Reflections by award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett, author of many books about the sea
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Thursday, December 24, 2009
Christmas scoop for Cambridge University Library
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Poet wins short story award
Poet Kate Clanchy (44, pictured) has won the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award with only her second attempt at a short story, earning herself fifteen thousand pounds.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
First novel wins John Llewellyn Rhys book prize
Her novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, is set in eastern Australia, and tells the story of the convoluted relationship between a father and his son through a series of wars.
Louise Doughty, the chair of the judges, said this novel is truly remarkable, capturing "the inflections of male speech and male bonding in a way that feels both acute and realistic."
Click here for the shortlist, and the BBC report.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
You don't actually have to be a Booker winner to write bad sex, but it helps
Following the announcement of the winner of the 17th annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, Tom Geoghegan asks in the BBC News Magazine whether sex in books really does have to be so bad - and whether it helps to be an acclaimed literary novelist.
Singer turned author Nick Cave, Booker winner John Banville and novelist Philip Roth were all shortlisted for this year's award, which was won by Jonathan Littell (pictured, looking wry), for his novel The Kindly Ones.
Littell's book, originally published in French (what else?), won the Prix Goncourt in 2006. It has also sold over a million copies - but not, apparently, for the glowing, inspirational sex scenes.
Judges at the Literary Review gave Littell the prize for a passage that begins, "This sex was watching at me, spying on me, like a Gorgon's head." (Was something lost in translation, perhaps?) He also describes an energetic act as "a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg."
The Literary Review hopes that the author will take the dishonor in "good humor." Who can tell? The award has been accepted by his agent, but Littell is yet to comment.
The magazine story, which explores the reasons why writers write about sex so badly, includes lots of quotes. The one I like the best, however, is a comment from a reader, Edward James, of Southport, who says:
"Thank you for thrusting the rapier of enquiry into the delicate flower of this subject."
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Instore chaos as Borders UK files for bankruptcy
Friday, November 27, 2009
Palin memoir number one
Sarah Palin's Going Rogue will be Number One on the New York Times bestsellers chart this week.
Dave Itzkoff reports for the NYT that the newly released memoir sold 469,000 copies in the first week of release, shoving Names like James Patterson, Stephen King, and Dan Brown further down the ratings chart.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
MS of A CHRISTMAS CAROL on display
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Borders UK doomed?
Friday, November 20, 2009
No Oprah book club?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Bestselling Call Girl Lowers the Veil
Andy Warhol's Little Red Hen for Sale
Monday, November 16, 2009
This happened when I started wondering about Parkinson's paints. Parkinson, of course, was Sydney Parkinson, the natural history artist who was employed by Joseph Banks, and voyaged on the Endeavour with Captain Cook and Tupaia. In Tahiti, or so Banks related in his journal, Parkinson was forced to sit under a mosquito net while painting in the open. Because of the fascinated crowd? So he could share his craft with Tupaia (who took up art himself) in semi-private?
It was because of the flies. Wrote Banks, "they eat the painters colours off the paper as fast as they can be laid on." Well, it was not a surprise that there were so many flies, as every nobly born Tahitian carried his personal fly-whisk. But I did start to wonder what the flies ate. They surely were not interested in the water dilutant of the water colors, Tahiti not being the desert, so it must have been the pigment.
Accordingly, I searched the web for anything about pigments and found a lively web exhibit, Pigments through the Ages. The pigments are inorganic, mostly, or so I found. Red, for instance, was mercuric sulphide, while the browns, oranges, and yellows are based on ochres. Surely the flies did not eat that! But then I found that blue came from indigo, or woad leaves, which had been fermented with . . . wait for it . . . human urine.
But there was another, even more fascinating, wrinkle. That urine had to be highly alcoholic, so the dyers prepared for the job by getting thoroughly drunk. The actual dyeing process happened on Sundays. The pieces of cloth were dunked in the tubs of alcoholic urine and left overnight, and on Mondays the hungover dyers hung them up in the air, and the cloth gradually turned bright blue.
