Friday, November 30, 2007

Books to Make Spirits Bright

Published New York Times , November 30, 2007

Here is information about the books included in William Grimes's 2007 Holiday Gift Guide:

THE ANNOTATED HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN, edited with an introduction and notes by Maria Tatar (W. W. Norton & Company); illustrated; 449 pages; $35.

BEARS: A BRIEF HISTORY, by Bernd Brunner (Yale University Press); illustrated; 259 pages; $25.

THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF PULPS, edited by Otto Penzler (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard); illustrated; 1,150 pages, paperback; $25.

THE BOOK OF GENERAL IGNORANCE: EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW IS WRONG, by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson (Harmony Books); illustrated; 266 pages; $19.95.

THE COMPLETE PICTURE PUZZLE BOX SET (Life Books); illustrated; three paperback books; $24.95.


THE GREAT AMERICAN CHRISTMAS BOOK, compiled and edited by Aaron Schlechter (Overlook Press); illustrated; 320 pages; $17.95.

THE HISTORY OF THE SNOWMAN, by Bob Eckstein (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, Simon & Schuster); illustrated; 177 pages; $14.95.

HOW TO BUILD AN IGLOO AND OTHER SNOW SHELTERS, by Norbert E. Yankielun (W. W. Norton & Company); illustrated; paperback; 148 pages; $17.95.

THE LANDMARK HERODOTUS: THE HISTORIES, edited by Robert B. Strassler (Pantheon); illustrated; 959 pages. $45.

1001 GARDENS YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE, edited by Rae Spencer-Jones (Barron’s); illustrated; 960 pages; $34.99.

SCOUTS IN BONDAGE: AND OTHER VIOLATIONS OF LITERARY PROPRIETY, edited by Michael Bell (Simon & Schuster); illustrated; 96 pages; $15.

30,000 YEARS OF ART: THE STORY OF HUMAN CREATIVITY ACROSS TIME AND SPACE (Phaidon); illustrated; 1,064 pages; $49.95.

TOP 10 OF EVERYTHING 2008, by Russell Ash (Sterling Publishing); illustrated; 256 pages; $24.95.

WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING?: 23 QUESTIONS FROM GREAT PHILOSOPHERS, by Leszek Kolakowski; translated by Agnieszka Kolakowska (Basic Books); 223 pages; $20.

Lessing unable to attend Nobel ceremony

Report from The Guardian.

Doris Lessing is unable to travel to Stockholm to receive her Nobel prize for literature on December 10 due to back problems.
Instead, the Nobel foundation will present the £766,000 prize to the 87-year-old British writer in London, after medical advisers told her not to travel.
In London, Lessing's representative, Olivia Guest, confirmed the cancellation had "to do with her back".
Lessing had been invited to collect the award at the ceremony in Stockholm along with the Nobel winners in chemistry, physics, medicine and economics on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel 1896.

The Nobel peace prize is presented in Oslo, Norway, on the same date.
Literature prize winners traditionally give a lecture in Stockholm before accepting the award.
Lessing's lecture would be prerecorded and shown at the academy on
December 7, the foundation said.
Guest said she hoped Lessing would be able to record her lecture in London, but added that
plans to do so "aren't set in stone".
Lessing is the third literature laureate in the past four years to miss the Nobel festivities.
The 2005 winner, Harold Pinter, stayed home in Britain because of poor health. In 2004, Austria's Elfriede Jelinek declined the invitation, saying she was "not in a
mental shape to withstand such ceremonies".
Jean-Paul Sartre, in 1964, is the only winner to have turned down the literature award

Rowling gives OK for online Potter sequels

IT'S OK: JK Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter series, has given fans the ok to write their own continuing adventures of the boy wizard.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has given fans permission to write sequels to the hugely successful boy-wizard books, picking up the action after the series final installment, The Deathly Hallows.
The author - whose seven-book series about the young wizard has sold almost 400 million copies - will not take legal action against George Lippert, who wrote a follow-up to Harry's adventures on his website.

Under copyright laws Lippert could have been prosecuted for his actions.
Rowling's lawyers confirmed she is happy for spin-offs to be published online as long as the publications are not sold and it is made clear she was not involved in the stories.

She also requested the follow-ups do not contain pornography or racism.

Meanwhile, Rowling - who has seen the Harry Potter books turned into blockbuster movies - has been voted entertainer of the year by Entertainment Weekly magazine.
The publication insisted she deserved the title for getting "people to tote around her big, old-fashioned printed-on-paper books as if they were the hottest new entertainment devices on the planet".
The magazine also named George Clooney a "valedictorian" because he has "deftly balanced box-office viability with personal responsibility".

Barry Gustafson Auckland University Press NZ$60

Keith Holyoake seemed to be around for much of the first part of my working life, he was Prime Minister right through the 60’s into the 70’s and then in the late 70’s he was Governor General. He was a man with a remarkable memory for names which I saw evidence of on both occasions I met him during my bookselling days in Napier. He was also, along with his deputy and successor Jack Marshall, the last of the gentlemen Prime Ministers. Although he came across in the media as something of a pompous ass in fact when you met him he wasn’t like that at all.

This substantial new title, launched last week by one of Kiwi Keith’s later successors as Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, is a superb work of biography as one would expect from an experienced biographer and former political scientist Barry Gustafson. Gustafson has now written three biographies of Prime Ministers and they are I suggest three of the most influential New Zealand PM’s of the second half of the 20th century – Michael Joseph Savage, Robert Muldoon, and now Keith Holyoake….. he also has several political histories to his credit.

This is an important, significant book with loads of interesting photographs, (lots of nostalgia), very extensive author notes and as you would expect from a scholar and a university press a detailed bibliography and full index. And you’ll learn some quite surprising things about dear old Kiwi Keith.

Photo credit:EP-1977-4351, PACOLL-7327, Dom Post Collection, ATL.
What a delightful shot.

IN THE FRAME – HELEN MIRREN - My Life in Words and Pictures
Weidenfeld & Nicolson NZ$60

As is befitting one of the foremost actresses of our time this handsome book is littered with gorgeous photographs taken from every stage of Helen Mirren’s full and fascinating life. In fact there is probably more page space given over to illustration that to text. This does not detract from the book as the photos she has selected are simply sumptuous.
From her aristocratic Russian grandfather to her American film director husband, and of course with her spectacular career of stage and screen, the book is full of amazing experiences and fascinating characters. Her forthright style, liberated attitude and bohemian outlook, it is all here. A great read especially if you are a movie or theatre buff. I liked the full list of all her film, theatre and television provided at the end of the book.
Gorgeous cover. This one is going to find its way in to a lot of Christmas stockings.

