Monday, 17 September 2012

News: Privates, Padlocks, and Price Reductions

Private matters
Everybody seems to be all abuzz over Naomi Wolf's, uh ... privates. From the news portals I've been surfing, Wolf's Vagina (snrk) got more brickbats than bouquets since it was released. Critics cited bad science, Orientalism, unintentional self-parody, betrayal of feminism, etc.

And, of course, there's the title, which opens up plenty of opportunities for punsters, as Jessa Crispin suggests. "Although from reading the excerpts and the horrified reviews, it seems like the publishing company just kind of let Wolf run herself into a tree in all kinds of ways with this one."

Maybe because the publishers knew the kind of buzz it would create?

Even those who question the criticism Wolf's been getting can't help slipping in a crack or two. "And I can't help wondering if this isn't just a little bit problematic, and if it doesn't, just a little bit, make Wolf's point for her?"

Wolf has responded to these criticisms, and I think her arguments are sound. I'm once again reminded of Howard Jacobson's assertion that readers these days - as well as critics - can't seem to handle certain books.

At the time of posting, Zoƫ Heller's article has an NSFW picture. Do not click at work.


A bridge too far
Know that old chestnut where, in Rome, lovers can seal their relationship by writing their names on a padlock, clamping it to a lamp post of the Milvio bridge and throwing the key into the Tiber River? That little tradition, inspired by Federico Moccia's 2006 novel I Want You, has been banned by officials in Rome.

The bridge's popularity led to posts being installed on the bridge so that others can have a shot at happiness, but officials are concerned that the weight of all those padlocks will collapse the ancient bridge.

Moccia is apparently "nonplussed". "The removal of the locks is inconsiderate," he said. "Rome is handing Paris the 'bridge of love' tradition, which was born here and should stay here."

Even at the expense of a piece of history? Pompeii and Herculaneum, arguably two of Italy's most famous archaeological sites, are in danger of disappearing, thanks in part to tourists. Some traditions shouldn't be preserved.


Well, that was fast
In the aftermath of a settlement with the US Department of Justice over allegations of e-book price-fixing with Apple, publisher HarperCollins inked new deals with Amazon and other retailers. Days later, HarperCollins titles were said to be selling at Amazon at discounted prices.

HarperCollins, along with publishers Hachette and Simon & Schuster, settled with the DoJ days ago. It's possible that e-book retailers will soon be lowering prices of books from the other two publishers. And them fingers keep a-pointin', mostly towards traditional publishers.

In somewhat related news: A Waterstones staff reportedly trolled an author who self-published with Amazon for leaving promotional material for said book at the Waterstones outlet. Bezos's jungle may have emerged the victor in the latest dust-up over e-book prices, but it looks like pockets of resistance can still be expected.

Also: Would writers have to keep telling stories a la Scheherazade to survive in the Kindle era?


Other news
  • Is it ever okay to pirate books? Even if the copies are from books you already own and for private use?
  • Is Village Voice critic Robert Sietsema the acerbic non-person Ruth Bourdain? Sietsema says no but, for all we know, he could be muddying the waters a bit, possibly abashed at how it came out so quickly. We probably wouldn't have known that Waiter Rant is Steve Dublanica if he didn't shed his anonymity to promote his book. Both these guys seem to be good writers, but I feel Dublanica's warmer, more open.
  • "Radioactive" online comments are poisoning civil discourse in cyberspace. So here are some tips on how to argue online and avoid becoming a cyberspace-polluting troll.
  • A literary agent was attacked in her car, possibly over a rejected manuscript. The Huffpost entry suggests she was tracked down via a social media app. Getting rejected isn't the end of the world. Now, violently rejecting a rejection, however...
  • "Is this book bad, or is it just me?" The book review is dissected.
  • Art of War meets Mad Men? China's popular "workplace novels" weave career advice into soap opera plots.
  • Plan to burn "Fifty Shades" conjures fears of censorship and totalitarianism.
  • For Wikipedia, Phillip Roth, it seems, is not a credible enough source on a Phillip Roth novel.

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