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Sunday, February 15, 2004

Notes on a cold weekend night 

It's a rather slow weekend on the book front--although the front page New York Times report on the Amazon review glitch has been making plenty of waves in the Blogiverse already. And with good reason, as Amazon Canada's snafu unwittingly unmasked the petty wars that rage in the underbelly of the review pages, as authors rally their friendly troops to counter vicious attacks. Though the NYT concentrated on the literary folks we like to stick pincushions in: Eggers, Julavits, the ULA, and so forth--I think that the most vicious fights would have been located amongst more genre fiction titles. I've heard for years about all sorts of smear attacks on romance novels, and to a lesser extent, mystery fiction as well. But the former interests me because it ties into a particular truism that those who write romance engage themselves in all sorts of petty squabbles and worse. But of course, since Amazon.ca fixed the anonymous reviewing problem, I'll never get to investigate the matter further...

Now the news, ever so briefly:

Robert McCrum comments on the Joyce-bashing brouhaha and stirs the pot even further: why stop there? Why not trash other authors like Thomas Hardy, Louis de Bernieres and McCrum's favorite target, AA Milne?

Scarlett Thomas talks about the complications and the little favors involved in soliciting blurbs for her books. Tres impressive that she got Douglas Coupland on the bandwagon.

Could Martin Amis be in line for a literary prize after all? The Independent thinks it's a possibility, as YELLOW DOG is one of the shortlisted for the WH Smith Literary Award.

Also at the Independent, and linked in a bunch of the usual places, is a roundup of authors relating their earliest romantic encounters. I suspect the cheeky rhyme "Lisa Chow, you silly cow, have it off with Hari now." may stick in my head for a little while....

Hey, Chip? I have a hot tip for you: when they are ready, get yourself a galley of SJ Rozan's ABSENT FRIENDS, which will be in stores everywhere around mid-September. It may not be precisely what you're looking for, but I'm willing to bet you'll dig it nonetheless. Trust me on this.

Finally, finally, the Telegraph puts up their interview with Karin Slaughter and Susanna Yager's crime fiction roundup from the week before. Also in the Telegraph is Julie Myerson's belief that many women model their lives after fictional heroines; possibly true, but real-life ones are vastly more interesting.

From the Times Book Review: a race against time, fierce competition, vicious backstabbing....human genomes? You betcha. At the forefront of the race to complete the Human Genome Project was Craig Venter, the subject of James Shreeve's new book THE GENOME WAR, reviewed favorably by David Papineau. Also, Colin Harrison's THE HAVANA ROOM gets another good review.

At the Guardian, Jacqueline Wilson is profiled in the wake of her triumph as the most borrowed author in the UK library system; Richard Williams is impressed with a novel that retells the story of jazz artist Valaida Snow; and Julia Kristeva's mystery novel (French-only) is well-regarded.

Barbara Gowdy is Q&A'ed by the Toronto Star about her latest book, THE ROMANTIC, and why Toronto is a more ideal place for romance because of its cold climate.

Also at the Star, Harley Jane Kozak is interviewed about her debut book, DATING DEAD MEN, and what's in store for the sequel.

Six romance writers, including Candice Hern and Carol Culver, are profiled in the SF Chronicle; no, they don't get a hell of a lot of respect, but this is the genre that outsells every other. In related news, romance fiction is booming in Australia, as readers are flocking to a whole host of newly released titles.

Lord Conrad Black may be in a heap of trouble, but Susan Kastner of the Globe & Mail ponders what may be a more important question: how is this affecting Barbara Amiel and her lifestyle?

More at the G&M: Who better to analyze this "quirkyalone" business than Josey Vogels, Canada's favorite sex columnist? In the end she's rather perplexed by the whole business. Lynn Crosbie, on the other hand, wishes the word would just disappear.

At the WaPo Book World, Louise Erdrich explains how the presence of animals--especially crows--helps her writing; and Tim Page rounds up several music-related books that seem to fall into the "practitioner criticism" category that Terry discussed a few days ago.

And finally, Mark Haddon is interviewed yet again--this time by Australia's The Age, as various schools in Victoria have put THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME on the school curriculum.

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