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October 16, 2013

Hollywood’s Favorite Cowboy

Viggo Mortensen in the movie adaptation 'The Road' directed by John Hillcoat

Viggo Mortensen in the movie adaptation ‘The Road’ directed by John Hillcoat

Author Cormac McCarthy, 76, talked about love, religion, his 11-year-old son, the end of the world and the movie based on his novel ‘The Road.’ He was just getting going.

By John Jurgensen

Novelist Cormac McCarthy shuns interviews, but he relishes conversation. Last week, the author sat down on the leafy patio of the Menger Hotel, built about 20 years after the siege of the Alamo, the remains of which are next door.

The afternoon conversation, which also included film director John Hillcoat of “The Road,” went on ’til dark, then moved to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Dressed in crisp jeans and dimpled brown cowboy boots, Mr. McCarthy began the meal with a Bombay Gibson, up.

The 76-year-old author first broke through with his 1985 novel “Blood Meridian,” a tale of American mercenaries hunting Indians in the Mexican borderland. Commercial success came later with 1992’s “All the Pretty Horses,” a National Book Award winner and the first installment of a Border Trilogy. Critics delved into his detailed vision of the West, his painterly descriptions of violence, and his muscular prose stripped of most punctuation.

The writer himself, however, has proved more elusive. He won’t be found at book festivals, readings and other places novelists gather. Mr. McCarthy prefers hanging out with “smart people” outside his field, like professional poker players and the thinkers at the Santa Fe Institute, a theoretical-science foundation in New Mexico where the author is a longtime fellow.

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May 22, 2013

The Library’s Future Is Not an Open Book

Interior of the 2004 Seattle Public Library.

Interior of the 2004 Seattle Public Library.

By JULIE V. IOVINE

Talk about imposing: the ceremonial stone stair leading to bronze gates and carved doors; the frieze of inspiring names and the vaulted hall that seems the very definition of hallowed. And the books, bound portals opening to anywhere imaginable, available to all comers.

In cities across the nation, the central public library came into being when the country was young and striving to impress. Charles F. McKim’s Italianate palazzo-style library opened on Boston’s Copley Plaza in 1895; in 1921, Renaissance austerity suited Detroit’s Main Library designed by Cass Gilbert, while architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue chose Egyptian Deco for Los Angeles’s downtown Central Library of 1926. Architecturally grand, the central library was both beacon and monumental tribute to learning and civic pride; a people’s palace with knowledge freely available to all. But, really, when was the last time you spent any time there?

For the first time since Henri Labrouste (1801-1875), currently the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, formulated the conception of the new, democratic library, the central library is fighting for survival. The relevance of these gloriously inflated book boxes is being questioned in an age that looks to the Internet for its intellectual resources.

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December 13, 2012

Why Women Writers Still Take Men’s Names

Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen,author, "Out of Africa" (1937). Ms. Blixen said she chose the name Isak because it means "he who laughs" in Hebrew. Her maiden name, Dinesen, means the same thing in Danish.

Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen,author, “Out of Africa” (1937). Ms. Blixen said she chose the name Isak because it means “he who laughs” in Hebrew. Her maiden name, Dinesen, means the same thing in Danish.

By STEFANIE COHEN

In ‘City of Dark Magic,” a new fantasy novel about a Beethoven scholar and a murder mystery in Prague, no one is quite who they seem to be.

Neither, it turns out, is the author, Magnus Flyte, a supposed international man of mystery, who is actually a pseudonym for the book’s authors, Christina Lynch and Meg Howrey.

Ms. Lynch and Ms. Howrey decided to use a male pseudonym for their first thriller partly because they read studies saying that while women would buy books by either sex, men preferred books by men, says Ms. Lynch. They didn’t want to risk losing a single reader. “Why would we want to exclude anyone?” says Ms. Lynch.

The Brontë sisters published their 19th-century masterpieces as the Bell brothers, because, Charlotte Brontë wrote, “we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.” More than 150 years later, women are still facing the same “prejudice” in some sectors of the publishing industry.

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December 9, 2012

Hiromi Kawakami Lone Japanese to Make Man Asian Longlist

Professor David Parker, executive director of the Man Asian Literary Prize, introduces the longlist in Hong Kong on Dec. 4.

Professor David Parker, executive director of the Man Asian Literary Prize, introduces the longlist in Hong Kong on Dec. 4.

By Lara Day

The Man Asian Literary Prize named 15 books as contenders for its 2012 award, chosen from a record 108 entries.

Novels from nine countries made the first cut for Asia’s top literary honor, with a strong showing from South Asia. Three books originated from India – “Narcopolis” by Jeet Thayil, “Goat Days” by Benyamin and “Another Country” by Anjali Joseph – while two came from Pakistan, “Thinner Than Skin” by Uzma Aslam Khan and “Between Clay and Dust” by Musharraf Ali Farooqi.

Turkey, China and Sri Lanka also generated two books each, while Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam and Japan were represented with one book each.

Turkey, China and Sri Lanka also generated two books each, while Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam and Japan were represented with one book each.

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November 22, 2012

There Can Be Only One!: Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster To Merge?

By Dean Fetzer

Talk about the silly season. In yesterday’s news, it was announced News Corp. International — who already owns Harper Collins — has expressed interest in buying publishing house Simon & Schuster, only a few weeks after they attempted to buy Penguin prior to its merger with Random House.

