Monday, 29 April 2013

News: Book Snobbery, Copyshop Capers, And "Am I Good Enough?"

Among 30 things to tell book snobs:

People should never be made to feel bad about what they are reading. People who feel bad about reading will stop reading.

...Stories, at their essence, are enemies of snobbery. And a book snob is the enemy of the book.

I suppose it's a fair point, but a world without book snobs can be potentially dreadful. Another point:

...Snobbery leads to worse books. Pretentious writing and pretentious reading. Books as exclusive members clubs. Narrow genres. No inter-breeding. All that fascist nonsense that leads commercial writers to think it is okay to be lazy with words and for literary writers to think it is okay to be lazy with story.

What about commercial writers who think it is okay to be lazy with story? Hate to trot out Fifty Shades for this, but there you go.

In other stuff:

  • A teacup whirlpool is being stirred in India over whether photocopying of textbooks will kill their publishers. An on-campus copy shop in Delhi University apparently drew the ire of several big publishers over photocopied material from some of their textbooks.
  • These famous quotes are grammatically incorrect - but only technically. Linguistic perfection is seemingly overrated when the message is the most important thing. Thoughts?
  • Books are said to be reviewed in The New York Times at the reviewers' own discretion - and that's the system. Probably the same story elsewhere.
  • How to write about nature. Probably not like how Nabokov does it.
  • The nine ways big publishers are like Big Pharma.
  • The Hitler diary hoax - how did it happen?
  • Words like "penmanship" and "fisherman" are gender-biased? For the love of...
  • Here's one question every new writer asks and wants answers to: "Am I good enough?" The next question then, is: "Do I wanna be 'good enough'?"

Monday, 22 April 2013

News: Farmers And Some Boring Stuff

After the deluge of interesting news last week, things seem to be slowing down. Really slowing down. Or maybe I just feel that there's really nothing of note. Last week was also a downer, what with bombings, earthquakes and the rise of 'independent' candidates for GE13.

One would think that Feedly could help find more bookish stuff to highlight.



Urban women in US apparently flocking to greenmarkets hoping to get down and dirty with farmers. A natural progression, I suppose, after hot chefs.

...a 6-foot-1, strapping-but-married dairy farmer — a grandfather — tells of a barrage of texts sent from an all-too-regular customer, a green-eyed beauty in her 40s who was eager to milk their exchanges for more.

We could really have some fun if you weren’t married, read the first sext. Then came: Are you going to be at USG this weekend? What are you doing after the market today? Do you need somewhere to stay in the city?

Milking exchanges with a dairy farmer for more... love the phrasing. But OMG WATS WITH DAT PIC.

Well, it's interesting reading, isn't it?


Also:

  • A review of Michael Pollan's Cooked. It's more than applying fire or fermentation to a bunch of ingredients.
  • Tips on building a library on the cheap. Maybe #11 could be, "social networks"? People junk books all the time.
  • Miranda Richardson, actress and this year's chair for the Women's Prize for fiction, takes a hard swing at tall poppy syndrome in the UK. Meanwhile, Gaby Woods reminds us of another poppy who should be allowed to flourish.
  • Do you read author interviews to glean writers' tricks from them? There may be no such holy grail.
  • Has modern religion become a MacGuffin? A Q&A with author (and possible heretic) Peter Rollins about his book and how "'God' has fallen prey to our grasping, market-driven existence — just another shiny thing we acquire to make ourselves feel OK."
  • Randy Susan Meyers wonders whether readers owe writers $#!+. Of course they don't, but that doesn't stop some writers from being pushy. Self-promotion can go too far, like this author who thinks he may have 'predicted' the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

More News: Ink, Steak, Tweeting 'Turk' And Inside The Kindle

  • Ancient ink says "Gospel of Judas" is "most likely authentic". Feel like some Lady Gaga now.
  • Of these ten ways self-publishing has changed world of books, not sure if "self-publishing brings happiness".
  • A 'letter' to Filipino immigrants from a Filipino writer: "We'll be here if you want to read us." Dawww. If not for the Filipino hacks (and their emotion-stirring eloquence) hating on us over Sabah I'd be all teary-eyed.
  • Of these eleven stories of book burning, most were perpetrated by warmongers and religious fanatics.
  • Cats reign on the Internet, while dogs rule in print. Two schools of thought on the matter: one involves attention spans, the other, human narcissism.
  • A profile of the People's Recreation Community, a tiny Hong Kong bookstore that holds a trove of books banned in China, illustrates (as if it's not obvious by now) just how futile book bans are.
  • Is English spelling is 'so messed up'? Doesn't feel that way to me.
  • I'm OK, you're okay, we're all O.K. The most annoying or blah non-word began as a joke and took on a life of its own. Is it among history's first memes?
  • When I Was A Kid II headed for Kickstarter. Is it too early to book a copy?
  • Jason Merkoski, former Kindle development team leader, dishes on e-books, personal data, and Amazon. His inside story on the Kindle was serialised in The Huffington Post: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
  • Picking up Mahir "I Kiss You!" Çağrı's baton is the Twitter feed of a London-based Turkish restaurant. I'm not sure if the mind(s) behind the edgy, witty Tweets are actual Turks or local sockpuppets. Feel free to follow them, but no kisses - they have knives.
  • Steak is "manly"? Try some blood in a gourd cleaned with cow piss, like AA Gill says he did. Apparently it's the same. Gill goes on to write more about steak, which reminds me: I haven't eaten that in years.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Return To Nambawan

