Books > Books
Technology p. 5
Off the shelf and on to the web
The Open Library will soon allow people to print out
genuine-looking pages from
a vast online archive
Thursday November 3, 2005
personified: or, pointing made easy,
by Mr. Stops.
http://www.bl.uk/collections/britirish/chilgallery.html - broken link
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words
took aim at the Nazis.
Services Edition paperbacks were born.
Photograph: Library of
Marching Off to
War, With Books
'When Books Went
to War’ by Molly Guptill Manning
DEC. 24, 2014
UK / USA
physical book UK
dirty books UK
The making of Audubon's Birds of America -
audio slideshow UK 28 September 2012
As the Natural History Museum
prepares to put its finest treasures
on display in a new gallery,
Paul Cooper introduces
one of the stars of the show:
double elephant folio edition
of John James Audubon's
Birds of America.
Published in parts
between 1827 and 1838,
it is now the world's
most expensive book,
with only 120 copies still extant
Puffin books UK
Wordsworth Editions' £1.99 classics UK
award-winning book UK
Google > Book search
book fair UK
London Book Fair UK
physical book / printed book sales
UK / USA
book burning UK
Domesday book UK
who used avant-garde
painting and photography
to create some
of the most striking
album covers of the 1950s,
and who designed
the visually arresting book jackets
for “In Cold Blood”
“The Godfather” USA
pictorial book jacket
An opening from the Macclesfield Psalter,
on show in Cambridge
The birth of British art
It took £1.7m to save the Macclesfield Psalter for the nation.
It's worth every
penny, writes Jonathan Jones
The Guardian > G2 pp. 12-13
28 July 2005
UK / USA
psalter / book of the psalms
> Macclesfield Psalter
http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2005/jul/28/heritage.art - broken
miniature missal prayer book
in literature UK
USA > "the chewing-gum of American literature"
on the London literary scene
the literary world
Literary America USA
Hay literay festival UK
Young Adult / YA novels USA
documentary novel UK
an extract from his new novel
the novel's protagonists
The Guardian > Harry Potter
International Standard Book Number ISBN
International Standard Serial Number ISSN
George Worsley Adamson
Prolific illustrator of children's books and irreverent
The Guardian p. 21
2 April 2005
"Go Set A
a follow-up to Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird."
Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’
Gives Atticus Finch a
JULY 10, 2015
be hailed as
this novel is
the conclusion may be
sombre, but ...
a metaphor for N
at 466 pages, the book is
amazingly readable book
this is an
Granta, the magazine
of new writing UK
That is the name of the autumn day
when the book industry
releases its best hardback hopes
for the Christmas
It is a moveable feast,
but tends to fall in late September
or early October.
This year, most in the trade
have opted for Thursday 11 October.
Barnet Lee Rosset Jr. USA 1922-2012
UK / USA
flamboyant, provocative publisher
who helped change
the course of publishing in the United States,
bringing masters like Samuel Beckett
to Americans’ attention
under his Grove
and winning celebrated First Amendment
slugfests against censorship
publisher > Penguin UK
The iPod effect creates new markets for
self–published novels UK
out of print
digital audio book
Corpus of news articles
Arts > Books > Books, Literature
halts print publication after 244 years
The paper edition of the encyclopedia
ends its centuries-long run,
but is it a victim
or beneficiary of the digital age?
Tuesday 13 March 2012 22.18 GMT
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 22.18 GMT
on Tuesday 13 March 2012.
It was last modified at 23.00 GMT
on Tuesday 13 March 2012.
Its legacy winds back through centuries and across continents,
past the birth of America to the waning days of the Enlightenment. It is a
record of humanity's achievements in war and peace, art and science, exploration
and discovery. It has been taken to represent the sum of all human knowledge.
And now it's going out of print.
The Encyclopedia Britannica has announced that after 244 years, dozens of
editions and more than 7m sets sold, no new editions will be put to paper. The
32 volumes of the 2010 installment, it turns out, were the last. Future editions
will live exclusively online.
For some readers the news will provoke malaise at the wayward course of this
misguided age. Others will wonder, in the era of Wikipedia, what took the
dinosaur so long to die. Neither view quite captures the company or the
Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc, suggested that the
encyclopedia was already something of a relic within the company itself, which
has long since moved its main business away from its trademark publication and
into online educational tools.
"The company has changed from a reference provider to an instructional solutions
provider," Cauz said. He projects that only 15% of the company's revenue this
year will come from its namesake publication, mostly through subscriptions and
app purchases. "The vast majority" of the remaining 85% of revenue is expected
to come from educational products and services, said Cauz, who declined to
provide dollar amounts but said the company was profitable.
Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc, is owned by the Swiss banking magnate Jacqui
Safra. The company's websites, which include Merriam-Webster dictionaries,
attracted more than 450 million users over the course of 2011, according to
If the company's move over the last decade into the education market is an
impressive example of corporate versatility, the competitive difficulties the
encyclopedia faces are easy to grasp.
Wikipedia English has 3.9m articles. The comprehensive Britannica has about
120,000. Wikipedia is free. The DVD Britannica, which includes two dictionaries
and a thesaurus, costs $30 on Amazon. Individuals will also be able to sign up
for an annual $70 subscription (universities will be charged about $1 per
Cauz said the product was worth the price.
"We may not be as big as Wikipedia. but we have a scholarly voice, an editorial
process, and fact-based, well-written articles," Cauz said. "All of these things
we believe are very, very important, and provide an alternative that we want to
offer to as many people as possible. We believe that there are 1.2 to 1.5bn
inquiries for which we have the best answer."
Asked whether the decision to end the publication's monumental run had not
caused a backlash inside the company, Cauz said the opposite was true.
"The transition has not been that difficult," he said. "Everyone understands we
needed to change. As opposed to newspapers, we felt the impact of digital many
years ago – we had a lot of time for reflection. Everyone is very invigorated.
"We are the only company that I know of, so far, that made the transition from
traditional media to the digital sphere, and managed to be profitable and to
But what of the kids who will no longer grow up in the beneficent shadow of the
physical volumes, or be guided in their learning by happy chance, as when they
go looking for "kookaburra" and accidentally encounter "komodo dragon" on an
"I understand that for some the end of the Britannica print set may be perceived
as an unwelcome goodbye to a dear, reliable and trustworthy friend that brought
them the joy of discovery in the quest for knowledge," Cauz wrote in a company
announcement. The product will improve, however, when it finally leaves the
space constraints and black-and-white finality of print behind, he said.
"Today our digital database is much larger than what we can fit in the print
set. And it is up to date because we can revise it within minutes anytime we
need to, and we do it many times each day."
Encyclopedia Britannica halts print
publication after 244 years,
Making Racy a Literary Staple
February 22, 2012
The New York Times
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Barney Rosset, the flamboyant, provocative publisher who helped
change the course of publishing in the United States, bringing masters like
Samuel Beckett to Americans’ attention under his Grove Press imprint and winning
celebrated First Amendment slugfests against censorship, died on Tuesday in
Manhattan. He was 89.
His son Peter said he died after a double-heart-valve replacement.
Over a long career Mr. Rosset championed Beat poets, French Surrealists, German
Expressionists and dramatists of the absurd, helping to bring them all to
prominence. Besides publishing Beckett, he brought early exposure to European
writers like Eugène Ionesco and Jean Genet and gave intellectual ammunition to
the New Left by publishing Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and “The Autobiography of
Most of all, beginning in high school, when he published a mimeographed journal
titled “The Anti-Everything,” Mr. Rosset, slightly built and sometimes
irascible, savored a fight.
He defied censors in the 1960s by publishing D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s
Lover” and Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer,” ultimately winning legal victories
that opened the door to sexually provocative language and subject matter in
literature published in the United States. He did the same thing on movie
screens by importing the sexually frank Swedish film “I Am Curious (Yellow).”
Mr. Rosset called Grove “a breach in the dam of American Puritanism.”
Beyond being sued scores of times, he received death threats. Grove’s office in
Greenwich Village was bombed.
In 2008 the National Book Foundation honored him as “a tenacious champion for
writers who were struggling to be read in America.”
Other mentions were less lofty. Life magazine in 1969 titled an article about
him “The Old Smut Peddler.” That same year a cover illustration for The Saturday
Evening Post showed him climbing out of a sewer.
Mr. Rosset was hardly the only publisher to take risks, lasso avant-garde
authors or print titillating material. But few so completely relied on
seat-of-the-pants judgment. Colleagues said he had “a whim of steel.”
“He does everything by impulse and then figures out afterward whether he’s made
a smart move or was just kidding,” Life said.
Simply put, Mr. Rosset liked what he liked. In an interview with Newsweek in
2008, he said he printed erotica because it “excited me.”
A Counterculture Voice
In 1957 he helped usher in a new counterculture when he began the literary
journal Evergreen Review, originally a quarterly. (It later became a bimonthly
and then a glossy monthly.) The Review, published until 1973, sparkled with
writers like Beckett, who had a story and poem in the first issue, and Allen
Ginsberg, whose poem “Howl” appeared in the second. There were also lascivious
Barnet Lee Rosset Jr. was born into wealth in Chicago on May 28, 1922. His
father owned banks, and though the elder Mr. Rosset had conservative views, he
sent his son to the liberal Francis W. Parker School. The school was so
progressive, Mr. Rosset told The New York Times in 2008, that teachers arranged
for students to sleep with one another.
