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Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
A collection of E H Shepard's original drawings for the children's books has fetched one-point-two-six million pounds at auction.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Last Sunday's book section of the New York Times features an alarming story by Dave Itzkoff. The Man Group, a publicly traded investment company and hedge fund that has sponsored the Booker Prize since 2002, announced that it had about $360 million in funds linked to the rogue Wall Street executive Bernard L. Madoff (pictured).
Former Nasdaq chairman Madoff was recently arrested on a charge of making off with fifty billion dollars entrusted to his companies by trusting investors, in the most high profile collapse of a hedge fund to date. Breaking news is that a New York-based money manager who may have lost $1.4 billion of client funds in Madoff investments has killed himself in his Madison Avenue office. By contrast, Madoff, who appears to have no conscience at all, is probably headed for a comfortable white collar prison.
His shenanigans have sent two European banks to the edge: Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. "Madoff has single-handedly turned an already very bad year for hedge funds into a catastrophe," said one commentator, according to Times On Line. So is it a catastrophe for the Man Booker, too?
Apparently not. Man Group's loss, though it appears huge to ordinary folks like you and me, wipes out only 1.5% of its assets, and the company insists that the sponsorship deal will not be changed or cancelled.
Borders announced yesterday that they have extended the deadline by one month on both the repayment of their $42.5 million senior secured term loan to Pershing Square, as well as the "put" to require Pershing to purchase their Paperchase subsidiary for $65 million. Both deadlines have been extended to February 16. In late November when reporting quarterly earnings Borders said they were "in discussions with Pershing Square regarding an alternative financing transaction."
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Two senior figures in the process that chose Harald zur Hausen for this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine have strong links with the London-based multi-national pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which has also recently begun sponsoring the Nobel website. The company strongly denies any wrongdoing.
It is not the only question mark hanging over the probity of the Stockholm-based foundation. The Swedish prosecutor yesterday opened a parallel investigation into bribery allegations after several members of Nobel committees admitted enjoying expenses-paid trips to China to tell officials how candidates are selected for prizes.
Other members of the Nobel Foundation are said to be gravely concerned that the reputation of an organisation that honours the highest achievements in human endeavour is under threat from companies and nations hungry for Nobel glory.
So far, the literature prize has not been implicated, thankfully, but ramifications could lurk in the wings.
Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Nobel Prize-distributing Swedish Academy, has just announced that he will leave his post in June. A couple of months ago, I posted a report that Engdahl had dismissed American literature in a couple of impolite sentences: "The U.S. is too isolated, too insular ... They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature."
Have the chickens come home to roost?
BRITON SAVAGED FOR BOOK ON SEEDY SIDE OF GREAT WRITER
CRITICS IN TURN ACCUSED OF 'CONSPIRACY OF CENSORSHIP'
Thus run the sub-headers in a story written by Kate Connolly which was published in The Guardian on Friday, August 15, this year. Old news, but new to me. Apparently, it is hotly debated in the blogosphere (to which I return after being stranded for days with very limited internet connection. Don't, whatever you do, download a program called "iTunes," as it monsters your internet usage without you knowing it, and you can end up with an enormous bill.)
Well, it seems that a collection of pornography owned by Franz Kafka was recently discovered at the Bodleian Library (Oxford University) and the British Library, by Kafka authority James Hawes. Hawes revealed some of this erotic material in his recently published book Excavating Kafka. According to the story, this stash was concealed by scholars in an attempt to preserve the writer's image, and the content is definitely sensational, in an upmarket sort of way. "These are not naughty postcards from the beach," Mr. Hawes is quoted as saying. "Some of it is quite dark. It's quite unpleasant."
Understandably, German academia is outraged.
"Hawes has given us a look through the keyhole of a Kafka with his trousers down," wrote Kafka researcher Anjana Shrivastava, going on to colorfully scoff that to call those "illustrated magazines ... hardcore porn is like comparing a poem by Heinrich Heine with an advertising slogan for McDonald's." Kafka critic Klaus Wagerbach called Hawes an ignorant idiot. Kafka biographer Rainer Stach said the furore was an "unbelievable marketing ploy."
So, does the pornographic collection exist? Oh yes. No one has ever claimed that Kafka was pure and chaste (though I am surprised that anyone so subject to utter gloom, who so tragically starved to death while those who cared for him stood helplessly by, should be so interested in sex, the source of life). However, says Stach, the "pornographic" pictures are quite innocent, really, being "playful representations, some styled like caricatures."
