Never trust a Frenchman
The Observer carried a story to the effect that there are 3,000 literary prizes in France, most of them, it seems, being awarded in November. And there are some people who take the view that the judging of these awards is not entirely objective.
Says the Obbie: 'The 60-odd life members of the juries of the major prizes find themselves accused of back-scratching, favouritism, self-seeking commercialism and downright corruption.'
Apparently it's the system whereby judges are appointed for life which causes all the trouble. 'There are systems in place,' says one commentator, 'that benefit everybody except the consumer.'
Hard to believe, really, isn't it?
A very common name
I had an email recently from a lady whose name is shared by only one other person on the planet: her niece. But my name is as common as muck. What is more, several other Michael Allens are involved in the book world in one way or another.
One such Mike Allen is a poet and editor of various anthologies of fantasy stories. Details on his web site.
Dawkins, God, and Pastor Ted
Fifty years ago, I was at school with a chap called Richard Dawkins. It was a boarding school, and we were in the same house, so I suppose I must have seen quite a lot of him, day in and day out, but I can't say that I remember much about him. He was a couple of years younger than me, and therefore, as is the way with schoolboys, he was almost invisible.
However, in recent years Dawkins has become highly visible, mainly through his books. Academically he is as prestigious as you can get, currently holding the post of Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, and, despite the fact that they deal with complicated subjects, his books have managed to find a popular audience.
The latest Dawkins book is The God Delusion, which constitutes an attack, I think it is fair to say, on 'the idea of a supernatural creator that is appropriate for us to worship'. In the UK this book is selling remarkably well, with 9,133 copies shifted last week.
I was reminded of Dawkins by a post on the Riotlit blog (thanks to Daniel Scott Buck for the link). Said post, by Brad Listi, is about the Christian evangelist Ted Haggard. Yea, verily, the same Ted H who has just been been caught with his pants down -- and with a bloke too.
Brad Listi provides a link to part of Richard Dawkins's recent TV programme about religion, The Root of All Evil? In that YouTube clip, Dawkins shows Haggard at work, and then interviews him. To my eye, Haggard comes across as a very nasty piece of work indeed. As Dawkins points out, Haggard would have fitted in quite nicely as a warm up act at a Nuremberg rally.
The word that popped into my head, on viewing Pastor Ted up close, was 'psychopath'. So I looked it up. Turns out that Ted has a good many of the diagnostic criteria, but not perhaps a full set.
Oddly enough, the News page on Pastor Ted's own web site says nothing at all about his current difficulties, but the Times quotes him as follows: 'I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life.'
That much, frankly, we could have guessed from the Dawkins clip.
Have you ever heard of Henry Darger? I hadn't, until yesterday, when I read a reference in the Times to an Artsworld TV programme about him.
Henry Darger was, apparently, 'a reclusive Chicago janitor with an amazing secret — a 19,000-page novel about a fantasy land, lavishly illustrated with intricate watercolours, which was found in his rubbish-strewn flat after his death in 1973.'
When I came to Google Mr Darger, I was rather dismayed to find that he is a controversial figure, being accused in some quarters of an unhealthy interest in child abuse -- and, some say, he was possibly guilty of murder, to boot.
Crumbs. Now here's something that really took me by surprise. Cantara Christopher, of Cantarabooks and several mentions here, told me about Mobile Libris, a New-York-City-based outfit run by Sharon Preiss. Working on behalf of authors or publishers -- big and small -- Sharon handles book sales at authors' readings and other book events. She is reportedly very good at this.
Just how good becomes clear when you go to her web site. See, for instance, the endorsements from the authors of The Nanny Diaries and HarperCollins, as well as some smaller names. But what really caught my eye was the number of events handled. On October 17, for example, there were six in one night.
Henry Baum makes progress
Henry Baum's book North of Sunset was reviewed here on 14 March 2006. I wasn't wildly enthusiastic, but the Poddy Girl liked it a lot. Now Henry has won himself an award: to be precise, North of Sunset was the grand prize winner ($1,000) at the 2006 Hollywood Book Festival. This got him, Cantara Christopher tells me, on to the books of top-tier literary agent Frank Weimann.
All of this was achieved, please note, through a book published by Lulu.com.
Perhaps because he sees opportunities opening up, Henry has decided to give up his blog -- or at any rate reduce his workload considerably. 'All the energy I expend here should probably be put into my novel,' he says. Which sounds quite sensible to me.
Yesterday I mentioned, briefly, and at the risk of indelicacy, the question of bathroom books. And I knew that I'd read something more about that subject recently, only I couldn't remember where. Now I have remembered. It was at Void magazine. Where they are definitely indelicate about it.
In a comment on the Eve Pollard/Jackie Kennedy novel, mentioned last Thursday, Iain said: 'I don't know if we've had a what-if novel about Princess Diana, but if not, you can put money on it that we're going to get one. And probably more than one.'
Well, actually we've not only had one, but it was published while she was alive. And it was really rather delightful. It would have been hard, I think, for any reasonable person to take exception to it, because it was all so lighthearted and very human.
Entitled Di and I, the alternative Diana book was written by Peter Lefcourt, and was published by Gollancz in 1994. The Daily Mail described it as 'deft, clever, and very, very funny.' And the Sunday Telegraph said it was 'notably well written and extravagantly funny.'
It's a while since I read the book, but I seem to remember that Di and a new husband end up running a McDonald's franchise in America, and Fergie (currently Duchess of York) goes off with Ross Perot (remember him?).
Actually I think I might read it again.
The joy of selling
Tonto Press boys have further info on selling to the UK high-street shops, and promise an insight into dealing with the library service soon.
UK Writers conference
Kate Allan tells me that the Verulam Writers Circle (based in St Albans) is organising a conference next February. Speakers include Jonathan Stroud, of the Bartimaeus trilogy. (Did I ever read part three?)
Robert Eggleton wrote to me a while back and asked me to review his novel Rarity from the Hollow. I politely (I hope) declined, on account of the pile is far too big already, but I did mention him, and the mention drew a couple of comments.
Well, Robert is a persistent blighter, and when the associate editor of the Missouri Review was also a bit reluctant to give him her attention, he kept on nagging. She felt a bit guilty about not helping the first time around (as did I) and eventually she read a bit of the book and started thinking about it. You can read the result online.