In the Herald on Sunday Andre Hueber finds a situation Bordering on ridiculous, as in New Zealand "two of the country's biggest book chains were this week put into administration".
Part of this is fall-out from the collapse of Australian chain Angus & Robertson (and American retailer Borders), but it sounds like retailers have been setting the stage for their own demise, as:
A Herald on Sunday analysis of popular titles this week revealed that Whitcoulls, Borders, Dymocks and Paperplus were consistently selling books for two to three times the price of online giant Amazon, and 50 per cent more than a British retailer.
Even when shipping and handling costs are included, the price of buying from overseas online retailers is much lower.
Doesn't sound like a viable long-term plan (and also: sounds like they're gouging consumers).
In The Korea Times Chung Ah-young reports on the publication of Emanuel Pastreich's translation of The Novels of Park Jiwon: Translation of Overlooked Worlds, in A harbinger of Korean literary modernism.
(Better known as 'Yeonam', Park Ji-won lived 1737 to 1805.)
It is a shame that in the effort to win a Nobel Prize for Literature for a deserving Korean author we have neglected to translate the masters of the past who deserve global recognition.
We hope this collection will be included in surveys of global literature around the world so that his novels become part of the new canon, of what all students read when they go to college, alongside Confucius and Plato
That seems like he's expecting/hoping for a bit much; still, these do sound interesting.
See also the Seoul National University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com.
Beirut apparently only has "three public libraries, with a fourth in the works", so they came up with the idea of having some roaming libraries -- as Annie Slemrod describes, in On board Beirut's book buses in the Daily Star.
Didier van Cauwelaert's practically film-script-ready Out of my Head (in her NYTBRreview Sophie Harrison pointed out: "This is a novel that really, really wants to be a movie") has now been made into a movie, starring Liam Neeson, under the title Unknown; it opens to day in the US.
Reviews of the movie include those in:
The dreaded 'blurb' has now invaded France, as Jérôme Dupuis, Marianne Payot, and Delphine Peras report in Les blurbs débarquent sur vos livres ! in L'Express, as it's apparently become popular to offer blurbs on the "bandeau" (too) often found on French books.
French and English-writing Tatiana de Rosnay notes that she's never been solicited for a blurb by a French publisher, but that 'Anglo-Saxon' publishers often ask.
And it's amusing to hear that it is almost unheard of for, for example, a Gallimard author to 'blurb' an Albin Michel author, because of the competition between publishers.
It's hard not to see this as the beginning of yet another end; on the other hand, those bandeaux are readily disposed of (and I'm always for the removing of bandeaux ...).
French literary figure and longtime Académie Goncourt-member François Nourissier has passed away.
Barely anything of his is available in English, but he was an important figure and author on the French scene -- hence, for example, Philippe Chevilley writes about La mort du pape des lettres at Les Echos.
See also, for example, the Le Mondeobituary, or Pour saluer François Nourissier by Pierre Assouline at his weblog.
Zorro by Isabel Allende, translated by Asieh Azizi and Parvaneh Aziz
Are you kidding me ?
Vernon God Little has been translated into Persian and published in the Islamic Republic of Iran -- and is now up for a literary prize there ?
Just a week ago I mentioned how befuddled I was (yet again) by what does and doesn't get published in Iran (as Martin McDonagh's play, The Pillowman -- a play famously set in: "a totalitarian fucking dictatorship" -- has just come out there), and this week brings news that an almost current work -- Kazuo Ishiguro's Nocturnes -- is also being published.
This shortlist is odd and a bit embarrassing (any list with Vernon God Little on it is embarrassing, and Zorro just compounds that), but this isn't a bad mix, and at least gives some insight into what is getting translated and published in Iran (and note how almost all the works are from Western languages, Siddiqi's Urdu novel being the exception).
However, discerning rhyme or reason behind what gets translated and published
remains well-near impossible.
For a while, things have been mighty quiet at Hungarian Literature Online (the government axed all support a while back), but now they announce: "Hungarian Literature Online is back again -- hopefully to stay."
No new material yet, but at least there's some activity there, so I keep my fingers crossed that they can get things rolling again -- since they are certainly correct when noting:
In the last few years we have received a lot of feedback indicating that many people -- professional readers and lovers of world literature -- have come to rely on us as the number one online source for Hungarian literature.
Given that there's almost no other information to be found it is, indeed, a much-needed and most welcome resource.
A strong Japanese showing -- by two titles that both didn't even make the 25-title-strong longlist
for the Best Translated Book award, for which both were eligible (as was another title that didn't make it, Three Sisters).
At the Wall Street Journal weblog, Asia Scene, Doretta Lau writes about The Man Asian Literary Prize Switcheroo, reminding readers that the rules were changed this year to honor a book already published in English rather than, as previously, an unpublished (in English) work.
