Friday, February 13, 2004

And some actual book news to report 

Random House UK will merge two of its formerly independent branches, Harvill (which specializes in novels in translation and has an especially good foreign crime section) and Secker & Warburg into the new imprint Harvill Secker. This will not affect publication under both imprints for the time being, and no date has been set for the first or the "merger" books to be published.

Matthew Pearl, author of THE DANTE CLUB, is interviewed at length in the Guardian. I've long suspected that Pearl isn't a big fan of the limelight and is extremely introverted, and my suspicions are generally confirmed:

When asked if people cosy up to him now that he is hot property in the literary world he laughs. "Nobody ever thinks it's cool to hang out with me," he says, without a hint of self-deprecation. The success of the novel surprised him. But the length of time it takes to get a book published gave him sufficient space to get over it, although the attention still makes him a little awkward. "I don't like my birthday. I don't like things that are directed towards me. It took me a long time to get over people asking me to write my name in the book," he says.

Pearl's next novel is "already in the pipeline" set a decade before the Civil War, and he's toying with ideas for his third book.

Publishers have found yet another way to piss off booksellers: selling books through their own websites. Granted, this has been going on for ages and I don't know that many people that actually buy books through a publisher. However, some small presses are speaking up about the benefits of doing such a thing.

Indigo, the parent company of the Chapters and Indigo superstores in Canada, saw a dip in profits last quarter. CEO Heather Reisman blames the shortfall on "cost pressures in its online business."

Two more short stories, one by Laura Hird and the other by Julia Widdows, are up in the Save Our Short Story anthology.

With the news that children's author Jacqueline Wilson is now the most borrowed author in UK libraries, she's profiled in today's Guardian.

And finally, Ron links to the Book Babes' latest column, this time about literary snobbery against so-called "airport" books. I agree with him on many points, but especially this:

Fiction doesn't "put us inside the souls" of anybody, for starters; but it does enable us to find common ground for identification with characters whose lives may or may not differ superficially from our own, but who possess the same motivations and ambitions, the same setbacks and frustrations, as we do in our own lives. Good fiction requires us to suspend very little disbelief, I believe, and that only in regard to outward matters of time and setting, because if we cannot believe in the characters, then there is simply no point to continuing to participate in the story. If an "airport book" can convince me that its protagonist is acting plausibly, I'm there, and if Jonathan Franzen or someone of that ilk stuck an unbelievable character into a novel, I'd be the first to chuck it across the room.

How true. If the characters don't appeal to the reader in some way, shape or form that they want to spend 300-500 (or more) pages with them, then it's not worth reading for that particular person. Literary, commercial--I just want good writing, good structure and good characters. After that it's all icing.

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