Saturday, April 27, 2013

Digital Rights and What's Left for the Author

"[…] The reaction to the news earlier this year that Amazon had a patent to sell secondhand ebooks was almost universally strong: it could ruin authors' livelihoods, said some commenters. It was dangerous for publishers, said others. It's just boggling my mind, said most. […] there's also the gnarly issue of who, exactly, owns an ebook. John Scalzi, bestselling novelist and president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, is up in arms over Amazon's secondhand ebooks patent […].
     'We don't know exactly what Amazon's planning to do with this. Every tech company out there files patents for things, but they don't necessarily have a plan to use them,' he says. 'On the other hand … there is likely to be interest in a secondhand market for electronic books, and the question then becomes how we balance the consumers' rights with the simple fact that pristine electronic copies of books are likely to undercut the incomes of the creators.'
     Scalzi can understand why consumers might be interested in selling on their ebooks – but 'is an electronic file exactly the same as a physical object?' he ponders. 'Some say absolutely, no matter what, if you buy it, you've bought it. Others say, if I have a book and take it to a used book store, when I give them the book, it's gone, whereas with an electronic book, it's possible I can make a copy for my archive, and resell the pristine-looking copy.'"
— Alison Flood, The Guardian
Read more…

Buy all of John Scalzi's books (none of them secondhand) here...

Why is the word for the person who makes our shirts spelled the same as where our shit goes?

"Case Study I —The Sri Lankan Sewer An A-class sewer in Sri Lanka is paid $2.00 per day. An assembly line will produce about 18 shirts per day per machine, incurring a sewing cost of $0.11 per unit. The other operations, such as cutting, buttonholemaking and pressing, add a further $0.06. Total direct labor cost will therefore be less than $0.20 per shirt. Unless the importer requires Tiffany cufflinks for buttons, the total trim including packing materials will probably be under $0.25. Total of labor and trim should, therefore, be $0.45.
     However, the average manufacturing or cut-make-trim (CMT) charge for a shirt in Sri Lanka is $2.10 or over four times the labor and trim cost, and about ten times the direct-labor cost. [...]
     Most garment professionals can work out that in the case of the Sri Lankan factory, direct labor counts for only 10% of CMT. These same professionals know that as in the case of the five-pocket jeans, total CMT in a Third World factory seldom exceeds 30% of the FOB [Free On Board] price. That means the total cost of direct labor in these factories is a negligible 3% to 4% of FOB, which in turn works out to 2% of the LDP price or about 0.75% of the retail price.
     Yet despite these ratios, I and almost every other garment professional around still looks at direct labor as the prime factor in determining total garment cost.
     Take, for example, a senior executive for one of the world’s largest manufacturers of active sportswear and footwear in April 1997 commenting on a 10.7% pay rise recently won by their Indonesian factory workers, who stated, 'Indonesia could be reaching a point where it is pricing itself out of the market.'”
David Birnbaum's Blog

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (New York City)
March 25, 1911 (Photo: Wkimedia Commons)
“In the wake of another deadly disaster at a major hub of garment manufacturing in Bangladesh -- this time, the collapse of a building that took the lives of more than 300 people -- the multinational brands that use the country to make their products once again find themselves having to explain what went wrong. […]
     After another horrific spectacle in a poor country that produces the garments worn by those with consumer power in far-wealthier lands, major brands are trying to limit their exposure to the tragedy. But amid the familiar public accounting, labor advocates assert that few can ever know, with absolute certainty, where their products are made and how factory workers are treated within those plants.[…]
     [But] Somehow, brands are able to control the quality of the products manufactured in their factories, and yet, they aren’t able to monitor the workers. If apparel retailers don’t know where the materials for their products are being sourced from, he said, it’s because they chose not to care."
— Kim Bhasin, Huffington Post

Buy David Birnbaum's book here...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Noon and Night

"'A young boy puts a feather into his mouth ... ' So, in 1993, began Jeff Noon's first novel, Vurt. It was something the like of which had never been seen before, and it established Noon – then a struggling 35-year-old playwright earning rent by working in the Deansgate branch of Waterstones and writing at night – as a figure of major promise in British science fiction.
     Twenty years on, Vurt is being republished in an anniversary edition with three new stories, but the Noon who wrote it is, if not a forgotten figure, then one who never quite achieved the recognition that seemed his inevitable due. […]
     Noon says he is more interested in 'subject matter and atmosphere than character and plot' – yet an exuberantly propulsive story ran through it. 'There are two drives I have,' he says. 'One is towards experimentation. The other is towards campfire storytelling.' […]

     Noon started to 'remix' sections of his own work. The first time he actually saw music software, he says, 'I was astonished. I was jealous. He could take a piece of music and turn it upside down, stretch it, slow it down, remix it ... everything, with all these amazing buttons. And I thought: "why can't I do that?" I was looking at different aspects of electronic culture and how that can affect prose. So what you call experimentation was to me a natural process of following that and trying to manipulate language in the same way that a musician manipulates music.'"
 Sam Leith, The Guardian
Read more…

Buy Jeff Noon's books here...

"My tie is straight; my glasses are clean... what could go wrong?"

From: Shorpy

I found this photo on Shorpy. It's crying out for a plot of some kind.
     Maybe you can use it to get your juices (and words) flowing for next year's writing competition. On your mark; get set... write.

