Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Censorship or Safety?

Salman Rushdie called it censorship, and so did many others. When Random House dropped The The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones earlier this year, a tirade of criticism was unleashed. How can you drop a book, the critics said, just because you think it might offend some people? Random House said the book might potentially incite violence from certain members of the Islamic community. So what, we said? How can you NOT publish this book?


Unfortunately, the scenario that Random House was trying to avoid actually played out two nights ago, when the home and headquarters of the book's British publisher, Martin Rynja, was firebombed.


Although Martin probably did not expect such consequences, still we have to admire a person who will take this kind of risk for the sake of allowing others to be heard (or read).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Let the Frankfurt Buzz Begin!

I just received my PW Daily email, and what did I see? News of the first of the Frankfurt buzz books! Juliet by Danish author Anne Fortier is apparently going to be a hit. Or a flop. Or somewhere in the middle. Who can really say in this subjective business of book publishing? Nevertheless, the time is approaching (and actually has been for some time) for us to gather once again in the halls of the Messegelände, to wheel and deal, to run from meeting to meeting driven only by caffiene and complimentary cookies, and of course, to party.

Keep the buzz books coming because it adds excitement and makes authors rich!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Large Hadron Collider and literature

From Soft Skull, a story on the Large Hadron Collider by Lydia Millet, read by Martha Plimpton. Physics and literature do mix!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

LitKicks responds to the latest wave of "death of the book industry" articles:

The bumpy ride will continue, because book publishing has never been
anything but an exciting and high-risk industry. It’s aggravating, though, to
hear commentators like Daniel Mendelsohn claim that new media has harmed book
sales, or that internet publishing has anything to do with industry problems. I
can’t repeat this fact enough: we spend over $30 billion a year on books. That’s
plenty enough revenue to allow any industry to prosper.

Coming soon...Higgs boson!

Have you ever wondered why photons behave as though they have mass yet have none at all? Fret no longer, fellow physics enthusiasts, for the Large Hadron Collider will soon solve your quandries. The first beam of protons traveled almost at the speed of light around 17 miles of tunnels on September 10th, 2008. The next phase of the test will be to send a beam of protons around in the opposite direction. The ultimate test: protons will travel in opposite directions around the tunnels and collide with each other. The results of this collision will hopefully confirm the Standard Model, the current theory of particle physics. Rumor has it that the much theorized Higgs boson might appear!

The Standard Model attempts to describe how elementary particles that make up matter interact with each other. It succeeds in three out of four known types of interactions. However, the Standard Model does not include gravity, the fourth type of interaction, making it an incomplete theory. Physicists have long struggled to unify the theory of special relativity (gravity) with quantum mechanics (how particles at the atomic and subatomic levels behave and interact) because the laws of gravity that govern larger objects do not apply at the subatomic level.

Physicists hope that the Large Hadron Collider will produce a Higgs boson (also known as the God Particle), the only particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model that has never been directly observed. It will explain how massless particles like photons (light particles) acquire mass, and it will provide further evidence that the Standard Model is correct. If it doesn't appear, then we might have to rethink everything we know about particle physics.

Some people thought (and still think) that colliding protons will make the world explode. Most physicists disagree. Even if the world does explode, we probably won't feel a thing.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why haven't I heard of this?

Paulo Coelho's experimental film adaptation of his book, The Witch of Portobello, is pretty much done. I had no idea this was going on, but it clearly represents the latest and greatest way for a popular author to interact with his or her fans online. Welcome to our new world in which authors are not just writers of books but content creators.

Coelho requested that his readers submit their video interpretations of the book, and he asked musicians to submit soundtracks and score. The book is divided into 14 sections, each told by a different character who interacts with the main character. 14 filmmakers were chosen out of nearly 6,000 submissions to represent each of these points of view.

You can watch each of the 14 videos here, and read updates about the project here. Coelho also has a blog, and I enjoyed the photo he posted from the movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang. Coelho plans to release his 380-minute movie online for free before editing it down for theatrical release.

