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Friday, November 27, 2009

Palin memoir number one

Good lord, she is going to earn out that massive advance.

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.

Palin's book had the second-best first-week sales of any memoir of a president or [vice]presidential contender, according to Nielsen BookScan. Bill Clinton's My Life sold 606,000 in the first week of release, marginally outselling his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose Living History sold 440,000 copies, and now sits at number three.

HarperCollins estimated larger sales, at about 700,000. As pointed out before in this blog, Nielsen Bookscan does not cover the entire market, because of client constraints. In this case, they did not use figures from some mass-market outlets like Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

MS of A CHRISTMAS CAROL on display

The messy, rushed manuscript of the beloved Dickens morality tale, A Christmas Carol, is on display at the Morgan Library and Museum, reports Claire Prentice in New York.

Charles Dickens scribbled the story at a frantic pace, impelled by a personal financial crisis, getting it down on paper in just six weeks. "The manuscript is a mess," says the Morgan's curator, Decian Kiely. "It's a mess because Dickens was trying to get everything down on paper really fast."

In the process, he created two absolutely unforgettable characters, Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge. The story of Cratchit's incurable optimism and Scrooge's redemption after being visited by a series of ghosts (one pictured, right, as an illustration for the first edition), has inspired many adaptations, including pantomimes for the junior set.

The manuscript has a lot of crossing out, with inserted revisions and corrections, revealing both the writer's inner thoughts and his inspirations, making it one of the most interesting literary artifacts around. It will be on display through January 2010.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Borders UK doomed?

Or so says the Bookseller Magazine, echoed by Publishers Lunch.

Concerns about the fate of Borders UK rose over the past few days, as the Times declared Sunday the struggling chain is "on the verge of collapse" after a potential deal with WH Smith fell apart. Asked for comment by the Guardian, WH Smith "refused to confirm reports that it had pulled out of the deal," but the newspaper joined in warning the company "appeared to be foundering, raising fears for the future of the hard-pressed business."

The company's financial advisor Clearwater advertised "a chain of book and entertainment stores" for sale. The Times added "the lack of appetite for a takeover of the whole company means that Borders could be put into administration this week."

They say that talks are being held with other potential saviors, including Waterstone's owner HMV, but "it is thought that the companies it has approached are more interested in buying packages of stores." The Guardian says those other bidders "are only interested in buying a handful of stores" and are likely to wait for a bankruptcy filing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

No Oprah book club?

It has just been announced. The iconic talk show will end in 2011, at the finish of the 25th season -- which means the end of the iconic Oprah's Book Club, too.
At times her choices were considered bizarre, but she created buzzworthy books, which delighted many a publisher, and made (or broke) many authors. It will be sadly missed.
And the writer whose book is featured in that very last show will gain unusual fame. Obviously, it is a slot to be greatly coveted.
More details will be given on Friday's broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show, guaranteeing it a bigger audience than ever.
Oprah Winfrey, 55, started her career in Nashville Tennessee, and Baltimore, Maryland, before moving to Chicago in 1984, to host a morning talk show called "A.M. Chicago," which became so popular that the following year it was renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The year after that, it went into syndication, to become the most successful talk show ever, reaching about 7,000,000 viewers every day.
Oprah is leaving to concentrate on her own cable channel, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bestselling Call Girl Lowers the Veil

Dr. Brooke Magnanti, a former call girl who published her memoirs as Secret Diary of a Call Girl, has revealed her true identity.

A brave move, as the book, published last year (and don't you love the jacket!), has become a bestseller, hot on the heels of being turned into a TV series starring Dr. Who's lost love, Billie Piper. However, the writer says that keeping her identity a deadly secret was making her paranoid. (Anything for a decent night's sleep.)

Dr. Magnanti wrote under the penname "Belle de Jour" to describe her adventures as a high-class escort, charging 300 pounds per night to finance her doctoral studies. As she confessed to the Sunday Times, it was a lot more enjoyable (albeit more dangerous) than her other job as a computer programmer.
By day, she is now employed The Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health, as a highly rated expert in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology.
And at night she writes a highly rated blog, and produces racy books.

