Sunday, July 31, 2011


After five wonderful days in this most beautiful of cities it is time to catch the train - three trains actually - to
Bayreuth (town square pic above) which is of course world-famous for its annual Bayreuth Festival at which performances of operas by the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner are presented. We are attending two operas featuring the NZ tenor Simon O'Neill.

I am not sure of our WiFi facilities there so there may be a gap in postings to the blog until I am sorted.
Thanks in advance for your patience. More when I am reconnected.

The City: Zurich

Alain de Botton celebrates a place where nothing is flashy.

Zurich, Michael Schnabel / Gallery Stock
The most sincere compliment you could pay Zurich is to describe it as one of the great bourgeois cities of the world. This might not, of course, seem like a compliment—the word “bourgeois” having become for many, since the outset of the Romantic Movement in the early 19th century, a significant insult. “Hatred of the bourgeois is the beginning of wisdom,” felt Gustave Flaubert, a standard utterance for a mid-19th-century French writer, for whom such disdain was as much a badge of one’s profession as having an affair with an actress and making a trip to the Orient. According to the Romantic value system, which today still dominates the Western imagination, to be bourgeois is synonymous with laboring under an obsession with money, safety, tradition, cleanliness, family, responsibility, prudishness, and (perhaps) bracing walks in the fresh air. Consequently, for about the last 200 years, few places in the Western world have been quite as deeply unfashionable as the city of Zurich.
Zurich is exotic. We normally associate the word “exotic” with camels and pyramids. But perhaps anything different and desirable deserves the word. What I find most exotic about the city is how gloriously boring everything is. No one is being killed by random gunshots, the streets are quiet, the parks are tidy, and, as everyone says (though you don’t see people trying), it is generally so clean you could eat your lunch off the pavement.
What most appeals to me about Zurich is the image of what is entailed in leading an “ordinary” life there. To lead an ordinary life in London is generally not an enviable proposition: “ordinary” hospitals, schools, housing estates, or restaurants are nearly always disappointing. There are, of course, great examples, but they are only for the very wealthy. London is not a bourgeois city. It’s a city of the rich and of the poor.
People are happy to be ordinary in Zurich. The desire to be different depends on what it means to be ordinary. There are countries where the communal provision of housing, transport, education, or health care is such that citizens will naturally seek to escape involvement with the group and barricade themselves behind solid walls. The desire for high status is never stronger than when being ordinary entails leading a life that fails to cater to a median need for dignity and comfort.
The rest at Newsweek.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mickey Spillane

My Dad loved the local newspaper, the Gisborne Herald, which he read from cover to cover - news stories, death notices, club reports, sports results,advertisements - the lot. He devoured that paper.
I don't especially remember him reading books except for those about All Black tours and Mickey Spillane's hugely popular, mass market detective yarns featuring  Mike Hammer. He read everyone as they were published; perhaps this explains  my passion for crime fiction?
Reading The International Herald Tribune yesterday, (this is my newspaper of choice when in Europe and Asia), I came across the following para:

The independent publisher Titan Books said it had acquired the worldwide and digital rights to three unpublished novels by MICKEY SPILLANE, the no-nonsense writer of pulpy detective mysteries and creator of the quintessential literary gumshoe MIKE HAMMER. The new Mike Hammer novels were found in Spillane's  archives (he died in 2006). They will be completed by the mystery writer MAX ALLAN COLLINS and released between 2012 and 2014. The first called "Lady, Go Die!" is planned for publication in May 2012. A second unreleased novel, Complex 90", is described as a cold-war thriller and scheduled for release in May 2013; "King of the Weeds", is salted for May 2014.

Much more at Wikipedia.

List of titles:

The Jargon of the Novel, Computed

Graphic by Joon Mo Kang; source: Corpus of Contemporary American English, 425 million words, 1990-2011; data set measures all forms of the word “bolt.”

Published: July 29, 2011 - 
By BEN ZIMMER, New York Times.

We like to think that modern fiction, particularly American fiction, is free from the artificial stylistic pretensions of the past. Richard Bridgman expressed a common view in his 1966 book “The Colloquial Style in America.” “Whereas in the 19th century a very real distinction could be made between the vernacular and standard diction as they were used in prose,” Bridgman wrote, “in the 20th century the vernacular had virtually become standard.” Thanks to such pioneers as Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, the story goes, ornate classicism was replaced by a straight-talking vox populi.
In the 21st century, with sophisticated text-crunching tools at our disposal, it is possible to put Bridgman’s theory to the test. Has a vernacular style become the standard for the typical fiction writer? Or is literary language still a distinct and peculiar beast?
Read full story at the New York Times.

