Friday, May 28, 2004


Your humble correspondent, for lack of a better term, is feeling rather blah this morning. Of course, failing a driving test for the third time in a row with only one more chance before the license gets revoked will often cause such feelings to emerge. So, because the only thoughts that seem to turn over in her brain seem to start with "Why?" and end with "WHY?" she's taking the rest of the day off.

And for the forseeable future, too; all the other cool kids have two-day weekends, but since I do like to post those Massive Weekend Updates on Sundays, the only day left to be silent was Friday. And so it shall be.

See you Sunday.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Yardley goes mental 

I've loved Jonathan Yardley's reviews for quite some time, but his latest offers up a whole host of cheap shots, er, biting gems. Taking on Rachel Pastan's THIS SIDE OF MARRIED, she--nor her background--doesn't exactly emerge unscathed:
"Rachel Pastan received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her short stories have been published in Mademoiselle, Threepenny Review and Arts and Letters. She has received the Arts and Letters Fiction Prize, the PEN Syndicated Fiction award and fellowships from the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Delaware Arts Council. In addition, Ms. Pastan has taught writing at Edgewood College, the Writers' Place in Madison, Wisconsin, and Swarthmore College."

All that for this? All those hours in class, critiquing and being critiqued; all those piddling prizes; all those teaching sinecures -- all that forced marching through literary apprenticeship as it's now defined in this country to produce a novel that has approximately as much heft as an episode of "Friends" or "Sex and the City"? Is that what they're teaching in the writing schools and lavishing awards upon -- Sitcom 101?

So you get the drift. He doesn't like it. Then there's the closing paragraph:
The whole enterprise, which means to be light, even frothy, never rises above the labored. If this is what the writing schools are handing out MFAs for these days -- and there's plenty of evidence elsewhere to suggest it is -- then the keys to the joint should just be turned over to "As the World Turns."

Now, now. ATWT isn't exactly the soap to slag, seeing as it's one of the better ones on the air right now (GH? Another story. DAYS OF OUR LIVES? Way too over the top. Etc., etc.,) with some degree of writing talent. For all I know, some of them might even have MFAs. But it does make me wonder who got the clever idea to match Yardley up with what essentially amounts to a chick-lit novel. Shouldn't anyone have twigged this wouldn't exactly be his cuppa?


Oh, those Minots (as in MINE-it, not the French pronunciation.) So many siblings, so many writers all trying to tell the same tortured family history in a different way. Not surprisingly, they fight a lot. Current round: eldest brother George, whose new novel tells the same family incident but may or may not tarnish the rep of second oldest brother Simon. My head hurt after reading this.

You know, part of me wants to find some trace snarky element in this, but I can't--I think it's great that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar loves history and seems to write it pretty well, too. And he wants to emulate Paul Robeson, who was quite the guy (and a favorite singer of mine.) What's not to love?

Timothy Harris's two Kyd novels were held up as prime examples of how PI fiction was moving forward in the 1970s, updating the Hammett/Chandler vision. Then Harris stopped writing books--until now. With a third Kyd book in stores now, after a 25 year layoff, Tom Nolan catches up with the writer in this interview for January Magazine.

Roger Straus, the longtime founder of the high-falutin' pubishing house Farrar, Straus & Giroux, has died at the age of 87.

It looks like an arrest is imminent in the case of literary agent Rod Hall, who was stabbed to death over the weekend. A man in his 20s--no other details available--is being questioned.

Noel "Razor" Smith was once a hardened criminal. Now he's writing about his former life, and speaks to the Guardian about the transition from robber to writer.

Louise Rennison's books have made a huge impact in the United States--especially for its slang. The Guardian looks into the effect of "Britishisms" creeping their way into the way American teens talk. The next trend: when this particular patois goes global....

Blah blah blah Bill Clinton memoir blah blah June 22 blah blah blah. Actually what strikes me is that it's a year, almost to the DAY, that some other juggernaut was published. Is there something about the first day of summer that screams blockbuster? Hell if I know...

And finally, oh, if only I had a serious amount of money, then I could buy some of this. Seeing as he is one of my all-time favorite painters....

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Helen DeWitt found safe 

Thankfully, the missing novelist has turned up in Niagara Falls, where she's been known to haunt previously:
Missing novelist Helen DeWitt turned up Wednesday in Niagara Falls, N.Y., after vanishing from her Staten Island home, police said.

Dewitt, who had been described as suicidal, was found in good condition, New York police said. She was to be taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Niagara Falls Police Department officers had been asked by New York City police to watch out for DeWitt, who wrote the critically acclaimed "The Last Samurai," Niagara Lt. Joe Morrison said.

"She had a history here," said Morrison, who had no details about how she was found.

Wonderful news, and here's hoping she can get the rest and help she needs.