Soffrito – a Delicious Ligurian Memoir
Lived by Lucio Galletto, Written by David Dale
Allen & Unwin NZ$60

And that delicious Ligurian memoir subtitle is most appropriate as this is indeed a delicious book.
I have to admit to not being aware of David Dale previously but it turns out he is a very high profile Australian journalist/broadcaster with three previous books to his credit including “Things Everyone Needs to Know About Italy”.
Lucio Galletto was born into a family of farmers and restaurateurs in north west Italy. He was studying architecture when he fell in love with a visiting Australian girl and moved to Sydney in 1981. They set up Lucio’s which has become one of Sydney’s most awarded Italian restaurants.
Every Italian cook has a soffritto – the “starter kit” of olive oil, herbs, garlic & other core ingredients from which a great dish is built. Lucio Galletto was in search of the soffritto of his life and in this new century he went back to his birthplace on a mission to understand the family , the food and the culture that prepared him to establish his successful restaurant in Paddington, Sydney, 17,000 kilometers away.
A profusely illustrated, charming story which includes a selection of recipes and a list of his recommended restaurants in Italy.

Stuart Strachan & Linda Tyler – Otago University Press –

Real treasures are contained in this stunning, delightful book. Wow, what a superb piece of publishing. It marks the centenary of the Hocken Collection’s’ Deed of Trust in 1907 and I have no doubt that the late Dr.T.M.Hocken would be delighted with both this book and the care and attention and expansion that has been lavished upon his magnificent collection of books, manuscripts, paintings and other historical documents relating to New Zealand and the Pacific that he donated so long ago.
The book documents almost 200 items dating from the seventeenth century to the present day photographed by specialist arts and culture photographer Bill Nichol.
Excellent introductory essays by independent historian Rachel Barrowman and Hocken Librarian Stuart Strachan.

New Zealand Children’s Books in Print 2007
Editor Crissi Blair Silvertone $16

Something much more utilitarian here with all children’s books, excepting text books and reading schemes, by New Zealand authors and illustrators currently in print, along with ISBNs, prices, and a brief synopsis. An invaluable guide for parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors and indeed anyone interested in New Zealand children’s literature. Also includes NZ chiildren’s book awards, publisher addreses, a comprehensive index and an order form so titles can be ordered from your local bookseller.
Cover by noted NZ children’s book illustrator Fraser Williamson.

Trevern & Anna Dawes Penguin Books $29.95

An impressive collection of photographs in this handsome little hardback which capture the fascinating and dramatic thermal and volcanic activity found in New Zealand’s central North Island including the caters of White Island, the mud pools of Rotorua, the hot springs of Mt.Tongariro and much more. One imagines the main market for this title will be our increasing number of tourists.
I would have welcomed more text as the quite brief introduction is barely adequate.

Coming to the rescue of children's books
Jane Nissen Books' reissues are an invaluable service to a forgetful publishing world

From Julia Eccleshare writing in The Guardian

Awards for "unsung heroes" are probably a very British thing, and none the worse for that. According to the citation, the Eleanor Farjeon award is presented annually "for distinguished service to the world of children's books and is given to someone whose commitment and contribution is deemed to be outstanding".

Set up in the 1960s, a purple period for children's books, it went initially, though unofficially, to those who were, in modern parlance, "advocates" of children's books. They were rewarded for contributing to their promotion and the serious discussion about them. And they went to people who were not actually earning a living from them - in a way, the award was an "instead of ... "
But things have changed in the intervening decades, and this year the award has been given to Jane Nissen Books, a niche publishing company which brings back into print some of the undeservedly lost titles of the 20th century.

Jane Nissen, a former associate publisher at Penguin Children's Books, set up her list in 1998 immediately after her retirement and launched with her first titles in 2000. Guided in part by her own childhood favourites, including BB's Brendon Chase (her edition of which has a foreword by Philip Pullman, another fan) Nissen also selected titles that others had recommended.

Asking around, she found that time and again, the same titles came up - a point borne out by the fact that TH White's Mistress Masham's Repose, one of her launch titles, is a favourite book of Anne Fine (who has written the preface) and also of Terry Pratchett. Her titles are an eclectic bunch: Eric Linklater's The Wind on the Moon and The Pirates in the Deep Green Sea; Arthur Ransome's Old Peter's Russian Tales, Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon's Kings and Queens; and, most recently and to my own particular delight, Catherine's Storr's Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf, to name but a few. Her reissue of two lesser-known novels by Milly-Molly-Mandy author Joyce Lankester Brisley, Bunchy and Marigold in Grandmother's House caused an Amazon reviewer to write, "I think Jane Nissen Books should be designated a real, live Fairy Godmother, because, after treasuring from childhood my original copy of this book, I lost it and had thought that I'd never be able to lay my hands on another. Thank goodness it's been brought back!"

Nissen's success lies in her absolute familiarity with the field: she has an unerring sense of what was successful because of its time, and what has enduring appeal. Champions of out-of-print books are invaluable and will become even more so as books go out of print with increasing, almost indecent haste.
Congratulations from Bookman Beattie to Jane Nissen, a former coilleague from Penguin Books days.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


According to The New York Times


MAN GONE DOWN By Michael Thomas. Black Cat/Grove/Atlantic, paper, $14.

OUT STEALING HORSESBy Per Petterson. Translated by Anne Born. Graywolf Press, $22.

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVESBy Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.

THEN WE CAME TO THE ENDBy Joshua Ferris. Little, Brown & Company, $23.99.

TREE OF SMOKEBy Denis Johnson. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.


IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY: Inside Iraq's Green Zone.By Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95; Vintage, paper, $14.95.

LITTLE HEATHENS: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression.By Mildred Armstrong Kalish. Bantam Books, $22.

THE NINE: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court.By Jeffrey Toobin. Doubleday, $27.95.

THE ORDEAL OF ELIZABETH MARSH: A Woman in World History.By Linda Colley. Pantheon Books, $27.50.

THE REST IS NOISE: Listening to the Twentieth Century.By Alex Ross. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.


Derek Hansen will be guest of honour tomorrow evening but what are celebrating from 5pm to 8pm is the final night of our Centenary Festival.
Please pop in any time to have a christmas drink and help us finish the celebrations in style
The shop will open to general christmas trade and we will be happy to provide a 10% discount store wide as thanks for been great supporters of Hedley's so it may be a good chance to get some presents purchased.

Derek will speak briefly at about 6.30pm.

He is a great speaker and an interesting man and I loved his most recent book Remember Me!

I can tell you all about it tomorrow
Tel. + 64 6 3782875



These are subjects about which I harbour romantic notions but whenever I actually go walking or tramping I find that the anticipation is often greater than the realization so I have come to the conclusion after all these years that now I am really an armchair walker and tramper!

This after walking the Milford Track twice, the Tongariro Track, numerous day walks around New Zealand, several parts of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk in the UK , the Cotswold Way, Hadrian’s Wall , and various chunks of Tuscany.
But these days I love and devour books on walking and tramping rather than actually doing the walking! So what joy over the past week when a whole raft of wonderful books on walking in New Zealand have found their way to my book-laden desk.
Image above from this website.

Ian Trafford Reed $20

With three National Parks, plus mountain ranges, bush clad hills, golden beaches and numerous rivers there are loads of places to enjoy day walking in Nelson.
Ian Trafford details 80 plus walking tracks in his handy sized book each one accompanied by a track guide, travel times, access details and points of interest.
There are more than a dozen titles in Reed’s Day Walks series to which this is a valued edition.

