Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Combining the Television and Publishing Mindset

Publishing Perspectives
"We don't have editors," says Michael Fabiano, head of recently launched NBC Publishing, "we have producers, and that's an important distinction."
Read here.

Are Reports of the Death of the Book App Premature?
Publishers say book apps "cost too much to produce." Of course they do, after all, they are publishing companies, not production companies. 

Poem of the week: Francesca of Rimini by Lord Byron

This fascinating translation of Dante was intended to be faithful, but presents its English reading in a distinctly Byronic fashion

 - guardian.co.uk, Lord Byron
Lord Byron, as pictured in a copy of a portrait by by Thomas Phillips. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

Lord Byron, described by EH Coleridge as "de facto if not de jure a naturalised Italian", was at pains to produce a faithful translation ("word for word and line for line") in his excerpt from Canto five of Dante's Inferno. The translation, "Francesca of Rimini", is this week's poem, but if it leads you back to the magnificent original, all the better.

Byron's work on Canto five, and his other Italian literary projects, were inspired by his young mistress, the Countess Teresa Guiccioli. Like Francesca, Teresa was a native of Ravenna, bound in a marriage of convenience to an undesirable husband, and illicitly in love. As for Paolo and Francesca, shared reading was an erotic spur to the relationship between Byron and Guiccioli.

Matthew Reynolds, in his recent fascinating study, The Poetry of Translation: From Chaucer and Petrarch to Homer and Logue, points out the connection between Byron's desire to be faithful to his girlfriend and to Dante. It's one of several intriguing connections. Dante's text (one Byron had, of course, previously visited in the first Canto of Don Juan) now offered to embody a far more personal and un-ironical story. It would permit impassioned self-disclosure, not only through the persona of Francesca, but through Dante's own ambivalent commentary.

For all his aspiration to fidelity, Byron cuts Dante's exposition altogether, so we lose the stunning imagery of the second circle of hell, with its whirling, lightless storm-winds buffeting like helpless birds the souls of those who, in life, could not control their lust. He even omits the first stanzas of Francesca's speech. The rhyming is usually deft, but the syntax often pays the price in convolution. The sentence in lines 7/8 (more simply translated as "Love, that excepts no one beloved from loving") is painfully inverted and suffers an awkward line-break. The repetitions of "yet" (line nine) suggest metrical padding as much as rhetorical intensity.

The tougher, sharper sounds of Byron's translation are not simply the result of the different sonorities of English, or the scarcity of feminine endings. They are related to interpretation. Byron, for example, hardens Dante's "doloroso passo" to "evil fortune": Dante's "desio" becomes the more emphatic "strong ecstacies" (the adjective "strong" occurs twice in a fairly short space of time). In Dante's text, Francesca names dispassionately the author/book responsible for the lovers' fall: "Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it." Byron omits Galeotto and substitutes, "Accurséd was the book and he who wrote it." Later, in the penultimate line, "smote" seems needlessly fierce. Even when Francesca talks, the poem has a forceful and slightly masculine tone.

Byron is an immense poet, combining the best of Augustan wit and intellect with the best of sensuously and politically charged Romanticism. For me, he is by far the outstanding Romantic, and he is as readable and relevant today as ever. The flaws in "Francesca of Rimini" do not diminish him. This is an occasional poem, as well as a translation, and it's foolish to demand that it be comparable with his original poetry, lyric or epic. However, the work is extremely interesting for the light it throws on poetry-translation itself, and the complexity of the relationships involved. A translation is never less than a transformation – and it may be, for the translator, self-revelation.

Taking the rough with the smooth, the reader can enjoy "Francesca of Rimini" as a poem in its own right. The personal touches – the infidelities, if you like – are not slips, but planned insurgencies, and part of the poem's tough vitality. And when Byron risks using feminine endings (surely associated in his mind with comedy and irony) there is pleasure for the ear, as well as a little humour ("the long-sighed-for smile of her"). The concluding lines have a sense of dramatic fatality that is hard to resist. Even the harsh "smote" earns its place by contributing to the rich alliterative music.

Francesca of Rimini
"The Land where I was born sits by the Seas
Upon that shore to which the Po descends,
With all his followers, in search of peace.
Love, which the gentle heart soon apprehends,
Seized him for the fair person which was ta'en
From me, and me even yet the mode offends.
Love, who to none beloved to love again
Remits, seized me with wish to please, so strong,
That, as thou see'st, yet, yet it doth remain.
Love to one death conducted us along,
But Caina waits for him our life who ended:"
These were the accents uttered by her tongue.—
Since I first listened to these Souls offended,
I bowed my visage, and so kept it till—
'What think'st thou?' said the bard; when I unbended,
And recommenced: 'Alas! unto such ill
How many sweet thoughts, what strong ecstacies,
Led these their evil fortune to fulfill!'
And then I turned unto their side my eyes,
And said, 'Francesca, thy sad destinies
Have made me sorrow till the tears arise.
But tell me, in the Season of sweet sighs,
By what and how thy Love to Passion rose,
So as his dim desires to recognize?'
Then she to me: 'The greatest of all woes
Is to remind us of our happy days
In misery, and that thy teacher knows.
But if to learn our Passion's first root preys
Upon thy spirit with such Sympathy,
I will do even as he who weeps and says.
We read one day for pastime, seated nigh,
Of Lancilot, how Love enchained him too.
We were alone, quite unsuspiciously.
But oft our eyes met, and our Cheeks in hue
All o'er discoloured by that reading were;
But one point only wholly us o'erthrew;
When we read the long-sighed-for smile of her,
To be thus kissed by such devoted lover,
He, who from me can be divided ne'er,
Kissed my mouth, trembling in the act all over:
Accurséd was the book and he who wrote!
That day no further leaf we did uncover.'
While thus one Spirit told us of their lot,
The other wept, so that with Pity's thralls
I swooned, as if by Death I had been smote,
And fell down even as a dead body falls."