Shouts and Murmurs 

To Maud: What Lizzie said. I'd rather a happy, healthy, not-so-prolific writer and regular person than a harried, stressed out, beholden-to-your-audience blogger.

To Terry: Get well soonest.

Beyond the Truth/Stranger/Fiction continuum 

This is the story of Ernest Di Falco, who just wanted to rob a bank but managed to get every detail wrong:
Di Falco, who is unemployed, entered the bank, approached a teller and displayed the phony gun, authorities said.

"This is a holdup," he announced. "Fill up the bag."

Once the bag was full, Di Falco amazingly asked the teller for a ride to his car, saying it was parked down the street.

The teller refused and called a cab.

Di Falco waited — with the bag of stolen cash, said FBI agent John Turkington.

"He waits patiently for the cab to arrive," he said. "People are coming and going."

As a disguise, Di Falco was wearing a long brown wig, sunglasses and a business suit. But a bank employee recognized him immediately.

When the cab arrived, another employee took down the license plate and gave it to cops, who broadcast it on the state police emergency network.

I swear, they should have training courses on this sort of thing. Rule one: don't call a freakin' cab!

When it rains, it pours 

This is probably getting boring, but anyway, my latest review. I was very impressed and promptly bought up Norman Green's backlist. Considering who I read and what I read, I'm just as surprised I didn't read him before now. But now I will.

A smorgasbord of interviews 

Yankee Pot Roast, who manage to up the humor quotient on a regular basis, continue their "Interviews with Interviewers" series with blog favorite Robert Birnbaum, whose style I someday hope to emulate. Previous installments have cast the Q&A lens on Claire Zulkey and the Black Table's A.J. Daulerio. (link from TMFTML.)

For some reason, I cannot find the Globe and Mail's lengthy interview with Hari Kunzru that ran in the print edition; but the Sunday Telegraph has its own, with Helen Brown trying to overcompensate for some unfortunate choices:
His new novel, Transmission, about a young Indian computer programmer's attempts to succeed in America, also centres on characters whose dreams and identities are subsumed by cultural surfaces. It is ironic, then, that lifestyle gurus from Channel 4's The Gay Team advised a reporter from The Telegraph to place Kunzru's books on his coffee table to help create a more convincing "metrosexual'' identity.

"I thought that was very, very funny," chuckles Kunzru, when I meet him for lunch at his publisher's whitewashed private club beneath the Strand. "I'm an urban lifestyle accessory!"

Thankfully, Helen Brown, the Telegraph's interviewer, does move on to talk about more weighty matters like Kunzru's rejection of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize that stirred up controversy late last year.

Brown also interviewed Eoin Colfer of ARTEMIS BROWN fame for the same paper, and it's the usual sort of thing, explaining what attracts children to his work, although it seems Colfer is a bit out of touch with what the kiddies are actually watching:
Colfer's work elegantly subverts our traditional perception of the little people. You thought you knew what a leprechaun was, didn't you? Jigging green midgets in tights? Forget it. In the world of Artemis Fowl, LEPrecon stands for "Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance". Colfer's fairies are a hi-tech bunch, whose enviable gadgetry helps them to stay beneath the radar of us "Mud people". Colfer twists traditional Celtic mythology in order to reflect his native Ireland. There's an old theory that tales of tricksy fairy folk thrive among subjugated races, that stories can represent the way in which the indigenous people and culture are forced underground by their conquerors. Ireland's recent economic resurgence, based largely on the IT boom of the 1990s, is mirrored in Colfer's canny fairies, who have mastered technology far superior to that of the clumsy, polluting humans.

Children love it, perhaps because they're also like fairies, darting about beneath adult surveillance. They may have to abide by some inexplicable adult rules, but they're normally far more adept in the world of microchips and basic video-programming than their parents. "I'm very keen on not writing down to children," says Colfer. "They all use computers and watch Ally McBeal."

Ally McBeal? That was cancelled a zillion years ago, right? The kids I know are a hell of a lot more likely to be watching Chapelle's Show....

More ConnellyWatch(TM) 

I'm surprised the Washington Post took so long to review THE NARROWS, but maybe it took that much time to line up the reviewer in question, I don't know. Anyway, John Katzenbach (who has a new book out later this year, I believe) gets the job and seems to like it as much as practically everyone else does, although he makes a very good point:
"The Narrows" is very much a sequel, and in that respect it has a little trouble standing on its own. Connelly frequently refers to the events of the preceding book, and just as often relies on the reader's knowledge of "Blood Work" and the Eastwood film. It is perhaps unfair to judge a sequel by the same standards applied to a conventional novel. In all likelihood, readers familiar with these prior works would be frustrated by much explication, either of plot or of character, that they might consider repetitive. Consequently, there isn't much background -- "The Narrows" simply sails right off into its story. This makes it a tricky read for those coming to Connelly for the first time. They will discover that he has an attractive rapid-fire writing style and that he skillfully deliversthekey pieces of evidence that tie the strands of the story together. But his reliance on information from previous books means that appreciating this one is something of a challenge.