The chairman of the prize, David Parker, justifies this:
The change in the rules to contenders for this year's Man Asian prize, he says, is meant create a dialogue about Asian literature and allow readers to be a part of the process.
Yeah, thanks .....
(I think the original set-up -- despite the obvious problems associated with it -- was more interesting, and at least offered some opportunity of helping to find new (to English) voices from the region.)
As to my continuing complaint -- that you can't and shouldn't claim this is an Asian prize if you explicitly exclude writers from so many Asian nations from the contest (as they do -- their definition of 'Asia' is ridiculously narrow, and excludes most of the western half of the continent) --, that's simply ignored in the press coverage.
However, the shop is not content to only supply the northern Moroccan city with the best of books from France, Spain and the UK, but also hopes to revitalize a literary review, plan new translations into Arabic, and create links between the main centers of Arabic publishing around the Mediterranean.
the original estimate for LAROB's operating budget has tripled, from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
"This is based on the level of interest we've generated from supporters, and what the paid staff will require," Lutz said
Awesome -- especially considering it's just an online publication (and a literary one at that).
So they must be paying their big-name contributors the big bucks, right ?
Apparently not -- at least at first they are following The Huffington Post model:
Although LAROB plans to pay for submissions in the future, currently its budget doesn't allow for compensation
A budget of $1.5 million that "doesn't allow for compensation" ?
(Leading one to wonder: what does it allow for ? They got their splash page for free, too, so it isn't the web-design .....)
So at what level will it allow it ?
(And how on earth do they imagine they're going to generate the necessary revenue ?)
Well, they do seem to have ambitious plans, and it'll be great if they can realize them all.
(Though I think they're getting a bit cocky and ahead of themselves with claims such as: "LARB will quickly become required reading for people in the book world and the first stop on writers' and readers' daily web tour".)
(Updated - 19 February): In an e-mail, Tom Lutz clarifies: "We have a desire for a $1.5 million budget, which does not mean that we have $1.5 million; we have managed to raise a tiny fraction of that so far."
[Same here, by the way -- I also have a desire for a $1.5 million budget, but you can guess how that's going .....]
Promisingly, however, he states: "we are dedicated to paying contributors print rates (not internet peanuts)", and that if they do manage to raise the money, 70% will support writers and editors.
As widely noted, The New York Times Book Review has expanded its bestseller-listage to include 'e-books', and they've now introduced their revamped bestseller lists, after "many months of planning, research and design" (so they claim, in Introducing E-Book Best Sellers).
I stopped buying the print edition of The New York Times a while ago (the last time they raised their cover price), but did come across this weekend's (13 February) issue of The New York Times Book Review, apparently the first with the new bestseller lists in print (they appeared online earlier).
A few observations: first off, in an issue of thirty-five pages (fatter than (recently) usual), six pages are dominated by bestseller lists.
There are columns like 'Inside the List' and 'Paperback Row', but the lists take up all or most of each of the six pages -- which seems like a hell of a lot of space.
There are fifteen different bestseller list categories, and at first I figured that maybe they were just showing off their full selection -- but it turns out the online offerings are even more extensive (twenty lists !).
Are they really going to take up so much space with these, week in and week out ?
(Apparently yes: the children's lists (there are four ...), for example, previously appearing only once a month, are now to be a weekly fixture.)
Surely, this is exactly the sort of stuff that can (indeed should) be relegated entirely online, rather than wasting valuable print-space -- if The New York Times Book Review means to continue to be a prominent voice in the nation's literary discussions.
(Hell, they haven't printed the stock tables for years, for example; these lists are similar page-filler that can more readily be consumed online.)
(Just by way of pointless comparison, by the way: total review coverage of books in translation in this issue: zero.
A very, very predictable: zero.
(Interestingly, translated fiction does make more appearances on the various lists than I had expected: aside from the predictable Stieg Larsson, who is all over these, Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström somehow makes it on, while Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist continues its now over two year long run on the list.))
It sure looks like the bestseller lists are all that The New York Times Book Review has left to market; perhaps in a few years it will consist entirely of bestseller lists in every variation (who needs those reviews anyway ?).
The variety of lists they offer does serve some purpose -- but, I'd argue, only for a trade publication.
(Maybe that's what The New York Times Book Review wants to turn itself into.)
Surely your average consumer (i.e. reader) doesn't care (or understand) about the difference between 'Combined print and e-book fiction best sellers' and 'Paperback trade fiction best sellers' and all the rest; I'm actually interested in this stuff, but these vacuous (because hard-number-less lists) are almost useless to me.
Despite the addition of 'e-books', I'm not particularly convinced (indeed, I'm particularly unconvinced) by the value of these particular lists (and somehow doubt that letting dozens or hundreds of additional titles label themselves 'The New York Times bestseller' won't result in watering down what limited value that might have).
