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Burned holy books to be symbolically buried, maybe

In the Israel-Palestine conflict, symbolism is everything. And there is a small tussle going on right now that is so heavy with symbolism, it might as well be an Ingmar Bergman film. At issue is a set of Jewish holy books that were allegedly burned by a group of Arabs. The books were being studied by Homesh Tehila (“Homesh First”), an Israeli group looking to re-establish a settlement that had been dismantled by the Israeli government. They had been maintaining an ad hoc yeshiva (a kind of school) on the site of the former settlement.

Unfiltered information about this kind of thing is difficult to come by (hence our hedging in the title of this post), but Homesh Tehila alleges that Arabs raided the yeshiva and burned the books a few weeks ago, and plans were afoot to bury the texts as part of a, well, highly symbolic ceremony.

From the The Jerusalem Post:

According to David Ha’ivri, a spokesman for the Samaria Regional Council, one night when there was no guard, local Arabs broke into the yeshiva and “burned to ashes” the holy books studied by the students.

In a press release, Ha’ivri juxtaposed the fire created by the burned holy books with the spiritual fire kindled by the yeshiva students’ learning.

(The ceremony, by the way, appears to have been postponed after some of its leaders were threatened with arrest.)


Sarah Palin memoir: Now with 25% more God!

Well, she sure does know her target audience. In a profile in the August 2009 of Vanity Fair, Alaska governor Sarah Palin revealed that her forthcoming memoir will be published both by HarperCollins (as previously announced), and also by HarperCollins’ Christian publishing imprint Zondervan in a separate, special edition. From the Vanity Fair profile:

Soon Palin will take a crack at her own story: she has signed a book contract for an undisclosed but presumably substantial sum, and has chosen Lynn Vincent, a senior writer at the Christian-conservative World magazine, as co-author of the memoir, which is to be published next year not only by HarperCollins but also in a special edition by Zondervan, the Bible-publishing house, that may include supplemental material on faith.

(Thanks to Publishers Weekly for the tip.)

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Forcing books on politicians, Lesley Choyce edition

In a similar vein to Yann Martel’s book barrage on Harper, Lesley Choyce, author and publisher of Pottersfield Press, plans to hand-deliver copies of his new book Nova Scotia: Visions of the Future to all provincial MHAs and federal MPs in the province. According to Choyce, the purpose of the book, which was released in May, is to set in motion an action plan to help improve Nova Scotia. From the Pottersfield Press web site:

In the summer of 2008, Pottersfield publisher Lesley Choyce sent a letter to a select and varied list of Nova Scotians asking them to contribute to a book about this province’s future. … He invited many Nova Scotians to write anything they wanted to, hoping contributors would cover environment, technology, immigration, social aspects, urban life, rural life, energy, politics, government, family, economics, forests, the ocean and much more. The bolder the vision, the better. Stories and personal aspects were okay. Controversial ideas were fine. Which future? Anything beyond ten years and up to a thousand.

The initiative will also coincide with Pottersfield’s 30th anniversary. Choyce intends to personally confront his province’s leaders in the second week of July.


Self-serving political memoirs: Dick Cheney edition

You knew this was coming, didn’t you?

From The New York Times:

With his sustained blitz of television appearances and speeches, former Vice President Dick Cheney has established himself as perhaps the leading Republican voice against President Obama.

Not a bad time, then, to be in the market for a multimillion-dollar book contract.

Mr. Cheney is actively shopping a memoir about his life in politics and service in four presidential administrations, a work that would add to what is already an unusually dense collection of post-Bush-presidency memoirs that will offer a collective rebuttal to the many harshly critical works released while the writers were in office and beyond.

The article says that Cheney is looking for more than $2 million for the book, but will likely get a lower amount, given that most of the American public rate him just behind scabies in terms of appeal. Let’s hope that one day he will have to put this advance toward lawyer’s fees.

Bonus punchline! One of the book’s big revelations: Satan is shorter than you’d think.

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Shining the spotlight on reviewing

For as long as there have been books there have (presumably) been book reviews. For as long as there has been an Internet, there have been amateur book reviewers. How does the practice of reviewing books accommodate itself to a world in which anyone with a computer and an Internet connection is free to tell the world how spectacular their spouse’s book is, and how lousy their high school rival’s is?

