Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Great Scot! Highland Flings are all the Rage
What could be sexier than say, Russell Crowe and George Clooney wanting to fulfill your every desire? Russell Crowe and George Clooney in kilts sporting mucho attitude. With tongue firmly planted in (get your mind out of the gutter!) cheek, The Scotsman reports on the recent American craze for romance novels set in Scotland featuring hunks in kilts. Huh? "Books with covers showing brooding, muscular, kilted heroes gazing out over the hills and glens are topping the best-seller lists," they report. The craze started after the release of Braveheart, Mel Gibson's Scottish historical epic, which sparked an interest in Scottish history and more to the point, Scots in kilts. "This year’s publishing sensation is the racy plaid-ripper, where the men are smouldering Scots, the countryside is wild and rugged and the women are all a-quiver." As one online fan of the Scottish romances says, "Just the thought of trying to tame one makes me feel weak at the knees." Clearly, plaid-clad lads are rad. Who knew?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Horror Authors to Play Poker for Charity
A poker tournament featuring twenty prominient horror authors will raise money for charity at the 2005 World Horror Convention in April. Horrormeisters including F. Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, Tom Monteleone, Michael Arnzen, David Morrell, Christopher Golden, Carlton Mellick III, Monica O'Rourke will ante up using Texas Hold 'em rules at the Park Central Hotel in New York. The winner's take will be donated to charity. The game will be followed by a book signing and a launch party for writer Michael Arnzen's latest book, Play Dead. Get more info.
Anarchist Book Fair Bigger than Ever
From a small group of left wing radicals talking politics, this festival has grown to a weekend of cultural events, reports AP (via the Monterey Herald). The current political climate has caused a boom in anarchis literature and ideas, say participants.
"The Bush era," says Joey Cain, 50, a longtime organizer, "has been good for anarchist consumerism." Check it out online.

New Literary Board Game hits Shelves
Booktastic! is about more than literary trivia. The game came about through creator Laine Keneller's love of books and collecting. "The object of Booktastic! is to amass the most valuable collection of books and cash by buying and selling books at bookstores, swap meets and book exchanges," reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Players make their way through several bookstores buying or trading the ten books on the game card for noteworthy books of a specific year. In order to earn money to play the game, players must answer questions about collecting, authors and writers or specific books. The game is in it's second edition and planning a third, with foreign versions in the works.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Perfume Film to Star Dustin Hoffman
The Book Standard's weekly Hollywood column reports that Dustin Hoffman will join the cast of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, the film version of Patrick Suskind's international bestseller. Also, Sean Lennon will co-produce and star in the film of Coin Locker Babies, the novel by Japanese writer Ryu Murakami, and Paramount has purchased the rights to the boarding school memoir Prep. Get more details.
Japanese Dial up Novels
Reading on the go has reached a fever pitch in Japan, where downloads of novels to cell phones is at an all-time high. While China boasts the first novel written exclusively for cell phones (it is now being turned into a cell phone film), Japanese readers are the most avid consumers of text via phone, reports AP. A Tokyo wireless service provider, Bunko Yomihodai" or "All You Can Read Paperbacks" has 50,000 subscribers and counting. Most readers use the service to catch up on classics they never finished in school. "Users can search by author, title and genre, and readers can write reviews, send fan mail to authors and request what they want to read, all from their phones." U.S. readers should stay tuned: Random House is in a deal to provide cell-phone access to some language study programs.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

For Arab Writers, New Lines in the Sand washingtonpost.com
In spite of censorship, writers in Saudi Arabia are tackling tougher issues than ever before in books published there and abroad. But government approval doesn't mean smooth sailing. "Two months ago, a group of men entered a bookstore on one of the capital's broad avenues, lined with designer boutiques and glass-and-steel shopping malls. They seized copies of The Bottle, which includes an unflattering portrayal of an Islamic militant, after it had sold 500 copies in just three days, a feverish pace in the kingdom. Although the government had approved the book for sale, the men warned the shop not to carry it again."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Novelists Begin to Deal With Sept. 11
