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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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October 2005:



England proliferates lesbians
Well, now we know where to place the blame.

Government censors in the 1930s feared that banning books about lesbianism would prompt interest in the subject, National Archive records show.

Kidding. Some of my best friends are lesbians. Hell, if it weren't for that one small, near inconsequential detail, I might be too. Oh, YOU know what they say about big feet. Big feet, big shoes.(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Yahoo tries to please the people
They're going to ask nicely for our work. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Trailer chick may trump Rowling in rags-to-riches story
Really not sure what to make of this. I'll bet we find out later she's six degrees of separation from Arthur Pendragon or something; isn't everyone related to royalty across the pond? I like the premise of her book and I hope she win a prize if only just for this quote:

She explained that it was the "drudgery" of settling back into living in a home with a new baby after years on the road that encouraged her to study art. "I got really really bored at home with the baby so I decided to go to college," she said.

I so know how that feels. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Cat fight
Love to love you. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

In defence of fiction
Experimental fiction, that is... (Only an excerpt of a longer Harper's essay. Thanks to the publicists who hit me with the old bait and switch. You're on The List.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Heinlein's lady trouble
Apparently he started out as a bra-burning feminist. Who knew? It was only that whole pesky thing called "the 70s" that ruined him. That fucking decade has a whole lot to answer for (WHERE'S MY SPACE STATION GARDEN, YOU SCHOLASTIC MOFO LIARS?? WHERE'S MY PERSONAL ROBOT?) (discuss) (Posted by George)

For me it was Salem's Lot ... I still can't sleep
Okay, I'm late for banned books week, but I was sick last week -- kind of a banned-from-society thing. So here is an interesting piece on authors revealing their early experiences with books they probably shouldn't have been experiencing so early. (Much like George Saunders' experience, my moment ended poorly, and humiliatingly, when my dumb-assed family thought it would be a good idea to creep outside and knock on my window in the pitch black...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Scientist takes on Keats in cage match
Aesthetics and science: like chocolate and peanut butter. Hell, like chocolate and anything. (From Brenda) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Ithaca found!

Sort of! Like that Shakespeare guy! Or girl! (Apparently it was hiding in a lost Neil Simon play...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

They're taking over... just like in that movie... I mean, those movies
A robot finds Robinson Crusoe mystery treasure... Meanwhile, thousands of miles away it is revealed it's twin unit, Dan Brown, is writing Da Vinci Code III: God's Horseshoe Up My Ass. It's only a matter of time. Soon the Frankenhand will join them and they'll be unstoppable. I, for one, wish to welcome our new robot overlords... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Feeling like you can't get any work done in the old apartment?

Living in Manhattan? Actually making money? Have I got just the $100 carrell for you! (Actually, I would have gone for this at one point. I believe it was 9pm on a Sunday and Lady Ninja was talking to the homicide police about the gunshots outside our window.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Hate Mondays?
Well, at least this wasn't you. ... ... Um, was it? (discuss) (Posted by George)


NYT's Pay-per-read ghetto
Maud posts an opinion piece with some neat ideas.

Something fundamental was lost to us when The New York Times decided to divert its columnists into a special pay-per-read ghetto on the wide-open World Wide Web. My reaction has only been reinforced by a media experiment I’ve recently undertaken.

Down with pay-per-read! I can't stand trying to watch for moments of clarity in each article's scrambled signal. Everyone has a right to free brutal bloodsports and softcore porn in our NYT! (discuss) (Posted by George)

The day the Howl was born
Happy birthday, you filthy beatniks. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Nicolas Cage: finally tipping from cartoonishly ugly to cartoonishly insane
He just needs to become a Scientologist for the trifecta. He named his kid after Superman. Kal-el Cage. That's a beating offence come fourth grade. They'll kick his ass and then put him in two dimensional prison tumbling through space. It's gonna get real ugly. Leaving Las Vegas ugly. God, is Elisabeth Shue hot or what? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Orange Day
Andrea Levy, seen here... never mind, I can't even go there... Andrea Levy has won the Orangest Orange. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Being unGoogleable
An interesting piece on people who are staying below the 21st Century equivalent of "the radar".

These unGoogleables don't post online, blog, publish or build web pages using their own names. They're careful about revealing information to businesses, belong to few organizations that can leak personal data, and never submit online résumés -- all common ways that Google captures your data. They spoke to Wired News only on condition that their names be changed for this story.

What, are they dead? It's like saying they steer clear of blood. These people are digital ghouls. Soulless! Okay, go ahead. You know you want to. Turn my metaphor around on me... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Spacey Iago
Kevin Spacey is a great actor, but I still think his best moment came not in American Beauty, but rather on SNL when he "Christopher Walken auditioning for the role of Han Solo". (discuss) (Posted by George)

Feel like a success story?
Selling the movie rights before the novel... Sweet. Unless you can't stand people who get this kind of luck. Then I would change the headline of this item to "Feel like a failure story?" and it would be about you. (Thanks, B!) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Technology finally catches up with the whims of Ninja Murray
And my vocation has been clearly defined to boot. I'm an EPG: "Expert pub goer". (discuss) (Posted by George)


Nobel lit prize on hold
Perhaps until Margaret Atwood can be informed and flown to that secret Nobel complex under the Stockholm streets where Nobel winners past are stored in cryogenic chambers? Hmmm? Isn't it about time for Margaret?!? It better be Margaret, or I'm starting an insurgency. And don't deep freeze our Peggy! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Harry Potter sales top 300Million mark
That's one heckuva lot of zeros. In related news, sales of my latest book have topped the 300Meh mark. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Plath Hughes sketch goes to...
The National Portrait Gallery. I was kind of hoping Plath scholar would buy it to aid in the staging of elaborate soul-torture rituals. Not because I want to see old Ted burn, as my difficult-to-suppress Protestant unconscious already assumes his pagan ass is doing, but because something with dark rituals would have been more interesting than the National Portrait Gallery. In fact, anything would have been more interesting than the National Portrait Gallery. I get so bored here sometimes. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Well, there's gotta be a million Smith's, right?
I'm sure that's the real reason for the mix up in which Vogue printed a picture of some other mixed-race, head-scarf wearing woman and labelled it as Zadie Smith. America! America! God sheds his grace on thee! And a little more light, please, they're having trouble telling the dark-skinned folk apart. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Word games
This is kind of funny. Mostly because of the hitting. It reminds me of beating up rich snotty undergraduates in Washington Square. Wait, that was just a daydream. Conjunction? (discuss) (Posted by George)


Rendell's decided that killing a few Americans might earn out
Ruth Rendell's next book is set strategically in the US with the hope that Americans prefer their corpses to reflect themselves, or something. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Naughty Vicar
Pooh-pooh bum-bum head, crap, fart bum-bum. Shocked vicar-writer sent home after making toot noises with his armpit to a group of incensed children. Poor Mr. Taylor:

"It was absolutely ridiculous. They just took all the kids away and I was left on my own. A girl came up to me as I was leaving and said 'Thanks GP. That was absolutely real – the best thing we've had here in years'."

Mr Taylor said that although he was not actually thrown out there seemed little point in staying, adding: "I was very shaken up by it. I had to take heart tablets."

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

First Novel Award
Colin McAdam takes home the 2004 prize for Some Great Thing. This book is on my list; anybody out there read it yet? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Kurt Vonnegut has a thing for librarians
What male writer doesn't? Maybe this is why there are male writers.

Music (especially the blues) cheers him, as do people who behave decently. Librarians, too — "not famous for their physical strength" — who resist having books removed from shelves and refuse to give names of people who have checked out certain books in the era of the Patriot Act.