Seriously, why didn't I know about this?

German Book Prize Shortlist

• Dietmar Dath: Die Abschaffung der Arten (Suhrkamp, September 2008)
• Sherko Fatah: Das dunkle Schiff (Jung und Jung, February 2008)
• Iris Hanika: Treffen sich zwei (Droschl, January 2008)
• Rolf Lappert: Nach Hause schwimmen (Hanser, February 2008)
• Ingo Schulze: Adam und Evelyn (Berlin Verlag, August 2008)
• Uwe Tellkamp: Der Turm (Suhrkamp, September 2008)

So there you go!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oktoberfest...


...has begun! The news this morning showed footage of Angela Merkel drinking beer out of a stein, as well as other important German people wearing their traditional outfits. You all may remember my adventures last year, and I fully intend to take part in this wunderschöne German tradition.

Round-Up

The book everyone is reviewing: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The author everyone is talking about: David Foster Wallace
The latest apocalyptic prediction for the book industry: "The End" by Boris Kachka
Proof that publishing is becoming digital: StartWithXML
Proof that we still have a long way to go: "Can Intelligent Literature Survive the Digital Age?"

And in personal news, I have made a grand discovery that might change my life. I am good at running longer distances and I enjoy it! Two times now, I have gone running for an hour and it was awesome both times. The next book I plan to read is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Electronic Newspaper Reader

Another e-reading device? Yes, it's true. Plastic Logic will release an electronic newspaper reader on Monday complete with e-ink, wireless internet connection, lightweight build, blah blah blah. It sounds cool, but why would someone buy a device that is so one-dimensional? Would you own a Kindle and a newspaper reader and a smart phone and an MP3 player? Not if you can help it! Tech developers, we want one device that does all of those things.

As far as I know, the iPhone is the closest thing to the all-in-one device of our dreams. All it needs now is GPS and color e-ink, maybe on a flip-out screen. And a built-in Swiss Army knife. And a microchip that functions as your ID and credit card so you don't have to carry a wallet.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sloppy seconds or rich rewards?

Beaufort Books will publish The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones, which was orginially scheduled to be published by Ballantine but dropped because of its potential to offend radical Muslims and incite violence (books are still powerful, people). If you remember, Beaufort is the same publisher that picked up If I Did It, the OJ Simpson book that incited turmoil at HarperCollins and cost Judith Reagen her job. The book also sold 100,000 hardcover copies. Not bad, Beaufort (but I am still against that book because it is utterly inane and ridiculous).

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto

That's right, Literary Rapture has embarked on a new adventure to...

...Frankfurt, Germany! From now until the end of November, I will be blogging from this wonderful city, home to the grave of Goethe's mother and the European Central Bank. I have already visited the huge Hugendubel bookstore here, but my jetlag stupor has clouded any specific memory of that experience. There were certainly good comparisons that one could make between the Hugendubel store and, say, a Barnes and Noble in New York. Tune in for more on that subject in the future.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another Doozy

Waring: this post is about politics AND literature

Sarah Palin loves censorship (via Bookninja):

Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What a Doozy

Warning: this post is about politics, not literature

I can't help but write about McCain's brilliant strategy to drive his campaign straight into a fiery explosion of failure. According to the NYT, his VP pick is a former beauty queen currently undergoing an ethics investigation with a pregnant teenage daughter (so much for abstinence-only teaching) and a drunk driving arrest. McCain's aides claim he knew about the pregnant daughter before he picked Palin, but they were vauge about the details of his finding out. Sounds like this one might have snuck up on McCain and bitten him in the ass. But it isn't hard to sneak up on a guy as old as he is.

It pleases me to no end that his desperate attempt to win Hillary supporters is turning out this way. It seems unlikely that a woman who was going to vote for Hillary would now vote for McCain because he picked Palin. Desperation doesn't work in elections. Knock on wood that the McCain campaign is headed where we all think it is!