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February 23, 2013

How the Superheroes of Literature can save you from the Grammar Nazis

superman-vs-hitlerBy Cath Murphy

We’ve all met a Grammar Nazi: those people who think it is their iron-clad duty not to comment on the rhythm of your prose or the strength of your arguments, but on the fact that you missed an apostrophe in the second line of paragraph three. I’m not going to delve into the psychology of those who misguidedly think that language has rules and they alone know how to apply them, except to remark that I’ve always been persuaded that there’s a strong correlation between a person’s propensity to correct the grammar and spelling of others and the likelihood that this same person is into weird sex.

The problem with the Grammar Nazis is not only that having a scornful virtual finger pointed at your mistakes is about as pleasant as non-anaesthetized toenail extraction, it’s that even when they’re wrong, they’re right. Even if the ‘rule’ the Grammar Nazi is attempting to enforce is so dead the only examples are found stuffed in museums, all you will get for your attempts to persuade them is carpal tunnel syndrome and a tension headache. It’s at times like these you need a secret weapon: none other than the Superheroes of Literature, authors so mighty and famous that a mere mention of them will, like a well aimed laser beam, reduce a Grammar Nazi to a heap of ash.

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James Herriot, “Decent Feller”

James Herriot   (1916 - 1995)

James Herriot
(1916 – 1995)

On this day in 1995 James Alfred Wight, better-known as James Herriot, died at the age of seventy-eight. Wight went to the Yorkshire Dales in 1940, fresh out of Glasgow Veterinary College. Over 2300 packed his memorial service in York Minster Cathedral; over 100,000 a year now visit the museum at the site of the original practice; over sixty million copies of his books have been sold.

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February 22, 2013

Diagram prize shortlist points the way to this year’s oddest book titles

A colourful shortlist for the 2013 Diagram prize for the oddest book title ... coloured pencils.

A colourful shortlist for the 2013 Diagram prize for the oddest book title … coloured pencils.

How to Sharpen Pencils stacks up alongside How Tea Cosies Changed the World and a study of the penis on the shortlist for the award which honours the oddest titles in publishing.

By Alison Flood

Will it be a guide to sharpening pencils, a history of tea cosies or perhaps a study of the penis? How Tea Cosies Changed the World – the 160-page follow-up to Really Wild Tea Cosies – is up against How to Sharpen Pencils and God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis to win the little sought-after accolade of the oddest book title of the year.

Loani Prior’s tea cosy extravaganza, containing “24 vibrant new designs that transform the conventional tea cosy into a knitted piece of art”, is one of six books shortlisted for the Diagram prize, alongside David Rees’s “manifesto and a fully illustrated walk-through of the many, many, many ways to sharpen a pencil” and Tom Hickman’s look at man’s relationship with his penis.

A niche guide to pigeon housing, Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts, fairy hunter Reginald Bakeley’s Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop and Was Hitler Ill?, an examination from a historian and a professor of medicine of whether Adolf Hitler was fully responsible for his crimes, complete the lineup for this year’s Diagram prize – an award previously won by titles such as How to Avoid Huge Ships, and Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers.

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Amazon ‘used neo-Nazi guards to keep immigrant workforce under control’ in Germany

amazon-warehousev2Internet giant investigates abuse claims by foreign workers in its German warehouses

By Tony Paterson

Amazon is at the centre of a deepening scandal in Germany as the online shopping giant faced claims that it employed security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers.

Germany’s ARD television channel made the allegations in a documentary about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe to work at its German packing and distribution centres.

The film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms, boots and with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. “Many of the workers are afraid,” the programme-makers said.

The documentary provided photographic evidence showing that guards regularly searched the bedrooms and kitchens of foreign staff.

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Why ready access to books is just as important as superfast broadband

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:35 pm

The newest tool in social engagement? Reading – so think Gutenberg, not Zuckerberg, says Cathy Rentzenbrink

I have never taken my ability to read for granted. My father was unable to read well until he was 30 years old. In fact, he didn’t even pick up a book to read for pleasure until he retired. I know this because I coached him through his reading development, step by step. At first, he read bits of the newspaper – the sports section, mainly – then he moved on to sports biographies and, from there, short thrillers. Today he reads almost everything, except the most complex literary fiction.

My father is probably the reason I ended up working for Quick Reads, a book industry charity that supports wider adult readership. We aim to make it easier for those who don’t read – or those who have lost confidence in their ability to pick up a book – to get back into reading. I’ve witnessed at every stage the journey my father has made from novice to confident reader, and have seen first hand the causes and effects of low literacy. Thankfully, I’ve also seen the hugely transformative effect that reading for pleasure can have.

We recently commissioned new research that revealed that as many as one in 10 adults in Britain never read, many of them because they say they don’t have time; one quarter – 12 million people – have only picked up a book once in the last six months. This is a problem, an illustration of our failing as a society. We talk of digital disengagement but literary disenfranchisement is just as worrying.