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.” ― Mary Shelley

"It is the autumn of 1850 and a westerly wind is blowing through London, setting the scene for Lynn Shepherd's new literary whodunit. Shepherd has previously published elegant mysteries inspired by Bleak House and Mansfield Park, but A Treacherous Likeness takes her into more ethically dangerous territory: she founds her novel on a series of real-life tragedies. Her focus here is on the story of Percy and Mary Shelley and Mary's step-sister Claire Clairmont, and on the battle the Shelleys' descendants fought to preserve their reputations. […]
     A Treacherous Likeness opens with Jane Shelley summoning detective Charles Maddox to the house on Chester Street from where she controls access to Shelley's archive with an iron grasp. Charles's brief is to establish what papers Claire Clairmont has in her possession and to help the Shelleys retrieve them. Being a bright young man, Charles deduces that Jane and her hen-pecked husband Sir Percy in fact want more from him than this. Over the course of much sleuthing he discovers that his own great-uncle became entangled with the Shelleys in 1814, and that in the papers of his family lies a secret which threatens to destroy the legacy of the poet and his wife."
—Daisy Hay, The Guardian
Read more…

Buy this book here...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

End of a Paper Trail

"No civilised person is supposed to make bonfires of books. ‘Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings,’ wrote the German poet Heinrich Heine in the century before Nazism. Burning books is a sacrilegious act, and the taboo against it particularly binds writers. So what was I doing in a Somerset field lighting a match under the 32 volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica?
     In my defence, this was more of a cremation than a burning at the stake. The books were already dead, terminally rotted after years of neglect. If I had committed a crime, it was to let them get into this sorry state, not finally to put them out of their misery."
— Julian Baggini, Aeon

"This is the end of another institution that started with the Industrial Age: news spread a few days ago [March, 2012] that the Encyclopedia Britannica stopped its printed edition, having sold only a few thousand copies per year in the last years. It will continue to make its database available online.
     Let’s do some fun maths. In 244 years of existence, around 7 million copies of the precious encyclopedia were sold (or, on average 30,000 per year). During that time approximately 17 billion people have been born and became adults (see for example this article of Carl Haub, the specialist in historical demography). Thus on average, there was one copy of the encyclopedia available for 2,500 people."
— Jeremie Averous, The Fourth Revolution Blog
Read more…

"In the 1950s, having the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the bookshelf was akin to a station wagon in the garage or a black-and-white Zenith in the den, a possession coveted for its usefulness and as a goalpost for an aspirational middle class. Buying a set was often a financial stretch, and many families had to pay for it in monthly instalments."
— Julia Bosman, The New York Times
Read more…

"[...] drinkers, gunslingers and philanderers”

"Richard Brautigan hitchhiked to San Francisco in 1956, intending to pursue poetry, but, out of step with the Beat movement – Allen Ginsberg called him 'a neurotic creep' – he struggled to make a mark. Switching from verse to prose, he claimed 'I don’t want to sit at the children’s table any more,' but it was with the Flower Children of the hippy movement that he found success. When they lost interest, he struggled again, this time against drink and adverse criticism, living 'in a macho milieu of hard drinkers, gunslingers and philanderers' and eventually shooting himself with one of his beloved Smith & Wessons."
— Alan Jenkins, The Times Literary Supplement
Read more…

"Jubilee Hitchhiker, the long-awaited biography of novelist Richard Brautigan, is an astonishing book on multiple levels.
     Most obvious is its size: Nearly 900 large-format pages of small type, including photographs, an index and a bibliography. The proper description of this ambitious project requires italics and an exponent: Comprehensive.
     The blessing is that the biographer, William Hjortsberg, is a talented novelist and screenwriter. He knows how to tell a story and can create brilliant atmospherics while doing so.
 On September 16, 1984, the musky smell of congealing blood lingered in the enclosed air, not the sweetness of dried flowers. The loud radio echoing from the kitchen drowned an insistent buzz of gathering flies.

   The opening chapter, describing Brautigan's suicide and subsequent decomposition, is chilling and masterful. Like a Greek tragedy, we are shown the horrific end at the beginning, and are inexorably drawn into the story:
      Brautigan's body would remain undiscovered for more than a month. "
— Joseph Bednarik, Oregon Live

See a post about Richard Brautigan's book The Abortion here...

Out Front

From: The Museum of Bad Covers

Book cover design causes much heated debate. We all know what works and what doesn't but getting the desired result is something of an inexact science. […]
     One thing's for sure, bad design is something that's as obvious as the proverbial donkey's dangly bits. And in this day and age of indie and self-publishing just because you can create your own, doesn't mean you should.

PUSHER: We all know a good cover when we see one, and a bad one, before we talk about what makes a good one - what makes a bad one for you?

JIM DIVINE [veteran book-cover designer]: A bad cover to me is something that simply does not do the material inside justice. if it's a bad book then in my opinion, it deserves a bad cover. Generally bad covers are produced because the designers producing them either don't get what the book's about or don't care."
Tony Black's Pulp Pusher
Read more…

Find out more about Bron Fane, author of Rodent Mutation, here...

Festival Memories (Chapter One)

Roxanne Beale (she always has a book in her hand, it seems...) plying her
wares at the 2011 Festival (Photo: courtesy of Andy Williams)

Roxanne Beale, proprietor of the eponymous bookstore Roxanne's Reflections Book & Card Shop in Fergus, Ontario has come to be known as "The Voice of Books" in our community, and deservedly so.
     Her bookstore is an island of peace and thoughtfulness in what seems at times to be a churning sea of 21st Century commotion.
     In a world of digital transformation, where reading has become a chore for most of the younger generation (and at best, looked upon as a hobby) she is a champion of books and a staunch advocate of reading. Her frequent events for younger readers have imprinted many members of our community with a lifelong love of books.
     Needless to say, she is deeply involved in our Festival, and has been for many years.