This is the subject of the 2009 Alexander Lectures, taking place today through Thursday at the University of Toronto. Lecturer Linda Hutcheon will talk about the uses and abuses of reviews in today’s connected world:

In the age of the ubiquitous blog and the constant online invitation to be a “customer reviewer,” it is time to review the task of reviewing. The review is usually considered a secondary, even a subservient, genre, but it can also wield considerable power across all the arts and even into the academy. That power explains why any investigation into the ethics and politics of reviewing today must engage the complicated interrelations of the reviewer – either generous or with “an Itching to deride” (Pope) – and the reviewed, whether lauded or libeled.

The lectures are at 4:30 p.m. each day in Room 140 of University College, 15 King’s College Circle.


Signs the world is coming to an end, #10,135

One of the most tragic aspects of the publishing industry is recognizing the years of labour, research, networking, and luck that go into getting something onto shelves – and then watching an idiot like this get handed a publishing contract.

That’s right – ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, recently impeached for allegedly selling Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat, has signed a six-figure book deal.

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Hey kids! Wanna read about America’s president-elect?

Well now you can!

obamas pajamas

For real?

Yes you can.

Oh, and there’s also this: Barack Obama and Spider-Man appear in comic book together

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Laura Bush signs memoir deal

According to The Wall Street Journal, outgoing U.S. First Lady Laura Bush has just signed a deal with Scribner for a memoir of her time in the White House, which should hit the streets sometime in 2010.

Publishing executives estimated the price for Mrs. Bush’s memoir at $3.5-million to $5-million. During a strong economy, Sen. Hillary Clinton received an $8-million advance for her 2003 White House memoir, Living History, which was published by Simon & Schuster. That book … was a hit, earning back its advance after only one week.

Memoirs by First Ladies are a dime a dozen, but this one has the potential to be a bit more interesting than most. Before Laura met George, she was generally known as a left-leaning type, and throughout her husband’s time in office she mostly kept her thoughts and feelings to herself. Who knows, maybe she’ll reveal that she was a mole for the ACLU all along.


Judith Regan’s $10-million in walking-away money

It emerged this week that Judith Regan – fired from HarperCollins a couple years ago, following the O.J. confessional tome debacle – won $10.75-million in damages in a subsequent lawsuit over her dismissal. Why did this emerge? Because she allegedly didn’t want to pay her lawyers. According to Bloomberg writer Patricia Hurtado:

In its complaint filed in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, the Dreier law firm alleged Regan retained it to represent her in February 2007 and agreed to pay 25 percent of any money she recovered as a result of a judgment or settlement.

“Regan terminated petitioners for the single purpose of attempting to avoid the contingency fee,” Dreier alleged in its complaint. “Upon finalizing the settlement, Regan terminated” the law firm “and has since failed and refused to pay them the fees and disbursements to which they are entitled.”

Don’t feel too bad for them, though. Late in the piece, Hurtado notes that the head of the law firm in question, Marc Dreier, was just charged with “cheating hedge funds out of more than $100 million.”


Yann Martel taunts Stephen Harper, part 44

This week Yann Martel posted the first installment in his books-for-Stephen-Harper campaign since our Parliament ceased to function. It must be said that Martel shows surprising restraint: he’s chosen Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth and devotes most of his essay to a very straightforward recap of Buck’s career and description of the book. He can’t resist slipping into smug digs to close out the piece –

The Good Earth remains an excellent introduction to old China and a vivid parable on the fragility of fortune, how things gained can be lost, how what is built can easily be destroyed. This lesson will not be lost on you considering the political turmoil you are now going through. The fate of a politician is so terribly uncertain. Pearl Buck is a staple of every used bookstore. She is still widely read. Her name evokes fond memories. Whereas politicians, when they go, when they disappear from the stage, kicking and screaming sometimes, they really go, they vanish into oblivion so that quickly people scratch their heads, trying to remember when exactly they were in power and what they accomplished.

– but, to be fair, who could?

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