The thing is, how many people are really going to pick this book up as their first Michael Connelly? A few, I suppose, but if I were still working in a bookshop and a customer told me they'd never read Michael Connelly but had heard so much great stuff about him, I'd give the customer one of a) THE POET b) BLOOD WORK c) THE CONCRETE BLONDE (because that to me was a stronger book than THE BLACK ECHO, and was, incidentally, the first book of Connelly's I read.) I suppose one could read THE NARROWS and figure things out, but what fun is that? Especially with all the little inside jokes and meta-references, it helps to have read prior books.

Does it mean THE NARROWS isn't as strong a book because it doesn't "stand alone"? Hard to say, except perhaps the concept is somewhat overrated. It's bloody hard work to continue a series, let alone ensure that each work can be viewed as a separate entity. And sometimes, it might just be a better idea to work on resolving threads, creating new ones, and write the book that's supposed to be written, and not worry so much about whether a potential new fan is going to be annoyed because the book doesn't explain previous events very well.

So you want some links, well here they are 

And I must, absolutely must start off with the stabbing death of literary agent Rod Hall, who represented a whole host of people via his eponymous agency. The police have no leads as of yet.

And yet more bad news, alas: Helen DeWitt, the author of THE LAST SAMURAI, was reported missing yesterday by the landlord of her Staten Island home. She was last seen in the Saint George section. Thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones.

Now, to some less weighty matters: as Publishers Lunch reported yesterday, Random House seems to love reorganizing, so they're doing it again. Jonathan Karp (who edits the likes of David Liss and Claire Berlinski) gets promoted to editor-in-chief of the Random House imprint, while Nancy Miller moves up to editorial director.

The New York Times profiles Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, the two authors responsible for what may turn out to be this year's THE DA VINCI CODE (but better written, I hope, and so others tell me),THE RULE OF FOUR.

What on earth is going on at the Walrus, Canada's allegedly leading literary magazine? A second editor has quit the mag after only 4 months on the job. Hello, stability?

Anneli Rufus rounds up the latest news with Bay Area authors like Leonard Chang, Dylan Shaffer, and Nichelle Tramble, whose long awaited second installment in the Maceo Redfield series, THE LAST KING, is out next month.

Jim Knipfel offers his summer reading list, but not surprisingly, it's kind of geared towards the morose and depressing. I, too, cringe at the Pattersons and the Clancys and the Grisham, but dude, can't you compromise a little bit?

Deryn Rees-Jones, who has written a "murder mystery poem" that's getting some play in Northern England, is interviewed by the Liverpool Echo.

Rick Kleffel snags Tom Perrotta for an hour and interviews him about LITTLE CHILDREN, what's really going on in the suburbs, and oh yeah, those goldfish....

It can't be a trend yet, but first Irvine Welsh was seen boxing in San Francisco, and now women's fiction writer Santa Montefiore has taken up the cause of pugilism. I guess the repetitive aspect is good for staying on course as a writer...?

And finally, Spike Milligan manages to have the last laugh after all after death--but only for those who understand Irish Gaelic....

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Lehmann to New York Mag? 

If what Gawker says is true, then Chris Lehmann, deputy editor of Book World, will jump ship to become a features editor at New York Magazine. No word on when this job change would happen, though it's expected to be fairly shortly. My mind's whirring at this bit of news but if I can calm myself a little bit I'll focus on the following points:

A. Lehmann was one of the strongest reviewers, a proponent of good literature and a very sharp critic. His voice would certainly be missed, and Book World will have a huge hole to fill--never mind that there will have to be someone to take over Lehmann's weekly review column on Tuesdays.

B. He's also known rather good-naturedly as "Mr. Wonkette," aka the husband of celebrity political blogger Ana Marie Cox. No word on whether Lehmann's new job will require him to move back to New York (where he and Cox were based before he took the Book World job) but if so, will Cox go with him?

C. And if Cox does move back to the city, what does the future hold for Wonkette? Can she sustain the blog if she has to operate it from outside of Washington? Will the sensibility change if she does so? Or will someone else fill the role? (Our pick for the hypothetical "Wonkette II" would have to be this young lady.)

Suffice it to say that enquiring minds want to know and the story is, well, DEVELOPING...

UPDATE, 10:45 AM EDT: In a nutshell, Lehmann is moving to New York to start at the magazine fairly shortly, and Cox, as she states this morning in light of Page Six's item, "[won't be] noving to NY; Mr. Wonkette is going to commute."

