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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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November 2005:



Google backs down from all-powerful authors
Says it'll get to them later.

In a move seemingly designed to assuage publisher's fears, as it faces continued criticism and two potential lawsuits, Google said Monday night that it would initially focus on digitizing "older" books when it resumes the Print for Libraries project in November. The clarification was posted on the search firm's corporate blog.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Writing machines on Flickr
This group pool has lots of pics of typewriters, some practical, some arty. If that's not enough for you, then there's more. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Backing up your manuscripts is a good idea
Backing them up in one place is not.

Kris Lackey, an English professor at the University of New Orleans who has published stories in several literary magazines, thought he had hurricane-proofed his fiction. He saved manuscripts four ways -- paper, hard drive, diskettes and a flash drive -- and boarded his home against the wind. But when he evacuated, he left his papers and computer equipment on tables and bookshelves, not nearly high enough to withstand the 11 feet of water that engulfed his house near the west breach in the London Avenue canal...

In early October, Mr. Lackey donned respirator, goggles, headlamp, elbow-length gloves and steel-shank boots to inspect his house. He found "manuscripts floating in muck" that were unreadable as well as his corroded flash and hard drives. He sent the flash drive to a Florida data-recovery firm, but it was unable to recapture his prose.

Remote servers, people. If nothing else, dump your work into a gmail account. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Emails and letters: not that far apart
Apparently, we deal with emails very much the way we used to deal with paper letters. Hm. I don't remember rolling my eyes and feeling buried by obligation back when I was analog. Of course, I was about 10 last time I was analog. I also don't remember all the porn flyers, but I might have blocked those out. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Why Amazon is the best thing to ever happen to books
Besides, you know, the printing press. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Maud on the patriot act
Maud updates us on some changes to the Patriot Act. Without trying to too alarmist, remember that we in Canada quite often inherit US policy. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Book thieves finally get the press they deserve. (dicsuss) (Posted by George)

Where's Watterson?
Um. Um. At the barber grooming that push broom? I so did not want to see a picture of my hero. Call me shallow. Shallow. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Dumbing down Apartheid?
Nelson Mandela has launched a series of comic books that looks suspiciously like those Watchtower publications about the Saints. Propaganda or outreach? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Inaugural TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
Twenty smackers goes to Marthe Jocelyne with double honorable mentions to Ken Oppel. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

To browse: shifting meaning in shifty times
The second hand book browser, panty sniffer and all out geek is a dying breed, folks. Or at least a dying public breed. They can be found, by the stealthy geek-watcher, transfixed to the screen, clicker hand tensed. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Ooooh, a treasure hunt
Is this a marketing ploy? Buy this book of poems and try to figure out where the poet is hiding. Bring a gun, just in case he's grouchy.

A new book of poems by war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic features verse about rugged mountains, thick forests and wild animals - possible clues about where the indicted wartime Bosnian Serb leader could be hiding.

Come on all you cryptic crossword puzzlers; do your thing. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Google news... Noosle Goos?

Maybe I should just create a static part of the page that you can click on to see the latest developments in the Google saga. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Those damn BC writers' mafias
More news from the distant, rainy west, where the writers are all fishing salmon and saving the rainforest by strapping themselves to trees. Oh, and forming writing groups that have statistically dreamy success rates. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Meta Marchand
Star Books editor Philip Marchand interviews himself about his new book..

So you've just been promoting your new book, Ghost Empire: How The French Almost Conquered North America. You poor author, having to do a book promotion tour. Tell us how wearying it was to the sensitive soul of a writer like you.

Don't be sarcastic. You and I both know there are few things better than staying in a good hotel room that somebody else is paying for.

(From The Quill) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Devil Wears Mauda!
Maud Newton is angry about the revisionist writing being done in the name of "feminism" to justify chick-lit. I think these people have accidentally used the word "feminism" when they meant "effeminism". (It IS a word!) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Lobsters and threadworms
We don't usually link to reviews, but the first two-thirds of this piece acts as an interesting attempt at an even-handed introduction to the primary artistic division in Canadian poetry (though the metaphor does get stretched a little thin, bravo for taking it right to the end). (discuss) (Posted by George)


Amazon to sell content of books online
Amazon has just announced it will allow people to purchase online access to complete books or individual parts. Customers who buy physical books will also be able to upgrade to include online access to their books. I haven't heard anything about this before, although I guess it's a logical extension of their Amazon Shorts program. I'm wondering how they're working this out with publishers.
 (Posted by Peter)

Collapsing Jared Diamond
Someone really has issues with Diamond's views of history.

He would like us to believe that the decline and fall of the Maya was a tragic loss, and a sadly overgrown sculpture in the jungle ornaments the cover of his book Collapse.
But I don’t care if the Maya civilization did collapse. I don’t think we should shed a single retrospective tear. It might be interesting to know how or why it fell—whether from war or drought or disease or soil exhaustion—but I don’t much care about that either. Because quite frankly, as civilizations go, the Mayan civilization in Mexico didn’t amount to much.

(From Jeff) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

A few days ago I posted about the Flickr typewriters group. For those of you who prefer more old-fashioned writing instruments, here's a couple of Flickr groups about Moleskines. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Fiction fiction
Apparently there is a TV show called "Lost" that intends to feature a mysterious manuscript found on an island. They'll take the product tie-in to a whole new level when the manuscript appears as a book in stores near you. Sweet merciful crap. I just have this vision of some poor struggling genius standing in front of a table at Indigo, head hung, weeping, shakily pulling a rusty razor blade from his pocket.... (discuss) (Posted by George)

He should hang around here for a bit

John Banville, of The Sea fame, likes a good fight now and then. The Booker Man's been trashed as not-commercial enough and not as good as Ishiguro. But he's quite happy to be at the centre of it all.

"Frankly, I am gratified to see myself vilified, and the jury being vilified," he said happily over lunch recently. "It cheers me up. I must have done something right to annoy so many people."

(discuss) (Posted by George)

IFOA roundup
Skinny author Ibi Kaslik reports, gossip-column style, on her IFOA adventures in the hideously redesigned eye weekly. I'm guessing 1997 is retro cool now for eye. (discuss) (Posted by George)


One of the most successful Chinese novelists in years is trying to keep his identity on the DL.

According to Mr. Jiang, Chinese civilization is the product of two strains, nomadic and agricultural, and each has its symbols, the wolf and the dragon. For the author, the wolf is akin to the soul of the Mongolian grasslands, a worthy rival to man as well as a symbol of heaven itself. "You can look at the wolf and dragon as opposites," he said. "The dragon represents autocratic emperors. The wolf means freedom, the mother of democracy, and China opposes freedom more than anything else."