A number of books released this spring use the 9/11 terrorist attack in various ways, reports The Lakeland (FL) Ledger. Either the horror is recreated and characters are directly affected and must deal with it, or in less immediate ways, the attack is dealt with in literature. Ian McEwan's Saturday, in which the reality of the characters is forever affected by those attacks, and family members examine attitudes about the war and the issues involved. One French bestseller soon coming to U.S. shelves, takes us inside the towers on the day of the attack. "I've had people say it is really obscene and disgusting to do that. But that is the idea of writing fiction about history. It is always shocking. We should not be afraid of writing about what is important," said Beigbeder, the author of the upcoming Windows on the World.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Go Ahead, Judge
Some of the worst book covers ever are collected on the hilarious online gallery of Bad Book Covers. The offending "art" ranges from the completely nuts , to the hilarious (a cover for Pet Sematary), to bad concepts like a beachy vampire scene(?!), to the disturbing (you'll know it when you see it), to dated work like the covers of Trixie Belden mysteries (so much cooler than the anal-retentive Nancy Drew). You'll marvel that people got paid to think these up. Good fun. You can click on the images for a bigger view and some snarky remarks from the site owner.
Robinson's Gilead May Sweep Awards
Iowa Writer's Workshop instructor Marilynne Robinson's latest book, Gilead is a New York Times Notable Book, has just been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner award is also nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award, and is a front-runner for the Pulitzer Prize and is among the nominees for the UK's Orange Prize. Whew. Gilead is about a 76 year-old man examines his life and communicates with his young son. The Des Moines Register examines Robinson's chances.
Peter Pan Sequel Set
British children's book author Geraldine McCaughrean will write a sequel to the classic Peter Pan, reports Reuters.The sequel will raise money for The Great Ormond Children's Hospital in London which owns the rights to the book.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

What books are being adapted to what size screen? Who's starring? Who's directing? Who's writing the screenplay? Find out here from The Book Standard.
The Myths are Coming
In a unique feat of publishing, new stories based on ancient myths written by authors from around the world will be in stores in 35 countries simultaneously this October. The Myths, a project spearheaded by Scots publisher Cannongate, told authors to pick a myth from any country and re-tell it in 30,000 words. Margaret Atwood, Donna Tart, Viktor Pelevin, Jeanette Winterston and David Grossman have already signed on and more authors are in the wings, says the timesonline.
Asian Literary Festival Struggles to Define Itself
The Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival is the first book fair in Asia, but it seems bent on introducing British writing to Asians rather than celebrating Asian literature (or recognizing it at all). The Weekend Standard (China) reports.
Censored Biography by American is Bestseller in China
Two biographies of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin have been published but only one is availible in stores in mainlaind China. Political Struggles in China's Reform Era, by Yang Jisheng, a journalist for China Daily, paints Zemin's struggles against Communist hardliners and his opposition to the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It has been banned by the Chinese government. The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin," by Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an investment banker, is seen largely as a pro-business fawning hagiography which has been embraced and heavily promoted by the Chinese government, even though they censored parts of it before publication. The Washington Post reports.
Russia is Guest of Honor at Paris Book Fair
As guest of honor at the Paris Book Fair (March 18-23)this year, Russia will mount an exposition at the Paris Expo Center featuring film, photography and art exhibitions, readings and panel discussions, reports russian news agency Novostia.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Canadian Howard Engel Honored
After 11 Benny Cooperman detective novels, Toronto native Howard Engel was awarded the Matt Cohen award by the Writer's Trust of Canada for lifetime achievement. The prize is all the sweeter because just four years ago, Engel suffered a stroke that left him unable to read. He was still able to write, however, and had no plans to stop. While completing his latest Cooperman novel, Memory Book">Memory Book, Engel has taught himself to read again and has acheived a 3rd grade reading level. The Globe and Mail reports.
