Readersforum's Blog

December 31, 2010

The benefits of being Creative

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:10 am

The end of the world has come. Curtis Brown, one of the oldest and largest independent literary agencies has set up its own creative writing school. A conflict of interest, a cynical and desperate attempt to restore flagging revenues, a blurring of the lines…So I read on Twitter and on The Bookseller comment page.

Frankly, not the debate I anticipated. Should a writer write with the industry in mind? Will we be grooming a new breed of formulaic writers? These are the questions I expected to debate….read more

To a Mountain in Tibet

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:50 am

Ask any reader to list their favourite travel writers and chances are Colin Thubron will be mentioned. Fellow travel writer Jan Morris describes him as “one of the two or three best living travel writers”. Born in 1939, his first book, Mirror to Damascus, was published in 1967 and he has since written about the Middle East, Russia and Asia to great acclaim. In his latest travel book, To a Mountain in Tibet …read more

The Bidoun Library Project

The Middle East has long been a source of fascination for artists and writers, especially in the West. The Bidoun Organisation has created a travelling exhibition that brings together some 1,000 posters, cartoons, catalogues and curiosities that show how distorted the clichés of the Orient were, even post-1945. Amira El Ahl reports from Cairo

| Bild: Covers of <i>The Sheikh</i> series (photo: Amira El Ahl)
Bild vergrössern Imperial political propaganda tool: Covers of The Sheikh series in the exhibition at the Townhouse Gallery |

A Treasure Chest of Oriental Pulp Fiction 

Trashy novels are generally instantly recognizable by the garish picture on the cover. This usually depicts a gorgeous, scantily-clad maiden being rescued, or kissed, or clasped to the manly bosom of the posturing hero. Clearly, The Secret Son of the Sheikh is a cheap thriller of the same genre as thousands of other such romances… more

Auld Lang Syne Rhyme

This day, or the moment of this day’s passing, has brought out the commemorative spirit in many. D. H. Lawrence’s “New Year’s Eve,” is from his book-length cycle of poems, Look! We Have Come Through, which documents Lawrence’s first years with Freida; though published in the same year as Eliot’s “Prufrock,” the poems offer a passionate alternative to measuring out life by coffee spoons….read more

December 30, 2010

Could university cutbacks be the saviour of English?

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 9:40 am

The end of subsidies and a focus on ‘impact’-led research may force literary criticism to reconnect with the public imagination.

English should be communicated, as urged by Hector (Richard Griffiths, left) in The History Boys, not languish in obscurity.

The lamentations of English scholars suffering government cutbacks have echoed around the Comment is free and education pages recently. Having three English degrees myself, two of which were free, I feel an instinctive sympathy for this view. But further reflection into the way the subject has changed over the last few decades makes me wonder whether the removal of subsidies, and the introduction of new “impact”-focused research assessments, may not be in the long-term interests of the subject….read more

Classic, Kindly Leacock

    On this day in 1869 the Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock was born. Twenty-five of Leacock’s forty-odd books are in his comic mode, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town and Arcadian Adventures of the Idle Rich being most well-known, but all exemplifying his belief that “the humour of the highest culture, the humour of the future,” is born of “kindliness” and “wide charity of mind.”…read more

December 29, 2010

Book publishers see their role as gatekeepers shrink

Writers are bypassing the traditional route to bookstore shelves and self-publishing their works online. By selling directly to readers, authors get a larger slice of the sale price.

Science fiction writers Greg Bear, left, and Neal Stephenson created a subscription-based historical novel about Genghis Khan’s conquests. (Kevin P. Casey, For The Times / December 18, 2010)

Joe Konrath can’t wait for his books to go out of print.

When that happens, the 40-year-old crime novelist plans to reclaim the copyrights from his publisher, Hyperion Books, and self-publish them on, Apple Inc.‘s iBooks and other online outlets. That way he’ll be able to collect 70% of the sale price, compared with the 6% to 18% he receives from Hyperion.

As for future novels, Konrath plans to self-publish all of them in digital form without having to leave his house….read more

When Done Right, Little Gets Lost In Translation

Edith Grossman has translated Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When translating an author's work, "you feel as if you are looking at the world through the eyes of someone else," Grossman says.

When Edith Grossman translates a book, she begins to feel a closeness to the author who wrote it. “The more talented the writer, the more open the door is into his or her mind,” she explains.

And Grossman should know. She is perhaps best known for her translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Not only did Cervantes invent the modern novel, says Grossman, he was a cutting-edge writer 400 years ago. When Grossman talks about the author, it’s almost as if he is still alive.

“I dearly love him,” she says. “I would love to have a meal with him, I’d love to have a couple of drinks with him, to sit and chat and talk about literature and all the other things you talk about with someone you are really very fond of.”

But such affection and admiration can also be daunting. Grossman says she had a lot of fear when she began translating Don Quixote. She spent two weeks on the first sentence alone, because she felt everything else would fall into place if she could only do justice to Cervantes’ opening line.

The key to unlocking what the author intended, says Grossman, can always be found in the text itself….read more

Words to the wise

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Bookblurb @ 6:04 am

The holiday break is a great time to put your nose in a book. The Herald’s literary editor, Susan Wyndham, lists 15 Australian classics for your consideration.


Don’t tell my editor but I’ve cheated on this assignment. ”Write about the 15 Australian books every Australian should read,” he said. But summer holidays are not a time for ”shoulds”, except that your reading should be a pleasure. And choosing just 15 books is almost impossible. We have moved way beyond the time 70 years ago when Marjorie Barnard wrote of Australian literature that ”there is not yet so much timber that we cannot get a clear view of the bush”.

So let’s call this ”15 Australian books – and some extra suggestions – that every Australian can enjoy if they want to understand our literature, our country and ourselves”. Culture is a conversation and knowing these books enables us to talk to each other….read more

        Expand your bookshelf 

December 28, 2010

Italian crime looks into dark heart of society

European crime fiction, particularly Scandinavian noir, is enjoying a huge boom with novels such as Stieg Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy and Henning Mankell’s Wallander. But Italian noir is emerging as a force inspired by the dark side of Italian society.

Andrea Camilleri says that crime fiction writers fill a void in society

Faced with the grim reality that many murders go unsolved, Italian writers are drawn to stories that offer no simple resolutions or happy endings.

“We write more noir in Italy than traditional thriller. This is because we are more pessimistic about human nature,” says Giancarlo De Cataldo, who became a crime fiction writer after serving as a judge.

His experience of meeting members of the infamous Rome gang, the Banda Della Magliana, has inspired his novel Romanzo Criminale….read more

      Expand your bookshelf 

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