Friday, October 31, 2008

R.I.P. Studs Terkel

Radio host and Pulitzer Prize winner Studs Terkel died today. He was 96 years old.

Hypothetical Rejection

Dear Aspiring Writer,

Thanks for sending me your query. A book about the Holy Spirit communicating with you sounds fascinating - right up my alley. You're completely right about me not being courageous enough to represent it.

Except that I don't represent books with religious themes. Oh, and I also don't represent crazy people.

Sincerely,
Lyons Literary LLC

PS Best wishes for success!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Debs at War


More book-buying shenanigans today... was in Blackwells and my eye was caught by the title Debs at War, because I thought it might refer to my heroine, Deborah Mitford. It doesn't, but closer inspection didn't make the book look any less interesting - the full title is Debs at War: How Wartime Changed Their Lives 1939-1945, and it's about those who were debutantes shortly before war broke out. Anne de Courcy, the author of this book (and maybe known by some as a biography of Diana Mitford/Mosley), interviewed 47 women who were pre-war debs whose lives were dramatically changed by the war. They entered the Services, as Wrens, WAAFs, FANYs or ATS; they became nurses or VADs; some even started factory work and tried to hide their background.

As before, I'll try to give an overview of a book by its chapter headings. The difference, of course, being that I haven't read this one yet...

- Childhoods 'We were taken down to say good morning to our mother'

- A Question of Upbringing
'You won't need exams'

- Coming Out
'The whole point was to find a husband'

- The Approach of War
'I stood in the room that had been my nursery, listening to Chamberlain declaring war'

- Joining Up
'I wasn't going to get on with anything else until we'd finished with Hitler'

- FANYs
'Posh girls driving staff cars'

- ATS
'We were the rough, tough ones'

- Fun in Wartime 'Boyfriends were more important than bombs'

- Factories
'We were working too hard to flirt...'

- Nursing
'Sometimes the ambulance bells never stopped'

- Love and Marriage
'...and then we got engaged. Crazy, really, wasn't it?'

- Bletchley
'How much German do you speak?'

- On the Land
'We don't want any bloody land girls here'

- The Class Barrier
'We'd never met girls like these before'

- Wrens
'We began to learn to do without sleep'

- The Air
'Why are you bringing up only half an aeroplane?'

- Afterwards
'The war made us feel capable of doing something'

Google Settles Over Book Scanning

I still haven't read all the details, but it seems that the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have reached a settlement with Google regarding the scanning of books still under copyright protection by Google.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Read Subtle Science

Inspiration seems a little dry at the moment for Stuck-in-a-Book, possibly because my own pleasure-reading has been taking a back seat to my work (though, with Conrad and Kipling and Katherine Mansfield this week, that will make interesting writing when I'm finished with it) so I'm going to set a little activity which will quite possibly drive you a little insane over the next few hours/days/years...

And today's post title tells you what the task is. If you're feeling particularly intelligent, that is - because, no, I'm not suggesting that I've read subtle science, or that you should, but...

Sorry? What was that?


You at the back?


Yes! You've spotted it. 'Read', 'Subtle', and 'Science' each have a silent letter - 'a', 'b', 'c' respectively, in fact. Can you help me compile an alphabet of silent letters, as it were? I've only got about half the alphabet. I need your help. And I'm going to recycle a cartoon from my library days...

Client News

Congratulations to David Oppegaard, who received a starred Publishers Weekly review for The Suicide Collectors. "Eloquent prose and haunting characters lift Oppegaard's astonishing debut..."

Kelly Meding is guest blogging at The League of Reluctant Adults.

Lorraine Bodger will appear live on the Martha Stewart Living satellite radio show November 10th to chat about her book Cook up a Cookbook. If you missed Lorrie on the Faith Middleton Show two weeks ago, you can now hear it online.

Mac Montandon will be doing readings throughout Oregon and California starting November 9th.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Library Finds

I thought I was spoilt with all the exciting things I was shown in the Bodleian last year, but the treasures just don't end - the other day we students on the MSt course had a session looking at twentieth-century manuscripts. And what an exciting group of items they were, and quite a motley crew too. Handwritten manuscripts by C.S. Lewis and Thomas Hardy; some original drawings by J.R.R. Tolkein; mischevious cartoons by Philip Larkin; a snooty letter by Ezra Pound; a rather overly fond letter from Ernest Hemingway to his mother-in-law... all sorts.

And today I went to a talk on Jane Austen's Volume the First, one of three notebooks in which she wrote her juvenilia - none of the manuscripts of her novels remain, so this notebook is among the small amount which still exist. I've held one of her letters before, but this was Jane Austen in authorial mode, and thus even more exciting... I did worry about myself a little when I realised I considered the notebook as somewhat sacred... *Jane Austen was just a human* *Jane Austen was just a human*...

RIP Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman passed away on Sunday. Hillerman introduced millions of readers to a culture that has been long ignored while keeping us captivated with wonderful mysteries. He will be missed.

Happy Launch Day

I'm pleased to announce the release today of Mac Montandon's Jetpack Dreams: One Man's Up and Down (but Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was.

“A breezy niche history of a staple of pulp adventures…An amusing collection of stories about individuals of varying degrees of eccentricity who are devoting much of their lives and personal fortunes to a near-impossible dream.” - Kirkus Reviews.

“Montandon’s entertaining adventures highlight a strange footnote of the space age.” - Booklist.

“Reading this book is as fun as zooming through the sky with a rocket on your back. And better yet, you won't break your collarbone.” - A.J. Jacobs, author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Lving Biblically.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More Mapp

There was a period earlier in the year when most of my posts seemed to be about how wonderful E.F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia books are. I might assume for this post that readers know everything about the series...(for those who don't, and indeed those who do, I came across a wonderful Mapp and Lucia Glossary site today). My first foray into eulogising was this post, and every now and then I remark on the sheer brilliance and wit and innocent charm of these novels - I paused after re-reading the first four, and have two left unread...

And then a bit later I interviewed Guy Fraser-Sampson (read the interview here), and he told me all about the new Mapp and Lucia book he'd written - Major Benjy, who, as fans will recall, is the local blustery military man in Tilling, and eventual husband of Miss Mapp. Major Benjy isn't a sequel (as Tom Holt's additions to the Mapp and Lu
cia canon were) but slips into Tilling history between Miss Mapp and Mapp and Lucia - in fact, the last few pages see Lucia's arrival at Mallards, Miss Mapp's house. Little did we know what took place mere hours before...

I don't want to ruin the plot, so shall skirt about that and talk about the style instead - what is obvious throughout is that Guy loves the characters, and knows them inside out. He read the books as a child and has read them many times since, and all their foibles and peculiarities are in tact. For example, this paragraph about Susan Wyse (once Susan Poppit):
It was of course their second visit to the Wyses in two days and the only change appeared to be that Susan's M.B.E. has been inadvertently placed in an even more prominent position, this time on the hall table where it could hardly fail to be seen as people left their hats and gloves. Unfortunately Susan did not seem to notice this until after the last guest had arrived, whereupon she gave a little scream of horror and snatched it up, exclaiming "oh, what will those servants do next?" as she did so. ... Miss Mapp said sweetly "dear Susan, in all the many times I have admired your medal I have never seen it looking so impressive. A pity you are not wearing your furs tonight; it would set them off so nicely."