Maurice Sendak Profiled by Dave Eggers

By Maryann Yin on Galley Cat, July 29, 2011 12:05 PM

On September 6th, Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak will release Bumble-Ardy. This picture book will be the first publication Sendak has written and illustrated completely on his own since Outside Over There (1981).
Writer Dave Eggers profiled the 83-year-old Sendak for a piece in Vanity Fair (Eggers wrote The Wild Things, a novel loosely based on Where the Wild Things Are). According to the article, Sendak has spent the last three decades illustrating books and designing operas.
Here’s more from the article: “Like all Sendakian rumpuses, it [Bumble-Ardy] gets out of hand, and for 10 pages we’re treated to the most bizarre tableau of celebrants, all in costume: pigs dressed as monsters, pigs dressed as cowboys and Indians, pigs dressed as old ladies painted garishly. As with any Sendak book, the pictures are full of references and echoes. One pig is reading a newspaper that says, WE READ BANNED BOOKS. A sheriff’s yellow badge calls back to the Warsaw Ghetto. Messages are written in Hebrew, Italian, Russian.” (via The Guardian)

Amazing remainder bookstore in Marais

Wandering around the Marais this morning, one of my favourite districts in Paris I stumbled on to Mona Lisait Bookstore which had the most amazing collection of remainder books I have ever come across with titles from notable publishers from around the globe - Yale University Press and Taschen were two I noticed for example. Also a big range of second hand books. Arts books would seem to be their speciality although they covered every genre.

Sadly concerns about luggage weight saw me leaving without purchasing but oh my goodness had I been closer to home or were this my last stop on this holiday I would have left laden......

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why Metadata is the Key to Your Digital Future

Publishing Perspectives
We might not know what the publishing landscape will look like in five years, but metadata is the one thing you can confidently take control of now to future proof your business.
Metadata is all of the information associated with a book or publication that is used to produce, publish, distribute, market, promote and sell the book. This includes very simple things, such as the title, author of a book, cover and format, to much more complicated data, such as the terms of the publishing contract, rights information, print run, sales data, reviews, etc.
Metadata needs to be a part of everyone’s job description. The problem comes when a house instills a “digital director” and everyone else starts to think “well, that’s not my job anymore.” Metadata is a tool that everyone can use to help make a book a success and keep it alive in the marketplace much longer. Many people outsource their metadata for e-books to the service providers who also convert and/or distribute their e-books, which can also work very well — provided they are one in the same.

PA hails copyright legal first

28.07.11 | Charlotte Williams - The Bookseller

A legal case ruling that an internet service provider (ISP) must block access to a copyright-infringing website has been hailed by the Publishers Association as setting a legal precent to protect copyright.
A High Court judgment today (28th July) ruled BT must outlaw access to Newzbinz 2, a members-only site that links to pirated material. The PA had supported the case, brought by the Motion Picture Association (MPA), by providing a witness statement, and chief executive Richard Mollet called it "a clear statement that online copyright infringement will not be tolerated in the UK".
In the case of books, 201 of the 268 records from the site that were analysed by the MPA related to commercially available content. Of the remaining 67 records, 48 related to content that is likely to be protected by copyright.
Mollet added it sent a "strong and clear message" to both copyright-infringing sites as well as highlighting to ISPs that "they have a major responsibility and role to play in preventing infringement".
Mollet anticipates the case, which sets a legal precedent, will mean ISPs will take on more responsibility for protecting copyright in the future: "We look forward to working closely with ISPs in future to agree on ways of safeguarding creative content and promoting legitimate downloading services.
"Hopefully there should be far less need to go through the courts simply to uphold existing laws on copyright infringement in this country."

Print Books: Should They Stay or Should They Go?

July 27, 2011, New York Times


Pile of print books.
Marnie MacLean

At the end of the week, I’ll be moving west and writing about technology from The New York Times’s San Francisco bureau.
I’ve lived in New York City for 15 years, and over that time have amassed a lot of stuff. My personal belongings are strewn about the city, piled up in my apartment, stuffed into drawers at my office and stacked in a storage space in Brooklyn.
When it came time to pack for the big move, I was forced to cull what I could afford to send out to San Francisco from what I would have to throw away or give to friends. Most decisions were pretty simple; pots and pans, my bicycle and my Apple iPad would all make the trip. Old and now useless electronics and large furniture would stay.
But there was one thing (actually, many of one thing) that I couldn’t decide what to do about — my print books.
Although I love my print books, e-readers, in one form or another, have become my primary reading device over the last few years. I barely touch my print books, although they are still beautiful and important to me. But they sit on my bookshelf as a decorative and intellectual art form.
I’ve always been a voracious reader, often buying 50 or so books a year, so before I joined the clan of e-reading New Yorkers, I had amassed hundreds of paperback and hardback books.
As I packed for the move, I questioned whether it made financial sense to ship my several hundred books across the country, and more important, if I went through the trouble of doing this, what was the point when they would only sit untouched in a different city, just as they have for so many years in New York?
During a work meeting at The Times, I began talking about my move to San Francisco, and which of my personal belongings would make the trip. When I voiced my reluctance to ship my books, one of my editors, horror-stricken, said: “You have to take your books with you! I mean, they are books. They are so important!”
The book lover in me didn’t disagree, but the practical side of me did. I responded: “What’s the point if I’m not going to use them? I have digital versions now on my Kindle.” I also asked, “If I was talking about throwing away my CD or DVD collection, no one would bat an eyelid.”
Full piece here.

