At this time of night, nowhere, he was told. Surprised by how early the city shut down, Houellebecq decided that it would be best for all concerned if we adjourned to his hotel room.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Nelligan makes good show
$23G good. Do you think he could have used the money in life? (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Coming soon to Ikea: the Hölyfukitsbig dinette set
Giant table a tribute to writerly loneliness. Hm, I'm pretty sure the number of Guinness cans on my little desk says the same thing. And no allen keys are required. (discuss)
(Posted by George)


Of course there's no guarantee on the silverware...
When Adrienne Clarkson took office, many books from the Governor General's Award library were missing from Rideau Hall. Clarkson and her husband have worked hard to restore these books over the years and will leave the post with a complete collection. Authorities won't speculate which GGs might have scoffed the books in question, but... come on... the majority of them were in French. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

The sad truth of the TV author
We all knew this was true, but it does us good to read it anyway. It's the sellable authors who get the deals, not the good books.

Today, the system works like this: Sometimes before signing a book, and certainly before presenting it to bookstore buyers, a publisher will gauge how promotable an author is. Can the author appear in public without freaking out? Will the author do well on television? Does the author have a platform -- a built-in audience around a specific theme? (Lazear said he hates that question most, because ''now it means, 'Do they have their own show on the Food Network?' '')
Publishers may exist for the sole reason of connecting books and readers, but the heavy emphasis on marketing makes many cringe. ''You work for years on a book that can really make a difference,'' the veteran publisher Jason Epstein said. ''You go talk to the marketing person. You pay her, but she really works for Barnes & Noble."

(discuss) (Posted by George)

You must be at least this tall to enter this reading...
Harbourfront tries its hand at a kiddie festival. (Hell, who can blame them. Anecdote 1: Last year I organized a reading in Guelph for a handful of prominent fiction writers and poets. There were some names you'd expect to draw a crowd there, people. Good solid lit festival names a small town like Guelph, ON should have been hopping to have. There were five readers. There were ten audience members. One of those was a bookstore clerk assigned to the reading. Days earlier Kenneth Oppel had 400 screaming kids hanging on his every word. Anecdote 2: Friday night I declined to venture out to see my good friend, and stellar poet, Jennifer LoveGrove read from her new book with man-of-the-hour Peter Trower. I was too tired and socially crabby. This morning I received an excited email from a fellow poet/dad: Thomas the Tank Engine is coming to Southwestern Ontario but tickets are going fast! Twenty minutes later I had spent $70 at Ticketmaster and was giddy with excitement on my clueless boy's behalf. I rest my case. (Oh, I'm gonna get such big hugs! It'll be like an Ondaatje poem, only with more ice cream.)) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Going digital, despite the two-finger typing
Many publishers, notorious holdouts in the tech world, are releasing books and excerpts digitally. Free internet books don't seem to hurt sales. In fact, they seem to help them. And the nerds can get involved too.

Digital text also allows fans of fiction to engage with the story in a way most readers can’t. Baen Books doesn’t encrypt its electronic text “in any sense whatsoever,” according to Jim Baen. Visitors to the site can read books on their browsers, they can download e-books, or they can download it to their desktop in Microsoft Word. “It’s great,” says Baen. “They can go in and mess with it. They can do what they want.” Doctorow is similarly enthusiastic about the modifications his fans make to his work, and asks them to notify him of their projects. (One of Doctorow’s readers in Georgia recently emailed him to tell him he’d converted a book into a format that allows him to transmit the story to his own eyeglasses. “He uses it to scroll text across his vision as he walks down the road,” says Doctorow.)

Awww. Nerds. Don't you just love em? (discuss) (Posted by George)

On screen, Ensign Crusher...
Is reading online better than on paper? It could be, says a California scholar. (You just knew he had to be from California.)

The reading experience online "should be better than on paper," Chi says. He's part of a group at PARC developing what it calls ScentHighlights, which uses artificial intelligence to go beyond highlighting your search words in a text. It also highlights whole sections of text it determines you should pay special attention to, as well as other words or phrases that it predicts you'll be interested in. "Techniques like ScentHighlights are offering the kind of reading that's above and beyond what paper can offer," Chi says.

