Sunday, October 25, 2009

Media week 43: Reviews, Kindle, Celebrity Authors, Jeff Archer, Pearson, Nabokov

(I know I have been remiss in posting this week - I hate it when work intrudes). Most of these have not appeared on the twitter (by me at least).

Sir Peter Stothard, Editor of the Times Literary Supplement, visits Princeton for a discussion on book reviews (TLS):
I brought some figures to the meeting, prepared in London by our Managing Editor and writer on contemporary poetry, Robert Potts, assisted, I should say, by some numerate summer interns. The team had taken for analysis a twelve month period to April this year and four other loosely comparative titles, the New York Times section, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books and The Guardian.

These showed that of the 1832 books reviewed by the TLS in this time, 73 per cent were not reviewed by any of the other publications, 20 per cent were reviewed by one other, 5.6 per cent by two, one per cent by three - and that only seven books were reviewed by all five papers. I had not intended to publish these, being no statistician myself and ever nervous of the ill use that such numbers can be put. But one of our hosts was keen that I should - and to hosts as generous as those here it would be ungracious to say no. So there they are.

The small number of books reviewed by all was a surprise. Probably it would benefit from deeper appraisal. Seven shared titles is a strong counter to those who accuse book reviewers of a herd mentality to all review the same things. It would suggest,however, that there may be too little acceptance of a common canon, too little confident gate-keeping. Those newspaper owners and editors who cut back on book coverage might be more impressed if there were greater agreement on what is good.

I may have commented on this one before, nevertheless here is commentary on a book about Evelyn Waugh and the background to Brideshead Revisited (TLS):

This is particularly unfortunate because the reader’s faith in Byrne’s reliability is undermined by a number of errors and misapprehensions in her text. She claims that there was no Baedeker for Berlin in 1931 (an English-language edition, frequently revised, had been available since 1903); believes the Lord Chamberlain controlled film censorship; and imagines “crabs” to be “a sexual disease” rather than an infestation of lice. Noël Coward was not, as she states, a Roman Catholic, and Forthampton Court was the family home of Henry Green, not of his “in-laws”. More worrying, her grasp of Waugh’s work is not always as sure as it ought to be. She repeatedly describes the Arts and Crafts chapels of both Madresfield Court and Brideshead Castle as “art deco”, and refers to the Flytes’ “startling beauty (like faces carved out of Aztec stone)” – an image inexpertly appropriated from the novel’s description of Sebastian’s less attractive older brother who has “the Flyte face, carved by an Aztec”. Paul Pennyfeather’s mistress in Decline and Fall, Margot Beste-Chetwynde, who is at least ten years his senior, is referred to as “the upper-class girl he adores”, and Apthorpe in the Sword of Honour trilogy is inexplicably bracketed with Trimmer and Brideshead’s Hooper as “the symbol of the new age of the common man – half-educated, blasé, an insensitive bore”.

Though clearly entranced by Waugh’s world, Byrne is not entirely at home in it, and her book contains some jarring failures of register.
The Times takes a look at Amazon's European strategy for the Kindle and is frustrated (TimesOnline):
Why it is so hard for Amazon to price its product locally, and at least ship a load to the UK remains a bit of a mystery. Apple seems to manage all right, selling iPods for pounds, and a conversation with Amazon’s Steve Kessel, the company’s senior vice president of Kindle business, leaves the caller none the wiser. He simply repeats how Amazon is focused on a “great customer experience” — indeed — and how it is a major achievement to create a device that can download electronic books and newspapers over the air in 100 countries without any cost to the Kindle owner in terms of phone bills. The last point is fair enough, but it doesn’t really absolve Amazon the responsibility of trying to flog the Kindle on its UK website, or even, dare one say it, Tesco, where it might just attract a few more owners. But perhaps Amazon is desperate to cut costs.
10,000 less words probably makes this more appealing: Jeff Archer rewrites Kane and Able. In the interests of full disclosure, I did consume this in the summer of 1979 sitting by the pool and importantly, I was entertained. (Telegraph)
To celebrate the milestone, Archer has returned to the novel, and substantially re-written it. He has explained that, with the benefit of 30 years’ experience in the writing game, he can see that the pacing and prose needed tightening. This “re-crafting” of the book took him nine months and involved cutting nearly 10,000 words. He has switched around the order of chapters, but is keen to make it clear that the plot remains exactly the same.
I'm a celebrity get me a book deal! Controversy over the 'success' of Katie Price et al (Telegraph):

Even before La Plante got to the microphone, McCutcheon’s appearance had made our toes curl. Alan Davis, the host for the evening, asked her how she had found the experience of writing her novel. She said something like: “Yeah, it were great.”

They do this, you see. When asked in interviews how they managed to find the time, what with their busy schedule of OK! spreads and premieres, these celebrities — Sharon Osbourne, Coleen Nolan and Cheryl Cole are also bringing out novels — will happily babble on about how they had to discipline themselves to write the customary 1,000 words a day. As if. The novel, or rather the literary novel, is an art form, and writing one requires a degree of creativity, intellectual engagement and, yes, discipline, with a writer often spending many soul-searching years getting it right.

Pearson upgrades forecasts after boost to education (Telegraph)
Dame Marjorie Scardino, chief executive, said: "We began 2009 in a cautious mood, wary of the impact of the global economic crisis. We have now seen enough of it to say that, though no part of Pearson has been untouched, the company as a whole has proved its strength."
The final twist in Nabokov's untold story (Guardian):
Vladimir Nabokov was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Now, 30 years after his death, his last novel is finally to be published. But should it be? On the eve of his death, fearing it was imperfect, he instructed his wife to destroy the manuscript, sparking a fierce controversy that embroiled family, friends and the literary establishment, writes Robert McCrum
Ian Rankin goes bar hoping in Edinburgh (Guardian):

Edinburgh has always seemed to me a furtive place. Throughout history it has made its money from invisible industries such as banking and insurance. And while the city has been known to celebrate its success stories (the Scott Monument) and flag up folly (the unfinished "Parthenon" on Calton Hill), it is not a place where people flaunt their talents. You don't see many Ferraris – the wealth sits quietly behind the New Town's thick Georgian walls.

It was once called a city of "public probity and private vice" and this still rings true, though the "probity" tag has lost some lustre since the near-collapse of Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the city's biggest employers. But visitors to Edinburgh, if they stick to the main tourist routes, will be seeing only the city's most public side. Travel just a little further afield and you can widen your appreciation. That's why, on a blustery day, I set out from the Oxford Bar for a walk

No comments: