Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hang on every word

By FT critics - their choice of the world's best books so far this year
Published: FT June 25 2010
Compiled by Ángel Gurría-Quintana

The Pregnant Widow, by Martin Amis, Jonathan Cape RRP£18.99
Hailed as a return to form, Amis’s 12th novel recaptures the melancholy humour of The Rachel Papers and London Fields. Its protagonist, Keith Nearing, is a 20-year-old holidaying in Italy in the 1970s, torn between studying for Eng Lit exams and conquering the attention of the desirable but unattainable Sheherazade.

Burley Cross Postbox Theft,
by Nicola Barker, Fourth Estate RRP£16.99
An epistolary heist novel set in an idyllic rural community sounds like an unlikely genre for Barker’s darkly exuberant imagination. It is, in fact, a perfect match, as the author of Darkmans unleashes her powers of observation to reveal the inherent weirdness and the seething viciousness of English village life.

Parrot and Olivier in America
, by Peter Carey, Faber RRP£18.99
The latest offering by Australia’s prolific Carey is a picaresque romp through 1830s America featuring a coddled French aristocrat, Olivier de Garmont (based loosely on the writer Alexis de Tocqueville), and his sidekick, journeyman forger John Larrit – nicknamed Parrot for his ability to imitate speech.

The Memory of Love, by Aminatta Forna, Bloomsbury RRP£17.99
Forna’s beautiful novel traces the fates of damaged characters in the wake of Sierra Leone’s civil conflict during the 1990s, as those who would rather forget it are forced to live with those who cannot.

Our GG in Havana
, by Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, translated by John King, Faber RRP£9.99
Mistaken identities, Nazi hunters, vacuum-cleaner salesmen, cold war spies, Italian-American mafiosi and transsexual cabaret performers abound in a droll novel set in 1950s pre-revolutionary Havana. Gutiérrez, the author of Dirty Havana Trilogy, has fun exploring the cauldron of depravity and double-dealing that inspired Graham Greene’s classic Our Man in Havana.

We The Drowned, by Carsten Jensen, translated by Charlotte Barslund, Harvill Secker RRP£17.99
A rollicking debut by Jensen, the latest in a lineage of authors of maritime sagas stretching from Homer to Patrick O’Brien. Following four generations of seafarers from the Danish island of Marstal, the novel navigates from Samoa to the North Atlantic, and from the mid-19th century to the second world war.

The Birth of Love, by Joanna Kavenna, Faber RRP£12.99
Second-timer Kavenna boldly goes where few novelists have dared to go before – the emotional (and medical) minefield surrounding childbirth. The result is an unsettling four-part novel set in present-day London, 19th-century Vienna and a dystopian future where natural procreation and childbirth have been outlawed.

In Office Hours, by Lucy Kellaway, Fig Tree RRP£12.99
According to one study, two-thirds of corporate employees have had sex with a colleague. Kellaway, this newspaper’s very own management agony aunt, has used her hard-gleaned insights to pen a satirical novel about workplace trysts and power struggles.

, by JMG Le Clézio, translated by C Dickson, Atlantic RRP£16.99
Thirty years after it was first published and won the Académie Française’s most prestigious award, Le Clézio’s breakthrough novel is published in Britain. Better late than never for this diptych in which Nour, a Tuareg boy, and Laila, a Moroccan orphan who migrates to France, cope with modernity’s encroachments.

The Long Song, by Andrea Levy, Headline Review RRP£18.99
Levy’s follow-up to Small Island tells the story of July, a mixed-race girl, coming of age in Jamaica as the old world of masters and slaves crumbles around her. A moving tale about the struggle for race and gender equality, and about the empowering force of storytelling.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, by David Mitchell, Sceptre RRP£18.99
Clashing cultures and illicit love affairs drive Mitchell’s fifth novel, a feast of literary invention and historical ventriloquism. The book’s titular character is an inexperienced Dutch bookkeeper charged with cleaning up the accounts of a corrupt Dutch East India Company in its dealings with 18th-century Japan.

Read the fulllist at FT. Registration may be necessary, but it is free.
Jeff Bezos's mission: Compelling small publishers to think big
Posted by JP Mangalindan in Fortune magazine
June 29, 2010

In the face of Kindle price cuts and wild iPad sales, Jeff Bezos is taking Amazon into new markets and onto every device he can. Will it be enough?

Jeff Bezos has been dismissed before. For most of the dot-com boom, he was assumed to be a one-shot wonder, inches away from having his bookstore,, (AMZN) extinguished by Wal-Mart (WMT). Now, with Apple's (AAPL) mad rush into books and readers, people are starting to wonder again. But Bezos, judging by a sit down interview with Fortune last week, isn't sweating.

So far, the numbers show he doesn't need to. Last quarter, the company reported a profit of $299 million, up 68% from a year ago. Its ebookstore, which started with some 60,000 titles, now offers upwards of 600,000. And though the company won't disclose hard numbers about its Kindle user base -- Bezos has said Kindle owners number somewhere in the millions -- its visibility in the hands of executives, soccer moms and twenty-something professionals reinforces its high-profile status as a go-to device for voracious readers.

But last week, Amazon  slashed the price on its second-generation Kindle from $259 to $189 to undercut Barnes & Noble (BKS), which dropped the price of its own eReader, the Nook, from $259 to $199, and announced a Wi-fi-only version for $149. Earlier this week, Barnes & Noble reported a larger-than-expected loss totaling 89 cents per share, eight cents more than what analysts had predicted. It significantly lowered its earnings forecast for 2011 but indicated it would shift more of its resources to the growing ebook market.

And while Bezos doesn't view the iPad, and tablet devices overall, as a threat -- "It's really a different product category" -- the iPad's overnight success, along with Steve Jobs' announcement that users had downloaded 1.5 million books in less than 30 days is a sign that the competition for eReaders' dollars could be heating up – and soon.

One day after Amazon slashed the price on its Kindle, Fortune met with Bezos at Amazon's new headquarters in downtown Seattle, a sprawling 10-building campus of glass, steel and concrete, to discuss the company he built from scratch and where it's going from here.

Read the full piece at Fortune,
Dutchman Sees Life in Japan Long Ago
By Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times,
Published: June 28, 2010


By David Mitchell
479 pages. Random House. US$26.

With “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” David Mitchell has traded in the experimental, puzzlelike pyrotechnics of “Ghostwritten” and “Number9Dream” for a fairly straight-ahead story line and a historical setting.

David Mitchell, photo by Miriam Berkley

He’s meticulously reconstructed the lost world of Edo-era Japan, and in doing so he’s created his most conventional but most emotionally engaging novel yet: it’s as if an acrobatic but show-offy performance artist, adept at mimicry, ventriloquism and cerebral literary gymnastics, had decided to do an old-fashioned play and, in the process, proved his chops as an actor.

As the novel opens, it’s 1799, and the Land of the Rising Sun is closed to the West, save for one trading post on the island of Dejima near Nagasaki that is run by the Dutch. Young Jacob de Zoet has arrived there to make his fortune and to win the hand of his beloved, Anna, back home in Rotterdam: her father has promised they can wed after Jacob has served a five-year posting in the Far East as a clerk.

The fastidious Jacob is both fascinated and repelled by the teeming street life he sees around him: “gnarled old women, pocked monks, unmarried girls with blackened teeth,” chanting street urchins, unscrupulous merchants, expensive courtesans, the smells of “steamed rice, sewage, incense, lemons, sawdust, yeast and rotting seaweed.”

Jacob also finds himself magnetically drawn to Orito Aibagawa, a young Japanese midwife with a scarred face, who is studying medicine on Dejima, under the tutelage of a Dutch doctor, Marinus. Orito has earned this unheard-of privilege for a woman by successfully delivering the seemingly stillborn son of Shiroyama, a powerful magistrate. Though Jacob soon becomes obsessed with Orito, his love for her is forbidden — as a Westerner, he is persona non grata in Japan, and Orito is prohibited from ever leaving her homeland. What’s more, Jacob has an equally unlucky competitor for Orito’s affections: a translator named Uzaemon, whose wish to marry her has been denied by his father, who is concerned about her family’s many debts.

Full review at NYT.
Ruffino appointed Penguin Group digital director

29.06.10 | Benedicte Page in The Bookseller

Dan Ruffino, currently Penguin Australia's marketing and publicity director, has been made group digital director with responsibility for Penguin's digital strategy across the globe.

Ruffino will be based in New York, reporting to chairman and chief executive John Makinson, and will start his role on 1st September.
Penguin said Ruffino had been instrumental in establishing Penguin Australia's online strategy and would now work with colleagues around the world with a focus on digital publishing, new digital revenue opportunities, direct to consumer communication and global partnerships.

Makinson described Ruffino as "a hugely talented marketing professional who has spent the last six years thinking about ways to make our content more enticing the consumer", saying he had both the right qualifications for the job and "the enthusiasm and creative energy to ensure that Penguin continues to lead the way in digital innovation."

Here are the latest Women on Air, "Books 'n' Writers" podcasts:
To listen click on the writer's name, then either press the "play" icon or download the mp3 (it's free).

Elizabeth Knox author of the bestselling Vintner's Luck and Dreamhunter/Dreamquake duology, talks with Women on Air's Morrin Rout about the supernatural in fiction.

Julie Paama-Pengelly Bay of Plenty writer and artist, talks with Ruth Todd of Women on Air about "Maori Art & Design", her new book tracing the history of Maori art and design in Aotearoa

Penelope Todd discusses her new novel "Island" (Penguin)--about nurses working on an historical quarantine island-- with Ruth Todd of Women on Air.

Helen McKinley: Helen McKinley shares her latest in the Grandma picture book series, "Grandma Meets the Queen", with Helen Lowe.

Victoria Broome: Poet, Victoria Broome, talks with Helen Lowe about her love of poetry and the ups and downs of the creative journey.

Mary McCallum: Award winning writer, Mary McCallum, chats with Helen Lowe about her new creative initiative, the Tuesday Poem Blog.

Faber and Transworld dominate e-book sales, says Foyles

29.06.10 | Victoria Gallagher in The Bookseller

E-books from Transworld and Faber are dominating the charts at Foyles, and doing so largely because of the bibliographic data provided by the publishers, the retailer claims.

At yesterday's (28th June) Inpress Digital Conference, held at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road, London, Julia Kingsford, head of marketing at Foyles, revealed the top ten selling e-books at Foyles since November 2009.

The chart was topped by The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Doubleday/Transworld), and also included titles from stablemate authors Dan Brown (Bantam), John O'Farrell (Black Swan) and Terry Pratchett (Corgi). Faber also scored well, although only one - Paul Auster's Brooklyn Follies - had made it into the top 10.

Kingsford explained these two publishers, through metadata, had provided more bibliographic information with e-books making it easier to sell them.

"The publishers did a really really good job of making the e-books, making it easier for the retailer to sell and making it easier for the customer to buy," she said.

The main exceptions to this were two Booker Prize winning novels: Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate), which picked up the award last year, and Yann Martel's Life of Pi (Canongate), which received the accolade in 2002.

Kingsford urged publishers to build on the number of titles available digitally, saying there was still an "awful lot of room" in the market. "The more smaller publishers that can make their titles available the happier we'll be," she said.

Foyles e-book sales still only account for 1-2% of the retailers overall value sales. Despite this Kingsford said she was "incredibly excited" about the e-market and said the future of bookselling would be about allowing people to read books however they want to access them.