Marios Gavalas Reed $20

The companion volume to the Nelson title this book provides readers with important information for each of the 70 walks including track conditions, access points, lookout points, duration, and degree of difficulty. Within the region there is a wide variety of walks from easy family walks to more challenging tramps for the fittest among us.

Gavalas has written several others in the Reed Day Walks series.

Pat Barrett Shoal Bay $30

And here we have I guess the equivalent of the two above titles in one volume. Publishers must hate it when coincidences of this kind arise.
I guess if you are only walking in Nelson or Marlborough then you would go for the Reed guide above that covers the particular area you are visiting but if you are planning to walk in both regions than you’d go for the Shoal Bay title.
This is an area much loved for both its accessible tramping tracks as well as the more difficult longer tracks over more difficult terrain for seasoned trampers and again in this guide the author outlines the walking time for each track along with a grade for the walk, access information, details for the best route, attractions to watch out for, notes on weather, terrain and the equipment required.
The author has walked all the tracks himself and the book is illustrated throughout with his stunning photographs.
The advantage this guide has over the two earlier guides mentioned are that all the photos are in colour as are the Department of Conservation maps whereas in the earlier guides most of the photos and the maps are black and white.
Pat Barrett is a Christchurch-based tramper of 30 years experience with four other outdoor titles to his credit. He is also a contributor to Wilderness & other magazines.
Shoal Bay was acquired by Longacre Press in 2003 and they have sensibly, (in my view!), retained the imprint for how-to books on fishing, tramping, finance and business, 4 wheel driving, and genealogy, subject areas in which Shoal Bay had built up a great deal of expertise and for which they were admired.

Eric Dorfman Penguin Books $49.95

I have kept the best ‘til last ! What a stunner .
I can’t say I had heard of author Eric Dorfman before but Penguin Books advise he left his job at Te Papa to start his own communications business and to complete this book. He lives in Wellington, has a PhD and has worked as a wildlife ecologist in various parts of the world. Well all that is good stuff but for me from now on he will be known as the guy who pulled together that simply gorgeous book on our 14 National Parks. I could really wax lyrical here but I reckon my best bet instead is to urge you to scurry down to your local bookseller next week (publication 3 December) and check it out for yourself.

This book provides much greater detail on our National Parks than any other previous publication. A truly superb coffee table book of 264 pages that includes:

*About 250 colour photographs from DOC’s spectacular archive. (Don’t you love the cover? Above Green Lake, Fiordland National Park).
*History and natural history.
*Amazing variety of landscapes.
*Cartography specially created for this book by DOC cartographer Chris Edkins.
*Walking & tramping guides including information about level of difficulty, (some very bloody difficult!), duration, directions etc.
*DOC huts, all you need to know.

Great reference material at the end of the book not least including an extensive bibliography and detailed index.

Send this to ex-pat kiwis around the world and you’ll make them homesick for sure.
And watch for this title when the Montana NZ Book Awards shortlist is announced in the New Year.
My congratulations to the author, publisher and all involved.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Golden Compass author hits back

From the BBC News

The author of the book on which the new film The Golden Compass is based has hit back at critics who accuse him of peddling "candy-coated atheism".
Phillip Pullman won the Whitbread prize for the third part of his trilogy
Philip Pullman dismissed as "absolute rubbish" accusations by the US-based Catholic League that the film promotes atheism and denigrates Christianity.
"I am a story teller," he said. "If I wanted to send a message I would have written a sermon."
The Golden Compass - which stars Nicole Kidman - premiered in London on Tuesday.
Epic battle

The film also stars James Bond actor Daniel Craig and is based on the first part of Mr Pullman's best-selling His Dark Materials children's trilogy.
In the book - set in an imaginary world - the heroine Lyra fights against the Magisterium, an evil organisation some have interpreted as based on the Catholic Church.
We knew from the beginning that the producers of this film intended to leave out the anti-religious references. We think this is a great shame Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society.

The three-part series culminates in an epic battle in which God dies - at the hand of a child.
Those who have seen the film - which cost £90m to make - say the explicit anti-religious message of the books has been muted. But the Catholic League, which bills itself as America's largest Catholic civil rights organisation, has nevertheless launched a nationwide boycott campaign.

Nicole Kidman and Dakota Blue Richards star in the film
The League says that parents might be taken in by the toned-down film - but will then be fooled into buying the "overtly atheistic and anti-Christian" books.

League President Bill Donohue said: "Eighty-five per cent of the people in this country are Catholic or Protestant and I'd like them to stay at home, or go see some other movie.
"Pullman is using this film as a sort of stealth campaign. He likes to play the game that he's really not atheistic and anti-Catholic. But yes he is and we have researched this.
"This movie is the bait for the books."
But Mr Pullman - who is attending Tuesday's premier in London's Leicester Square - dismissed the Catholic League as "a tiny, unrepresentative organisation."
He told the BBC: "The only person Bill Donohue represents is himself.
"I don't want to talk about these criticisms about atheism in my books. It's too long an argument to have, and there are too many layers to the subject."

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church in Britain said she was unaware of a concerted UK campaign to boycott the film: "We have not seen the film yet, so we cannot comment on its message," she said.
Armoured bears feature in a fantasy set in an imaginary world
Christian journalist Peter Hitchens said that while he opposed a boycott, he wanted parents to be aware of Philip Pullman's themes.
He said: "If you buy this book for your child, don't imagine for a moment that you are handing over a neutral story: this author has a purpose.
"Don't forget, this is a writer who has previously gone on the record to say he is trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief."

Ironically, Mr Pullman has also come under fire from secularists - who say there's isn't enough anti-religious sentiment in the film.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "We knew from the beginning that the producers of this film intended to leave out the anti-religious references.
James Bond actor Daniel Craig plays Lord Asriel
"We think this is a great shame. The fight against the Magisterium (Pullman's thinly-disguised version of the Catholic Church) is the whole point of the book. Take that away and the most original and interesting element of the story is lost."
Whether the Catholic League's campaign against the Golden Compass will succeed is open to question.
It previously spoke out against the Da Vinci Code - a fictional film that alleged Jesus married and had a child.
The film went on to become one of the highest-grossing movies of 2006.

Late Norman Mailer wins 'bad sex' award

Norman Mailer is the first author to win the award posthumously
Late author Norman Mailer has been announced as the winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for the most awkward description of an intimate encounter.
The US writer, who died earlier this year at the age of 84, won for his novel The Castle in the Forest.

Jeanette Winterston and Harry Potter actor David Thewlis were also among those in the running for crude and tasteless literary depictions of sex.
Four hundred guests toasted Mailer's memory at a ceremony in London.
The occasion was also used to pay homage to the renowned American literary figure and the rich variety of his work.
"We were sure he would have taken the prize in good humour," said the judges.
His mouth lathered with her sap, he turned around and embraced her face with all the passion of his own lips and face, ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety.
Norman Mailer, The Castle in the Forest

Now in its 14th year, the prize is awarded by Literary Review magazine in an attempt to discourage authors from writing such accounts.
It is given to the passage considered to be the most redundant in an otherwise excellent novel.
David Thewlis was nominated for his first novel, The Late Hector Kipling, and Winterson for The Stone Gods.
Highlighted passages from each of the novels were read out by actresses at the event.
The other nominees were Richard Milward's Apples, Ali Smith for Girl Meets Boy, Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan, Christopher Rush for Will, and Clare Clark for The Nature of Monsters.