Um, no wonder. Let's hope he doesn't end up in prison again. And: Jack London? Oh, I guess the wolf thing. Just jarring in that list. (discuss) (Posted by George)

S&S's Korda retires
Michael Korda moves over and makes room for... (discuss) (Posted by George)

I wanted to link to this yesterday, but I somehow forgot. It's quite unusual for Seamus Heaney to slip my mind. But anyhow, here he is, chatting about translating Antigone. (discuss) (Posted by George)

SF writing guide
BoingBoing points us to a free guide for sci-fi writers. Free! I like free! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Dude, I am so voting for you as he-man of the year
A guy kills with his bare hands a five-point buck that broke into his home. I'm pretty sure he has to be a Canadian. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Shameless self-promotion
I have a new chapbook available from one of Canada's finest small hand presses, Frog Hollow. I just received copies in the mail today, and they're drop-dead gorgeous (so I'm told - the books are at home and I'm at work! Torture!). So, if you too would like to drop dead, please feel free to buy a copy here. They're expensive, as far as small books go, but it's an extremely limited print run and sure to be a collector's item among people foolish enough to collect Canadian poetry. Plus, you'll be supporting a great small press venture. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Agenda 1: Short experimental films by W. Burroughs
If you happen to be in New Orleans next Thursday, you might want to catch this.

"They're pretty experimental," Broussard said about Burroughs' films. In his novels, Burroughs used a cut-up writing technique where he would cut manuscripts into fragments, put them in a hat, draw them out at random and piece together a new narrative. "His film representations are related to his novels."

The Velcrow Ripper night showing Scared Sacred is sure to be interesting, as well. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Agenda 2: Marlene we loved you
A whole bunch of awful poems discovered in a suitcase will be published and we will buy them because of her long, gorgeous legs, and those oh-my-god eyebrows.

Behind the doors of a Paris hotel room, Dietrich would use Noël Coward’s old portable typewriter to tap out poems to dead lovers including Ernest Hemingway and Yul Brynner, as well as fellow stars such as Ronald Reagan.

Oh, the frisson of poems to dead lovers. Creepagetti. Hey, wait a minute – when did Reagan die anyway? Wow. Dietrich was writing poems to a dead Reagan twelve years before his death. Maybe he really was a puppet after all. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Agenda 3: Comics against suicide
The Healthy Aboriginal Network will be publishing comics aimed at educating native people about mental health. And it looks like the art is good. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Agenda 4: Think of the children, Google
The Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity is very irritated with Google's new access initiative. It holds the copyright to Barrie's Peter Pan in perpetuity.

The charity says that royalties earned from Peter Pan stand at the "very core" of its fundraising efforts. Google has angered the charity by making a text of the children’s classic available online as part of the Google Print Library Project, a scheme to make thousands of books available on the net, but which has already attracted controversy from publishers and authors' organisations in Britain and the United States.

Being generous just got even more complicated, didn't it, Mr. Google? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Agenda 5: Addicted to books
Conceptual artist Hans Winkler has created Nova, a reading room at the Vancouver Public Library, comprised entirely of book picks by East Vancouver's drug addicted population.

In the case of Winkler’s Nova Library, he can be said to create an aesthetic through the collage of not only the texts, but also through playing with the structures of the larger communities and institutions involved in the project. The addiction haunting the DTES runs parallel to the addiction that often haunts writers everywhere, and is one of the main structural components of this relational aesthetic engaged by Winkler. In Berlin a lot of the writers are on drugs, he says, and the connection between writing and drug addiction does seem to claim a universality spanning cultures and time. Like Li Po, my favourite ancient Chinese poet, who writes incredibly nuanced accounts of his various drunken states.

Move over, Oprah. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Weekend Edition:

The new era of the e-book?
The recent news about Google Print and Amazon Pages has everyone wondering if it's actually time for digital books.

A FEW years ago, at the height of the dotcom boom, it was widely assumed that a publishing revolution, in which the printed word would be supplanted by the computer screen, was just around the corner. It wasn’t: for many, there is still little to match the joy of cracking the spine of a good book and settling down for an hour or two of reading. But a recent flurry of activity by big technology companies—including Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo!—suggests that the dream of bringing books online is still very much alive.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Guessing the Giller
Bet on the jury, not the book.

Hard-core readers of Giller tea leaves pay serious attention to the composition and literary tastes of the jury. Or as Swan puts it, "Once you pick the jury, you pick the winner." In the past, the jurors have tended to confer the prize on writers with long track records, the so-called lifetime-achievement factor.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The blog. (From the Rake) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Can't figure out how to sell those last copies of your book?
Get yourself invited to a book club. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Touring the Bat Cave
Chip Kidd's apartment. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)



A Flickr photo pool featuring the answer to life, the universe and everything. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Antique books on Flickr
This is an interesting intersection of technologies. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

The Penguin Podcast
A fortnightly podcast featuring the likes of Jamie Oliver and Zadie Smith (not together, unfortunately). (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

RIP: John Fowles
Novelist Fowles, dead at 79. (discuss) (Posted by George)

He's baaaaack!
MobyLives is back, with MobyLives Radio. Holy shit! Var nice! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Rip out the spine, sell the pages
Easier to use as toilet paper that way. More on Amazon's new offer. I can just see myself hunkering down with the exciting last two pages of the world's great novels. Mind you, this may be a solution to the doldrums average book of poetry. Someone would do well to set up a site identifying the two good poems in each book and their corresponding page numbers... (discuss) (Posted by George)

What are those fish that attach themselves to the underbellies of sharks?
Ramorays or something? This is the publishing equivalent. (discuss) (Posted by George)

God bless the UK
You know, internetalationally speaking, those Brits are way ahead of us. The BBC is working to put its entire archive online and the British Library is scanning everything in too. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Readers or objects?
Which would you prefer?

He asked poets whether they would prefer “a beautifully produced physical book, with the guarantee that it would find two thousand engaged readers” or “no physical book, but the guarantee that, through various means of publication—anthologies, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and so on—the poems would find an audience of twenty thousand engaged readers.” Bednarik included the following caveat: Either choice has equal effect on job security and advancement, review attention, and financial rewards.

“To be honest, the results were startling to me,” he says. “Everybody I talked to early on wanted a physical book and was content with a finite readership. I simply couldn’t believe it, because my impulse is to expand readership.”

Can't we have both? Can't we all just get along? (From GoodReports) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Those leprechauns are so fucking lucky, hey?
Separatist who turned down GG gets a Bloc cheque for over double the amount. Cue the fey fiddle music. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Folk you, Potter!
Those folk musicians suing against the release of Harry Potter because a fictitious band in the movie has a similar name have lost. This is a frightening development because it is bound to destroy the band's livelihood, from which they stood to make HUNDREDS of dollars each year. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Lisa Moore

Interviewed. (discuss) (Posted by George)

A little bit of Monday-morning wisdom, beamed from age 12
This young girl is growing up the right way. (Thanks, Art) (discuss) (Posted by George)


Yann Martel and his novel-in-progress about the Holocaust
This sounds so surreal –Yann Martel reading to conservative Jews in Israel from his new book featuring a donkey and a monkey as stand-ins for the hardworking Jew and the clever Jew.

Martel acknowledges his identity as an outsider in writing about the Holocaust. He is neither Jewish nor has he experienced tragedy. "I'm going in territory emotionally sensitive to Jews," said Martel. "[But] I think it's the role of the artist to put on different costumes and display the results to the reader."