“I’m half-Jewish and half-Irish,” he told The Associated Press in 1998, “and my
mother and grandfather spoke Gaelic. From an early age my feelings made the
I.R.A. look pretty conservative. I grew up hating fascism, hating racism.”
He called his 17th year his happiest. He was class president, football star,
holder of a state track record and, he said, boyfriend of the school’s
best-looking girl. He circulated a petition demanding that John Dillinger be
pardoned. In 1940 he went to Swarthmore College, which he disliked because class
attendance was compulsory. After a year he transferred to the University of
Chicago for a quarter, then to the University of California, Los Angeles. A few
months later he joined the Army and served in a photographic unit in China.
After the war he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University of
Chicago. He joined the Communist Party but soon rejected it, he said, after
visiting Eastern Europe.
Initially interested in film, he spend $250,000 of his family’s fortune in New
York to produce a documentary, “Strange Victory,” about the prejudice that black
veterans faced when they returned from World War II. The film was poorly
received, and afterward he headed for Paris with Joan Mitchell, a former high
school classmate who became an acclaimed Abstract Expressionist painter. They
married in 1949 and returned to New York, where he studied literature at the New
School for Social Research, earning another bachelor’s degree in 1952.
Told that a small press on Grove Street in Greenwich Village was for sale, he
bought it in 1951 for $3,000. His goal almost from the beginning was to publish
Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer,” an autobiographical, sexually explicit novel that
had been published in Paris in 1934 and long been banned in the United States.
But he decided first to publish “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” which had originally
appeared in Italy in 1928. He theorized that though it was also banned in the
United States, it commanded greater respect than Miller’s book.
Arthur E. Summerfield, the postmaster general, lived up to Mr. Rosset’s
expectations and barred the book from the mails — Grove’s means of distribution
— in June 1959, calling it “smutty.” But a federal judge in Manhattan lifted the
ban, ruling that the book had redeeming merit. The reasoning pleased Mr. Rosset
less than the result: as a foe of censorship he was an absolutist.
A Free Speech Advocate
“If you have freedom of speech, you have freedom of speech,” he said. He faced a
new round of censorship after buying the rights to “Tropic of Cancer” for
$50,000 in 1961, the agreement having been struck by Miller and Mr. Rosset over
a game of table tennis. Mr. Summerfield again imposed a ban but lifted it before
it could be challenged in court.
Nevertheless, the book was attacked in more than 60 legal cases seeking to ban
it in 21 states, and Mr. Rosset was arrested and taken before a Brooklyn grand
jury, which decided against an indictment. Grove won the dispute in 1964 when
the United States Supreme Court reversed a Florida ban, bringing all the cases
to a halt. Grove sold 100,000 hardcover and one million paperback copies of
“Cancer” in the first year.
In 1962 Grove released “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs, a series of
druggy, sexually explicit vignettes first published in Paris in 1959. Mr. Rosset
had already printed 100,000 copies and kept them under wraps while the “Cancer”
case was still in the courts. Almost immediately a Boston court found “Naked
Lunch” without social merit and banned it. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial
Court reversed that judgment in 1966.
Many more Grove books proved controversial. One was “Story of O,” a novel of
love and sexual domination, by Anne Desclos writing under the name Pauline
Réage. But lawsuits dwindled. It was the film “I Am Curious (Yellow),” the
rights to which Mr. Rosset bought in 1968, that sparked the next firestorm. He
saw it as an exploration of class struggle, he said, but its huge audiences were
clearly attracted by the nudity and staged sexual intercourse.
When a theater refused to show “I Am Curious,” Mr. Rosset bought the theater. He
then sold it back after showing the movie. The authorities in 10 states banned
After Maryland’s highest court ruled that the film was obscene, the matter went
to the Supreme Court. In 1971 it split, 4-to-4, on whether the film should be
banned everywhere. Justice William O. Douglas had recused himself because an
excerpt from one of his books had appeared in Evergreen Review, which he said
could be perceived as a conflict of interest. The deadlock meant the Maryland
ruling would stand, although it had no weight as precedent.
By that time Grove had made $15 million from the film, doubling the company’s
revenues.There were other run-ins over films. Ruling on a suit by the State of
Massachusetts, a Superior Court judge in 1968 banned further showings of another
Grove release, “Titicut Follies,” Frederick Wiseman’s harrowing film about the
abuse of patients at Bridgewater State Hospital.
There were triumphant moments, like Mr. Rosset’s late-night Champagne session in
Paris with Beckett in 1953 that led to his acquiring the American publishing
rights to “Waiting for Godot.” It sold more than 2.5 million copies in the
United States. Beckett was just one winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
published by Grove; others included Harold Pinter and Kenzaburo Oe.
At Grove’s peak in the late 1960s, Mr. Rosset ran what he called “a
self-contained mini-conglomerate” from a seven-story building on Mercer Street.
Mr. Rosset was adept at spotting potential best sellers. “Games People Play: The
Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis,” by Eric Berne, spent two years atop
the Times best-seller list and has sold more than five million copies.
But he also made mistakes. Mr. Rosset turned down J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of
the Rings,” saying he “couldn’t understand a word,” and a planned trilogy of
films based on short works by Beckett, Ionesco and Pinter was never completed,
though it did lead in 1965 to an unusual art-house film, “Film,” starring Buster
Keaton with a script by Beckett. In 1967 Mr. Rosset sold a third of the common
stock of Grove to the public, retaining the rest himself. As a businessman he
stumbled when he diversified into other fields, including real estate, film
distribution and Off Broadway theater programs modeled on Playbill.
A violent blow occurred on July 26, 1968, when a fragmentation grenade, thrown
through a second-story window, exploded in the Grove offices, then on University
Place. The offices were empty, and no one was hurt. Exiles opposed to Fidel
Castro took responsibility, angry that the Evergreen Review had published
excerpts of “The Bolivian Diary,” by Che Guevara, the former aide to Mr. Castro
who had been executed by Bolivian troops less than a year before.
Protests in the Office
To Mr. Rosset, things turned decidedly against him in 1970 when employees, led
by a feminist activist, tried to unionize the editorial staff. He was accused of
sexism, and some said his publications were demeaning to women. When protesters
took over the office, Mr. Rosset called in the police. The union proposal was
Mr. Rosset sold Grove in 1985 to Ann Getty, the oil heiress, and George
Weidenfeld, a British publisher. Part of the deal was that he would remain in
charge. But the new owners fired him a year later. He sued, contending that the
dismissal had violated the sales contract. The dispute was settled out of court.
After leaving Grove, Mr. Rosset published Evergreen Review online and books
under a new imprint, Foxrock Books. After discovering a trove of suppressed
19th-century erotic books, including “My Secret Life,” he started Blue Moon
Books, which published those as well as newer titles. He also took up painting
and filled a wall of his Manhattan apartment with a mural. Grove’s backlist was
acquired by Atlantic Monthly Press in 1993. The combined entity today is
After his marriage to Ms. Mitchell ended in divorce, Mr. Rosset married four
more times. His subsequent marriages to Hannelore Eckert, Cristina Agnini and
Elisabeth Krug also ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, the former
Astrid Myers; his son Peter, from his second marriage; a daughter, Tansey
Rosset, and a son, Beckett, from his third marriage; a daughter, Chantal R.
Hyde, from his fourth marriage; four grandchildren; and four step-grandchildren.
Algonquin Books plans to release an autobiography Mr. Rosset was writing,
tentatively titled “The Subject Was Left-Handed.” A documentary film about his
career, titled “Obscene” and directed by Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O’Connor, was
released in 2008.Mr. Rosset liked to tell the story of how he had responded to a
Chicago prosecutor who suggested that he had published “Tropic of Cancer” only
for the money. He whipped out a paper he had written on Miller while at
Swarthmore (the grade was a B-) to demonstrate his long interest in that author.
He won the case.
“I remember leaving the courtroom and somehow getting lost going home,” he told
The Times in 2008. “It was snowing. But I was so happy that I thought, ‘If I
fall down and die right here, it will be fine.’ ”
Defied Censors, Making Racy a Literary Staple, NYT,
The Dog-Eared Paperback,
Newly Endangered in an E-Book Age
September 2, 2011
The New York Times
By JULIE BOSMAN
These are dark and stormy times for the mass-market paperback,
that squat little book that calls to mind the beach and airport newsstands.
Recession-minded readers who might have picked up a quick novel in the
supermarket or drugstore are lately resisting the impulse purchase. Shelf space
in bookstores and retail chains has been turned over to more expensive editions,
like hardcovers and trade paperbacks, the sleeker, more glamorous cousin to the
mass-market paperback. And while mass-market paperbacks have always been prized
for their cheapness and disposability, something even more convenient has come
along: the e-book.
A comprehensive survey released last month by the Association of American
Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group revealed that while the publishing
industry had expanded over all, publishers’ mass-market paperback sales had
fallen 14 percent since 2008.
“Five years ago, it was a robust market,” said David Gernert, a literary agent
whose clients include John Grisham, a perennial best seller in mass market. “Now
it’s on the wane, and e-books have bitten a big chunk out of it.”
Fading away is a format that was both inexpensive and widely accessible —
thrillers and mysteries and romances by authors like James Patterson, Stephen
King, Clive Cussler and Nora Roberts that were purchased not to be proudly
displayed on a living room shelf (and never read), but to be addictively
devoured by devoted readers.