Slaking the noir craving 

Hardluck Stories has updated with its spring edition, guest edited by Charlie Stella. It's a killer issue, and I'd say this even if I weren't in it. I'll let Charlie introduce the story:
Remember all those big mouths used to talk trash and could never walk the walk? A quiet woman with a lifelong desire (some might call it a dark one—but not me) has no reason (not anymore) not to fulfill all her wishes and prove the old adage about which ones to watch out for.

I wrote the first draft of "Keely Sings the Blues" in a near-gulp a few months ago after the first line popped into my head. You get a line like that, you have to figure out what happens next. The story is also, in its own way, the most personal I've published to date.

But that's my contribution. As for the rest of the issue, there's Duane Swierczynski's must-read gonzo interview of Ken Bruen, stories from some of my favorite new writers like Trev Maviano, Stephen D. Rogers, and Patrick Lambe (along with Charlie Stella's prequel to his novel JIMMY BENCH-PRESS), and much more. Like I said, this issue kicks serious ass.

Blog that Name 

It's no surprise whatsoever that yesterday's "Talk of the Town" article on ICM agent Kate Lee has produced an inevitable backlash, seen most visibly here and here. The gist of the griping is that somehow there's this "clique" of bloggers that namecheck and reference each other so much that people can't join in and are thus shut out and unloved.

Hmm, does this sound at all familiar?

Considering the right hand side of my blogroll, my words should be taken with many grains of salt. Besides, as I've said before, voice wins out, both in getting noticed and finding colleagues, drinking buddies, and close friends. And frankly, I'm far more interested in what could be a more serious question: what does this all mean for Kate Lee?

From what I gather, agents take on authors and projects they believe will sell, but their choices are varied. More and more of them are making their client lists available, so one can guage what kind of work each is particular to. Darley Anderson, for example, is best known for selling thrillers by UK authors like Lee Child, Martina Cole, and John Connolly. His two newest finds are Sheila Quigley, whose work is in the vein of Cole, and Alex Barclay, who appears to be a female Connolly. But Anderson doesn't only take thriller writers; however, those have proven to be the authors who yield him the kind of advances he's near-legendary for obtaining, and if an author submits work that can potentially sell in the way those other writers can, he'll take him or her on.

Other agents' tastes aren't necessarily so cut and dry; like any reader or editor, if he or she likes a work and believes in it, such work will be taken under the agent's wing. But playing the game of "like gravitates towards like" may not necessarily work. Matching an author to an agent is, at best, a crapshoot--one hopes for a perfect match, but that's difficult to come by.

In any case, though taste is arbitrary and there can be similarities in the kinds of authors an agent signs up, I've never seen the kind of "branding" that Kate Lee seems to be starting. And I worry that by signing up so many bloggers (although it's important to point out that of those bloggers listed, the vast majority haven't even completed their magnum opuses, let alone obtained book deals for them) they will all be viewed as a collective, and that each work cannot be judged individually, and potential editors will react accordingly.

Lindsay Robertson, in a comment left at the Gothamist thread, said as follows: "My point is that Kate is not capitalizing on a fly-by-night trend as much as she's using the internet as a gigantic slush pile. So these books that may or may not come out will (hopefully at least) not have anything to do with blogging! Nothing. Not even a url mention in the author bio. Mine certainly wouldn't."

That's all well and good, and in my estimation, the right tack to take--but should Robertson land a deal, will it be as the author of a book, or as a blogger? How would such a deal be reported in Publisher's Lunch? What would the marketing plans be for such a book? Because her blog is so personality-driven, the personality and voice--not necessarily the finished product--is what will likely come to mind when they hear the book deal pitch, and will affect the decision accordingly.

The rules may not necessarily apply to others namechecked, especially those that have had numerous print and online bylines (like Claire Zulkey or Old Hag) or have published short fiction and are known for their fiction writing in some form or another (like Maud.) But considering how much bloggers pride themselves on individuality and iconoclasm, being lumped together under the auspices of a single agent may well prove a hindrance, not a boon.

Having said that, I think it's a good thing that Lee's "branching out" by signing up other up-and-coming writers who are not bloggers. If she can sell their work, it may well erase any idea in people's minds that she's just the "Blogger Agent" instead of someone who happens to cater to her own tastes and whims--and then turn around and ensure that such tastes find a home with a publishing house.

Will Wonders Never Cease 

Deadly Pleasures reports that finally, amazingly, Rennie Airth's THE BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE will actually be published--and this year, at that. As reported by Ralph Spurrier, the owner of the mail order-only bookshop Postmortem Books, the book will be out on November 5 from Macmillan.