Previous winners include AA Gill, Sebastian Faulks and Tom Wolfe. Wolfe was one of the few who declined to receive his award in person.
Story from the BBC but every media channel known to man is carrying the story!
Kennedy Memoirs Said to Fetch $8 Million

New York Times overnight:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the most prominent surviving member of the Kennedy family, has agreed to sell his memoirs for an advance of more than $8 million, people with knowledge of the negotiations say.

After a six-day auction that concluded Nov. 19, Twelve, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing, bought world rights for the autobiography. Before the deal can be completed, Mr. Kennedy must clear his publishing contract with the Senate Ethics Committee.
Jonathan Karp, publisher and editor in chief of Twelve, said he hoped to publish the book in the fall of 2010. Mr. Kennedy is “walking, talking history,” Mr. Karp said, “and there’s no limit to what he can talk about with authority and distinctive personal perspective.”
Mr. Kennedy, 75, was first elected as Democratic senator from Massachusetts for a partial term in 1962 after his brother John F. Kennedy became president. He was then elected to eight full terms and ranks second only to Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, in length of service.

Mr. Kennedy has become a leading liberal legislator who has championed causes including the minimum wage, health care and immigration policy. As the youngest of the nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, he has a dramatic family history, and he is the first Kennedy of his generation to write an autobiography.
“I’ve been fortunate in my life to grow up in an extraordinary family and to have a front-row seat at many key events in our nation’s history,” Mr. Kennedy said in a statement.

For the past three years, he has been working with the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia on an oral history of his life, and those tapes will serve as source material for his autobiography.
Mr. Kennedy, who will work with a co-writer, is expected to write candidly about his personal history, including the 1969 Chappaquiddick accident in which he drove a car off a bridge on Martha’s Vineyard, resulting in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a former member of Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s staff. He will also write about his unsuccessful bid for the presidency.
Jamie Raab, publisher of Grand Central Publishing, declined to comment specifically on the size of the advance. But, Ms. Raab said: “One always feels a bit nervous when you spend a great deal of money. But I don’t feel as nervous as I would with other books at these figures because it touches on so many audiences, and I think we can get them all.”

Robert B. Barnett, the lawyer who negotiated the deal for Mr. Kennedy, said foreign publishers had already expressed interest in the book.
Stephanie Cutter, an adviser to Mr. Kennedy, said the senator would donate a “significant proportion of the proceeds” to charity.

Ms. Cutter said the book deal did not signal the senator’s intention to end his public career.
“Senator Kennedy is committed to serving the people of Massachusetts, and this book has no impact on his future plans to continue his career in the Senate,” she said. “He was just re-elected in 2006 and has no plan to retire.”

Citizen Milton

An Exhibition to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of John Milton’s Birthday.December 8th 2007 - April 26th 2008.

The Bodleian Library’s winter exhibition is a tribute to John Milton, one of the first advocates of civil liberties. Focusing on the ever current idea of ‘citizenship’, the exhibition tells a story through word and image of this great writer’s abiding ideas, linking his artistic and political activities. The Exhibition is curated by the acclaimed Milton Scholar Dr Sharon Achinstein, Fellow of St Edmund Hall.

Celebrating the quatercentenary of Milton’s birth, the display presents Milton’s major works in important and beautiful editions from the Bodleian Library’s collections including the rare first edition of Areopagitica and the first twelve-book edition of the greatest epic poem in the English language, Paradise Lost. The exhibition also explores the lasting power and influence of Milton’s works and his activity in subsequent political and artistic movements.

Milton’s ideas and words have developed a flourishing afterlife, providing inspiration for the works of renowned artists, type-makers and illustrators such as John Martin, Mary Groom, Arthur Rackham and Samuel Palmer, whose magnificent painting ‘The Prospect’ is being lent by the Ashmolean museum.

Very recent interpreters of Milton, including Geoffrey Hill, Tony Harrison and Philip Pullman, also have their works represented.

Above from Ibookcollector Newsletter # 90
Pic of Milton from Wikipedia website.

R.I.P. = Reed Into Penguin.

from occasional guest contributor
Gavin McLean.

Historians joke that for modern octogenarians, the historian with a tape recorder has replaced the old fellow with a scythe as the portent of doom. Perhaps we are doing the same for businesses. Reed launched my ‘centennial’ history expensively around the main centres in May just as its owner, Reed Elsevier, announced that it had flogged off the UK-run assets of Harcourts to Pearson. I remember saying to Peter Dowling as we laid a wreath on A.H. Reed’s Dunedin Writers’ Walk plaque that some people would cackle sarcastically over the next morning’s ODT pic.

It was no surprise. In the late 1990s when Peter Janssen asked me to write the company’s history, he admitted that Reed’s Anglo-Dutch owners, didn’t know what to make of this strange beast. They had got rid of most of their trade book publishing and Reed simply didn’t fit. Every now and then rumours flew through the book trade. ‘Have you heard about Reed?’ I several times wondered whether the time I was putting into research would be wasted by a few pen strokes in Europe. Alan Smith several times fended off suggestions to rebrand Reed as Harcourt (NZ) by driving visiting ‘suits’ from Europe slowly past the big blue Harcourt’s real estate firm at the end of Rawene Road and asking if they really wanted to be associated with that trade.

Well, that battle has finally been lost. This month Reed announced that the parting shot from its late (and unlamented) former owners was to put the kybosh on using the Reed name here. Now it’s Raupo Publishing (NZ) Ltd. Clif Reed’s little colophon, that little bunch of reeds that has bent in the breezes created by several takeovers since the Reed family sold up in 1983, will survive as a Penguin imprint for now (though who remembers another Penguin purchase, Pacific, the old Whitcoulls brand?)

So what of the future? In the short term, there will be casualties. People are going, from Penguin as well as from Reed, and in larger numbers than the sunny press releases suggest. Good people, too. Books will probably be pulped – Penguin ditched its warehouse a while ago and Rawene Road will soon be gone. Authors’ contracts will be honoured, they say, but inevitably there will be some consolidation of lists, and in the short term at least, less choice for authors. And you can bet that Penguin will take longer to digest the meal than it expects. Like wars, restructurings always hit the ‘winners’ as well as the ‘losers’.

But maybe not for long. Already the international majors are eyeing market gaps and rediscovering the wisdom of backlist publishing. New lists will emerge, and new players will grow faster than they might have. In recent decades, we’ve seen some excellent local presses prosper – David Bateman, David Ling, Longacre Press and Craig Potton (with old Reed hand Jane Connor now at the helm) are just some that spring to mind. The relative foreign newcomer New Holland already occupies parts of Reed’s old territory.