So the characters are all there - Miss Mapp, Major Benjy, the Wyses, Diva Plaistow, Quaint Irene... and Lucy. Like Elaine (see her lovely review here) I had only the smallest recollection of Irene's 'companion' Lucy, but she is rather brought to the fore in Major Benjy - and is symptomatic of the aspect of Fraser-Sampson's novel which I least liked. Tilling has been rather over-sexualised, sometimes quite shockingly so - yes, gentle in comparison to most novels, but still rather more than Benson's innocent, leave-it-to-the-imagination society warranted.

This aside, the novel is a joy - the incidents don't always have Benson's subtle touch, but there is a little storyline concerning a cake-baking competition which would be worthy of the original series. And mostly he has got the quiet back-stabbing, social-climbing, gossipy, cheerful and insouciant style just right - I can't see any excuse for a Mapp and Lucia fan not to own this book. If you like the series, or know anyone who likes the series, then I demand you go and get a copy - like Elaine I welcome any addition to the canon, and though not perfectly Bensonian, it's not far off.

New York Observed

Mac Montandon on jogging in Prospect Park.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

And the clocks go back...


The clocks go back tonight. Or is it forward? (Spring back / Fall forward... Spring forward / Fall back... that's no help at all). Anyway, the upshot is that I get an extra hour in bed tonight, and that is something to be cherished.

In honour of this event (which sees Merton Colleg hold a ceremony involving drinking whilst walking backwards around a quadrangle) I shall pose a literary/clock question... in which books are clocks important? Not necessarily time travel, just significant clocks.

I've got two, both children's books, off the top of my head... let's see if you can match those or find others... you've got an extra hour to think about it!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bloomsbury Baby

I wasn't sure whether or not to introduce this book to my 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About, but the longer it is since I read it, the better it seems in my mind... so, step forward Deceived with Kindness by Angelica Garnett. In the end, I've included it because it's such a useful and captivating book about the Bloomsbury Group, whether or not you know anything about it before.

It's been months since I read it and, like The Brontes Went to Woolworths, I've been promising to review the book on here for simply ages... so forgive me if I repeat all the things I've already mentioned about it over the past weeks.

Deceived with Kindness is the seventh non-ficti
on book in the 50 Books, but like most of the others listed there, it is literary in nature - Angelica Garnett was the daughter of Vanessa Bell, and thus the niece of Virginia Woolf. She was also Duncan Grant's daughter, believed Clive Bell was her father for many years, and later married David Garnett (author of 50 Books entrant Lady Into Fox) - so she is well qualified to give her autobiography the subtitle A Bloomsbury Childhood. In fact, her book is less an autobiography than a focalised biography of the group - how could it be anything else with such fascinating people around her? They're all here - as well as those mentioned above are Leonard Woolf, Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes...

I've read a few books about the people Angelica writes about, especially Virginia Woolf , but though others might put years into research and erudition, Angelica Garnett doesn't have to do all this because the material is right in front of her. Which means she can treat the topic without a scholarly reverence or a postmodern desire to re-evaluate the concept of being or anything like that - instead, there is an intriguing meld of affectionate childhood memoir and biography of the renowned. She sees them as her family and family friends, but also recognising their importance in literary history. We see her childhood relationship with Vanessa and Clive Bell, and later some moving chapters on discovering that Duncan Grant was her actual biological father. Before this, she reaches back into her mother's upbringing, and provides brief but well-drawn biography, imbued with filial feeling. Her encounters with 'The Woolves' were of particular interest to me - and the relationship between Virginia and Vanessa is viewed with understanding and compassion: 'Of Vanessa's love for Virginia there was no question: she simply wished that it could have been taken for granted.'

I'm not sure I've given an accurate impression of Deceived with Kindness - the greatest quality of Garnett's book is an intimacy which gives the reader greater access to the Bloomsbury group than any other biography I've read. For an introduction to the group, or something to add to your extant knowledge, this book is invaluable - and definitely one to read before starting Susan Sellers' excellent novel Vanessa and Virginia.


Formatting Your Project

I think I've discussed how to format your manuscript before on the blog, but more issues seem to be coming up with both my own clients and in submissions of partial and full manuscripts, so I thought I'd make some additional suggestions.

First, use Microsoft Word if possible. This is the program that most agents and editors prefer for both submissions and editing, and so you need to be on the same page as everyone in the industry. WordPerfect is ok, but sometimes mistakes can happen in the conversion to Word.

Do not send agents a PDF if you want them to provide edit suggestions, and certainly once you're a client you'll need to send agents things in Word. Also, the Kindle can't read PDF files.

If you use Microsoft Word 2007, make sure that you're using the "Word 2003" style and saving it as a "Word 97-2003 document." Why? Because many agents and editors don't have the new version of Word yet and haven't downloaded the software needed to convert Word 2007 files for use on an older format.

Learn how to use track changes for Microsoft Word. This is an amazing feature that allows agents and editors to make editorial suggestions directly into the manuscript.

Make sure to include page numbers and either footers or headers with your name and/or title. Some agents and editors still print partial and full manuscripts for reading. Friday afternoon they'll print up a bunch of submissions, stuff them in their grossly overweight messenger bag, and lug them home for weekend reading. If you don't include page numbers and headers/footers and the agent isn't extremely careful, your project pages will likely get scattered about.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brontes and Woolies

I've been meaning to write a post about The Brontes Went To Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson for quite a long time, and somehow it never quite happened - perhaps it's the prospect of having to write 'Brontes' so often, without the necessary accents. I know *how* to find them, but to do it everytime... it's probably best just to pretend they don't exist.

Anyway, it's now been so long since I read the novel that I can't remember all that much about it. What's more, most of the blogosphere appear to have been read it this year - Danielle's review; Lady Bug's Books'; Cornflower's; dovegreyreader's. Sorry if I've missed some people out, and I'm sure I have, but those are the ones I could lay my hands on - in the unlikely event that anyone hasn't heard about this book, I advise clicking on one those links for a proper summary of the book! Mine will be brief...

"How I loathe that kind of novel which is about a lot of sisters", is how this novel about sisters begins. They're all rather mad, and I can't remember any of their names, but their important characteristic is that they create fantasy personalities, which cluster around them. Not their own personalities, nor other fantasy people
- but rather they choose people (sometimes a doll, sometimes - centrally - a judge they've encountered only in the newspaper) and have conversations about and with these people. Which all becomes rather complicated when the judge in question becomes an acquaintance, and has to learn how to act the part he has already been given.

And it's all rather dizzying. But in a quite brilliant way. As reviews of Edward Carey's Alva & Irva recently, and Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns a while ago (see the 50 Books...) demonstrate, I'm rather a fan of the quirky and surreal, and Rachel Ferguson dishes this up with abandon. So I can only add further endorsement to the recommendations others have already given - The Brontes Went To Woolworths is charming and zany and I can remember the feeling of reading it, even if all the other details escape me.