Roxanne's Favourite Festival Moments

"The 2013 Elora Writers’ Festival is fast approaching and once again I am so excited about the featured authors. This is one of my favourite events and I have been giving some thought as to why that is. I really love the intimate feel of the EWF and the fact that I don’t have to make any decisions about which authors to hear and where to find them. It all takes place in one venue and I have the opportunity to hear all six authors, no decisions required.
     I have been attending the festival for about 14 years and that’s at least 75 authors I have had the privilege of listening to. Mimi [one of my co-workers] and I were chatting about our favourite EWF moments. For Mimi, the chance to meet and hear Guy Gavriel Kay is at the top of her list. And she really enjoyed meeting Louise Penny, who is just so lovely and down to earth, and of course, a huge bestselling author now.
     For me, I have 3 favourite moments. I remember many, many years ago, Kim Moritsugu read from one of her books and her reading was just so perfect and she left the audience at a real cliff-hanger moment. You just had to buy the book to find out what happened next. Paul Quarrington’s appearance is also in my top 3. He read from his novel, Galveston, and then he brought out his guitar and sang 'Fictional World' with the wonderful line 'Michael Ondaatje has stolen my girl.' So unforgettable!
      And my very favourite memory is Antanas Sileika’s reading. I was not familiar with Sileika’s work before seeing him at the festival. Among other choices, he read a passage from a book that had not yet been published. I will let you in on a secret; I usually hate when authors read from something that is not yet available. How am I supposed to read something that does not exist yet! This time, though, I loved it. The passage was so clever and hilarious. It was about a young woman teaching English to a young man and she is teaching him about the English article, specifically the use of ‘the.’ The passage when read by him was so wonderful, I couldn’t wait for the book to be published. I remember reading The Woman in Bronze so carefully and expectantly, just waiting for this passage to come and hoping that it had been included. And there it was, in chapter six of Part Two and just as perfect in written form. The entire book is well-written and I highly recommend it.
     Do you have a favourite memory or author reading from past festivals? I'd love to hear it."
— Roxanne Beale

Find out more about Roxanne's Reflections Book & Card Shop here... and while you're at it, buy books by some of the authors mentioned in this post.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


"[…] We are sitting at a coffee shop in Austin, Texas; I am asking [Robert Jackson] Bennett questions about his latest novel, American Elsewhere, which was featured on 'most highly anticipated' lists around the Internet at the end of 2012. He tells me that although Mr. Shivers was shelved under horror and won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel in that genre, the horror community disowned it. 'They were like "no, this is not horror. You’re wrong,’'' Bennett says. 'That’s always been kind of a struggle for me, in that the folks who really like my books are frequently not the genre hard-core people. It’s usually folks who read a wide variety of stuff, that tend to fall into mainstream. And a lot of the fantasy that I like isn’t hardcore fantasy — it’s stuff that mainstream, non-geek people would love to read just as much.' He sighs. 'But then again no one really knows what the hell they’re talking about when they talk about this stuff. It’s all made up.'
     If something is identifiable as 'genre fiction,' it should be easy to identify what genre it’s in. After all, to classify something as belonging to a genre is to say that it is part of an easily recognizable group formed around shared traits. Over the past forty years, genre-bending has become increasingly common, as mainstream and 'literary' authors lift plots and themes from fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and horror.

   In 1989, SF author Bruce Sterling invented the term 'slipstream' to describe fiction by mainstream authors such as Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, and J.M. Coetzee that slipped beyond the margins of realism without being classifiable as fantasy or science fiction."
— Amy Gentry, Los Angeles Review of Books
Read more…

Buy all of Robert Jackson Bennett's books here...

Mid-list Crisis

"Sometimes it seems as if the only writer more miserable than an unpublished author is a published one. 
     When two authors speak, it is customary -- almost expected -- for them eventually to work their way around to the shocking incompetence of their publisher. The publisher screwed up the cover. It didn't get the books to the signing venue. It won't share sales information in real time. It expected the author to do all her own marketing. It overpriced the ebook. It's not interested in building the author's career. […]
     It's not really every author who feels this way. It's only every author on the mid-list. If those big-selling brand-name authors are crying about publishing, they're crying all the way to the bank. Big publishing serves them well.
     Mid-list authors, on the other hand, are the perennial orphans of Big Pub. When they fail commercially -- which is most of the time -- they are denigrated, pitied or, worst of all, ignored. On rare occasions when they find themselves elevated to commercial success, suddenly every publisher who ever gave them a nickel shows up claiming paternity for their achievement."
— J.E. Fishman, Huffington Post
Read more…

"The squeeze on mid-list authors has been a big story in publishing for years now. It's impossible even to keep track of which authors have dropped off the radar. Publishers don't announce it, and the last thing most writers want to do is broadcast the fact they can no longer get published. Yet, it seems reasonable to estimate that dozens (maybe hundreds) are disappearing every year – judging by persistent industry chatter, not to mention occasional unsettling revelations, such as the fact that many writers have been moved to take legal action against publishers trying to escape their contract commitments.
     My instinctive reaction to this annihilation of the mid-list is to blame the publishers. Quick profits are being put in front of the long-term gains that come from nurturing and developing talent. To give the most frequently cited example, Ian Rankin and Philip Pullman both published many books before hitting the bestseller lists. Would they survive today? It seems unlikely."
— Sam Jordison, The Guardian
Read more…

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why do e-book outfits love the letter 'K'? (Part 3)