Got Dead? Read This
Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral , is a seriously humorous look at catering Southern bereavement. The Mississippi Clarion-Ledger reports on Mississippi residents Gayden Metcalf and Charlotte Hayes, both writers accomplished mourners who they decided that they had to record the mixture of food and humor particular to Southern funeral rites. "One day I said, 'There's something wrong with this picture.' We get six months or more to plan a wedding. And by the time it's over, everyone is mad at one another. But the funeral ... that's your last big party. The last time you can ever do something for that certain someone," Metcalf said. The result is a respectful and howlingly funny collection of anecdotes and recipies that illustrate Southern funeral etiquette and food. "Nobody eats better than a bereaved Southerner," said Metcalf.
Ian Rankin Up Close
On tour in the U.S. to Promote his lates Rebus novel, Fleshmarket Alley, Ian Rankin talks about crime writing "I was not a fan of the genre. I became a crime writer by accident, while trying to write the 'great Scottish novel'," and what the future may hold for his beloved and flawed detective, John Rebus.
Literary Auction to Fund New Dictionary
When Scottish Language Dictionaries of Edinburgh asked Scotland's writers to donate items to raise money for a new Scots dictionary, they received some very prestigious items indeed. Scotsman.com reports that Harry Potter powerhouse J.K. Rowling donated "The Ballad of Nearly Headless Nick," a poem she cut out of one her books. Ian Rankin, author of the Rebus novels, arguably the most famous detective novels set in Edinburgh, donated a handwritten draft of "a possible opening to the final Rebus novel", sets out a scene where Rebus arranges to meet his arch enemy, the gangster "Big Ger" McCafferty. Alexander McCall Smith, creator of Mma. Ramotswe, donated of a series of pieces and the Scottish poet Edwin Morgan contributed a signed short story. The collection is being displayed at the Scottish Poetry Library until Thursday. The auction will be held on March 24 by Edinburgh auction house Lyon and Turnbull.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Iranian Dissident Wins Award for Persecuted Writers
Human Rights Watch announced that the Iranian writer Taqi Rahmani is the recipient of its annual Hellman/Hammett Award, which recognizes writers who are targeted by their governments. Rahmani has been in and out of prison for 17 years for criticizing the religious politics of the country, and for pointing out how fundamentalism has impeded democracy there. His writings for various reformist newspapers have resulted in his imprisonment and in the closing of the papers. Rahmani, the author of 26 books, has spent the last 22 months in prison without being charged. The Hellman/Hammett awards were inaugurated in 1990 and designed to bring attention to the struggles of writers throughout the world to engage in free expression. More than 400 writers in 88 countries have received these grants.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Police Find "Inconsistencies" in Hunter Thompson's Death
New York Post's Page Six reports that Colorado police are investigating whether Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalist and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, did in fact, shoot himself.
Citing police reports obtained by the Rocky Mountain News, Page Six reports that Thompson's widow, Anita, has made conflicting statements about what she heard and that his son Juan was allowed to "enter the kitchen alone and drape a scarf over the body."
The Post does not note that that other reports, including this one, state Thompson was found dead at his desk in his home office and later that he was in the kitchen. Hmmm.
At the scene an officer noted "the semi-automatic Smith & Wesson 645 found next to Thompson's body was in an unusual condition. There was a spent shell casing, but although there were six bullets left in the gun's clip, there was no bullet in the firing chamber, as there should have been under normal circumstances." Stay tuned.
Sleeping with the Enemy
This on-point rant on the Guerilla News Network takes liberal writers to task for publishing their books through media conglomerates instead of through independent (and like-minded) publishers.
There is a great deal of talk from progressive leaders these days about how this country needs media reform as part of a multifaceted approach to saving democracy, and winning back the White House and Congress. A woeful lament is sung by our progressive leaders about how the media companies are now concentrated into homogenous conglomerates which, at best, worry only about bottom-line profits, while at their most sinister, are dedicated to furthering the radical right-wing agenda. We agree! What we don’t understand is why these same progressive writers and activists don’t walk the walk, and offer like-minded independent book publishers a seat at the table when strategies for media reform are being bandied about.