“In those days, you could easily ship out a million copies of a book,” said Beth
de Guzman, the editor in chief of paperbacks for Grand Central Publishing, part
of the Hachette Book Group. “Then shelf space started decreasing and decreasing
for mass market, and it has especially declined in the last several years.”
For decades, the mass-market paperback has stubbornly held on, despite the
predictions of its death since the 1980s, when retail chains that edged out
independent bookstores successfully introduced discounts on hardcover versions
of the same books. The prices of print formats are typically separated by at
least a few dollars. Michael Connelly, the best-selling mystery writer best
known for “The Lincoln Lawyer,” said he worried that book buyers would not be
able to discover new authors very easily if mass-market paperbacks continued to
be phased out.
“Growing up and reading primarily inexpensive mass-market novels, it allows you
to explore,” he said. “I bought countless novels based on the cover or based on
the title, not knowing what was inside.”
The growth of the e-book has forced a conversation in the publishing industry
about which print formats will survive in the long term. Publishers have begun
releasing trade paperbacks sooner than the traditional one-year period after the
release of the hardcover, leaving the mass-market paperback even further behind.
Cost-conscious readers who used to wait for the heavily discounted paperback
have now realized that the e-book edition, available on the first day the book
is published, can be about the same price. For devoted readers of novels, people
who sometimes voraciously consume several books in a single week, e-books are a
“It’s a question of, do you still want to wait for the book?” said Liate
Stehlik, the publisher of William Morrow, Avon and Voyager, imprints of
HarperCollins. “The people who used to wait to buy the mass-market paperback
because of the price aren’t going to wait anymore.”
That could be good news for authors who make up for a loss in mass-market sales
with increases in e-book sales. Generally speaking, authors make more royalties
on an e-book than on a paperback.
E-book best-seller lists are packed with the genre novels that have
traditionally dominated paperback best-seller lists.
“In some ways, the e-book is yesterday’s mass market,” said Matthew Shear, the
executive vice president and publisher of St. Martin’s Press, which currently
has books by Janet Evanovich and Lora Leigh on the paperback best-seller list in
The New York Times.
Mass-market paperback sales have been sliding since giant bookstore chains and
later Amazon.com started heavily discounting hardcovers in the 1980s and 1990s.
The decline has deepened in the last two years, said Kelly Gallagher, the vice
president of publishing services for Bowker, a research organization for the
“You can’t list a single thing that has caused its demise,” he said. “But as
e-books become more affordable and better aligned to the mass-market reader, I
would have to say that I don’t think there are encouraging signs that print
mass-market books will rise again. When all these things align against a certain
format or category, it’s hard to recover.”
Ms. de Guzman said that Barnes & Noble used to keep a large display solely for
mass-market paperbacks in the front of its stores, but that has disappeared.
Borders, once a strong seller of mass-market paperbacks, especially romance, is
in the process of liquidating all of its stores.
Several publishers said Wal-Mart, a major seller of mass-market paperbacks, has
been quietly revamping its book selection to include fewer mass-market
paperbacks and more trade paperbacks, which have higher production values:
better-quality paper and larger covers.
Even airport stores, traditionally a mainstay retailer of mass-market
paperbacks, are shunning them more frequently in favor of hardcovers and trade
Sara Hinckley, the vice president of book-buying and promotions for Hudson
Booksellers, said that the stores had gradually decreased their selection in
recent years, while increasing their array of hardcovers and trade paperbacks.
Sales in trade paperbacks, she said, have continued to increase in recent years.
Last fall, in 60 of its stores, Hudson cut the display space for mass-market
paperbacks in half.
“With less demand and less retail shelf space for the format, and higher retails
on the trade papers, there simply isn’t as much publishing into the format,
which in turn creates declining sales,” Ms. Hinckley said in an e-mail.
Some publishers have responded by releasing books in trade paperback format
before the mass-market edition. Grand Central Publishing plans to release trade
paperback versions of “The Sixth Man” by David Baldacci and “Lethal” by Sandra
Brown — the first time those authors’ thrillers have been published in trade
After 20 years as a best-selling author, Mr. Connelly will experience a first
this fall: his latest legal thriller, “The Fifth Witness,” will be released as a
trade paperback by Grand Central.
“From my standpoint, which is probably pure vanity, the trade paperback edition
is often the way of publishing more literary novels,” Mr. Connelly said. “So for
me, it’s a cool ego thing — I get to be in the trade edition. But beyond that,
I’m hoping it works.”
Paperback, Newly Endangered in an E-Book Age, NYT, 2.9.2011,
Curling Up With Hybrid Books,
October 1, 2009
The New York Times
By MOTOKO RICH
For more than 500 years the book has been a remarkably stable entity: a
coherent string of connected words, printed on paper and bound between covers.
But in the age of the iPhone, Kindle and YouTube, the notion of the book is
becoming increasingly elastic as publishers mash together text, video and Web
features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of
On Thursday, for instance, Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Ernest Hemingway
and Stephen King, is working with a multimedia partner to release four “vooks,”
which intersperse videos throughout electronic text that can be read — and
viewed — online or on an iPhone or iPod Touch.
And in early September Anthony E. Zuiker, creator of the television series
“CSI,” released “Level 26: Dark Origins,” a novel — published on paper, as an
e-book and in an audio version — in which readers are invited to log on to a Web
site to watch brief videos that flesh out the plot.
Some publishers say this kind of multimedia hybrid is necessary to lure modern
readers who crave something different. But reading experts question whether
fiddling with the parameters of books ultimately degrades the act of reading.
“There is no question that these new media are going to be superb at engaging
and interesting the reader,” said Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child
development at Tufts University and author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story
and Science of the Reading Brain.” But, she added, “Can you any longer read
Henry James or George Eliot? Do you have the patience?”
The most obvious way technology has changed the literary world is with
electronic books. Over the past year devices like Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s
Reader have gained in popularity. But the digital editions displayed on these
devices remain largely faithful to the traditional idea of a book by using words
— and occasional pictures — to tell a story or explain a subject.
The new hybrids add much more. In one of the Simon & Schuster vooks, a fitness
and diet title, readers can click on videos that show them how to perform the
exercises. A beauty book contains videos that demonstrate how to make homemade
Not just how-tos are getting the cinematic work-up. Simon & Schuster is also
releasing two digital novels combining text with videos a minute or 90 seconds
long that supplement — and in some cases advance — the story line.
In “Embassy,” a short thriller about a kidnapping written by Richard Doetsch, a
video snippet that resembles a newscast reveals that the victim is the mayor’s
daughter, replacing some of Mr. Doetsch’s original text.
“Everybody is trying to think about how books and information will best be put
together in the 21st century,” said Judith Curr, publisher of Atria Books, the
Simon & Schuster imprint that is releasing the electronic editions in
partnership with Vook, a multimedia company. She added, “You can’t just be
linear anymore with your text.”
In some cases, social-networking technologies enable conversations among readers
that will influence how books are written.
The children’s division of HarperCollins recently released the first in a
young-adult mystery series called “The Amanda Project,” and has invited readers
to discuss clues and characters on a Web site. As the series continues, some of
the reader comments may be incorporated into minor characters or subplots.
Susan Katz, publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, predicted that “there
is going to be a popular kind of literature where the author is seen as the
leader of a large group and will pick and choose from these suggestions” by
Bradley J. Inman, chief executive of Vook, said readers who viewed prototypes of
“The 90-Second Fitness Solution” by Pete Cerqua or “Return to Beauty” by Narine
Nikogosian “intuitively saw the benefits of augmenting how-to books with video
segments.” Mr. Inman said readers then “warmed to” the fictional editions.
Jude Deveraux, a popular romance author who has written 36 straightforward text
novels, said she loved experimenting with “Promises,” an exclusive vook set on a
19th-century South Carolina plantation in which the integrated videos add
snippets of dialogue and atmosphere.
Ms. Deveraux said she envisioned new versions of books enhanced by music or even
perfume. “I’d like to use all the senses,” she said.
Brian Tart, publisher of Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, which released
“Level 26,” said he wanted the book’s text to be able to stand on its own, but
the culture demanded rethinking the format. “Like everybody, you see people
watching these three-minute YouTube videos and using social networks,” Mr. Tart
said. “And there is an opportunity here to bring in more people who might have
thought they were into the new media world.”
Readers of “Level 26,” which Mr. Zuiker wrote with Duane Swierczynski, have had
a mixed response to what the publisher is marketing as a “digi-novel.”
“It really makes a story more real if you know what the characters look like,”
commented Fred L. Gronvall in a review on Amazon.com. The videos, he wrote, “add
to the experience in a big way.”
But another reviewer, posting as Rj Granados, wrote, “Do you really think cheesy
video vignettes will IMPROVE the book?”
Some authors believe the new technologies can enrich books. For his history of
street songs in 18th-century France, Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard
University Library, will include links to recordings of the actual tunes.
But Mr. Darnton, author of “The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future,”
warned that reading itself was changing, and not necessarily for the better. “I
think we can see enough already to worry about the loss of a certain kind of
sustained reading,” he said.
Mr. Doetsch, the author of “Embassy,” said the new editions should not replace
the traditional book. He has written a forthcoming novel, “The 13th Hour,” that
he thinks is too long to lend itself to the video-enhanced format. The new
editions, he said, are “like dipping a novel into a cinematic pool and pulling
it out and getting the best parts of each.”
Some authors scoff at the idea of mixing the two mediums. “As a novelist I would
never ever” allow videos to substitute for prose, said Walter Mosley, the author
of “Devil in a Blue Dress” and other novels.
