Sunday, May 23, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 21: Larsson all the Time, Pearson, Exile, Appetizers, British Library.

The insert in the NYTimes this morning notes that The Girl the Kicked the Hornet's Nest is available on Tuesday for $16. In addition to that piece of good news the papers are full of articles about the author and the book series. Not too much new but the Times magazine has a good review of the state of play vis a vis the status of the supposed fourth title and the internecine battles between Larsson's family and his non-wife life companion (Times):

Larsson died in November 2004 — at age 50 — before any of the novels were published and with little clue to just how successful they would be. Like Blomkvist, he was a journalist, well known in certain circles for his campaign against right-wing extremism in Sweden, but hardly a household name. “To introduce a brand-new crime novelist like this, someone who is unknown, our goal was to sell 20,000 copies, but we thought 10,000 would be marvelous,” Eva Gedin, Larsson’s editor at the Swedish publishing house Norstedts, told me recently. “You could never imagine that the books would do so well.”

Larsson began “Dragon Tattoo” while on vacation in the summer of 2002, thinking of it as a kind of pension fund for himself and Eva Gabrielsson, the woman he lived with. He actually had a series of 10 books in mind, she says. The money from the first three would go to them, they figured, and the rest they would give to charity. Remarkably, he displayed none of the anxiety and impatience typical of first-time novelists and finished two entire books and most of a third before he submitted any of them to a publisher. He considered all three novels a single text and at one point wanted to number the chapters of the second and third volumes consecutively. Gedin says that Larsson never seemed in any doubt about their worth.

His was not a view widely shared. Mikael Ekman, a friend and protégé of Larsson’s who collaborated with him on a nonfiction book, recalls sitting with Larsson one night in 2001. “We were drinking a little too much whiskey,” he told me, “and Stieg started talking about what he’d do when he was too old to work anymore. He said, ‘I will write a couple of books and become a millionaire.’ I laughed at him. I thought he was crazy.”

Kurdo Baksi, another friend, had pretty much the same reaction a year later when Larsson told him he had written a thriller and offered to show him the manuscript. Baksi declined, saying: “Stieg, I don’t think you’re so good at literature. It’s not your business.” Baksi told me: “I thought he was joking. His talent was for writing about Stalin, Lenin, Bush — not for thrillers.”

(I liked that end quote - surely there were several leaders left out).

There was also a shorter article contemplating the genesis of the character Salander (Times):
An old colleague of Mr. Larsson’s has said they once talked about how certain characters from children’s books would manage and behave if they were older. Mr. Larsson especially liked the idea of a grown-up Pippi, a dysfunctional girl, probably with attention deficit disorder, who would have had a hard time finding a place in society but would nonetheless take a firm hand in directing her own destiny. That musing led to the creation of Lisbeth Salander, the central character in Mr. Larsson’s trilogy. So how does Lisbeth compare to Pippi, the creation of the earlier Swedish author Astrid Lindgren?
Ben Ratliff likes what he hears on the re-issue of the Stones' Exile on Main Street (Times):
It is often called one of the best rock records ever made, and framed as an after-the-fact concept album: a wise horror show, an audio diary of rock stars finally facing the rigors of marriage, children and addiction. (“ ‘Exile’ is about casualties, and partying in the face of them,” the critic Lester Bangs wrote in 1972. “The party is obvious. The casualties are inevitable.”) The notion of the record as story also comes from the strong documentary images around its creation— Dominique Tarlé’s black-and-white pictures of the Stones at Villa Nellcôte, shirtless and dazed in the stifling air of a basement in the South of France. These images dot the 64-page booklet and the DVD film included in the reissue’s deluxe edition and have been part of the avalanche of press around the reissue, released by Universal on Tuesday.