Lady Gaga and Grand Central Partner for Photo Book

PW - 

Grand Central Publishing, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, announced today that it will publish Lady Gaga, a book of never-before-seen photographs of Lady Gaga taken by photographer Terry Richardson. Lady Gaga will write the foreword to the book, which is scheduled to be published on November 22, 2011.
Jamie Raab, executive v-p and publisher of Grand Central Publishing, said, "We are proud to be publishing this remarkable collaboration between Lady Gaga and Terry Richardson and anticipate that it will be one of the most stunning, provocative and coveted books of the 2011 holiday season." Raab acquired world rights to the book from William Morris Endeavor Entertainment in association with Atom Factory. Taschen Books will publish a very limited edition of the book to be released the following year.
The book will showcase over 350 photographs taken during the 10 month period in which Richardson followed Lady Gaga and had complete access to her everyday life.

A Publisher Plays Coy With Book Release

By , New York Times, Published: July 27, 2011

Over the last few days buyers for bookstores around the country have opened their e-mail to find a mysterious last-minute addition to the Little, Brown & Company fall lineup.

Bernard L. Madoff, (Louis Lanzano/Associated Press)who might be the topic of an untitled book to be released by Little, Brown & Company this fall.

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times - Catherine Hooper, named as a co-author of the book.
“Untitled,” by Anonymous, was described as a 320-page, nonfiction, hardcover book with photos that will retail at $26.99. Order the book now, the publisher said, to ensure delivery by its November release date.
It is, the e-mail said, “the inside story of life with one of the most controversial figures of our time.”
On Wednesday book buyers remained in the dark about the identity of the author or the “controversial” subject, and Little, Brown has given tantalizingly few clues.
In its e-mail the publisher promised a “massive media rollout” with a confirmed “60 Minutes” appearance. Bookstores were instructed to comply with a highly orchestrated release on Nov. 14, with no sales permitted until then, an embargo arrangement typically reserved for splashy debuts of political memoirs or Bob Woodward books.
“There’s nothing to guess with,” said Mark LaFramboise, a buyer for Politics and Prose, an independent store in Washington. “I can’t even get mad at it, I just think it’s so funny.”
Full story at New York Times.

Little, Brown Sells Embargoed, Untitled Book, Apparently About Madoff


Little, Brown has been soliciting orders for a untitled, embargoed November 14 release. The publisher bills it in an e-mail as "the inside story of life with one of the most controversial figures of our time." A company leaker says the book is listed on company systems as written by Andrew Madoff's fiancee Catherine Hooper and freelance writer Laurie Sandell. Sandell's graphic novel memoir THE IMPOSTOR'S DAUGHTER was published by Judy Clain at Little, Brown in 2009, represented by Amanda Urban at ICM.
The NYT says the publisher's e-mail promises a "massive media rollout" and an already-booked 60 Minutes appearance. Politics and Prose buyer Mark LaFramboise tells the paper, "I can’t even get mad at it, I just think it's so funny" how little information is provided in the request for orders. Changing Hands Bookstore owner Gayle Shanks says she ordered 10 copies. "The note I sent back to my sales reps was, 'I hate these books.'"
In other not-yet-books, agent Bob DiForio is shopping a Mick Jagger bio by Debra Sharon Davis, "who traveled with the Rolling Stones to Europe in the 1980." She tells The Wrap, "He supervised the Rolling Stones organization -- the toughest CEO, except he trusted no one and was not a delegator. He questioned every purchase. He even concerned himself with the price of pencil sharpeners in the Stones' office. Whatever the price, he thought it was too high. He was obsessed with profits." The story says Jagger was "a closet conservative who brought his parents flowers during dinner visits and begged his ex-wife, Bianca, to wear a bra under her see-through shirt during a surprise visit from his mother." And it can now be told that he has an "affinity for eggs served soft boiled in a Wedgewood cup."

Arts on Sunday - Radio NZ National

Our featured writer Dame Fiona Kidman explores our deepest emotions in her latest short story collection, The Trouble with Fire.

 A chat to one of the art world's publishing heroes, Knight Landesman, who's behind the magazine Art Forum. He's heading to New Zealand to speak at the Auckland Art Fair.

The Wonky Donkey Wins Again

The Wonky Donkey animation has won the What Now Children’s Video of the Year Award, which is a children’s choice award run by APRA.

The animation can be viewed on You Tube at The video has had over 68,000 views since it was uploaded to You Tube at the end of March.