So why is this news? Because as George Easter (editor of DP) points out, Airth's new book has been delayed a whole host of times since news of its arrival was first announced, oh, back in about 2001 or so. THE BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE is the sequel to 1999's RIVER OF DARKNESS, a psychological thriller set in the aftermath of WWI that actually managed to make a real point about the nature of serial killing in a time when such creatures were far rarer, alas. Reviewers and fans--myself included--went gaga over the book, and it was nominated for a slew of awards, and even won a couple. But what of the sequel? Delay. Then another, and another. It got to the point where I coined a phrase in its honor to describe the series of postponements a book's publication date can undergo. (The current titleholder of Rennie Airth Syndrome is Robert Crais's THE FORGOTTEN MAN, but that was another post at another time.)

Anyway, the number of delays meant that after a time, folks pretty much gave up hope there'd ever be a book. Airth has published three novels previously: besides '99's RIVER OF DARKNESS, he wrote SNATCH, a caper novel published in 1969, and ONCE A SPY, published in 1981. In other words, he's a rather slow writer, so perhaps it was a little foolish of his publisher to expect he'd deliver the book so soon after the publication of an earlier one. But in the end, they won, and the book will actually see release--or so Macmillan's leading us to believe. For all we know, there will be disappointment once again.

As I said in my piece about Crais last month, I really wonder when the negative buzz surrounding a multitude of delays affects book sales when--or if--the book sees the light of day. What's an "optimal" wait time, and how much can, or should, fans stay patient? It's just another wrinkle in the biz that makes everyone nervous, for good reason--because any kind of negativity, even a mere flicker, can be lethal for a writer's future career.

Never mind that in Airth's case, the level of sustained hype is such that it will likely create some seriously unrealistic expectations (see Dunning, John for an example of how hype and reality don't always mesh, even though THE BOOKMAN'S PROMISE did hit the NYT list.) Will it deliver? Only time will tell, of course.

Assuming there is such a book ready in November....

Links for your Tuesday 

No doubt some folks will pounce eagerly upon this news and expound at length, but I'm just going to report that Gregory Rabassa, who's translated a whole host of literary giants, is now writing his own book about--what else?--the vagaries of translating books. Sounds like it'll be a must-read.

Maud's latest "Making Book" interview is with blog favorite Jonathan Ames, who divulges a wealth of information about what really goes on in writer's colonies--some writing, but much more drinking. As a veteran of three Bouchercons, all I have to say is--well, duh...

Meanwhile, Julian Rathbone is interviewed at the Times' business section about the nitty-gritty and economics of writing. I wish more writers would go public with this sort of thing. (link from Ed.)

Crap. The Bookseller is going subscriber-only, which means that there's one source I rely on a regular basis that is essentially wiped out.

Robert B. Parker's new book, DOUBLE PLAY, gets the review treatment at USA TODAY. They like it, but find it a bit too frothy considering the subject matter--Jackie Robinson in 1947--could have had a deeper treatment. Me, I just got annoyed because Putnam did that whole wide margin/increased font business. Can we stop this madness already? If the book's only 60,000 words, then treat it as such, not like a 100,000 word novel....

Thriller writer John Weisman, whose new conspiracy novel JACK IN THE BOX was reviewed in yesterday's Washington Post, is interviewed in the Winchester Star.

Speaking of the WaPo, Chris Lehmann advises those who might have thought that Paul Cody would be a good novel to read if you're a fan of Jim Thompson's THE KILLER INSIDE ME to "move along. Nothing to see here." Ouch.

Oh good god, it's a new trend starting--books compressed into text message language. The first victim, er, candidate is Homer's THE ILIAD. I have to wonder how FINNEGANS WAKE would do after being translated--I suspect it would be more comprehensible....

And finally, ConnellyWatch takes a slightly bizarre turn as he's the latest crime writer to be interviewed at Bankrate.com. Find out all about the menial jobs he's held, the advance he got for THE BLACK ECHO (higher than I'd realized), and his addiction to buying computers:
I feel guilty all the time about what I spend money on, but on the work side, I go through computers very quickly because I am just fascinated by technology. If I see a computer that has something new that mine can't accomplish, I just get it without any real thought. I have these really big shelves that I built in my garage for my old computers because I also don't want to get rid of them. I upgrade computers at least once a year. I think it helps spur me on to start a new book with a new computer.

As someone who's been the beneficiary of new gadgets and computer upgrades through the years (thanks, dad) I just have to ask: isn't it easier just to upgrade parts instead of entire computers?

Monday, May 24, 2004

The Curious Case of Elizabeth Short 

Aldo reports on a most interesting development with regards to the Black Dahlia, whose real name was, of course, Ms. Short. She's fascinated a whole host of people, but the most famous devotees are James Ellroy and Steve Hodel. Ellroy wrote a novel about the case back in 1988, and Hodel claimed in his book, published last year, that his father was the killer. Ellroy didn't buy it then--but in the just-released (and updated) paperback edition, guess who's written the introduction? As Steve Lopez reports, Ellroy finally came on board after coming across a particularly damning document:
"I was impressed with the scholarship but not entirely convinced," he said of his first reading of Hodel's book. "Then of course I read the revised version, which had the file you yourself turned up at the D.A.'s office."