Anyway, "it's the non-Jews who have to know about it," he said. "There's no danger of Jews committing a Holocaust. Barring massacres like Deir Yassin it's mostly non-Jews who have committed massacres." During the 1948 war, Jewish soldiers killed over 100 unarmed Palestinian men, women and children in the village of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Hot water. That's all I can think of to say. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Finally, the voice of reason
Moms in Fargo are up in arms about a book they want to have removed from the curriculum. No, it isn't a depiction of same-sex marriage. No, it isn't swearing. It's just that it's kinda bloody and rather badly written. How the heck a Grisham book got on a literature course is beyond me. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

The Giller party
Not invited but want to know what the shortlist is wearing? Finished reading the shortlist and ready to read the books that most inspired these fab novels? Curious about what the winner will do with the money? Here you go. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Simon Armitage gives the skinny on his new play
I saw Armitage this year reading to a small cadre of poets and poet lurkers (I am the latter) at Nicholas Hoare in Toronto. He's the cutest Beatle that never was. Here he is interviewed and rev iewed by a man who hated his last play.

[In] my review of the play I resorted to some pretty blunt rebukes: "gibberish" and "piffle" were two of the put-downs used. Ouch.

"That hurt," Armitage concedes, before shrugging with gentlemanly generosity: "You've got your job to do, I've got mine." If I'd been him, I'd probably have thumped me, but his long stint as a probation officer before becoming a full-time poet has no doubt left the 42-year-old with an aptitude for anger-management.

We need more humanity in our review scene on this side of the pond. I'd like to gather all my lovely reviewers in a roomand just, you know, chat. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Awards and sales
Musical words, are they not? And they're two great tastes that taste so great together you can't really have one without the other, can you? Not in the lit fiction market. (discuss)

Publicity surrealism
The strange, do-what-it-takes life of the book publicist.

Miraculously, it turned out that David Letterman has a passion for wild life and for Yellowstone in particular. Knowing that, his booker immediately wanted Renee. One catch: I, two months into the job, had to book a wolf to appear with Renee on the show. “Yes, sure, I can get you a wolf by next Tuesday” was clearly the only possible response to the request. So I hung up the phone and did what any professional in my position would do: I began complaining loudly. So loudly that a managing editor overheard me and mentioned that she had a nephew visiting her who had a passion for wolves, and that she was planning on taking him to a nearby wolf conservation center. Maybe they had a media wolf? A Media Wolf? Who knew?

Do-what-it-takes? There are publicists who do-what-it-takes? Sigh. (discuss)

Is there anything they can't prove? Apparently, men get more play at major magazines than women. I just can't believe it! Surely those days are long gone. That would be like saying we didn't solve that whole acid rain thing a few years back! Oh, and this just in as well: people bleed when cut. (discuss)

More Fowles obit
NYT. (discuss)

A good story
Is hard to find. The saga of Michael Finkel, as told by Paul Maliszewski. Interview follows. Really interesting stuff. And of course, there's a new podcast at Moby too. It feels so exciting and pirate radio like. I wish he would add shortwave static and squeals to it. (discuss)

This happened to be the first thing I clicked on this morning after waking up from a nightmare of terrorism
I feel much better now. Kind of high, in fact. There's nothing better than satire that goes to the edge and dangles its legs into the great beyond of poor taste. That any satire striving to this edge might find a mainstream audience gives me shivers. I am considering getting cable again, just so I can watch the Family Guy. (discuss)


Jeff Bezos interviewed
CNET talks to Amazon's CEO about the company's new Amazon Pages program. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Library of Babel Google
Salon offers an insightful history and analysis of the Google Print program. (From Boing Boing) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

How much?
Forbes looks at how much writers like J.M. Coetzee, Dave Eggers and Joan Didion made in terms of gross domestic sales last year. Oh yeah, there's also something about their writing styles. Or something. You probably shouldn't read this if you didn't win the Giller last night. Or even if you did. (From Maud) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Bergen wins Giller
Well, people, what do y'think? Did the best book win? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Afghan poet beaten to death

UN condemns "sexist" killing. Is sexist really the right word here? (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Irish literary pub crawl
Yeah, but we crawl ten pubs after the rest of you are already on all fours. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Is it time to change the copyright laws?
The Creative Commons movement gets some love in the Guardian. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Another journalist goes to the wall for her sources
"Redbook Reporter Refuses To Disclose Source Of Recipe". (discuss) (Posted by George)


Allama Iqbal's 129th birthday celebrated
Pakistani poet, the darling of the subcontinent, is hailed in this article. Do you lose sleep over your poetry? And imagine inspiring legislators to strategise.

Narrating the condition Allama Iqbal would undergo while contemplating poetry, Javed Iqbal recalled his father would not sleep unless poetic verses dawned upon him and he narrated or noted these down.

This was how he would be -- spending many sleepless nights.
As many as 6,000 of his verses are in Persian while the remaining ones were in Urdu.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Buying and selling used just got easier
Abebooks buys Bookfinder. Besides the obvious argument that there won't be any more store-fronts, no more eureka moments amongst the dusty shelves and charming chaos, I love Abe. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Ex-gang leader, Nobel nominee set to be executed
Stanley Tookie Williams is sentenced to die December 13. He wants freedom pie for his last meal.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has nine days to file papers opposing clemency. Schwarzenegger can then schedule a hearing before the state Board of Prison Terms, which would recommend whether he should reduce Williams' sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

Schwarzenegger has denied both clemency applications he has considered, most recently that of Donald Beardslee of Redwood City, who was executed by lethal injection in January for the murders of two young women in 1981.

Doesn't look great, here. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Auster over-edits

Paul Auster has just published a poetry book.

Auster loyalists are familiar with the red notebooks in his novels and essays, but "there's blue all over my work" too, the author points out. "Of all colors, blue and green have the greatest emotional range," argues William Gass in On Being Blue. In a 1979 poem, "Facing the Music," Auster, who admires Gass's book, begins with: "Blue. And within that blue a feeling/of green."

Sorry, I thought he meant editorial marks at first but then realised he's gone absolutely mad. Mad! (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Dear France,
Look what the British are doing. Take a page, s'il vous plait.

An Eid-ul-Fitr celebration was held at Chesham's Elgiva Theatre last Friday, welcoming 150 people in a cross-cultural evening of entertainment and awards.

Children from Chesham Mosque's Community Deen Group read Arabic poems, prayers and sang a song, and the Khayaal Theatre Company told tales of wisdom from the Muslim world.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Hitler poem causes controversy
Who'd have thought? Well, this one, written from Hitler's perspective, was written by a 14-year-old and included in a UK school kids anthology. So a few people are angry. This is an important chance to teach kids about the power of art, history, and voice. What will the lesson be? (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Beland Honderich
Toronto Star publisher, dead at 86. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Pentameter and theatre
Glyn Maxwell, who's poetry I generally adore, riffs on how he writes for theatre.

Verse drama. There's an effective way to shed a thousand readers at a stroke. It's the one phrase I beg producers of my plays to omit from the publicity material. I write plays in verse because I trained as a poet, and I've been writing in loose pentameters for a quarter of a century. As Hamlet said of his imminent duel with Laertes, "I have been in continual practice", and I can write more powerfully and clearly in lines than I can in sentences. And since I, like most writers, believe I exist primarily to tell stories, I'll tell them in the best form I know. They are plays.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Earliest Hebrew alphabet found
Or as my two-and-a-half-year-old son, who has an inexplicable interest in Hebrew (really, he's going to be taking lessons with his little friend), would say: "Erweeist Eeeeebrew Awphabet founded"... (discuss) (Posted by George)

The quest for cool
Where do cool and art intersect?