The fundamental failing of the lists is, of course, that they're relative, telling you nothing more than that book x sells more copies than book y in (ever-narrowing) category z.
I have long been baffled by the inability (or, more likely, unwillingness) of the US publishing industry to make public hard and actual sales numbers; in many (most ? all ?) other countries at least year-end tallies are the norm.
I realize that it's not easy to arrive at the number, but in the US film box office numbers, CD sales, video rentals, TV ratings, etc. are all made public.
Why not book sales ?
(Beyond the embarrassment of how low some of these numbers are.)
Both unit sales and actual (dollar) turnover would be interesting and valuable numbers, but no one seems to want those revealed.
If they were, then all these sub-categories -- there's a 'manga' list, for god's sake (though that's one of the online-only (so far) ones ...) -- might make some sense.
As is, it all seems largely pointless, and beyond a bit of entertainment (and minimal information) value, certainly not worth the papers its printed on.
Online -- sure.
Knock yourselves out and play with every variation.
That's what the infinite space of cyberspace is for.
But when they yammer about how few pages they can print in a typical issue of The New York Times Book Review and then they go waste so much space on this kind of stuff .....
If you've been putting off reading the great Georges Perec's magnum opus, Life A User's Manual, maybe the opportunity to read in a group is enough to get you to finally give it a try: at his Conversational Reading Scott Esposito is leading a 'Big Read' of this book, starting 13 March; see the schedule (along with a few helpful links).
(Whatever gets you to read it -- I certainly recommend it !)
In The Times (South Africa) Melissa de Villiers profiles Leila Aboulela, in A map of the world.
Aboulela's Lyrics Alley is due out in the US this week (it's already been available in the UK for a while); I do expect to get to it; meanwhile, get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marcellus Emants' A Posthumous Confession.
New York Review Books is re-issuing this 1894 Dutch classic, in J.M.Coetzee's 1975 translation (originally published in the short-lived Twayne 'Library of Netherlandic Literature', one of the admirable yet odder attempts at presenting literature in English translation of recent decades) -- and while the book holds up well on its own, it's the Coetzee-connection that should really attract the readers.
The novel's unlikable protagonist (and narrator), Willem Termeer, is like someone straight out of any Coetzee novel (well, when he's at his most self-flagellating (well, in other words: out of any Coetzee novel ...)).
From very early in his career -- he'd only published Dusklands (1974) by that time --, it's fascinating to see that he was drawn to this, and how much of this character is in so many of his books.
When the Wheeler Centre launched 12 months ago in Melbourne with a hectic schedule of talks, debates and readings, there were fears it was aiming too high too fast.
But the Wheeler didn't rapidly exhaust demand.
In 2010, it attracted 33,000 visitors to its mainly free events and many more to its online podcasts, while the pre-existing literary organisations under its umbrella, including the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Victorian Writers Centre, drew many more to their own programs (far from being cannibalised by an upstart, the MWF had a record box office of 50,000).
The Caine Prize -- which, as I recently mentioned, just announced the judging panel for this year's prize -- brought out a collection of last year's shortlisted stories, A Life In Full, a while back -- a great way of showcasing African writing (at least short-form writing ...).
They kindly sent me a copy, and I do hope to get a proper review up; meanwhile, however, see Mike Ekunno's discussion of the anthology in Next, in In search of the African Story (and get your own copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
The recent media hype over a possible e-book revolution has obscured the real star of the book world -- the author -- and the continued functioning of the system for discovering new literary talent in Japan, including the competition among new authors for 30-some literary prizes.
Swedish-writing Finnish author Bo Carpelan has passed away; see, for example, the Helsingin Sanomatarticle.
He was two-time winner of the Finlandia Prize (for Urwind and Berg), and also won the Nordic Council Literature Prize.
See, for example, the books and writers page on him, or this interview at Books from Finland.
Quite a few of his books have been translated into English, including the interesting Axel; see the Northwestern University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Qantara.de prints an English translation of Andreas Fanizadeh's interview with Mahmud Doulatabadi (also Mahmoud Dowlatabadi; see, for example, the complete review review of Kelidar) from Die Tageszeitung.
I have a copy of Der Colonel ('The Colonel') and was recently mulling over finally getting to it .....
The biennial St. Francis College Literary Prize is accepting entries until 1 May 2011.
You may remember this prize from the first time they handed it out (to Aleksandar Hemon) in 2009, since this mid-career award was specifically for an author's fourth book.
This time they've expanded their horizons a bit, as the prize is now: "for an outstanding 3rd to 5th book of published fiction".
The prize is worth $50,000, so if you have anything that qualifies -- self-published books as well as translations apparently welcome (good for them !) -- you're encouraged to submit.
The first annual Texas Observer Short Story Prize
is also accepting submissions through 1 May -- though for this one there is an entry fee.