Hence the term "Blue Monday."
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Canada's Giller Prize won by priest abuse novel
The book, called The Bishop's Man, is dedicated to "priests and nuns struggling to do their jobs." MacIntyre believes that those jobs are made much harder because of a "failure of leadership" in the Church.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Kindle for your PC
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Romance goes digital
Harlequin has announced the launch of Carina Press, a digital-only publishing house that will sell directly to consumers and "operate independently of their traditional publishing businesses."
Angela James is joining the new operation as executive editor. Their call for submissions include both new works as well as "books that have been previously released in print form, but for which the author has either retained digital rights or had digital rights revert to them."
With an expected summer 2010 launch, Carina plans to issue new titles weekly. Harlequin ceo Donna Hayes says, "We expect to discover new authors and unique voices that may not be able to find homes in traditional publishing houses. It definitely gives us greater flexibility in the type of editorial we can accept from authors and offer to readers. As well, we hope to reach a new group of readers with niche editorial."Release
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Jane Austen's letters on show
Claire Prentice, reporting for the BBC, relates that over a hundred items, including rare letters and the manuscript of a book, are now on show at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan. Called "A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy," the exhibition opened on 6 November, and will run until 14 March.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Design Your Own Envelope
If you are famous, that is.
The Pitney Bowes Pushing the Envelope campaign is an annual event where celebrities are invited to design an envelope, which will be auctioned on eBay for the National Literacy Trust.
The theme for 2009 is "Words that Mean Most to You."
Every one of these is a one-off work of art. The one pictured was designed by someone I have never heard of before, "Ms. Dynamite," and I particularly like the choice of words. Click here to see more!
Monday, November 2, 2009
Lifeboat survivor's diary retrieved
This evocative WW2 photo shows the last throes of the freighter SS Rhexenor, which was sunk by a German U-boat in the middle of the Atlantic on February 3, 1943.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Dr. Livingstone, I presume?
Friday, October 30, 2009
Historical thesaurus outdated already, but never mind, think positive
It is OBAMU
And the Japanese coined it.
According to Bill Sakovich on his blog, Ampontan, he read on a mailing list for those interested in the intricacies of Japanese-English translation that the new verb, "to Obama," is becoming increasingly popular on the Kyoto University campus.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
An interesting research experience
So now we know how much she got
Sarah Palin discloses $1.25 million from Harpercollins.
In a disclosure form required under Alaska law, former governor Sarah Palin listed as income $1.25 million received from HarperCollins as a "retainer for book."
The report does not give the date she received the advance, but the disclosure (which includes a lot of other interesting details) covers the final seven months of her term as governor, from January 1, 2009, to July 26.
And the advance is exactly that, just a down payment on what is going to be a much more significant sum. Due, no doubt, to widespread curiosity about what this flamboyant woman is going to say next, Going Rogue is a bestseller already, though it doesn't hit the bookstores until November 17.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Vast historical thesaurus unveiled after 40 years in the making
Compiled the Department of English Language of the University of Glasgow, and edited by Christian Kay, Jane Roberts, Irene Wotherspoon and Michael Samuels, the dictionary helps you find synonyms of words no one might have heard or read for centuries.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
World's first phonebook brings $170K at auction
The world's first phone book has made history for the second time, having fetched $170,000 at auction. The twenty-page directory was published in November 1878, just two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. It listed 391 subscribers in New Haven, Connecticut.
'Should you wish to speak to another subscriber you should commence the conversation by saying, "Hulloa!",' it instructed the novice chatter. To make it easier to be heard, the speaker should be sure to leave the "lower lip and jaw free." In a ruling I wish was adopted by cellphone companies with subscribers who think long train or bus journeys are a chance to catch up (loudly) with all their mates, the user was commanded never to "use the wire more than three minutes at a time, or more than twice an hour," without first "obtaining permission from the main office."
To see the lively bidding, watch this.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
It's never too late to return a library book
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
On Martha's Vineyard rivals combine to sell books
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."