Those files, which are the subject of an addendum in the paperback version of "Avenger," included bugging transcripts. D.A. investigators had concealed a microphone in Dr. Hodel's Los Feliz house, and here's the line that jumped off the page when I first saw it a year ago:

"Supposin' I did kill the Black Dahlia," the doctor says. "They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary anymore because she's dead."

No doubt people will be debating the question for years to come, since they have been doing so ever since Short's death in 1947. But it's certainly interesting to see a convergence of opinion between Ellroy and Hodel. Whether it stays that way is another matter entirely.

When Metablogging goes insane 

The New Yorker (!!!!) profiles Kate Lee, a twentysomething agent with ICM who has developed quite the niche market: bloggers with book deals:
Two years from now—give or take—Elizabeth Spiers, the founding editor of the gossip Web sites Gawker and The Kicker, will publish her first novel. Around the same time, Glenn Reynolds, who writes the political Web log Instapundit, will also have a book in stores. So, too, may writers from the blogs Hit & Run, The Black Table, Dong Resin, Zulkey, Low Culture, Lindsayism, Megnut, Maud Newton, MemeFirst, Old Hag, PressThink, I Keep a Diary, Buzz Machine, Engadget, and Eurotrash. Suddenly, books by bloggers will be a trend, a cultural phenomenon. You will probably read about it in the Sunday Times. And when that happens the person to thank—or blame—will be Kate Lee, who is currently a twenty-seven-year-old assistant at International Creative Management.

Well, considering how freaking talented a whole host of these namechecked individuals are (including a certain pseudonymous blogger, no matter how much he wants to deflect attention away from him) no wonder they are taking over.

And once they do, pub parties will never quite be the same again...

UPDATE: Choire's got some harsh truths for those bloggers who see stars in the publishing world:
It only takes most publishers 18 to 24 months to publish a book! They also have these innovative ideas of promotion -- for instance, as a Published Author, you might be allowed to fly yourself to Chicago and/or Miami to read to an audience of 12 or 13 people at a Barnes and Noble! And when your Kirkus and/or Publisher's Weekly reviews come out, and their wild praise contains one critical note, suddenly the PR people at your publisher are occupied with other projects -- and your $20,000 advance doesn't earn out and everyone scratches their heads in puzzlement.

It's the most retarded shell game on earth -- and the most technophobic, ass-backwards, financially-dumb-headed industry in the world. Our prediction: first blogger book: $140K advance. Second blogger book: $700K advance. Third blogger book: $15K advance. None earn out, the shark gets jumped, and then it's contract publishing gigs for all, and some God-awful ghost-writing gigs, which results in yet more bitter alcoholic blather on weblogs. Enjoy the hype, little bloggers. Take your advances and buy stock in Halliburton while you can.

Quick: anyone know how much this man got for an advance? We already know how much she got (somewhere in the vicinity of a "nice deal") and this man's book will be out in September, so it seems like the Gawker theory of advances might be a little bit flawed at this point in time.

J.K. Rowling's new habit 

So it seems that La Rowling trolls chat rooms. Who'd have thunk it?
JK ROWLING is so secretive about the plots to the Harry Potter books that she keeps notes in a shoebox in bank vault.

But when the multi-millionaire went ‘undercover’ to share her suggestions about the seventh and final novel in the series in an internet chatroom, young fans dismissed her ideas.

The bestselling author had anonymously logged on to a fan website devoted to the boy wizard, but her hints about the final book were not liked.

Of course they weren't interested--as long as the Harry series stays G-rated and nobody gets any action in the books, people will retreat to their little lust-filled cubbyholes to cook up even more unappetizing (or inappropriate) pairings, especially of the slash variety.*

Rowling also denies that Book Six, which may or may not be due out in 2005, will be titled HARRY POTTER AND THE GREEN FLAME TORCH. Dunno about you, but that screams "interim" to me....

And as it happens, she's just launched an official website to rebut rumors, give tidbits of her life, and whatnot--though the biography part is a little creepy as you click on a book labelled "1965-2004." Er, J.K., you trying to tell your fans something there?

*Memo to the movie guys: do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, cast Orlando Bloom in any role in any of the Potter movies to come. The fangirls might explode, or implode--or both.

The Victoria Day Update 

Yes folks, today's a holiday that's unique to my fair country, but because I'm a) a dork b) taking off way too much time lately or c) a lazy girl who's taken off much time lately, I'm working from home. Really, I am. Can't you tell? Oh, the levels of justification I must go through to prove that I should draw a paycheck. Anyway:

There are too many books published. I went into some of the mystery shops over the weekend and saw about ten books I wanted to read, but my eyes glazed over at the prospect of lugging all those little bastards home (customs: "you spent 800 dollars on books?" me: "er, well, yeah."). But oddly enough the one book I didn't see was this new one by John Weisman, which is reviewed in the WaPo by Patrick Anderson. Too bad, because anything that's "Award-Worthy" (you'll see what I mean) might be worth checking out for a few minutes here and there. Although I must ask Mr. Anderson this: are you sure you should be giving out your award so early in the game? Never know if there'll be other candidates that top this....