ScentHighlights? Sounds like something that comes with weather like we're having here in Toronto. Ozone, old man, raw sewage. Highlights, all. (discuss) (Posted by George)

There, someone said it. Fucking liars. Canadians say they love reading books as much as watching TV, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of hours spent, the ratio tells the tale. 4.6:23. You lying Canuck bastards. No wonder you can't be trusted in the War on Terror. If I had a dime for every time I'd been lied to by a donut-scarfing, tuque-wearing, television-sucking socialist seal clubber, I'd have a buck sixty US$. (I'd say that makes up for about two years of inequity right there.) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

New Sappho poem discovered
Apparently it's about meeting someone at a coffee shop, talking intensely all night and moving in together the next morning. No, but seriously, it's about Greek stuff and, like, getting old. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

The reason surveys suck
Not just the ones that Canadians lie to. Sociologists are a rat pack of bullshitting con artists.

All social research is based on indirect experience; borrowed data; other people's accounts of what they are thinking and feeling. Direct observation of behaviour helps to bridge the gap but that still doesn't tell us why people are doing what they're doing. If I tried to question you directly about your motivations - why you married that person, bought that house, voted for that candidate - you'd probably offer me some plausible crumb in response. The more rational you made it sound, the less I'd be convinced.

The trouble with questions is that they always elicit answers, and you never know whether the answers only exist because the questions were posed. So when I really need to know, or at least be able to imagine, why people do things, I have to find out by means other than asking direct questions.

Hm, I've pissed off my country and my sociologist life partner. Can I go for the trifecta and alienate my parents? Read on and see! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Is there an Eco in here?
Umberto Eco defends the intellectual solidity of pop culture in his new book The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. Andre Mayer interviews him for CBC. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Confessional Lowell
What do you do when the poems reveal more about the poet than his letters? Enjoy them. Aw. The Letters of Robert Lowell just better be skinnier than the Collected. Ikea just doesn't make them strong enough for that level of confession. Who am I kidding? I'll buy them anyway... (discuss)
(Posted by George)

The end of the line for poetry...?
A new book tracking system in Canada will give publishers a realtime view of what's selling where. Sigh.

The new system will allow publishers to "see not just what's going on inside their publishing company, at their book store, but what's going on across the country – from every bookstore, from every publisher," said Michael Tamblyn, president of BookNet Canada, which is developing the long-awaited system.

At the moment, publishers decide how many books to print partially by gauging the orders from booksellers. While an upcoming title might generate buzz and command a large order, the buyers might not necessarily respond when the book is eventually released. This would leave a considerable quantity of the order unsold and these books would then have to be returned to the publisher.

"If you publish too many, if you print too many, if you use up too much of your money printing books and then they don't sell, you can lose your shirt," Tamblyn said.

Though already collecting data from booksellers, the system will officially be launched this fall. With the new system in place, publishers and bookstores can then react more quickly to inventory issues thanks to real-time data such as how many copies of a book have been sold (in each geographic region), the number of copies still on hand in stores and how many copies have already been ordered.

You know, a couple years ago, we toyed with the idea of starting a poetry bestseller list through Bookninja. A little research showed that if we didn't want to see that Rumi was leading the pack month to month, we'd have to separate out the Canadians from the rest of the world. A little more research scared us even further. What if the numbers came back and the bestselling book in Canada that month sold ten copies. Eeek. Sometimes it's better to just not know. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Keeping Harry fresh
Tupperware won't cut it. What happens when your fan-base grows up?

If the publishers of author J.K. Rowling's books have a challenge beyond how to spend the Harry Potter windfall, it is in trying to keep the series compelling for original readers who were 10 to 12 years old when Harry was introduced in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" but who are now heading off to college, jobs or even the war in Iraq.