"[…] People who read e-books on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.
     E-mail lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.
     That adds up to a reading experience that is more like a 21st-century cacophony than a traditional solitary activity. And some of the millions of consumers who have bought tablets and sampled e-books on apps from Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble have come away with a conclusion: It’s harder than ever to sit down and focus on reading."
— Julie Bosman and Matt Richtel, The New York Times
Read more…

"[…] This post is just one of those random things that occurred to me while I was doing the laundry and feeding the fish (full disclosure: I do not have fish, because I find their calmness infuriating). It’s just a theoretical post on how to write a good ebook. I have no recent experience in writing good ebooks whatsoever. It is all lies, what you have been hearing.
     Now, let’s just focus on the matter at hand, shall we? Picking a Good Topic for Your Ebook.
     Incidentally, 'ebook' begins to look like Wookie language if you write it often enough. I should write an ebook about English words that sound like Wookie words.
     Except no, no I shouldn’t. Because there is no market for such an ebook. This is the most important thing to consider. Before you waste any time setting pen to paper, is there any point in finishing (or starting) the project? The only way to answer that is to figure out how many people out there need to know about the subject on which you’re writing.
     Then you need to figure out how many of those people care that they need to know about it. This number will be much smaller.
     For example, many people out there need to know how to not be jerks while driving. How many of those people do you imagine would actually buy an ebook called, How to Not Be a Jerk While Driving? You see my point."
— Taylor Lindstrom, Men With Pens
Read more…

"The shift towards ebooks is having a significant influence on every part of the book industry, from publishers working to reinvent their value proposition to brick and mortar bookstores fighting for their future.
     But what about the carbon footprint of the book industry? Does this shift represent an opportunity for the industry given the growing number of books sold without even one tree falling down? Or, maybe it is also a potential risk as ebooks can actually hurt the efforts of the industry to reduce its footprint? Well, apparently it can be both."
—Raz Godelnik, TriplePundit
Read more…

Books with Happy Endings

Looks like Penguin is trying to compete with the sensational success of E.L. James' triumvirate of torrid tomes: the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy... 

"In Bed With — [is] a collection of sexy bedtime stories by award-winning bestselling women novelists.
     To protect identities, each writer has adopted an x-rated pseudonym – the name of their first pet combined with that of their first street.  Who are Pom Pom Paradise, Minxy Malone, Tutty Monmouth and Sunset Proudfoot? Can you work out who is who? And who wrote what? Read about lavish boudoirs, sleazy brothels, shady adulterers, sci-fi seducers, and more. This is a short-story collection where the blinds are down and the sex is hot."
Penguin Books
Read more…

"While you here do snoring lie, Open-eyed conspiracy His time doth take." 
— William Shakespeare, The Tempest (Ariel at II, i)

Clouds performing Hamlet's "Alas poor Yorick" scene. (From: the Daily Mail)

"Tuesday is Shakespeare's birthday, and there's no shortage of Bard news in the UK media.
     James McElvoy's Macbeth, a hot ticket, is playing in London. Adrian Lester's Othello is about to open at the National Theatre. There are any number of Hamlets in the pipeline. And two academics – the very distinguished Professor Stanley Wells and Dr Paul Edmondson – have decided (unwisely, in my view) to take on the so-called anti-Stratfordians in a volume entitled Shakespeare Beyond Doubt.
     The conspiracy theories surrounding the 'authorship question' are so bonkers, and the people questioning Shakespeare are – to put it politely – so eccentric, it beats me why Wells and Edmundson felt the need to engage with this matter. Professional exasperation no doubt. It's understandable, but I wish they had not given this question serious attention.
     Just because Hollywood made a dreadful, and dreadfully stupid, film (Anonymous), and a West Coast campus (Concordia, in Portland, Oregon) together with an English university (Brunel) have decided to offer coursework in the authorship question, does not, in my view, require a considered response from good scholars. As Gore Vidal said in another context: you can handle shit with a kid glove. It still remains shit, but the glove doesn't get any glove-ier."
— Robert McCrum, the Guardian
Read more…

"When polish composer André Tchaikowsky died in 1982, according to his wishes, his body was donated to science, but his head — his skull, in particular — was donated to Shakespeare.
     In making this cranial contribution, Tchaikowsky hoped that his skull would be used in Hamlet as Yorick, the dead jester whose skull is exhumed by the gravedigger in Act 5, Scene 1…
     For many years, no actor or director felt comfortable using a real skull in performances, although it was occasionally used in rehearsals. In 2008, the skull was finally held by David Tennant in a series of performances of Hamlet at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon."
22 Words

Read more and see the pictures (of Dr. Who alumnus David Tennent holding "poor Yorick") here…

And get more "Bard News" here…

And here…

Paper Back, Paper Front

"Good Show Sir’s Art Direction: Imagine the future, my friend… men will be either glowing silver pillars of greatness or riding around on space microlights. Women? Well they’ll be in skintight body suits and stay on their knees all day. Sexist? No, not at all, people will look back at this cover and see our predictions as genius! I think…
Published 1958
 — Good Show Sir

See more wonderfully-bad, cover designs here...

And learn about F. L. Wallace (he deserved betterhere...