Read more here.
Authors Team Up for Tsunami Book
Just published in the UK: New Beginnings, an anthology of work by 16 authors that will aid Tsunami Relief. Priced at £ 5 ($9.60) the book contains first chapters of forthcoming books by writers like Stephen King, Tracy Chevalier, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Vikram Seth and Scott Turow. "To glimpse the opening chapter of your favourite author's new work before it is published will be an unprecedented experience for their fans," said Jonny Geller, who directed the project for publisher Bloomsbury. You can order a copy here.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

World Book Day Not Observed in U.S.
Today is World Book Day. Don't feel bad if you never heard of it, America doesn't celebrate it (I could go off about this but I won't, it's too pathetic). The festival was started by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading and to promote reading among children. UNESCO encourages participants to recommend a book to a friend or a child, because most books are read through word-of-mouth. World Book Day was celebrated in 30 countries last year, but not here.
Never fear, Bookblog is here to take up the slack. First, read this piece from the Timesonline in London about books that have had an impact. Then visit the festival website to learn about what you can do to celebrate. And you can attend World Book Day 2004 and 2003 by visiting the Online Reading Festival, which offers film, transcripts of webchats, articles and links from writers who participated.
Location, Location, Location
Homes in crime novels have a special importance mainly because they are often the scene of the crime. How do writers dream them up? Paula L. Woods, a mystery writer herself, talks to several California-based crime writers, including Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, Nina Revoyr, Naomi Hirahara, and John Morgan Wilson, about how they evoke a sense of place in their novels and where the homes and rooms in them have come from.
"But sometimes homes we know just won't do, which sends writers like newcomer Patricia Smiley, author of the recent "False Profits," to the L.A. Times' real estate section and to open houses. "But I always hold my breath, waiting for the real estate agent to point his finger at me and shout, 'Fraud! Looky-loo! Writer!' " Read the article.
Hurston Novel Took Years to Adapt to Film
The film version of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching Goddebuts on ABC-TV this Sunday. Produced by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films, the film took nine years and four writers to adapt for the screen, reports the Boston Globe. The writer who finally found a way to bring the emotional story of love and independence to the screen was the playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for Topdog/Underdog.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

China's Literary Bad Girl Settles Down
Shanghai author Mian-Mian reached cult status with her first novel, Candy", a modern tale of youthful desperation chock-full of drugs, booze and sex. When the Chinese government banned the book, it became a bestseller and Mian-Mian reached international fame. Now 34, Mian-Mian is a clean and sober divorced single mom who doesn't go out clubbing anymore (much). Her second novel, Panda Sex (they only have sex twice a year), is about to be published in China. The book is a much quieter look at relationships and the difficulty of finding and sustaining love. "[People] will need time, time to understand what this book is because they are going to be expecting lots of sex, lust, drugs, and my complaints -- such as men are horrible, they treat me like dirt, suicide. But I don't have this inside me anymore," she says. Read the full interview at ChinaDaily.com.
Finalists for Kiriyama Prize Announced
The Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, awarded to books that "contribute to greater understanding and cooperation among the peoples and nations of the Pacific Rim and South Asia" has announced it's nominees for 2005. Topping the list of fiction finalists is 1999 National Book Award winner Ha Jin, for War Trash, a story of a Chinese prisoner during the Korean War. Also nominated for fiction are Rupa Bajwa for The Sari Shop (India) Perumal Murugan for Seasons of the Palm (India) Kelly Ana Morey for Grace is Gone (New Zealand) and Nadeem Aslam for Maps for Lost Lovers (UK). The Nominees for non-fiction are Luis Alberto Urrea for The Devil's Highway: A True Story (U.S.), Charles Wohlforth for The Wale and the Supercomputer(U.S.), Philip Short for Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare a biography of the Cambodian dictator (UK), Masayo Duus for The Life of Isamu Noguchi,
and Suketu Mehta for Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (India). The winners in both categories will be announced March 29 and will receive $15,000.