Duh. Haven't you people learned anything? You move from Harry Potter Junior High to Harry Potter High to Harry Potter the Next Generation. And all the while Joey Jeremiah continues to wear that stupid fucking hat. (Distressing hat news: kids are wearing fedoras again. I see them on the streets. So menacing. Seriously, it's sad and cute at the same time. If the authorities didn't frown on such things, I'd just like to pinch their cheeks.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

MFA battle goes on
Moby's column about MFAs is still generating letters page discussion. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Pshah! Who are these nobodies?
The Guardian offers new short fiction by a bunch of hacks like Proulx, Ford, Kunzru, Tóibín, et al. (From PFW) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Here I sit, brokenhearted...

250+ year old can graffiti. The more things change... (I may have mentioned this before, but my favourite shitter graffiti was in a bathroom in the stacks at York University's library. Someone wrote the standard "Jesus Saves!" and someone else wrote underneath, "But Allah puts in the rebound!") (From BoingBoing) (discuss)
(Posted by George)


Hey, what year is this?
The Ontario government is slashing library funding. Egad. Shades of Torries past. Most notably affected is the inter-library loan system, which will essentially strand small town patrons, leaving them with spinner racks full of dog-eared John Grisham novels. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

A bad weekend in the Hundred Acre Wood...
Tigger and Piglet are dead. We all sensed it was coming. Apparently Tigger had gotten into the extract of malt and started getting belligerent again, bouncing people into the river and so on. Piglet had had enough of being intimidated and went for Christopher Robin's gun... Well, one thing led to another and there was Piglet up a tree with Tigger's skin over a branch and a Chinese black market chemist on the way to assess the value of the pelt. Pooh and Kanga tried to talk him down with a bowl of haycorns, but Piglet wasn't having any of it. He strutted back and forth and waved the rifle around. "Who's the fucking Very Small Animal now, eh Pooh?" he screamed hysterically. A SWAT sniper was finally forced to take him out around noon the next day. Pooh heard the gunshot ring through the hunny jar over his head. It was a sad day in the Hundred Acre Wood, especially for Eyeore. He'd miss insulting Piglet, but would miss Tigger even more. "It's as I suspected," he told Pooh, as he quietly filled in the pit full of spikes he'd dug outside his gloomy place. "Won't be needing this anymore. Some of us get revenge and some of us don't. That's all there is to it." A memorial service will be lead later this week by Owl before the corpses are dropped into the lazy river from the bridge at the edge of the forest. Bets will be taken on which one will come out first on the other side. (Luckily, we've never let our boy near anything with the Disney logo on it. (I know, isn't Thomas now owned by Disney at the top? Eesh.) So the only voices he knows for Pooh and the gang are the ones we've made up together. Still, kind of freaky, eh? I'd be scared if I were one of the other cast members...) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

And also because, you know, it probably sucks
Jordan bans Saddam's new novel because it might harm relations with Iraq. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Poet laureate bitter about high school
Aren't all poets? Andrew Motion bemoans the lack of poetry in the British high school curriculum. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Harry Potter advance orders have broken one million
The exact same number of literary suicides reported around the globe this morning. Meanwhile, pre-release orders of my next book have met their own milestone and topped zero. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

It's the tuxes that turns 'em

Father penguin loves Daddy penguin. The gay penguin book. I laugh, because penguins are always to be laughed at in a very loving way, but I know we'll have this book in the house in about a week. (From Bourgeois Nerd) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Pierre Berton with an attitude?
Not to disagree, but it should be pointed out that Pierre Berton was Pierre Berton with an attitude. Wil Ferguson wins the Berton award. (discuss)
(Posted by George)


I am alone this week, with Peter still on honeymoon and Kathryn on vacay in Nova Scotia, so things are slow in the Bookninja sweatshop. We're off Friday for Canada Day too (like Independence Day, but the fireworks are illegal and represent pretty colours instead of the the rocket's red glare). Plus, nerd that I am, tonight I am getting my telescope fixed and I can barely think of anything else. (You know, those kooky scientists are going to smash a probe into a comet this weekend. Coooool. Heheh... probe.) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Why bother?
An American book tour prompts an Israeli writer to wonder if it's worth it. (From PFW) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Le Foetry
Ladies and gentlemen, the disease is officially international. The French awards system is corrupt. Call WHO and CNN to start the alarmism proper. And in what's likely related news: thieves! (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Parochial Britain?
Has he even been to Canada? (discuss)
(Posted by George)