Saturday Morning with Kim Hill: 30 July 2011 - Radio NZ National

8:15 Errol Morris: tabloids and truth
8:45 Yves Smith: the US economy
9:05 Frank Bowden: pathogens
9:40 Brad Argent: genealogy
10:05 Playing Favourites with Paul Wolffram
11:05 Fiona Campbell: art on the road
11:50 Chris Bourke: music history

Producer: Mark Cubey
Wellington engineer: Shaun Wilson

8:15 Errol Morris
American documentary filmmaker Errol Morris is noted for his use of monologue-style interviews, cinematic editing, and extensive use of re-enactments. His films, including The Thin Blue Line (1988), A Brief History of Time (1992), and The Fog of War (2003) delve into the subjective nature of truth. His new film, Tabloid, about a former Miss Wyoming who became a newspaper headline sensation in 1970s England, is screening at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival (in Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch and Hamilton). His new book, Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography (The Penguin Press, ISBN: 9781594203015), will be published in September.

8:45 Yves Smith
Yves Smith is the editor of Naked Capitalism, which provides finance-related and economic news and analysis, and is the fourth most visited business and economics blog on the web, and the author of ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism (Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN: 978-0230620513).

9:05 Frank Bowden
Frank Bowden is foundation Professor of Medicine at the Australian National University Medical School and director of the Canberra Sexual Health Centre. He is a specialist in the field of infectious disease, and the author of Gone Viral: the Germs That Share Our Lives (New South, ISBN: 978-1-742-23273-7)).

9:40 Brad Argent
Brad Argent is content director for Australia and New Zealand at, which is part of a global network of websites offering members access to millions of searchable family history records.

10:05 Playing Favourites with Paul Wolffram
Paul Wolffram is an ethnomusicologist, photographer and film maker currently working at the Victoria University of Wellington Film Programme, and the director and producer for video production specialists Handmade Productions Aotearoa. His new documentary, Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales, about the Lak people in the rainforest of Papua New Guinea, will have two screenings in Wellington at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival (31 July, 3 August).

11:05 Fiona Campbell
Philanthropist Fiona Campbell worked for a number of dealer galleries before joining forces with Rob McLeod and Gerald Barnett to create the Real Art Roadshow, a touring contemporary New Zealand art collection that brings art to school students in geographically isolated or challenging locations. The concept and history is explained in Real Art Roadshow: the Book (Craig Potton, ISBN: 978-0-473-15294-9), featuring colour plates of each of the 126 works in the collection, plus over 15 essays and a foreword by art commentator and collector Hamish Keith.

11:50 Chris Bourke
Chris Bourke is the author of Blue Smoke: the Lost Dawn of Popular Music in New Zealand, 1918-1964 (Auckland University Press, ISBN: 978-1-86940-455-0), which won the General Non-Fiction award, Book of the Year award, and People’s Choice award, at the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2011.

Saturday Morning repeats

On Saturday 30 July 2011 during Great Encounters between 6:06pm and 7:00pm on Radio New Zealand National, you can hear a repeat broadcast of Kim Hill’s interview from 23 July with travel and fiction writer Paul Theroux.

Preview: Saturday 6 August

Kim Hill’s guests will include Rebecca Cann, Luke Wood, and the Yeastie Boys.

The Lilian Ida Smith Award for 2011 is now open for applications.

 This biennial award provides the successful applicant with a grant of $3000 to assist them towards the completion of a specific project. The award is open to writers of non-fiction, fiction, poetry and drama for adults and children, who are financial members of the NZSA and are aged 35 years or over.
Applicants are expected to be either in the early stages of their writing career, or someone whose opportunities to fulfil their potential have been limited. The selection panel will be looking for an applicant whose project would most significantly enhance the literary standing of the applicant and make the most significant contribution to New Zealand writing.

Applicants are required to submit a cv containing their writing history, an outline of their project; an extract from the work-in-progress or a sample of previous work, and proof of age.

The 2009 recipient of the award was Leanne Radojkovich for her short story collection Come Closer Honey. Leanne is currently working on a second collection, and since receiving the LIS she has gained a MCW with First Class Honours from AUT University.

For more information and an application form email or visit our website:

Ngaio Marsh Award finalists announced

THE FINALISTS for the 2011 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, which will be presented as part of the upcoming Christchurch Arts Festival, have been announced today.

The award, now in its second year, is made annually for the best crime, mystery, or thriller novel written by a New Zealand citizen or resident. Its namesake, Dame Ngaio Marsh, is renowned worldwide as one of the four iconic “Queens of Crime” of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. The award was established last year with the blessing of Dame Ngaio’s closest living relatives.

Over the past two months an expert panel consisting of seven local and international judges has been considering the best examples of locally written crime and thriller fiction published in New Zealand during 2010. The judges are now pleased to announce that the finalists are:
  • BLOOD MEN by Paul Cleave (Random House);
  • CAPTURED by Neil Cross (Simon & Schuster);
  • HUNTING BLIND by Paddy Richardson (Penguin); and
  • SLAUGHTER FALLS by Alix Bosco (Penguin).
 The judges praised BLOOD MEN as “a gruesomely gripping story” told “in clean, sharp prose, with authentically laconic dialogue and flashes of very dark humour”; said CAPTURED was “fascinating”, with “amazing twists and turns” and a “main character who was drawn so well”; rated HUNTING BLIND highly for its “sense of downright creepiness” and “some fascinatingly complex characters”; and were impressed by “the depth and complexity” and “well-executed plot unfolding at a good pace” in SLAUGHTER FALLS.