However, she added: "We are very much of the feeling we haven't reached a tipping point yet... we haven't had that iPod moment yet."
More including Foyle's top ten .
Bertelsmann on ‘Very Good Course’ After First Half, CEO Says
June 28, 2010
 From Businessweek
By Ragnhild Kjetland

June 28 (Bloomberg) -- Bertelsmann AG, Europe’s largest media company, remains on a “very good course,” Chief Executive Officer Hartmut Ostrowski said.

“I’m very optimistic about the current development, and not just for Bertelsmann,” Ostrowski said, according to the prepared text of a speech that he gave at a media forum in Cologne today. “We as an industry should finally stop doubting ourselves.”
After a “record” first quarter, “also after six months we are on a very good course,” the CEO said

More here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Friends of The Women’s Bookshop packed out the largest cinema at the Bridgeway in Northcote last night for an advance preview of The Girl Who Played with Fire, book two of Steig Larsson’s brilliant trilogy.

The general verdict seems to be that the Swedish know how to make films as well as write books! Sticking closely to the book, this film, like the first one, is tense, scary and totally absorbing. There was one point where the entire cinema jumped in unison & anyone with wine left in their glass must surely have spilt it!

The strong, feisty heroine Lisbeth Salandar is again brilliantly portrayed by Noomi Rapace – everyone seems to agree that she is exactly as they had imagined her from the books.
The Women’s Bookshop supports these books, and subsequently the films, because, although violent, they are highly political, exposing male abuse of women and creating a strong, feminist young woman who does not let them get away with it.

Last night, two dozen intensely interested members of the Wellington branch of the NZSA gathered in a pub to listen to a talk about a Polynesian explorer whose name has been lost in the shadows of history.

The unusual venue was the bar of the historic Thistle Inn, Wellington's oldest original tavern, and once the haunt of Bully Hayes, pirate.  This meant that stray members of the public were compelled to overhear the talk.  Interestingly, most of them stayed to listen.

The speaker was Joan Druett, whose biography of Tupaia, Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator, will be published by Praeger in the US in November, and in New Zealand by Random House next July.  Copies of Tupaia's artwork and his famous chart of the Pacific were handed out, inspiring an energetic discussion.  This was followed by a description of Tupaia's poor relationship with Captain Cook, and the sad outcomes of this, including the Polynesian navigator's premature death in Batavia (Jakarta) of typhoid complicated by longstanding symptoms of scurvy.  The talk went well overtime, and was followed by enthusiastic applause, along with a call for closing time from the bar.

The Bookman asked Ann what she was doing in her "retirement" following the sale of her company Mallinson Rendell to Penguin Books. Here is her reply:

"I have a small job as Theatre and Film Agent for Lynley Dodd.   A Scottish company, Nonsenseroom Productions, has long been interested in putting on a Hairy Maclary production, and since we could not get funding in New Zealand to take Maclary Theatre Productions' "Hairy Maclary Show" overseas, Nonsenseroom Productions will be putting on "Hairy Maclary and Friends" at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2010.   It will be at the Assembly Rooms at 10.30 am from 5 - 29 August. 
Maybe some New Zealand Hairy Maclary fans will be able to see the show if they are in Edinburgh at that time.   Not only would they be able to take in that show, but they could also attend Wayne Mills' international final of the Kids Lit competition, (see separate story below).
Kids Lit Quiz World Final

The world final of the 2010 Kids’ Lit Quiz will be part of the Edinburgh Book Festival in August. The creator and quizmaster, Wayne Mills, will compere the event being hosted by the Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools on August 14th. The NZ heats were conducted during March-June with the NZ Final held in Parliament on June 20th. The top four schools were Belmont Intermediate (they defended their 2009 national title) second was Peachgrove Intermediate from Hamilton followed by Pasadena Intermediate, and Wanganui Intermediate.

The winning team received $10 000 and will now fly to Scotland to compete against six other international teams. All expenses are covered by the host nation. This year the sponsors have been Serco and Ian Rankin the Scottish crime writer
The quiz known as ‘the sport of reading’ rewards and recognises readers with the best literary knowledge in the 10-13 age group. . “The opportunity to fly from one side of the world to the other because you’re good at reading is unheard of,” says Mills.
New book brings together papers by founding figure in NZ geography

A collection of papers written by New Zealand’s first university lecturer in geography has been gathered together in a new book published by Canterbury University Press.

A Geographer by Declaration has been put together by Massey University Professor of Geography Michael Roche and features selected published and unpublished writings of George Jobberns (1895-1974), a founding figure in university geography in New Zealand.

Professor Roche said the history of university geography in this country had received limited study and “although some important episodes are well understood, there are many areas that have escaped attention”.

“The realisation that there was a considerable quantity of unpublished writing by pioneer New Zealand geographer George Jobberns that provides a window into disciplinary concerns in the 1940s and 1950s provided the motivation for this collection,” he said.

Born in South Canterbury, Jobberns was a graduate of Christchurch Teachers’ College and, after a period as a secondary school teacher, completed an MA in geology at what is now the University of Canterbury. In 1922 he took up a position as a lecturer in physiography at Christchurch Teacher’s College and managed to also complete a BSc and Dip Ed at the same time. He was assistant lecturer in the geology department at Canterbury from 1934 and, in 1937, Jobberns was appointed lecturer-in-charge of an independent geography department at his alma mater. The department was the first of its kind in the New Zealand university system. Five years later Jobberns was the country’s first Professor of Geography. He retired in 1960 and was awarded a CBE in 1963.

About the Editor:
Professor Roche is based in the School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University. He completed a PhD in historical geography in 1983 at the University of Canterbury and has a long-standing interest in the development of university geography in New Zealand, particularly in the movement of people and ideas between North America and New Zealand.

He has published on various aspects of the interrelations of society, economy and environment in 19th and 20th century New Zealand, including contributions to the New Zealand Historical Atlas, the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.