"The America I loved," he writes, "still exists in the front desks of public libraries."

Nice little interview. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

What comes after plagiarism?

When you've been everywhere and done everything, it's just so difficult to decide what's next. I suppose you can just start over. Doris Goodwin rises again! Cue Thriller sequence from right before the Vincent Price part. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Poems in Spaaaaaaace!
I'm all for this. Particularly if no copy of said poem is left on the planet. If that's the case, I think we would do well to send up a larger batch next time. I'd like to see this program widened into a Survivor-like structure in which not only poems, but whole poets can be voted into space. In fact, I think Survivor should be like that. Instead of being voted off the island, you're voted to stay on and society improves ever slow slightly with each show... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Now that's a community that loves its bookstore
$500G raised to keep store open. I feel warm fuzzy inside. But I think that's mostly the day-old roti I just ate. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Who was Shakespeare?
GACK! Bleaargh! Mmmmrrrrrrmmmfffph! What puts the ape in ape-ricot? kh-hourage! They keep writing these stories and I keeps a-linkin to em. Neeah neeah! Oh, a woise goiy, eh? Woop woop woop woop! (discuss) (Posted by George)

History of the mystery
The thriller novel according to Ken Follet. (Thanks, Neal) (discuss) (Posted by George)

God h8s kids hu dont sms
I can't wait until this generation's thumbs seize up with arthritis. Shouldn't they be playing outside? (discuss) (Posted by George)


Granta: recycleable and stay-fresh
Swedish-born philanthropist Sigrid Rausing has bought my favourite literary magazine.

Ms Rausing, whose family made a fortune from Tetra-Pak drinks cartons, has bought the magazine from Rea Hederman, the owner of the New York Review of Books.

Expect a repackaging, I guess. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Germaine Greer and Sappho; who woulda thunk? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Australian dancer kicked out of China

Xue-Jun Wang showed the wrong person Nine Commentaries, a book about the outlawed religion, Falun Gong.

Wang said he did not think the man was a Chinese agent but that he had probably informed on him. "It was a silly thing to do, to deport me, but the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) does many silly things," he said.

Wang, who migrated to Australia more than a decade ago, is married to an Australian and holds an Australian passport.

Words -- they still have the power. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Weekend Edition:

Who will write about the poor?
Moorish Girl wonders what happened to the voices of the disadvantaged in contemporary lit.

Poverty has receded from the list of popular themes of the American novel. No longer do we have a John Steinbeck, a Richard Wright, a Theodore Dreiser, or a Zora Neale Hurston writing about the working poor. Who today would write that "In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage"? It would not be an exaggeration to say that, in the last decade, American fiction has been fixated on the middle and upper classes.

Luckily, that'll change now that the middle class is becoming extinct. (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

George Saunders on Bookworm
A half-hour-or-so interview on his new book, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil. (From the Rake, who also points out the Reign of Phil outtakes and an interview with Lorrie Moore) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Why flog the poets?
I thought this speech by Atwood was going to be about something completely different. Instead, it's all noble and stuff. Still worth reading, I guess.

Why are repressive governments so afraid of writers? Why do they arrest and imprison and torture and kill them, all around the world? It's for much the same thing -- for saying what everyone knows, but nobody dares voice, and for saying it well. Imposed silence is a favoured weapon of tyrants. To own up to the real history of one's country is an act of courage, because real histories are never spotless; they are also seldom popular with the authorities of the day. But true writers like Orhan Pamuk and Halldor Laxness are not placed among us to flatter and conceal.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Salon interviews Neil Gaiman and Susanna Clarke
An interesting discussion on the state of English myths and fairy tales.

It's almost like England has to cope with something big that's been lost. Take Stonehenge: I get irritated when neopagans start talking about the ancient legends of Stonehenge and how far back they go. When I tell them that those legends mostly come from the 1850s, they get really upset. In "Remains of Gentilism and Judaism," which is John Aubrey's book, he went out and found every single thing he could and wrote it down -- everything that was commonly believed about Stonehenge, which was if you chip a rock off Stonehenge and put it in your well, it will keep toads away. That's it. That's everything John Aubrey was able to find in the 1640s.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)



Literature: the new bread and games
If owning Granta is at all jealousy making, try this:

Rausing is a most unusual heiress; often spotted without a trace of make-up with her only jewellery a wedding ring, she is variously described as modest and demure. She is also a Swede who has fallen in love with Britain.

For proof one must look no further than her East Sussex rural retreat, discreet summers spent in a 40,000-acre estate in the Scottish Highlands and Aubrey House, near Holland Park, west London, which when bought eight years ago cost £20m but came with an enviably-sized chunk of land.

A little literary periodical; really, everyone should own one, don't you think, darling? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Winning prizes is good for sales
This should be news to no one but this might. Soon blind people will be able to read Banville's novel The Sea (get it?). Weirdly, as if the book just manifested, the article doesn't even mention Banville's name. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Dust off your blog
And that's not a euphemism. Cory Doctorow will be judging the inaugural Blooker Prize.

"Blooks are the latest landmark in the history of books", said Mr Young.

"They are a new stage in the life-cycle of content, if not a whole new category of literature, with its own creative process and emerging literary style."

More than 100 blooks have already been identified as potential candidates for the Blooker prize.

They almost called them The Narcissus Awards but Blooker, besides being cheekily derivative, was, well, cheekily derivative. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Banville wins Booker

I don't think I've ever cared less about this award than I have this year. Is that a sign of boredom or maturity? Or maybe a little wear around the edges. Though I'm glad an Irishman won. What this award needs is a tell-all memoir to spice things up. (Could you imagine a GG tell-all memoir? It would just be a transcript of meeting minutes in which people argued over the contents of the Tim Horton's dozen box. Fight for the cruller! Fight for it!) Or maybe a new gimmick altogether... (Last link from Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)

And speaking of awards
Are the Swedes at sixes and sevens over Orhan Pamuk? Dudes!? Forget that Turkey! Your next winner is in Canada! (discuss) (Posted by George)

John Updike on book covers.

“Modernism,” like “pornography” and “literary fiction,” is a term hard to define, though we all feel we know what it means—Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein, Bauhaus workers’ housing, the enigmatic and erudite complexity of “Ulysses” and “The Waste Land,” the startling distortions of Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Book covers, however, with their ineluctable role as advertisements for the contents of the book, can scarcely attain the proud non serviam of high modernism: art for its own willful, bourgeois-baiting sake.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Translations made easy

Are "reader-friendly" translations artistic abominations? (discuss) (Posted by George)

"We live in a celebrity culture; why should biography be exempt from our need to create gods?"
The biography in America.

We're less biography-obsessed than the English. We lack the biography gene. Why? I can think of several reasons. To begin with, our literary culture is hindered by a division-of-labor mentality that fails to encourage the versatility and sophisticated amateurism so natural to the English temperament: here the poets write poems; the novelists write novels; the biographers write biographies. In England, biography is a pursuit engaged in by some of its most distinguished writers.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

CTV gets Giller
It's not really a scoop... I mean, when the Giller people called CBC to ask if they wanted to bid, nobody was there to answer the phones. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Put away your pitchforks and torches
Apparently Google isn't doing anything wrong. Legally.

Besides, what Google's doing appears to be well within the realm of the "fair use" provisions of copyright law, meaning the company doesn't have to ask permission for the basics of Google Print anyway. I'm not a lawyer, but Jonathan Band is, and his analysis of the copyright implications of Google Print is a fascinating read. Basically, fair use is determined by four factors: the purpose and character of the use (commercial or nonprofit); the nature of the copyrighted work; the "amount and substantiality of the portion used"; and the effect of that use on the potential market. (Read the law for yourself here.) Mr. Band's conclusions: Google Print does have commercial purposes, but Google's not looking to profit from book sales; building a search engine requires it to "use" the complete work; and it's highly unlikely that Google's use will hurt demand for the books stored and searched.

