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Daily links round-up: Google deal aftermath, Lindle lives, and more

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Daily book biz round-up: March 18

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Mark Twain: dead and kicking

As willed by the author, the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography was released for the first time on Monday, 100 years after his death. Yet even before its release, the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, landed on the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists. The Globe and Mail review of the book says:

Twain hit upon a unique method for writing an autobiography: He dictated to a stenographer whatever was on his mind at the moment, sometimes responding to the morning’s paper or the morning’s mail, sometimes following seemingly random trains of thought wherever they led him, often interleaving relevant newspaper clippings along the way.

Twain’s publisher, University of California Press, planned to release 50,000 copies of the book, but has since increased the number to 75,000, reports another Globe article.


Daily book biz round-up: Giller scandal edition

There’s a lot of outraged buzz in online book circles this morning about whether Scotiabank Giller Prize juror Ali Smith broke jury protocol and engaged in a form of literary insider trading by arranging for her U.K. agent, Tracy Bohan, to sign winner Johanna Skibsrud before the longlist was even announced. As Q&Q reported earlier this month, Bohan then went and brokered a healthy deal for U.K. and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) with William Heinemann editor Jason Arthur (who we’ve since learned is Bohan’s boyfriend). The question now is: did Smith inform her fellow jurors that she was involved in promoting one of the authors in contention?


Atwood-bashing begins over “Fox News North”

Margaret Atwood is once again lending her name to a worthy cause, and like her support for the environment, brown-bag lunches, and stay-at-home book tours, the celebrated novelist’s actions have generated some mild controversy in the Canadian media.

The latest episode erupted on Tuesday when Atwood announced (via Twitter) that she had added her name to a petition protesting Sun Media’s efforts to launch a Fox TV-style news channel in Canada (the channel is being dubbed “Fox News North” and “Tory TV”). That immediately prompted a response, also via Twitter, from Sun Media national bureau chief David Akin accusing Atwood of supporting “an anti-free speech movement” and effectively accusing “me and my colleagues of hate speech.”

Atwood in turn replied that the issue isn’t about free speech per se, but rather Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s meddlesome involvement with the CRTC, which recently denied the network a top-tier broadcast licence. As Atwood puts it in fewer than 140 characters, “we shouldn’t B Forced to Pay for it, & CRTC chair should be arms’ length, not Harper tool. Fox free 2 set itself up.” She elaborates her position in The Globe and Mail:

“Of course Fox & Co. can set up a channel or whatever they want to do, if it’s legal etc.,” she told The Globe and Mail in an email. “But it shouldn’t happen this way. It’s like the head-of-census affair – gov’t direct meddling in affairs that are supposed to be arm’s length – so do what they say or they fire you.

“It’s part of the ‘I make the rules around here,’ Harper-is-a-king thing,” she wrote.

In today’s National Post, columnist Kelly McParland hits back with an editorial deriding Atwood for “sign[ing] onto this silliness.” Atwood, McParland writes, “stands for good stuff like freedom of speech and freedom of the press, except when it comes to the case of people who don’t agree with her…. Right Peggy? Because you can’t be a good Canadian if you’re a Conservative. Everyone at the CanLit festivals agrees, so it must be true.”

The Post‘s paranoid speculation about a left-leaning CanLit cabal is nothing new. Assuming that at least some of Quillblog’s readers will want to follow Atwood in rejecting Fox News North, you can do so by adding your name to the petition here.

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Tony Blair to donate proceeds from memoir to charity

This may be as close as we ever come to getting an admission that joining the war in Iraq was a mistake from one of its prime instigators. The Globe and Mail is reporting that Tony Blair, the British prime minister responsible for signing on to George W. Bush’s war on terror and committing thousands of British troops to a misguided (and possibly even illegal) war in Iraq, has agreed to donate the proceeds from his forthcoming memoir to a new charity that will support British soldiers who have been injured in battle.

From the Globe:

The Royal British Legion said Monday that the former prime minister has agreed to give all proceeds from A Journey to its Battle Back Challenge Center. The center opens in 2012 and will provide state of the art sports facilities and rehabilitation services for seriously wounded personnel.

Publisher Random House paid an estimated $7.5 million (U.S.) for Blair’s personal account of his time in power, due to be published next month.

Blair spokesman Matthew Doyle said Monday that Blair’s donation includes the advance and all royalties.


Sci-fi in the buff

Literary readings range from entertaining to unbearably dull, but in most cases the readers remain clothed. Not so with Naked Girls Reading, an event that goes tonight at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel. NGR kicks off the 2010 Toronto Burlesque Festival and features burlesque performers Michelle L’amour, Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Lady Monster, Peekaboo Pointe, and Tanya Cheex performing public readings au naturel. The theme of this year’s festival is MeTOPolis: The Future of Burlesque, so naturally the women will be reading from works of science-fiction.