A Geographer by Declaration will be launched during the New Zealand Geographical Society Conference at Rydges Hotel in Christchurch, 5-8 July.

A Geographer by Declaration: Selected writings by George Jobberns, edited by Michael Roche, published by Canterbury University Press, June 2010, RRP$30, paperback, 136pp + 8pp b/w photos, ISBN 978-1-877257-90-2.

An Irish feminist poet is at the Tuesday Poem hub this week with a powerful poem that combines the mythical and the quotidian to explore marital love and its lost intensity - meet Eavan Boland and her poem Love selected by Tuesday Poet from Tipperary John Griffin. Then click on the live blog roll for more of the mythical, more of the quotidian, more explorations of the stuff that makes up both the epic and the intimate, the intense and the mundane in our lives... in other words POETRY.
As usual, in amongst the posts by the 30 Tuesday Poets there are inevitable conversations between the poems - Vana Manasiadis' poem Penelope the Mythic combines myth and plain speaking as Boland does, Jennifer Compton writes about marital love without myth but with the same focus Boland has on the intense feelings at love's beginnings, Helen Rickerby's and Rhian Gallagher's poems write simply of the contentment in love, John Donne is posted twice in two different blogs - and one of the poems is surely one of the most powerful ever about lifelong love and its absence, Harvey McQueen's poem Thomas Hardy is a poet near the end of his life talking of the joy and privilege of 'noticing' - a recognition of those intense moments that uplift an ordinary life, Gaelic poet Anthony Raftery who lived over 150 years ago writes of much the same thing - in English and Gaelic - a good life and the end in sight.
US poet Eileen Moeller envies the stuff of contentment in her poem and NZer Saradha Koirala 'notices' the difference between the contented and the discontented.
Then there are poems that break out into different spheres entirely - award-winning Selina Tusitala Marsh can be heard reading a poem that lays into the likes of Gauguin for creating the sexualised maidens of the 'South Pacific paradise', there's a haiku in three languages on the way human-beings deplete nature and a poem by Charles Causley on the loss of an oil tanker, finally there are two poems on astronauts by Janis Freegard and Harvey Molloy that remind the reader how small our planet really is both physically and in its concerns, and (in the same spirit as Boland's poem) how short our moments of glory. One moment we are up among the stars, the next we are back home painting with moondust. Read and be amazed.
Don't mention the mockingbird! The reclusive novelist who wrote the classic novel that mesmerised 40 million readers

By Sharon Churcher in the Mail Online.
27th June 2010

In the 50 years since Harper Lee published her classic novel that mesmerised 40million readers, she has barely written another word  – and turned into an almost total recluse.
So when her friends agreed to give our reporter an introduction, it was on one strict condition...Don’t mention the Mockingbird

Despite the thick, black sunglasses, there is something familiar about the frail 84-year-old woman as she is helped falteringly towards the lake shore.
A delighted smile flickers across her face as ducks and Canada geese flock round to feed on the scraps of bread brought from the care home where she lives in a modest apartment.
Dressed in a clean but faded T-shirt and loosely fitting gingham slacks, she attracts barely a glance from passers-by.
Yet hers is the face which has stared from the cover of a book that has hypnotised more than 40 million readers around the world, one that has frequently been rated as one of the ten most important books published in the past century.

She is Harper Lee, whose only book, To Kill A Mockingbird, won the Pulitzer Prize, is translated into nearly 50 languages and was turned into the Oscar-winning 1962 film starring Gregory Peck. It also made Harper into a multi-millionairess.

Nervously, I approach the novelist, carrying the best box of chocolates I could find in the small Alabama town of Monroeville, a Hershey’s selection costing a few dollars. I start to apologise that I hadn’t brought more but a beaming Nelle – as her friends and family call her – extends her hand.

Read more:
Meyer Tops A Million

Little, Brown Children's says that it has sold over a million copies of Stephenie Meyer's novella A THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER since its release on June 5--making it "the biggest selling new book of the year so far."
Will the iPad Undercut Digital Readers?
By Robert Cyran
Published: June 27, 2010, New York Times

The electronic book market is looking increasingly hot, flat and crowded. A vicious price war has broken out among producers of digital readers because of Apple’s success with the iPad. Companies like Amazon hope that selling tomes across multiple devices will fill the profit gap. But competition in e-book distribution is heating up and could pressure margins there, too.

Apple has sold more than three million iPads in about two and a half months. While Amazon doesn’t give figures, analysts think it has sold a similar number of its Kindle e-readers over two and a half years.

Investors haven’t missed the implications. Amazon’s stock has fallen 8 percent since the iPad arrived. That’s about the same as the market as a whole. The stock of Barnes & Noble, another e-reader seller, has fallen more sharply, losing a quarter of its value. Yet both are still richly priced compared with the market. Amazon trades at 40 times estimated earnings this financial year, and Barnes & Noble at 20 times.

Meanwhile, Apple’s shares have risen 13 percent since the beginning of April, adding more than $30 billion to the company’s market capitalization. Of course, booming iPhone sales account for a large part of this rise. There’s a three-week waiting list for the latest version when you buy it online, despite some kinks with its antenna. But the iPad figures as well. Analysts’ expectations seem to be rising weekly. Several now predict Apple could sell more than 10 million this year.

Devices like the Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Sony’s Daily Edition e-reader are made specifically for reading, so they have gray screens that are easy on the eyes and batteries that last for days. The iPad, by contrast, has a bright color screen and a battery that drains more quickly. Its success suggests the perceived advantages of e-readers may turn out not to matter too much to consumers.

After all, iPad users have already downloaded more than five million e-books. It may be that many people prefer a more versatile device that allows them to browse the Web, watch videos, read e-mail and download games and other applications — and act as an e-reader as well. That’s a potential nightmare for Amazon and other purveyors of e-readers. Think how jack-of-all-trades mobile phones have pushed out initially successful dedicated personal digital organizers.