Interesting argument. Not breaking the law = not being evil? Hm. Heard it! (For the record, the Google thing doesn't really bother or affect me at this point. In fact, I want to think of it as a neat, altruistic idea. I'm sure one of those two adjectives betrays massive ignorance and/or naivety, but I'm not sure which one...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Macleans to get spit and polish
Whereas for the last little bit it's been mostly just spit. Sounds like there are some jobs available too. Need a blog-beat reporter? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Don't tell me what the poets are doing...
These kids today are writing great stuff. At least, you know, those nominated for The Forward Prize are. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Jeannette Winterson
The travelling writer at the bookfest.

The Icelandic woman who came to interview me had not read my books and had only the vaguest notion of either me or the English language, so I told her that my father worked in a doormat factory, my mother was a spy, and that I wrote only crime fiction.

I am bracing myself for trouble.

I have such a thing for cantankerous old feminists. I think I want them to simultaneously mother and revile me. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Has the World Ended Yet?
A little while ago I posted about Amazon Shorts, an iTunes-like service for literature, only cheaper (under 50 cents a download) and easier to use. I think it's a great idea, so I gave them a new story to sell. (You can read an excerpt for free here.) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Forget about who won the Booker
How was the party?

After, everyone piled across London to Soho, where the after-show parties had been underway since 9pm. Seasoned literary liggers who weren't invited to the Booker dinner knew the order in which to go. Start with the Faber party (publishers of Sebastian Barry and Kazuo Ishiguro) at the Union Club because they have the best canapés, and move on to the Cape party (for Julian Barnes) at Soho House. When - horrors! - Barnes was denied the prize, they departed, like bats from Hades, and made for The Groucho, where the Picador party for Banville was yards from the Penguin thrash for Ali and Zadie Smith.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Disaster lit
Nothing like a good flood to make publishers happy.

Why are these dismal accounts so popular? Partly, it's because they reached a Gladwellian tipping point, so publishers plunged into the eye of the profit storm. "Publishers kind of chase what works," says Rick Simonson of Elliott Bay Book Co. In the late '90s, storms were working nicely, inundating the best-seller lists. The Perfect Storm roared out of the Eastern Seaboard and became an uncontrollable cliché, and Into Thin Air catapulted a Seattle freelancer into stratospheric tax brackets. "There were sea ones, mountain ones, flood ones, storm ones," Simonson recalls. Seattle's Erik Larson scored in 1999 with Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, about the 1900 destruction of Galveston, Texas, by a storm and tidal surge. Last December's tsunami was a boon to Dennis Powers' account of the 1964 Crescent City, Calif., tsunami, The Raging Sea: The Heroic Story of America's Worst Tidal Wave, which was abruptly resubtitled The Powerful Account of the Worst Tsunami in U.S. History, published far ahead of schedule, and distributed in torrents to bookstores.

(From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

What's going on with the Nobel?
Intrigue! Shenanigans! One of the judges has resigned over the lit choice... from last year. Calling Elfriede Jelinek's work "a mass of text shovelled together without artistic structure", Knut Ahnlund stepped down this week in protest. That may be the case, from what I've read, but... um, way to jump right on that, Knutie. (Maybe he's also upset that this year's award isn't going to a Canadian. Or, maybe he's upset that it is...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

"Pop language is preprocessed cool for a mass audience."
It's not nearly processed enough, by Bookninja standards! Hit frappe! I want it to feel like a Kraft Single when it's done. Instead of preprocessed cool, I want a preprocessed cool language-like product. I want Peter to roll in his grave. Oh yeah, I am so there. You know, except the dead Peter part. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Guy Ritchie is working on a film version

A rent-a-cop in England has admitted to stealing a copy of Harry Potter and trying to leak it to the press. I'd almost feel sorry for the guy if I didn't think he was an idiot for dealing with The Sun. (Can someone out there photoshop the HP book out of Rowling's hand and insert a ThighMaster instead? I just want to test a theory I have...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Speaking of JK
She topped the Quills last night. It's so great to see an under-appreciated author like her getting some attention finally. And wee Stevie King, too. It's about time. (Of course, as far as actually quills go, both of them write with feathers from the Ivory Billed Woodpecker dipped in ink made from the yolk of California Condor eggs and the blood of teenaged Floridian virgins.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Gaiman moving from hardcover to paperback
Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys just arrived in my mailbox yesterday. It looks delicious. Now I hear he is working on a Marvel title about ye olde gods. It's like watching Pelé play football, oi! (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Speaking of comic books
DC is revamping its heroes for a grittier world... Um, maybe this betrays my age, but I thought they'd already been revamped about 10 times. I barely recognize them. They all look like they smoke crack. But Wonder Woman with a sword? Brrrowr! I'd buy that for a dollar! And if she's smoking crack, sadly, I probably can... (discuss) (Posted by George)


The future of publishing in Canada?
Students at Humber come up with solid business plans for new publishing houses. Unfortunately, they don't involve publishing fiction or poetry.

Humber College's 2005 inaugural summer course in book publishing ended with an assignment: Develop a publishing business. Students were given a budget and asked to come up with a theoretical, yet viable publishing model, including a sample catalogue of titles, the covers of those titles, how the titles will be marketed and publicized, and a detailed budget showing expenditures and predicted income. Finally, the student groups were told to prepare a presentation to a panel of judges posing as potential investors. The judges, Scott Griffin of House of Anansi Press, Kim McArthur of McArthur & Co. Publishing, and myself, were told to respond to each proposed publishing venture and, finally, pick which house we'd most likely invest in...

not a single one of those five proposed publishing houses planned to publish fiction. No novels, short stories and definitely, as Scott Griffin, founder of the world's most lucrative poetry prize pointed out, no poetry.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Seattle is getting its own Dave Eggers headquarters
Thanks to a successful fundraiser and a musical number by Lemony Snicket and Death Cab for Cutie. That's one to tell the grandkids about. (Thanks, Jeff) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

"Does anyone around here smell blog pussy?"
Back when Mark Sarvas launched The Elegant Variation, he cited his "loathing for Steve Almond" as one of the reasons. The two of them recently wound up at the same event together, and Almond went on the hunt.

My plan to show restraint in the Sarvas matter didn't last long. I had been at the book festival for barely an hour when I made a beeline for the Vermin booth. I walked right up to him and stuck my hand out and said, in a loud, friendly voice, "Hi! I'm Steve Almond!"

He looked up, startled. "Jim's over there!" he said, pointing to the tall fellow on his left. My hand hung in the air, waiting for the shake that would initiate our super-charged literary smackdown. But Sarvas took a swift step to the side and sat down in front of his laptop and refused to look up again.

I felt oddly preempted. After all, it had been my plan to pretend I didn't know who Sarvas was, and here he was pretending he didn't know who I was, even though I had just introduced myself to him.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Harold Pinter, Nobel Laureate
I did not see that one coming, but it's a choice we can all be happy with. You know, except for those of us who aren't. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Boycott the big stores
Alan Bennett lost his local bookstore to bix bog competition and now he's urging those who can afford to buy books at the regular price to do it at independent retailers instead of Waterstone's and Amazon. I second the motion. (discuss) (Posted by George)

National Book Award finalists
Announced down south.