Hawes, an Oxford graduate who teaches creative writing, has hit back at his critics, accusing them of "a conspiracy of censorship." Why, he demanded, have Kafka scholars deliberatedly ignored this aspect of their idol?
Who knows? The debate continues.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
This weekend, Lorraine Adams reviews Sherry Jones's Jewel of Medina, the highly controversial novelization of the story of Muhammed's fourth wife, for the New York Times
She first goes over the ground already covered in this blog, as well as in a host of newspapers and other internet sites -- the warning issued by a pre-publication reader that the book could incite Muslim outrage -- the decision by the original publisher to halt publication -- the attempted firebombing of the London office of the publisher who took up the project -- and so on and so forth.
Then we get to the nitty gritty of her take on the book itself. In brief, Jones's research gets a B plus, while her writing gets a C minus.
Read it for yourself. Adams did a good job -- apparently a better job than the novel merits.
Friday, December 12, 2008
As GalleyCat comments, it is surely worth a disbelieving shake of the head that "during these topsy-turvy days for publishing, a 9-year-old kid struck gold."
The bookseller showed an operating loss of 9.3 million pounds for the period, 4.5 percent more than last year's loss of 8.9 million pounds, reflecting "a very challenging book market, which contracted by over 5 percent in the period, impacted particularly by poor performance in the non-fiction category."
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
And, sure enough, the eminent politician was surprised by a reporter from The Sunday Age while ferreting around in Readings bookshop in a Melbourne suburb, Carlton, where Mr Rudd bought a copy of Nuns Having Fun, although he tried to pass off his purchase as a "bit of Christmas shopping." Having delivered that prevarication, he headed for the new releases table at the front of the store, and became elaborately immersed in Edward Duyker's A Dictionary of Sea Quotations in an effort to avoid this unseemly interruption by the press.
The public foiled him, however, by demanding that he pose for photos with them, occasionally with babies in tow. The babies, he liked, but the inspection of his choice of reading matter was evidently unsettling. By the time he got to the cashier, Mr Rudd was also carrying Tom Holland's Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom and Simon Schama's The American Future: A History.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
All eight regional winners -- who will be announced in March 2009 -- will take part in the activities, and visit schools and literary bodies while they are in the country. This Festival is always a big boost for the cultural scene in Auckland, with famous writers, critics, and journalists flitting here and there in the crowd. Next year, obviously, be bigger, brighter, and better than ever, with visitors arriving from all over the world.
While the first deadline for entry has passed, publishers are urged to make late entries. They can do this as long as they notify the relevant chair, and get the books in by December 31, 2008.
Sumner M. Redstone has announced that Viacom would shave seven percent of its workforce, and freeze salaries for top managers, in an effort to save about $200 million next year. NBC Universal, likewise, is going to lay off five hundred staff, including some veteran correspondents.
At Universal Studios, a memo from chairman Marc Shmuger announces that staff numbers will be cut by three percent, and the studios will be "scaling back on travel, overtime, consultants, premiers, conferences, newspaper marketing and general administrative costs."
"This kind of message is never easy," said Jeffrey A. Zucker, CEO of Universal (which is owned by the General Electric Company). Executives at the Walt Disney Company, the News Corporation and CBS are preparing themselves to issue that "kind of message," too, as sales and advertising revenue dry up.
Employees who have lost their jobs at Viacom, including those at Paramount Studios, will be paid until December 31, and then get some kind of severance payment. "Saying goodbye to friends and colleagues is always difficult," say the president, Philippe P. Dauman, and Thomas E. Dooley, the chief financial officer. It must be hard for them to feel their pain, though -- their salaries might be frozen, but they will still receive an end-of-year bonus for navigating the firm in rocky financial waters. Last year, Mr. Dauman's bonus was $7 million, and apparently the target this this year's sterling work is to be $9.5 million. Last year, Mr. Dooley's bonus was $5.6 million, and this year it is slated to be $7.6 million.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
According to Publisher's Lunch a memo from the CEO of the publishing house, which in the past has enjoyed huge sales (after paying huge advances) of books written by such glittering stars as Mary Higgins Clark and Stephen King, announces that Simon & Schuster has "enacted a reduction in staff in which 35 positions across the company were eliminated, from areas including our publishing divisions and international, operations and sales.