Monday, 1 October 2012

News: This Earth Of Mankind And All That

Banned Books Week 2012 kicks off in the US. The New York Times volunteered some ideas on how to 'celebrate' the Week. Gosh, has it been a year already?

Though Banned Books Week is a US-only thing, many of us can emphatise with the notion. This year's biggest banned book is arguably Irshad Manji's Allah, Liberty and Love. A local publisher and a bookstore manager were visited by religious authorities in relation to the book. One issue with the 'visit' seems to be more about conflicts between federal and religious laws with regards to print material that's deemed objectionable, not the ban itself, though some may argue that there's no point banning the book anyway.

Another more recent casualty - in China, at least - is Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. The novel became collateral damage in the Sino-Japanese spat over a bunch of rocks northeast of Taiwan, which got China banning or closing everything Japanese. An article on fossils in Japan's Gifu Prefecture was deleted minutes after it was posted on a Chinese web host. And a Japanese-backed cycling team pulled out of the Tour of Beijing event.

A cheerier celebratory occasion this week is this year's Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, happening from 03 to 07 October. Themed Bumi Manusia ("This Earth of Mankind"), after a title from Pramoedya Ananta Toer's first book in the once-banned historical fiction series The Buru Quartet, this year's Ubud Fest is held in honour of the enduring power of storytelling.

Author Michael Ruhlman also had something to say about storytelling, the importance of food writing, in particular. "...telling stories about food and cooking is not only natural, it's necessary for our survival. It's important to understand how something that is essential to our humanity and our well-being affects all other aspects of our lives and our humanity."

Hear, hear.

In other news:

  • Penguin seeks repayment of big advances from writers who didn't deliver. Among those being pursued are Elizabeth Wurtzel (Prozac Nation), Wonkette's founding editor Ana Marie Cox, and Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat.
  • John Scalzi's readers recommend some books in what is probably among the longest comments thread on the Whatever. Multiple nominations include Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Jenny "The Bloggess" Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Libriomancer by Jim C Hines, The Map of the Sky by Felix Palma and Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus.
  • Shades of virtual book-burning in the disappearance of Jonah Lehrer's book from various retail outlets and portals? Don't worry about it, says some readers of Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. At least, I think, for now.
  • US retail chain Wal-Mart is said to have stopped selling Kindles. Another US retail chain, Target, pledged to take the Amazon e-reader off its shelves this May, seemingly because of the latter's aggressive expansion tactics.
  • A fiction writer's heartening open letter to her ... should it be "colleagues" or "comrades"? In short, she says, "Keep writing."
  • Things from Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" that are still burning. Will the Middle East 'burn' forever?
  • The origin of a "hackademic" book publishing initiative, and how it can help students and journalists.
  • From the author of The Lizard King: a sad tale about the role of religion in the ivory trade.
  • Punjab's own Interlok kerfuffle was raised when words regarding caste land publishers in jail. The report could've been written better, though.
  • The New Yorker commemorates the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the book said to have kicked off the modern environmental movement.
  • England's government announces a review on e-book lending in libraries.

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