John Ashbery, Where Shall I Wander
Frank Bidart, Star Dust: Poems
Brendan Galvin, Habitat: New and Selected Poems, 1965-2005
W.S. Merwin, Migration: New and Selected Poems
Vern Rutsala, The Moment’s Equation

E.L. Doctorow, The March
Mary Gaitskill, Veronica
Christopher Sorrentino, Trance
Rene Steinke, Holy Skirts
William T. Vollmann, Europe Central

You know, the Ashbery was good, even late career good, but it didn't rev me up this time. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Journalist memoir goes for $1M
Is this guy famous? I don't have TV. My pop culture references stop in late 2001. But regardless, can he have $1M-worth of stories to tell? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Allow me to preempt the criticism of the criticism
Headline: Self-hating poet killing the rhythmic buzz, man . Some lyrical, page-bound, "craftsman" dickwad is bad-mouthing Random Acts of Poassault. The nerve. (discuss) (Posted by George)

You killed my father... prepare to die!

A Princess Bride musical?! Colour me sold! I am so audienced. So theatred. So toe-tapped. So must-seed. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Shilling for my bro
If you haven't bought Pete's story yet (see post below), I suggest you do. It's great and the process is utterly painless. My Visa virtually sighed in relief. That's it Geordie-boy... a few more charges like that one... I can handle 50 cents... (discuss) (Posted by George)


Kevin Chong weighs in on the Vancouver Writers Festival and Neil Young in an excerpt from his forthcoming Neil Young Nation.

In August 2004, I decided to follow the same route Young took from Winnipeg to Fort William (now Thunder Bay), and then from Toronto to Los Angeles [in 1965]. With three pot-smoking buddies and a hatbox’s worth of space cakes, I crossed North America in one triangular swoop, traveling 14,000 kilometers and 7,500 miles, through five provinces and fourteen states, in twenty-two days. I visited places that were important to Neil and a few people associated (albeit tangentially) with Neil, and stopped in Auburn, Washington, to see Young play at Farm Aid 2004. It was a trip: in the here-to-there dictionary sense, in the foggy mind-journeying granola sense, in the pratfall sense.

I really hope they get Chong to do some air guitar at one of those West coast lit events.(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

I've decided to pay the difference and move in
Clavell Tower, nearly saved from tumbling into the sea. Send tuppence. Now. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Cuba: A nice place to visit but
You think the US likes burning books? Well, they do. But Castro likes the smell of pulp burning, too. Funny thing, how ideologies are so damn scared of words on paper.

"They are among the hundreds of books, pamphlets, and personal papers that have been judged 'subversive' and ordered burned by Cuban authorities in recent years in their crackdown against independent libraries and independent thought," says Marquardt, who is a long-time human rights activist.

"In America, local librarians are often on the front lines of defense for upholding the principles of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read," said Marquardt, in a press release issued last week by FREADOM, "But in Cuba, book burning is documented as a state-sanctioned answer to independent reading."

The 2-year old list of books that he is referring to is found at the Rule of Law website of the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, which has posted sentencing documents smuggled from Cuba from the well-known trials of 75 journalists, independent librarians, and opposition group activists who were jailed in 2003. These bizarre and absurd, yet chilling documents, detail the numerous materials that were ordered incinerated and/or destroyed by the magistrates of Castro's own personal kangaroo courts.

Part I, Part II, Part III. Part IV next week. (discuss) (Postred by Kathryn)

Take it like a Man, Booker

Booking the Booker? Ya, was ist das? Eine schlechte Woche für den Man-Bookuh. I can't help but be drawn to any article that starts off calling someone's book a "prissy little mouse". It can only get interesting from there. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Shocking news! Reader discretion advised!
Hollywood screen writing a bastion of white male dominance. World, also a bastion of white male dominance, makes Macaulay Culkin face from Home Alone. (discuss) (Posted by George)

What the Hal?

What exactly was old Hal talking about in this Globe article from yesterday? Alex Good wants to know.

What place is Niedzviecki talking about? What urbs? Is it a spot on the map or just a domain name? Aren't all cities these days multi-ethnic? What could be less local, more rootless and ideologically universalist, than pop culture? What could be less local than the local Starbucks? And yet Niedzviecki wants Canadian publishers to start scouring Starbucks for "this country's equivalents to Jonathan Safran Foer, Zadie Smith, Michel Houellebecq and Haruki Murakami." Which of these writers explores the dynamics of a community "rooted in a specific time and place"? What is "stubbornly, opaquely local" about them? I have read some of each and I would have to say "Not much."

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Looking for love in all the wrong pancakes
You know, every now and then my battered inner Protestant-raised-in-a- baptist-church rears its malformed, hymn-humming head and says, Yo, Geordie-boy, the end is near. There's the whole hurrivolcanoquakenami thing of the last year, and this proselytising, self-replicating chimp at the button, and the first horseman having a three-and-a-half inch nipple hair... you know, the usual concerns. But then I realize I'm just screwed up like the other Christians: we all see what we want see. To coin a phrase I hope to spread worldwide, We all have our popecakes, for hopesakes. Can't we all just get along? (discuss) (Posted by George)


The all-time top 100 novels
According to Time magazine. Looks like a good list to me. It even includes The Watchmen. (From the Saloon) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

He looks much drunker in real life
The end of the author photo? A call to arms.

Author photos are always embarrassing, either for the author or the reader, not least because of the seduction they strive to achieve (which is by no means exclusively sexual). It is embarrassing for authors to choose or have chosen a flattering picture of themselves - which process often involves disregarding current age or agreed likeness - and embarrassing for readers to be confronted by such importunings. In this sense the author-photo differs from the mass marketed iconic images of writers such as Shakespeare or Beckett or Virginia Woolf, which offer not a personal invitation to intimacy but an official statement of fact: this is what a Great Writer looks like. Where the author-photo fails to seduce it tends to repel or at least to irritate the reader, and the reading of the book becomes a negotiation with the author's image; is he or she cleverer or less clever, as attractive or less attractive, more or less insufferably narcissistic, than he or she looks?

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Guess I'll have to keep reading Calvin and Hobbes online
Apparently the publisher didn't realize how well the new collection would sell.

What could have been one of the hottest—and bestselling—books of the holiday season, Bill Watterson’s The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, may instead fall victim to a decision that appears to have been a miscalculation by the book’s publisher, Andrews McMeel. The gift-book specialist has been unable to fill the pre-orders of many booksellers for the three-volume, $150 set, and predicts the book will sell out before the Christmas buying season.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Should the Booker be open to Americans?
Would they really win every time? (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

A few thousand science fiction covers
For your viewing pleasure. (From Boing Boing) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Governor General's Awards shortlist announced
And here you go! The Charlotte Gill is nice, as is the Barry Dempster.



As of this posting, the CC site is swamped and won't load.. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Philip Pullman: an atheist with a mission
Methinks Pullman has not gone sufficiently through the wardrobe if he really believes this. Has he actually read The Chronicles of Narnia? He sounds like the pent-up, neurotic mums in the playground worried that if they read little Johnny these subversive books, he may go evangelical. As for Disney, Phooey, what does anyone expect? But Pullman pulling the plug on Narnia? Okay, I agree with the bit about Islam but what I don't get is Pullman all over the New Testament and denouncing Narnia for its Christianity. What I don't get is Pullman saying there is no 'LOVE' in the Chronicles (no sex, it is true but there is certainly love), only veiled misogyny (uh, where?). And frankly what I find particularly hypocritical is Pullman, the avowed atheist standing up for Islam while attacking Lewis for his Christianity. Bottom line, read the books; they are great. Lots of fantastic lessons to be learned regarding GROWING UP. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Geoffrey Taylor: not a fuckup
Well, duh. He's done a fabulous job with IFOA. How about a little less look- he-didn't-screw-it-up and a little more holy-shit-what-a-great-lineup. And I'm not just saying the lineup is great this year because I'm in it, hosting a number of events. (Three events on Sunday the 23rd: at noon, 2:00, and 5:00 and one on the evening of Wednesday the 26th: at 8:00. Some rather large names there... If you're a closet ninja reader and you're there, please introduce yourself.) Okay, maybe I am a little. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Inferiority complex

Why are some genres considered inferior to others? Let's face it, it's because ugly people read them.