Coming to Our Senses

"I lost my sense of smell when I left home. It only returns to me now when one of those breaths of boyhood drifts back like some half-forgotten face. I grew up on the east coast of Scotland, where the smell of the North Sea permeates everything. When it wasn’t the sea it was the sea haar, rolling in off the water and through the cobbled streets and wynds, or the sharp tang of the catch being landed in the harbour. Herring rolled in oatmeal and fried; mackerel fished and gutted on the cliff’s verge, eaten straight; the occasional luck of a lobster boiled and laid out in butter.
     Everything we are as adults is formed in our first ten years, and mine were spent haunting the shore, or the streets, of Aberdeen: turning over scallop shells or the bodies of birds, or testing the washed-up crabs and jellyfish for movement: some kind of peril. I would walk to school past the abattoir with its ferrous whiff of spilt blood, the dull thuck of cleaver into flesh, the great headless bodies turning on their hooks; past the barber’s oils, astringents and lotions, his whetted razors; past the joinery with that lovely sweet scent of wood-shavings and—best of all—past Mitchell and Muill’s, the baker, their steamed-up window stacked full of freshly baked rowies and hot mutton pies."
— Robin Robertson, More Intelligent Life
Read more…

"Born in Perthshire, poet Robin Robertson was brought up on the northeast coast of Scotland where, as he says in a 2008 interview, 'history, legend and myth merged cohesively in the landscape.' Robertson’s early influences include the stories of Celtic and Classical myth, the vernacular ballads, and folklore. […]
     Describing the poet’s task, Robertson tells of the desire to reveal 'the refreshed world and, through a language thick with sound and connotation and metaphor, make some sense: some new connection between what is seen and felt and what is understood.' As a reviewer for the New Yorker notes, 'The genius of this Scots poet is for finding the sensually charged moment—in a raked northern seascape, in a sexual or gustatory encounter—and depicting it in language that is simultaneously spare and ample, and reminiscent of early [Seamus] Heaney or [Langston? Ted?] Hughes.'”
Poetry Foundation
Read more…

You can buy Robin Robertson's poetry here…

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spread the Word

"Mass media made fads part of the zeitgeist of any particular moment, but virality aspires to map the zeitgeist — trace the routes by which ideas spread and count influence in hard numbers. Fads used to have to measure themselves by proxy in sales figures for some particular commodity; now messages themselves are the whole of the commodity, and if there is anything material associated with a viral phenomenon, it is an afterthought, an optional souvenir.
     Virality becomes self-referential, tautologous, the content of a viral meme is the fact of the meme’s virality, and this autophagy becomes its essence, its motive force. It feedbacks on itself, but no one seems to hear the screech over their own shouting.
     But I wanted to hear the opposing case, that there is something other than de facto virality that drives viruses, so I decided to read Contagious, a recent book by Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger that is intended as a kind of sequel to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Gladwell’s book introduced readers to elite influencers, Berger explains, but didn’t do much to explain what could make content itself viral, able to circulate itself efficiently despite the at times dubious quality of the human hosts transmitting it. 'Contagious content is … so inherently viral that it spreads regardless of who is doing the talking. Regardless of whether the messengers are really persuasive or not and regardless of whether they have ten friends or ten thousand.' No cults of personality for Berger. No personality at all is required in this world. (Isn’t it wonderfully democratic?)"
— Rob Horning, The New Inquiry
Read more…

Buy this book here...

Food, Shelter, Clothing, Kindness

"FALLS CHURCH, Va. — E.L. Konigsburg [February 10, 1930 – April 19, 2013], an author who twice won one of the top honors for children's literature, has died. She was 83.
     Her son Paul Konigsburg says the longtime Florida resident died Friday at a hospital in Falls Church, Va., where she'd been living for the past few years with another son. She had suffered a stroke a week before she died.
     She won the John Newbery Medal in 1997 for her book The View from Saturday and in 1968 for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The Newbery is one of the top honors for children's literature. Her family says she wrote 16 children's novels and illustrated 3 picture books.
     Her first book, Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth was also a Newbery honor book in 1968, making her the only author to be a winner and runner-up in the same year.
     In 1997, the Newbery committee called her story of a sixth grade Academic Bowl team and their coach 'a unique, jubilant tour de force characterized by good humor, positive relationships, distinctive personalities and brilliant story telling.'"
Huffington Post Read more…

"[Scholastic Books:] Why is it important to do random acts of kindness?

I think it's important to experience kindness, so that you can experience it more in the future. I believe that patterns of emotional behavior are set down before adolescence. And I think that if you have not observed kindness, you will not recognize it. You have to experience kindness in order to be kind. And you have to lay down those emotional pathways.
     For example, they're finding that kids coming out of those awful orphanages in Romania have never experienced kindness. When they're adopted, they cannot bond with people and experience kindness, because the pathway has never been laid down inside their heads. I think that as our population grows, it becomes increasingly important to be kind."
— E.L. Konigsburg (From an interview with Scholastic Books)
Read more…

You can get all of E.L. Konigsburg's books here...

"A life-marker."

From: VQR

"The book cover for Günter Grass’s [TheTin Drum represents everything for me that a good cover should. It’s not only a bold and beautiful design, it’s a cover that reminds me of a time and a space. A life-marker. It sat on my parents’ shelf next to Graham Greene, looking grown-up and exotic and probably a bit too clever for a little person to understand. But it looked exciting: the boldness and confidence of the illustration and type—as if the artist just picked up a brush and painted it on directly; the iconic Oskar and his vibrant red drum.
     Later, as a recent graduate working at Minerva Books in London, I helped design the paperback covers for Grass’s novels. I knew nothing about Grass at all, I hadn’t read a thing. I was given a pile of artwork—just black-and-white drawings—and was told that this was the artwork to be used. Flipping through the stack, I came across the icon of the drummer boy and was immediately transported back to my parents’ library."
— Jon Gray, The Virginia Quarterly Review
Read more…

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"[…] where anything is permitted but nothing is admissible." — Allan Massie, in The Telegraph

