Sunday, 18 December 2011

News: Hitchens, Manjoo and More Bad Books

Great Gutenberg, lots of news this week. Perhaps the biggest one is the passing of Christopher Hitchens, the combative, well-known atheist writer and journalist.

Some of Christopher Hitchens's books (from left): 'God Is Not Great', 'Arguably', 'The Portable Atheist' and 'Hitch-22'
Expect these to become popular in the coming days

His last book, Mortality, will be out next year.

Some of his greatest Slate pieces can be found here. He even took time to comment on the Allah issue. I think that was the first time I got acquainted with his writings. Also:

  • Virginia Tech was shaken up days ago by another shooting, where a policeman was killed. The institution achieved infamy as the site of one of the biggest campus shootings in 2007. But there was, according to author Matthew Pearl in his book The Professor's Assassin, another shooting incident that happened there - in 1840. Does this make Virginia Tech the most shot-up campus ever in the US?
  • Slate tech writer Farhad Manjoo further stirs a teacup storm by suggesting that Amazon does more for literary culture than independent bookstores. I'd drafted a take on it, but such was the overwhelming response to that, I'm having second thoughts. Jen Campbell of the Ripping Yarns bookshop in the UK intends to respond with a series of bookstore-related blog posts. The Christian Science Monitor has one article about it.
  • The reported flagging of Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going as haram by JAKIM generated quite a bit of buzz, with several voices weighing in. Among the latest was Dina Zaman's "Oh! Woe to the book lover" in The Star. No word yet from the Home Ministry yet on the status of that book, or the others that JAKIM flagged for banning. I'm hoping we won't have to wait for nine months.
  • On a somewhat related note: Due to a misspelling, a book called Singapore Sucks! will be reviewed. The application for an import permit for the "series of satirical short stories, poems and essays about life in Singapore" listed the book as Singapore S. The editor was surprised by the decision to review the book because copies of it have been selling in Singapore for months before that.
  • After much see-sawing, the controversial novel Interlok was reportedly withdrawn from the school syllabus. Perkasa is apparently crying foul, implying that it's a ploy to gain Indian votes for the rumoured upcoming general elections.
  • Our government is prepared to allocate funds to writers to boost book industry, which is great. Utusan Publications and Distributors Sdn Bhd executive director Dr Ahmad Hairi Abu Bakar also said, "To achieve developed nation status by 2020, the nation needs to publish 27,000 titles annually compared to 18,000-20,000 titles presently." Okay, but how many of those books will actually be read? And how many of those books will actually help create a learning society?
  • Amazon's best-selling books for 2011. The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan and The Abbey by Chris Culver made the list based solely on Kindle sales and were independently published using Kindle Direct Publishing.
  • "How we do not kill each other": Author and former Gawker editor Emily Gould and Ruth Curry interview each other about their indie e-book business.
  • Another chapter on the e-book price war between publishers and retailers.
  • The New Statesman asks: Do books "prime people for terrorism"?
  • Reader's Digest cuts 150 positions.


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