The fact that the Wall Street Journal (again, owned by News Corp.) reported the story is an irony that’s not lost on me. Also, News Corp. is in the process of breaking its business in half, at the moment, creating an entertainment company for its assets like Fox News, 20th Century Fox film studio, Harper Collins and Dow Jones. And the merger with Simon & Schuster could bring them quite a good chunk of the market:

 

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August 16, 2012

F-bomb makes it into mainstream dictionary

Associated Press

NEW YORK — It’s about freakin’ time.

The term “F-bomb” first surfaced in newspapers more than 20 years ago but will land Tuesday for the first time in the mainstream Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, along with sexting, flexitarian, obesogenic, energy drink and life coach.

In all, the company picks about 100 additions for the 114-year-old dictionary’s annual update, gathering evidence of usage over several years in everything from media to the labels of beer bottles and boxes of frozen food.

So who’s responsible for lobbing F-bomb far and wide? Kory Stamper, an associate editor for Merriam-Webster, said she and her fellow word spies at the Massachusetts company traced it back to 1988, in a Newsday story that had the now-dead Mets catcher Gary Carter talking about how he had given them up, along with other profanities.

But the word didn’t really take off until the late ’90s, after Bobby Knight went heavy on the F-bombs during a locker room tirade.

“We saw another huge spike after Dick Cheney dropped an F-bomb in the Senate in 2004,” and again in 2010 when Vice President Joe Biden did the same thing in the same place, Stamper said.

“It’s a word that is very visually evocative. It’s not just the F-word. It’s F-bomb. You know that it’s going to cause a lot of consternation and possible damage,” she said.

Many online dictionary and reference sites already list F-bomb and other entries Merriam-Webster is only now putting into print. A competitor, Oxford University Press, has F-bomb under consideration for a future update of its New Oxford American Dictionary.

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August 14, 2012

A Record Store, Imitating Plot of a Book

Zuma Press
Writer Michael Chabon at his Berkeley, Calif., home last year.

By BARBARA CHAI

To help sell Michael Chabon’s new novel “Telegraph Avenue,” HarperCollins Publishers is dipping a toe into the record business.

The novel, planned for a Sept. 11 release, is set in Oakland, Calif., in 2004, and in it, main characters Nat and Archy run a used-records store called Brokeland Records that is threatened by plans for a new megastore nearby on Telegraph Avenue.

To launch the book, the Harper imprint’s marketing team plans to convert Oakland bookstore Diesel into a pop-up store called Brokeland Records. From Sept. 7 to Sept. 14, the pop-up store will sell used jazz records provided by an independent record dealer named Berigan Taylor.

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July 30, 2012

Social Media Power a Novel

Halle Berry and Tom Hanks, appearing in the trailer for the movie made from the novel ‘Cloud Atlas.’

By JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG

Last Monday, David Mitchell’s eight-year-old novel “Cloud Atlas” was ranked 2,509 on Amazon.com Inc.’s best seller list. On Friday, it was No. 7.

The surge of sales was thanks to a trailer for a film version of the novel that debuted on Apple Inc’s website Thursday, combined with the power of social media.

“Almost as soon as the trailer went up, we saw chatter on Twitter and sales on Amazon really jumped,” said Jane von Mehren, publisher of trade paperbacks for the Random House Publishing Group, a unit of Bertelsmann AG’s Random House Inc.

To cash in on the renewed interest, Random House has ordered a new paperback printing of 25,000 copies, to hit stores before a special movie-tie in edition of the book is released in September. Currently, “Cloud Atlas” has 227,000 paperback copies in print in the U.S.

It isn’t unusual for a movie version of a book to spark fresh interest in an old title, of course. What’s uncommon in this case was the speed at which a mere trailer of a film had an impact.

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July 18, 2012

Memo to DOJ: Drop the Apple E-Books Suit

Restoring Amazon’s monopoly in digital publishing is not in the public interest.

By CHARLES E. SCHUMER

Recently the Department of Justice filed suit against Apple and major publishers, alleging that they colluded to raise prices in the digital books market. While the claim sounds plausible on its face, the suit could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published.

The suit will restore Amazon to the dominant position atop the e-books market it occupied for years before competition arrived in the form of Apple. If that happens, consumers will be forced to accept whatever prices Amazon sets.

All of us will lose the vibrant resources a diverse publishing universe provides. As Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild, has explained, the Justice Department’s suit is “grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.” These losses will be particularly felt in New York, which is home not only to many publishers, but also to a burgeoning digital innovation industry.

The e-books marketplace provides a perfect example of the challenges traditional industries face in adapting to the Internet economy. Amazon took an early lead in e-book sales, capturing 90% of the retail market. Because of its large product catalog, Amazon could afford to sell e-books below cost.

This model may have served Amazon well, but it put publishers and authors at a distinct disadvantage as they continued to try to market paper books and pave a way forward for a digital future. Without viable retail competitors, publishers were forced to make a Hobson’s choice. They could allow their books to be sold at the prices Amazon set, thus undercutting their own current hardcopy sales and the future pricing expectations for digital books—or stay out of the e-books market entirely. In an increasingly digital age, the latter was simply not an option.

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July 2, 2012

Your E-Book Is Reading You

Digital-book publishers and retailers now know more about their readers than ever before. How that’s changing the experience of reading.

By ALEXANDRA ALTER

It takes the average reader just seven hours to read the final book in Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy on the Kobo e-reader—about 57 pages an hour. Nearly 18,000 Kindle readers have highlighted the same line from the second book in the series: “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.” And on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the first thing that most readers do upon finishing the first “Hunger Games” book is to download the next one.

In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them.

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