It's worth $1000 (and there are a few 'door prizes' as well), and Larry McMurtry will be judging.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tim Davys' Amberville.
This is the first volume in Davys' 'Mollisan Town'/stuffed-animal quartet -- but I'm afraid it's the last one in the series I'll be reviewing.
The Commonwealth Writers' Prize regional shortlists have started to appear -- though predictably (and annoyingly) not yet at the official site .....
[Yes, this is still a recurring theme -- and, given all of today's prize news posts, I'll get that complaint that I have to repeat far too often out of the way here: why doesn't this sort of news appear at the official site as soon as it is made public or that first press release is sent ?
Why do interested readers have to hunt it down elsewhere ?
Why wouldn't you put a bit of effort into making the official site the place that offers the most information about your prize ?
Come on people: get those acts together !]
(Updated): Look at that, they actually got the regional finalist list up in an almost reasonably timely manner (so you don't need to refer to the lists/links below, but now have them conveniently collected where they belong).
One additional note, now that the Africa list is up as well: as in the Caribbean and Canada region, there is an overwhelming local dominance: South Africa (8 finalists) and Nigeria (4) are the only two countries represented.
Better than only one country, but still .....
Indeed, local dominance is an issue across the board: the South Asia and Europe region is represented by only two countries, the UK (10) and India (2), while the Southeast Asia and Pacific region manages three but is still dominated by the biggest Oceanic players, with finalists from only Australia (6), New Zealand (5), and Malaysia (1).
So here's what I've been able to piece together (more to follow):
- Caribbean and Canada region: the Globe and Mail Blog, In other words, has the lists -- and the record of poor Caribbean showings continue: they had one of out the twelve finalists for the 2010 prize, and they were completely shut out this year.
Do I hear a wake-up call ?
Among the titles showing up here, however: Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado (apparently not just a Filipino book ...), Emma Donoghue's Room (apparently eligible and in the running for every single English-language literary prize outside the US ...), and Alexander MacLeod's Light Lifting, a copy of which I just got a few days ago and will have a look at.
- South Asia and Europe: Postoloniality has the lists.
Among the finalists: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, Lyrics Alley by Leila Abouleila (a copy of which I just picked up last week), and Serious Men by Manu Joseph (which I have and, I suppose, really should now have a closer look at).
No word yet on the Africa finalists; I'll update once I hear.
[Updated: as noted above, the official site now has the complete regional finalists list up; South Africa and Nigeria contribute all the African finalists.]
The regional winners will be announced 3 March (just don't expect to find that news on the site first ....).
They've announced the judging panel for the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing -- as well as the fact that "126 qualifying stories have been submitted to the judges from 17 African countries".
I am, however, tremendously pleased and relieved that in this (and the most recent) press releases they claim that the prize is: "described as Africa’s leading literary award" -- a great and long over-due improvement/correction from their previously always styling themselves as the 'African Booker' (which was wrong on several counts, and did no one any favors).
It is an admirable prize, too -- though readers know my longtime-preference for a pan-African novel prize (this one is just for stories).
And I am a bit disappointed by the small number of entries, and the lack of geographic range (you can bet almost all the entries came from South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya [Updated: note, for example, that, as noted above, all the Africa-finalists for the just-announced Commonwealth Writers' Prize hail from South Africa (8) and Nigeria (4)], and it wouldn't surprise me if there isn't a one from North Africa (or Central Africa, for that matter)).
The shortlists for the Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse -- the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair, Germany's big spring book prize (and trying to be the second big German book prize prize after the German Book Prize), and noteworthy because it has three categories: fiction, non, and translation -- are out.
Among the points of interest:
131 publishers entered 480 titles -- down from the much more sensible and realistic 760 titles submitted last year (the rules were changed, limiting publishers to two entries per category, rather than the three permitted in 2010 (a terrible limitation)). What titles were submitted has, of course, not been revealed (though I ask, again and always: why of course ? wouldn't it make perfect sense to be transparent and let readers know what works were submitted ?)
The jurors were given e-readers -- Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-650, not Kindles ... -- with which they could read the submitted books
The awards will be handed out 17 March, at the book fair.
The finalists for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize in fiction for Jewish Literature (it alternates between fiction and non; 2011 is a fiction year) have been announced.
The Sami Rohr stands out for its big prize-money -- $100,000 to its "top winner" plus a: "$25,000 Choice Award given to its first runner-up", making it one of the most remunerative of American book-prizes.
A winner will be determined on or shortly after 15 March.
The Warwick Prize for Writing has cuts its longlist down to a shortlist (though that meant only cutting it by less than half) -- though for now you'll have to refer to the Reuters Africa story to find the list.
The theme of the prize this year is: 'Colour', and the winner will be announced 22 March.