Andy Warhol's Little Red Hen for Sale

The artist, who became famous for his pop art creations, including multi-colored screen prints of well-known people (think Marilyn Monroe), was a book illustrator early in his career.
One of those books was the cautionary tale of the Little Red Hen, who toiled while the lazy cat, dog, and mouse shirked, and four drawings from this are to go under the hammer.
At a recent sale of contemporary art, a Warhol print of a set of one-dollar bills went for $43,800,000.00.
The Little Red Hen drawings are expected to fetch $600.
Warhol is also known for coining the phrase "famous for 15 minutes."

Monday, November 16, 2009


Occasionally research turns up the most wonderful tidbits of information. Unfortunately, those tidbits are usually irrelevant to the actual topic, but they make the world a really, really fascinating place for a few special moments.

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

Linden MacIntyre, an investigative journalist who works for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, is the author of a novel about sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, which has won the Giller Prize.

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.

His novel tells the story of a priest who is given the task of stamping out sex abuse scandals before they hit the press. The jury said it was a "brave" novel (which sounds an understatement), "written with impressive delicacy and understanding."

The Giller Prize honors the best in Canadian fiction writing, and is worth $47,000 Canadian.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kindle for your PC

More digital news -- Amazon has launched their Kindle for PC application, and promises a Mac version coming soon.

It ties in to the launch of Windows 7 and is designed to use certain capabilities in the new software, though it also works with Windows XP and Vista. Given the size of that platform, the new application could do far more than the international Kindle to make Kindle files available throughout the world.

Separately, Wired observes: "But the thing that intrigues us is the screenshot above (along with more on the Amazon site) which shows a book with color illustrations. This may mean a color Kindle is on its way, or that Amazon is simply future-proofing its Kindle books. Either way, since when did Kindle books start to get color pictures? It would seem rather bandwidth-unfriendly to a company that restricts international downloads to save on the wireless bills."Amazon release

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Romance goes digital

Is this a chance to express your romantic voice?

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

A major Jane Austen exhibition has opened in New York.

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.

Interestingly, some of the letters have pieces cut out of them, apparently having fallen victim to some censor in the past. Perhaps they were intimate details of health and other personal matters, but it is also very likely that they were cutting criticisms of Austen's fellow humans.

"Jane Austen was like a guided missile of social satire," colorfully explains Morgan curator Decian Kiely. "She was very frank which is why so many of her letters were destroyed."

Jane Austen's originality and sense of humor are also on display. A letter written to her niece for her eighth birthday has every word written backwards, to give the little girl a challenge.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Design Your Own Envelope

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.
Seventy men piled into four lifeboats after the submarine had taken one of their officers on board, and left the rest to their fate. Incredibly, the chief officer, Maurice Case, kept a diary during the following three-week ordeal, as well as navigating and looking after the 17 men in his boat as well as he could in the grueling circumstances.
The eight-page penciled document has come to light after Mr Case's war-time mementoes sold at auction.
His entry for February 4 read: "Breakfast: 1 biscuit with condensed milk, 2oz water. Midday - Biscuit, milk, 6 raisins and 2oz water. Everybody satisfied." It rained the following day, leaving the men "very wet and miserable."
On February 9 there was a 'very heavy rain storm'. He added: "Everybody wet and cold, blankets and life jackets all sopping. Issued one tablespoon of brandy, all hands."
On February 13, crewman 'Aussie' Corby died from exposure on one of the other boats and was buried at sea.
Despite the conditions and the news of the death, the men's spirits were still high by the second week. Case's entry for February 14 recorded that "thirst beginning to make itself known" among the men. On February 17 the men had an evening meal of either two prunes or nine raisins each.
He added: "All hands cheerful and keeping lookout for aircraft."
The next day the weather changed and the sun glared down. Mr Case noted at this point they made an awning for shade out of a blanket and oars. Their luck finally changed at 4pm on February 20 when the shout of land ahoy went up. Mr Case wrote: "Land sighted right ahead, could not believe my eyes but there it was. The thing now was where were we, I was hoping it was Antigua where we were making for but could not think my reckoning was so accurate."
Although heavy rain fell that night, the men's spirits were too high to be dampened. At 9am the next day their lifeboat made contact with a local fishing boat, which gave them a tow to land as well as a meal of cooked fish. Upon arriving in Antigua, the men were met by US Army officers. They were checked over at a medical clinic before having a bath and more food. Mr Case wrote: "Two members of my crew were rather weak on landing, otherwise everyone was in good health except a bit groggy on the legs."
He finished his log with suggestions on items to put in lifeboats in the future. They included fishing tackle and saltwater soap for cleansing.