A new study from the Institute for Education suggests that for many people books are, or could become, vital tools of social engagement. In an age in where “being connected” for many means a mobile connection to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, online social networks are simply the latest manifestation of a far older phenomenon – the group conversation.

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Callaghan, Hemingway, Fitzgerald

Morley Callaghan

Morley Callaghan

On this day in 1903 the Canadian novelist and short story writer, Morley Callaghan was born. Though prolific and successful, Callaghan was so overlooked by the critics for much of his career that Edmund Wilson thought him “the most unjustly neglected writer in the English language.” As Hemingway discovered, he could be underestimated as a boxer, too.

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February 21, 2013

Royal Bodies

cov3504By Hilary Mantel

Last summer at the festival in Hay-on-Wye, I was asked to name a famous person and choose a book to give them. I hate the leaden repetitiveness of these little quizzes: who would be the guests at your ideal dinner party, what book has changed your life, which fictional character do you most resemble? I had to come up with an answer, however, so I chose Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and I chose to give her a book published in 2006, by the cultural historian Caroline Weber; it’s called Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. It’s not that I think we’re heading for a revolution. It’s rather that I saw Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung. In those days she was a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore. These days she is a mother-to-be, and draped in another set of threadbare attributions. Once she gets over being sick, the press will find that she is radiant. They will find that this young woman’s life until now was nothing, her only point and purpose being to give birth.

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February 19, 2013

Sex in Young Adult fiction – a rising trend?

'Steamies' or New Adult fiction are increasingly popular

‘Steamies’ or New Adult fiction are increasingly popular

With the publication of one of the UK’s first ‘Steamy’ novels imminent, Alice Vincent reports on the rise of sex in Young Adult fiction and the readers who can’t get enough.

Irresistible is a girl meets boys story. The debut novel of Liz Bankes comes with a 15 certificate and features heavy petting, a country estate and a Facebook account being hacked. Its publisher admits that Irresistible is an attempt to capture the Fifty Shades of Grey success within the teen market, and in the United States raunchy teen literature has been flying up bestseller lists. But is there any more to so-called “Steamies” than a marketing ploy, and how many teenagers are really getting their hands on them?

Steamies are better known in the trade as New Adult Fiction. The genre was coined in 2009 by the Manhattan publishing house St Martin’s Press to reflect a slightly older group of readers who were indulging in teen, or Young Adult, fiction., which has 14 million members, is an American social networking website built around users’ reading habits. They first noticed users labelling books as New Adult in May 2011, and since creating a New Adult genre page in September 2012, 14,000 titles – a 500 per cent increase in two years – have been listed as such.

Three of the titles on the current New York Times bestseller list have been Goodreads-listed as New Adult: Someone to Love by Addison Moore, The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen and Hopeless, the third novel from New Adult author Colleen Hoover. Two of the three titles feature on their covers beautiful young things entwined in passion. Goodreads founder Elizabeth Chandler says: “It’s definitely a trend”.

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’2666′ in Pie Chart Form

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 1:24 pm

seriouslyBy  Gabe Habash

…Guerrero, at that time of night, is more like a cemetery than an avenue, not a cemetery in 1974 or in 1968, or in 1975, but a cemetery in the year 2666, a forgotten cemetery under the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child, bathed in the dispassionate fluids of an eye that tried so hard to forget one particular thing that it ended up forgetting everything else.

So you read 2666. You probably have questions. Such as:

1. What’s with all the dreams?

2. What exactly is Archimboldi doing in Mexico?

3. What is happening?

4. I’m tired.

The problem with asking any of those questions is you won’t find the answers in 2666, a world-eating novel where looking for an answer just leads to more questions. In his notes, Bolaño mentions a “hidden center” concealed beneath the novel’s “physical center.”

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Should You Publish Your Own Novel? Four Things to Think About

stock-photo-sale-books-image16596310By Holly Robinson

After writing five novels without selling any of them, I lost heart. What was I doing wrong? I had sold many articles and essays to national magazines. I had a terrific agent (and still do). I was a ghost writer who regularly penned celebrity memoirs. I had even sold a memoir of my own to none other than Random House, the Big Daddy of Publishing. Yet I couldn’t sell a novel.

“Maybe you’re no good at fiction,” my inner child whined.

Yet, there was one novel that I still liked. I couldn’t stand to keep it in a drawer, so I decided to make the leap into self publishing. The book has sold pretty well and has been nominated for a couple of awards.

Great! I was an indie author and proud of it. Then the unbelievable happened: a scant two weeks after becoming an indie author, an editor at NAL/Penguin bought my newest novel. I nearly passed out with excitement, but I was also plagued by doubt. Should I take the offer?

I’d heard all sorts of horror stories about writers giving away the bulk of their royalties to publishers that gobbled up profits in huge percentages. We indie authors keep most of our sales. Was I doing the right thing, saying yes to a publisher when I’d already done the tough work of going indie?

For anyone out there trying to make the same decision, I want to share what I’ve learned so far:

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