This year’s winner of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel will be announced at a ceremony at the conclusion of the “Setting the Stage for Murder” event at the TelstraClear Club in North Hagley Park on the afternoon of Sunday 21 August 2011. New York Times bestselling international crime writers Tess Gerritsen and John Hart will also be appearing at the event. The winner will receive a distinctive handcrafted trophy designed and created by New Zealand sculptor and Unitec art lecturer Gina Ferguson, a set of Ngaio Marsh novels courtesy of HarperCollins, and a cheque for $1,000 provided by the Christchurch Writers Festival Trust.

“The four finalists are a great representation of both the quality and depth of contemporary Kiwi-written crime fiction,” said Judging Convenor Craig Sisterson. “It was a particularly tough decision for the panel this year, as judges were impressed by each of the books on the longlist, and there was a real diversity of storytelling, settings, and styles. There were some very good local crime novels published in 2010 that haven’t become finalists, but that’s a good sign of the growing strength of our own indigenous interpretation of a genre that’s popular around the world.”

Like Dame Ngaio in her heyday, local crime writers are now showing that they can stand shoulder-to-shoulder, quality-wise, with their more well-known international contemporaries, said Sisterson. “We should be proud of our best crime writers, and support and celebrate their success, just like we are justifiably proud of other New Zealanders who achieve great things in their chosen field.”

For more information, please contact:
Craig Sisterson, Judging Convenor: or (021) 184 1206

Judges for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2011

The author and illustrator team behind the Horrid Henry books, Francesca Simon and Tony Ross, are two of the judges preparing to exercise their chuckle muscles with this year’s Roald Dahl Funny Prize submissions. Francesca and Tony will be joined on the judging panel by Twitter queen, author and comedic columnist Grace Dent and Yes Man author and journalist Danny Wallace. Roald Dahl Funny Prize founder and children’s author extraordinaire, Michael Rosen returns to chair the panel.

Michael Rosen comments on the appointment of his fellow judges:
‘What a team! People whose comedic feathers have been tickling young people's funny bones for years. I can't wait for the judging sessions where we grapple with the outrageous gags of this season's most hilarious books - and this is the perfect gang to do it with.’
The Prize, which is in its fourth year, is the first of its kind; launched to honour those books that make young people, and all of us, roar with laughter. Concerned that the really side-splittingly funny books were being overlooked by other book awards, the Prize was created by Michael Rosen in 2008 as part of his work as Children’s Laureate.
This year, for the first time, the Prize will see schools involved in the judging process. Over 400 pupils from England have been selected to read the shortlisted titles, discuss with their classmates, and pick their favourite funny book in the relevant category for their age. Their votes will then be combined with the votes of the adult judging panel to find the two winners for 2011. Classes who participate will also have the opportunity to win a chance to perform to the audience at the award ceremony.


Today in Paris en route to WH Smith's large shop on the rue de Rivoli, a street to be largely avoided in my opinion, I stumbled upon Galignani Bookseller. What a truly wonderful place. How is it that on my previous visits I have missed it?
Two hours later I emerged with six books under my arm! Having promised myself I wouldn't buy any. Oh well off to La Poste I go..............
Have a look at the pics below, it will give you some idea of my temptation; NZ readers will understand when I say this store is like a giant version of Unity Books.

Check them out at their website -

And when you are in Paris be sure to visit them at
224 Rue De Rivoli, Paris, 1st.

75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking

TASCHEN is pleased to announce that 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking received the 2011 Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Comics-Related Book of the Year.

Often called the "Oscars" or the "National Book Awards" of the comics industry, the 23rd Annual Eisner Awards were held last Friday night July 22 at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, California, the largest comic book and popular arts event in the Western Hemisphere.

Special congratulations go to writer Paul Levitz, former president and publisher of DC Comics, who accepted his first Eisner award on behalf of the book, as well as TASCHEN Art Director Josh Baker, DC Comics editor Steve Korte, TASCHEN editor Nina Wiener, and all the members of the DC Comics and TASCHEN staff who worked on the book.

On books

Book talk with Graeme Neill

As ever, the Man Booker longlist continues to delight and infuriate. Its announcement on Tuesday afternoon certainly shocked The Bookseller's office and I personally was delighted to see so many independents on the longlist. There's been a major swing towards indies in recent years. Four of the 13 in this year's longlist are from major publishers (across Picador, Random House and Hachette). Three years ago, when White Tiger clinched the Man Booker, the numbers were reversed: four books on the longlist were from indies.

Notable omissions suggested in The Bookseller's office were by Ali Smith, Philip Hensher and David Lodge. The Bookseller's books editor Alice O'Keeffe said she was shocked Edward St Aubyn's At Last (Picador) didn't make the cut. She said: "For me, it's one of the most powerful and moving novels I've read ever, let alone this year." Nevertheless, she was pleased by the number of debuts and the performance of the independents. She said: "I'm particularly thrilled to see Atlantic's Snowdrops by A D Miller, a Moscow-set tale of corruption and compromised morals which I've been raving about since the proof landed on my desk back in August last year."