Generally I make it a point to never review the same place twice; every time I return to a place it has folded, become an entirely different shop, or remains the same. Nambawan Restaurant and Café is the latter.

I don't know if I'll ever do something similar to this, but it wasn't too long ago that I wrote two pieces about the same establishment within two weeks. It helped that the other place had slightly different characters during different times of the day. ...I don't think the Three Little Pigs/Big Bad Wolf needs any more endorsements, do you?

Thing is, Nambawan did nothing to warrant a second write-up - maybe other than sticking around and still doing what they do. Which is the only thing my makan kaki and I wish for all restaurants. Can't ask any more than that.



Nambawan — Part Deux

first published in The Malaysian Insider, 15 April 2013


That newspaper clipping is still there. I snapped a photo of it on impulse. Melody was tickled by that, as was the manageress of the place.

What memories.


roast pork belly
The quality of Nambawan's roast pork belly is recession-proof


We have been to a number of eateries over the years, some of which folded within several years since our last visit. A couple of those had become second homes, which made their closure all the more depressing. Invariably, they were all moms-and-pops; franchises were only for convenience, not conviviality.

Over two years ago, Melody was introduced to Nambawan Restaurant by a fellow Ipohite and more well-travelled food crawler. The owner, it seems, just decided to set up shop at Sri Manja Square One. Nambawan's gruff, taciturn chef (‘kay, I was scared of him) had worked in New Zealand for a time.

In spite of the humble décor and bad copywriting ("Taste your sense to infinity"?), we were struck by the price-to-portion ratio—affordable, even by the neighborhood's standards. The portions aren't really that big, so one can sample up to two or three items. On top of that, the chef's pretty skilled.

50-50 pork-bacon burger
Burger that's 50 per cent pork + 50
per cent bacon equals 100 per cent
satisfaction
Everything we tried: the amatriciana pasta, the signature stone-charbroiled pork belly, and the 100 per cent home-made pork burger, was good and made just right. They had a 100 per cent home-made beef burger for a while, starring a patty said to be made of hand-chopped tenderloin.

Suffice to say that Nambawan has a good week-day menu, but fans and first-timers alike will look forward to the weekend specials. These include favourites such as roast pork belly, maybe lamb shank, and two other items.

You never know what might turn up. On our "homecoming" to this place, they also served a Tex-Mex pulled pork dish and a "50% pork + 50% bacon burger."

"50+50 burger?" Melody gasped. She was a bigger sucker for bacon than I was, so that's what she ordered. "Hold the fries and add more coleslaw," she added.

I stuck with the familiar roast pork belly, which is really a Western-style strip of siew yoke. We thought we could slip in a carbonara if there was enough room.

My order hit the table first. I felt a bit deflated. Inflation seems to have crept up on this little corner of Taman Sri Manja. The pork belly looked a bit smaller than the last time I ate it, and there was one less half-a-potato.

One bite restored my hopes for his place. Oh, yes... that's how I remembered it. The roasted pork skin was dense, so I applied more pressure on the fork. Glistening, semi-transparent fat oozed out from various crannies as I cut another piece of belly.

shiitake mushroom soup
The shiitake mushroom soup is so
good you'd want to lick the bowl...
but please don't
The lean parts had flavour, the fatty bits were silky and unctuous, and the partly caramelised skin was crispy and chewy in turns. I had little use for the sweet apple sauce meant to balance the richness of the meat, which I'd rather pair with the lovely light-brown sauce covering the spuds.

The second half of the main event began when Melody's 50% pork/50% bacon burger arrived. Instead of devouring it the conventional way, she deconstructed the dish with knife and fork, eating each component as she saw fit.

I leaned in as Melody sliced into the patty, which was large for a RM9.90 burger, and released the familiar smell of cured meat, fat and salt. I almost swooned. She "mmm"-ed in appreciation of the flavour and the genius behind it. "Why didn't anybody else think of this before?" she gushed.