From: The Telegraph

"Opening a new [John] Le Carré novel is like stepping into a hushed and well-appointed London club. The tone is English and metropolitan, the mood sombre but enthralling, even intimidating. As readers, we have to be on our mettle, but we also know we'll be well cared for by a silver-haired major-domo who has already chalked up more than half a century of dedicated service.
     It's exactly 50 years since a young Foreign Office official, and sometime spy, named David Cornwell woke up to find his alter ego, John le Carré, internationally famous with the publication of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Macmillan was PM; the cold war with the Soviet Union as dark and bleak as ever. In 1963, the novel of espionage seemed the perfect instrument for examining the soul of a post-imperial society.
     Then came George Smiley's finest hour, a sequence of novels that elevated the spy thriller to an art form – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy, Smiley's People. Few English writers of the late 20th century produced fiction to match the Le Carré of these titles."
— Robert McCrum, The Guardian
Read more…

"'The State is a concept based on the power principle and a denial of responsibility. It is thus itself criminal… Its own blacker evils are hidden under a veil of hypocrisy, whitewashed by propaganda, and, when laid bare, covered by the raison d’état, a term stretched to enrobe the basest ignominy.'
     This judgment was delivered by that fine novelist, Nicholas Freeling, in an essay on Stendhal. It is equally relevant to the great body of John le Carré’s work and to his new novel, A Delicate Truth.
     Le Carré makes the conventional division between genre and the literary novel obsolete. It was always ridiculous, at least inasmuch as it carried the suggestion that the genre novel – crime or espionage – was necessarily inferior to the literary one. The Heart of Midlothian is a crime novel. So is Bleak House. Likewise, The Secret Agent, The Quiet American and every one of le Carré’s 23 novels. Crime is at the heart of all of them.
     If we commonly make a distinction between the crime novel and the spy novel, it is only because we tend to think of crime as belonging to the sphere of private life, and we airbrush the criminality of state action out of view and mind."
— Allan Massie, The Telegraph
Read more…

Buy all of John Le Carré's books here...

" […] eat whatever you want, as long as you’ve cooked it yourself."

"Michael Pollan’s seventh book will not substantially surprise readers of the first six. Mr. Pollan has often said that we lose touch with the basic facts of food production at our own peril, and that shared meals hold families and communities together. He has advocated fresh ingredients and sounded warning bells about why processed foods are barely worth digesting. And he is a major ingredient in his books’ blend of gastronomy, science and investigation, linking his own experiences to the lessons he imparts.
     But Mr. Pollan winds up broadly playing celebrity chef in Cooked, his four-quadrant book about fire (barbecue), water (stewing and braising), air (baking bread) and earth (fermentation). He was prompted to do this, he says, partly by what he calls the Cooking Paradox. There we sit on our sofas, watching cooking shows on television rather than preparing meals of our own. 'I don’t need to point out that the food you watch being cooked on television is not food you get to eat,' Mr. Pollan says."
— Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Read more…

Find out more about the health benefits of gardening and cooking at the Elora Writers' Festival on Sunday, May 26; where you can hear Sonia Day read from her award-winning books Incredible Edibles and The Untamed Garden.

Get more information about Sonia Day and the Festival here...

And buy all of Michael Pollan's easily digestible books here...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"We are thrilled..."

"Thirty-nine years, 50 books, and 350 million copies into his literary career, Stephen King will discuss the writing life with his son, first-time novelist Owen King on the opening night of the 34th International Festival of Authors.
     In his only scheduled Canadian appearance, Stephen King and his son, Owen King, will headline PEN Canada’s annual benefit to take place on Thursday, October 24th, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. in the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto. Award-winning mystery writer Louise Penny will moderate the discussion.
     'We are thrilled that Stephen and Owen King are supporting the work of PEN,' said Charlie Foran, President, PEN Canada. 'The evening promises to be a rare glimpse of an intimate father-son conversation about life and art.'


     Stephen King will present his new novel, Doctor Sleep, which returns to the characters and the territory of his first best-selling hardcover novel, The Shining, including the now middle-aged Dan Torrance. Owen King will present his debut novel, Double Feature, which explores the creative life and the complicated relationship between a B-movie actor and his filmmaking son."
PEN Canada


From: movie poster shop

"Last month, American television audiences were shocked: when Satan showed up in the History Channel’s new mini-series The Bible, he looked strikingly like President Barack Obama. Responses were quick, and they came on all types of media from Twitter and Facebook to CNN and Fox News. Complaints sounded so loudly that the producers of the show were forced to respond, calling it ‘nonsense’ that they purposefully cast the Moroccan actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni as Satan to look like Obama. The controversy hasn’t hurt the ratings for the 10-hour series. With more than 10 million people in the US watching each episode, The Bible has been the biggest cable TV hit of the year.
     One of the reasons for its popularity is that Americans care deeply about how biblical figures are represented in the flesh. Whether discussing the darkness (and Obama-ness) of Satan or the ‘sexy whiteness’ of Jesus, the ethnic ‘look’ of the characters has been just as important (if not more so) than what they have said or done on screen.
     This is not the first time US audiences have fixated on the portrayal of Biblical bodies. In 2004, they flocked to movie theatres to watch Jesus tortured and killed in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. In that film, Jesus never spoke English, but his brutalized body was on display front and centre. In previous decades, people asked Martin Luther King Jr what Jesus looked like, and during the 1920s, Americans debated whether it was appropriate to show Jesus in films at all."
— Edward R. Blum, Aeon

"Jesus has been depicted in art as triumphant, gentle or suffering. Now, in a controversial new sculpture in downtown Toronto, he is shown as homeless — an outcast sleeping on a bench. It takes a moment to see that the slight figure shrouded by a blanket, hauntingly similar to the real homeless who lie on grates and in doorways, is Jesus. It’s the gaping wounds in the feet that reveal the subject, whose face is draped and barely visible, as Jesus the Homeless. Despite [the] message of the sculpture — Jesus identifying with the poorest among us — it was rejected by two prominent Catholic churches, St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
     'Homeless Jesus had no home,' says the artist, Timothy Schmalz, who specializes in religious sculpture. 'How ironic.'"
— Deacon Greg Kandra, Patheos
Read more…

You can buy The Bible (Old and New Testament in one edition) here...