“Reading is one of the few experiences we have outside of relationships in which
our cognitive abilities grow,” Mr. Mosley said. “And our cognitive abilities
actually go backwards when we’re watching television or doing stuff on
Curling Up With Hybrid
Books, Videos Included,
And the Plot Thinned ...
July 24, 2008
The New York Times
By CATHY HORYN
TRUMAN CAPOTE said of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” his classic novella of a New
York glamour girl, that he was trying to prune his writing style, achieve a more
subdued prose. Of course, Holly Golightly became the lodestar to designers as
well as to millions of young women who have been enthralled by her single-minded
spirit and by the image evoked by Audrey Hepburn in the opening shot of the
film, as the cab races up Fifth Avenue and deposits her in front of Tiffany’s.
Holly is now 50 — as hard as that is to believe. This realization lends a
certain poignancy to the many new books in the past year, most of them in the
chick-lit category, that have attempted to graft her legend. There are: Lauren
Weisberger’s “Chasing Harry Winston,” Kristen Kemp’s “Breakfast at
Bloomingdale’s,” Michael Tonello’s “Bringing Home the Birkin” and James
Patterson’s “Sunday at Tiffany’s.”
You don’t have to read these books to imagine the outcome: girl meets guy; girl
gets guy but first she has to discuss him endlessly with her gal friends and
perhaps Mother, who is typically a dragon or an ex-supermodel or both. Subdued
they are not. (Mr. Tonello’s inspired book, a memoir of his experiences
thwarting Hermès’s wait-list strategy for its coveted Birkin bags, is more on
the order of guy gets handbag ... and scores!)
Romantic summer novels are silly, to be sure. What is fascinating about the
current batch, which includes “The Beach House,” by Jane Green, is how
faithfully they are informed by the values and brands of the fashion world and
its parallel universes of entertainment, media and publishing. Ms. Green has
made Nantucket real estate a theme of her book. And while she may not know the
island well enough to know which direction a character is facing — she has a
Spenderella named Jordana gazing at the ocean when it is actually a harbor — she
has recognized a clear shift in the East Coast status game.
As her editor, Clare Ferraro, the president of Viking, said, “It’s almost as if
real estate has become an accessory,” adding, “It says something about who you
Maybe. But a pair of lizard Jimmy Choos does seem to pale in novelty and
conversation value next to a $12-million Nantucket house.
On some level, though, it is terrible to imagine what these books say about
ourselves, as escapist as they are meant to be. Ms. Ferraro thinks that such
books provide a kind of balm for hard times, in the same way that glamorous
movies did during the Depression. Readers, she said, “will be living
gratuitously through these books.”
To a large extent, they already are. Jonathan Burnham, the publisher of Harper,
an imprint of HarperCollins, notes that the audience for novels with a heavy
quotient of clothes and Page Six dander isn’t made up of East Coast
sophisticates. Rather, he said, “The audience is Middle American women looking
to buy a taste of the glittering East Coast experience, with all the silliness.”
He also pointed out that the most successful of these books distill the best
bits of the fashion world — the clothes, the famous brand names, the
over-the-top characters — instead of dwelling in a fashion house or idling too
long backstage. Could the travails of designers be a bore? It seems so.
Ms. Weisberger’s 2003 novel “The Devil Wears Prada” was, after all, about a
powerful, latte-demanding fashion editor. And since most people knew that her
roman à clef was based on her former boss, Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue,
that added to the intrigue. Despite the exposure the fashion world got from
shows like “Sex and the City,” the inner sanctums of the business were still
largely unknown to people. “The Devil Wears Prada” was followed a year later by
Plum Sykes’s “Bergdorf Blondes,” which Mr. Burnham edited, releasing, it seemed,
cataracts of labels and apple-martini-swilling socialites in hot pursuit of
equally delish sex.
There is no question that certain brands, like certain summer resorts, have a
talismanic effect. And if you can weave a romantic comedy around the Chanels and
Sub-Zeroes, as Ms. Green has done — with the sentimental addition of a chic old
coot named Nan presiding over a rundown beach house — you might have a best
But this summer’s brand-flogging novels also reveal a kind of empty clink at the
bottom of fashion’s well. Is that all there is? Has the fashion plot thinned to
such a degree that it’s just about presenting life as a blue velvet ring box or
a giant Birkin bag?
When I got done turning down the corners of the pages of Mr. Patterson’s novel
that mentioned a brand name or a stylish place (he, too, transports his
characters to Nantucket), my copy looked severely riddled. His heroine, a
successful if mildly self-loathing playwright named Jane Margaux (as in the
wine, Margaux Hemingway?), fairly chokes on the array of contemporary anxieties,
observing of her boyfriend, “While Hugh flirted with an obnoxiously pretty and
pathologically thin fashion model who had seen HIS play four times, I pretended
to study the dessert menu, which, sadly, I knew by heart.” This is, clearly,
late-stage withdrawal from fashion.
If Capote mentioned a famous label at all (Mainbocher turns up on a page), it
was to merely establish that his glamour girl had good taste.
But fashion wasn’t important to Holly. Despite the Paris wardrobe in the movie
version, she made it clear she thought the whole thing was something of a
wonderful joke, a bore. Take it or leave it. That was her appeal. As she said,
explaining why she didn’t stick around Hollywood and become an actress, “My
complexes aren’t inferior enough.”
But the references in most of the new books don’t so much inform us about the
pop-fashion world as much as remind us how hideola, to use Holly’s term, it is.
“Using all those brand names is sort of bizarre,” said Ms. Sykes. “At the time
that ‘Bergdorf Blondes’ and ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ came out, it seemed so
modern. Now it seems old-fashioned.”
Ms. Sykes, who writes for Vogue, brought a thorough knowledge of fashion, as
well as a Mitfordish humor, to “Bergdorf Blondes.” To her, the most successful
of these types of books, like the most successful socialites, are those that
“acknowledge that they are in on the joke” that fashion’s over-the-top spectacle
Married and now 38, Ms. Sykes is dubious about trying to come out with another
trendy novel. “You can’t write a fashionable comedy about married girls who have
two children and are approaching 40,” she said. “For one thing, they can’t wear
the clothes.” This does not mean she thinks the form has been tapped out. On the
contrary. She fully expects a young person to come along and imagine fashion and
New York from his or her generation’s perspective. Maybe with pruning shears.
Ms. Weisberger’s latest novel has been on the New York Times best-seller list
for 13 weeks. It seems obvious that with “Chasing Harry Winston” she has put
more effort into the development of her characters — three successful gal pals
approaching 30, without a dream guy on the hook — than she did in her previous
Still, it doesn’t hurt to have a glitzy, double-entendre title (is Harry a man
or a rock, or, gosh, does it matter?) and a dust jacket design that recalls “The
Devil Wears Prada,” both deliberate decisions, according to Marysue Rucci, her
editor at Simon & Schuster. That’s just good marketing, and any fashion dunce
And the Plot Thinned
..., NYT, 24.7.2008,
Gang Memoir, Turning Page,
Is Pure Fiction
March 4, 2008
The New York Times
By MOTOKO RICH
In “Love and Consequences,” a critically acclaimed memoir published last
week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native
American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among
gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.
The problem is that none of it is true.
Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew
up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando
Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School,
a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has
never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members.
Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.
Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published “Love and
Consequences,” is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled Ms.
Seltzer’s book tour, which was scheduled to start on Monday in Eugene, Ore.,
where she currently lives.
In a sometimes tearful, often contrite telephone interview from her home on
Monday, Ms. Seltzer, 33, who is known as Peggy, admitted that the personal story
she told in the book was entirely fabricated. She insisted, though, that many of
the details in the book were based on the experiences of close friends she had
met over the years while working to reduce gang violence in Los Angeles.
“For whatever reason, I was really torn and I thought it was my opportunity to
put a voice to people who people don’t listen to,” Ms. Seltzer said. “I was in a
position where at one point people said you should speak for us because nobody
else is going to let us in to talk. Maybe it’s an ego thing — I don’t know. I
just felt that there was good that I could do and there was no other way that
someone would listen to it.”
The revelations of Ms. Seltzer’s mendacity came in the wake of the news last
week that a Holocaust memoir, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years” by Misha
Defonseca, was a fake, and perhaps more notoriously, two years ago James Frey,
the author of a best-selling memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” admitted that he
had made up or exaggerated details in his account of his drug addiction and
Ms. Seltzer’s story started unraveling last Thursday after she was profiled in
the House & Home section of The New York Times. The article appeared alongside a
photograph of Ms. Seltzer and her 8-year-old daughter, Rya. Ms. Seltzer’s older
sister, Cyndi Hoffman, saw the article and called Riverhead to tell editors that
Ms. Seltzer’s story was untrue.
“Love and Consequences” immediately hit a note with many reviewers. Writing in
The Times, Michiko Kakutani praised the “humane and deeply affecting memoir,”
but noted that some of the scenes “can feel self-consciously novelistic at
times.” In Entertainment Weekly, Vanessa Juarez wrote that “readers may wonder
if Jones embellishes the dialogue” but went on to extol the “powerful story of
resilience and unconditional love.”
In the vividly told book, Ms. Seltzer wrote about her African-American foster
brothers, Terrell and Taye, who joined the Bloods gang when they were 11 and 13.