Bookies are split between D J Taylor and Alan Hollinghurst as to who win will the £50,000 award. The trade appears to be leaning towards Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry and Hollinghurst again. In words that will no doubt come back to haunt me, if I were a betting man I'd probably stick some cash behind Barnes to win. Surely it's time for the thrice shortlisted author to finally clinch the Man Booker?

However, I'll be rooting for Stephen Kelman. I was fortunate enough to interview him late last year ahead of the publication of Pigeon English (Bloomsbury). He was incredibly calm for a man who was at the heart of one of the most intense bidding wars in recent years. However, Pigeon English justified the considerable hype and is a deeply affecting, and frequently very funny, novel. The book's main character, 11-year-old Ghanian immigrant Harri, is one of the best narrative voices in a novel I have read in years. You can read my Stephen Kelman profile here, as well as interviews with other Man Booker longlistees A D Miller and Alan Hollinghurst.

People power won out this week, with the BBC making a partial climbdown in its decision to cut its short-story coverage. The Society of Authors led the charge against the BBC's decision to slash its short story output from three per week to one and they were backed in the campaign by those political juggernauts Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley. The SoA still wants clarity on the   BBC's new decision to broadcast two short stories a week. General secretary Nicola Solomon said: "Will they all be brand new writing, or are they stories that already exist? Friday and Sunday [broadcasts] means there will be no midweek stories, and that is still an enormous loss."

Meanwhile, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy is among those calling for Judith Palmer, former director of the Poetry Society, to be reinstated. A petition has been launched in a bid for the society to start anew. Palmer, president Jo Shapcott and vice-president Gwyneth Lewis were among those who resigned from the embattled organisation earlier this month. The Arts Council has since put its quarterly funding on hold, demanding the society "gets its house in order".
From The Bookseller - Graeme Neill is The Bookseller's news editor.    

"Book Publishers Challenged by Distribution Problems

In a Forbes piece headlined "Book Publishers Challenged by Distribution Problems," Robert Picard noted that while digital distribution of titles is rapidly increasing, "the vast majority of books sold remain in physical copies and there is a need for local retailers to provide them. Such retailers are not only needed to provide access to books, but because they are one of the most important ways readers find out about books that are not bestsellers or highly reviewed in the media. Good booksellers stock thousands of copies on a wide variety of topics, allowing readers to browse and find interesting volumes by topics and serendipity."

Picard made a case for more indie support from publishers: "The shifting distribution patterns for books mean publishers now need strategies to make local independent bookstores sustainable and to help restore local booksellers where they no longer exist. Policy makers need to ensure that tax codes and other regulations do not disadvantage physical booksellers compared to those who sell online. Unless there is concerted effort to solve the challenges of book distribution, we will all be worse off and culture diminished." 

Via Shelf Awareness.

Not the Booker prize 2011: Nominate now

The literary prize decided by Guardian readers is once again up for grabs. Nominate now to help decide who will get the most coveted mug in British letters

Guardian mug
Brewing up a contest ... Who be lifting this year's hotly-contested Not the Booker mug in October?
The Not the Booker prize is three! And hasn't it grown? In human terms, it's a toddler – walking, talking, refusing to eat vegetables and increasingly defiant. No, scrub that. It's too much of a frightening thought. The important thing to note is that the most unruly prize in the literary calendar is here again.

At this stage in the proceedings it's next to impossible to know how it will turn out – except that it's guaranteed to be interesting. Will we be talking about edgy debuts from tiny indy publishers? Will we be talking about SF? Will we be talking about books that will also feature on the official Booker longlist? Will we be talking about the books that everyone thinks should have featured on the official Booker shortlist, but somehow didn't? We can't say. It's out of our hands. Once again we're handing control over to you. Only you can decide which books we talk about and which books make the shortlist. Only you can decide which one wins. Or possibly which two, please Lord not three.

The format will be very nearly the same as last year and the year before that– which makes things easier for me as I can once again just cut and paste from 2009's opening blogpost:

"Over the next few weeks nominations will be gathered here, books will be shortlisted and discussed and – provided things go smoothly – a winner will be selected.
For the sake of convenience we're also going to use roughly the same entry criteria as the Booker panel. That's to say, you can nominate:
• Any full-length novel (or at least, a long novella) written by a citizen of the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or Zimbabwe.
• No English translation of a book written originally in any other language.
• No self-published books where the author is the publisher or where a company has been specifically set up to publish that book.
• The books have to have a scheduled publication date between 1 October 2010 and 30 September 2011.

Unlike the Booker panel, however, we aren't going to limit the number of entries per publisher."

The full terms and conditions are available here.

Has Lynn Barber killed the art of criticism?