March 20, 1820.

A New Honor for the Hatchet Job

By JOHN WILLIAMS, New York Times

“A good hatchet job draws as much excited attention as a good book any day.” That’s the late, great critic Wilfrid Sheed, from a 1964 piece in which he laid out six rules reviewers should follow for “smoother, more satisfying demolitions.” On Feb. 7, The Omnivore, a British Web site that aggregates cultural criticism, will announce the winner of its first annual Hatchet Job of the Year Award for book reviews. Links to all eight finalists can be found here.
The Omnivore calls the new prize “a crusade against dullness, deference and lazy thinking.” This has the potential to be a crackling addition to the literary calendar, but the inaugural nominees are not a particularly vicious bunch. Some even err on the side of fair-mindedness, an unforgivable sin in this arena. Better to give in to hysteria, as Mark Twain did when he wrote to someone about Jane Austen: “Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”
So how do the contestants stack up by the lights of Mr. Sheed’s guidelines? His first rule: “Hatchet jobs should never run an inch longer than the victim merits. Three sentences are always better than twelve — the length being in itself a form of comment. The critic who goes on swinging after the tree is down draws attention to himself; he becomes overexposed. After all, perhaps he isn’t such a hot writer either.” Mr. Sheed acknowledged that the second rule — to avoid too many “short aphoristic dismissals unless your taste in them is absolutely infallible” — was the “complete opposite” of the first. “The contradictoriness of these first two rules may serve as a warning,” he wrote. “Hatcheting is not as easy as it looks.”
Seven of the eight nominees for The Omnivore’s honor appeared in daily newspapers, and none take up enough space to outstay their welcome. As for aphorisms, the lack of quotable punchiness is notable, with rare exceptions — like Leo Robson’s line about the author of a Martin Amis biography: “Richard Bradford considers himself the man for the job, but I doubt that anyone else will.”
In his third commandment, Mr. Sheed wrote, “Almost any quoted matter, encapsulated in sneers, will do,” but he modified that with the fourth: “On the other hand, two or three short quotes, however well chosen, are barely enough. A make-believe massacre requires an appearance, at least, of massive forces.” Lachlan Mackinnon’s review of Geoffrey Hill’s “Clavics,” a poetry collection, earned its nomination entirely in its last paragraph, by referring to the book as “the sheerest twaddle,” and by sticking its landing: “Writing this bad cannot earn the kind of attention Hill demands; he is wasting his time and trying to waste ours.” But at little more than 500 otherwise tepid words, it lacks the shock-and-awe approach of a massacre.
Full piece at the New York Times.

Rage against the machines

Anthony McCarten. Photo / Supplied

NZ Herald -  Saturday Jan 28, 2012 - Stephen Jewell

Left - Anthony McCarten. 

Anthony McCarten didn't intend to write a follow-up to his novel Death of a Superhero when he embarked upon his latest work, In the Absence of Heroes. But after coming up with the premise for a story involving a triangle of characters, it dawned on the Gloucestershire-based New Zealander that he had already created three ideal protagonists in the shape of Jim and Renata Delpe and their elder son, Jeffrey. Set some time after the death of the Delpes' youngest son, Donald, In the Absence of Heroes finds the trio retreating into their own separate computer-generated fantasy worlds as they struggle to come to terms with his premature passing.
"I originally came up with an entirely independent idea that ostensibly required a father, a wife and a son," recalls McCarten, 51. "Then I realised I had already invented them in the last book so I thought I would try and see if I could marry the two together and it was a natural fit. It added so much more because I could explore aspects not covered in the first novel, which was pretty preoccupied with its central character.
"I knew they were a family that wasn't connecting with each other as they had been cast into a state of grief and isolation from each other in the aftermath of Donald's death. It was the perfect setting to justify this disconnect between all the characters."