What is it, when Man Booker juries meet, that makes genres "inferior", asked Baroness James? Why is crime writing, with its "very conscious structure" and ability to raise "big moral issues" outside the box of introversion, such a poor relation of "literary fiction", asked Rankin?

Okay, not ugly people - poor people. Poor and ugly. Too poor to get an education, too ugly to go to the right salons where people are reading the right Oprah books and the occasional Booker winner. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Boiled cabbage?

Speaking of inferiority complexes... The British fantasy scene, explored in context of the reissue of Watership Down. (discuss) (Posted by George)

More animals: your chance to be part of the Martel cartel

Can you draw this cute cartoon character? You may have a career in art! But seriously, want to illustrate Yann Martel's The Life of Pi?

"The question is just how will they see it: what colours; what perspectives; what emotional tone? Will the tiger be menacing; will the ocean be threatening; will the island be something out of Frankenstein or will it be an Eden?"

I say, go opulent. That's what the kind of people who will buy an illustrated edition after they've already bought the hardcover will want. (discuss) (Posted by George)

What happens when people own the scenery?
Documentaries are having a hard time paying for the copyrights on the world around. How long before you're pop culture references start costing you in your novels? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Growing your brain like a weed!
With good old-fashioned pot. Sweeeeeeeet. By this logic, I should have had a head the size of an airplane tire by the time I was 30. (What do you suppose the mice giggle about? "So then, Marvin says, 'Squeeeeak, squeeeak!', and I was all, like, 'Squeeek yourself!'... hee hee hee... Oh man, I nearly fell over the water spout, I was laughing so hard!") (discuss) (Posted by George)



Writing the quintessential Canadian award winner: a user's guide
Do you write for accolades? Then listen up.

But is there really a pattern to the awards? Is there a formula for a quintessentially award-friendly Canadian book? To find out, I looked at 31 winners, from all 10 years of the Gillers and the last 20 years of the GGs (the odd number is the result of a tie between Michael Ondaatje and David Adams Richards for the Giller in 2000).

Turns out, more than a few similarities emerged. Here’s how to write a Canadian award-winner.

I personally like the first suggestion: "Be Alice Munro"... You know, there's a reason she wins so much. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Best magazine covers of all time

Um, exqueeze me? No MAD? No CRACKED? No Dog Fancy? No Malahat Review? Some list. (discuss) (Posted by George)

World's top intellectuals: old men

Huh. What times we live in, eh? The magic of progress. It just gives me shivers. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Buy my book of poetry or I'll commit war crimes on your lawn

I know they've called it dic-lit (as in dictator), but I think twit-lit might be both more inclusive and more accurate. (By the way, that headline wasn't in reference to this article... it was just a warning...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Solzhenitsyn papers burned
Alexander Solzhenitsyn's old dacha cottage went up in flames Wednesday night destroying much of his archived papers. I still haven't made it through the first part of The Gulag Archipelago, but I think that's because I've grown allergic to the mildewy smell of basement seeped into my books... So much for all those EL Doctorow paperbacks I'd be planning on. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Joan Didion
Profiled by the AP. (discuss) (Posted by George)

So that's why my friends are all somnolent and covered in loose feces...
People who view and discuss art have lower blood pressure and use fewer laxatives. Good to know. I'll tuck that one away for my lost-keys days. Science: is there anything it CAN'T prove? (discuss) (Posted by George)


He's probably hiding in the local library
That's where fugitives always write their award-winning poems, isn't it?

Radovan Karadzic, a former Bosnian Serb leader long sought by NATO forces in connection with the massacre of Muslim civilians in Sarajevo and Srebrenica, has released his second book since he went into hiding almost ten years ago, the AP reports.

Sounds like he has alot of material. Jeez. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Just what Bulgarian kids need -- American books, American themes, good old American ideals. To paraphrase the adage "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth", I say, I yell, I bellow, "LOOK IN THE MOUTH, FOR THE LOVE OF SWEETJESUSMARYJOSEPH AND ALL THE GOODLY, LONG-DEAD, ROTTING SAINTS, LOOK IN THE MOUTH."(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

An act of weight gain
Cuisine blogger Julia Powell and her winning compulsion:

"She doesn't like to use a food processor," Powell says as she transfers the soup between appliances.

She, of course, is Julia Child, Powell's muse as she attempted to cook her way through Child's landmark 1961 cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1.

Powell was blogging about the experience when she was plucked from obscurity and given a book deal. Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen hit bookstores several weeks ago.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Stylish Elements of Style

Strunk and White get colourful. Maira Kalman is one of my favourite illustrators. We have several of her books for kids, and in among every imperfect painting are lines and movements and expressions so perfect they nearly make you weep. She's the only person I know who can paint someone's nose blue and make me laugh. Well, that's not true. Most blue noses make me laugh, but you get my point. My favourite story is What Pete Ate from A-Z. (Buster says, "Nuts to Pete.") (discuss) (Posted by George)

GG coverage
In various places. (discuss) (Posted by George)

IFOA begins
Let's get ready to rumbllllllllllle! Oh, and, Lassen Sie uns fertig werden zu polternnnnnnnnnnnn! (discuss) (Posted by George)

A pillar of the community
Henrik Ibsen: a primer. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Why most people don't get conceptual art
It's the concepts, see? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Wear a tam and have too much time on your hands?

Then have I got a website for you! Make your own quill pens! (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)


Saturday Night's (not) alright alright alright
Another curtain call for Saturday Night Magazine. Even the saints couldn't save it:

The magazine was purchased by St. Joseph Media from CanWest Global Communications in November 2001. It is distributed inside the National Post newspaper.

"Despite a superb editorial product under the leadership of (editor-in-chief) Gary Stephen Ross, advertisers' support _ although favourable _ has not reached projected levels,'' St. Joseph Media president Donna Clark said in a statement.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Snicket pre-empts divorce without custody
Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) is doing his book tour by satellite: the kiddies won't mind since they'd rather watch TV anyway.

This new satellite-broadcast solution was devised by HarperCollins and a company called National CineMedia, a venture of AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark USA, Inc. and Regal Entertainment Group, which operate close to 1,000 cinemas around the world.
According to the company’s website, “one in every two households is within ten miles of one of these theatres.” For Handler’s event, 15 booksellers partnered with 15 movie theaters. Those who pre-ordered the book—which had a first print run of 2.5 million—from one of these stores, received a free ticket to the satellite event. Many of the booksellers distributed the books in the movie theaters, and HarperCollins created a PowerPoint trivia show for the fans who arrived at the theater early, eager for the best seats. “We really wanted to make an event out of it,” says Daghlian. “I think having kids together in a room, in person, waiting to see their hero, is an exciting thing.”

Handler agrees, adding that the satellite broadcast is in no way intended to replace the book tours that he already does. “I’m doing just as many live events as I do on a normal tour. I’m just not able to visit every community on earth, and so this was a way to at least approximate,” he says. “We thought it was a fun way to cover more territory in one fell swoop than I could do without permanently alienating myself from my wife and child.”