So I’ll raise a toast to Reed – to A.H. and Clif Reed, Ray Richards, Arnold Wall, Don Sinclair, David Elworthy, Paul Bradwell, Peter Janssen, Peter Dowling, and all the other folks who have enriched my life and our nation’s heritage. Business history shows that less than one family firm in ten survives the third generation handover. Reed did that and a little more. We should be thankful.


Gavin McLean is an historian with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage
and when not in the kitchen, moonlights on other projects such as this
year's history of Reed, Whare Korero, and the accompanying anthology,
Whare Korero. He is currently writing 'yet another bloody book on

Clough book wins William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award

From The Guardian overnight:

Brian Clough, believed by many to be the greatest manager England never had, is the subject of this year's William Hill Sports Book of the Year. Provided You Don't Kiss Me, (Fourth Estate) written by the former Nottingham Evening Post writer Duncan Hamilton, is an analysis of the former Derby County, Leeds and Forest manager, based on the story of his 20-year relationship with Clough.

Hamilton's work held off five other shortlisted books, including the first volume of Sir Bobby Charlton's autobiography, written with James Lawton, to win the award, which consists of £18,000 cash, a £2,000 free bet from the sponsor and a specially commissioned, hand-bound copy of his book.


Although I read this online every week it is not the same as reading the actual newspaper while sipping on a decent cup of coffee.
Yesterday a bundle of copies arrived from my daughter in New York and I have spent several happy hours since reading them even though in fact I have actually already read all the reviews online.

Here are a few highlights from this latest bunch which covered issues from Sept, October and early November.


I’m not the greatest fan of Paul Theroux but I must say I was hugely taken by his very long, superb opening sentence in his review of Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer (Yale University Press) that appeared in the New York Times Book review of Sept 30, 2007.

Here it is:

Poor Africa, the happy hunting ground of the mythomaniac, the rock star buffing up his or her image, the missionary with a faith to sell, the child buyer, the retailer of dirty drugs or toxic cigarettes, the editor in search of a scoop, the empire builder, the aid worker, the tycoon wishing to rid himself of his millions, the school builder with a bucket of patronage, the experimenting economist, the diamond merchant, the oil executive, the explorer, the slave trader, the eco-tourist, the adventure traveler, the bird watcher, the travel writer, the escapee, the colonial and his crapulosities, the banker, the busybody, the Mandela-sniffer, the political fantasist, the buccaneer and your cousin the Peace Corps Volunteer.

And if you’d like to read the whole review use this link.

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

– this got a snaky review in Esquire which I published two days ago so here is another review, long and thoughtful.

Rhett Butler's People

Donald McCaig
Macmillan/St.Martin's Press

I reviewed this last week on the blog but here is NYT reviewer Stephen Carter's take on this new look at Rhett, Scarlett and the others of Gone with the Wind fame.

Photofest pic (right) from same article.


Two books by Times reporters about life in New York City.

Stories About New York.
By Dan Barry.
Illustrated. 297 pp. St. Martin's Press. $25.95.

Traveling the Globe Through the Neighborhoods of the New New York.
By Joseph Berger.
267 pp. Ballantine Books. $25.95.

I'll be buying these when I get up to NYC for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

For Auckland readers of the blog or for those visiting in Auckland in the run up to Christmas check out all the activities at the Christmas in the City Website.

I subscribe to The Opera Critic Newsletter which provides a superb international look at recent, current and forthcoming opera productions around the word, and which somewhat surprisingly is published right here in Auckland by the versatile Michael Sinclair.
If opera interests you at all do be sure to visit The Opera Critic website via this link.
I enjoyed his EDITOR'S NOTES in the latest newsletter which arrived on my computer an hour ago.

If popcorn and opera seem like an odd combination then think again. Opera at the movies is becoming extremely popular!
The Met began this trend last year and, given the success of this new venture, it will triple the number of cinemas that it beams into during the 2007/08 season presenting a total of eight operas.
Both La Scala and Glyndebourne have quickly jumped on the bandwagon. La Scala plans seven operas this season, beginning with Aida in December (see ad below), while Glyndebourne continues its cinematic offerings with Giulio Cesare in December.
So hopefully your favourite opera will be at a cinema near you!

Michael Sinclair


Last week Hewitt was in Auckland, Hamilton & other parts, this week he will be in Palmerston North, Napier, Gisborne, Whakatane, Tauranga and Rotorua and next week he will be in Christchurch, Nelson, Wellington, Porirua, Waipukurau and Whangarei., Whew!

For details of bookshops and the times will be there signing his book visit -


The following comment has appeared on the blog this morning. I will do some investigation but if any other readers wish to comment I'd be pleased to hear from them.

red has left a new comment on your post "Boutique Wellington Publisher Steele Roberts set t...":

Greetings Bookman Beattie, Roger Steele continues to make a luminous and tireless contribution to local publishing. Which is why it is so puzzling and troubling that he received no Creative NZ funding this year for seven great submitted projects. Multi-national publishers with batteries of staff meanwhile hoovered up these taxpayers dollars. He is eating pumpkin (literally) . Please investigate - and expose!

Ian Rankin Orion $37

What an amazing job Rankin's publishers have done for him during his New Zealand tour last week. I can't recall when a visiting author last received so much attention and coverage from the media. He deserves such coverage as he is a rock-star in the book world and a bloody fine writer too.

Among the extensive coverage were splendid pieces by Nicky Pellegrino in the Herald on Sunday and Lynn Barber in Canvas magazine in the Weekend Herald. But the headline that took the prize for the most
eye-catching was the following one from The Press last Thursday.The pic of Rankin (right) is from the same story:

Police suspected crime writer of murder

SUSPICIOUS? Best-selling Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin told a Christchurch audience his first attempt to do research landed him as the prime suspect in a serial murder case.

One of the world's best-selling crime writers has told an audience of several hundred that his first attempt to do research landed him as the prime suspect in a serial murder case.
At a function in Christchurch last night, Ian Rankin said: "I didn't know anything about the police so I went to the police station and told them I'm writing a book.
"I gave them the plot, not realising they were investigating a crime that was almost identical.
"They said, 'Why don't we pretend you're a suspect?' After 1½ hours they let me go. I was the only suspect in a missing person case that ended up with seven victims."
The real killer was caught in a coincidence - a stone caught in a lawnmower - that Rankin said would have been rejected as outlandish if he had written it in a book.

However, Rankin also warned that, like his father, he was"for ever telling lies ... you have to take me with a pinch of salt".

Twenty years on, after the original books barely sold enough to keep him on contract, Rankin has now sold eight million books in 31 languages.
Unlike Rankin, his creation Rebus now faces retirement.
"I don't get a rest," Rankin explained. "I'm writing a libretto for a 15-minute opera which is set in Italy and begins and ends with a bloodbath."

Footnote: To read Bookman Beattie's review of Exit Music click here.