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
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.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
More on Covers of Color
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
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Wiki Coffin poetry competition
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Booker Long-lister has Long Battle with Wikipedia
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
BOOKER LONGLIST ANNOUNCED
The Children's Book, AS Byatt (Chatto and Windus)
Summertime, JM Coetzee (Harvill Secker)
The Quickening Maze, Adam Foulds (Jonathan Cape)
How to paint a dead man, Sarah Hall (Faber)
The Wilderness, Samantha Harvey (Jonathan Cape)
Me Cheeta, James Lever (Fourth Estate)
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
The Glass Room, Simon Mawer (Little, Brown)
Not Untrue & Not Unkind, Ed O'Loughlin (Penguin - Ireland)
Heliopolis, James Scudamore (Harvill Secker)
Brooklyn, Colm Toibin (Viking)
Love and Summer, William Trevor (Viking)
The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters (Virago)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Joke finally seen after 79 years
I don't expect you to break out into hysterical laughter at this one, but a joke written by the playwright George Bernard Shaw has been found in an old cupboard seventy-nine years after it was stowed there. Or so says the BBC section on arts & culture.
It probably helps to know that the joke was written on the occasion of the 1930 opening of the Hall at William Morris House; and it probably assists even more when you know that William Morris was a socialist campaigner. And the last bit of vital information is that it was scribbled across the bottom of a photograph of Shaw himself.
The joke reads: "William Morris and I preached the gospel of Labour together on many occasions. Many respectable persons thought we deserved hanging. I am proud to hang in a hall dedicated to him."
Shaw passed away 59 years ago. It's a nice story, but I think I would choose a different joke to be remembered by.
I'd like a really good, enduring rib-cracking bit of humor ... Any suggestions?
Saturday, July 25, 2009
COVERS OF COLOR
Friday, July 24, 2009
SPY MOUSE LEADS A DOUBLE LIFE
I'd seen that piece by Jonathan Lennie, and am very much in two minds. I'm all for clapping a particularly virtuoso bit of showing-off then and there, but it infuriates me when audiences clap throughout a song-cycle, for instance. Interestingly, I was at a Prom performance of Handel's Partenope (salami-and-cream-cheese sandwiches, and a bottle of something white and Australian), and the half-capacity audience clapped regularly throughout. Mind you, we did have Andreas Scholl singing Arsace. But last night the Proms semi-staged the Glyndebourne production of Purcell's The Fairy Queen, and on only two occasions did they clap a display of vocal fireworks; otherwise, as Jonathan Lennie says, the few seconds' silence afterwards was part of the performance. The audience clapped and stamped and cheered when it was over, though, and the place was packed. Oh, and crab-pate sandwiches and a decent French chablis.
Last week we went to Dvorak's Rusalka at Glyndebourne, which was ravishing beyond words even by Glyndebourne standards (chicken in cream-and-lemon sauce, baby leaf salad and rice with cumin, coriander, pine nuts and almonds, and a bottle of Lanson, with raspberries and tarte au chocolat to follow). So intelligently staged, visually lovely, with nothing to come between the opera and the audience as is so often unfortunately the case, and the cast sang like angels. The only things I've been to there which were more beautiful were Hockney's Magic Flute decades ago, and a bewitching Midsummer Night's Dream (Britten), which I can't imagine they will ever better. Can't remember what we ate but it involved a lot of champagne on both occasions.
I can't wait to go to the proms myself!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
National Library Lecture Series, Wellington
NATIONAL LIBRARY SOCIETY
WINTER LECTURE SERIES
THE CHANGING FACE OF
The National Library Auditorium, Aitken Street, Wellington at 5.30 pm
Guests and non-members welcome – gold coin donation
A glass of wine will be offered beforehand. The lectures will start at 6pm.
Thursday 20 August at 5.30 pm
The World of Self-Publishing
Marguerite Renaud will talk about her company, First Edition Publishing, which offers an easy and affordable way of publishing anything from personal memoirs to poetry.
