Readersforum's Blog

June 27, 2013

The reader on Robben Island

nilanjana_s_royBy Nilanjana S Roy

The prison rules on Robben Island allowed the incarcerated to study, with some caveats. Their most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, meant to continue reading, no matter how small his cell.

The Robben Island library was limited, though prisoners could ask for books to study. Mr Mandela wrote in his autobiography, “We had access to many unremembered mysteries and detective novels and all the works of Daphne du Maurier, but little more.”

Political books were off limits, especially if they had “red” or “war” in the title. South Africa’s censors, more literal than literary, would not allow “Little Red Riding Hood” or The War of the Worlds into the prison library.

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June 10, 2013

Tolstoy Reborn

Leo Tolstoy    (1828 - 1910)

Leo Tolstoy
(1828 – 1910)

On this day in 1881, Count Leo Tolstoy donned his peasant coat and homemade bark shoes, gathered his walking staff and two bodyguards, and set out from his estate for the Optina Pustyn monastery. Tolstoy was a national hero for his novels but already in the grip of the religious-political mania which would dominate his writing and trouble his life over the last three decades.

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October 11, 2012

Sir Salman Rushdie: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey makes Twilight look like War and Peace’

Sir Salman Rushdie

Sir Salman Rushdie has admitted that one of his least favourite books is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, saying that it makes the Twilight series look “look like ‘War and Peace’.”

By Chris Irvine

The author of ‘The Satanic Verses’ and ‘Midnight’s Children’ said that he had read a page or two of the book on Amazon, but quipped: “I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made ‘Twilight’ look like ‘War and Peace.'”

Fifty Shades of Grey has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, despite critical reception of the novel being at best mixed.

The Twilight saga is a series of vampire-themed teen romance novels by US author Stephanie Meyer that has been turned into a hugely successful film series starring Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.

Sir Salman was speaking over the weekend at the New York Festival, in New York, and was discussing ‘Joseph Anton’, his new memoir about the fatwa declared on him in 1989 by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

He also talked about the cathartic experience of finally writing his story.

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June 14, 2012

War and Peace ebook readers find a surprise in its Nooks

Between the lines … a reader with a Barnes & Noble Nook. Photograph: Richard Levine/Alamy

A ‘search and replace’ by Barnes & Noble switched every mention of ‘kindle’ with the name of the company’s ereader, ‘Nook’.

By Hermione Hoby

From one small corner of the internet this week comes a tale of an ebook glitch so deliciously absurd I’ve had to keep reminding myself that it is, in fact, true.

A few days ago a blogger who identifies himself as just “Philip” took to his site to recount his experience of reading War and Peace – specifically, a 99¢ version as sold through Barnes and Noble’s Nook store. A contextually important reminder: the Nook is Barnes and Noble’s answer to Amazon’s Kindle and the two devices have invariably been pitted against each other in a kind of ereader war.

When, however, Philip came across the line, “It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern”, the Kindle/Nook rivalry wasn’t foremost in his mind. Instead, he thought he’d just stumbled on an unorthodox verb-translation or some other minor textual hiccup. It was only when that rogue “Nookd” struck again that he realised, via the text’s search function, that every instance of the word “kindle” or “kindle” had, in fact, been changed to “Nook” and “Nookd”.

Which means Tolstoy has been subjected to indignities – and absurdities – such as this: “When the flame of the sulphur splinters Nookd by the timber burned up, first blue and then red, Shcherbinin lit the tallow candle…”

Our blogger writes: “I was shocked. Almost immediately I found it hilarious … then outrageous … then both.”

Was this an instance of egregious, not-so-subliminal advertising on the part of the Nook’s marketing department? It really does seem like the sort of satirical, absurdist flourish that David Foster Wallace might have dreamed up: a kind of product-placement as anachronistic and sacrilegious as CGI-ing iPhones into the hands of Tarkovsky characters. But the truth is both more prosaic and more funny.

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October 7, 2011

9 Books That Began Life Self Published

By Amy Edelman

Indie (aka self) publishing is hardly a new phenomena. And contrary to some, it is not code word for “not good enough.” Want proof? Take a look at the nine titles featured in our slideshow. From modern blockbusters like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and “Eragon” to acclaimed masterpieces from authors including Walt Whitman and Leo Tolstoy, indie is just another way to get your work in front of readers.

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January 5, 2011

Modern novels: They’re big, but they’re not always clever

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:53 am

When did the modern novel get so long and unwieldy? Sometimes the best things come in small packages, says Arifa Akbar.

Does 'Freedom' justify its 562 pages?

The biggest publishing event of last year saw Jonathan Franzen’s doorstopper, Freedom, garlanded as the “great American novel” by one half of the world and hailed as a modern-day War and Peace by the other. Yet after nine years of gestation and the most fastidious of working methods (the earplugs, the blinds, the disabling of internet portals), one wondered whether, if Franzen had given us something far less Proustian in length, the critical reception would have been quite so breathless. What if he had produced a sleek, 150-page novella? The idea that a work of fiction so short and sweet could gain the same critical attention as a 562-page tome is an unfamiliar one, even though several contemporary novels might have been greatly improved by more rigorous editing….read more

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