The other thing I can bring to the party is a different picture, since my copy is an old hardback. What an odd cover. More intriguing, Rachel Ferguson (known to many of us as author of Persephone Books title Alas, Poor Lady) is also '"Rachel" of Punch' - hmm, wonder what she wrote there... might have to get a copy up in the Bodleian and have an investigation...

Keeping Hope Alive

Moonrat hits one out the park with this ode to the little debut novel.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Humble Pie

I mentioned briefly, in that Booking Through Thursday quiz, that I'd bought Nicola Humble's The Feminine Middlebrow Novel 1920s to 1950s but I couldn't just leave it at that, could I? I'll warn you now, it's not cheap (paperback about £28, hardback much more) so get onto your local library... because for those whose reading tastes are most aligned with mine, or at least overlap significantly, that book title must sound like manna from Heaven - and, figuratively, it is. Literally, it's just a book title... Ahem.

I read Humble's book when writing my thesis on the topic as an undergraduate, and got rather peeved because she'd said all sorts of things I was hoping were original to me - but don't hold that against her. She writes about all sorts of authors close to the Stuck-in-a-Book heart: EF Benson, Elizabeth Bowen, Agatha Christie, Ivy Compton-Burnett, EM Delafield, Monica Dickens, Rachel Ferguson, Stel
la Gibbons, Rosamund Lehmann, Rose Macaulay, Nancy Mitford, Dodie Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Angela Thirkell, Virginia Woolf. What a list. Even if you haven't read all those authors (I'll confess, there are two listed whom I've not read), you'll probably still be interested in their spheres and their ethos. Do see what Danielle had to say about it on her blog.

The chapter headings are:
1. 'Books Do Furnish A Room': Readers and Reading
2. 'Not Our Sort': The Re-Formation of Middle-Class Identities
3. Imagining the Home
4. The Eccentric Family
5. A Crisis of Gender?

All such fascinating topics - and Humble writes with a style and verve which makes everything completely accessible without 'dumbing down'. All rather middlebrow, now I come to think of it. EM Delafield would be proud to be included, and I can think of no higher, nor more apposite, praise than that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Good Life

As promised, another book to add to my (in no order) 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About - and the sixth non-fiction book to make the list. White Cargo by Felicity Kendal was a book I picked up 20p in a local charity shop years ago, on the strength of loving her performance in The Good Life. For those who don't know it (the programme was called Good Neighbors in the US) it was a 1970s sitcom about self-sufficiency in Suburbia. Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers kept chickens and a goat in their suburban back garden, much to the displeasure of their decidedly upper-class (and hilarious) neighbours, played by Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington.

So, I assumed Felicity Kendal's autobiography might focus on this sitcom, and the British acting scene of the 1970s. I couldn't have been much further from the truth. What I didn't know about Felicity Kendal was that she was born and brought up in India, as part of an acting troupe led by her father Geoffrey Kendal - they toured from place to place, performing everything from (lots of) Shakespeare to (hurray!) A. A. Milne. These recollections are leant poignancy by the fact that Kendal writes her autobiography at the bedside of father Geoffrey, who is in a coma and slowly dying. It would be mawkish in fiction, but in non-fiction it is courageous and moving and gives Felicity Kendal a real drive to write her history.

And a compelling history it is. Having her father so near death doesn't affect the honesty of her narrative - the loving/warring relationship between the two is represented with great truthfulness, and comes to a head when she decides to move to England to pursue her acting career. Before that decision is made, she describes a childhood surrounded by hand-to-mouth actors with a love of their trade - as well as a firsthand guide to living in India in 'the long twilight of the British Empire', as the Evening Standard described it.

Utterly fascinating, moving, witty and with a writerly skill which makes one wonder if the stage's gain was the book's loss. Certainly the best autobiography I've read by someone whose profession isn't writing. Even if you've never heard of Felicity Kendal, this is a captivating account of an experience both extraordinary, and representative of a type of acting group whose story is seldom told, and which doesn't seem to exist anymore.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Waiting for Carrot Cake



Karen at Cornflower, when she does her Cornflower Book Group, always tries to bake something appropriate for the book in question. Inadvertently (or was it?) I did the same thing today - I spent the evening reading Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot... and then I made Carrot Cake Muffins. Those with good memories will recall that carrots feature in Waiting for Godot, along with turnips and radishes. I decided not to put turnips or radishes into the muffins...

My housemate has a rather exciting looking recipe book, which has 50 different muffin recipes (it's
called 1 Mix, 50 Muffins). She's made Jam Doughnut Muffins, and I thought I'd give these a whirl - in fact, most of the recipes in the book look wonderful. Think I'll give Crispy Bacon Muffins a miss, and will definitely avoid Crunchy Peanut Butter Muffins (yeuch) but plenty of other exciting ones to try.

The Carrot Cake
Muffins came out very nicely, since you ask, but I'm not so sure about the icing - I followed their directions of 75g cream cheese, 40g butter, 35g icing sugar... but it still tastes rather like I just spread cheese on them. Hmm... how to improve?

Oh, and Waiting for Godot? Utterly baffling, of course, but not in an irritating way. Even as I read it and realise I understand nothing and have to give a presentation on it, still I get a feeling for the feeling of the play, as it were. Something pretty special there, and a sacred cow which I will leave happily grazing in the field.

Friday Chatter

The Frankfurt Book Fair is winding down, and I'm looking forward to hearing stories when my compadres return (I took a break from attending this year because of family commitments). It sounds like the fair has been relatively quiet as compared to past years, which I can't help but think is a result of the current economic woes.

I'm hoping to have manuscript notes to the two trivia contest winners by Monday.

Jofie Ferrari-Adler conducted another kick ass interview for Poets & Writers, this time with Algonquin editor Chuck Adams.

Lorraine Bodger had a great time on The Faith Middleton Show yesterday. You should be able to access her interview on their website in about a week.

I really like the show Life on Mars, but it's hard not to ignore the big gaps in the world-building. I'm hoping they get this fixed soon.

I never want to hear about Joe the Plumber again.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lady Into Fox Into Hesperus

A quick post for those who think of little other than my 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About... well, look out for another title to be added soon, but more excitingly one of the titles (completely coincidentally, I must say) has been reprinted by one of my favourite reprint publishers - Hesperus Press. You might remember Hesperus Week taking place here a while ago, which was rather fun (you could do a search through the Year One: Book Reviews, if you like, for the titles featured that week - Simonetta Perkins by L. P. Hartely, Cousin Phillis by Elizabeth Gaskell, and The Eternal Husband by Fyodor Dosteovsky).

