Tuesday, 4 September 2012

News: Commercialised Criticism, Book Fights, and Language

Review revelations
A (former) peddler of paid-for book reviews is profiled in the New York Times and kind of lifts the lid on all those 'positive' reviews received by certain blockbusters. Not news, really.

This report raised quite a bit of odour and soon, just about everyone had a take on this, most of it bad. One author felt buying paid-for reviews to ramp up book sales is akin to using drugs in sports. Another voice says 'buying respect' with paid-for reviews is "lazy" and runs "counter to the true indie spirit". "Unethical scumbags", was another author's choice words for paid-for reviewers and those who hire them.

The fake review 'revelation' prompted relook of Amazon review graphs - why "beware" THAT shape? Someone even compiled a list of major best-sellers with over 150 one-star Amazon reviews which kind of suggests that something's not quite right.

Elsewhere, others are wondering if the paid review revelations will eventually kill the critic. Meanwhile, a critic offers his (long) manifesto on being a critic.

While we're on the subject: another reviewer gets brickbats and threats after pissing off fans of Emily Giffin by suggesting, among other things, that the author encourages mob behaviour against critics among her fans. She'd subsequently downgraded her review fron four stars to one and explained why. She got more than a taste of said mob behaviour not long after - which may include practices condemned by a group of authors (crime author Jeremy Duns, who uncovered the instance of sock puppetry that led to the outrage, was also caught up in another literary scandal some time back). Looks like critics and reviewers aren't the only ones who need to search their souls.

Settle down
Publishers Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster reached a US$69 million settlement with various US attorney-generals over supposed fixing of e-book prices. Much of the money wil be refunded to bookbuyers, and the US state of Kentucky may get as much as US$700,000. But would this case really mean lower prices for e-books in the future?

SEAL hunt
A former US Navy SEAL who authored a potentially explosive tell-all on the Bin Laden takedown had his identitiy blown by US rightwing "news" outfit Fox News. Since then, some details about the book have been released, and the author had received threats from al-Qaeda. The US military argues that the former SEAL's book had violated protocol and are considering pressing charges. At the time this is written, the book's publisher is going ahead with the release. The co-author defends the book in The Huffington Post.

A bunch of Special Ops veterans hold a different view, and they are releasing an e-book in response, which includes an examination of the author's version of events and the rather prosaic motives for publishing the book:

..."[Owen] was treated very poorly upon his departure ... once he openly shared that he was considering getting out of the Navy to pursue other interests." [Owen] was essentially given a plane ticket back to Virginia and nothing else—not much of a thank-you for his "honesty and 14 years of service."

One wonders if things might have been different for Owen (the author's pen name) if he'd kept his "getting out of the Navy to pursue other interests" under wraps, but given the subject matter and timing of the release, tongues are bound to wag.

Flaming protest
A charity for victims of domestic violence has condemned the "misogynistic crap" that is Fifty Shades of Grey and they're calling for a bonfire of said book. In spite of my own opinions on the books, I can't agree with that. You'd have to harbour an exceptionally towering amount of hatred towards a book to want to light it up.

There are better forms of protest, like this review (more like a roasting) of the audio book ("Bambi [in] de Sade's '120 Days of Sodom'" - SIZZLE, CRACK!) in The Telegraph. Because bad writing in any other language is still bad writing.

Other news
  • After what I presume was a long period of sluggish shelf movement, Jeremy Chin's book Fuel may be yanked from local bookstores. I think it's quite a good (albeit syrupy) read. Get a copy online or borrow one from friends. And I think there might be a copy on the shelf at a local cafĂ© somewhere....
  • The release of the latest Godfather novel, The Family Corleone, sparked a fight between Paramount Pictures and the state of Mario Puzo over rights to the franchise. Unable to find a solution, both parties have taken the fight to federal court.
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers to 'publish' Chicken Soup for the Stomach. But will it taste as good?
  • "Promiscuous reading". Does that phase even make sense?
  • This guy endured some great writers' worst books, so that we don't have to.
  • Is our dependence on technology making us forgetful,like this book suggests?
  • Servers at Jamie Oliver's restaurants were, I read, told to talk like Jamie Oliver when describing the food. "May I rec'mend th' bayked p'tat-uhz wi' th' skins on? Abs'lutely wicked, scrummy, and proper rustic. Throw in s'm crispy baykon bits 'n a duhlup o' s'ouh cream... funtastic!" ...If Jamie-O wunts t'give 'is rest'ronts 'is Mockney flavuh, he c'n do i' 'imself. 'Coz no one else cud'do it bet'er.
  • Talking Turkey: the roots of Indo-European languages.
  • Parents in China duped by 'special skills programme' for kids. Reading "waves" from books and poker cards? What is this, a Stephen Chow film?
  • 'Vanity publishing' and 'legacy publishing': Why must they always be at loggerheads?
  • It seems book publishers have to start thinking of themselves as - (SOB!) - "multimedia content producers".


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