NGR is the brainchild of Chicago-based L’amour and her husband, Franky Vivid. Paula Citron profiles the couple in today’s Globe and Mail:

[T]he couple began thinking about NGR as a form of entertainment. They considered, then rejected a pay-per-view website as being too prurient. They then hit upon the idea of a tasteful, old-style salon. They also discovered that naked girls reading has been a favourite subject of painters and photographers throughout the centuries.

Says L’amour: “We hold the series every month at my studio. Each evening has a theme, and each girl selects her own material which can come from fiction, non-fiction, song lyrics or poetry. For example, for the “Independent Women” show, readings included Dorothy Parker, Mae West and Coco Chanel. We publish the reading lists on our website.

This is not the first time NGR has come to Toronto. On March 7, Skin Tight Outta Sight Rebel Burlesque – described by the Montreal Mirror as “Canada’s pioneering posse in pasties” – held a similar salon at The Painted Lady on Ossington, and the group did a reading of queer lit there in conjunction with the city’s Pride festivities last month.

While the idea behind NGR seems like an interesting twist on the traditional literary reading, Quillblog can’t help but notice a certain gender imbalance. Perhaps the event could use some Naked Boys Reading as well?

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Martel’s musical flight of fancy

Yann Martel is no doubt a busy man: not only is the Man Booker Prize–winning author of Life of Pi a new father, he’s also promoting his latest novel, Beatrice & Virgil, and fending off a slew of negative reviews. Yet the Montreal native has also found time to engage in a bit of classical music–inspired whimsy. On Tuesday, at a performance by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Martel supplied an original text to accompany some ballet music by Beethoven. The piece, called The Parole Hearing of Prometheus, took the form of a courtroom drama and was performed in French by Quebec actor Michel Dumont.

From The Gazette:

Trial-by-jury is not an original motif, but it got the piece up and running. Prometheus stood accused not simply of stealing fire and giving it to mankind but of enabling the despoliation of a planet the gods had been treating rather well. “Even Lord Hephaestus, the divine blacksmith, says he does not need so much heat and fire,” thundered Dumont the prosecutor in one of Martel’s more inspired flights.

According to Gazette classical music critic Arthur Kaptainis, the evening was “mostly good fun” despite the “earnest Al Gore undercurrent” of Martel’s accompanying script. Still, following the lead of book critics in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elsewhere, Kaptainis couldn’t help taking a dig at Martel:

Dumont’s delivery, comic and robust, was entirely in French. Undoubtedly the language of Molière is well suited to courtroom grandiloquence. The English as printed seemed less witty and less literary. This is a significant observation: Martel wrote the text in English and had his parents prepare a translation.

Meanwhile, The Globe and Mail described Martel’s text as a “mere bagatelle compared with the grandeur” of the music, complaining that the story, which touched on melting ice caps and oil spills, was “a tad preachy.”

Martel fans can make up their own minds: a recording of the performance will eventually be released on CD.

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Orlando Figes admits writing anonymous Amazon reviews

Earlier this week, Quillblog reported on a British contretemps about an academic’s wife who apparently posted a series of vitriolic reviews of her husband’s rivals on Amazon using the moniker “Historian.” As we noted this morning, The Guardian is now reporting that the reviews were actually written by Orlando Figes, the academic himself, who misled his lawyer and allowed his wife to take the blame for the scandal. The Globe and Mail has also picked up on the story:

“I take full responsibility for posting anonymous reviews on Amazon,” he said in a statement released Friday. “I have made some foolish errors and apologize wholeheartedly to all concerned.”

Figes specifically apologized to his wife, his lawyer — who was misled about the source of the reviews — and to the authors he trashed on Amazon, including Rachel Polonsky, Robert Service and Kate Summerscale.

Figes goes on to state that his behaviour might have been tied into unspecified health problems:

“I am ashamed of my behavior, and don’t entirely understand why I acted as I did,” he said. “It was stupid — some of the reviews I now see were small-minded and ungenerous but they were not intended to harm. This crisis has exposed some health problems, though I offer that more as explanation than excuse. I need some time now to reflect on what I have done and the consequences of my actions with medical help.”

The old saw about reaping and sowing comes to mind, but Quillblog would like to point out that this whole farrago is yet another nail in the coffin of anonymous online reviews. Surely it’s time for Amazon to change its policy and require that reviewers to identify themselves by name.

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Lady links: this week in women writers

  • Vancouver’s Amber Dawn profiled on the Shameless blog about debut novel Sub Rosa published by Arsenal Pulp Press
  • Novelist Anne Fleming recommends Jane Rule in Capital Xtra‘s new literary column
  • Brooklyn-based, Canadian-born novelist Emily St. John Mandel discusses structure on The Millions
  • The Gazette profiles three poets: Kate Hall, Priscila Uppal, and Robyn Sarah
  • Susan Carpenter reviews controversial Oprah bio by Kitty Kelley
  • New book by beloved Canadian poet Anne Carson reviewed in The Globe and Mail
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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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