Cool is a word that often crops up when describing art or artists. It’s always been a term that has bugged me. The minute something is described as cool, my instincts tell me that it is on the wane. For me, being creative is being prepared to make a fool of myself — in a nutshell, the opposite of cool. In my experience embarrassment is not fatal. Coolness somehow implies that there is a right thing to do, whereas creativity is mistakes.

Right here, baby. They intersect right here. At the corner of George and Murray, oh yeah. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Speaking of cool: I'm a star!
I'm guest chatting on Moby radio this morning, talking about the Giller. God bless any American who cares! DLJ for president! (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Speaking of stars: this ain't cool
A little Pam and Tommy. No videos, don't worry. Or worry, depending. (Um, but do you think the opening comparison to Flight 292 was a bit of a poor choice?) (discuss) (Posted by George)


Literary Darwinism
The strongest will survive. The weakest will fall into the grant trap. Those in between will be bred out of existence and forgotten. (discuss) (Posted by George)

What do awards say about your achievement?
Not all that much, says Joseph Epstein in the WSJ. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Was it only a matter of time?
Dean Koontz pulls an Orson Scott Card... out of his ass. Now it's not only his books that suck, it's his personality too! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Patenting plot
Maud Newton reminds us of last week's BoingBoing bit about the fella trying to patent the plot of his story, and reader Edward writes in to say the genre writers are in on it too. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sex, Lies and Paperweights
The lies that writers tell themselves, and how Americans are better at self-deception than Canadians. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Settling the conflict between your inner conservationist and your inner dead tree-reader. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Xenu (bork bork bork!) in 65 languages
Scientolocaust Hubbard now Earth's most translated author, but loses out to Jerry Falwell on six other planets. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Third dimension an illusion
Which means authors of what reviewers refer to as two-dimensional prose haven't wasted any effort struggling for something that doesn't exist
. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Moby's column this week
Is a previously unpublished joke by Kurt Vonnegut. Not bad. (discuss) (Posted by George)


If only they could give her the money
A Phillis Wheatley letter, dated 1776, written from the slave-poet to a her friend, Obour Tanner, is set to go on the auction block.

Swann is confident it is genuine. "We not only had it authenticated by a Wheatley scholar, but also analyzed the handwriting, the paper and the ink," Mr. Markowitz said. "You can tell a period letter by the way the ink lies on the paper, the fluid style and the paper itself."

Swann will put the letter on view on Thursday at 104 East 25th Street and estimates it will sell for $80,000 to $120,000. (Christie's sold the last Wheatley manuscript that came up at auction - a four-page, 1773 poem titled "Ocean" - for $68,500 in 1998.)

Nothing more depressing than posthumous fame. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Time to start writing poetry
First sign was that fine, jealousy-making chapbook Frog Hollow just published by some no-name, George Murray. Then, this. Seems like the Brits are getting all Romantic. Maybe, I'll just brush off that journal from 1980 I've got tucked on my shelf. Maybe. Maybe not.

Robyn Marsack, director of the Scottish Poetry Library, similarly believes poetry, in a modern context, is alive, well and being appreciated. "It is a marvellous thought that young people are downloading Blake and Wordsworth on to their iPods and buying CDs of spoken verse," he says. "Technology is an excellent way of sharing the poetic word.

iPods and love poems, who woulda thunk? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Oprah has the Midas touch
Even divorce turns to gold in her hands. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Google rent-a-book
Mercenary lending library or good idea? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

The changing face of print
An interesting overview on digitalisation from The Economist.

Publishers admit that the entry of Google and other tech firms has galvanised them to pay attention to digitisation. “The fact is that Google's and Amazon's actions have stimulated the energy for this to take off,” says Ian Hudson, group managing director of Random House in London. “Otherwise we would have dragged on for ages working it out.” Now they are focused closely on the issue of when digitising books requires the permission of the copyright holders, along with a payment.

Most of the initiatives avoid the issue by digitising only works that can be freely reproduced. MSN is initially scanning only books from the British Library that are out of copyright. In other cases, firms are striking deals with publishers for the right to provide online access. This is how Amazon can offer its long-standing “search inside this book” feature, as well as its plan to sell access to pages for a fee. As for Random House, its content will be sold on a pay-per-page basis through third parties like search engines and booksellers (though pages cannot be saved, printed or copied).

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


Literary crushes
Slate asks a number of literary and journalist types about their first literary flings. For me it was Pinter. Which explains a lot about my past romantic life. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

The latest in Amazon news
Tagging. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

The latest in Google news
More on the book-rentals issue we posted about earlier.

Further evidence surfaced Monday that search giant Google, which is pursuing a controversial plan to index millions of books, has ambitions beyond the creation a simple card catalogue. Citing an unnamed publisher, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Google is exploring a plan to let users rent books for a small fee.

Under the plan, readers would pay 10% of a book’s cover price for a week-long online rental, meaning that a week with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince would cost about three dollars. The plan is likely to encounter resistance from publishers fearful of a program that could at once cannibalize sales and become a target for digital piracy.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

I'll wait for the paperback
Books bound in human skin. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

The Walrus gets charitable status
Good news for Canada's magazines.

Magazines dedicated to serious issues have a tough time surviving in this country, as witness the apparently final demise last month of the venerable but chronically teetering Saturday Night.

But now a large, aquatic mammal is pointing to a viable solution. The Walrus Foundation has finally obtained charitable status from the federal government, assuring the future of The Walrus magazine. The award-winning magazine, when launched in Sept. 2003, had proclaimed itself Canada's Harper's, Atlantic and Mother Jones — essential U.S. periodicals that are also supported by non-profit foundations.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Does freedom lack a moral centre?
Russian writers and champions of writers are suggesting that Perestroika killed the novel.

In the opinion of writers and critics, there are non-artistic reasons for the popularity of fiction in the Soviet period and its waning influence now. In the absence of modern institutions of civil society, literature served as a substitute for basic freedoms such as the freedom of the press, freedom of religion and trial by jury.

Through their novels, writers passed moral judgments and positioned themselves as the “shepherds of the nation,” serving as journalists, judges and priests. But this state of affairs came to an abrupt end in the early 1990s.

And now they'd like some government money because it's so humiliating for the writer to be so badly paid. Yes, it's a daily humiliation. Listen, my Russian friends, rethink this. It isn't really humiliating, it's an honour; to be broke and undervalued means you are actually about to inherit the earth. Really. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

50 cent publications
Rapper 50 cent is getting into publishing. Street fiction, naturally.

A spokesman for the company promises the 2007 project will focus on the gritty themes covered in 50 Cent's music.He says, "These tales will tell the truth about The Life; the sex, guns and cash; the brutal highs and short lives of the players on the streets."

G-unit. I think it's a reference to money. Not, you know. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

John Lennon's teacher cashes in
Lennon's school teacher apparently saved his art notebook. Prescient. But where's Yoko? Isn't a family member going to sue? Come on, people.

John Lennon's old school book is to be sold at auction - and is expected to fetch more than £90,000.

I'll never throw another drawing by my boys out again. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


And the winners are
The Governor-General Literary Awards for 2005 are announced. Congratulations and many happy returns of the day to everyone involved.