And to read Roger Hall's account of Rankin's North Shore meeting click here.
I ran a piece over the weekend about World Book Day and one of the authors involved, Pauline Rowson took the initiative and posted a comment on the blog. One of her titles is involved in the World Book Day, here is a review of that title:

In Cold Daylight by Pauline Rowson

published by Rowmark Limited £6.99

UK fire-fighters are dying long after they've reached the safety of cold daylight from the burning darkness of a blaze. Why? Pauline Rowson, a fire-fighter's wife, wrote the thriller In Cold Daylight after hearing that several fire-fighters from one watch had contracted cancer.
Officially it was a co-incidence but is In Cold Daylight a metaphor for the callous way such fire-fighters are treated? Or is it simply a piece of fictional entertainment? Unravelling Rowson’s cryptic clues in this fast-paced, atmospheric novel, is like playing a thrilling game of pass the parcel.
After unexpected twists, you peel off the layers of literary wrapping to eventually uncover the mystery. Fire-fighter Jack Bartholomew is murdered before he can reveal the truth behind a ship fire, which caused his own cancer and that of several members of his old crew. Jack hides the evidence and posts a cryptic message on a postcard to his best friend, marine artist Adam Greene, urging him to complete the investigation. Adam, haunted by a past tragedy and bullied by his father into depression, would rather be left in peace, but he’s forced to break these constraints by Jack’s death. Special Branch follows Adam’s investigations into secret government research, hazardous chemicals and a corrupt minister, which could bring down a government.

Who then can we trust to seek cures? Just how many cover-ups are there? Is the Turner postcard of a battle ship on route to the scrap yard symbolic of real-life fire-fighters being discarded after contracting cancer? Is Adam Greene a metaphor for the UK’s environmental battle against higher powers?

This book could open a debate that may do for fire-fighters what Ken Loach’s drama Kathy Come Home did for homelessness. The crime thriller is rarely associated with confronting such major issues – or has Rowson changed all this?

Pauline Rowson, who specialises in marine mysteries has her own blog - it's worth a look:

Why the Kindle may yet get the upper hand on print
Demand for e-books may well rise as paper supply declines

Nicholas Clee blogging in the Guardian:

Weep for print, read the ebook ... Amazon's KindleTechno-sceptics have been quick to dismiss the Kindle, Amazon's electronic books reader, as ludicrously overhyped and overpriced. They have a point. But the inadequacies of the Kindle should not lull us into thinking that e-readers will never offer a viable alternative to printed books. How the technology is likely - and quite soon - to meet a demand became clear just a few days before the Kindle launch, when Hachette announced that it was to move to supplying its backlist titles on a firm sale basis.
Why are these events related? Because digital supply is becoming the most economical and environmentally friendly way of distributing the majority of published books.

The returns system is one of the most distressingly wasteful by-products of the operations of the book industry. Books are shipped from distributors to thousands of bookshops; the copies that do not sell are shipped back from those thousands of bookshops to the distributors. By this time, most of these copies are unsaleable, and are moved on again to be pulped. A few years ago, a book industry body recommended that the process be centralised, with the unwanted books being sent to HM Prison Altcourse in Liverpool. There, the prisoners would drill holes in them. The work would provide an "ethical and focused employment pattern". The scheme attracted some ridicule, and was not heard of again.

Returns affect commercial successes as well as failures - Bloomsbury courted unpopularity this year by setting a 10% returns cap on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And they affect books for which there has been a steady demand for years. According to The Bookseller, Faber last year got back 3,449 copies of Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, and 1,116 copies of William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Books such as these get returned only to be reordered a short while later. Publishers suspect that they are helping to manage booksellers' cash flows.
The calls to stop this practice have been getting louder. Hachette is the first big publisher to respond, announcing that from the end of 2008 it will sell titles that are more than a year old "firm", with no returns allowed. Others will follow suit.

However, booksellers are not all on side. Waterstone's would comment only guardedly, while an independent, Sheila O'Reilly of Dulwich Books, pointed out that her current terms with wholesalers allowed her an error rate of just 5%. For a shop with many thousands of titles in stock, that is a low figure. A firm sale policy would force her to become more cautious in her buying of backlist titles, she said.

If publishers, and the environment, cannot afford returns, and booksellers cannot afford to stock titles without the security of being able to send some back, what will happen? The primary method of holding backlist stock will be digital. Books will be printed on demand, and they will be read on electronic readers - even if not on the mark one version of the Kindle.

Professor role for writer Pullman

Story from the BBC.

Philip Pullman will take seminars as part of his new role
The best-selling author of children's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials has been made an honorary professor at Bangor University.
Philip Pullman, who was educated at Ysgol Ardudwy in Harlech, is already an honorary fellow of the university.
The writer will take seminars for Bangor students and host discussions on literature and narrative structures.
He said he was "delighted" to accept the role because he associated north Wales with his first real writing.
"It's not too much to say that my awakening to the pleasures and responsibilities of literature took place in Miss Enid Jones' English class at Ysgol Ardudwy in Harlech," he said.
Speaking to BBC Wales last year, Pullman said he was "intoxicated" by the landscape of the region as he was growing up.

"I wanted to be a painter when I was a teenager and I spent a lot of time drawing and learning to look at things."
Pullman's appointment in the arts and humanities department follows careers as a teacher and a teacher trainer.
He has written more than 30 books altogether with his most famous works being the best-selling His Dark Materials trilogy.

The last book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass was the first children's novel to win the Whitbread Book of the Year award in 2002.
Dakota Blue Richards, 13, stars as Lyra in The Golden Compass
The first book has been made into the film, named The Golden Compass and starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig ,which receives its world premiere in London on 27 November.
The movie also stars Bond girl Eva Green and 13-year-old newcomer Dakota Blue Richards as the main character Lyra.

Bangor University vice chancellor professor Merfyn Jones said Pullman's appointment was a "magnificent boost" for literature students and the university.
"Philip Pullman is one of the finest writers writing in English today, and he is passionately interested in education - we are delighted to have been able to make this appointment."
The author added: "This is an exciting time to come to Bangor University, with its emphasis on creative work in many fields.
"I look forward with great pleasure to meeting colleagues and students and exploring the subject of narrative with them."

Monday, November 26, 2007

"The Dance by Henri Matisse is ritualistic, lyrical, elegant, primitive, barbaric, refined and totally sensual - I love it."
Wynton Marsalis, jazz musician, writing in Destinations magazine, July/August 2007.

New York Public Library Buys Schlesinger Papers

By ROBIN POGREBIN Published New York Times: November 26, 2007. Picture of Schlesinger (left) in 1965 from same story.

In a 1976 letter accompanying seven chapters of his biography of Robert F. Kennedy, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. advises his editor at Houghton Mifflin to prepare for “a very long book and promote it.”

“After all, Caro’s ‘Moses’ did well,” he writes, referring to Robert Caro’s biography of Robert Moses. “Moses was not involved in nearly as many things or people as RFK; and this book, I trust, is a good deal better written.”

The letter, with its characteristic mixture of candor and confidence, is just a fraction of an inch in the 280 linear feet of Schlesinger documents — from his travel diaries of the 1930s to his phone message log from the 1980s — that have been acquired by the New York Public Library in a deal to be announced today. (The dollar amount was not disclosed.)