Abigail Vona, whose upcoming memoir BAD GIRL:CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DELINQUENT is due to be published in August, is embroiled in quite the mess. Let's see if I get this straight: the 19 year old was dating 48 year old Douglas Dechert, but when she dumped him, he tossed her clothes out on the street and then fired off an email to her publisher, impersonating his ex, to say that they were sabotaging things and just generally making muck. He claims he's due 15 percent of everything that is ever associated with the book. Ah, sordid book stories....

I like publisher catalogs. A lot. But evidently, Penguin UK has decided that mailing them out is just too much of an expense so they are doing away with them, and will only make the information available online.

As teens move away from books and more towards well, other stuff, teachers are fighting back by teaching contemporary literature and non-fiction in the classroom. The funny thing is, this might work--and maybe kids will discover classics and realize they are actually good reads instead of dissecting them every which way...(link first seen at Beatrice.)

Louis de Bernieres, in Sydney for the Writer's Festival, has some fun looking at signs with bad grammar and making fun of Mills & Boon novels. Although considering his "favorite phrase," I'm inclined to agree with the mocking....

Evidently writing a biography of P.G. Wodehouse is no piece of cake, as Robert McCrum, whose tome about the famed comic author will be out on September 2nd (and will be thrown on the TBR pile in due course), is finding out. Related to this, Jaime expounds on a point that many Wodehouse readers and fans may have missed: how much a sense of parody pervaded his work.

What? Something about Dan Brown I did not know? (Actually, there's a lot I probably don't know but since I've long stopped caring about much to do with THE DA VINCI CODE, perhaps I'm just not paying attention.) Evidently, he was the author of the 1996 song "Peace in Our Time" that was performed at the Atlanta Olympics. No word if Eric Rudolph heard the song and factored that into his decision....

A couple of items that Jiro has reported on: Lowen Clausen has won the Spotted Owl Award given by the Pacific Northwest-located Friends of Mystery; and Sue Grafton has won the Marlowe Award from the SoCal MWA chapter. More importantly, for those who still read her Kinsey Millhone books, R IS FOR RICOCHET will be out later this summer.

Irvine Welsh goes house hunting? Evidently that is the case, as he was spotted in the New Town area of Edinburgh with some papers and looking at "to let" signs.

And finally, yes, my country is responsible for unleashing her upon the US. Not that she's bad or anything, just....ever-present. Meet the woman Canadians have known for years from her "Sex with Sue" show.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

A moment in the sun 

I'm officially convinced: bloggers are taking over the book reviews. For, you see, Lizzie's not the only one whose byline appears in a newspaper this week. It's a bit of a change of direction for me, but a welcome one--especially since I'm still haunted by some of the stories weeks after I finished reading them. See what I mean for yourselves.

A belated Massive Weekend Update 

No doubt you will all understand, but I've been a little bit busy (and a lot social) of late. Ergo, the MWU is delayed till now, as I've only becun to recover some of the inherent fogginess that's been clouding my brain over the weekend. And so it goes:

I must say that it's taking me a little while to get used to the Tanenhaus vision of the NYTBR, but you know what....I kind of like it. If a complete overhaul is what it takes for Marilyn Stasio to actually write reviews that have some degree of clarity, then the new editor is obviously doing something right. I still wish there were five reviews like there once was, but ah, we can't have everything. Anyway, Stasio spends the bulk of her time on Robert B. Parker's new historical baseball novel DOUBLE PLAY, then makes quick work of the latest by Lee Child, (insert author here), and Barbara Seranella (likes it, but wishes Munch would get back some of the edge she had a few books ago; although I thought UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE was quite excellent, I do see Stasio's point here)

Otherwise at the PoR (that's Paper of Record for the jargon-challenged), Emily Nussbaum looks at literary sex writing in some new releases (no doubt Natalee Caple's MACKEREL SKY would have been an excellent candidate, but it's a Canadian-only book), Walter Kirn puzzles over Hari Kunzru's TRANSMISSION, and good lord, that Skurnick woman's a total star. If I were by nature a competitive person, I'd be ridiculously jealous. But frankly, that involves too much effort and negativity and so I'd rather just keep wondering why she's not a weekly fixture at the Book Review. Then I'd totally believe in the Tanenhaus vision...