She chronicled her experiences making drug deliveries for gang leaders at age 13
and how she was given her first gun as a birthday present when she was 14. Ms.
Seltzer told The Times last week, “One of the first things I did once I started
making drug money was to buy a burial plot.”
Sarah McGrath, the editor at Riverhead who worked with Ms. Seltzer for three
years on the book, said she was stunned to discover that the author had lied.
“It’s very upsetting to us because we spent so much time with this person and we
felt such sympathy for her and she would talk about how she didn’t have any
money or any heat and we completely bought into that and thought we were doing
something good by bringing her story to light,” Ms. McGrath said.
“There’s a huge personal betrayal here as well as a professional one,” she said.
Ms. Seltzer said she had been writing about her friends’ experiences for years
in creative-writing classes and on her own before a professor asked her to speak
with Inga Muscio, an author who was then working on a book about racism. Ms.
Seltzer talked about what she portrayed as her experiences and Ms. Muscio used
some of those accounts in her book. Ms. Muscio then referred Ms. Seltzer to her
agent, Faye Bender, who read some pages that Ms. Seltzer had written and
encouraged the young author to write more.
In April 2005, Ms. Bender submitted about 100 pages to four publishers. Ms.
McGrath, then at Scribner, a unit of Simon & Schuster, agreed to a deal for what
she said was less than $100,000. When Ms. McGrath moved to Riverhead in 2006,
she moved Ms. Seltzer’s contract.
Over the course of three years, Ms. McGrath, who is the daughter of Charles
McGrath, a writer at large at The Times, worked closely with Ms. Seltzer on the
book. “I’ve been talking to her on the phone and getting e-mails from her for
three years and her story never has changed,” Ms. McGrath said. “All the details
have been the same. There never have been any cracks.”
In a telephone interview, Ms. Seltzer’s sister, Ms. Hoffman, 47, said: “It could
have and should have been stopped before now.” Referring to the publisher, she
added: “I don’t know how they do business, but I would think that protocol would
have them doing fact-checking.”
Ms. Seltzer said she had met some gang members during a short stint she said she
spent at “Grant” high school “in the Valley.” (A Google search identifies
Ulysses S. Grant High School, a school on 34 acres in the Valley Glen
neighborhood in the east-central San Fernando Valley.) “It opened my mind to the
fact that not everybody is as they are portrayed on the news,” she said.
“Everything’s not that black and white or gray or brown.”
She said that although she returned to Campbell Hall, she remained in touch with
people she met at Grant and then began working with groups that were trying to
stop gang violence. She said that even after she moved to Oregon, she would
often venture to South-Central Los Angeles to spend time with friends in the
In the book, she describes her foster mother, Big Mom, an African-American woman
who raised four grandchildren and a foster brother, Terrell, who was gunned down
by Crips right outside her foster mother’s home.
Ms. Seltzer, who writes in an author’s note to the book that she “combined
characters and changed names, dates, and places,” said in an interview that
these characters and incidents were in part based on friends’ experiences. “I
had a couple of friends who had moms who were like my mom and that’s where Big
Mom comes from — from being in the house all the time and watching what goes on.
One of my best friend’s little brother was killed two years ago, shot,” she
Ms. Seltzer added that she wrote the book “sitting at the Starbucks” in
South-Central, where “I would talk to kids who were Black Panthers and kids who
were gang members and kids who were not.”
“I’m not saying like I did it right,” Ms. Seltzer said. “I did not do it right.
I thought I had an opportunity to make people understand the conditions that
people live in and the reasons people make the choices from the choices they
don’t have.” Ms. McGrath said that she had numerous conversations with Ms.
Seltzer about being truthful. “She seems to be very, very naïve,” Ms. McGrath
said. “There was a way to do this book honestly and have it be just as
Gang Memoir, Turning
Page, Is Pure Fiction, NYT, 4.3.2008,
Harry Potter First Edition Auctioned
October 26, 2007
Filed at 11:27 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
LONDON (AP) -- A copy of J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel sold at
auction Thursday for almost $41,000.
The copy of the hardback first edition of ''Harry Potter and the Philosopher's
Stone,'' published in 1997 and signed ''Joanne Rowling'' on the back of the
title page, was sold to an anonymous private bidder for $40,326 at Christie's
At a London auction in May, a copy of ''Philosopher's Stone'' inscribed with a
personal dedication to the owner sold for more than $55,000, including buyer's
The book was published by Bloomsbury PLC with an initial print run of about 500
copies. Many were purchased by libraries, making copies in good condition
It was published in the United States in 1998 as ''Harry Potter and the
Sorcerer's Stone,'' and the boy wizard soon became a publishing phenomenon.
The seventh and final installment in Harry's adventures, ''Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows,'' was published in July. The seven books have sold nearly 400
million copies and have been translated into 64 languages.
Harry Potter First
Edition Auctioned, NYT, 26.10.2007,
Long Lines and Wide Smiles
Greet the Final Volume of ‘Harry
July 21, 2007
The New York Times
By MOTOKO RICH
There has never been anything quite like it, and nobody knows whether there
ever will be again.
The Harry Potter phenomenon reached its tumultuous climax this morning as “Harry
Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final installment in the hugely
popular series by J. K. Rowling went on sale at 12:01 a.m.
Parties to herald the arrival proliferated around the city and across the
country. At the Barnes & Noble in Union Square in Manhattan, lines snaked around
the block as police officers ordered fans off the street. Downtown in SoHo at
the McNally Robinson Bookstore, an adults-only group swilled “magic punch.” And
at the Borders at Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, fans who had been given
numbered wristbands earlier in the day thronged around the front of the store at
midnight. “Are we ready for Harry Potter?” yelled the manager. “Yea!” the crowd
Pilyoung Yoo, 41, won a raffle for the first place in line. “It’s so amazing,”
she said. After snagging their copy, her son Ted Yoo, 9, opened it to page 705.
He wanted to find out how it ends.
In London, where the book went on sale five hours before New Yorkers could get
their hands on a copy, Tineke Dijkstra, a 15-year-old fan from the Netherlands,
had waited in line outside the Waterstone’s in Piccadilly Circus for two days to
ensure that she was one of the first ones to buy the book. “I slept three hours
in the last two days in the rain,” she said after emerging from the store with
her copy. “I’m going to go and read one chapter and then go to sleep.”
Throughout the day in New York and elsewhere, booksellers readied for their
biggest party of the year by putting the finishing touches on cauldrons,
replicas of series locales like Diagon Alley, and Potter-themed snacks and
drinks like “golden snitch” balls and butterbeer.
It was a day when fans lined up for hours, dressed up as their favorite
characters, and braced for all-night reading sessions of the final volume in the
series that has chronicled the magical adventures of the boy wizard, his
education at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and his epic battles
against the evil Lord Voldemort.
In London, nearly 500 fans wrapped around several city blocks by 8 p.m., waiting
to get into Waterstone’s, many eating pizza and chanting, “Good will prevail!”
By 11:30, the mob had worked into a pandemonium of excitement, shouting, “Only
half an hour to go!” and singing, “J.K., J.K., thank you!” The street outside
the store was so clogged with revelers that cars and buses could only pass
through one lane.
In SoHo in Manhattan, Chelsea Logan, 17, and Leah Wickman, 18, two recent high
school graduates from Santa Rosa, Calif., arrived at 7:30 a.m. yesterday to sit
on the corner of Prince and Mercer Streets, up the block from the headquarters
of Scholastic, the United States publisher of the series, to mark their places
as first in line to buy their copies of “Deathly Hallows.”
“We were terrified that we were going to get here and there would be, like, this
line,” said Ms. Wickman, sporting a T-shirt with the crest of Gryffindor, the
Hogwarts house where Harry and his closest friends have lived for most of the
Two years after the sixth book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
Prince,” set sales records, the publishers were expecting “Deathly Hallows” to
do it again. Scholastic, the United States publisher (Bloomsbury publishes it in
Britain), has printed 12 million copies, and Barnes & Noble and Borders each had
pre-orders of 1.5 million copies; on Amazon.com, nearly 2.3 million copies had
been ordered worldwide.
Over the decade since the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,”
appeared in Britain (as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”), the series
has become a publishing sensation. More than 325 million copies have sold around
the world, spawning movies, collectible figurines, souvenir candies and most of
all, a passionate fan base that is about to conclude what for many of them has
been the greatest reading experience of their lives.
“I am quite bereft at the fact that it’s over,” said Lauren Calihman as she
waited for a wristband that would give her a priority place in line at the
Barnes & Noble in Union Square in Manhattan. “I began reading when I was in
fifth grade, and now I’m a sophomore in college, so it’s been a lifelong
Ms. Calihman, 19, was decked out in Potter regalia, with owlish glasses and her
version of a Hogwarts uniform: a button-down shirt, gray sweater dress and
necktie. During a week in which spoilers leaked across the Internet, photos of
the entire book appeared on file-sharing sites, and some newspapers, including
The New York Times, published early reviews, Ms. Calihman studiously avoided any
blogs or news reports that featured spoilers about the book. “I cover my ears
when people talk about it,” she said.
But down at “Harry Potter Place,” a cobblestone stretch of Mercer Street in SoHo
that Scholastic had turned into a street fair with jugglers, face painting and a
huge model of the Whomping Willow, Renesandy Diaz, 15, confessed that he had
read the ending of “Deathly Hallows” online earlier this week and learned who
died. “I was upset, because I know how hard J. K. Rowling’s worked and it’s
disappointing to see pirates put the book online,” he said. He still planned to
buy a copy and read it through “until I drop.”