The book which Hesperus have recently issued is, as today's post title suggests, Lady Into Fox by David Garnett - a link to my review can be found at no.13 in the not-in-any-particular-order list of 50 Books (22 so far, actually) on the left. Or go and buy it at the Hesperus website - www.hesperuspress.com, currently under construction but hopefully fully operable soon! Or, indeed, read it on Project Gutenberg, if you can - but the Hesperus edition is beautiful.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Alva & Irva

There were two books I bought as a result of working in the Bodleian and happening upon them - one was Yellow by Janni Visman (which I reviewed earlier in the year), and the other was Alva & Irva by Edward Carey. The former drew me by its cover; the latter by its concept and the fact that it is about twins. Tonight my book group met up to discuss Alva & Irva, as I thought I probably wouldn't get around to reading it unless I suggested it there.

Alva & Irva is a deliciously quirky novel - it takes the form of a (fake) travel guide/history to the city Entralla (fictional city, I should s
ay) and the autobiographical writings of Alva Dapps. She describes her upbringing and closeness to Irva - and later her longings for separation and exploration. At the same time, Irva becomes more and more withdrawn, quiet and reclusive. (I'd quote some of this to you, but I let someone else borrow my copy.) As Irva refuses to leave the house, and Alva wishes both to explore and to tempt her away, they start a joint project: Alva walks through all the streets of Entralla taking measurements, photos, drawings - from which Irva makes a plasticine model of the city.

It all sounds faintly ridiculous, I daresay, but somehow the book really works - it is a novel filled with grotesque characters (in the sense of exaggerated and strange) - the father who is obsessed with stamps, for example. The novel is actually, in many ways, about obsession - whether with objects or people or tasks. Obsession and exaggeration - the events I've described are amongst the more normal. Wait til you find out what Alva gets tattooed on herself.

In amongst all the glorious absurdity, I discovered a very moving narrative. Perhaps my love of twin-lit made me read a little too much into it, but I found the breaking of Alva and Irva's close bond incredibly touching, as Alva sought others and Irva couldn't understand why, and their responses to this.

It's so difficult to suggest which readers might like Alva & Irva because Carey's novel is so utterly unlike anything else I've read. Sometimes the black humour is a little Saki-esque, and the cover quotation claims it has similarities with Kafka, but I've not read any. Anyone who enjoys the quirky and unusual, and of course anyone with my love of twin-lit, would enjoy a wander into Carey's world. It's not a journey you'll take anywhere else.


And the Nominees Are

The nominees for the National Book Awards were announced, and are as follows:

Fiction
Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project
Rachel Kushner, Telex from Cuba
Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country
Marilynne Robinson, Home
Salvatore Scibona, The End

Nonfiction
Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals
Jim Sheeler, Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives
Joan Wickersham, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order

Poetry
Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival
Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems
Reginald Gibbons, Creatures of a Day
Richard Howard, Without Saying
Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler

Young People's Literature
Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains
Kathi Appelt, The Underneath
Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied
E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now

In particular, I'd like to congratulate Kathi Appelt and MaryKatherine Callaway at the LSU Press!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday... sort of


Yes, I know it's not Thursday, but I saw this on Becca's blog earlier in the week, and thought I'd wait until I couldn't think of anything else to say... It's been a while since I did a 'Booking Through Thursday', and they're always fun. Do feel extremely free to do this little quiz yourself on your own blog or in the comments here...

I’ve seen this series of questions floating around the ‘net the last few days, and thought it looked like a good one for us!

What was the last book you bought?

I bought two yesterday, which I'll write about more soon... They are The Feminine Middlebrow Novel by Nicola Humble, and Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.

Name a book you have read MORE than once

Oo, lots. To make it more interesting, I'll go for a book I've read four times, as it might be the only one - The Provincial Lady Goes Further.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

The Bible, of course, but aside from that... none spring to mind. Quite a few have changed the way I choose books and the type of books I read, but haven't had fundamental effects beyond that.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews

I usually, now, only read books I already own, or have been chosen by book groups I'm in, or if I know about the author already, or it's linked in some way... Actually, thinking about it, most avenues of my reading started with AA Milne - after that, they've all somehow led from one to another and spread and spread. If I ever do a book on impulse, it will be because of the 'feel' of it - its age, cover, layout.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Definitely fiction, but have been reading more non-fiction of late. I had a real hankering for some non-fiction when I finished my degree, and sometimes it's just the right thing. Usually non-fiction associated with literature, though... Deceived with Kindness by Angelica Garnett springs to mind, which I STILL owe you a review of.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

Has to be beautiful writing. Plot and character are great (The Time Traveler's Wife got by on these two, for the most part) but for a novel to be truly loved by me, it has to have beautiful writing. I've re-read a little bit of Woolf today, and realised once more just how she's head and shoulders above of everyone else I've read, for this quality.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)

Miss Hargreaves (from Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker) always comes up here... but I do love her so. Eeyore is another. If I had to choose one to come to dinner it would be Jane Bingley.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

Let's have a look... The Penguin Complete Saki (for my recent thoughts on Saki, see this post), What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, and The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee (more here).

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?

Orientalism by Edward Said, which I finished a couple of days ago. For class, I hasten to add... I hope to finish Alva & Irva by Edward Carey tomorrow - as book group is tomorrow evening!

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

A few times at university I had to stop because the essay was due in... aside from that, very rarely. Somehow I never got around to finishing The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, so perhaps I should dig it out again...



Where's my jetpack Barack Obama?

Mac Montandon blogs at The Huffington Post about politics, Obama, and jetpacks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

End of an era


Yesterday I attended the last ever service at St. Cross Church, Oxford. I say last ever - it may still be used for the occasional service, but it was more or less the last one to be held there. St. Cross was my church between 2004-6, and I've been back to visit a few times since then - it's a beautiful old Anglican church (some parts 800 years old) which has a very villagesque feel to it, and a similarly rural-feeling graveyard and cemetery which (not to sound too morbid...) I quite often go and sit in. Had my lunch there today, actually. It's one of my favourite places in Oxford.


Anyway - the area around St. Cross is now almost entirely offices and businesses, with very few residential properties, and the congregation for the church had shrunk to the point where double figures for a service was an achievement. But despite, or perhaps because, of this, it has the warmest welcome and friendliest congregation of any church I've ever been to - it was a very difficult decision when I moved to the larger, more student-orientated, much less attractive Oxford Community Church, but even with two years' absence I welled up during the farewell service. It was lovely to see fifty people there, saying goodbye - and, as the vicar pointed out, the church is not a building, it is a group of people. Even so, as the small attendance numbers made the running of St. Cross unfeasible and expensive, it was sad to think that people have been meeting there to worship God for centuries, and that was coming to an end. Its next incarnation (if plans go ahead) will be as an archival space and reading room for Balliol College - who will restore the chancel and do much-needed work throughout the church.


As I sat there, I thought of all the people who had encountered Jesus and praised God in that room, some perhaps for the first time, some spending their whole lives attending St. Cross, and I was pleased that I could join them all in a long line of people who have loved St. Cross Church.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Theatre question... and Alpha Male

Quick question for UK-readers of this blog who might be more culturally-minded than I am... any idea how you find out about who's doing what in the theatre? Obviously I can find the 'what's on' sections on theatre's individual websites, and there are mountains of sites advertising tickets for the perpetual musicals, but where do I find out what Felicity Kendal and Penelope Wilton and Jennifer Ehle are up to? How does one know? Nothing like imdb.com for theatre, is there?