Fiction - David Gilmour for A Perfect Night to Go to China
Non-fiction- John Vaillant for The Golden Spruce
Poetry - Anne Compton for Processional
Drama - John Mighton for Half-Life
Children's literature - Pamela Porter for The Crazy Man

The rest can be found here. Bravo and brava, once again. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


Hot gay cowboy sex!
Well, that should get us more hits. Anyway, you can stop checking Google for those nude Heath Ledger pics that were leaked a while back. Brokeback Mountain is coming out and getting good reviews.

Sure, some women literally just like to watch guys get it on. But there’s a whole lot more who get off on watching a man cry—and not in that nasty Last Seduction way. For women Brokeback Mountain viewers, there’s sympathy, empathy, romance and—well, yes—just a teeny Myra Breckinridgian overtone of in-the-butt proto-feminist vengeance.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

If a literary critic dies....
Does anyone notice?

For most of the 240-odd years since Hugh Blair, English professors have been suckers, and for the same reason Blair made such a glorious one: No one knows what an English professor does. In waking up each day only to rejustify their entire existence—to jealous colleagues, to class-shopping undergraduates, to the administrative purse strings—professors of literature invoke the literary past in whatever way will most advance their own institutional self-interest.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Raincoast podcast
Raincoast Books (my publisher) is offering podcasts of some its new titles. It starts off with Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Give me a giant squid and I'm happy. In a terrified sort of way. (discuss)
(Posted by Peter)

GG coverage
Some standard bits on the GG awards. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Now on to the Whitbread
Shortlist announced. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Product placement

The products are at Saks 5th and the placement is in your children's stockings (which, from the looks of it, will be made of cashmere...)

On sale now only in Saks stores, HarperCollins plans to distribute the $16.99 book nationwide in January as if it were any other children's picture book. And "Cashmere if You Can" has inspired HarperCollins, a unit of the News Corporation, to make a business out of these sorts of corporate collaborations.

Saks has already signed with the publisher to produce another children's book for next year's holiday season, and HarperCollins is in negotiations with sports and entertainment entities and packaged goods companies.

The weaving of brands and products into content - making them supporting characters or even the stars rather than mere scenery -is growing elsewhere in the media, particularly on television, as advertisers try to cut through the clutter.

The book world, however, has not always been hospitable to such commercialization.

It's a lovely world. I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. AND SHOW THEM HOW TO BE BEAUTIFUL ON THE OUTSIDE TOO BY SMOTHERING THEMSELVES WITH THE DECADENCE OF CASHMERE EVERYTHING! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Lapham dance
Lewis Lapham is retiring to take up competitive card stacking full time, though some suspect dominoes may also be in his future. Seriously, Lewis, it's time to move to Canada. You know you want to. (discuss) (Posted by George)

That whale is out there, man
MobyLives radio and its proprietor, the ever-cool Dennis Loy Johnson, get some much deserved good press. That radio show is the highlight of my work day. No wise cracks about the quality of my day. Or the quality of my work. (discuss) (Posted by George)

800 tongues vs English

Guess who gets a licking. Are native languages winning out over English in India? (discuss) (Posted by George)

More eye Candy for the boob tube
And after this one, they're set to adapt her chequebook and grocery lists into a series of sexually-charged romps through Midtown Manhattan. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Carried around any good books lately?
Faker faker, shake-and-baker. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Leonard's legal woes
He gets his shit back, but now the suits and countersuits are flying like tea and oranges that come all the way from China. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Can you fold a piece of paper more than eight times?
Until recently, accepted wisdom was "no". Yet an American schoolgirl, named Britney no less, has folded a piece of paper 12 times for a class assignment, and shown her work in an equation. I'd say that's an A. Hit me, baby, one more time! (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)


In praise of librarians
All dishevelled and nerdy. Yeah. With, like, her top open one button too many and her glasses slid down her nose. Yeah. And the tops of her stockings peaking out from her skirt when she reshelves that hard-to-reach Henry James. Oh yeah. And the pencil in the hair that's barely keeping that bun up? Oh baby! Wait, that's not what this article is about. But I wish it was. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Хорошее утро! Вы будете теперь богачами!
Now THIS is a literary prize. Check out that jury! (From Brenda) (discuss) (Posted by George)

In the great green room, there was a telephone and a red balloon, and a guy with lung cancer who can't figure out how he got it
The illustrator of the bedtime classic Goodnight Moon gets his cigarette photochopped out. You politically correct thugs! Take a dead man's last vice away, will you!? It's too late for us though. My two-year-old is up to two packs a day. (discuss) (Posted by George)

National Book Awards announced
Once again I see there are no Canadians on this list. How typical. Awards for American writing going to Americans. Sheesh. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Penguin eds jump ship for the HMS Doubleday
Who the hell wouldn't be looking to get off a frozen iceberg? I heard that a heat lamp and bucket of fish were part of the deal. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Do you wear short-shorts?
I got an email pitch from author Bruce Holland Rogers asking me to look at his website and service. I have to say, I get tons of these kinds of pitches daily, and I normally make it a policy to not act on them, but this one really stood out. Not because it's flashy or pretty, but because the idea is so solid and has stood the test of time. Bruce offers subscribers three short short stories a month (between 500 and 2500 words) for five dollars a year. And he's been doing it since 2002. And he has over 600 subscribers. It's really a fantastic idea for getting work out there, and I've just subscribed. Pete and I were talking last year about this. Pete was reading a comic strip online that he was paying for a nickel at a time. He'd plop $20 on a paypal account and would read until he ran out of money. It was a great way to pay the creator while reading higher quality work. And the pricing didn't hurt, even compared to a book. Rogers has all the print cred you could want, including some decent sized awards like the Pushcart and the Nebula. Normally I wouldn't shill for someone I don't know like this, but I think it's a great idea and he's having trouble getting reviewed in traditional media outlets. Take a look at his site, and give it a whirl. What have you got to lose but five bucks and a few minutes three times a month? Check the stories out. They may not be to your taste, and I've only seen a few, but it's an endeavour I'd like to support. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Whitman retrospective
In retrospect, Whitman. (discuss) (Posted by George)

When irony knows no earthly bonds
Cap'n! I cannae give ye any moor power! That's all she'll give me! And our script writers aren't as good at techobabble as they'll be in 30 years, so I cannae even come up with somethin about static warp shells and resonance frequency inversion! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Weekend Edition:

It's true -- we are a boring country
The Literary Review of Canada offers it top 100 hundred Canadian books. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Google vs. Publishers -- the Cage Match
A public debate solves nothing. My money's on the first side to invoke Jesus. In the UFC, the Christians always win because they just don't care about those shots to the head. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

The wild wild west
No, I'm not talking about Vancouver. I'm talking about new Western comics, including the comeback of Jonah Hex. In fact, Jonah Hex is just what Vancouver needs. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Name this blog
The Guardian has got a new blog about words and stuff, and it's looking for a name. (discuss)
(Posted by Peter)

You're either with us or against us
Philip Pullman, Monica Ali, Philip Hensher and Salman Rushdie discuss proposed legislation "to curb religious hatred" and its possible threat to free speech.

The Enlightenment, in Europe, represented an escape from the power of religion to place limiting points on thought; in America, it represented an escape into the religious freedom of the New World - a move towards faith rather than away from it. Many Europeans now view the American combination of religion and nationalism as frightening.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


The freedom fighter librarian
The NYT profiles our women and men in the trenches and their battle to subvert government intrusion while still providing convenient service. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The new Maclean's
A conversation. (discuss) (Posted by George)

A Truss fuss about manners
Deborah Solomon interviews Lynn Truss for an article in the NYTM. The real revelation here is that Michael Cunningham needs more fiber in his diet. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The beginner's Calvino
Jonathan Lethem laments the lack of an access point for Calvino.

