Monday, 4 February 2013

News: Jumping The Gun, NYT Reviews And Gulag Humour

The literary world shed sweatdrops of dread when news came out that a library holding ancient manuscripts from Timbuktu was torched by Islamists fleeing from French forces. After all, it wasn't too long ago since a library in Egypt was torched destroying many valuable papers. Timbuktu locals claim, however, that some of the more important manuscripts were saved.

Back home: Is Pak Lah taking on Dr M in a tell-all to be released after CNY? No, he's not, it seems. The authors, Bridget Welsh and James Chin, have apparently denied the book's "tell-all" nature and called the report "an overly-sensational shoddy piece of journalism". A correction has since been added to the original report.

"He's Anthony Bourdain with a side of pickled radish." Eddie Huang's memoir, Fresh Off The Boat, reviewed in The New York Times.

Huang may be chuffed at by the rather positive review. William Stadiem, however, feels he has to defend himself against a NYT book reviewer's alleged accusations of Jew-baiting in a critique of his novel Moneywood.

Not long after Google Earth exposed the locations of some of North Korea's gulags, the 'reviews' start coming in, from "Great cuisine" and "Will visit again" to Meh".

But is it appropriate? Not if it focuses attention on these camps, apparently. "Smart-aleck awareness is better than ignorance." I'm kind of two minds about that.


  • Bells continue to toll for B&N and the mega-bookstore. B&N is planning to close up to a third of its brick-and-mortars over ten years, but states that it is "fully committed to the retail concept for the long term." The response is one you might expect.
  • Hilary Mantel brings up the accolades again, this time winning the Costa Book of the Year award for Bring Up The Bodies, and she's not apologising for that. Why should she?
  • Talk about embracing trolls: Writer Brian Allen Carr is seeking the best one-star review in exchange for his books. Am I missing something?
  • In the wake of the Lance Armstrong confession, somebody ponders the reasons we read memoirs.
  • In the annals of weaponised reviews: Milanese opera house La Scala has blacklisted a newspaper's music critic after some of his reviews were said to have crossed the line. Calling Luciano Pavarotti a "musical illiterate" takes some balls, but can he back it up? Just asking.
  • The next time you publish a book, please don't name it after a terrorist organisation.
  • Some of the best arguments for and against the Oxford comma.
  • Was that famous short story written by Ernest Hemingway? Perhaps not.
  • Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis is awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. He's the first Indian recipient of the prize.


  1. I LOVED the article on the Oxford comma; thank you so much for posting! [Note to self: in future, be wary of gushing in public about articles on punctuation. Maybe intersperse them with praise of Stephen King thrillers or porn?]

    1. Thank you. I thought it was instructional


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