See a related post here...


Here's what one of Dmitriy Yoav Reinshtein's photographs looks like on a hypothetical book cover for The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. This majestic, hyper-real close-up of an insect needs no embellishment, and the book itself could do without a cover at this point in its career.
     Do book covers tamper with the text? That's a discussion for another day...
     Anyway, the intriguing revelation in this and some of D.Y. Reishtein's other photos is the transformation of water. The droplets are turned into dense, liquid jewels of a texture and heft that seems alien to us — alien to me, at leasts.

You can see more photos by Dmitriy Yoav Reinshtein here…

And here's the original cover from 1916 (left) and a English translation below it.
From: Wikimedia Commons

From: Big Fake Books and Records

You can buy all of Kafka's books here...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Why do e-book outfits love the letter 'K'? (Part 2)

Photo: Selina Swayne (from: word and image)

"An Australian bookseller has announced that he will no longer stand 'passively by while Amazon steals our customers and steals their reading choices,' and is urging readers to throw their Kindles in a specially provided bin.
     Pages and Pages, one of Australia's leading independent booksellers, made the announcement on Friday that it would be holding a 'Kindle Amnesty' on the third Saturday of every month, when customers would be able to get rid of their old Kindles in a bin in the Mosman Village, Sydney store in exchange for a A$50 (£34) gift voucher if they also buy the ereader the store sells.
     'Pages & Pages is no longer sitting passively by while Amazon steals our customers and steals their reading choices. Through this campaign we want people to understand what Amazon is doing and make an informed choice to have choice,' said manager and Australian Booksellers Association president Jon Page.
     'The ebook is not a threat to physical bookshops. This new format presents bookshops and readers with many wonderful opportunities to sell and read more books. What does threaten bookshops is a company who engages in uncompetitive behaviour, pays no tax in Australia and misleads readers with restrictive devices and fake book reviews.'"
— Alison Flood, The Guardian

"If print could talk, it would surely be telling the world, Mark Twain-style, that reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. The market for e-books grew exponentially after Amazon introduced the Kindle, and it’s still one of the most fascinating and unpredictable sectors of a once hidebound industry.
     But the early-adapter boom is showing signs of flagging and the growth of the e-book market appears to be leveling out. E-books are definitely here to stay, but it seems that many, many readers — a threefold majority, in fact — still prefer print.
     […] New self-publishing enterprises are a godsend for traditional publishers because they can take much of the uncertainty out of signing a new author. By the time a self-published author has made a success of his or her book, all the hard stuff is done, not just writing the manuscript but editing and the all-important marketing. Instead of investing their money in unknown authors, then collaborating to make their books better and find them an audience, publishers can swoop in and pluck the juiciest fruits at the moment of maximum ripeness. As Hughes points out, that’s exactly what happened with erotica blockbuster E.L. James."
— Laura Miller, Salon
Read more…

"Last October, when superstorm Sandy ripped through Connecticut, it flooded Bank Square Books in Mystic. Owner Annie Philbrick recalls walking inside to the smell of the ocean and a soaking wet carpet. […]
     Not to worry. Three weeks after superstorm Sandy, on Nov. 16 at 11 a.m., Bank Square Books reopened for business. 'We couldn't have done it without the help of our community,' says Philbrick. 'It was pretty incredible.'[…]
     That community support is by no means unique to Bank Square Books, and it may be the secret ingredient behind a quiet resurgence of independent bookstores, which were supposed to go the way of the stone tablet – done in first by the national chains, then Amazon, and then e-books.
     A funny thing happened on the way to the funeral.
     While beloved bookstores still close down every year, sales at independent bookstores overall are rising, established independents are expanding, and new ones are popping up from Brooklyn to Big Stone Gap, Va. Bookstore owners credit the modest increases to everything from the shuttering of Borders to the rise of the 'buy local' movement to a get-'er-done outlook among the indies that would shame Larry the Cable Guy. If they have to sell cheesecake or run a summer camp to survive, add it to the to-do list.

Wendy Welch and her husband
(from: Malaprop's Bookstore Café)
    '2012 was the year of the bookstore,' says Wendy Welch, co-owner of Tales of the Lonesome Pine in Virginia and author of the 2012 memoir The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. In her memoir, she recounts how she and her husband, Jack Beck, created – sometimes despite themselves – a successful used-book store in a town that, by any business measure, is too small to support one."

— Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor

A fast-paced read...