Italo Calvino never wrote a bad book. Yet an author of such diffusion, without a single, encompassing magnum opus to embrace (some readers will argue for "Invisible Cities," but that ineffably lovely book shows too narrow a range of Calvino's effects, too little of his omnivorous exuberance) needs a beginner's entry point, as well, perhaps, as a compendium to point toward posterity. Does it seem sacrilegious to propose a fat volume called "The Best of Calvino"? Call it "Tales," then, or "Sixty Stories." Does it seem to do violence to choose from linked pieces, or from books long since enshrined in reader's hearts in their present, inviolate state? It isn't as though the individual volumes need to go out of print to make room for the career-spanning omnibus I have in mind. Perhaps you consider it impossible to choose from within a structure as organically perfect as "Invisible Cities"? Fine, then include the entirety of that short book, just as "The Thurber Carnival" found space for the whole of "My Life and Hard Times."

Pete got me in to Calvino a long while back, by actually buying me books and placing them bodily in my hands. He was appalled that I'd never read Invisible Cities. Now I'm appalled you haven't. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Britain gets colour
Graphic novels are making inroads in the UK. Of course, the first few titles are just panel after wordless panel of people drinking tea and opening doors for one another, but they have to start somewhere. (discuss) (Posted by George)

George Sirtzes on poetry
In the Guardian.

Here are two propositions.

1. Poets are ordinary people with a special love and distrust of language.

2. Poetry is not a pretty way of saying something straight, but the straightest way of saying something complex.

I would add: 3. Poetry is the product of pet thoughts taken for a walk, and the poet is the one who ends up with shit on his shoes. Just my two cents. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Reinventing Utopia
Some neat thinking here.

The question, for thinkers like these, is how to revive the spirit of utopia - the current enfeeblement of which, Jameson claims, ''saps our political options and tends to leave us all in the helpless position of passive accomplices and impotent handwringers" - without repeating the errors of what Jacoby has dubbed ''blueprint utopianism," that is, a tendency to map out utopian society in minute detail. How to avoid, as Jameson puts it, effectively ''colonizing the future"?

Is the thought of a noncapitalist utopia even possible after Stalinism, after decades of anticommunist polemic on the part of brilliant and morally engaged intellectuals? Or are we all convinced, in a politically paralyzing way, that Margaret Thatcher had it right when she crowed that ''there is no alternative" to free-market capitalism?

(From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)

I suffer from this all the time
But it's not the works of GREAT art that make me homicidal... (Seriously, though, I totally buy this. The first time I saw the statue of David, I nearly fainted. No lie. I walked into the Academia through this innocuous little door in a blank wall, went through some turnstiles and then walked down a corridor until I had to turn right. On turning right you look down a hallway lined with busts and statues and at the end, framed in the archway leading into the main chamber is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. And it's fucking huge! People told me in advance, "Oh, when you see David, you'll be surprised how big it is." But nothing can prepare you for 50 feet of naked male beauty. I literally had heart palpitations and as I came closer, I thought I was going to pass out. I went from blasé to feverish in a split second. The only other time something like that happened was with The Last Supper in Milan.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Grammar on the can
A week or so ago Anansi sent me a copy of Grammar to Go. At first I was slightly offended. I mean, what has been implied here? But I threw it on the back of the toilet anyway, in case anyone got bored and wanted a looksee. Damn, it's one of the most interesting little minute books I've ever read. (You know, those books you read when you have a "minute".) I think everyone should have it in their can. And the best thing about it is that Pete is over there in sunny Vancouver singing "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" It's a win-win situation. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Runaway Jury 2!
This time there's no one to change the points! (That's a train joke, see.) Alex Good conducts his second hypothetical GG jury discussion. The second in what will hopefully a yearly tradition. (discuss) (Posted by George)

IMPAC longlist announced
Go Toews, go. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Move over, Jamie Oliver
Someone asked me how much I'd pay for a pair of shoes the other night and I said, two hundred dollars if I loved them; then he asked me what I'd pay for a book. No limit. Especially an old cookbook. There's just something must-have about old cookbooks. I want to have to need to have this. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Cavafy photographed
Duane Michals's tribute to Cavafy at the Pace MacGill Gallery in NYU. Cavafy's looking pretty good, for a dead guy. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Toe fungus book
Now there's a niche market.

Mr. Thomas decided against a nail-salon book tour, perhaps wisely. At Sassy Nails in downtown Savannah, June Dang was shown a copy of his toenail book while she was manicuring Tammy Woods's fingernails one morning.

"Would you read a whole book on toe fungus?" asked Ms. Dang.

"Probably not," Ms. Woods replied. "I'd only purchase it if it had other-parts-of-the-body funguses as well."

Wise girl. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

One of many signs of the coming last days

Some of Bob Dylan's early juvenilia (as opposed to that which came later) has sold for US$78G. Damn, those yuppies know value when they see it. (discuss) (Posted by George)

So many awards
So little time. (From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Top blog prize goes to fictional housewife
In other news, a fictional prize goes to top blog Bookninja! George, Peter, Kathryn: I humbly present you with the Golden Wrist for Carpel Tunnel Excellence. (discuss) (Posted by George)

I once spontaneously combusted
It was at a poetry reading, right when they announced the open mic. Luckily, it scared me so much I pissed myself and put it out. (discuss) (Posted by George)

My life
In a nutshell. (Help! I'm in a nutshell!) Guess which one I am. (discuss) (Posted by George)


IMPAC coverage
With eleven Canajun books on the list, them odds is looking good. I mean, that's, like, what? 5% of the longlist? Ooh, sorry: the Loooooooonglist. I say Toews or Hollinsghead to make the cut, if any. But just one. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"I wish I'd said that, James." "Don't worry, Oscar, you will."
A brief history of plagiarism. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Using the same muscles
A chat with the fiction editor at the New Yorker.

It really messes with you when you’re trying to do your own writing.

I don’t do my own writing.

You don’t?


Not at all?

No. I don’t think there’s any way—for me, anyway—to do both.

How come?

Because it uses the same muscles. And you spend your day in a hypercritical editorial mode where you’re looking at every sentence to see what’s wrong with it. And then if you try to write one there’s a lot of things wrong with it. And you never get past it. It’s pretty tough to do both. Some people do it. And there are a lot of journalist-editors. Not a whole lot of fiction writers-fiction editors.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Yo mama!
Proofing reading your mother's graphic sexcapades. Um, please, just cover me with spikey caterpillars and stuff my mouth with slugs. Luckily, my own personal DNA donor can barely read the words "Bud Light" on her Zippo, much less write a book, so I'm okay here. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Famous last words
What's your favourite ending to a book?

One of the favourite games of literary people is that of best first lines. Everyone enjoys reciting them; the bizarre (Earthly Powers), the haunting (Rebecca), the august (Anna Karenina), the casual (Howards End) or the strangely anonymous (Jane Eyre). First lines are great fun. But they aren't really as important to a novel as the last lines. From a terrible first line, a novel may recover; the last line is what it leaves a reader with.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Conundrum profile
The Globe and Mail looks at Andy Brown's Conundrum Press, which is doing OK.