And now I'm going to wander into filmic territory, which is something of an unusual move for this book-orientated blog. I did wander through all my literary films back in the early days of this blog, but the one I wanted to mention tonight doesn't even come under that category - except that I came to it by route of Pride and Prejudice. More particularly, the sublime Jennifer Ehle and her unmatchable portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet - since that day I have been keeping my eye out for Jennifer Ehle's other roles. There haven't been many. And when they exist, she tends to get shunted to a minor role (for example, the upcoming film Pride and Glory). BUT there is a gem, one which gives Jennifer Ehle a lead role, and which is beautiful and thoughtful and delicately touching. And that film is Alpha Male.

Yes, I know. It sounds like it's about stock-car racing, but I promise it's not. Jennifer Ehle plays Alice, mother of Jack and Elyssa, and newly widowed. The film plays out between her first marriage and her second relationship, several years later as Jack turns 21, moving back and forth between these time periods (you do have to rather rely on Ehle's hairstyle to work out which time period you're watching, as Danny Huston and Patrick Valli look incredibly similar). Neither child reacts well to the changes - Elyssa gently sinking into a hallucinatory illness and Jack estranging himself from the family he blames - but it is Ehle's sophisticated, reserved, bereaved and slightly helpless Alice who stands out. Jennifer Ehle could act a three act play with just her eyes, which are endlessly expressive, and Alpha Male gives her the scope to do more or less that - though apparently there was an even better director's cut. The DVD I have was supposedly altered in an attempt to make it 'more commercial' - which I imagine failed. Not much plot happens here, it is rather about beautiful cinemtography, refined, sensitive performances and an undefinable atmospheric quality. Only one other person I know has seen this film, and she found it quite dull (be warned, I might be alone!) - it's not packed with action, but it is one of the best films I've seen in the last few years. And anything with Jennifer Ehle at the helm can't be bad, now, can it?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Well Well Well(s)

Once, in our GCSE English class, we did a Weakest Link style game. My question was 'Who wrote The Time Machine', and I said George Orwell, and felt rather stupid. The same thing happened tonight at the latest drinks to welcome English Masters students...

Well, not quite
the same thing, obviously. But an eminent and doubtless redoubtable fellow of St John's College was asking me about my dissertation topic, and I mentioned middlebrow domestic literature and got the customary recoil - but it got worse when I started talking about the use of the word 'middlebrow', saying that George Orwell coined the term, but Virginia Woolf refined it. Perfectly possible, I suppose, since he was born 38 years before she died. But, of course, I had made the same mistake again, and meant H.G. Wells. And then felt very stupid while the said eminent and doubtless redoubtable fellow laughed at me and started talking to someone else...

What made matters WORSE was that I was standing next to a group which included Hermione Lee, and very much wanted to go and say hello, but didn't want to be rude... and then she left quite early. I do hope I have the chance to see her later in the year...

Also amusing quite how many of the English doctorate students recognised me from my days behind the desk in the Bodleian.

So! Another day in the world of a new Oxford graduate. Another drinks party next Monday... Please make me feel better by sharing any similar incidents from your lives.

And the Award Goes to...

Congratulations, mazel, and felicitaciones to Edward Wright, who won the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel for Damnation Falls!

The Barry Awards are sponsored by Deadly Pleasures and Mystery News, and include the following categories:Best Novel (published in the U.S. in 2007), Best First Novel (published in the U.S. in 2007), Best British Crime Novel (published in the U.S. in 2007, not necessarily written by a British author or set in the UK), best Paperback Original, Best Thriller, and Best Short Story. They were announced last night at Bouchercon 2008.

Ed is no stranger to awards, having won the Debut Dagger, the Shamus Award, and the CWA Ellis Peters Award for his previous books.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It was just an Occident...

First things first, your guesses on my book total have left me feeling quite inadequately stocked! Peter was closest with his guess - the actual total is 1347. To put that in perspective, it's rather more than one a week since I was born. Eeps.


I've spent large chunks of today embroiled in Edward Said's Orientalism... gosh.

Don't know what to write about it, as it's not going to be the sort of thing I'd read for pleasure, though perhaps I underestimate the stamina of my blog readers - perhaps theoretical history is your bedtime reading. All fairly interesting - the history of Orientalism as an acedemic pursuit, as a Western colonial concept, and as an Eastern voice. Lots of springboard topics for my Literature of Empire and Nation module, but also set for Week 1 of the core course for my Masters. Which apparently will look at the differences between modernity and Modernism, as well as at colonialism and so forth - seems quite a lot to handle in a two hour session, so will keep you posted. The modernity/modernism has some interesting avenues into the middlebrow area which interests me so much, and how this enormous section of literature can be studied to nuance an understanding of the period, rather than seeing it just as High Modernism.

Speaking of which, it won't be very long before I have to start thinking about my Doctorate Application... gosh. In fact, I'll have to submit my proposal before I've started my Masters dissertation... which seems quite silly, but there you go. Not reasoning why, and so forth. But I'm sure you'll all come along for the ride (!)

On Politics

For regular readers of the blog, you'll probably have noticed that I attempt a steady neutrality when it comes to non-publishing related matters, with the exception of things like basketball, movies, and coffee.

Today I'm going to break that rule and link to two articles about the election. This will be my only post on the subject, and I hope readers won't be too frustrated by even this one exception. But unfortunately I just can't not write about this today.

I should preface this by telling you that I am an independent - I find myself and my opinions out of step with both Texas (my place of birth) and New York (my place of residence). I'm certainly more conservative than my current friends and colleagues, but also much more liberal than my old pals back home.

I supported Hillary in the primary, for reasons I find unnecessary to get into. Barack Obama is now getting my support and vote in the upcoming election. On the issues that matter most to me he is most in sync with my views, and I believe he can achieve change that is good for our country.

I have always liked John McCain as a person though, even if I didn't agree with him much on the issues. He's always been known as selfless, incorruptible, and a man of his word, someone worthy of and given immense respect by people on both sides of the political spectrum.

But in recent months, and especially in recent days, my opinion of him has faltered. In desperation, he has stooped to tactics that have smeared his reputation with foulness. With fear-mongering, race baiting, and just flat out lies his campaign has tarred his legacy forever.

Here's an editorial opinion from The New York Times that summarizes all of this quite well, and here is a bit more about race baiting.

I thought McCain was better than this.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tigers and Time Travelling


I was waiting for Colin to reveal the answer to the Tiger puzzle on his blog, and he hasn't... so I shall tell you... well, I'll let newcomers have a look first. Can you spot the hidden tiger.....

no?

well... look at the stripes of the tiger in the foreground. Look realllly carefully. And you'll spot the hidden tiger. Or should I say 'The Hidden Tiger'. Now you've seen it, isn't it obvious? I know!