Death of a Superhero saw terminally ill Donald delving into the testosterone-fuelled world of comic books. This time, the internet and online role-playing games initially provide 18-year-old Jeff and his father, Jim, with some solace in In the Absence of Heroes.
"One of the pleasures of writing both books was being able to play with different ways to tell a story," says McCarten. "I stumbled upon this journey with Superhero, where I could almost jump tracks in the narrative across to another level of reality but still pursue it as a story with allegorical meanings. The reader would impute what I was trying to get at and then jump back to the main story. That binarism, which I've been interested in playing with as a narrative device, is hopefully even more fitting in this book, which is about computers and what they're doing to our own lives."
According to McCarten, the internet has had a detrimental impact on our lives. "I'm not a computer game person but I'm really interested in the hold it has on popular culture," he says. "If you go into my local Blockbuster, you used to be faced with a wall of new movie releases but it's now almost entirely given over to computer games while movies have been ghettoised to the back corner."
As the father of two teenage sons, McCarten worries about the widening gap between the generations. "I'm very aware of the changing face of family and the shift in parental roles that's going on. In the old days, your kids would go and play in the playground, but now they're disappearing whenever they've got an internet connection into games of mass murder.
"What's the long-term significance of this going to be? Kids have always played with guns, but the veracity of these games and the fact you become so immersed in them is disturbing, and the simulation of killing and being killed is incredibly realistic."
But the net is all around us, as McCarten demonstrates during our meeting at a Notting Hill brasserie by pulling out his iPhone to check his emails. "It's like a tidal wave," he laughs. "It's taken out every village and we're all drowning in it. It's now considered socially aggressive if you're not connected; that there must be something wrong with you if you don't have a smartphone, an email address or a Facebook account. We're all being dragged under by this tsunami."

Sr Citizen by Charles Olsen

Charles Olsen was born 1969 in Nelson, New Zealand. He then lived in England for many years before moving to Madrid in Spain in 2003, where he lives now.

He is a talented painter and poet and Sr Citizen, an attractive and appealing slender volume, is his first collection to be published . It features both his poetry and art.
Most of the poems are written in Spanish and have English translations.
You can read his poetry at pensamientoslentos.blogspot.

And for bio info go here - http://www.artreview.com/profile/CharlesOlsen

How To Read Poetry


Not to be taken seriously !

Outstanding Australian cook book publishers

I reckon the Aussies publish the world's best cookbooks and leading the way are three book publishers who are hugely impressive in this field. There are others too of course but these guys are the trend setters. I refer of course to Hardie Grant Books, Lantern and Murdoch Books.
To illustrate my point I am looking today at three books currently on the dining room table, all from Hardie Grant Books.
They are Four Seasons - A Year of Italian Good by Manuela Darling-Gansser which I wrote about late last year when it was published.

And then the two that arrived just as I was heading off for the Christmas holidays, both large, spectacular and totally captivating.

 MARQUE - a culinary adventure by Mark Best and Pasi Petanen
The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon

MARQUE - a culinary adventure
Way back in 2000 Annie and I were fortunate enough to be warmly  recommended this restaurant by some NSW friends so we made a booking (from New Zealand) and bowled along on one of our three nights in Sydney. Even then in its first year of operation bookings were heavy and the only time we could get in was at 6.30pm. A bit early but it was Hobson's Choice. What a wonderful experience it turned out to be even though the location was then in the rather down-at-heel suburb of Surry Hills. There has been much gentrification since!
Mark's wife Valerie was the host and when she found out that one of our main reasons for visiting Sydney was to eat at Marque she sat with us at our table a couple of times and we learned about the opening of the restaurant and how it was going. Then towards the end of our wonderful meal Mark emerged from the kitchen and we had a pleasant chat with him for a few minutes before he was called back.
We have never forgotten that experience and have been back twice in the intervening years although didn't make contact with Valerie or Mark on those visits.We are planning a winter visit to Sydney this year so I'll be calling them in advance to make another booking.
So you can imagine my delight when Mark's cookbook turned up.
Marque is a highly illustrated, contemporary recipe book, celebrating and reflecting on Marque, this highly succesful Sydney restaurant. Also included is the personal journey of chef and owner Mark Best and approximately 80 of Marque's signature recipes. Most are complete dishes but the book also contains a myriad of smaller recipes and techniques which are the backbone of Mark Best's creations. A stunning book to treasure as both a compilation of beautiful recipes and a record of one of the world's best restaurants. And for me a special souvenir.
I should add that Marque is one of only four Australian restaurants to make the coveted top 100 in the San Pellegrino World's Best Restaurant award.  RRP $79.99

The Complete Asian Cookbook
Charmaine Solomon - $59.99

This is a completely revised and updated edition of Charmaine Solomon's influential and iconic book of the same title first published 36 years ago back in 1976.And what a handsome new edition it is - a big beauty I would call it.
It covers more than 800 classic and contemporary dishes from fifteen countries - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, China, Korea and Japan.
Written with the home cook in mind, Charmaine's recipes are straightforward, simple to follow and work every time. Recipe and chapter introductions give valuable information about how local dishes are prepared and served, while the comprehensive glossary explains unfamiliar ingredients (which are steadily more commonplace in supermarkets today). The Complete Asian Cookbook is a book that should be in the kitchens of every household.