The “Harry Potter” books have not only transported a generation of children, but
charmed adults, too, who got into the spirit of the Friday-night parties. In
Peninsula, Ohio, where the entire town had transformed itself into a
Potter-themed village, Stacy Sadar, 39, an executive recruiter from Richfield,
Ohio, dressed up as Lord Voldemort and brought her horse, Moonshine, costumed as
Voldemort’s snake sidekick, the Basilisk.
So what did Ms. Sadar think would happen to her character in “Deathly Hallows?”
“Oh, I’m going to die,” she said. “I’m not even going to live through the night.
I’m very upset about that.”
On the West Coast of the United States, the Pacific time zone was working
against readers who wanted to remain in the dark on the plot (“Deathly Hallows”
went on sale there three hours after its debut in New York). At Cover to Cover,
an independent bookstore in San Francisco, Mark Ezarik, the owner, said most
fans were trying to figure out how to avoid spoilers. “Fans are trying to stay
away from the Internet,” he said. “They don’t even want to talk to anyone.
Everyone is terrified about learning what happens even before they have the
For booksellers, the new “Harry Potter” is clearly the biggest release of the
year. But because of major discounting, many will not make a huge profit on the
book. But while margins on “Harry Potter” are thin, “it brings a whole lot of
people into the store,” said George L. Jones, the chief executive of Borders
Group, as staff members at the chain’s Time Warner Center store prepared for its
huge shindig. “It entices them to buy something else.”
With the series drawing to its much-heralded close, it was clear that future
generations will come to the books without the hoopla that has defined them
since 2000, when the publishers first set a midnight release for the fourth
installment, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”
“I think there is something that is extremely special about having lived through
the first wave,” said Arthur A. Levine, the Scholastic editor who first bought
the United States rights to “Sorcerer’s Stone” in 1997 for $105,000. “But when I
read Jane Austen for the first time, I didn’t feel like ‘Darn, I wish I’d been
there when Jane was out there letting them go for the first time.’ ” At the end
of the day, he said, a reader’s “experience is a special, one-on-one intimate
experience whenever you have it.”
Melena Ryzik and Emilyn Sosa contributed reporting from New York, Sarah
Lyall and Ariana Green from London, Christopher Maag from Cleveland, Dan Frosch
from Denver and Carolyn Marshall from San Francisco.
Long Lines and Wide
Smiles Greet the Final Volume of ‘Harry Potter’, NYT, 21.7.2007,
Wait for Harry Potter Finale
July 21, 2007
Filed at 1:24 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK (AP) -- Anna Todd and Kelsey Barry, both 20, jumped up and down,
screaming and hugging as they touched their Harry Potter books and smelled them
as if handling a newborn baby. ''It smells like fresh parchment,'' said Barry,
among the first in line at the Barnes & Noble in Manhattan's Union Square. ''It
smells like magic.''
For the last time, Potter dust sparkled worldwide. Like castles lowering their
drawbridges, bookstores across Britain and the United States and as far away as
Singapore and Sydney, unveiled their copies Saturday of ''Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows,'' the seventh and final volume of the young wizard's
Eager readers, many of whom had lined up for hours, rushed from the tills,
opening the thick hardback book to take in the opening words: ''The two men
appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.''
Inside were answers readers have waited long to learn and that J.K. Rowling and
her publishers have labored, more than they desired, to keep secret. Will Harry
kill evil Lord Voldemort, or die in the attempt? Who will be slain in the battle
between the good guys and the wicked Death Eaters? And what are deathly hallows,
After obtaining a copy at a Singapore bookstore, Adela Lim, 16, flipped right to
the end of the book, scanned the text furiously and exclaimed to her friends,
''Oh my god! Oh my god!''
''I am aghast at the ending,'' she said. ''I've waited since the first book all
the way until now, so I can't wait anymore, I just want to find out the
Rowling, who a decade ago introduced her magical character in ''Harry Potter and
the Sorcerer's Stone,'' was giving a midnight reading to 500 competition-winning
children in the grand Victorian surroundings of London's Natural History Museum.
Now richer than the queen, she sat in a large wing-backed chair and read the
opening pages -- description of a mysterious assignation, a clandestine meeting
and important news for Voldemort.
For many of the hardcore Potter-maniacs, the place to be was Waterstone's
bookstore on Piccadilly in central London. More than 5,000 people lined up for
hours before the midnight opening, in a festive, colorful line stretching around
the block. Among the fans from as far away as Finland and Mexico were dozens of
witches and wizards, a couple of house elves, a pair of owls and a woman dressed
as Hogwarts castle.
Ken Zwier, 42, from Phoenix, Ariz., grew and bleached his hair to achieve the
golden tresses of villain Lucius Malfoy. His wife and two daughters were in
costume, too. The family planned to read the book aloud to one another on their
flight back to the United States on Saturday.
Waiters at a bookstore in downtown Rome served customers colorful Potter-themed
cocktails, a green one called ''Serpeverde'' -- Italian for Slytherin -- and an
orange one named ''Grifondoro'' -- Gryffindor.
The passion for Potter was almost life-threatening. In Canberra, Australia, a
21-year-old man jumped into the frigid waters of Lake Burley Griffin on Friday
afternoon to retrieve a pre-order voucher he had dropped. Paramedics found the
man shivering and distressed -- and without the voucher, Emergency Services
spokesman Darren Cutrupi said. He was given another voucher by the bookstore.
Rowling's books about the bespectacled orphan with the lightning-bolt scar have
sold 325 million copies in 64 languages, and the launch of each new volume has
become a Hollywood-scale extravaganza.
''Deathly Hallows'' has a print run of 12 million in the United States alone,
and Internet retailer Amazon says it has taken 2.2 million orders for the book.
Britain's Royal Mail says it will deliver 600,000 copies on Saturday; the U.S.
Postal Service says it will ship 1.8 million.
Potter-mania spread throughout the globe. Tel Aviv's Steimatzky bookstore was
due to open at 2:01 a.m. local time Saturday, defying criticism from Orthodox
Jewish lawmakers for opening on the Sabbath, when the law requires most
businesses in Israel to close.
Phnom Penh's Monument Books -- Cambodia's only outlet for the book -- expected
its allotment of 224 copies to sell out within hours.
Portland, Maine, was going all-out with a 12-hour Mugglefest to celebrate the
book's launch. Fans wearing cloaks and carrying wands were riding the Hogwarts
Express into a re-creation of King's Cross station, and an old red-brick
warehouse foundry along the city's waterfront was converted into the magical
shopping street Diagon Alley.
Security for the launch was fist-tight, with books shipped in sealed pallets and
legal contracts binding stores not to sell the book before the midnight release
But despite pleas from Rowling and leading fan sites, spoilers sprouted on the
Internet in the days before the release, including photographed images of what
turned out to be all 700-plus pages of the book's U.S. edition.
In France, the daily Le Parisien revealed how the final installment ends, in a
small article which it printed upside down. The book's French publishing house,
Gallimard Jeunesse, condemned the newspaper's revelation, saying it showed ''a
total lack of respect for J.K. Rowling'' and ''disdain for readers.''
As many as 1,200 copies were shipped early in the United States by an online
retailer, and two U.S. newspapers published reviews Wednesday, more than two
days ahead of the official release.
Rowling said she was ''staggered'' by the embargo-busting reviews and called on
fans to preserve the secrecy of the plot.
But she had little reason to complain about what critics actually said.
''Deathly Hallows'' has received universal raves, with The New York Times and
The Associated Press among those praising it as a worthy conclusion to a classic
Fifteen-year-old Patrick Atkins of Twinsburg, Ohio, thought Harry would survive
the final book, believing Rowling would come up with an unexpected ending. He
avoided the Internet spoilers, as did Wayne Kelley, who walked through downtown
Hudson, Ohio, dressed, quite convincingly, as snide Severus Snape.
''I will wait until I have the actual book in my hands,'' he said.
Associated Press writers Jill Lawless,
Lindsay Toler and Romina Spina
London, Colleen Long in New York and correspondents
around the world contributed
to this report.
Wait for Harry Potter
Finale Has Ended, NYT, 21.7.2007,
Harry Potter and the man
who conjured up Rowling's millions
As the last Hogwarts book appears,
the author's multi-millionaire
will stay in the shadows
Sunday July 15, 2007
When midnight strikes on Saturday, there will be no missing the star of the
show. JK Rowling, the world's most successful author, will be the centre of
attention for 1,700 children at London's Natural History Museum as she signs
copies of the seventh and final Harry Potter adventure.
Throughout the canny construction of 'Brand Potter' - books, films, video
games, and now even stamps - one figure has been ever present, like a shadow
glimpsed in the cloisters of Hogwarts school.
This enigmatic but utterly crucial influence is Christopher Little, literary
agent, fierce protector of Rowling and, thanks to the boy wizard, now a
millionaire many times over.
Little has masterminded Rowling's career, from the moment he spotted the
potential of her first manuscript to this week's publication of Harry Potter and
the Deathly Hallows, which guarantees him yet another jackpot. Amazon, the
online retailer, has already sold a record 1.8 million advance copies.
