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Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's never too late to return a library book


Conscience struck after 70 years, and a book has been returned to the Cubitt Town Library, Tower Hamlets, East London.

The BBC reports that Iris Chadwick (pictured with the book), who used to live on the Isle of Dogs, before moving to her current residence in Dorset, found the book while clearing out her house.
She borrowed the score of the musical Rose Marie from the library in 1939, on the eve of war, when she was just thirteen. Over the next 70 years, as the story poetically relates, "communism rose and fell, England won the football World Cup and man set foot on the moon."
And all that time the book was sitting on (or in) or piano stool, until Mrs. Chadwick found it. "It was part of my childhood," she said. Her first thought was to take it to a charity shop, but then she bit the bullet, set thoughts of library fines firmly aside, and made the trip to Tower Hamlets.
At 10p a day, the fine would have topped a hefty two-and-a-half thousand quid, but to Mrs. Chadwick's vast relief, the council agreed to waive it.
Encouraged by this evidence that it is never too late to return a library book, they have introduced a three-month amnesty for late library books.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Martha's Vineyard rivals combine to sell books



Can you imagine Borders and B&N having a I-help-you-you-help-me relationship? Even when the aim is to serve the reading public better?

It's being done on Martha's Vineyard. As Megan Dooley of the Martha's Vineyard Gazette reports, the two reigning bookstores have "tapped into some old Vineyard magic: a sense of cooperation, community and support."


At the suggestion of a Random House rep, Dawn Braasch (left) of Bunch of Grapes and Susan Mercier of Edgartown Books teamed up to create a big enough crowd to entice Richard Russo to visit the island, appearing Friday at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.

They also work together to serve their customers. Braasch notes, "It's great to be able to say to a customer, if we don't have [a book], 'Let me call Edgartown Books.' My goal is if we don't have it, they will or vice versa. We can't all carry everybody's book, and sometimes you make a judgment call for your store, is it going to sell or not. I think we have different clientele, certainly, in the way that Edgartown is different from Vineyard Haven."

Monday, August 10, 2009

BOUNTY for sale


Yes, the legendary HMS Bounty, scene of the most famous mutiny in British history, and the star of stirring nonfiction books, novels, and film adaptations, is up for sale.

The mutiny led by Fletcher Christian, who seized the breadfruit-laden Bounty after leaving Tahiti in April 1789, and set the captain, William Bligh, adrift in a boat, ranks up there with the Titanic as one of the iconic stories of the sea. The combination of sadism, violent confrontation, a sexy Polynesian paradise, and an epic small boat voyage has an enduringly irresistible appeal.

Ever since March 1790, when Bligh arrived in London to report what he called a "close-planned act of villainy", thousands of words have been written, and miles of film made. To be exact, five films have been made, one―the 1935 Oscar-winner―managing to convince the world that Bligh was a brute who looked just like Charles Laughton, and Christian, portrayed by Clark Gable, was a romantic hero.
Marlon Brando, who played an equally dashing Christian in a 1962 version, was so seduced by the story he married his Boraboran co-star, and bought his own Polynesian islet, which is one of the many coconut palm-studded motu that lie on the reef that almost completely encircles the dramatic peaks and chasms of Bora Bora. The mutiny now has several websites.

The Bounty that provided the romatic and dashing setting for the Brando film (technically known as "Bounty 2") is the one up for sale. Built by MGM studios for Mutiny on the Bounty, the replica sailing ship was due to be scrapped when filming was finished, but Brando had fallen in love with the vessel. Presumably he had spent all his spare dosh on his islet, because instead of purchasing it himself, he persuaded the moguls to spare the vessel for sale to someone else.

The ship has had three owners, including Ted Turner. The current owner is a reluctant seller, but apparently personal circumstances give him no choice.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

More on Covers of Color


Spymouse reminds me that the jacket for Andrea Levy's Small Island showed two young women, well-dressed in the style of the late 40s/ early 50s, passing each other in the street, one white, one black. The novel itself has sold brilliantly, transcending all possible boundaries. Indeed, a two-part TV dramatisation is scheduled for September (starring Naomie Harris - she was in White Teeth a couple of years ago), and sales will probably take off all over again as a result.