And here are a couple of recipes from this wonderful book for you to try reproduced here by kind permission of the publisher:

Cooked vegetables with coconut
Serves: 4–6
½ teaspoon dried shrimp paste
65 g (1 cup) freshly grated coconut or 90 g (1 cup) desiccated
coconut soaked in 2 tablespoon hot water
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon sambal ulek (page 250) or chilli powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
250 g (2 cups) sliced green beans
4 carrots, cut into thin strips
230 g (2 cups) fresh bean sprouts, trimmed
½ small cabbage, sliced
1 tinned bamboo shoot, thinly sliced
Wrap the shrimp paste in foil and roast under a preheated
griller (broiler) for 5 minutes, turning once. Unwrap the
shrimp paste and place in a bowl along with the coconut, onion,
sambal ulek, salt and lemon juice, stirring well to combine.
Put all of the vegetables in a steamer basket and pour the
coconut mixture over the top, reserving some to use as a
garnish. Steam the vegetables for 5–8 minutes, then turn
out onto a serving dish and sprinkle with the reserved
coconut mixture. Use as an accompaniment or as a salad
in its own right.

Mixed fried noodles with chicken
Serves: 6
500 g egg noodles
125 ml (½ cup) oil
4–5 dried shiitake mushrooms
5 onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
500 g chicken breast fillets or thighs, thinly sliced
1 chicken liver, thinly sliced
1 chicken gizzard, parboiled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
½ cabbage, shredded
¼ white Chinese cabbage (wong bok), shredded
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
6 spring onions, thinly sliced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, then
drain well. Spread the noodles on a large dish or tray. Pour
2 tablespoons of the oil over the top and toss gently to coat —
this stops the noodles sticking to each other.
Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 20–30 minutes, then
drain, cut off and discard the stems and thinly slice the caps.
Heat the remaining oil in a wok or large heavy-based frying
pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook
until soft. Add the chicken meat, liver and gizzard and stir-fry
until lightly brown on all sides, then add the soy sauce,
cover, and simmer gently until the meat is tender. Add the
cabbages, celery, mushroom and spring onion and continue
to stir-fry until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the
wok and set aside.
Put the noodles in the wok and toss gently for 3 minutes,
then remove. In the same wok, scramble the egg, adding a little
oil if necessary. Season with salt and freshly ground black
pepper, to taste. When ready to serve, spread the noodles in a
serving dish, then cover with the meat and vegetables. Garnish
with the scrambled egg. Serve hot or cold.

Accolade to publisher:
Hardie Grant I extend my warm thanks and hearty congratulations to you for all the outstanding cookbook publishing you deliver to us. I am proud to have your books on my shelf and to frequently use recipes from them as well as often just reading them for foodie reading pleasure.
I salute you and your chef authors, photographers, designers, editors, stylists, publicists and indeed all the team required to carry out such special publishing.

The Tuesday Poem

Today's Editor, Helen Rickerby writes:

One of the cool things about the Tuesday Poem, and having your turn at being the editor of tis hub blog especially, is having the opportunity to share your favourite poems with other people. ‘Appointment with Sophie Calle’ is one of my favourite poems, and I would love to have shared the whole thing with you, but it’s a very long poem. So I’ve just chosen four little pieces, which are poems in themselves, to act as a taster. I hope you’ll go and seek it out and read the whole thing. You’ll find it in Making Lists for Frances Hodgkins, by Paula Green (left), which was published by Auckland University Press in 2007.

It's a wonderful book, but this poem (or poem sequence - with long poems divided into sections like this, there is always that dilemma of whether it's a poem or a sequence, or both) is a stand out for me, and one I've returned to over and over. The Sophie Calle of the title is a French conceptual artist - I hadn't heard of her before reading this poem, but her artwork is worth reading about. She is someone who weaves lives - her own and other people's - into art. One project involved getting her mother to hire a private investigator to follow Calle around and take photographs of her. He didn't know she knew he was following her, and she led him around places that meant something to her. The aim was an attempt 'to provide photographic evidence of my own existence'.

Full Tuesday Poem post - link here.

Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd

Long-time book trade personality Andrew Rumbles reviews William Boyd's latest on his blog founded last November, AndrewTalksBooks .

J'aime Paris: A taste of Paris in 200+ culinary destinations

Was there a more beautiful book than this one  published anywhere in 2011? Not that I came across. Some adjectives that can be applied to this stunner include beautiful, alluring, awesome, magnificent, classy, dazzling, elegant, ravishing - I had better stop there but truly this is the most lavishly photographed book you will come across in a long long time.

 I may never visit any of the famous and not so famous foodie haunts featured in it but I shall treasure this book as my souvenir of the twenty or so times I have been fortunate  enough to visit that most appealing of cities. Believe me it is a stunning. And I must add too a snip at NZ$60.

In the book you join France's most celebrated chef, Alain Ducasse, on a personal journey around Paris as he reveals his favourite foodie haunts including restaurants, cafes, local bistros, patisseries and other artisanal stores. From a morning croissant on the Canal Saint-Martin to a magical dinner on the Eiffel Tower, Alain Ducasse takes you on a stunning gourmet tour of Paris. From his own 3-star restaurants to his favourite icecream store, to his insider's tip on the best local creperie in town, Ducasse share the stories, histories and encounters with the men and women who make up Paris' extraordinary culinary landscape. Spectacularly photographed, Paris by Alain Ducasse showcases the gourmet highlights of the capital, telling of the Chef's passion for cookery and his sincere love of Paris. 

