Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday phish

Being taken for granted

Catherine Czerkawska blogs, occasionally, about the joys of writing for a living, and on Tuesday she did a piece about being asked to perform, as it were, for free -- something which, as she sensibly points out, is not expected of plumbers or dentists.

This story reminds me of a similar instance from the 1950s, I think. Ed Murrow used to do a show about people's homes (as I recall) on prime-time NBC or whatever. One of the famous names who was approached to appear was the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. What was the fee, she asked. No fee, they said; people do it for the publicity. Mahalia said if there was no fee, there was no show. They paid.

Catherine's new book, God's Islanders, a history of the people of Gigha, was published by Birlinn, just before Christmas.

Atlas shrugged again

A correspondent asks me how I can expect to be taken seriously if I have never heard of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (see Tuesday). Well yes; yes indeed.

Fifty years ago, a gloomy schoolmaster remarked to me, 'You know, Allen, the number of books you haven't read is really rather alarming.' Alas, it was true then, and 'tis true now.

Meanwhile, Penguin UK are much better informed than I am. They are bringing out a new edition of the book on 22 February. Here's the email blurb, with a few words added by me so that I can understand it:


Seen as the most influential book for Americans after the Bible, and highly rated by Alan Greenspan, Atlas Shrugged is tremendous in scope. First published in 1947, [it] dramatises Ayn Rand's controversial philosophy of Objectivism, which champions competition, creativity and human greatness, and [is an] uncompromising defence of self-interest as the engine of progress. An intellectual mystery story integrating ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics and sex, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life. Atlas Shrugged is peopled by larger than life heroes and villains and charged with questions of good and evil.
How could I have missed it? (Don't answer that.)

Woolworths? Books?

Clive Keeble is one of many who have noted, with some alarm, that Woolworths, once but no longer an enormously successful retailer, has bought Bertram, a leading UK book wholesaler. Who, Clive enquires, wants to trust a failing mega-store's wholesale outlet arm to be supplying independent bookshops with some of their stock? Not he, evidently.

The financial press wasn't too impressed either. See Charles Pretzlik in the FT, and Richard Ratner has identified Woolworths as another firm (along with HMV/Waterstone's) in the living dead category.

For further discussion of this issue, see the comments on Richard Charkin's blog.

Another way to use Lulu

Suppose, just suppose, you were a staff member on a leading newspaper. And suppose you'd written a novel. In the old days, of course, you wouldn't have had much trouble in getting your paper to serialise it. (See my piece on the Old Pals Act of 1898.) But now you can go one better.

Now you can write the book, do it through Lulu, and get your paper to serialise it online, with a link to Lulu. Profits to shared.

See, for example, what David Hilzenrath is up to, in the Washington Post, with Jezebel's Tomb, his 'biblical mystery, reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code'. (Link from Publishers Lunch.)

The Washington Post notes that 'newspaper Web sites increasingly are publishing content not traditionally thought of as journalism in an attempt to lure more users, such as hosting discussion groups and posting pictures of readers' children.' Ahh... In that nice?

Just in case you're wondering, no, Hilzenrath couldn't get Jezebel's Tomb published by a mainstream publisher. It says so, right there in the WP.


After he was turned down by publishers repeatedly in 2005, "a light bulb went on," said Hilzenrath, 41, a 19-year Post veteran. "There's a better way: Use the power of the Web for promotion and the power of on-demand publishing to reduce the upfront cost," he said.
Makes you think a bit, eh what?

Amazon shorts

A commenter on my short story (or whatever) Lucius the Club (see Wednesday) advises me to try Amazon Shorts next time. I'd never heard of this (ignorance again), so I took a look.

Well, ahem, I'm not at all sure I'd get in there, frankly. In fact I'm pretty sure I wouldn't. But at least it tells you how to apply. Which is nice. And it's certainly something which should be considered by those with energy, ambition, and youth.

The Samplist

Francis Ellen's The Samplist (reviewed here on 9 October 2006) is still attracting attention two years after publication. Here's the latest review, by Ian Hocking in Spike magazine.

Be aware, however, that not all the books on sampling which are listed below the review are talking about the same thing as Francis Ellen. But that's not the reviewer's fault, I'm sure.

Save Greenway

Agatha Christie's old home in Devon, Greenway, now belongs to the National Trust, and they need funds to keep it in good order. No doubt her publishers are helping. Not to mention Chorion, who currently control the Christie brand name.

Get Writing

If you live anywhere near St Alban's, England, you might like to know about a writing conference on 17 February.

Another party

Tindal Street must think highly of Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost, because they're having a launch party in London as well as the one in Birmingham (mentioned Tuesday). The London do is on Monday 12th February, 7-9 pm, at Crockatt & Powell Booksellers, 119 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7AE (nearest tube: Waterloo).

7 comments:

Andrew O'Hara said...

Now I'm confused. All this time I've been told 'Ulysses' was the biggest thing since the Bible. Now you tell me it's 'Atlas Shrugged?'

I wasted far too many hours on Ulysses to feel any urge to take on a book about maps (that's a joke, folks). We're talking about a selected few books in the literary kingdom that one dare not dislike and must (must) nod about as wise and witty in the wine and brie crowd.

Someone noted that, to get the pretty girl in the college library, sit across from her with a copy of 'Ulysses' and chuckle aloud each time you turn the page.

Martin said...

Ayn Rand is quite another breed of goat than James Joyce. She was primarily a hyper-libertarian capitalist polemicist. Not high-brow.

"Phish"? Pish tosh!

Marti said...

Hope this finds you well. We've suffered through a massive ice storm and are expecting a blizzard this weekend. My 89 year-old father-in-law slipped and broke his hip, so I've been at the hospital a lot, which is never fun.

I'm a bit surprised that you hadn't read "Atlas Shrugged". I found it interesting. It's over-the-top, but it held my interest and some of the imagery has stayed with me for a lifetime.

Dan said...

There was a great joke endorsement on the back Jon Stewart's book AMERICA:

"This is similar to my works in that anyone who reads it is sure to be an asshole for at least a month afterward." - Ayn Rand

Peter L. Winkler said...

Rand's "The Fountainhead" delineates Objectivism more concisely than "Atlas Shrugged." Even shorter is the essay collection "The Virtue of Selfishness."

Agree or disagree with her, I find Rand to be a fascinating intellectual monomaniac, and her life story is quite something. Barbara Branden's "The Passion of Ayn Rand" is a fascinating biography. Avoid Jeff Britting's recent hagiography.

Ice Scribe said...

GOB--Given your own interest in the craft of fiction writing, you might enjoy Rand's Art of Fiction even more than Atlas.

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