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the Literary Saloon at the Complete Review
opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 August 2023

1 August: Lee So-ho profile
2 August: Booker Prize longlist | The Corporation Wars: Emergence review
3 August: Alex Epstein profile | The Birth of Kumára review
4 August: Cundill Prize longlist
5 August: Two Lines Press profile | U.S. Supreme Court Justices's book sales | Do You Remember Being Born ? review
6 August: Philippe Curval (1929-2023) | Taiwanese literature exhibit
7 August: Best literary festivals ? | Bluemoose Books profile | Exiled Shadow review
8 August: Book on Thai king banned | KKR buys Simon & Schuster | BookTube more important than BookTok ? | Honoré de Balzac review
9 August: Saudi “Books for Everyone” initiative | Promoting Chinese 'Grassroots' literature
10 August: Writing in ... Singapore | Maltese Museum of Literature | The Feast review

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10 August 2023 - Thursday

Writing in ... Singapore | Maltese Museum of Literature
The Feast review

       Writing in ... Singapore

       Via I'm pointed to Clement Yong writing in the Straits Times that Local authors go global, but Singapore publishers worry.
       The international success of Singaporean authors does make things harder for local publishers. As Edmund Wee, the founder of Epigram Books, notes:
The Government is always telling us to go to Frankfurt to sell the books, sell the rights. What it doesn’t understand is we are killing ourselves when we lose these authors who are on the verge of becoming recognised.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Maltese Museum of Literature

       As Fiona Galea Debono reports in the Times of Malta, Malta to get a museum of literature in Valletta.
       The museum, being built in a: "rehabilitated 16th-century palazzo", looks promising; see also the AP Valletta project page. They hope to open to the public in 2025.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Feast review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Margaret Kennedy's 1950 novel, The Feast, now also out in a new edition in the US, from McNally Editions; Faber also re-issued it not too long ago.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

9 August 2023 - Wednesday

Saudi “Books for Everyone” initiative | Promoting Chinese 'Grassroots' literature

       Saudi “Books for Everyone” initiative

       At Arab News Tareq al-Thaqafi reports that a Saudi commission initiative aims to make literature ‘more accessible’.
       They mean that even in very basic ways, as:
The initiative aims to make literature, particularly of the literary type, accessible in several ways, including through vending machines.
       It's part of Saudi Arabia's Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission's “Books for Everyone” initiative, and it's ... certainly something.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Promoting Chinese 'Grassroots' literature

       At China Daily Fang Aiqing reports on how the: "China Writers Association has been promoting literature works that feature depictions of grassroots life, the achievements of poverty alleviation and prospects of rural vitalization", in Grassroots literature promoted.
       The CWA's Literature Summit Plan for a New Era -- their translation of 新时代文学攀登计划, not mine ... -- seems to be going strong -- and seems to even be making some inroads abroad:
so far, the publishing house has signed 18 copyright export contracts for the four books, which means that some of these works will be translated and published in 10 foreign languages, including Russian, German, Japanese and Arabic.
       I suspect the US/UK market will be harder to crack .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

8 August 2023 - Tuesday

Book on Thai king banned | KKR buys Simon & Schuster
BookTube more important than BookTok ? | Honoré de Balzac review

       Book on Thai king banned

       This already happened last month, but at VOA Zsombor Peter now reports at some length on how Thailand Bans Book on King Before Publication, as the government has banned a forthcoming book edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Rama X: The Thai Monarchy under King Vajiralongkorn, to be published by the Council on Southeast Asia Studies at Yale University; see their publication page; see also the official Royal Gazette announcement (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of the ban.
       It seems unlikely that the relevant Thai authorities have actually even seen a copy of the book, but the name of Pavin Chachavalpongpun (whom they misidentify as the book's author; he only edited it) and the title were presumably red flags enough in a country that takes that most ridiculous of all 'laws', that of lèse-majesté, very, very seriously.
       Shameful -- but at least good publicity for the book, which far more people will now presumably seek out.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       KKR buys Simon & Schuster

       In big American publishing business news: Paramount has finally been able to unload publisher Simon & Schuster -- though for significantly less than previous bidder Penguin Random House had been willing to pay; see the official press release.
       The new owner will be KKR, a "global investment firm that offers alternative asset management"; clearly any pretense that the goal is anything but making money and cashing in is now out the window. (It's hardly different at most of the bigger publishers (and many smaller ones) but most do like to at least pretend that the creative side of things matters to them, too.))
       There seems to be some sense of relief in the industry that Simon & Schuster wasn't bought by one of the other mega-publishers that dominate the industry, leading to yet more consolidation, but it's hard to see this as a great outcome either.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       BookTube more important than BookTok ?

       'BookTok' has been getting lots of attention -- ‘I can’t stress how much BookTok sells’: teen literary influencers swaying publishers David Barnett reported in The Observer just on Sunday -- but now Ella Creamer writes in The Guardian that a Nielsen Report finds YouTube more popular than TikTok for young book buyers.
       Yes: "34% of people aged between 14 and 25 find new reads using the video platform YouTube" -- while: "TikTok and Instagram were used by 32% and 27% of participants respectively". This seems like a margin-of-error kind of difference (and it's based on a "survey", i.e. self-reported and hence of dubious reliability), but, hey, whatever gets 'em reading, right ?