Thursday 17 September at 5.30 pm
Bridget Williams (chair), Jane Connor and Sam Elworthy
Books and Change
Bridget Williams has been publishing in New Zealand for over thirty years – as an editor with Oxford University Press, and as a director of Port Nicholson Press, Allen & Unwin NZ, and the eponymous imprint BWB.
Jane Connor, a founder of Godwit Press, is currently managing director of Craig Potton Publishing, after some years as executive vice-president and publisher of Timber Press in the US.
Sam Elworthy is the director of Auckland University Press, after many years as editor-in-chief with Princeton University Press. This group, all with international experience and all passionate about excellent New Zealand books, explore the challenges and opportunities facing publishing today.
Thursday 15 October at 5.30 pm
The Pleasures of reading online
Digital technology expert and former Business Development Analyst at the National Library, Adrienne Kebbell, will draw on her extensive knowledge of internet publications to demonstrate the ease and joy of reading your favourite newspapers and journals online.
Thursday 19 November at 5.30 pm (venue tbc)
Writing and Researching Family History
Historian and author, John MacGibbon, will share some of his expertise on discovering and writing social and family history. John is the founder and owner of the Ngaio Press, a boutique publisher specialising in books about New Zealand and New Zealanders.
To Clap or not to Clap
It is about the perennial problem of when to clap at a classical music concert -- something that was wonderfully satirized in the 2005 short movie The Clap, where an obsessional music fan spent hours studying scores so that he could clap at the precise second the work ended.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Books that change your life
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Nigerian writer awarded African "Booker"
It has to be published in English. Well, I suppose, considering the multiplicity of languages and dialects on the African subcontinent, that has logic behind it. But does the future hold a competition for EU writers that have to be published in English, too?
Despite that little quibble, I was delighted to read in the BBC arts and culture magazine that Mr. E.C. Osondu has scooped the award this year. The Chair of judges, New Statesman sub-editor Nana Yaa Mensah, described Mr. Osondu's story as "a tour de force describing, from a child's point of view, the dislocating experience of being a displaced person."
E.C. Osondu was born in Nigeria, worked for an advertising firm in Lagos, and then moved to New York to study creative writing at Syracuse University. He currently teaches literature at Providence Collge, Rhode Island.
The story is called Waiting, and was published in Guernicarmag.com. Read it yourself: http://www.guernicamag.com/fiction/762/waiting/ It is funny; it is shocking; it is tragic; the characters are so swiftly and surely drawn that they are unforgettable. You will come away from it changed.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Important new Captain Cook book
According to the publisher's website, this new book reveals that James Cook was chosen to lead the Endeavour expedition to the Pacific in 1768 because by that date he had become supremely and uniquely qualified for the exacting tasks of exploration.
It's quite a gap, but according to the BBC NEWS, a sequel is finally on track. Yes, Vikram Seth is writing the follow-up to his epic bestseller, A Suitable Boy.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Whale Tale wins BBC non-fiction prize
No, not the acclaimed account of the history of whaling in America, also called Leviathan, written by Eric Jay Dolin, which has won the John Lyman Award and L. Byrne Waterman Award, both for excellence in American maritime history.
This particular prizewinner is Leviathan, Or The Whale, the story of a man's lifelong obsession with whales, by Philip Hoare. According to the BBC announcement, Hoare describes his travels about the world in pursuit of whales, an odyssey he compares to Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Or The Whale. Which must account for the coincidence in titles.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Those galleances again
Discovering also a woman he assumed to be the "queen," (Purea, aka Oborea), he presented her with a number of things, including three galleances.
Galleances? What the heck were galleances? Some kind of fowl, from the context. I posed the theory that they were guinea fowl: see "Galleances and guinea fowl" for the entire discussion.
And I received all kinds of interesting comments and suggestions -- but now I can triumphantly declare the mystery solved. And I was right! Three guinea fowl, they were.