A Brick through the window at Ebay

The problem is, it's very difficult to trust anything with Michael Redhill attached to it... That's sarcasm, people. Redhill and Brick and great Canadian literary institutions. Please go support them if you can and pump up the bids. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

I have a confession to make...
Adam Kirsch's book on the confessional poets will probably not make it on to my shelf despite the good review. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Book expo wrap up
In the Toronto Star. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

What's in a name?
If you're a writer, about this much. (From Maud) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Tea and cucumber with Eliot
Scottish poetry gets a second go round with the man who originally collected it for Eliot's Faber. (From Moby) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

I know I've mentioned it before, but if you haven't checked out Melville House's line of novella reprints, you should. I've been getting them as they come out and they're lovely, well-made, and cheap. Further, they make a nice uniform library for your shelf (ie, they look great). Go check them out. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Stranger in a strange land...er...Ohio
Steven Hayward takes Cleveland with is bawdy "Jewish" wit. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

The Trower Power Hour
Peter Trower profiled. Tears shed during interview. (discuss)
(Posted by George)


Poetry as kevlar
Is it true that poetry "makes nothing happen"? Not in fiction, at the very least.

IF the only thing between you and the business end of a sawed-off shotgun is a copy of ''Immortal Poems of the English Language,'' then the distinction between art and life is about to become painfully clear. Or is it? To judge from two recent novels, Ian McEwan's ''Saturday'' and Vendela Vida's ''And Now You Can Go,'' it might be easier to save your bacon with a neatly deployed rondeau than anyone ever suspected. In each book, an impending act of violence is prevented not by the arrival of a SWAT team but by the recitation of a poem -- and not a ''spoken word'' poem, or a pop lyric masquerading as a poem, but a regular old poem poem. One of the poems is even . . . Victorian.
So why do these two talented writers go to such lengths in order to show poetry soothing the savage breast? And why do these implausible scenes resonate for so many reviewers and readers? The answer has less to do with what poetry is than with what we think poetry ought to be doing -- which is to say, something useful. Auden may have claimed that ''poetry makes nothing happen,'' but dedicated consumers that we are, we're not buying anything so pointless. Instead, we prefer to believe that poems are like machines -- you pay your money, you press the right buttons, and they work their magic. If you aim them at a bad guy, they're almost as good as a can of Mace.

David Orr. Gosh, I like that man. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The saviours of Iranian fiction
Women novelists. Hm. And here I thought it was the election officials. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

The White Verdict
Two critics debate whether Patrick White was ever worth reading. Wha?!? Um, as I understand it, this would akin to going to England and asking whether Shakespeare was worth reading. Or America and Hemingway or Canada and the back of the Opeechee Gretzky rookie card. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

The coming digital world

A good, if brief, point is made here. By 2020, most of the research material world-wide will be digital. But preserving digital material is in some ways harder than preserving physical material. There is some worry among archivists about the permanence of our current storage methods. (Blogs: the soup-tin labels of the future.) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

A non-Believer
Jessa Crispin's Book Standard column deals with the recent dustup between Eggers and former scion-turned-repentent-recluse Pollack. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Left Behind: the video game
You just knew it had to come to this. THIS is the real apocalypse. (The name of the series, Left Behind, always makes me think of half an ass.) (From BoingBoing) (discuss)
(Posted by George)

In a nutshell...
Here's what's wrong with America. Shake! Tremble! Cower! The people who voted for this list are the people who have a finger on the button (and another on the remote).

In order, the top 10 greatest Americans selected are:

1. Ronald Reagan
2. Abraham Lincoln
3. Martin Luther King
4. George Washington
5. Benjamin Franklin
6. George W. Bush
7. Bill Clinton
8. Elvis Presley
9. Oprah Winfrey
10. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Um, yeah. The pro-gay, anti-slavery dude comes second to the drooling warmonger. Sounds about right. American intellectuals (you know who you are), rise up! It's time for pitchforks and torches. This list is the dark experiment conducted in the mansion the the cliff. It's the reason to say, Nay! Fie! Let's take back our fair land from list-making couch jockeys! (discuss) (Posted by George)

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