But wasn't fame the whole point, Mr Snicket? This has all clearly been terribly unfortunate for you. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Ba Jin: RIP

A prolific writer, Ba Jin had a dozen novels and four collections of short stories to his credit by 1937, but he is best known for his semi-autobiographical trilogy — Family in 1937, Spring in 1938 and Autumn in 1940. These became classics for their moving descriptions of the tribulations of young members of a large family who struggled to break away from their elders, only to court stubborn opposition and tragic outcomes.

(discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Pamuk backpedals
Orhan Pamuk is in hot water for using his words. He should move to Canada; we use our words here.

Pamuk could face up to three years in prison for reportedly telling a Swiss newspaper that "30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it". But on Saturday night, he went on CNN-Turk television to say: "I did not say, we Turks killed this many Armenians. I did not use the word 'genocide'."

Genocide. Genocide. Genocide. See? Nothing happens. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Go no further unless you do so with a Texan accent
You may not read this without a cowboy drawl. I insist. Really. It just makes it soooo much better. Here it is: Payson Roundup:

The response to the dedication ceremony for the Zane Grey Cabin at Green Valley Park Saturday shows Rim Country's rich history is worth building on. The park was packed with well-wishers and history buffs.

With our history, those who built the replica of the cabin proved we can make the community a destination attraction. We don't need to lure someone from the outside to do it for us or pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for advice on how to bring more visitors to town. We can rely upon ourselves.

Before its destruction by the Dude Fire, the original cabin attracted 20,000 visitors a year.

The Dude Fire. Sigh. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


This is weird and weirder. An American pharmaceutical company endorses a book idea through a publishing house which hires a few ghostwriters and the infamous journalist Jayson Blair (as editor) to pen a conspiracy book about cheap Canadian drugs flooding the US market. It gets even stranger, I'm afraid.

"As the project progressed, PhRMA's requests became increasingly odd," Mr. Spivak recalled. "They wanted the bad guys to be fundamentalist Muslims." So the terrorists, who were originally Croatian, were moved to neighbouring Bosnia and morphed into Muslims intent on poisoning Americans to punish their government for not supporting the Muslim cause in the Balkans.

The bit that's best is about Jayson Blair: "He seemed conscientious," Ms. Chrystyn told the New York Post. "I was impressed. Besides, this was fiction, which is something for which he clearly has talent." Anyway, I'm sure it'll be a bestseller. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Frankürters und foetball
If you get sick of looking at books, you can kick them around at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Just don't handle them or you'll get a penalty. Or is that basketball? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

How loyal are you people, anyway?

It’s safe to say that the blog-to-book phenomenon has gone mainstream: Two more well-known bloggers scored book deals this week. On Monday, Elizabeth Spiers announced that she is leaving Mediabistro to work as a freelance journalist and finish her novel, And They All Die in the End, which Simon & Schuster’s Geoff Kloske acquired from Kate Lee, of ICM.

The publishers are thinking cash grab and so are the bloggers but will you, dear audience, dish out hard-earned greenback for what you could read in God's square light? Will it even be interesting without the subliminal heavenly refresh? And what I really want to know is, how many mouse clicks to nirvana? (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)


Is copyright actually hurting writers?
What if we did away with it?

The domination of the cultural market would then be taken from the hands of the cultural monopolists, and cultural and economic competition between many artists would once again be allowed to take its course.
This would offer new perspectives for many artists. They would no longer be driven from the public eye and many of them would, for the first time, be able to make a living off their work. After all, they would no longer have to challenge - and bow down to - the market dominance of cultural giants. The market would be normalized.

(From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Early New Zealand books
Here's a handy little research tool that offers keyword-searchable books published about New Zealand in the 19th century. (From Metafilter) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Publishers learn Amazon lesson. Sort of.
More publishers are selling books on their websites. Sort of.

"We can offer features, services and guidance that might be difficult for another retailer to provide," said John Makinson, chairman of the Penguin Group. "What we're not going to be is competitors to Amazon or any other retailer in this area."

Why not? (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Stop the manuscript drain
The Brits are concerned their cultural heritage is being bought up by the Yanks.

ANDREW MOTION, the poet laureate, and Lord Smith, the former culture secretary, have launched a campaign to stem the flow of famous writers’ archives being sold to universities in America.
They are leading a 15-strong group of eminent literary figures demanding tax breaks, government funding and lottery cash to help British institutions match the bids of their rich American rivals.
The campaign comes amid fears that the papers of Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Kazuo Ishiguro, author of The Remains of the Day, may go abroad. All three are understood to have been approached recently by agents acting for institutions in America.

What I find really interesting about this is the fact that there are still physical archives floating around out there. All my correspondence, all my manuscripts are stored in digital form. My printer hasn't worked in years, and I haven't missed it. Wait, does that mean I don't get any money...? (discuss) (Posted by Peter)



Posy Simmonds update
Just the other day I was wondering what Posy Simmonds was up to. Turns out Posy's been working on a graphic novel, modern-day take on Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. Huh. (From Drawn) (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

Publishers still unsure about this Internet thing
After all, why make a profit when you don't have to?

"Readers have taken to the Internet far quicker than the people who publish books," said Marco Olavarria from the German management consultants Kirchner and Robrecht as the world's biggest book fair opened here.
"There is huge demand, but everybody seems to have left Internet book sales to Amazon and the rest. There is no creative strategy because they have not realised the new demand of the new market," he added.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Examining the GG list
Critic Barbara Carey, usually at the Star, slips into CBC to give us a tour of the GG poetry list for this year. She suspects Erin Moure, who may find it cheaper to just move to Ottawa rather than travel there every time she has a book out (which seems twice yearly, lately), is the favourite. I'm pulling for Dempster or Senior. Their accents are so genuine. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Bottling our books
Archives around the world are rotting. How can we better preserve them? Well, for instance, the entire run of my first book is stored in a basement on a shelf next to the wine. This keeps the book safe from the damaging rays of readers' eyes. At least, I think it still is. It might have been fed to the woodchipper by now. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Marcus vs Franzen

People are confused by Ben Marcus's Harper's attack on J-Franz . Confusion causes delay. I should know. I've been sitting stone still for about twenty minutes wondering where my coffee is on my desk. I really can't find it. I set it down next to some papers and I think the edits from Lane's article drank it and ate the paper cup. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Fa-Q, W
Turkey fines 20 people for using Q and W, letters not in the Turkish alphabet. It's the kind of place that just makes the sun shine, that Turkey. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Why are lit awards so important?
Because it's the only time we get out of the house. (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Rosa Parks

Civil rights icon, dead at 92. (discuss) (Posted by George)

White House lacks sense of humour as well as compassion and intelligence
The trifecta! We can now officially call the current administration "inhuman". The White House has asked satire newspaper The Onion to stop using the presidential seal. The Onion responds with, "Fuck You, Mr. President." But somehow it's funny when they say it. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Hamlet 2: The Reckoning
Are lost books better for being lost?

Is becoming lost the worst that can happen to a book? Not necessarily. The lost book, like the person you never dared ask to the dance, becomes infinitely more alluring simply because it can be perfect only in the imagination.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Frankfurt needs us, but do we need Frankfurt?
The NY Times says it's not the deal-making orgy it used to be, but it's still a good place to get drunk on the company's expense. Oh, and maybe get some discounts or something.

As a crossroads of Europe, this city has for centuries been a natural meeting place for people looking to buy and sell. Thus it is that the Frankfurt Book Fair has, for several decades, been the place for trading the rights to translate and publish books.
But in the age of e-mail, faxes, overnight mail and teleconferencing, does anyone really need to sit for five days in a smoke-filled complex of hangar-size buildings? The answer is no - except that it takes that long to fit in all the parties.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Is The Watchmen overhyped?
Die, blasphemer, die!