Rowling's publisher, Bloomsbury, held a ballot for the launch at the Natural
History Museum, which drew applications from 90,000 children. The first 500
names out of the hat will hear Rowling read from the new book at midnight -
webcast live around the world - while a further 1,200 will receive signed
copies. Simultaneously, 279 branches of Waterstone's will open their doors, and
there will be numerous other launch parties at independent bookshops up and down
the country. This week the Royal Mail is issuing a commemorative set of Harry
Little, a 65-year-old grandfather, has been content to remain behind the scenes,
rarely speaking in public and seldom photographed. But when he first signed up
Rowling, he reportedly struck a deal under his usual terms: 15 per cent of gross
earnings for the UK market and 20 per cent for merchandising rights, for film,
for the US market and for translation deals. With the author's fortune now
standing at more than £540m, Little's return has to be estimated as at least
'He was the luckiest agent ever - when something like that falls in your lap it
is luck, but he made the most of it,' said Ed Victor, a leading literary agent.
'He has run the brand admirably. He had to build up an organisation to defend
and promote and advance his author's rights and it's all been done very
tastefully. He's a charming and affable fellow, but made of steel underneath.'
The son of a coroner who served as a First World War fighter pilot, Little grew
up in Liversedge, West Yorkshire, and gained five O-levels at Queen Elizabeth
Grammar School in Wakefield, only to leave during the sixth form to join his
uncle's textile business in 1958. The fledgling entrepreneur had impressed his
headteacher, EJ Baggaley, who wrote: 'My impression is that he is well suited
for a business career - sales management, for instance.'
He spent most of the Sixties and Seventies in the shipping industry in Hong Kong
before returning to London to set up a recruitment consultancy called City Boys.
His switch to the literary world happened by accident in 1979. A schoolfriend
and fellow Hong Kong trader, Philip Nicholson, had written a thriller and was
seeking representation. Little agreed to take him on and the book, Man on Fire,
was published under the pseudonym AJ Quinnell. It went on to sell 7.5 million
copies worldwide and become a Hollywood film.
In his only press interview, in 2003, Little recalled: 'The literary agency was
really a hobby which started through an accident. I was helping an old friend in
his writing career. I had been running as a full-time business for about six
years when Harry Potter arrived.'
The agency, run in 'cramped' and 'near-Dickensian' offices in Fulham, south-west
London, was cash-strapped until touched by Potter's magic wand. Literary
folklore has it that Rowling, then a penniless 29-year-old single mother, walked
into a public library in Edinburgh, looked up a list of literary agents and
settled on the name Christopher Little because it sounded like a character from
a children's book.
Bryony Evens, his office manager at the time, has said that it went straight
into the reject basket because 'Christopher felt that children's books did not
make money'. But its unusual black binding caught her eye, prompting her to read
the synopsis and show it to Little. He recalled: 'I wrote back to JK Rowling
within four days of receiving the manuscript. I thought there was something
really special there, although we could never have guessed what would happen to
it.' He managed to sell it to Bloomsbury for £2,500, but later reaped huge
rewards from international rights and has won a reputation as a brilliant
deal-maker who puts Rowling first.
According to those who know him, the 6ft 3in Little, divorced with two sons, is
unchanged by his wealth and a breed apart from the flamboyant agents and
literati who frequent West End restaurants. But he reportedly spent £250,000 on
his 60th birthday party at the Chelsea Physic Garden and has admitted: 'I do
love sailing, but I rent the boats when I want them - it does save a lot of
Ian Chapman, chief executive of Simon & Schuster and a friend of Little for 20
years, said: 'He's very Yorkshire, very northern, very honest and ... still the
same simple fellow he's always been.'
The Deathly Hallows: a sneak preview In a trailer for the forthcoming ITV
documentary, A Year in the Life... J K Rowling, the camera lingers long enough
on a printed manuscript of the novel, dated 23 October 2006, to make the opening
visible to the eagle eyed. It reads:
'Chapter One. The Dark Lord Ascending. The two men appeared out of nowhere, a
few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. For a second they stood quite
still, wands pointing at each other's chests: then, recognising each other, they
stowed their wands beneath their cloaks and set off, side by side, in the same
"News?", asked the taller of the two.
"The best," replied Snape.'
Harry in numbers
5 seconds between each pre-order on Amazon website - 1.8 million in total.
279 branches of the book chain Waterstone's holding launch parties at the stroke
of midnight on Saturday.
2,000 people expected in the queue at Waterstone's on Piccadilly, London.
24 hours and 1 minute: running time for the audio edition.
90 countries in which the book is being published.
7/4 odds from Ladbrokes on Harry Potter committing suicide at the end of Harry
Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Harry Potter and the man
who conjured up Rowling's millions, O, 15.7.2007,
Mo. Man Burns Books
as Act of Protest
May 28, 2007
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 5:26 a.m. ET
The New York Times
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Tom Wayne amassed thousands of books in a warehouse
during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero's Books. His
collection ranges from best sellers like Tom Clancy's ''The Hunt for Red
October'' and Tom Wolfe's ''Bonfire of the Vanities,'' to obscure titles like a
bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in
1910, didn't sell. But wanting to thin out his collection, he found he couldn't
even give away books to libraries or thrift shops, which said they were full. So
on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books protest what he sees as society's
diminishing support for the printed word.
''This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today,'' Wayne told spectators
outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.
The fire blazed for about 50 minutes before the Kansas City Fire Department put
it out because Wayne didn't have a permit to burn them.
Wayne said next time he will get a permit. He said he envisions monthly bonfires
until his supply -- estimated at 20,000 books -- is exhausted.
''After slogging through the tens of thousands of books we've slogged through
and to accumulate that many and to have people turn you away when you take them
somewhere, it's just kind of a knee-jerk reaction,'' he said. ''And it's a good
excuse for fun.''
Wayne said he has seen fewer customers in recent years as people more often get
their information from television or the Internet. He pointed to a 2002 study by
the National Endowment for the Arts, that found that less than half of adult
respondents reported reading for pleasure, down from almost 57 percent in 1982.
Kansas City has seen the number of used bookstores decline in recent years and
there are few independent bookstores left in town, said Will Leathem, a co-owner
of Prospero's Books.
''There are segments of this city where you go to an estate sale and find five
TVs and three books,'' Leathem said.
Dozens of customers took advantage of the Sunday's book-burning, searching
through those waiting to go into the fire for last-minute bargains.
Mike Bechtel paid $10 for a stack of books, including an antique collection of
children's literature, which he said he'd save for his 4-year-old son.
''I think given the fact it is a protest of people not reading books, it's the
best way to do it,'' Bechtel said. ''(Wayne has) made the point that not reading
a book is as good as burning it.''
Mo. Man Burns Books as
Act of Protest, NYT, 28.5.2007,
Wins Book Award for Fiction
November 16, 2006
The New York Times
By JULIE BOSMAN
“The Echo Maker,” an enigmatic novel by
Richard Powers that tells the story of a young man who develops a rare brain
disorder after an automobile accident, won the National Book Award for fiction
“The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American
Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan was the surprise winner of the top prize for
In the book, Mr. Egan, a former New York Times reporter who remains a frequent
contributor to the newspaper, gives an account of the dust storms that descended
on the Great Plains during the Depression.
“Abraham Lincoln said we cannot escape history, but this history of the Dust
Bowl nearly escaped us,” Mr. Egan, a third-generation Westerner, told a crowd of
more than 700 publishers, writers and editors.
As in recent years, the fiction category raised eyebrows in the publishing
industry for its lack of commercially known nominees in a year of big-name
The awards were presented at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan at a
black-tie ceremony, a splashy event drawing many of the most prominent names in
the book publishing industry.
Fran Lebowitz, the writer and humorist, was the evening’s host, appearing in her
trademark tuxedo and white pocket square, and drawing loud cheers when she
paused from poking fun at the show’s organizers to tweak President Bush and his
Winners each receive a bronze sculpture and $10,000, although the award’s
greatest benefit is often in increased sales, especially when little-known
authors are suddenly thrust into the spotlight. In addition to Mr. Powers, this
year’s finalists for fiction were Mark Z. Danielewski for “Only Revolutions”
(Pantheon), Ken Kalfus for “A Disorder Peculiar to the Country”
(Ecco/HarperCollins), Dana Spiotta for “Eat the Document” (Scribner/Simon &
Schuster) and Jess Walter for “The Zero” (Judith Regan Books/HarperCollins).
“The Echo Maker” was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Joining Mr. Egan as finalists for nonfiction were Taylor Branch for “At Canaan’s
Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68” (Simon & Schuster); Rajiv
Chandrasekaran for “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone”
(Alfred A. Knopf); Peter Hessler for “Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s
Past and Present” (HarperCollins); and Lawrence Wright for “The Looming Tower:
Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” (Alfred A. Knopf). Mr. Egan’s publisher was
Since 1989, the awards have been presented by the National Book Foundation, but
the prizes were first given in 1950, when Nelson Algren won the fiction award
for “The Man With the Golden Arm” and Ralph L. Rusk won the nonfiction prize for
“The Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson.”
In the intervening decades, the roster of winners has included Ralph Ellison for
“Invisible Man” in 1953; Norman Mailer for “The Armies of the Night: History as
a Novel, the Novel as History” in 1969; Saul Bellow for “Mr. Sammler’s Planet”
in 1971; William Styron for “Sophie’s Choice” in 1980; and Philip Roth for
“Sabbath’s Theater” in 1995.
Among last year’s winners were William T. Vollmann, who took the fiction honors
for “Europe Central,” and Joan Didion, who was given the nonfiction prize for
her memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
The winners are decided during a judges’ luncheon on the day of the awards. To
be eligible for this year’s awards, books must have been published between Dec.