It is a work that will set all admirers of beauty, excellence and authenticity dreaming, wherever they may live. I am dreaming now, here in Auckland, NZ as I write this and again browse through the pages.

Also included, tucked handily in to the back inside cover, is a pocket size listing of all the places listed in the book complete with  address details, websites, and a brief description of each. The book itself is 598 pages long - not one to take on a plane as it is likely to contribute to excess baggage problems! And the restaurant note book included runs to 56 pages.
Don't miss this one.

As Barnes & Noble Goes, So Goes the Future of Publishing

From Sam Sattler's Book Case Blog. (always worth a visit).
A New York Barnes and Noble Location
Not all that long ago, I was able to choose between buying a a recently published book from Barnes and Noble, B. Dalton, Borders, Book Stop, Crown Books, and even a handful of really good, but much smaller, booksellers. Now there are just Barnes and Noble and the Books-A-Million chains, the latter of which has never had much of a presence in Houston. When they first appeared, all of the national chains were harshly accused of running out of business all the little guys that had been selling books locally for decades. The chains were most definitely cast as the bad guys, and they probably were. Now, however, I would kill to have them back because even the last standing giant, Barnes and Noble, may not be long for this world and the little guys are not likely to return even if that happens.

The CNBC website has posted a heartbreaking, and terrifying, New York Times article clearly presenting the predicament that traditional publishers are in today. The publishers recognize that the survival of Barnes and Noble is now closely tied to their own future survival. This is true, despite the fact, that the bookseller is walking a very fine line itself as it tries to compete with Amazon in the e-book market while not, as a result, entirely killing off so much of the demand for printed books that it has to close its brick and mortar bookstores. Without Barnes and Noble's bookstores, the future of printed books will be much different than today - and many experts are already predicting that Barnes and Noble has started down the path of a long, slow death spiral of its own.
Without Barnes & Noble, the publishers’ marketing proposition crumbles. The idea that publishers can spot, mold and publicize new talent, then get someone to buy books at prices that actually makes economic sense, suddenly seems a reach. Marketing books via Twitter, and relying on reviews, advertising and perhaps an appearance on the “Today” show doesn’t sound like a winning plan.
What publishers count on from bookstores is the browsing effect. Surveys indicate that only a third of the people who step into a bookstore and walk out with a book actually arrived with the specific desire to buy one.
While publishers’ fates are closely tied to Barnes & Noble, said John Sargent, the C.E.O. of Macmillan, it’s not all about them. “Anybody who is an author, a publisher, or makes their living from distributing intellectual property in book form is badly hurt,” he said, “if Barnes & Noble does not prosper.”

If, as a true book-lover, any of this scares you or makes you nervous, you should read the entire article. It will terrify you and make you wonder if Jeff Bevos, head of Amazon, is on the verge of killing off the industry dearest to our hearts...and yet, few of us can resist the lure of Amazon's cheap prices and quick delivery. Are we nuts?

‘The Help’ Wins Three SAG Awards

By Maryann Yin on Galley Cat January 30, 2012

The film adaptation of Katheryn Stockett‘s The Help took three awards at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards last night, including Best Ensemble Cast.
Follow this link for the full list of winners. Lead actress Viola Davis and supporting actress Octavia Spencer (both pictured, via) also won SAG Awards for their roles as Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson. Spencer recently received the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
Both Davis and Spencer have been nominated for Academy Awards. The Envelope had this quote from Spencer: “I love taking men home. I would be lying if I didn’t say to you I would love to win an Oscar. But we have a group of brilliantly talented actresses, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that because I’ve won these [awards] then I’ll win [the Oscar].” (Via The L.A. Times)

Mary McCallum's Tuesday Poem: The Barn

Tuesday Poem: The Barn

Here, it is that we are
a breath outwards
returning, the gate –
on a slant – the paint pulling
from the wood – closes –
we let it,
let go of the road,
the run of fences, the tin-cut
tilting hills, the world’s rim, let
the dog out to run,
and we drive
with the windows wound
down - lavender -
olive trees - cypresses.
The barn, at last. Blushes! – there
you are.

Here, it is that we are
a breath outwards
returning, and not much
more than a breath this time,
not much more than skin
and bone,
rubbed thin by all
our comings and goings, all this
living in the light. We can see
through our scraps of selves
to paint the colour
of ox-blood wrinkling
like the skin on milk around
the double-hung windows.
In the exposed
wood, in the beginnings of
rot, in the rare blushing light.

Here, it is – (breath outwards)
a glimpse (returning) – that time –
when the paint clung so
tightly the timber groaned,
and in the stampeding wind –
in the hot sun – under the welt of stars –
the barn was an instrument
filled with our spit and wild
breathing. Daughter, plump
as a pigeon,
flapping on the ground
by a tree in a bag for planting,
and her brothers
snickering like ponies
on their way back from the frogpond –
their tins and string and
percussive boots.

Light is trickery.
The paint
blisters and peels,
and it’s all we can do
not to help it off.
My knuckles
on the warm wood.
I lean close.
I feel it - or someone - humming.