In October the Penguin Press published almost 1,000 pages of excerpts from Mr. Schlesinger’s journals. The library’s acquisition includes about 5,000 additional journal pages, along with datebooks, research files, sound recordings, clippings and correspondence between Mr. Schlesinger and noteworthy figures including Dean Acheson, Truman Capote, Lauren Bacall and Bill Clinton.

“He was a great historian and an incomparable witness,” said Paul LeClerc, president of the library. “I can’t think of any other historian who had the level of access he did. Voltaire was the historian of France, but he didn’t get in the inner circle the way Schlesinger did.”
In his long career Mr. Schlesinger was, among other things, a speechwriter for John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential campaign, a special assistant to the president from 1961 to 1964 and a trustee of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. He was also active in Edward M. Kennedy’s 1980 presidential campaign. He won two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Book Awards and taught history at the City University of New York.

Mr. Schlesinger wanted the library to be his papers’ final resting place; negotiations for the acquisition were almost complete when he died of a heart attack in February at 89.
“It was his preferred place because of his connection to the public library and the city of New York,” said Andrew Wylie, Mr. Schlesinger’s literary agent.
The papers, which cover much of Mr. Schlesinger’s life, will be available to the public in a year or two, after they have been processed and cataloged. Another collection of Schlesinger documents resides at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

In the lines of fire
Soldiers take to fiction writing contest to help combat the stress of war

By Danielle M. Capalbo writing in The Boston Globe this past weekend.

Since March, Bowie Sessions has worked with the 28th Combat Support Hospital at an emergency room in Baghdad. There, the 23-year-old Army medic treats wounded combatants and civilians, he said, so they can live to surgery. In the end, he and his colleagues can't save every life.
"I can't tell you how many men I've watched die," he wrote. "How many black bags I've pulled up the zippers of."
When the day is done, Sessions leaves the ER to return to his quarters, a tent he shares with 30 other men, around which massive blast shields protect the medics from mortars or improvised explosive devices. Then, he writes by e-mail, he carries a folding chair from beside his cot to the hallways of a building nearby. Settled, he opens his laptop, and types well into the night, writing page after page of his novel.
His goal is to write 3,000 words a night. At that pace, he'll have all the words he needs by deadline: 50,000 by Nov. 30.
Sessions is among a booming group of military personnel on tour of duty who have taken the challenge of National Novel Writing Month. More than 96,000 adults across 73 countries are registered for the event, an ambitious call for anyone, anywhere to start and finish a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. This year the story isn't necessarily the numbers - of words or participants - but the places: Writers are popping up on US military bases in foreign countries.
War has long given rise to literature, transforming the men and women it affects into haunting, haunted storytellers, the bearers of a complex horror, from the scribes of ancient war texts to Vietnam veteran Tim O'Brien. "Why do people write about war?" said Charles S. Maier, a professor of history at Harvard University. "The same reason they write about love: It's a big experience."

To make sense of the experience and depart from the monotony of war every day, Major Brad Leighton said he encourages troops to be creative.
"We want them to express themselves and tell people how they feel, even if it's just for themselves, just writing a journal," said Leighton, a press desk officer from Claremont, N.H., stationed in Baghdad. Leighton is a writer himself, with 12 years of experience reporting and editing as a journalist, understands the value of process. "This is something that's going to be a part of their lives that, for good or bad, will always stick with them."

Informed by warNaNoWriMo, as it's called, doesn't demand that troops address war. Their options are expansive, from sci-fi to comedy or romance. But striking a balance between their intense day jobs and exquisite literary expression often transcends a simple equilibrium. The daily experience of war can't help but inform their stories.
"The man wasn't sure what he was searching for, but he knew that it wasn't here; some kind of answer. Maybe he was looking for some kind of explanation for all this, maybe they hoped Chance had come back."
By the glow of his laptop, Sessions, who is from Oakland, Calif., churns out pieces of his novel - "a dystopian modern fantasy," he wrote, in which massive tears in the fabric of reality release a horde of demons into the world. In turn, everyone entrusts their world's fate to a strange benefactor who calls himself Chance.

Already, his story has seen the effects of his grisly work in the emergency room. In a scene excerpted in his profile at NaNoWri, the protagonist discovers a bloodbath on a train car, bodies strewn about, with ghastly sights and smells that Sessions vividly narrates. "Something I wouldn't have so easily been able to describe [before]," he said.
Specialist Eric Rutherford, 30, of Salem, Ore., says writing a novel about zombies helps him cope with the painful images he must capture as an Army photojournalist with the 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Not everything Rutherford photographs is carnage, he said, and the specialist strives to illuminate and preserve through his work the positive dimensions of life in Iraq that mainstream media often ignore. Still, there are images he can't easily erase from his memory. The hardest part, he said, is covering memorials for soldiers killed in duty.
"[It's] sad as hell," he said in an e-mail interview from Tikrit, Iraq. "Last week I had to do one. The first I have done in quite a while. . . . I sat down that night and cranked out about 5,000 passionate words."

"Nobody knows where it started, or where," his novel begins. "Some say it was a bio-weapon that got out of hand. Others hold that it came from China. Quite a few even believe that it was punishment from God for how we had become as a society . . . Maybe the war will never be over. Maybe they never will be stopped. Maybe this is the end for mankind forever. I don't have time for maybe anymore. These days, I just try to make it to tomorrow."
A military writers' forumSince NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty held the first monthlong write-athon in 1999, military personnel have been registering to write in growing numbers. The trend caught Baty's attention last month after a military chat forum was added to the official NaNoWriMo website.

"Soldiers that are stationed in Germany or Iraq don't have the same sort of in-person community as a lot of us here," said Baty, who lives in Oakland, Calif. "If you're in Baghdad, you can't go out to the local coffee shop with your laptop." The chat forum gave troop members a place to connect. "Some had thought they were the only military personnel participating."
Now, they can communicate regularly. Some even plan to stage "write-ins" on their bases.
"I want them to feel like, here's something affirming," said Cybele May, the NaNoWriMo moderator who opened the military forum. "Here's something you can do, when everything else seems so hopeless sometimes." May knows of at least 100 deployed military personnel who use the forums regularly, and she says civilian participants leave uplifting posts of support for the troops.

As for Sessions, the forum is a useful place to swap information with colleagues, but that's about it. The focal point of his first NaNoWriMo is the writing itself.
"Unfortunately, for most of my tour, I couldn't write - because while I wanted to 'exorcise my demons,' through writing, it also destroyed me somewhat emotionally," said the medic.
Now that he can write again, in the stony dark of his concrete base, at the center of the capital of war-torn Iraq, Sessions said he won't stop until the book is done.

Perrotta's new book, The Abstinence Teacher, will be great on the big screen. For now it's just a mediocre book.
Bookman Beattie read the US edition of the October issue of Esquire over the weekend, (thanks Deb), and there were several book reviews that caught his eye. This is one of them:

The movies have been very, very good to Tom Perrotta. His novel Election went unpublished until Alexander Payne adapted it into a film. The adaptation of Little Children garnered Perrotta an Oscar nomination. And his latest satire, The Abstinence Teacher (St. Martin's Press, $25), is set for a 2008 release. What a movie it will be: Divorced suburban mother of two fights the Tabernacle crazies who have taken over her school.

