Monday, March 20, 2006

More short pieces

John Barlow

John Barlow, author of Intoxicated, has a blog up with various thoughts on how come, and why, people are selling his new book on ebay.

Buy a Friend a Book Week

It's nearly Buy a Friend a Book Week again. This is the brainchild of Debra Hamel, a smart lady who has written a book which should be read by all feminists and which won't do men any harm either. Details of BAFAB are available on its own web site, and Debra also has a blog which provides a link to her book about Neaira, a courtesan of ancient Greece. As of today, Debra is also reading Jeffrey Archer's latest. There's dedication for you.

Da Vinci column inches

The Da Vinci case is generating acres of copy, little of which is worth reading. But the Guardian has a piece claiming that people who once enthused about the book have now decided that it has become unspeakably vulgar, and more or less deny that they ever admired it.

'Suddenly,' says Viv Groskop, 'it is difficult to find anyone at all who will admit to having enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. This is rather peculiar with 40 million copies purchased worldwide, presumably not all of them by Dan Brown's mum.'

Well, my position is quite clear: it was set out in my post of 17 September 2004. The book was bought for the UK by Transworld, who paid only a modest advance for it, and began to pay attention to it only after it took off in the US. It was published in the UK in March 2003, and I read it about six months later. I found it a perfectly acceptable thriller; not outstanding, but certainly readable. But then, when I found that it was really beginning to sell, I realised that I couldn't remember a damn thing about it.

In my estimation, the most famous novel of our time is not so much vulgar as forgettable. But I'm certainly not embarrassed about having enjoyed it.

Melvyn Bragg on the world's 'best' books

Melvyn to his friends, and Lord Bragg to the rest of us (make sure you tug your forelock when you greet him) is a highly successful (at least in the UK) writer and cultural guru. In yesterday's Sunday Times he gives us his list of the 12 most influential books in the world. Like all such lists, it's a bit of a farce really, but he has some interesting choices. He seems to have limited his list, in the end, to books by British writers and thinkers.

Carmel Morgan: Smaller

Carmel Morgan's new play Smaller is indeed going to go into London. (So many of these 'prior to West End' productions which tour the provinces never get nearer than Brighton.) And I see that the large press advertisements for the play's run at the Lyric Theatre now include the name of June Watson in addition to those of Dawn French and Alison Moyet. And in the same size type; though June still doesn't get to feature in the photograph.

It would be nice to think that the GOB comments about the absence of any credit for June Watson had something to do with that. But it's more likely to have been Watson's agent.

Mind you, mention of June Watson's contribution is still missing from many online references to the play. Try here, for instance. And here. And here. Such is life, eh?

The Old Pals Act and the Grauniad

My reference last week to the Old Pals Act of 1898 (in relation to the Michael Dibdin review of Sam Bourne's new book) elicited from one reader some scholarly elucidation of the more obscure sections of Act. This came in the form of a comment from m'learned friend Iain, to whom I am deeply indebted. Essential reading, this one. It explains a great deal. Go take a look.

And, while we are on the subject of that post, perhaps I should explain my repeated references to the Grauniad newspaper, which another commenter took to be a fit of the dyslexics. In fact the repeated references were not typos but something of a conceit.

Many years ago, the Guardian had a reputation for having an unacceptably high proportion of typographical errors; and this in a time when people still knew about such obscure things as the difference between appraise and apprise. As a result of this failing, the UK satirical magazine Private Eye began to refer to the Guardian as the Grauniad, a practice which is copied by quite a few writers in the UK. In my own case, I almost invariably use it when referring to reports in the Eye, but not otherwise.

Little UK in-joke, you see. Sorry. Should have remembered that we have readers elsewhere.


Over the weekend I discovered that the UK weekly Publishing News gets its online news feed (or most of it) from an outfit called PRWeb. This site appears to carry any press release, from anywhere, on anything. And they then sort the releases by subject, geographical area, and so forth.

So, if you want to see every press release in the entire world on the subject of books, click on the News by Category heading, choose Arts & Entertainment:Books, and away you go.

Only the most obsessive news freak would, I think, want to read everything that's there. But if you need to write a press release yourself, this is the place to go to find examples of how other people do it: the good, the bad, and the indifferent.


Anonymous said...

"references to the Grauniad newspaper"
Little UK in-joke, you see. Sorry. Should have remembered that we have readers elsewhere.

I saw that and couldn't figure out why you hadn't corrected your spelling....from across the pond:-)

Anonymous said...

Quite ok about the UK humor. We in the colonies chuckle as we high-brow one another and pretend we understand it.

As far as the 12 most influential books, I'm reminded that I return yearly to re-read Arkwright's "Patent Specification for his Spinning Machine." I understand Tom Cruise and Paris Hilton will be starring in a movie version shortly.

Anonymous said...

Well, I finished with the Archer book:

Anonymous said...

Yes. I am pleased to see you so gratified, young sir. I am sure it was because of you that June Watson's name was added to the SMALLER poster. No doubt. Why else. It took YOU to make them realise what they had. She was cast on a whim, certainly. A lucky roll of the die. But will you not grudgingly accept that were it not for the publicity garnered by French and Moyet, that incidently resulted in a six week sell out tour and a current west end seat, (like it or not, and they certainly seem to) Ms Watson would not be seen by as many punters or casting directors as she is, enjoying the hefty role that she does. The photo was done BEFORE SHE WAS CAST.. as was the pre publicity you insist on pointing at. If you feel so strongly about it. Write her a play yourself. With lots of picture posters. A monologue perhaps and tattoo her face on your chest with her name embossed in capitals. Or better still. Have her taken out of this play that you feel is such a sham, away from the chubby charlatans and into one of those other leading roles for women in their seventies currently gracing the west end and beyond.

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