Telegraph's £65,000 payout for 'spiteful' article threatens to muzzle reviewers

By Rob Sharp, Arts Correspondent, The Telegraph, Thursday, 28 July 2011
Lynn Barber, who has been censured for her review of a book by Sarah Thornton
Lynn Barber, who has been censured for her review of a book by Sarah Thornton

From the US critic John Simon's 1971 proclamation that a naked Diana Rigg resembled "a brick basilica" to AA Gill's 1998 insistence that the Welsh are "pugnacious little trolls", newspaper critics have always trodden a fine line between entertainment and being purposefully offensive (or libellous) to those upon whom they turn their gaze.
On Tuesday, however, their subjects hit back. A High Court judged ruled that Lynn Barber's 2008 review of Seven Days in the Art World by Dr Sarah Thornton, a noted sociologist, was "spiteful" and contained serious factual errors. The Telegraph Group, owner of The Daily Telegraph, which published the article, has been ordered to pay Dr Thornton £65,000 in damages.
While the country's critics regard such factual errors as justifiably punishable, the case still raises questions for scribes who have grown accustomed to saying what they like about whomever they please.
"The principle of criticism should be unconstrained," said the philosopher AC Grayling, who describes himself as a "long-time book reviewer".
"You want a vigorous debate: there's a lot of rough and tumble, and sometimes people say things that are upsetting. If it is libellous then obviously the person who has been harmed has a remedy in the legal system. British justice allows a debate over whether the reviewer went too far."
Professor Grayling emphasises that one can write about liking a book without too much justification. "But if you hammer it you have to make a good case over why you dislike it."
There is a long history of critical clashes. The most high profile are necessarily those that end up in court. In 1998 the journalist and TV presenter Matthew Wright "reviewed" the play The Dead Monkey starring David Soul, calling it "without doubt the worst West End show". The chink in his armour was that he'd never actually seen it, and Soul won £30,000 in a libel case.
Sometimes, the clashes are less clear cut. One anonymous arts critic told The Independent about three legal threats that had recently landed across his desk, none of which ended up in court, incidents he described as "shots across the bows". To avoid such clashes, critics may find it necessary to limit how often they tackle certain subjects. "My view is that a critic has to be honest and say what he or she likes," said Brian Sewell, art critic at the London Evening Standard .
"There is a risk in that, though. There is further risk if you criticise, say, David Hockney in 1990, and in 1995 and in 2000, because he might claim that this is a campaign against him. The idea of a campaign is distasteful to everyone. There are examples of exhibitions I have not reviewed because of the danger it could be misinterpreted as a campaign." Sewell emphasised the oft-repeated journalistic mantra to "publish and be damned" and said that critical freedom "really does depend on who your employer is".
For most, it is business as usual. "I don't see any real repercussions," said the New York Times theatre critic, Ben Brantley. "I have only a cursory knowledge of the case, but the paper wasn't sued because of opinions Barber expressed... but on a matter of fact."

Trade picks Man Booker frontrunners

28.07.11 | Katie Allen, Charlotte Williams and Philip Stone - The Bookseller

Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry and bookies favourite Alan Hollinghurst are seen by the trade as the Man Booker Prize for Fiction frontrunners after the longlist was revealed on Tuesday (26th July).
The indie-heavy list has attracted general approval, with nine out of the 13 titles from independent houses contending for the £50,000 prize.

Bookmaker William Hill predicted Alan Hollinghurst to win for a second time with The Stranger’s Child (Picador), offering odds of 5/1.
Ladbrokes yesterday (27th July) installed D J Taylor as its 4/1 favourite for Derby Day (Chatto). Stephen Kelman's Pigeon English (Bloomsbury) is second favourite at 5/1 with Hollinghurst third at 6/1 along with Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape). Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes said: "Derby Day is a worthy favourite and would be a topical winner. It's a strong field and there's a good chance we see a first-time listed winner in Kelman."

Foyles senior buyer Jasper Sutcliffe said: "At Foyles we love to champion independent publishers and independent thinking, so to see that recognised by Man Booker is incredibly exciting. There are great sales opportunities throughout the list, along with the potential to create new literary stars."
Sphere associate publisher Daniel Mallory said: "I don’t know if this indicates a predisposition amongst the nominating committee or whether indies are simply producing more Booker-friendly titles, but it’s a notable, and notably disproportionate, statistic." He added there could be joy in store for the three time Man Booker bridesmaid. He said: "This does feel to me like Barnes’ year."
Gardners senior buyer Geoff Briley said: "Almost regardless of who the authors will be, we have seen an instant pick-up on all the titles, which we expected but it has been pretty quick."
The 11 published titles of the "dozen" have sold 34,296 copies to date through Nielsen BookScan, with Hollinghurst’s novel making up almost half with sales of 16,700. Next in line is A D Miller's Snowdrops (Atlantic), with sales of 5,866 and Pigeon English at 5,659.
Scottish indie Sandstone Press has already seen an "immediate surge in sales".
Author Rogers commented on The Bookseller website: "Until yesterday’s longlist announcement, I thought it was likely to sink without trace, since it had only three reviews, and was barely visible in bookshops. This longlisting means it will be read—I am deeply grateful to the judges."
Seren Books, Sandstone Press and Oneworld are readying e-book versions and reprints of the longlisted titles.
This year’s shortlist will be revealed on 6th September, and the winner on 18th October.