Onto completely different territory, I've just finished The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, for my book group. Yes, how did I manage to fit 500+ pages into my reading schedule... I wasn't sure I was going to make it, but thankfully Niffenegger's novel was such addictive reading (coupled with not being able to sleep for large portions of a couple of nights) that it took a matter of days.

The Time Traveler's Wife [oh how my British blood boils at having to use only one 'l' in traveller] has been on my shelves for a few years, I think I bought it a few months after it was published, but the size of the thing put me off. As did, more recently, this review on Vulpes Libris. And this, rather pithy, review on Lizzy Siddal's blog. Two bloggers I res
pect hated it a lot. So why did I love it?

Ok. Best to acknowledge the faults first.
Wait. Before that, I suppose some of you won't know the plot, though it seems more or less everyone in the world has read this before me. Henry has a disorder which sends him, involuntary, back or forth in time - usually back. He can't change the future, but he can interact with everyone around him (oh boy can he interact), and will spend minutes or days there before popping back to his present, where any amount of time (usually minutes) will have passed. The first 100 pages or so mostly follow a chronology of Clare's youth - Clare being the time traveller's wife in question. Henry comes to see her through most of her life, up to 18... when she is 20, they meet again... except for him it's the first time. "Hey, I'm your wife". More or less. And it's a love story between these two; the difficulties of l
iving with the condition, and of living with a husband with this condition.

So, those faults I was talking about.
Too much sex... there is a lotttt of sex. Some of it being Henry with himself (the part in the Vulpes Libris review which *almost* made me vow never to read the book). Whenever he shifts in time, he appears naked... Some reviews find the idea of Henry meeting his 8 year old future-wife rather disturbing, but there is, thankfully, nothing sexual about those encounters.
Erm... well, apart from that... the secondary characters were all more or less unnecessary (ex-girlfriends; ex-girlfriends new lovers; friends) but Henry's father is a welcome addition to the ensemble.

That's it, I'm afraid I can't think of anything more negative to say - I think Niffenegger has achieved something incredible with The Time Traveler's Wife. Usually books or films with time travel baffle and irritate me - either there is no consistency in whether or not characters can affect the future, or no method in the time shifting, or it all just confuses me no end. In The Time Traveler's Wife, despite there being two characters to keep track of (only one changing time, but still) it was never difficult to follow. Each segment has the date and year, and the ages of Henry and Clare in that scene, printed at the top - a very canny device. And Niffenegger uses the idea so well - plot points are hinted at early on, the idea of Clare meeting Henry when he's never met her, and the sudden reversal of knowledge in their relationship works brilliantly. More than anything, Niffenegger writes a convincing and moving love story. The Vulpes Libris review found both characters irksome to say the least, and I don't think I'd be Co-founder of the Henry Fan Club, but Clare is great. Artistic and expressive, she is also patient and loving whilst still feeling jealousy and anxiety and grief. She is the novel's main strength, I think, and Niffenegger was wise to give her the title.

What else to say? Thoroughly involving, the ending is unutterably moving, the structure and plot are flawless, and... let's just hope the film (currently in post-production) has wafted an editing pen over the frequent sex scenes.

Client News

Lorrie Bodger will be on The Faith Middleton Show from 3pm to 4pm on Thursday, October 16th to discuss her new book, Cook Up a Cookbook!

Also, congratulations to Joe Starita for his wonderful review in Publishers Weekly for I Am A Man, posted in its entirety below.

In 1879, Ponca chief Standing Bear challenged decades of Indian policy when he stood in a federal courthouse in Omaha, Neb., and demanded to be recognized as a person by the U.S. government. Journalist Starita masterfully portrays the chief's story in this compelling narrative of injustices finally righted. The Ponca, relocated from their beloved Niobrara River valley to the harsh plains of Oklahoma, found unlikely allies in a Nebraska newspaper man and a lifelong Indian fighter. Thomas Henry Tibbles, an ex-preacher and editor, filed a writ of habeas corpus on Standing Bear's behalf, demanding the government show good reason why the Ponca should be deprived of their property, homeland and their very lives without due process, an unprecedented act that forced the government to grapple head-on with whether Native Americans, like the recently emancipated black slaves, were persons entitled to equal protection under the law. Gen. George Crook, an accomplished Indian fighter, supported Standing Bear and Tibbles with a harsh indictment of the very policies he had spent his career implementing. Starita transforms what could have been a dry academic survey of U.S. Indian policy into an engaging yarn, full of drama and sudden revelations.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

And back to the English Department


I spent today getting reacquainted with the English Faculty, and having all sorts of talks about the faculty in general and my course in particular. All the people on the course (well, those I got to speak to) seem really nice, and I think we'll get along. As before, I am hopelessly outnumbered by women (14 girls; 4 boys) and rather outnumbered as an Englishman too.

Somehow I managed to volunteer myself to open a class on Theatre and Revolution, but also managed to snare Katherine Mansfield in the Literatures of Empire and Nation 1880-1930 module. We each had to pick one or two authors from the list to open a discussion about, and whilst I could have coped with Anand or Schreiner, both mentioned here recently I think, it is Katherine Mansfield whom I've loved for some years now. In fact, I was the only person in Oxford to write about her in my first year, according to the examiners' report...

So. My reading will now take a swerve away from primary and fun novels and the like, into secondary. Might be rather more prosaic, but perhaps a few gems to share with you nonetheless. Tomorrow's tomes are both by Edward Said - Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism. I'll have to get over my dislike of Said, which is based entirely on the fact that he (I daresay inadvertently) started the silliest and least rational school of Jane Austen criticism. But I imagine he has rather more pertinent things to say about the texts for this term... (for the full list, see this post). And I have about five weeks to think about my coursework topic here... I'm thinking something about visiting... outstaying welcome... visiting vs. occupying... visitors without hosts... I just think the concept of visitors and visiting could be fruitful. I'll keep you posted...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back to Magdalen


I am now officially a student again!

Not that I have the correct Student Card or a working college email address yet... spent this morning writing emails to the computing department and the student registration department, who were friendly but didn't find a solution to any of the above... so here's hoping that my new tutors aren't hoping to contact me. Doh.

So far my only activity as a graduate fresher has been attending the welcome dinner, which was pleasant, where I chatted to two tutors from my undergraduate days, and didn't really speak to the other English Masters student. That's right, there's only one other English Masters student at Magdalen... gosh. Tomorrow I'll meet the whole rabble, and hopefully lots of new Englishy friends to wave at in the library... (I also mentioned this blog to one of my tutors, but I rather hope he doesn't come by today, as this must be the least intelligent post I've written for some months.... back to more literary matters soon, promise.)

The most exciting news of the evening, I reckon, was that each Graduate Fresher gets book tokens. Guess how much? More. More than that. Oo, close. £120. !!!
I've never understood how people can hold onto book tokens for months or years, as mine tend to last until I'm next within running distance of a bookshop - but even I might have my work cut out in spending £120 immediately.