Last Tuesday, responding to the Time book critics' Top 100 list, I suggested that Alan Moore & Dave Gibbon's Watchmen, which Lev Grossman views as "told with ruthless psychological realism, in fugal, overlapping plotlines and gorgeous, cinematic panels rich with repeating motifs," was actually "one of the most overhyped comic books ever published." This got me a note from one fan asking if I was out of my head, but I'm sticking to my guns on this one. It's a very good graphic novel, but one of the best? I'm not so sure.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Does this book make me look smart?
Apparently people are buying books just to look intelligent.

Driven partly by pressure from incessant literary prize shortlists, more than one in three consumers in London and the south-east admit having bought a book "solely to look intelligent", the YouGov survey says.

The other two in three consumers didn't buy books at all. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Back to Google and its digital library scheme
Good thing? Or bad thing? (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)



In Piccadilly tonight?
Margaret Atwood is set to play one of my favourite bit parts except being Atwood she's reinvented it to be the main event. No longer is Penelope hiding behind her unweaving. I hope they put her in an empire waist.

There's something very potent about the idea of the 12 hanged maids - their parts will be performed by three actresses, who all sing beautifully, and are all musicians too. They are very big Margaret Atwood fans. We rehearsed today, and I had to keep reminding them that they looked at this empty chair [where Atwood, as Penelope, will be sitting] with reverence and awe, and that they've got to think differently. "She's Penelope, she's enslaved you. You've got to find more rage and menace here."

Sigh. I know just how they feel. Buy The Penelopiad here. (discuss)(Posted by Kathryn)

Google-friendly writers

More on the battle over Google. Certain to be one of the big issues of our day. If you don't have an opinion, you should get one. It seems most of our readers are in favour of eating Google's liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Goran Simic Prize
Local ninja, poet, critic, and literary shit-disturber Zach Wells has taken it upon himself to create a one-off prize in honour of Goran Simic's GG inelligible From Sarajevo, with Sorrow (note to publisher: why isn't it available on Amazon.ca?). It's a fantastic book and I've donated some money to the prize. As much as I treasure my calm, conflict-free life (ha!), I'm glad there are angry people who are causing a fuss. It used to be me, back in the day. I don't have the energy anymore, but will always support a fuss. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Moonlighting on politics
As a novelist. Ew! If she sells used cars, she's got the unholy trinity of scum. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Open Library

BoingBoing points us to The Open Library, where public domain books are being scanned in. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Google ads are working!
I found this via our own Google ads at the right. Private Libraries? Egad! It's like they're reading my copy and directing ads right to me! Oh wait... (discuss) (Posted by George)


IFOA rundown
(Permanent link now available below) Well, IFOA is over for me. It's still going until the end of the week, and I'm sure there are some great authors ahead, but my time is done. It was quite nice, to be sure. Thanks to organisers for asking me to be part of it.

On Sunday I hosted three events: Anita Diamant, Italy's Melania Mazzucco, and Francine Prose at noon, Tim Winton and Jonathan Coe at 2pm, and David Rakoff, Rick Moody and Seth at 5pm.

Anita Diamant and Francine Prose were both wonderful, but Melania Mazzucco's first English language reading was electric. I have to buy her book, Vita. Prose is a very funny lady, I suspect most of the crowd was there for her and Diamant (of The Red Tent fame -- she said she'll never escape that book), but were pleasantly surprised by Mazzucco and Vita.

The Tim Winton and Jonathan Coe reading/interview was a highlight for me. My friend Jonathan has been slipping me Aussie writers for years: Patrick White, David Malouf, etc. He never mentioned Winton, but he keeps giving him stellar reviews in the Globe. And truth be told, Winton is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people I've ever met (never mind authors). Really a nice guy. And I just love Jonathan Coe's work. He took a few extra minutes to warm up, but what can we expect from a dry wit Brit? He also turned out to be an extremely pleasant and generous person. There was great chemistry between the two on stage. The interview, with Jason Sherman moderating, got off to a shaky start, but seemed to come around near the end.

David Rakoff, Rick Moody and Seth were an interesting mix. I had seen Rakoff read at a Canada Day event in Central Park in 2001. If I remember correctly, he was opening for The Barenaked Ladies and the crowd was impatient. But his funny book Fraud won them over. So I knew he'd be good, and he was. A seasoned pro, he is.

I lived in Guelph with Seth and though he comes off as an odd bird sometimes, I quite like him. He was very charming and generous in his multimedia presentation, reading from his strips and graphic novels. Interestingly, he read from his comic-form diary, which made some revealing references to people in the Canlit scene. Funny stuff.

The Moody story is extra hysterical. When I walked into the dressing room, Rick was there with someone who was likely a publicist. I sat down and said hello. He was chipper and sweet, considering that he'd been up since 4am. He seemed really engaged and eager, a nice guy. Of course, I'm the kind of dickhead who can't resist a joke, right. You know that, don't you? So after a few words were exchanged, I said, "Okay, Rick, let me read you the introduction script and you can tell me if there's anything you want me to add or delete." "Shoot," he said. So I held up the paper and started in a deadpan, "Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation..." He's such a good sport. I feel sorry for him, though, that he can't escape that line. I hope he gets to smack Peck in the face someday... Anyway, he read from a section The Diviners that was about a werewolf television show patterned after the Buffy genre. The audience seemed to be largely made of crickets. I was surprised, because, even though it was an odd choice to read, I thought it was kind of funny. I don't know if anyone else did, which is a shame. Obviously not on his vibe.

I got way too blitzed at the after party, so my apologies to those I stumbled into a flirted with, as I'm sure I did. If it's any consolation, you were only one of many. Zadie Smith was there with Coe, Dennis Bock, and others. One of my favourite Canadians showed up: Steven Heighton. What a great guy he is. It was great to get to hang with Dennis and Steven, though I almost fell asleep in a chair. It was not the conversation, but the free Bushmills, I swear. And shame on Bert Archer for making me drink those extra glasses when I very clearly said I shouldn't (rubber arm). Apparently I poured Coe a drink of Jameson that looked like a tall glass of apple juice. I just wanted him to catch up.

Last night I hosted Jenny Erpenbeck and Zsuzua Bánk from Germany and Jim Lynch and Jonathan Safran Foer from the US. A great reading. Four totally different pieces read with wit and aplomb. Erpenbeck, for me, was the real find here. I already knew Foer was good, but Erpenbeck's book, The Old Child, is now definitely on my must-read list. Unbelievably smart and deep. Lynch was also very good, especially considering that he was dying from Booktour Flu. Safran Foer was, of course, the star of the show and I can report that he's at least as nice as Tim Winton. Aside from looking like everyone I knew in Brooklyn, he's a real sweet guy. We chatted about kids and books and he cracked jokes constantly about this and that, never afraid to be really smart or sink down to bathroom humour. The audience could barely restrain themselves from talking to him, and he was often turned around in his seat during breaks, chatting with fans. He was also a gracious reader who thanked the volunteers at IFOA and made a fuss about what a great festival it was. A real class act. I want to say "nice kid", but he's beyond that. Just a nice guy who's relatively humble about his success and still connects with his base. Anyway, I'll go buy his new book today because his reading convinced me. Yep, dear publicists, it works.