The problem is that while Perrotta's novels may make for good movies, they don't make for very good books. The Abstinence Teacher is not very good for many of the same reasons that Little Children disappointed. The characters are a collection of easy sociological cues: Rich people live in McMansions, evangelical Christians dress badly. This is a world where women indicate sexual interest by donning sweaters with plunging necklines. And yet Perrotta remains that rarest of creatures, a genuinely successful literary novelist. His books sell, and critics often hold him as an heir to Cheever and Updike -- a comparison that is unfair to all involved.
I'd argue instead that Tom Perrotta is engaged in a more complicated and paradoxical project, one well suited to a postliterary age. He's writing books for people who don't much like books -- satires for nice people, fuck books for prudes. The problem with this approach is that it's not really satire at all. It's situational comedy. Perrotta's not gunning for laughs so much as light chuckles, perfect for a compassionate and confident grin. But less good for readers who'd be better served checking out David Gates or Stephen Dixon or simply giving up on books altogether and going to the movies.
Here is the second review:
The Illustrated Ronald Reagan
An Esquire editor and a seven-year-old review the new graphic biography of Ronald Reagan. Needless to say, the kid's got some questions about Iran-Contra.
By Tyler Cabot

There's no room for analysis in the stripped-down visuals and dialogue of Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography (Hill and Wang, $17), by Andrew Helfer. It's a life told in tiny pictures. We see Reagan run for governor, then president. His former national-security advisor attempts suicide, the Berlin Wall comes down. It's an abbreviated narrative, for sure. But it's also as compelling as it is serious and objective. There's no pretense, postulating, or setting up. Just the essential plot points. Just the story.

And from the 7 year old:
I didn't know that Ronald Reagan existed before I read this book. I learned that Ronald Reagan at first was a boy without hope. Then he started going to church. At the beginning, I couldn't follow who the main character was. But the pictures were good. The most interesting thing was that he got shot and survived. The writer really should tell us where he got shot, in what part of the body. I wanted to know. I think Ronald Reagan was a good man, except when he traded 21 guns for a hostage. And at the end of the book he had a nasty expression on his face, so I didn't think he was up to any good. -- Zeke Warren-Weigmann, age 7

And the third, and is this the shortest book review you have ever read?

Tomorrow by Graham Swift - sixteen word review

Mother agonises over kids.Bad Oprah? No. Think good Wonder Years reruns - nostalgic yet compulsively compelling.

Enough, I like Esquire.

Strapped into their bodices and bound by the social mores of the 19th century, Jane Austen's heroines bear their misfortunes with unfailing dignity.

Germaine Greer charts an emotional terrain still all too familiar.

JANE AUSTEN WOULD NOT have been best pleased to know that her novels were destined to found the genre of pulp literature known in our own time as "chick-lit". The staple plot that is reworked by romantic novels thousands of times over is the seduction of the stern, distant father-figure by the passive, helpless daughter-figure.

The story that turns women on is not the story of girl meets boy or even boy meets girl; it is junior female gets alpha male into her power and into her bed. In real-life daughter-father incest is unmentionable; where it can be shown to have occurred the father is invariably seen as a rapist. Yet in Mills and Boon and Harlequin novels, hundreds of them year on year, childish young women seduce masterful, silent men who are usually older, of higher social standing, richer and much more powerful than they — just as Elizabeth Bennet captivates strong, silent Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

Bridget Jones came into being in 1995 when Helen Fielding went to interview Colin Firth after he had played Mr Darcy in the BBC TV series of Pride and Prejudice, wet shirt and all.

When the interview was published in The Independent Fielding used the byline "Bridget Jones" and when she was working the series "Bridget Jones's Diary" into a novel she wrote Mark Darcy into it as the older, richer, smarter guy whom ditsy Bridget would eventually end up with.
And just in case anyone missed the connection with Pride and Prejudice, Firth played Mark Darcy in the movie of Bridget Jones's Diary.

After more than 10 million sales of the book the trade certainly knows the relevance of Austen as the virgin mother of chick-lit.
In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet has a real father, but he's a bit of a bumbler who has made a foolish marriage and is incapable of governing his unruly gang of daughters. When Lydia runs off with the worthless Wickham it is Mr Darcy who fulfils the father role, by saving the family from disgrace and seeing that Lydia is properly provided for.

Mr Darcy is tall, haughty, unbending, unsmiling and master of Pemberley, while Mr Bennet is not even master of his own household. In Emma, Mr Knightley has been in love with Emma Woodhouse since she was 13 and he was 30. For seven years he has blamed her and lectured her and she has "borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it", so her reward is consummation with him.

Edmund Bertram is the nearest thing Mansfield Park's Fanny Price has to a father. He formed her, directed her reading, instructed her moral sense; it's a long wait but she gets him in the end. Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland rang the changes on the same pattern.
The man who groans with passion and rips the heroine's bodice is still senior, stern, unapproachable. In the '30s, his kisses had to scorch through whalebone; now he has to acquit himself of "great sex".

If there was no more to Austen than the little-girl-gets-big-man theme, we would have only escapism to thank her for. What makes Austen great is her awareness of the minefield that is ordinary life. At any point the Austen heroine can be brought low.
Even as we applaud the achievement of the sexual relationship at the end of any Austen novel, we should be aware not only that the heroine has had a tough time but that she could be facing an even tougher one. If to be a spinster in Austen's world is to be exploited by one's family whenever the need arises and otherwise completely overlooked and ignored, the role of wife-and-mother is so difficult that most of Austen's wives-and-mothers are hopeless at it.
The best mothers are the dead ones, like Emma's mother or Anne Elliot's mother. Fanny Price's mother, with an unemployed husband, nine children, inadequate housing, no money and a sweet nature, makes no attempt to regulate her household. Lady Bertram likes her pugs better than her children and can't rouse herself to anything. Mrs Bennet is a raucous vulgarian, avoided and ridiculed by her husband, who has nevertheless fathered five children on her. What's to say Elizabeth Bennet won't one day be as sore an embarrassment to Fitzwilliam Darcy as her mother is to her father?

Her intelligence, for one thing. All Austen's heroines are sharp; some are of quicker wit than others but all see through the pretence and pretension around them, even when it involves members of their own immediate family. Only Emma is unusually beautiful but even she is loved not for her looks but for her nature: her wit, her good humour and her readiness to learn.

The Austen hero's intelligence is not simply quickness; it is grounded in moral insight and emotional truth. Even within the family, only where the Austen heroine esteems does she allow herself to love and and her love is unshakeable. Elizabeth Bennet loves Jane better than her other sisters; Fanny Price loves William better than any other of her eight siblings. When it comes to falling in love the Austen heroine will not allow herself to fall for a man she cannot respect.
This is but the first piece of a long article by Germaine Greer that appeared in The Age last weekend. To read the rest go here.