Mary McCallum
This is a poem I worked on over the summer up at the place we call The Barn. It's ours and it's blssful - as a place to be alone and with family, and to write. There are some photos of our summer here with a glimpse of The Barn.
The poem was written to contribute to an exhibition as part of the Fringe Festival here in Wellington. It's called Translucent Landscapes and it's opening March 1. There are 11 of us involved: a number of visual artists (including installation artists, videomedia artists etc), a composer, and me. I have written four poems for the exhibition so far and am wondering how to present them now (follow the link to Translucent Landscapes above for some thinking on that.)

In this poem, the theme of the exhibition is concentrated around the line: 'Light is trickery' - the way light can 'show' us what's real and what's not - shining onto the present and yet somehow 'lifting' it like paint - summoning the past as real as if it's there in front of us - the paint - the wood - the paint - the wood - and the way light, too, can wear away at what's there now - 'too much living in the light' - so, again, the past comes through - bidden and unbidden ... these things preoccupy me...

At the Barn there's no internet connection - although I can use my phone when I need to. There's also no Mac computer, just an old laptop which is rather slow. So, I write a lot by hand at the Barn without interruption, which means poems written there are different somehow.

Do go and read the Paul Green poem taster at the Tuesday Poem hub - and the fascinating commentary by Helen Rickerby. Truly it's worth it. 


Almost 14,000 visitors last week, around 2000 more than the average week. 
They came from:

51%         New Zealand
12%         USA
8%           UK
5%          Australia
2% each  France, Canada, India
1% each  Germany/Italy/Spain
15%        Spread across 51 other countries

Excitement at the post office

Three individual parcels in the mail, each containing a book, all special books:

Selected and edited by Sarah Shieff
Hardback - $49.99
Enthusiastically reviewed by Patrick Evans in the Sunday Star Times yesterday so far I have only dipped into it but I must say what I have read I have found riveting.

Jo Nesbo
Harvill Secker - $37.99
Hey hey hey, yes, being published in NZ on 3 February (nearly 6 weeks ahead of the UK publication) the much anticipated new Jo Nesbo thriller featuring Harry Hole. Can't wait to get into this so it is promoted to number three in the bedside pile!

Sacha de Bazin
Black Swan - $37.99
A debut novel from this Nelson-based author. An historical novel, which the publishers say has been exhaustively researched, featuring the life of Millie Dean, the only NZ woman ever to be hanged, and a legendary figure in Southland.

Accused of infanticide and awaiting trial and then sentence, Minnie confides in the Reverend Lindsay. Alternating between these two contrasting personalities, the novel tells Minnie's version of events. From her oppressive upbringing in Victorian Scotland to adulthood in Southland, Minnie battles her own nature and the hardships of colonial life and social hypocrisy. Once Minnie is tried, she has to face her impending execution, while the Reverend Lindsay, who has become her unlikely ally, fights to prevent her paying the ultimate price for society's sins.
This book is going to attract a lot of attention.

About the author:

Sacha de Bazin (right) is a 38 year old mother of 5 children, who range in ages from 12 down to 2. Previously she was a primary school teacher, with a BA in English. She grew up in Tokoroa, studied in Auckland, raised children in Canterbury and recently moved to Nelson. This is her first novel.

New publisher, new New Zealand author

An appealing looking novel arrived in the mail last week from Hachette NZ published under the Two Roads imprint. I had not heard of the Two Roads imprint before, it just said inside the book, a Hodder & Stoughton imprint, so I wrote and enquired about it. Two Roads Publisher Lisa Highton has now replied:

When I started Two Roads books just a year ago I found what I wanted in a book, either to read or to publish, came down to just four words: stories voices places lives.  Like many readers I wanted a strong page-turning story, told in an original voice, transporting readers to other places and telling us about other people's lives and, thereby, our own. 
People often ask me 'how do I know I want to publish a book - fiction or non-fiction?'  It's actually a kind of magic, almost a physical reaction...I knew I wanted to publish The Sea on Our Skin from the moment I set foot on the island's beach, I could hear the waves, smell the sea  and the first words seemed to say... let me tell you a story...and this is a very beguiling story from a new and talented writer. It seemed a perfect fit for a new fiction list.
On the morning of the wedding of Ioane Matete and Amalia Hoko, it rained. The clouds that had been waiting, dark and swollen for days, gave in to their impatience and a torrent of water pounded the island. The damp between Ioane’s toes made his feet itch and the itch in his feet made him desperate to move on. He was an explorer, not used to staying still. As soon as the wedding – by which he meant the wedding night – was over, he would leave his new bride and set out once more on his travels.
 Surprisingly few books are set in the South Seas and maybe it took a travelling Scottish girl to write one (after all there is precedent, with Robert Louis Stevenson aka Tusitala).  Madeleine's writing has a kind of island rhythm as we follow the story of Amalia, her marriage to Ioane and their four unusual children.  
About the author:
Madeleine Tobert, The Sea on Our SkinMadeleine Tobert
Originally from Scotland, Madeleine spent several years in the Pacific islands. She tried to leave but found she just couldn’t. She now lives in Auckland with her Fijian husband. The Sea on Our Skin is her first book.
Madeleine’s website here

Thanks Lisa, The Sea on Our Skin looks most appealing, and is now in my reading pile.Best wishes with your new imprint.