Pricing trends seem to support the thesis. E-reader sellers slashed their prices this week, some by a quarter. But even corporate clients with giant orders for iPads can’t expect to score any discount. Basic e-readers now go for well under $200 and will almost certainly be offered for less than $100 by Christmas, according to Gartner.

There’s a battle brewing over e-books, too. Before Apple’s iPad appeared, Amazon sold most Kindle books for $9.99 and lost about $3 a book, analysts reckon. That increased Kindle sales and helped establish both the e-book market and Amazon’s place within it.

The iPad has given publishers ammunition to demand higher prices for digitized books. The net result could be a wash, at least for Amazon. Citigroup estimates the Kindle and e-books combined will continue to account for about 5 percent of the company’s total sales and profit, in line with current levels.
Full story at NYT.
As literary world's floodgates open, who must wade through the slush? Yes, us
Writers are self-publishing to get around the gatekeepers

    * Richard Rogers
    * The Observer, Sunday 27 June 2010

The current revolution taking place in publishing is much celebrated. But Laura Miller pointed out in last week it is worth looking at who exactly is "lining up to dance on the grave of traditional book publishing". With a plethora of self-publishing options now open to aspiring authors, anyone with the will to type can simply upload their cherished titles on to the lists of high-profile online booksellers such as Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble. A far cry from the world of literary agents, publishing houses and junior editors tasked with wading through thousands of manuscripts.

This is, of course, fantastic news for the many authors previously crushed by rejection letters from – in their eyes – short-sighted publishers unable to appreciate their genius. The gatekeepers' rule is at an end, or so runs the line. It goes without saying that said gatekeepers are none too chuffed about this and the victims of the revolution are all too easy to spot as literary agents, editors and traditional booksellers find themselves struggling to adapt. As well as these hated oppressors, however, Miller warns of another potential victim of revolution: the readers themselves.

Though the author is now free of the necessity to be approved by the "establishment", the reader is now also free of the establishment's editorial judgment. People unconnected with the coalface of publishing, the mounds of manuscripts that must be mined to find anything of value, will be unaware of two facts; firstly, just how much of it there is, and, secondly, just how bad most of these manuscripts are. Which, according to Miller, is very bad indeed. Wading through this mountain of awful, unsolicited writing, known in the industry as "slush" is currently the job of junior editors. It is soul-crushing work, she writes, undertaken for little pay in the hope of a future career. With these jobs, and the very industry, now under threat, there is no one to wade through the slush but the readers themselves. But how long can our desire to read last before it is crushed under the sheer weight of slush?

And this story on the same subject from PublIshing Perpsectives:
The Death of “Submit-Wait-Pray”: Self Publishing as a Cottage Industry
Could Miles Franklin turn the Booker prize to crime?

Literary awards have been one of the last bastions of high culture, but in the week when the crime writer Peter Temple took Australia's top literary prize, the Miles Franklin award, Alison Flood examines whether a detective novel could ever win the Booker

Alison Flood,, Friday 25 June 2010

When the Australian crime novelist Peter Temple heard that one of his detective novels, The Broken Shore, had been longlisted for the 2006 Miles Franklin award, he "thought it was a clerical error". So when his latest novel, Truth, made this year's Miles Franklin shortlist, Temple had little hope that this time Inspector Stephen Villani, the brooding head of the Victoria homicide squad, could bring off his greatest coup and go on to win Australia's most prestigious literary prize.

"I read the other shortlisted authors, on the basis you should know who the people are who are going to beat you, and I was quite confident that at least three were going to beat me," said the author, speaking from Australia. When the judges for the prize opened the envelope to read out his name, "Booker-style", on Tuesday night, he was "absolutely humbled".

Temple is the first crime novelist ever to win the Miles Franklin, setting him in a canon of former winners including Peter Carey, David Malouf and Patrick White.

"It is a very bold thing for the judges to do. They really are the custodians of Australia's oldest literary prize, they decide who should be admitted to the contemporary canon. So to admit a crime novelist, they've put their lives on the line," said Temple. "It's a fairly small panel [of previous winners] but the writers are all of quite extraordinary talent and quality ... I don't know what on earth I'm doing there."

Back on this side of the world, no crime novel has ever won the Man Booker prize, and the former chairman of the Booker judges John Sutherland isn't expecting it to happen any time soon.

"The twice I've been on the Booker panel they weren't submitted," he said. "There's a feeling that it's like putting a donkey into the Grand National."

According to Sutherland, the perception in the UK is that there are enough specialist awards for crime fiction. The barriers to genre writers are also higher. "They just don't have quite the same class system in Australia, and perhaps they don't have the same class distinctions in Australian letters," he said.

Sutherland also worries that awarding a mainstream literary prize to a work of genre fiction, particularly one which is part of a series, would devalue its reputation. "There is a dilution effect," he said. "Series have tended to inhabit the lower reaches of literature."

But according to the bestselling crime novelist Ian Rankin, attitudes towards genre fiction are slowly shifting in this country as well.
"Things are changing," Rankin said. "The old canards are that crime fiction is plot-driven, thin on character, populist: a lesser calling. But that no longer holds true. Kate Atkinson's last three novels have been crime. Ian McEwan's Saturday is a crime story. William Boyd's Ordinary Thunderstorms is a thriller. Slowly, the barricades are tumbling. You can now study crime fiction in some universities and high schools. At least three PhDs on my own work are currently under way. A St Andrews lecturer has written a book about one of my novels. Thirty years back, 'modern literature' at St Andrews meant Milton."