1, 2005, and Nov. 30, 2006.
M. T. Anderson received the award for young people’s literature, for “The
Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox
Party” (Candlewick Press). The award for poetry went to Nathaniel Mackey for
“Splay Anthem” (New Directions Publishing).
Last night, the foundation also gave two lifetime achievement awards.
Sharing the Literarian Award for outstanding service to the American literary
community yesterday were Robert Silvers and, posthumously, Barbara Epstein,
co-founders and editors of The New York Review of Books. David Remnick, editor
of The New Yorker, presented the award.
Mr. Remnick called The New York Review of Books “never more necessary,” adding
that it is “a guide, an interpreter and a political inspiration in the darkest
Adrienne Rich, the author of several nonfiction books and nearly 20 volumes of
poetry, received the foundation’s medal for distinguished contribution to
American letters. In 1974, she won the National Book Award for poetry for
“Diving Into the Wreck.”
In her acceptance speech last night, Ms. Rich rebutted what she called the “free
market critique of poetry,” that the genre is unprofitable, and therefore
useless. But “when poetry lays its hand on our shoulder,” she said, “we can be,
to almost a physical degree, touched and moved.”
Maker’ Wins Book Award for Fiction, NYT, 16.11.2006,
Technology Rewrites the Book
July 20, 2006
The New York Times
By PETER WAYNER
When Steve Mandel, a management trainer from
Santa Cruz, Calif., wants to show his friends why he stays up late to peer
through a telescope, he pulls out a copy of his latest book, “Light in the Sky,”
filled with pictures he has taken of distant nebulae, star clusters and
“I consistently get a very big ‘Wow!’ The printing of my photos was spectacular
— I did not really expect them to come out so well.” he said. “This is as good
as any book in a bookstore.”
Mr. Mandel, 56, put his book together himself with free software from Blurb.com.
The 119-page edition is printed on coated paper, bound with a linen fabric hard
cover, and then wrapped with a dust jacket. Anyone who wants one can buy it for
$37.95, and Blurb will make a copy just for that buyer.
The print-on-demand business is gradually moving toward the center of the
marketplace. What began as a way for publishers to reduce their inventory and
stop wasting paper is becoming a tool for anyone who needs a bound document.
Short-run presses can turn out books economically in small quantities or singly,
and new software simplifies the process of designing a book.
As the technology becomes simpler, the market is expanding beyond the earliest
adopters, the aspiring authors. The first companies like AuthorHouse, Xlibris,
iUniverse and others pushed themselves as new models of publishing, with an eye
on shaking up the dusty book business. They aimed at authors looking for someone
to edit a manuscript, lay out the book and bring it to market.
The newer ventures also produce bound books, but they do not offer the same
hand-holding or the same drive for the best-seller list. Blurb’s product will
appeal to people searching for a publisher, but its business is aimed at anyone
who needs a professional-looking book, from architects with plans to present to
clients, to travelers looking to immortalize a trip.
Blurb.com’s design software, which is still in beta testing, comes with a number
of templates for different genres like cookbooks, photo collections and poetry
books. Once one is chosen, it automatically lays out the page and lets the
designer fill in the photographs and text by cutting and pasting. If the
designer wants to tweak some details of the template — say, the position of a
page number or a background color — the changes affect all the pages.
The software is markedly easier to use — although less capable — than InDesign
from Adobe or Quark XPress, professional publishing packages that cost around
$700. It is also free because Blurb expects to make money from printing the
book. Prices start at $29.95 for books of 1 to 40 pages and rise to $79.95 for
books of 301 to 440 pages.
Blurb, based in San Francisco, has many plans for expanding its software. Eileen
Gittins, the chief executive, said the company would push new tools for
“bookifying” data, beginning with a tool that “slurps” the entries from a blog
and places them into the appropriate templates.
The potential market for these books is attracting a number of start-ups and
established companies, most of them focusing on producing bound photo albums.
Online photo processing sites like Kodak Gallery (formerly Ofoto), Snapfish and
Shutterfly and popular packages like the iPhoto software from Apple let their
customers order bound volumes of their prints.
These companies offer a wide variety of binding fabrics, papers, templates and
background images, although the styles are dominated by pink and blue pastels.
Snapfish offers wire-bound “flipbooks” that begin at $4.99. Kodak Gallery offers
a “Legacy Photo Book” made with heavier paper and bound in either linen or
leather. It starts at $69.99. Apple makes a tiny 2.6-by-3.5-inch softbound book
that costs $3.99 for 20 pages and 29 cents for each additional page.
The nature and style of these options are changing as customers develop new
applications. “Most of the people who use our products are moms with kids,” says
Kevin McCurdy, a co-founder of Picaboo.com in Palo Alto, Calif. But he said
there had been hundreds of applications the company never anticipated: teachers
who make a yearbook for their class, people who want to commemorate a party and
businesses that just want a high-end brochure or catalog.
Picaboo, like Blurb, distributes a free copy of its book design software, which
runs on the user’s computer. Mr. McCurdy said that running the software on the
user’s machine saves users the time and trouble of uploading pictures. The
companies that offer Web-based design packages, however, point out that their
systems do not require installing any software and also offer a backup for the
As more companies enter the market, they are searching for niches. One small
shop in Duvall, Wash., called SharedInk.com, emphasizes its traditional
production techniques and the quality of its product. Chris Hickman, the
founder, said that each of his books was printed and stitched together by “two
bookbinders who’ve been in the industry for 30 or 40 years.” The result, he
said, is a higher level of quality that appeals to professional photographers
and others willing to pay a bit more. Books of 20 pages start at $39.95.
Some companies continue to produce black-and-white books. Lulu.com is a
combination printer and order-fulfillment house that prints both color and
black-and-white books, takes orders for them and places them with bookstores
Lulu works from a PDF file, an approach that forces users to rely on basic word
processors or professional design packages. If this is too complex, Lulu offers
a marketplace where book designers offer their services. Lulu does offer a
special cover design package that will create a book’s cover from an image and
handle the specialized calculations that compute the size of the spine from the
number of pages and the weight of the paper.
A 6-by-9-inch softcover book with 150 black-and-white pages from Lulu would cost
$7.53 per single copy.
These packages are adding features that stretch the concept of a book, in some
cases undermining the permanent, fixed nature that has been part of a book’s
appeal. The software from SharedInk.com, for instance, lets a user leave out
pages from some versions of the book. If Chris does not like Pat, for instance,
then the copy going to Chris could be missing the pages with Pat’s pictures.
Blurb is expanding its software to let a community build a book. Soon, it plans
to introduce a tool that would allow group projects, like a Junior League recipe
book, to be created through Blurb’s Web site. The project leader would send out
an e-mail message inviting people to visit the site and add their contributions
to customized templates, which would then be converted into book pages.
“Books are breaking wide open,” Ms. Gittins said. “Books are becoming vehicles
that aren’t static things.”
Technology Rewrites the Book, NYT, 20.7.2006,
July 24, 1916
A mythology is the work of a race
From the Guardian archive
Monday July 24, 1916
The Titans by Charles M. Doughty
This is an epic dealing with the creation of
the world, the battle of Titans against gods, their defeat and their final
subjugation in the service of man.
One does not find fault with Mr. Doughty for writing an epic. No literary genre,
once established, is ever outworn. But mythology is dangerous literary material.
It should be a mythology in which the author more or less believes or a
mythology in which some people once believed. A mythology cannot be created for
literary purposes out of whole cloth; it must be the work of a race.
Mr. Doughty's mythology lacks outline, it lacks tradition, and it lacks
concreteness. The theme suggests Milton and Keats. But Milton and Keats at their
best communicate a feeling, the one of titanic revolt, the other of titanic
silence and despondency.
When they fail they suggest Mr. Doughty. Mr. Doughty's Titans have bulk without
meaning. They have violence, but no passions.
Leaned to time-fretted cliffs/ Is entered weariness, in each marble corse.
In Hyperion the weariness is made actual; here it is stated. Bios and Kratos in
Prometheus Bound succeed because they are boldly and intentionally abstract, in
contrast with a passionate suffering human being. Eschylus never fell into the
error of the vague.
As for Mr. Doughty's style, one is puzzled. He aims at the ruggednes of the
Saxon tongue. If he were consistently Anglo-Saxon he might arrive at giving a
total impression, even employing, as he does, words of which one does not know
But there are heavy Latinisms too. One turns from the harsh "From the mount's
knees, up to his frozen breast:/ Eotons [sic] and time-giants strive mainly and
to "... the adamantine Elements couched indivisible particles ...".
One can enjoy a style of excess - Sir Thomas Browne,or Lyly, or Mr. Wyndham
Lewis, or Browning - if it is excess in a peculiar and exclusive direction.
Mr. Doughty's style is not archaic; it is not the style of any time or the style
of any intelligible pose; it is eccentric, but not personal. Thus it recalls
several writers without being imitative of them.
It recalls especially Blake, not the Blake of extraordinary creations of phrase
springing at a leap from the unconscious, but the Blake of such verse as
T. S. E.
[In 1916 the poet TS Eliot, aged 28,
was teaching at a Highgate school
and was a
year away from publishing Prufrock]
the Guardian archive > July 24, 1916 >
A mythology is the work of a race,
Related > Anglonautes >
Related > Anglonautes >