Speaking of book totals... I counted my books over the Summer, while doing the 'cataloguing'. Guess how many... go on, in the comments, and we'll see who's closest...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Untouchable

My Masters starts on Monday, and I'm scurrying through my reading list - so today I'll mention another one. Would have read more this evening, if it weren't for a rather exciting interlude when a cat decided to make our house her home. She (I think she) was very reluctant to leave, and I was very reluctant for her to leave, so she stayed for a while. And I fell a little in love...
ANYWAY. The novel I'm going to mention today is the most recent one on my reading list, being published in 1935 (not sure how this gets into Literature and Empire 1880-1930, but no matter) - Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand. Anand takes the position of one of the 'untouchables' as the focalisation for his novel - a member of the lowest strand in the caste system. One of the outcastes, in fact: Bahka. He is a latrine-cleaner, but one with aspirations to become a 'sahib' - an aristocrat.

Anand's decision to use Bahka as his protagonist (though not narrator) was controversial at the time, but demonstrates the unfairness and idiocy of the creation of 'untouchables' - wherever he goes he must shout out, to alert others to his arrival. If they touch him or are touched by him, they must wash. Imagine people screaming "Polluted! Polluted!" if they come into contact with you - and imagine becoming resigned to the supposed justice of this? Anand writes Untouchable fuelled by the injustice of this system, and his anger at it, but is wise enough to let the narrative do the work, rather than scream and shout. We see Bakha, a kind, sensitive and aspirational boy being gradually worn down by the caste stigma - which also relates to something I read yesterday in E. M. Forster's A Passage To India, about an Adonis-like 'untouchable' seen in the street:

'He had the strength and beauty that sometimes come to flower in Indians of low birth. When that strange race nears the dust and is condemned as untouchable, then nature remembers the physical perfection that she accomplished elsewhere, and throws out a god - not many, but one here and there, to prove to society how little its categories impress her.'

Untouchable is quite short, but a powerful narrative which tells me an awful lot about something of which I was almost wholly ignorant. It's also very readable and interesting, and I definitely recommend it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

And the Winners Are...

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the Trivia Contest, I hope you enjoyed it!

I received 94 entries overall, and almost everyone got at least 25 questions right. Surprisingly though, no one got all 35 correct (including two agents and three editors who wrote in for fun).

So without further ado, here are the winners...

With 34 correct answers, first place goes to Tanya Egan Gibson! Tanya's first book is coming out this May from Dutton, make sure to get a copy when it's released!

In second place is Kendra, with 33 correct!

In third place is one of my favorite bloggers, Maya Reynolds! Maya also got 33 correct, but sent in her answers three hours after Kendra. Maya - I'm assuming you'll want a copy of one of my client's books, just drop me a line and let me know which one!

Congrats to each of you, and thanks again to everyone for participating!

Trivia Contest Answers 21-35

21. Who hit Norman Mailer on the head with a hammer in a fight?

Rip Torn

22. What song was parodied in the famous copyright law case Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.?


"Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison


23. Which book begins with the following line: “The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.”


A Secret History by Donna Tartt


24. How many total television shows or series are currently on HBO, Showtime, CBS, NBC, CW, FOX, and/or ABC that are adapted from books? Please do not include reruns, miniseries that have completed their run and are now available on demand, canceled shows, etc. Also, do not include shows that led to book spin-offs (for example, Heroes). Next, any new show that has not premiered can’t be included. Finally, this question only applies to shows that new episodes air during prime time (i.e. 8-11pm EST).


8, though I'm also accepting 7 or 9. All I'm looking for is a number, so if you said the right amount but then listed shows that were wrong I'll still count it as right.


Gossip Girl, Dexter, Privileged, Friday Night Lights, True Blood, Lipstick Jungle, and The Unit. Smallville is adapted on the Superman comic books, but if you didn't include this in your count I won't count it against you. Bones is only loosely based on the works of Kathy Reichs though I'll count it.


Secret Diary of a Call Girl is based on a blog. Crusoe and In Harm's Way haven't premiered yet. Army Wives appears on Lifetime. Ghost Whisperer is based on the life of Mary Ann Winkowski and not her books.


I know this question was brutal, but I wanted to add something that couldn't be answered with a simple google search.

25. What is the industry standard literary agency commission for domestic sales and foreign sales?

15% for domestic sales and 20% for foreign sales


26. What type of books did Da Capo Press publish when it was first founded?


music books


27. When did Knopf become a part of Random House?


1960


28. Which agent represents Mike Lupica, Leigh Montville, Thomas Friedman, and Steve Martin?


Esther Newberg at International Creative Management


29. Which editor threatened to resign if his employers did not agree to publish The Fountainhead?

Archibald Ogden

30. At the National Book Awards, which author said the following to industry professionals who take pride in having not read writers like Grisham, Clancy and other popular writers: “Do you think you get social academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture?”


Stephen King


31. What was the major issue in the landmark copyright case New York Times Co. v. Tasini? Please be brief (a few words is enough).

Who owns the copyright of the content of a newspaper database.

32. How much did Harlan Coben’s first novel sell for?

According to this great article, Coben received an advance of $2,000. However, if you want to be literal, I guess it also sold at $19.95, the original cover price.

33. List 3 examples of authors who have children who are also authors and 3 examples of husband-wife writing pairs.

There are tons, but here are a few of the big ones. Parent/Child: Stephen King & Joe Hill, Mary Higgins Clark & Carol Higgins Clark, and James Lee Burke and Alafair Burke. Husband/Wife: Jonathan Kellerman and Faye Kellerman, Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman, Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss.

34. Name one country that at one time banned Black Beauty.


South Africa.


35. What is the fee for registering your copyright electronically with the U.S. Copyright Office?

$35.

Trivia Contest Answers 11-20

Here are the answers for questions 11 through 20.

11. What was the first book ever printed in English?

The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. The Dictes and Sayengis of the Phylosophers was printed four years later, despite what you may have read.

12. What are the benefits of registering your copyright within three months of your book's publication?

Copyright owners can recover statutory damages and attorney fees in an infringement suit.

13. What are considered industry standard hardcover royalties for regular trade books in the publishing industry?

10% of the list price for the first 5,000 copies sold, 12.5% for the next 5,000 copies sold, and 15% thereafter. Some people answered 10-15%, but that's not enough information for me to count it as right.

14. Who is J.K. Rowling’s primary literary agent?

Christopher Little

15. What is the difference between “its” and “it’s”?

"Its" is a possessive pronoun meaning belonging to it. "It's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has". Or an apostrophe, if you want to be a smart ass.

16. What is the last thing that is said “good night” to in Goodnight Moon?

Noises everywhere.

17. What planet is Takeshi Kovacs from?

In Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels, the Kovacs is from Harlan's World.

18. Which real political figure is Willie Stark loosely based on?

In All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren based Willie Stark loosely on Huey Long, the colorful Louisiana governor and U.S. Senator in the 1920's and 30's.

19. What book ends with the following line: “Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger."

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Another one of my favorite books.

20. What disease does Lionel Essrog have?

Essrog, the protagonist in Jonathan Lethem's fantastic Gun, With Occasional Music, suffers from Tourette's Syndrome.