The self-epublishing bubble

In August 2011, Ewan Morrison published an article entitled Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?. Here, he tracks the self-epublishing euphoria of the last five months and argues that we are at the start of an epublishing bubble      
 - guardian.co.uk,
Unlikely to last very long ... a bubble rises. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

The internet is full of ironies. I, for one, could never have guessed that writing about the end of books would generate more income for me than actually publishing the damn things. I've been on an End of Books reading tour since August and it turns out that what the internet gurus say about consumers being more willing to pay for events, speeches and gigs, rather than buying cultural objects, is now becoming true.
At the other end of the political spectrum from me, among the epublishing enthusiasts and digital fundamentalists, similar ironies are playing out: there is now a boom industry in "How to get rich writing ebooks" manuals, as well as a multitude of blogs offering tips and services, and a new breed of specialists who'll charge you anything from $37 to $149 to get your ebook into shape.
This all seems like a repeat of the boom in get-rich-quick manuals and "specialists" that appeared around blogs and etrading. Did anyone actually get rich from writing blogs, you may ask? Well, according to Jaron Lanier (author of You are not a Gadget) there are only a handful of people in the world who can prove that they make a living from blogging: it's entirely possible that more money was made by those who wrote and sold the how-to manuals than by the bloggers themselves. But who cares, right? It's all part of the euphoria of digital change, and technological innovation is as unstoppable a force as fate. Reports show that paper book sales are "tanking" – down a massive 54.3% while ebook sales are up triumphantly by 138%. The revolution will be epublished, and we're all going to be part of it.
All of this ebook talk is becoming a business in itself. Money is being made out of thin air in this strange new speculative meta-practice: there are seminars, conferences and courses springing up everywhere, even at the Society of Authors (a writers' union which, until recently, was largely against epublication). Television and radio programmes are being made about self-epublishing (I've personally been asked to speak about it on 12 occasions since August). Everyone can be a writer now: it only takes 10 minutes to upload your own ebook, and according to the New York Times "81% of people feel they have a book in them ... And should write it"

Full story at The Guardian.

While at Galley Cat:

Should Entrepreneurs Self-Publish?

Formula Capital managing director and author James Altucher wrote a TechCrunch post this weekend explaining “Why Every Entrepreneur Should Self-Publish a Book.”
In the article, Altucher bashed the Penguin publicity team that worked on one of his earlier books and urged entrepreneurs to abandon traditional publishing. What do you think of his provocative article?
Check it out: “You’re an entrepreneur because you feel you have a product or an idea or a vision that stands out among your competitors (if you don’t stand out, pack it in and come up with a new idea). You know how to do something better than anyone else in the world. How do let the world know that you are better? A business card won’t cut it. People will throw it away. And everyone’s got a website with an ‘About’ button. Give away part (or all) of your ideas in a book.” (Link via Publishers Weekly; Image via Google Plus)

Erotic books popular with e-readers

CBC News - Posted: Jan 28, 2012

Lady Mechatronic and the Steampunked Pirates is one of many popular erotic e-books offered by B.C.'s eXtasy Books.Lady Mechatronic and the Steampunked Pirates is one of many popular erotic e-books offered by B.C.'s eXtasy Books. ((Devine Destinies/eXtasy books))

Sales have soared for erotic literature with the advent of e-readers such as Kobo and Kindle, with one company in British Columbia reaping the benefits.
Tina Haveman, who's based in Squamish, B.C., north of Vancouver, owns a busy digital erotic publishing company and she says there are a lot of “closet readers” who would never admit to liking that kind of literature.
“Customers are starting to discover them and finding that they can read certain books that they do not want other people to see and in privacy,” Haveman, who runs eXtasy books, told CBC Radio.
The e-publisher notes that sales took off in early 2010 and doubled last year. She expects them to triple in 2012 with a majority of downloaders being female. Xtasy has more than 1,000 titles in its “store” including ones such as the paranormal Dragon’s Pearl, the hybrid fantasy/Victorian Lady Mechatronic and the Steampunk Pirates and the Western-tinged Dead Man’s Diamond.
“Women read a lot more than men. It’s always been that way.”
But within that group, interests are wide: from inspirational romance to stories involving werewolves to gay romance – each selling for between $3 and $4 online.
Nathan Maharaj, Kobo’s merchandising director, called eXtasy a Canadian success story.
“It’s reduced barriers to entry for publishers as well as for customers looking to get into it.”
“You can actually, in some ways, enjoy the fact that you’re doing something a little bit naughty in public,” Knabe said. “You could be reading your e-reader on public transit.”
According to Maharaj, sexy books are regularly cracking bestseller lists: “At any given moment in the list of the top 100 most popular titles on Kobo in any given territory there’s always some work of erotica in there."