The full peice at The Guardian.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ray Avery awarded the Blake Medal for Leadership

Last Friday night, Ray Avery was awarded this year’s Peter Blake Medal for Leadership, New Zealand’s premier leadership honour. Also the current Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year, Avery is literally saving millions of lives in the developing countries through invention, entrepreneurship, ground-breaking technology and his unrelenting determination that “one man can change the world” and make it a better place for the most vulnerable.

We’ll be hearing a lot more about this extraordinary Kiwi because Random House has Ray’s heart-breaking, candid and often laugh-out-loud funny memoir, ‘Rebel with a Cause’, coming out 13 August. Random publicist Jennifer Balle is promising an emotional roller-coaster of a read. She says Ray’s childhood could be straight out of a Dickens’ classic or ‘Angela’s Ashes. British-born to alcoholic and violent parents who never wanted him, he suffered the most appalling parental abuse and neglect. His mother even tried to sell him at one point. He eventually became a ward of the state where he was shuffled from orphanage to orphanage, foster home to foster home enduring yet more abuse associated with this type of institutional care. As a young teen he ran away and lived rough under a bridge for months and science museums, libraries, art galleries and books became his sanctuary. An inspirational teacher recognised Ray’s natural genius and took the teenager under his wing. With his encouragement, Ray eventually enrolled at the Wye research institute and he went on to become a scientist, a millionaire, a very successful businessman and now someone who literally does help to change the world.


Image and story from Shelftalker blog at PW.
Whitcoulls claims to have sold thousands of Kobos
By Claire McEntee -

Whitcoulls is claiming a win in the debut of its Kobo e-reader as publishers mobilise to cash in on the new e-book market.
The bookseller launched the Kobo e-reader and its online book store a month ago.

Managing director Peter Kalan says New Zealanders have snapped up thousands of Kobos – the first two shipments – and Whitcoulls was taking pre-orders for the third shipment, due to arrive mid-July.
"Demand has been great, it's far exceeded what we expected."

E-book sales through the Whitcoulls website have been building momentum, rather than kicking off with a bang.
"People get the device and tend to play around with it and down-load maybe one title or so and then a week or two later they'll actually start to go on and buy. That's been within our expectations."
E-book sales are also in the thousands, and on average shoppers are buying one book at a time and spending $10 to $15. E-books tend to be cheaper than their print counterparts.
Full story at

Maritime Writer 

Wellingtonians come and hear a local writer with international reputation

On her website biography, Joan says “It is no secret that I did not produce my first full length book until the age of forty.”
Joan Druett is a well known writer of the “Wiki Coffin Maritime Mysteries”. Her books include “She Captains”, “Rough Medicine”, “She was a Sister Sailor”, “In the Wake of Madness” and the very well known “Islands of the Lost”. She has receivedseveral awards in America including an award for outstanding contribution to women’s history.

In 2005 Joan was appointed a consultant for an ongoing NEH-funded project with the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society, Children on Whale ships. In 2000, she was awarded a Creative New Zealand grant as well as the year long Stout Fellowship at Victoria University.
Her most recent project is the story of TUPAIA, the unacknowledged Tahitian who was essential to the success, and subsequent fame, of Cooks voyage on the Endeavour – to be released in both the United States (Praeger) and New Zealand (Random House) later this year
Come and listen to our very own “local” maritime biographer, storyteller extraordinaire, who has gone on to become an international best seller and whose fourth book about the brave seafaring wives, “Hen Frigates”, in 1998 won a place in the New York Public Library list of the twenty-five Best Books to Remember.

Monday 28 June
at Thistle Inn
starting 7.30 pm

New Zealand Society
of Authors Wellington

NZSA members $2
non-members $3

Check out this cool kid's book blog.

Sex & Stravinsky
By Barbara Trapido
Bloomsbury, $38.99
Reviewed by Nicky Pellegrino

There are elements of UK author Barbara Trapido’s seventh novel that remind me of one of those classic French farces or Shakespearian comedy. Credulity is stretched, identities are hidden, no one is entirely what they seem…or even what they think they are. But that makes this book sound pretentious and it’s not at all. It’s a droll story of twined lives, finely balanced between truth and humour, and it reads as though Trapido wrote it with a smile on her face.

The story opens in the UK during the late 70s when student Josh meets uber-woman Caroline and falls in love with her. It then moves on swiftly to the mid 90s. Super capable Caroline is bullied by her gorgon of a mother, Josh is too wimpy to do anything about it and their little girl Zoe is dreading her upcoming French exchange trip and longing for ballet lessons. In the meantime, over in South Africa, Josh’s first love Hattie Marais is being neglected by her rich, successful husband, bullied by her moody, messed up daughter and just happens to be the author of Zoe’s favourite ballet stories. Living in Hattie’s guest house is a mysterious lodger, Giacomo, who we eventually realise is a character from Josh’s South African past. All this comes together in the end in a spectacularly farcical scene that defies belief somewhat but is enjoyable all the same.

In fact, there is so much to enjoy about this book. Trapido is excellent on the topic of the various neuroses of the typical teenage girl and writes up a storm on mother/daughter relationships. The story is littered with references to art, dance and music but in a decorative enough way for it not to really matter if you don’t know the first thing about Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. It embraces the author’s native South Africa, its politics and its people, it social injustices and its beauty.

Trapido manages to straddle literary and popular fiction very successfully. This novel is forthright and witty, serious without taking itself particularly seriously, designed to make you think…and make you smile. All in all Sex & Stravinsky is a lot of fun.


Nicky Pellegrino,  a succcesful author of popular fiction, (The Italian Wedding was published in May 2009 while her latest, Recipe for Life was published by Orion in April, 2010), is also the Books Editor of the Herald on Sunday where the above piece was first published on 27 June. 