Trivia Contest Answers 1-10

I'm going to announce the winners later today, but here are the answers to the first ten questions from the Trivia Contest, with the rest to follow:

1. Which book begins with the following line: “Theodore is in the ground.”

The Alienist by Caleb Carr. One of my favorite books of all time.

2. Name three national or international awards that Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won (not just nominated for).

He won four - the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Sidewise.


3. Who was the literary agent that represented S.E. Hinton, Robert Cormier, and Clement Hurd?

Marilyn Marlow

4. Which famous Scribner editor worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe?

Maxwell Perkins




5. How many championships have the San Antonio Spurs won?

Four... and counting.

6. How long is the term of copyright in the United States for books created after 1978 (and not a work for hire)?

Life of the author plus seventy years

7. What are the colors of the three vampire courts in the Dresden Files book series and how are they different from each other?

White - Born in human state but then become vampires when they mature. They feed off emotions. Red - Bat-like creatures with a human mask. They are created and feed off blood.Black - Traditionally imagined vampires (i.e. reanimated corpses) that are also created and feed off blood.

There are other ways in which the courts are different too. As long as you provided one example of how they are distinguishable then I counted the question as correct.

8. What is the name for a fear of long words?

hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia or sesquipedalophobia. I accepted both answers.



9. Who is the current president of the Association of Authors' Representatives?

Gail Hochman

10. Which editor found The Diary of Anne Frank in a rejection pile while working as an assistant in France?

Judith Jones

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tyger, Tyger...

P.S. Go to Colin's blog today for a fun pictoral riddle thing! I failed...

Who Said Publishing Wasn't Lucrative

Here's a list from Forbes that estimates the income of the 10 best paid authors in the world.

Volumes Received

'Volumes Received' was how newspapers used to (perhaps still?) round up the books they hadn't had time to review, but had been sent for review. I'm afraid the pressures of my Masters have meant that I'm going to do the same thing - some of these books have been on my reviewing shelf for months, and I was feeling guilty. This might not be the last time you see them, because I hope still to read some or all of them, but if I tell you a little bit about the books, you can make your own mind up...


War on the Margins: a margin - Libby Cone
This one I definitely will read before too long, but thought I'd mention it whilst the excitement is still raring re:The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Libby sent me her novel after reading my review of the Guernsey book, and it looks like it would make an excellent companion read - Occupation Guernsey through the eyes of those living there.

Castle in the Clouds - Monica Janssens

'It's midnight she's in a nuthouse, and one of the inmates has tried to top herself. Just when she's convinced the night can't get much weirder, in walks one of the world's most controversial supermodels' - five separate and diverse (fictional) viewpoints of a rehabilitation clinic.

The Pornographer of Vienna - Lewis Crofts
One of those which I thought was a spam email at first... but no! Egon Schiele, a passionate painter all his life, leaves home at sixteen determined to establish himself as an artist in Vienna. Along the way he meets Gustav Klimt. Looks a mix of fun and disturbing...

What if...? - Steve N. Lee
A suspense narrative about a man who claims to be able to end poverty and disease and bring prosperity and peace - is he telling the truth? Are the government right to fear him? 'If you knew you were right, would you let any one or any thing stand in your way?'. A twist on the good vs. evil narrative.


The Storms of Acias - Dominic Took
'A violent Storm hits the castle where Graciou lives with his father and his extended family. After becoming separated from his father because of The Storm, Graciou now finds himself in his eighteenth year, wanting to answer so many questions that have haunted him since that day.' He journeys home, and 'meets a seemingly mad old woman, who starts to reveal what happened all those years ago, but as she begins to tell her story, is all as it would seem?'

29 Ways to Drown - Niki Aguirre
Short story collection, spanning three continents but more often a virtual landscape - one review says 'Niki Aguirre breathes new energy into the short story with a dark orginality that makes hers compulsive reading while illuminating our kind and the crooked ways people live, fight and dream'

Boba Fett and Buck Rogers Beware

Mac Montandon has a new book trailer up in advance of the publication of his book Jetpack Dreams: One Man's Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was.

A.J. Jacobs, author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, had this to say about the book: "Reading this book is as fun as zooming through the sky with a rocket on your back. And better yet, you won't break your collarbone doing it."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Trivia Contest

And it begins! Remember to email me your answers at info@lyonsliterary.com.

1. Which book begins with the following line: “Theodore is in the ground.”

2. Name three national or international awards that Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won (not just nominated for).

3. Who was the literary agent that represented S.E. Hinton, Robert Cormier, and Clement Hurd?

4. Which famous Scribner editor worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe?

5. How many championships have the San Antonio Spurs won?

6. How long is the term of copyright in the United States for books created after 1978 (and not a work for hire)?

7. What are the colors of the three vampire courts in the Dresden Files book series and how are they different from each other?

8. What is the name for a fear of long words?

9. Who is the current president of the Association of Authors' Representatives?

10. Which editor found The Diary of Anne Frank in a rejection pile while working as an assistant in France?

11. What was the first book ever printed in English?

12. What are the benefits of registering your copyright within three months of your book's publication?


13. What are considered industry standard hardcover royalties for regular trade books in the publishing industry?

14. Who is J.K. Rowling’s primary literary agent?

15. What is the difference between “its” and “it’s”?

16. What is the last thing that is said “good night” to in Goodnight Moon?

17. What planet is Takeshi Kovacs from?

18. Which real political figure is Willie Stark loosely based on?

19. What book ends with the following line: “Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger."

20. What disease does Lionel Essrog have?

21. Who hit Norman Mailer on the head with a hammer in a fight?


22. What song was parodied in the famous copyright law case Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.?


23. Which book begins with the following line: “The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.”

24. How many total television shows or series are currently on HBO, Showtime, CBS, NBC, CW, FOX, and/or ABC that are adapted from books? Please do not include reruns, miniseries that have completed their run and are now available on demand, canceled shows, etc. Also, do not include shows that led to book spin-offs (for example, Heroes). Next, any new show that has not premiered can’t be included. Finally, this question only applies to shows that new episodes air during prime time (i.e. 8-11pm EST).

25. What is the industry standard literary agency commission for domestic sales and foreign sales?

26. What type of books did Da Capo Press publish when it was first founded?

27. When did Knopf become a part of Random House?


28. Which agent represents Mike Lupica, Leigh Montville, Thomas Friedman, and Steve Martin?


29. Which editor threatened to resign if his employers did not agree to publish The Fountainhead?

30. At the National Book Awards, which author said the following to industry professionals who take pride in having not read writers like Grisham, Clancy and other popular writers: “Do you think you get social academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture?”


31. What was the major issue in the landmark copyright case New York Times Co. v. Tasini? Please be brief (a few words is enough).


32. How much did Harlan Coben’s first novel sell for?


33. List 3 examples of authors who have children who are also authors and 3 examples of husband-wife writing pairs.

34. Name one country that at one time banned Black Beauty.

35. What is the fee for registering your copyright electronically with the U.S. Copyright Office?