Russian billionaire leads a London bookshop revolution

Waterstones owner turns a page in its history and opens a UK store devoted to his native language

A statement from Peter Robertson, President of Interlitq (now at www.interlitq.wordpress.com)

  “It was, of course, disappointing that Arts Council England did not choose to look outwards  but, in any case, we were not defeated, but  only strengthened by that apparent setback, and Interlitq has now regrouped successfully in order to engage in its essential undertaking—which is to publish the finest international literature. And, to that end, publication of Interlitq has, for the time being, migrated to
The objective of Interlitq is to continue to publish fine literature, in an array of languages, and on a daily basis, instead of publishing only every three months which was, in fact, limiting. Let me stress that Interlitq is also committed to providing a continuous platform for outstanding New Zealand literature and, to this end, we have on our new site already published work by NZ writers such as Martha Morseth:
Jane Seaford:
and Karen Zelas:
and we will be publishing a further two poems by Karen Zelas this week, with the poem “Waiting” being Interlitq’s poem for 30.01.12.
Furthermore, we are now looking forward to publishing many NZ writers over coming weeks alongside outstanding artwork by NZ artists.
I very much hope that you will all continue to enjoy Interlitq, which will continue to look outwards, to nurture literary talent across the world.”
 Peter Robertson

Franzen: E-books Bad for Society

Franzen: E-books Bad for Society

The Daily Beast

First it was the iPhone, now it's the e-book. Jonathan Franzen, (left-Neilson Barnard / Getty Images) the author of Freedom and The Corrections, launched a passionate defense of the printed book—and an attack on e-books—at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia. “The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it, and it would still work! So it's pretty good technology,” said Franzen. “And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model.” Wondering whether nonelectronic print will be around in 50 years, he said he fears that “it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”

The Bookstore’s Last Stand - everyone has something to say about Barnes & Noble

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times -William J. Lynch Jr., chief executive of Barnes & Noble, with a wall full of e-readers at its site in Silicon Valley, where 300 employees are building the company's digital side.

A magazine display at a Barnes & Noble store. The company's C.E.O. says the idea that e-readers will make bookstores obsolete is nonsense.
IN March 2009, an eternity ago in Silicon Valley, a small team of engineers here was in a big hurry to rethink the future of books. Not the paper-and-ink books that have been around since the days of Gutenberg, the ones that the doomsayers proclaim — with glee or dread — will go the way of vinyl records.
No, the engineers were instead fixated on the forces that are upending the way books are published, sold, bought and read: e-books and e-readers. Working in secret, behind an unmarked door in a former bread bakery, they rushed to build a device that might capture the imagination of readers and maybe even save the book industry.
They had six months to do it.
Running this sprint was, of all companies, Barnes & Noble, the giant that helped put so many independent booksellers out of business and that now finds itself locked in the fight of its life. What its engineers dreamed up was the Nook, a relative e-reader latecomer that has nonetheless become the great e-hope of Barnes & Noble and, in fact, of many in the book business.
Several iterations later, the Nook and, by extension, Barnes & Noble, at times seem the only things standing between traditional book publishers and oblivion.
Inside the great publishing houses — grand names like Macmillan, Penguin and Random House — there is a sense of unease about the long-term fate of Barnes & Noble, the last major bookstore chain standing. First, the megastores squeezed out the small players. (Think of Tom Hanks’s Fox & Sons Books to Meg Ryan’s Shop Around the Corner in the 1998 comedy, “You’ve Got Mail”.) Then the chains themselves were gobbled up or driven under, as consumers turned to the Web. B. Dalton Bookseller and Crown Books are long gone. Borders collapsed last year.
No one expects Barnes & Noble to disappear overnight. The worry is that it might slowly wither as more readers embrace e-books. What if all those store shelves vanished, and Barnes & Noble became little more than a cafe and a digital connection point? Such fears came to the fore in early January, when the company projected that it would lose even more money this year than Wall Street had expected. Its share price promptly tumbled 17 percent that day.
Lurking behind all of this is Amazon.com, the dominant force in books online and the company that sets teeth on edge in publishing. From their perches in Midtown Manhattan, many publishing executives, editors and publicists view Amazon as the enemy — an adversary that, if unchecked, could threaten their industry and their livelihoods.
Full story at the New York Times.

While over at PublishersLunch they have this to say:

Towards the end of the NYT business section article that follows the standard narrative, they note that in BN's 300-person Palo Alto division, "engineers were putting final touches on their fifth e-reading device, a product that executives said would be released sometime this spring." The story also says that ceo William Lynch "plans to experiment with slightly smaller stores."
Meanwhile, Amazon offers another nebulous growth statistic to the paper. For the nine-week holiday sales period, ending December 31, "Kindle unit sales, including both the Kindle Fire and e-reader devices, increased 177 percent over the same period last year." (Amazon will report earnings for the quarter on Tuesday afternoon.)
Separately, though Bloomberg doesn't exactly nail the details, it appears that Barnes & Noble's deal with Waterstones to bring the Nook to the UK has become less of a secret, though the launch is still a ways off.

And at Book2Book:

B&N to ink first overseas Nook deal with Waterstones?

Barnes & Noble is developing a partnership with U.K.'s Waterstones Booksellers Ltd. to sell the digital tablet in its 300 locations this year. Analysts are skeptical of the success.
Mary Ellen Keating, a spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble, and Fiona Allen, a spokeswoman for Waterstones, declined to comment.