NZ author Rachel McAlpine is happy

Not only has her latest title, Scarlett Heels, almost sold ou,t she is off on a delicious jaunt to the Chateau de Lavigny near Lausanne, as one of their writers in residence. Check it out on her blog.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Page & Blackmore Booksellers
National Poetry Day Competition 2010

Write a poem with the following restriction:
Your poem must include the titles of the three poetry finalists in the New Zealand Post Book Awards:

Just This
The Lustre Jug
The Tram Conductor's Blue Cap

The titles must be used in their entirety. (ie. the words in the titles can not be
Entries Due: Wednesday 21st July 5:30pm
Winner announced: July 30th National Poetry Day 2010 Judge: Rachel Bush
Prize: A copy of the winning book in the Poetry section of the New Zealand Post Book
Awards 2010.

Please include an entry form with your poem. (Poem on separate sheet of paper please.)
Either post or deliver your entry to:
Page & Blackmore Booksellers,
254 Trafalgar St., P.O.Box 200, Nelson 7040

Or you can email your entry to:
(please state in subject line Poetry Competition 2010)

New Zealand Post Book Awards 2010 Poetry finalists:

The Lustre Jug by Bernadette Hall, 
Just This by Brian Turner
The Tram Conductor's Blue Cap by Michael Harlow
Will the eReader Price Wars Help Libraries?
By Jason Boog on GalleyCat, Jun 25, 2010

Will the rapidly dropping prices for eReaders make it easier for libraries to purchase eBooks and eBook devices? Just in time for the American Library Association conference this weekend, one librarian addressed the issue.

In a long eBookNewser interview, Amy Chow, the vice president of the Hudson Valley Library Association and the head librarian at The Brearley School in New York City talked about eBooks and libraries.

Here's an excerpt, as Chow (pictured) addressed the pricing question: "eBook readers are still big ticket items. Considering all the materials and formats a school library collects and/or makes accessible -- books, periodicals, online subscriptions to databases, multi-media content -- it is sometimes difficult to justify the purchase of such an expensive device, comparatively speaking, that has such limited usage. Only one person can use an eReader at a time."
M. Frédéric Grellier, The Blind Book Translator of Paris

David Fulmer is a novelist in Georgia. When his series of jazz themed mystery novels was bought by a publisher in France, he got a call from his translator who duly informed Fulmer that he was blonde. "Pardon," replied Fulmer, surprised by the admission. "I'm blind," repeated the translator. And so we bring you the story of the blind book translator of Paris and his surprising working method.

Read the article ...
 Tell Us About Your Fascinating Friend in Publishing

Do you have a fascinating friend who works in publishing -- a person with an interesting life story or working method? If so, tell us about him or her. Email me with the information and you might see them in an upcoming feature in Publishing Perspective

Let us know what you think!

Boutique west Auckland book publisher off to Frankfurt Book Fair

Excitement out west!
Death Match
By Scott Turow
Published: June 17, 2010

By Adam Ross
335 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $25.95

“When David Pepin first dreamed of killing his wife, he didn’t kill her himself. He dreamed convenient acts of God.” So begins “Mr. Peanut,” the daring, arresting first novel by Adam Ross, an author of prodigious talent, which takes as its theme “the dual nature of marriage, the proximity of violence and love.”

David and Alice Pepin have been married 13 years and are far past the blushing romance of their university days. “The middle,” Pepin tells his wife, “is long and hard,” an observation this book repeatedly makes about dieting, novel-­writing and marriage itself. Alice, who teaches troubled children, is clinically depressed and has grown desperately obese. Her shape pleases her husband, but her obsessive diets do not, and their consistent failures belabor the Pepins’ life together. Partly in consequence, David, a successful computer game designer, is often engrossed in fantasies of Alice’s death, sometimes by his own hand. When Alice dies with David’s fingers in her mouth, as well as a handful of peanuts, to which she is deathly allergic, he claims it was suicide, while the police think murder.

At that point, the novel grows more deliberately odd. Pepin’s case is investigated by two detectives who are well acquainted with marital difficulties. One of them, Ward Hastroll, has a wife, Hannah, who has not gotten out of bed for five months, driving him, too, to vivid fantasies of murder. Hastroll’s name is an anagram for “Lars Thorwald,” the wife-killing villain in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” (a movie the Pepins studied in the class where they met), and his actions sometimes mimic those of Hitchcock’s character.

The other detective is Sam Sheppard, the real-life Ohio osteopath whose legal case became a landmark when he was convicted and later exonerated of the murder of his wife, Marilyn. In another long-ago class, the Pepins also learned about Sheppard’s case, commonly thought to be the basis for the “Fugitive” television series and movie.

Read the rest of Scott Turow's review at  NYT

Fine and warm here, normal service will resume later on the weekend.
Son poised to take on Dick Francis stable

25.06.10 | Benedicte Page in The Bookseller

The Dick Francis brand is set to continue in the hands of his son Felix Francis, who co-authored the thriller writer’s most recent novels.

Catherine Duncan of Colman Getty, speaking for both Penguin and the Francis estate, said the forthcoming novel Crossfire (Michael Joseph, September), which the duo had been working on together when Francis died in February, would mark the end of one era and the beginning of another.

"Dick Francis the thriller writer will live on through Felix and in the novels they planned together. It is something that Dick both wanted and encouraged," she said. How future branding of the novels will be handled is yet to be decided but will be discussed with Felix Francis "when the time comes", Duncan added.

The first book to appear in the formal father-son writing partnership was Dead Heat in 2007, followed by Silks (2008) and Even Money (2009). However, Duncan said Felix Francis had helped with both the research and writing of many of his father’s books “over the past 40 years”. Dick Francis’ wife Mary, who died in 2000, is also known to have worked closely with her husband on the novels.