The Ladbroke odds in full:
D.J. Taylor - Derby Day - 4/1
Stephen Kelman - Pigeon English - 5/1
Alan Hollinghurst - The Stranger’s Child - 6/1
Julian Barnes -The Sense of an Ending - 6/1
Sebastian Barry - On Canaan’s Side - 7/1
Carol Birch - Jamrach’s Menagerie - 8/1
Yvvette Edwards - A Cupboard Full of Coats - 12/1
Patrick McGuinness - The Last Hundred Days - 14/1
Alison Pick - Far to Go - 14/1
Esi Edugyan - Half Blood Blues - 14/1
Patrick deWitt - The Sisters Brothers - 14/1
A.D. Miller - Snowdrops - 16/1
Jane Rogers - The Testament of Jessie Lamb - 16/1

Are Voluntary Micropayments a Solution for Digital Content?

Publishing Perspectives
Will readers voluntary pay arbitrary amounts of money for digital content? Writer Amanda DeMarco believes they will, and that this could be the beginning of a new business model for publishing.
With a micropayment system, you can to put a certain amount of money into an account each month. Then you distribute it among the websites you want to support by clicking a button on individual sites or via the main micropayment website.
Publishing communities have lots of reasons to be interested in voluntary micropayments. Take, for example, the growing pressure on authors to have a webpage and regularly updated blog, uncompensated work that takes time away from that next book -— let’s call it page slavery. A micropayment button would let readers express appreciation/pity. Self-publishers who depend on a more direct financial relationship with readers, publishers who offer additional high-value content on blogs, reviews, lit bloggers -— they’re all great candidates for micropayment systems.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Catching of Two Joseph Hellers

By  - New York Times - Published: July 27, 2011

JUST ONE CATCH - A Biography of Joseph Heller

By Tracy Daugherty
Illustrated. 548 pages. St. Martin’s Press. $35.


When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home, and Life Was a Catch-22
By Erica Heller

 One Catch” is a soup-to-nuts chronicle of the life of Joseph Heller. It is by Tracy Daugherty, who should not be confused with Mr. Heller’s daughter. Erica Heller’s own book about her father is “Yossarian Slept Here,” and there are many places where Heller’s daughter and Mr. Daugherty overlap. This situation is so jarring that it has driven Christopher Buckley, not ordinarily known for cornball silliness, to two giddy attacks of wordplay. About the biography he blurbs, “A major achievement, or should I say major major major?” in honor of Major Major, a major character in Heller’s “Catch-22.” His blurb for Ms. Heller: “I think this is going to be one hell(er) of a memoir.”
Photo - Vic DeLucia/The New York Times -Joseph Heller at his home in East Hampton, N.Y., in 1994.
So the combined effects of these two books can be dizzying, even though the authors’ vantage points and attitudes are very different. Mr. Daugherty writes in a thoroughgoing academic style, cherry-picks an unconscionable amount of material from Heller’s own memoirs, paraphrases dreadfully (with ... shock[ingly] heavy use of ... b[rackets] and ellipses ... and parentheses) and does not show signs of assurance until he has occasion to analyze Heller’s writing career — at which point “Just One Catch” gets a lot better. And it is the first important biography to arrive about Heller, who died in 1999.  Full reviews here.       

Judges announced for BBC National Short Story Award 2011

Three of the UK’s leading authors have joined Chair Sue MacGregor and BBC Radio’s Di Speirs to judge the 2011 BBC National Short Story Award this autumn. The Award, which is now in its sixth year, celebrates the best in contemporary short story writing and is one of the most important for a single short story. The author of the winning story will be awarded £15,000, with the runner up receiving £3,000 and a further three authors receiving £500 each. 
This year’s panel consists of:

  • BBC Radio 4 broadcaster Sue MacGregor (Chair)
  • Joe Dunthorne, poet and author of Submarine
  • Author and journalist Geoff Dyer
  • Tessa Hadley, whose most recent novel is The London Train
  • Di Speirs, Editor Readings, BBC Radio,
Sue MacGregor, BBC Radio 4 broadcaster and Chair of the 2011 judging panel comments:
‘We've had an impressive number of short stories to keep us busy reading these last few weeks. My fellow judges – three distinguished writers and a BBC editor of vast experience – will join me over breakfast one morning this month and pick our shortlist of the best of them, fortified by several gallons of strong coffee, some lively argument, and the knowledge that the genre is in terrifically good health. It won't be easy but we'll have a fine time.’

The Award has moved forward by two months in 2011 from November to September to coincide with Books on the BBC 2011 – a major season of programmes focusing on literature. The shortlist will be announced on Friday 9 September with each of the five stories broadcast on Radio 4 the following week. The winner will be announced on Monday 26 September. The five stories will also be published in a special anthology and be available for free audio download for a limited time.