But 2005 saw Conundrum achieve more than just "some recognition." For starters, the year marks Conundrum's first decade of publishing, a remarkable enough feat for any Canadian small press, let alone one started out of a grotty Montreal apartment and funded by proceeds from tree-planting, construction and cab-driving jobs. This year the press also finally qualified for the Canada Council Block Publishing grant, which allowed Brown to expand his operation to six books a year. This expansion paid off: Books were reviewed in mainstream publications including Flare magazine and Toronto's Eye Weekly, plus Conundrum picked up two nominations from the ReLit Awards honouring the best in Canadian small press, and won the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award for Chandra Mayor's novel Cherry. All that and a coincidental, somehow apropos, mention in last year's breakout movie Sideways.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

What do you do with your books?
Guardian readers discuss their shelving ideologies. There are some creative approaches:

As a former projectionist, old faded hardbacks surround the black tv which enables the picture to be suspended in near darkness (emulation of cinema).

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

I'm moving to Spain
Where they pay you to read.

Madrid cabbie Javier Carretero could be seen sitting behind a wooden desk in front of a webcam yesterday, as he fulfilled part of a 642€ contract to read the book. Carretero, who won a government-sponsored contest called "Paid to Read" (Dineroparaleer.com), could be seen frowning, wiping his brow, scratching his chin and occasionally glancing at his watch as he followed the adventures of Cervantes' "light and mirror of all knight-errantry". He was getting through a page every two minutes, suggesting it would take him almost four days to read the whole thing.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Collect them all
Librarian trading cards from Flickr. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Freaks everywhere try to convert Hermione
Emma Watson has a collection of Bibles sent by concerned Potter fans.

Watson alone has not been targeted by church bodies, but The Harry Potter books too have been in the firing line of many religious groups, who claim that wizardry and witchcraft are anti-Christian, and encourage children to to run away from their problems and escape the world by creating destructive and dangerous fantasies.

Imagine believing like that. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

NYT 100 notable books
Now here's a list. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

The US funded textbooks for the Taliban
Sure what else is new. Wait, did you say, counting dead Soviets?

"It turned out that Mr Goutierre's education programme consisted of creation of children's textbooks in which Afghans were taught to count by enumerating dead Russian soldiers and adding up Kalashnikov rifles," the book says.

"Six million of these American printed and American financed textbooks were vetted with our knowledge by a council of Sunni and Shia clerics who were the chosen religious representatives of key warlords with whom we were allied in the fight against the Russians," says John Stuart Blackton, a retired senior officer of the US Foreign Service, who was also associated with the project.

I guess you could argue there's no bad way to learn how to count, but still.
(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


Anne Rice and her servants
Horror author, Anne Rice moves from Gothic New Orleans to sunny La Jolla, from dark to light, from many servants to many servants.

Maintaining the old Garden District house had grown wearisome, as had overseeing a staff of 49, many of whom managed and tended her various properties. She found herself staying up all night to write "Christ the Lord" while her employees were asleep and the house was quiet. "I don't want to get strung out like that again," she said. After moving briefly to the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, she decided to relocate to California. Her time in New Orleans was "great while it lasted," she said, adding: "It was a period of expansion. Now is the season for contracting and focusing."

Wearisome. Yes, I sometimes find managing my three thralls a bit tiring, as well. Mind, the biggest problem with my situation is that I have to keep reminding the boys that the reason I had them was I needed slaves. I swear I was born out of time. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Bin Laden from bin Laden

This'll make a great stocking stuffer. Musings from the great one himself, Messages to the World , published by Verso, is filling the world with more happiness. But does the world really deserve to be this happy?

The whole book seethes with simpering vanity and paranoiac self-importance. And some other feelings, too: "Who can forget your President Clinton's immoral acts committed in the official Oval Office?" I had, for ages. There must have been a shortage of interns around Tora Bora.

Surely there were POWs. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

We are the world, we are the librarians
The new internationalism of books. Billington the Librarian (you know, Conan's cousin) has some big ideas and his hand in Google's pocket.

Libraries are inherently islands of freedom and antidotes to fanaticism. They are temples of pluralism where books that contradict one another stand peacefully side by side just as intellectual antagonists work peacefully next to each other in reading rooms. It is legitimate and in our nation's interest that the new technology be used internationally, both by the private sector to promote economic enterprise and by the public sector to promote democratic institutions. But it is also necessary that America have a more inclusive foreign cultural policy -- and not just to blunt charges that we are insensitive cultural imperialists. We have an opportunity and an obligation to form a private-public partnership to use this new technology to celebrate the cultural variety of the world.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

"Toronto's new novelists"
Um... To change the subject: doesn't eye's redesign suck? I mean the advertorial look, not just the staff turnover. (discuss) (Posted by George)

No homecoming for Harold

An ill Pinter can't attend the Nobel ceremony, but will deliver the lecture in December. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Here, boy! Thataboy! BANG!
Old Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard to fetch her poor dog a bone...
But when she got there, the cupboard was bare, so she fed him a hand grenade instead to speed his passing. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Poetry. P-O-E-T-R-Y. Poetry!
The national poetry bee. What a great idea. We have something just like that for the kids up here, too. The CBC runs it yearly.... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Here come the lists
A bucketful of writers offer up their best of the years. (discuss) (Posted by George)

House of books

Forget shelving those books too carefully. They could all be sold by tomorrow. (discuss) (Posted by George)

See, Christians don't hate fantasy

They just hate fantasies that don't mesh with their fantasy. If this movie had been made twenty years ago, it could have saved me a lot of crazy-Xtian parent fussing over D&D. (discuss) (Posted by George)

LA revamps its libraries
First to go? The porn. Now, with only script treatments, labels from used penicillin bottles, and bathroom stall graffiti tags left, they've got their work cut out for them... (discuss) (Posted by George)

e-Books are so square...
BoingBoing points to a tutorial on how to turn your ebook in a wall-sized readable cube. Geekalicious. Speaking of which...(discuss) (Posted by George)

Goodbye Shadowlands, the term is over
Here's an interesting article about C.S. Lewis. I'm avoiding the movies, myself -- just not that interested in how Disney markets to the Christian right, I guess, but the books are great, especially if read aloud.

Michel Faber, who has written an as yet unpublished short story called "Brave Again" based on Susan, one of the Narnia siblings, argues that: "Pullman and other atheist writers accuse the Narnia books of using literary brainwashing to convert innocent, unreligious children to Christianity. The symbolic link between Aslan and Jesus is regarded as an outrageous trick, like feeding kids dangerous drugs disguised as sweeties. I don't see it that way. Children are smart enough, and self-centred enough, to take from a book what they want and to reject the rest. The narrative universe of Narnia is complex and profound, and kids can engage with it on whatever level is right for them. Twenty years later they may be Christians or they may be witches or punk rockers or stockbrokers or simply people with a fondness for lions. In any case, I wholly approve of Lewis's desire to affect his readers deeply and lastingly. That's what good fiction is supposed to do, isn't it?