At the memorial service for the thriller writer held at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square on Monday (21st June), Felix Francis described his parents’ creative teamwork as "one of the great literary partnerships," saying: "Dick Francis has been not an individual but a brand, and the brand will live on after him.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Saturday Morning with Kim Hill: 26 June 2010
Radio New Zealand National

8:15 Gillian Armstrong: growing up in public
8:45 Gillian Turner: magnetism
9:05 Pat Schwass & Anthony Lorigan: breaking cycles
9:45 Lucy Walker: scavenging art
10:05 Playing Favourites with Bill Bailey 

11:10 Katherine Mowbray: cheesemaking 
11:40 John Black: acupuncture

Producer: Mark Cubey
Wellington engineer: Carol Jones
Hamilton engineer: Andrew McRae
Christchurch engineer: Hamish Doake

Saturday Morning guest information and links:

8:15 Gillian Armstrong
Australian director Gillian Armstrong has made a number of short films, documentaries and feature films. Her 1979 film My Brilliant Career was the first Australian feature to be directed by a woman for 46 years, and her other films include Starstruck, Little Women, and Oscar and Lucinda. Her documentary, Love, Lust and Lies, is the fifth in a series that has followed three working class Adelaide girls since they were 14 in 1976, and will feature in this year's New Zealand International Film Festivals (from 8 July in Auckland).

8:45 Gillian Turner
Dr Gillian Turner is Senior Lecturer in Physics and Geophysics at Victoria University, Wellington, has won awards for excellence and innovation in science teaching, and is a competitive orienteer. Her interest and research into Earth's magnetic field led her to write North Pole, South Pole: the Epic Quest to Solve the Great Mystery of Earth's Magnetism (Awa Press, ISBN: 978-0-9582750-0-2).

9:05 Pat Schwass and Anthony Lorigan

Pat Schwass is a child advocate for the Ministry of Social Development, and has a continuing association with HAIP, the Hamilton Abuse Intervention Project. She and her son, Anthony Lorigan, suffered violence and drug abuse but have confronted the intergenerational brutality in their family and made a new start. They are among the participants in Tamariki Ora: A New Beginning, a five-hour two-part programme screening on Maori Television (27-28 June).

9:45 Lucy Walker
British filmmaker Lucy Walker (Devil's Playground, Blindsight) recently completed two documentary features. Countdown to Zero highlights the present danger of nuclear weapons; Waste Land examines how art has changed the lives of scavengers at the world's largest landfill in Rio de Janeiro. Waste Land will screen at this year's New Zealand International Film Festivals (from 8 July in Auckland).

10:05 Playing Favourites with Bill Bailey 
Bill Bailey is a comedian, musician and actor best known in New Zealand for his work on the television programme Black Books, and for his live shows. He returns to this country and Australia with his new show, Bill Bailey Live 2010, which visits Christchurch (Town Hall, 25 June), Wellington (Michael Fowler Centre, 26-27 June), and Auckland (Civic Theatre, 28-29 June).

11:10 Katherine Mowbray
 Craft cheesemaker Katherine Mowbray has been making cheese for 20 years. She shares her knowledge and love of cheesemaking at courses around New Zealand, and is the author of Cutting the Curd: Cheesemaking at Home (Bateson Publishing Ltd, ISBN: 978-0-9582486-8-6).

11: 40 John Black
Linguistics graduate John Black has been studying Traditional Chinese Medicine since the early 1980s, including over six years study in China. He has been operating his Nelson practice for over 15 years, providing acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and Tuina massage.

Saturday Morning repeats:

On Saturday 26 June 2010 during Great Encounters between 6:06pm and 7:00pm on Radio New Zealand National, you can hear an edited repeat of Kim Hill's interview from Saturday 19 June with Peter Maass on the oil industry.

Preview: Saturday 3 July 2010

Kim Hill's guests will include Daniel Ellsberg, entertainer Bobby Crush, Julie Woods a.k.a. "that blind woman", and Joe Randazzo from The Onion.
Are Children's Publishers Destroying Rainforests?
By Karen Springen in Publishers Weekly
Jun 24, 2010

Do children’s publishers deserve to wear green hats—or black ones? After all, it’s tricky to make good-looking four-color picture books from recycled paper, or affordable ones from virgin paper that is certified as eco-friendly. The cost issue sends publishers to Asia, where paper and materials are cheaper. The problem: printers there may use fiber from Indonesian rainforests.

In a recent report, the Rainforest Action Network said most of the top 10 children’s publishers have released at least one picture book containing paper fiber linked to the destruction of Indonesian rainforests. Of the 18 children’s books in RAN’s test, all 18 included materials from existing tropical forests or from plantations run on razed rainforest land. “Our end game for our campaign is to get overseas printers to eliminate Indonesian suppliers and Indonesia fiber from the papers they buy for their printing,” said Lafcadio Cortesi, forest campaign director for RAN. “We’re asking publishers to specify in their contracts with their printers that they cannot use paper from endangered forest fiber.” About half of all glossy four-color children’s books are printed overseas, Cortesi said.

For their part, children’s book publishers say they are making great strides to be green. This coming winter, the Book Industry Environmental Council plans to introduce a book jacket eco-label (similar to the Good Housekeeping seal of approval). Books will only carry the “certified green publisher” seal if they contain no endangered forest fiber. Similar to the LEED green building certification program, the new system would contain three tiers, which would depend on 22 different environmental metrics, including ink, distribution, and return rate.

Some environmentalists and publishers think RAN focuses too narrowly (and too negatively) on rainforest fibers rather than considering other social and environmental factors. “Responsibility is the measure,” said Joshua Martin, director of the Environmental Paper Network, which represents more than 100 groups working together to accelerate social end environmental change in the pulp and paper industry.

Still, he agrees with RAN’s basic message that publishers should not use rainforest materials. “I don’t think anyone should be using controversial fiber from controversial sources because there are so many alternatives out there,” he said. For example, it’s possible to make paper from agricultural residues, such as sugar cane.
Full piece at PW.