Recently, thinking about this alternate “Loving Cup” and why it’s not on the original album made me wonder what the ideal of “Exile” really is. I find most of “Exile” good, but not great. (That era of Stones music, fantastic. The album, not so much.) I can’t see it as a masterpiece, not only because I distrust the idea of masterpieces, but because I especially don’t want one from the Stones, who make songs and albums like birds’ nests — collaborative tangles with delicate internal balances — and have a history of great triage work, assembling bits and pieces recorded over a long period. But “Exile” remains the preference of the most judicious Stones fans. Why? What is its essence?

Pearson is buying another learning company (London Times):

Pearson is to buy one of Britain’s largest vocational training companies for £99.3 million.

The publisher of Penguin books and the Financial Times said that the acquisition of Melorio, which runs courses and arranges apprenticeships for more than 15,000 people a year, would boost its educational business. Melorio has a particularly big presence in ICT, construction and logistics and focuses on school-leavers and adult learners.

Pearson said that it would combine its educational publishing, technology and assessments business with Melorio’s training expertise to offer a better service to learners and employers. The deal should also allow Melorio to expand more quickly outside Britain.

This weekend's Cory Doctorow article in the Observer:
My Books are free.
The WSJ invents the term 'literary appetizer' and reports on publishers using unique content to engage future book buyers - Gosh! (WSJ):
On June 1, Toronto-based Harlequin Enterprises, a unit of media company Torstar Corp., intends to give away e-book copies of Julie Kagawa's "Winter's Passage." The 15,000-word novella will serve as a link between Ms. Kagawa's February debut novel, "The Iron King," and her second teen novel, "The Iron Daughter," which goes on sale July 27.
The 6,000-word piece, "The Balkan Escape," is too short to have been published as a paperback original. In effect, it is a literary appetizer, inexpensive enough to attract potential readers who might otherwise not be willing to buy a new novel from an author whose works they haven't yet read, said Mr. Berry.
James Murdoch is upset about the British Library digitizing their newspaper content. Warning graphic image. (Independent):
Mr Murdoch was responding to the library's announcement this week that it would digitise its archive, which aims to be a complete record of British regional and national newspapers. "This is not simply being done for posterity, nor to make free access for library users easier, but also for commercial gain via a paid-for website," he said. "The move is strongly opposed by major publishers."
Less reported, the photographers got in on the act as well (Register):

For Stop 43's Paul Ellis, this is "Big Culture" - what he calls the powerful galleries, museums, and quangos like the Arts Council - taking the mickey.

"It's clear now that the whole orphan works programme is one big supertanker, taking just as long to turn and stop," Ellis told us. "The British Library's statement reads as if Clause 43 had been enacted. Unfortunately for them, the supertanker has a new captain.

"Big Culture has looked at Google and wants to do the same thing. They just want to get on digitizing and build up a head of steam. Then nobody will be able to do anything about it." The wrinkle is that newspaper copyright is far from straightforward. Only unsigned articles lapse from copyright after seventy years. For bylined pieces and photographs it's life plus 70. And since a newspaper is a bundle of all three, it's a complex picture.

The AP report of the British Library proposal to scan their newspaper collection (AP):
The British Library said Wednesday it was digitizing up to 40 million pages of newspapers, including fragile dailies dating back three and a half centuries.

Once digitized, the British newspapers documenting local, regional and national life spanning to the 1700s will be fully searchable and accessible online, the national library said.

The vast majority of the British Library's 750 million pages of newspapers — the largest collections in the world — are currently available only on microfilm or bound in bulky volumes. Thousands of researchers have to make a trip to an archive building just outside London to look through them.

The library said it would focus on digitizing newspapers documenting historical events in the 19th century, including the Crimean War, the Boer War and the suffragette movement. It also aimed to build material in the fields of family history and genealogy, as well as safeguard the future of the vast archive.

In sport, England won their first international cricketing trophy "Harrah" (Guardian). Mourinho will be on £10million a year at Real Madrid (Times).

In food (a new category), Nigel Slater's pork pie recipe (Observer).

I've been off the twitter for two weeks now. Have I missed it - I'm not sure....

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