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

The problem with Google
Pickering & Chatto publisher William Rees-Mogg outlines some to the difficulties facing the academic presses. Here is one of them:

Google has reached agreement with a number of major libraries to scan their whole collections; these include Stanford and Harvard and two British copyright libraries, the British Museum and the Bodleian, which receive all locally published books free. Indeed, Pickering & Chatto subsidises the five copyright libraries by about £45,000 a year in free books, a significant cost for a small publisher. Of course, the British Library does not acquire the copyright as well as the free books.

Factor in the cost to the reader of academic press books and it isn't difficult to see the larger potential problem. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Wax crayons trumps war
Arab-American activists handed out free positive outlook colouring books and crayons to Palestinian refugee children:

After printing the coloring books, Sebatani assembled a group of young volunteers to help distribute the books to the Kalandia Refugee camp, the Manara Center, the pediatrics department of the Arab Care Hospital, Betunia, Abu Raya Rehabilitation Center and a Bedouin village outside Bethlehem. ”The Bedouin children were so very happy to receive these coloring books,” said Samar Sebatani, another volunteer. “They gave us the biggest smiles and the warmest hugs."

It's so great when people get out there and really make a difference. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


A new model of publishing?
Berrett-Koehler, a San Francisco publisher, is shaking up the industry with a collaborative model that brings together writers, editors and other creative types as equal parts of the publishing process. Sounds like communism to me.

At a traditional house, once a book is edited and ready for press, authors often have little to do with the significant marketing decisions surrounding it, such as the title, cover design, book jacket, and promotional material. While a blood-red cover may make sense to the average marketing exec, it may not be what the author had in mind. BK addresses this problem by giving authors and designers a chance to work cooperatively through an interactive blog. For each new book, editors and designers will come up with several titles and cover options, posting them online. Authors love the result--a buffet of distinct type fonts, rejiggered subtitles, and contrasting color schemes that evolve as new comments are posted.

To help inform authors' marketing decisions, everyone at BK--from the senior editors to sales managers to, literally, Kathy in accounting--is invited to share his or her suggestions on the blog and elsewhere. Distributors, sales reps, and others from outside the company are invited to post comments as well. Dianne Platner, the production manager, sees the blog as a dramatic improvement over the traditional model. "Because we've seen the proposal, because we've met the author, because we've been there every step of the way, we know how the author wants the book to be positioned," she says.

(From Raincoast) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Seattle is the most literate city
Yet they couldn't find a picture of someone reading for their article. In other news, the South is illiterate. (From Galleycat) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

In Defence of Bret Easton Ellis
The London Review of Books wonders if he's a smarter writer than most people think.

It is perhaps not surprising, given Ellis’s obsession with the fables and foibles of inattention, that he should demand a great deal of attention from his readers. And at the same time he makes it easy for them not to notice things: the gags, the sex, the glamour, the horror that Ellis does so well, all seduce us into not looking too long, into not seeing just how artful he is. Right from the beginning of Lunar Park we have to keep our wits about us. The first two epigraphs to the book are plain sentences from the American novelists Thomas McGuane and John O’Hara about how we judge ourselves and others. The third epigraph is a sentence from Hamlet: ‘From the table of my memory/I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records/All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past/That youth and observation copied there.’ The only problem with this sentence is that it’s only half of the sentence in the play. Ellis – obsessed as he is with the way everything becomes an excerpt, the way the context is taken out of everything – has extracted part of the speech in Act 1 Scene 5 that follows Hamlet’s encounter with the ghost of his father.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Americans are coming!
Asterix takes on a new empire.

it seems George Bush has a new enemy, in the unlikely form of comic strip hero Asterix.
After years of bashing the occupying Roman army, the indomitable Gauls have turned their attentions to the stars in their latest adventure, Asterix And The Falling Sky.

But it doesn't take much reading between the lines to realise that the story is actually a none-too-subtle attack on the current American administration and its intervention in Iraq.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Globe 100
One hundred glowing book reviews from the last year of the Globe books section. In excerpt form. (Including the most glowing review I've ever written, for Karen Solie's Modern and Normal, a fantastic book of poetry.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Great Canadian Literary Quiz
How many questions can you answer in this quiz just using the text from the article above? (The prize is something from Indigo, which is like giving a PETA activist who's spent the last six months caring for baby seals a fur coat, but still... you know you want to win.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Speaking of the big box
The Waterstone's amoeba is growing. Soon it will touch pseudopods with the Indigo and the world will develop a massive case of dysentery. (discuss) (Posted by George)

New Harper's editor
Roger Hodge is the new editor at Harper's. (discuss) (Posted by George)

For me that's "fear of being found by certain people"... for publishers it's "fear of imminent obsolescence". (discuss) (Posted by George)

French literature
Covered in the Globe and Mail? Hm. The bad news (or good news, depending on what side of the Mason-Dixon Line of Poutine you live on) is that the advent of this article denotes the beginning of the longest possible time before its repeat next year... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Bad sex is like bad pizza
Except in literature. Then it's like bad raw chicken left on a counter overnight. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Xmas Days
Starting tomorrow we'll be serializing short excerpts from Derek McCormack's new book Christmas Days. The book is set up as an advent calendar of oddball little stories, the kind of thing that gets us so hot for McCormack. Remember Derek was the one who gave us The Haunted Hillbilly, the story of Hank Williams' gay vampire rodeo tailor... We've just been waiting for him to tackle Giftmas. Gosh, I hope there are gay vampires in it... We didn't have time to do a review, so every day until the 24th of December, we'll add a new excerpt from the book. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Daily Globe
The Globe and Mail is now running a weekday book column by John Allemang, god bless 'em for it. It's pretty hard to find online, but so is everything on their website which actually looks like a cross between a NASA computer terminal and refdesk.com. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sex, insanity and art
Is there any more to life?

the results suggest that the creativity of some artists is fuelled by the unique world view mental illness can provide, but without the completely debilitating aspects of the condition. Instead, the artists are able to direct their creativity into artistic projects.

The second part of the survey found that compared with the general population, artists claimed to have had twice as many partners since the age of 18, and the number of partners increased with the seriousness with which they pursued their art.

Am I missing out on something here? (discuss) (Posted by George)

And speaking of the brain
How meat becomes mind, as opposed to, you know, a grilled T-bone. I love the coverage of popular science in newspapers. I wish our papers did it. Well. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Fowles a misogynistic, anti-semitic old fart?
The second volume of John Fowles' journals portray him as a wingnut. People went nuts, penning anti-Fowles screeds near and far, but did he intend for us to believe this "character"? Were his personal journals their own kind of fiction? (discuss) (Posted by George)

They like us, they really really like us!
I feel like my big brother just patted my little brother on the head. Aw. Of course, that analogy makes me a morose middle child, but what did you expect? (From Bookslut, who's alright too) (discuss) (Posted by George)

MobyRadio continues
If you've been as addicted to MobyLives Radio as I have, you've noted DLJ and the crew adding funny bits to the programming as they relax into the experience. Yesterday was a banner day, with a great "littritcha in translation" bit where they ran a piece of Anna Karenina through an online translator and read it in a deadpan fashion (does DLJ do anything that isn't deadpan?). Also notable is uber-poet David Lehman's funny poem on reviewing. I'll be appearing weekly starting this week, so if you have suggestions for CanLit news stories to cover, please email me. (discuss) (Posted by George)

One person's dream is another's nightmare
Naked woman suddenly drops into apartment through ceiling. (discuss) (Posted by George)

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