A Crest Book, Fourth printing, March 1961

"First came the treadmill desk, allowing runners to work and work out at the same time. Though it seemed to be a multitasker's dream, one problem remained: reading while running.
     'Not many people can run and read at the same time,' Dr. Ji Soo Yi, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Purdue University, said in a written statement. 'This is because the relative location of the eyes to the text is vigorously changing, and our eyes try to constantly adjust to such changes, which is burdensome.'
     So Yi and a team of researchers came up with ReadingMate, a device that monitors the motion of a runner's head and then adjusts text on a monitor to counteract that movement. As a result, the text appears still."
— Jacqueline Howard, Huffington Post
Read more…

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why do e-book outfits love the letter 'K'? (Part 1)

From: Sesame Street
via The Official Cranberries Fanblog

"Looking to keep pace with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and the fast growing self-publishing market in general, Barnes & Noble is phasing out its PubIt! self-publishing service and relaunching it as Nook Press, an upgraded e-book self-publishing platform offering an array of new services to authors and publishers. B&N is partnering with the self-publishing platform Fast Pencil to supply Nook Press with its proprietary online authoring technology, while also offering Fast Pencil authors access to a variety of marketing opportunities via B&N’s Nook platform. […]
     Much like PubIt!, Nook Press will pay authors up to 65% of the e-book list price based on how much an author wants to charge for a book. The Nook Press platform is nonexclusive (authors and publishers can sell the e-book where they want) and, like PubIt!, Nook Press is free of charge and B&N takes a percentage of the list price when the books sell."
Publishers Weekly
Read more…

Oops, sorry... wrong "Kobo" (photo from:
"Kobo, a small Canadian ebook and e-reading company now owned by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, kicked Google’s butt… when it comes to selling ebooks through independent bookstores, that is. […]
     The reason the program existed in the first place was to give independent bookstores a way to get involved in the growing market of ebooks and digital reading, to give them a chance to survive the ebook revolution.
     After Google announced that it was cancelling its program this past spring, Kobo swooped in and signed a deal with the American Booksellers Association to provide e-readers, tablets and ebooks for them to sell.
     In the first month of the Kobo partnership (Oct. last year), independent bookstores sold more ebooks than in the entire two years working with Google. The key, say bookstore owners, is being able to sell the devices along with the ebooks. It just makes more sense to customers."
— Jeremy Greenfield, Forbes

Step Forty

"Fiction edged its way closer to a digital incarnation with the publication this week of an interactive visual version of John Buchan's classic thriller, The Thirty-Nine Steps.
     Publisher Faber&Faber announced that it had up with two software publishers and a developer, The Story Mechanics, to create a 'fully playable, fully immersive product' which it believes breaks new ground in digital reading.
     Published originally as a serial in Blackwoods magazine in 1915, The Thirty-Nine Steps was the first of five novels to feature the 20th century's earliest and most famous action hero, Richard Hannay, a man constantly on the run.
     Buchan described the novel as a 'shocker' – an adventure so unlikely that the reader is only just able to believe that it could really have happened. A number of film and TV adaptations, beginning with Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 version, have taken the book beyond the printed page, but Faber promises another step beyond Buchan's original storytelling."
— Claire Armitstead, The Guardian
Read more…

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"It took me years to write, will you take a look?" — Lennon–McCartney ("Paperback Writer")

"Philip Norman, a prolific biographer whose Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation is considered by many to be among the most absorbing and comprehensive biographies of the group, and whose John Lennon: The Life was widely admired, has been signed by Little, Brown and Company to write a biography of Paul McCartney.
     The book, which is due in 2015, is being written with what Mr. Norman described in an e-mail as Mr. McCartney’s 'tacit approval.'
     'He is not directly co-operating,' Mr. Norman wrote, 'but not objecting to my interviewing close friends, colleagues, etc.'
     In a way, Mr. McCartney’s consent to the project suggests the extent to which his relationship with Mr. Norman has warmed in recent years. When Shout! was published Mr. McCartney disdained it, partly because it advanced some unusual theories, including one in which the death of the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, which was ruled as accidental, was actually the result of a murder plot."
— Allan Kozinn, The New York Times (Arts Beat)
Read more…

More about "Beatle books" here...

Praises and Prizes

"Fresh from being named one of Britain's best young novelists, and from making the final cut for the Women's prize for fiction, Zadie Smith today received her third literary garlanding in just three days after she was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje prize.
     For a book in any genre which best evokes 'the spirit of a place,' Smith was picked for her latest novel NW - also shortlisted yesterday [April 16, 2013] for the Women's Prize. The shortlist's 'places' range from South Africa to the Antarctic, but NW is set in Smith's childhood home of north-west London. Judges Julia Blackburn, Margaret Drabble and Ian Jack described the novel as 'tender and witty,' and said it 'shows London as chaotic and unfair, by turn happy and unhappy.'"
— Alison Flood, The Guardian
Read more…

"Terry Fallis [author of Up and Down] , who claimed the Stephen Leacock Medal For Humour in 2008, is one of five authors short-listed for the honour this year.
     'He won for Best Laid Plans, which was a self-published book,' recalled Todd Stubbs, vice-president of the Stephen Leacock Associates. 'So it was quite unique, the fact that it made it through the short list and was eventually chosen. We do get a large percentage every year of self-published books. They are long shots, without a doubt.'
     The Leacock Associates have awarded the medal annually since 1947 to honour the late author [Stephen Leacock], and to support humour writing in Canada."
— Frank Matys,

You can meet Terry Fallis on Sunday, May 26, at the Elora Writer's Festival; get the details here…

Find out more about Terry Fallis here…

"Politics beat out art on Monday [April 15, 2013] as historian author of Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy, won Andrew Preston, the 2013 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.
     Considered a long shot, the book on U.S. diplomacy by an expatriate Canadian at Cambridge University beat three books devoted to culture and one other on high politics to win the prize."
—John Barber, The Globe and Mail
Read more…

Meet the winner of last year's winner of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, Andrew Westoll, at the 2013 Elora Writers' Festival; find out more here... 

 Buy all the books mentioned in this post (and books by Stephen Leacock)  here...