At Book World, Chris Lehmann waxes enthusiastic about THE HAMILTON CASE, David Liss is genuinely puzzled at the overseas success of Luther Blissett's Q, which he dubs an inordinately long inside joke, and Michael Dirda pokes some (perhaps) well-deserved holes in Lynne Truss's EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES (which I keep wanting to change to HE, SHOOTS HE SCORES)

The Globe and Mail's big interview is with Larry Frolick, who's done a whole lot of travel writing--talk about an apt last name! Also, Julian Fellowes' upper-class novel SNOBS actually gets a good review, a "novel in stories" about Montreal ca. the 1995 referendum gets a mixed reaction, and if you ever wanted to know the inside scoop on how money laundering really works, well, Chris Mathers' book is the one for you.

Over at the Guardian Review, it's all Hay-on-Wye, all the time. The literary festival kicks off a column by Catherine Lockerbie on such festivals as a whole, but she seems to neglect the bottom line: it's all about the alcohol. Otherwise, there's a gigantic profile of John Updike (who'll be at the Hay festival), David Mitchell's fond tribute to the writing of Italo Calvino, and Barbara Trapido confesses that her first novel was a big distraction--from finishing her PhD thesis. Oh yeah, I bet there are a lot of folks who get that, at least the latter part....

Then there's the sister Sunday paper, where Robert McCrum talks about blogs (!) although in the context of using the Internet to write and publicize fiction or something like that. Come on, Robert, why don't you spend an entire column writing about blogs like, well, mine. Or some of the other fine folks I usually mention. Anyway, the rest of the Observer: there's a new book about the battle of Troy (just in time for the crappy movie's release!) Marian Keyes is interviewed about her latest book, a satire on publishing, book tours, and other things that, alas, didn't need 650 pages to tell the story, and Stephen Bayley argues that the amazingly (and artificially, several times over) endowed Katie Price--better known to those Brit folks as Jordan--is a relevant figure in the UK's contemporary culture. Dude, it's a trashy biography, OK? I bet if you went and said this to Jordan, she wouldn't even have a clue what you meant....

Moving north, the Scotsman interviews filmmaker Neil Jordan about his newest project--a novel. It's a ghost story of sorts, but with some particularly weird twists, but considering Jordan's affinity for helming films based on books, I suppose it's not that much of a surprise he returned to writing books. Otherwise, the shortlist for the paper's Short Story contest has been announced, and Percival Everett's GLYPH--narrated from a baby's POV--gets reissued to acclaim.

At the Sunday edition, comedian Jo Brand is just the latest of her field to pen a novel, which gets a reasonably positive review, and spy novelist Henry Porter answers the usual questions.

In other news:

Oline Cogdill's read the new Randy Wayne White novel, TAMPA BURN, and alas, she's not so enthused about it, saying that the pace and plotline doesn't really kick in until the end, when it's too late to save the book. Ouch.

Another of my favorite mystery critics, Dick Adler, is the latest to get in on ConnellyWatch, though he's a bit put off by the "insider cuteness." Hey, a writer has to amuse himself, after all. Other authors getting ink include P.J. Tracy, Boris Akunin, the Rule of Four kids, and Jamie Metzl, who gets a review so glowing that it makes me wonder why I haven't heard of the book--oh wait, because St. Martin's published it and it got lost in the shuffle. Sigh.

Speaking of Akunin, he's the recipient of a nice write-up by Elaine Blair of Newsday, who digs MURDER ON THE LEVIATHAN, Akunin's homage to Agatha Christie and locked-room mysteries in general.

Linda Fairstein's new book, THE KILLS, got a lot of good press in both North America and England. Now that it's out in Australia, she's profiled in the Sydney Morning Herald about the origins of her books, how her husband's suggestion changed how she wrote, and being a full-time writer after 30 years on the job as a prosecutor.

The Dallas Morning news presents a rather lengthy crime fiction roundup from Laurie Trimble. Getting nods are Mark Cohen, Barbara Seranella, Dick Cady, Jennifer Patrick, David Housewright and Laura Joh Rowland.

Over at the Wichita Eagle, they concentrate on giving out good reviews to the big guns like Michael Connelly, Lee Child and John Sandford.

The Toronto Star interviews Colm Toibin, whose novel about Henry James is just racking up accolades everywhere. Not surprisingly, the piece focuses primarily on what fascinated Toibin so much to write about the earlier novelist.

Need some beach reads for the summer? Then check out Sun-Times book editor Henry Kisor's list, ranging from the vapid to the stimulating, airport thrillers to literary masterpieces. It's certainly an interesting selection...

The Fayetteville Observer looks at the still-burgeoning phenomenon of book clubs, which are springing up all over the place, catering to almost any whim. I wonder what's next--Book Clubs for Babies? Alert me if such a thing exists, for it would amuse me....

And finally--a picture of Salam Pax? There has been one published before, right, or has there? I can't keep track. Anyway, the Sydney Morning Herald talks to the Baghdad Blogger about his new movie deal.

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