A great year at IFOA. Congrats to Geoffrey Taylor and his team for putting together a great lineup. (Permanent link now available here) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Tapping into pop culture
Publishing does well appealing to the pop culture set. I guess that's what makes it "pop". As the Swedish Chef said:
"Her bookie, bookie, bookie, Ex-ploit! sploit! sploit! sploit!" (discuss) (Posted by George)

Fuck hyou, Hanglish!
Separatist Quebeccer (who looks more like a leprechaun than an FLQ bomber, though who can tell these days?) turns down GG. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Shame shame
Canadians cashing in on Harry Potter via American-style lawsuits? How deeply shameful. Suck it up, you Manitoban hippies. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Want a Snickett?
Did you say Snickers? I could really go for a Snickers. Oh, wait. That guy. Okay, go on... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Copyright snares
Things follows up the New Yorker story about false encylopedia entries with a roundup of other fun tricks publishers use to protect their products from being ripped off, such as trap streets and Nihilartikels. Me, I just use typos. (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

The sad state of university presses

Sales are declining, funds are drying up, and the question has to be asked:

Should a book that cannot command sales of 500 be published at all?

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)



Indigo and its band of merry elves
Possibly, I'm in a bad mood; well, probably I am but this annoyed me. Heather Reisman has a board of youth directors. The part about empowering children is cool, I guess, but the part about them being a board upset something in me. Isn't this sort of like slave labour? No, no. They each get a thousand whole dollars to spend -- guess where?

Also joining the advisory panel this month are Victoria's Kristie Foreman, 13, Katie Hillman, 16, from Halifax, Toronto's Madeleine Cummings, 14, and Adam Moscoe, 13, of Ottawa. Continuing emeritus advisers include Hannah Drew, 15, from London, Ont., Aaron Martin, 12, of Surrey, B.C., Katrina Sklepowich, 15, from Winnipeg, and Charlottetown's Megan Stewart, 17.

Indigo's junior advisory board, in its second year of operation, is what a focus group would look like on steroids. The kids have more influence, a greater hand in the business, and get more compensation for their time -- in this case, a $1,000 gift card, an iPod Mini, a trip to Toronto and their own personalized section in Chapters and Indigo stores across the country.

Child actors get paid, no? What's the worth of a consultant these days? Kids, listen up. Unionize; do something. And on that note, I want to mention a little initiative of my own: housewives unite! Down with laundry! Down with food groups! Pay equity, now! (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Joseph Boyden wins inaugural Aboriginal Prize
Go, Boyden. (discuss) (Posted by Kathryn)

Random must choose between authors in lawsuit
A bunch of moldy-old historians, or mister shining pants Dan Brown. Guess who Random chose. Guess. (discuss) (Posted by George)

A building of one's own
A building for poets at Canterbury? Well, I say!

"Poets need more than just a screen and a pen," says Michael Curtis, manager of the Words Unbound project that is spearheading the proposal. "They need to socialise, share ideas and gossip. Poetry needs a physical place in which to thrive as well as mental space".

Sounds like a thesis I am familiar with. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Amazon growth slows in Britain
Hmm. I thought that with all the clear cutting and whatnot, the Amazon had become just a copse of trees in the centre of Brazil, but apparently it's grown all the way to Britain. (One of my other personalities, the one that jokes with my son, wrote that last and my Bookninja self denies any influence over its content and form.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

How bad can self-published POD titles really be?
Real bad. Atlanta Nights bad. A bad so bad it makes Anne Rice-bad look good. (discuss) (Posted by George)

David Rakoff
Interviewed. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Your Friday "Moment of the Week"
I'm sorry it's not of a literary bent. And those of you without a geeky bone in your body may want to skip it. But I give you: Yoda, The Dance Piece. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Weekend Edition:

I hate to start this again, but...
Creative writing classes -- valuable training or a scam? (discuss)
 (Posted by Peter)

New Jonathan Lethem movie
As She Climbed Across the Table has always been my favourite Lethem book, next to Gun, with Occasional Music. Now it's going to be a MAJOR MOTION PICTURE.

A little more than a month after winning the $500,000 MacArthur genius grant, novelist Jonathan Lethem has had another windfall. Variety reports that DreamWorks has just acquired the film rights to his 1997 novel As She Climbed Across the Table.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Smart books for dirty men
Jessa Crispin offers a guide to men who want to buy books to look smart but don't know where to start.

Surfing for porn in your local wi-fi hot spot not getting you phone numbers? Try placing a copy of On Beauty by Zadie Smith next to your laptop (with a bookmark about a third of the way through the book) in a casual "I am doing important work related research now, but I as soon as I finish, I have a date with Zadie and her wonderful way with words" kind of way. This says, "I am a sensitive man who is comfortable enough with his sexuality to read a book by a girl in public." It says, "If I was going to buy Smith's book because I think she's hot, I would have gone for one of her books in paperback. No, I bought this because she touches me. And you can touch me too, if you know what I'm saying. (I swear I'll call.)"

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)



The fabulous life of James Patterson
The NY Times business section has an interesting piece on bestselling author James Patterson (who apparently made $40 million last year) and his investments. It contains the interesting revelation that Patterson doesn't always write his books:

Mr. Patterson said he often worked with co-authors because he believed that he was more proficient at creating the story line than at executing it.

"I found that it is rare that you get a craftsman and an idea person in the same body," Mr. Patterson said. "With me, I struggle like crazy. I can do the craft at an acceptable level, but the ideas are what I like." He said the co-authors received a flat fee and, most often, credit on the book cover.

That irritated me at first, but then I figured what the hell. If you like his books, you like his books. At least you're reading. And he also plans to give away half his fortune to education. We all have those plans, don't we? (From Galleycat) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Happy Halloween
My boy will be terrorizing your neighbourhoods this evening, dressed as a three-and-a-half foot dragon. Cower! Cower before his mighty roarening! If you know what's good for you, you'll cower. Oh, yes, you'll cower. Cower like the coweringest coward that ever cowed a cow. Please cower? C'mon, quit giggling. You're emasculating my dragon child. (discuss)

Are men drifting away from print?
Um, hello. How about asking the real question here: are men drifting towards porn machines (aka "computers"). Who needs to read with all them purty picamatures of jumblies and cooches? (discuss)

Harry Potter and the Half-Sold Print Run
Scholastic is taking a beating with 2.5 million fatties left on the shelves. I'm sure there's a grandmother somewhere nodding her head in satisfaction, saying, "Eyes bigger than yer belly, eh? HAHAHAHA!" (discuss)

Forsooth! Thy broken record turneth!

Not an argument about Shakespeare, but a survey of arguments about Shakespeare. Man, it's about time. We were just so ready for this. (discuss)

A new name in book scanning

Oh, great. Now Microsoft is involved. Just what we needed. That oughtta clean things up, as far as ethics concerns go... (discuss)

Superheroes on the endangered species list
It's just like that Xmen universe with the Sentinels, but instead of giant robots killing the superheroes, it's 40-year-old-geek-who-don't-want-to- grow-up killing them. (discuss)

Most insidiously fucked-up children's book of all time to auction off drawings
Love You Forever sends chills up and down my spine. Try reading it in the hoarse, whispery voice of a deformed, attic-bound creature watching her children play in the tall, moonlit grass near the property edge while wind chimes tinkle minor notes. That's the only way you'll fully appreciate how completely psychotic this book is. (Okay, I'm sure you'll all hit me with some neo-nazi book that's more damaging than this one, and you're right. But this creep-fest still gives me the flying willies in a way the rest of Halloween can't. Geeaggh!) (discuss)

NASA thinks poetry isn't sexy enough
Well, if I were dealing daily with keeping the alien presence on Earth a secret, I'd probably have poetry on a backburner too. (from Bookslut) (discuss)

When the Bily isn't good enough
The vertical bookshelf. Useful, in a CD tower kind-of-way. The parent in me just thinks: timmmmberrrrrrrrrrr! (from BoingBoing) (discuss)






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