My evidence comes from the private journal of James Burney, who sailed on the Adventure on Cook's second expedition. It was published by the National Library of Australia in Canberra in 1975, and edited by Beverley Hooper. On page 69, Lt. Burney is in Tahiti, making the observation that "Obreea" (Purea, the so-called queen) had fallen on hard times. "Captain Wallace had given Obreea a great many things amongst which were 2 Geese - 3 Guinea Hens - a Turkey cock & Hen & a Cat - of these the Indian [Omai] on board us, gave the following account. 1 of the Geese died - the Guinea hens were Stole from her & killed - the Turkey hen had 5 young ones but th cat killd them all. the Cat who was kitten miscarried, was stole & carried away to another Island & the Turkey hen is since dead -- So unlucky has Obreea been with these presents."
Those three poor guinea hens were unlucky, too. Doubtlessly they were cooked in an earth oven and eaten. I wonder what they tasted like?
Sailor's diary from Nelson's time
Long time, no blog
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Literature festival crippled by politics
Police said they were acting on a court order, initiated by Israel's internal security minister. Saturday's opening event was also closed down.
East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel since 1967, when the area was annexed.
The British consul-general in Jerusalem, Richard Makepeace (an ironic name, if there ever was one), was attending the event. "I think all lovers of literature would regard this as a very regrettable moment and regrettable decision," he said.
He added that the closing event will now be staged at the British Council in Jerusalem.
Groundbreaking writers' conference in NYC
The one-day conference will be held June 27, 2009 at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus, 113W 60th St.. All conference attendees will receive one month free writing space at the Center’s Writing Studio at 17 East 47th Street and 10% off the first 3 months thereafter, a $130 value. The cost to attend is $200.
The event’s keynote address will be given by Daniel Menaker, a veteran New Yorker fiction editor, former Random House executive editor-in-chief, accomplished short story author and novelist and host of the groundbreaking Internet talk show Titlepage.
Featured authors will include New Yorker editor Ben Greenman, author of Please Step Back, Jennifer Weiner, author of In Her Shoes, Marlon James, author of The Book of Night Women, Stefan Merrill Block, author of The Story of Forgetting, Amanda Stern, founder of the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series and author of The Long Haul, Peter Cameron, author of Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, Touré, author of the novel Soul City and Maryann McFadden, author of So Happy Together.
Featured editors will include Jonathan Karp, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Twelve, Richard Nash, consultant and former publisher of Soft Skull Press, Sara Nelson, former Editor-in-Chief of Publishers Weekly, Laurie Chittenden, executive editor at William Morrow, Sarah Crichton, publisher of Sarah Crichton Books at Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Featured agents will include Kate Lee of ICM, Renee Zuckerbrot and others. Panels will include topics like: Beyond the Desk: Finding Your Community of Writers, What Good Are Book Reviews, Anyway?, How To Get Your Foot in the Door, Creating Your Own Buzz, What Editors Are Looking For, and After the Book Deal.
Why couldn't they have staged this stellar event when I am in New York in August! A don't-miss event if you can make it.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Terrified to go to the loo?
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Digital books are the future
According to Matthew Flamm of Crain's New York Business discussion site, it seems as if the day of huge (and often obscene) book advances might be drawing to an end. The top bids for Phillips's book were around half a million dollars, a big reduction on the seven-figure advance it was expected to attract.
Sydney Opera House lights up
Autopsy of a bad book cover, and a learning experience
An old friend in the pirate section of my bookshelves is her year 2000 novel, Captain Mary, Buccaneer. It's Different. Read it to believe me. Captain Mary might be based on Anne Bonny and Mary Read and their bloodthirsty ilk, but she is a stand-out character on her own. And definitely adult reading, which made me feel uncomfortable about the Young Adult-style cover. Well done, yes, but inappropriate. Now, she fronts up, and tells the story of how it got that way, and how she wishes it hadn't.
One has to hand it to Jacqueline -- she's a learner. She learned from the experience, and put it to good use. Since then, her jackets have been composed with impact and relevance in mind, with such success that several have been award-winners.
You can see them here.
Have a look, and choose your favorites. I was particularly struck with two, one black and white, and the other four-color:
Now all I have to do is find out what "consilience" means.