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Honoré de Balzac review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Peter Brooks on Honoré de Balzac, in Oxford University Press' My Reading-series -- one of two Balzac-books Brooks has published in recent years (the other being Balzac's Lives -- see the New York Review Books publicity page --, which I should also be getting to).

       I've always been a big Balzac-fan and have read a great deal of his work -- most before I started the site -- but as Brooks reminds me, there's still so much more to get to !

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

7 August 2023 - Monday

Best literary festivals ? | Bluemoose Books profile | Exiled Shadow review

       Best literary festivals ?

       At Fodor's Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey offers a list of The World's 12 Best Literary Festivals.
       Interestingly, no US festivals rate. I'm also not sure the Frankfurt Book Fair is really a crowd-pleaser.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Bluemoose Books profile

       At The Guardian Helen Pidd profiles Bluemoose Books, in ‘What we publish will stay with you’: inside a small but mighty literary hit factory
       Impressive that:
Each year, Bluemoose puts out no more than 10 titles, but a remarkable number end up in contention for major literary prizes.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Exiled Shadow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Novel in Collage by Norman Manea, his latest, Exiled Shadow, out shortly from Yale University Press in their Margellos World Republic of Letters series.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

6 August 2023 - Sunday

Philippe Curval (1929-2023) | Taiwanese literature exhibit

       Philippe Curval (1929-2023)

       French science fiction author Philippe Curval has passed away; see, for example, the franceinfo report, L'écrivain Philippe Curval, l'un des pionniers de la science-fiction en France, est mort à l'âge de 93 ans.
       Only one of his novels has been translated into English -- Brave Old World; get your copy at or
       He was apparently also an ... artist ?

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Taiwanese literature exhibit

       There's a touring exhibit on now, Sailing Onto the World Stage: Themes in Taiwan Literature -- currently in Edinburgh, but with quite a few more stations on the continent to go.
       See also the Taipei Times report, Taiwanese literature visits Europe.
       I'm not sure that an exhibit which: "displays English translations of Taiwanese authors' works" is the most exciting way to spread the word, but what do I know ?
       Two of the featured works are under review at the complete review: Notes of a Crocodile and Orphan of Asia.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

5 August 2023 - Saturday

Two Lines Press profile | U.S. Supreme Court Justices's book sales
Do You Remember Being Born ? review

       Two Lines Press profile

       In Publishers Weekly Sophia Stewart reports on how Two Lines Press Pushes Translation's Boundaries.
       As part of the Center for the Art of Translation, they've certainly done remarkable work.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       U.S. Supreme Court Justices's book sales

       In Publishers Weekly Jim Milliot reports on The Sales Numbers on Books by Supreme Court Justices -- with actual sales numbers, and some pretty eye-popping advance-numbers, as:
The biggest single deal is with the newest justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who signed to write a memoir with Penguin Random House for what the Times reported was $3 million. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has earned a total of $3.7 million from writing her memoir and children's books.
       Also interesting: the extent to which Penguin Random House dominate the Supreme Court Justice-market:
Of the 15 books listed, 11 were published by PRH imprints, and both Jackson's upcoming Lovely One and Coney Barrett's untitled memoir will be published by PRH.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Do You Remember Being Born ? review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sean Michaels' forthcoming Do You Remember Being Born ?, due out in a couple of weeks.

       Bits of the novel were: "generated with help from OpenAI's GPT-3 language model", and, yes, we're going to be seeing a lot more of that .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

4 August 2023 - Friday

Cundill Prize longlist

       Cundill Prize longlist

       They've announced the fourteen-title strong longlist for this year's Cundill History Prize, a US$75,000 prize for a: "book that embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal".
       I haven't seen any of these.
       The shortlist will be announced on 27 September.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

3 August 2023 - Thursday

Alex Epstein profile | The Birth of Kumára review

       Alex Epstein profile

       In the Times of Israel Jessica Steinberg profiles the Lunar Savings Time-author who: 'specializes in very short stories, and designs his own miniature tomes for them', in Author Alex Epstein crafts tiny books to fit his micro stories.
Epstein created the miniature books upon realizing that a regular-sized book left too much empty space around the text.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Birth of Kumára review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kālidāsa's classic The Birth of Kumára, in David Smith's translation -- a volume in the Clay Sanskrit Library.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

2 August 2023 - Wednesday

Booker Prize longlist | The Corporation Wars: Emergence review

       Booker Prize longlist

       As widely noted, they've announced the thirteen-title-strong longlist for this year's Booker Prize, one of the leading English-language fiction prizes, selected from 163 (unfortunately not revealed ...) novels.
       I've only seen one of these -- and that in e-galley form --, but then quite a few of these haven't come to the US yet.
       The shortlist will be announced 21 September, and the winner on 26 November.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Corporation Wars: Emergence review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the final volume in Ken MacLeod's trilogy, The Corporation Wars: Emergence.

       The three-part work really should be read -- and reviewed -- all together, but I've only gotten around to it piecemeal.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

1 August 2023 - Tuesday

Lee So-ho profile

       Lee So-ho profile

       In The Korea Herald Hwang Dong-hee profiles poet Lee So-ho expands her literary world with ‘Home Sweet Home’.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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