Andrea's fifth novel The Long Song is scheduled to come out early next year. It's based on the life of her great- (or possibly great-great) grandmother, who was a slave in the West Indies. No prizes for guessing what ought to be on the jacket!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Blogging works! "Liar" jacket changed


A few days ago I posted a comment about the white girl pictured on the jacket of Aussie author Justine Larbalestier's YA book about a black girl, and I was certainly not alone. Bloggers, along with the author herself, wondered openly about the strange choice of a white girl with long, straight hair for a novel about a black American girl with "nappy" hair.
Karen Springen in Publishers Weekly writes that the blogosphere has power. Pressured by online commentary, the powers that be at Bloomsbury Children's Books have made a decision to change the controversial cover.
"We regret that our original creative direction for Liar-which was intended to symbolically reflect the narrator's complex psychological makeup-has been interpreted by some as a calculated decision to mask the character's ethnicity," ran Bloomsbury's official statement. Accordingly, they are going to rejacket the book in time for its publication in October.
So what will the jacket feature? My bet is that it will be text only, like the Australian Allen & Unwin edition. It would be great to see a photo of a black girl, but I suspect the sales department will balk.
After all, Tony Hillerman's mystery novels, where the detectives were native Navajo policemen, were hugely popular, but not a single volume in my complete collection has a picture of a Navajo man on the cover. Instead, there are stylized figures vaguely reminiscent of tribal art.
And I can't help wondering, too, how the Allen & Unwin editions of my Wiki Coffin books would have sold if they had been brave enough to feature a Maori on the jacket ....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wiki Coffin poetry competition

First there was the Booker longlist, and now there is the Wiki Coffin poetry competition!

Yesterday, I received the following very amusing post:

My Mom and I love your Wiki Coffin series and are awaiting the next installment. Last winter she left a message on my phone:


"Wiki Coffin, he's our man
Cooking fish in a frying pan.
Can he solve it?
Yes, I guess.
Wiki, Wiki, yes, yes, yes"


That about sums it up.

Cynthia Allen (daughter)Marcia Caldwell (mother & Wiki inspired poet)


Having had an equally amusing "conversation" with Cynthia and Marcia, I now have permission to post their letter and their poem -- which have inspired the competition. Who can match or outdo Marcia's ditty-making skills? All entries welcomed.

Deadline? How about the last of August?

And the prize? Not exactly Booker level, but a signed copy of Deadly Shoals must be worth something!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Booker Long-lister has Long Battle with Wikipedia


While I said there were few surprises with the long list for the Booker Prize, one of the new names has an interesting and thought-provoking background.

Ed O'Loughlin is a debut novelist but a seasoned writer, accustomed to being under fire as the Middle East correspondent for major Australian papers, including The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, and The Age. His book, Not Untrue and Not Unkind (and this is not a surprise) is a war correspondent's reflections on his years of reporting from Africa.
What is a surprise is that he has been fighting a battle of his own for some years - a battle with giant internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, which flourishes from contributions by anonymous writers, many (if not most) of them amateur. According to the internet magazine The Millions, he was attacked for his so-called bias against Israel by critics who targeted his Wikipedia page.
It's no good looking it up. The page has been removed. O'Loughlin requested them to do it, in a letter addressed to "Dear whoever you all are.
"My name is Ed O'Loughlin," he wrote; "this is my real name, I stress - and I am the subject of this article.
"The article as it has appeared in its various manifestations in recent months is a starkly one-sided attack on my personal and professional character which is based entirely on highly partisan sources and falsehoods. The moving forces behind it are anonymous people who do not have the integrity to reveal their identities or interests, and whose malicious intent is quite clear ..."
Wow. Follow the link above to read the rest of the letter yourself.
Personally, I have been very suspicious of Wikipedia, starting from the time I looked up Captain Charles Wilkes (1798-1877), commander of the great United States Exploring Expedition, and found that the contributor had confused him with the social activist and British radical politician John Wilkes (1727-97). I corrected the page and went away, never to visit again.