In between bites of belly, Melody slipped me a few pieces of her bacon-enhanced patty. How to describe the fine balance of textures between fresh and cured meat, the mingling of the flavours and the smoky sharp tang of salt that gets people begging for more, despite the health hazards?

I gave up and just surrendered to the sensations.

"'You must try this'," Melody supplied as she mentally drafted a sales pitch for her Facebook update. Trust her to come up with the pithiest lines.

"So, got room for carbonara?" I later asked, after I wiped my mouth.

Nambawan Restaurant and Café
10, Jalan PJS3/48
Sri Manja Square One
Taman Sri Manja
6½ Miles, Off Old Klang Road
46000 Petaling Jaya

Contact:
•  016-224 1533 (Yap)
•  013-263 2772 (Gilbert)

Business Hours:
•  Lunch (Noon to 3pm);
•  Dinner (6pm to 10pm)
•  Closed every other Monday

Very non-halal

Place can be parking hell
Melody pondered it briefly, and shook her head. I thought as much.

Madam Yap the manageress had different ideas, however.

"Would you like a little soup?" she asked. "Made with shiitake mushrooms. It tastes great. You'll love it."

We exchanged wary looks. Why not? Soup's more manageable than a carbonara.

"Just a bit," Melody pleaded, just in case.

What arrived was a normal portion of light brown not-very-runny and somewhat hearty shiitake mushroom soup. The chunks were finer and the broth was so ... yes, this is how you do Western-style shiitake mushroom soup.

When the soup was gone, I looked around to see if it was safe to lick the bowl. Across the table, Melody glared at me as I ran a finger all over the inside of the bowl and sucked up what it had collected.

You'd think the chef would be chuffed, Mel.

I know I was.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

News: Modern Mythology, Self-Help, Yelp Help, And Amazon

Indian mythology is being 'updated' in contemporary Indian fiction - and making authors rich and famous. Is the evolution worth it?

Readers who grew up with the idea that Ravana was a through-and-through bad guy, for instance, will be surprised to learn that he was the son of a sage and was a devout worshipper of Shiva who knew that the bad things he did had some purpose in balancing the cosmic books (the way I see it).

Modern audiences have no patience for such complicated accounting, so the dynamics between protagonists and anatgonists were distilled into a more familiar black-and-white thing they can relate to. That'll move copies, I'm sure, but will this mean the ability to understand nuance and navigate different shades of grey will eventually be sacrificed?

I have issues with the behaviour of some sages, the so-called brahmins - particularly their sense of entitlement and demand for respect. That sage mentioned in the Ramayana who cursed Shakuntala when she did not greet him because she was daydreaming about her beloved? You'd think he'd understand. Cursing people out of anger is not what people expect of learned, enlightened beings.

If there's a story where sages get punished for such behaviour, I'd read that.



A restaurant critic lists 11 reasons why Yelp reviews suck, plus 11 fixes for that.

Some reasons include making "unfair judgments or poor decisions based on ignorance of the restaurant’s cuisine, level of formality, intentions, or audience" (thinking of you here, Brad Newman), "no understanding of how restaurants work", "a lack of human empathy", "an undue sense of entitlement" (hello again, Brad Newman) and "unreasonable expectations on whether the restaurant can accommodate special dietary preferences."



Self-help by women for women: Why do they seek advice for everything under the sun from strangers? What's wrong with that?

Nothing, if you're seeking practical instruction on practical problems: how to fix your bike, prepare your taxes, or roast a leg of lamb. Practical problems can be quantified. Personal or existential challenges are idiosyncratic and resistant to formulaic fixes; they require retail, made to measure therapy. One size doesn't fit all.

Which is probably why we'll continue to see more of the same in bookstores for the foreseeable future.



Russell Brand remembers Margaret Thatcher. Not how I'd imagine Russell Brand remembering Margaret Thatcher. One choice bit:

Barack Obama interestingly said in his statement that she had "broken the glass ceiling for other women." Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards.

And another:

The blunt, pathetic reality is that a little old lady has died, who in the winter of her life had to water roses alone under police supervision. If you behave like there's no such thing as society, in the end there isn't. Her death must be sad for the handful of people she was nice to and the rich people who got richer under her stewardship. It isn't sad for anyone else.

Read the whole thing. G*d. Did he actually write all that?



Shades of Amazon eats Goodreads? Academic publisher Elsevier buys social media research platform Mendeley. The app that allowed academics to share material was developed by several PhD students who wanted an easier way to manage research papers and collaborate with colleagues overseas.

Mendeley users cried foul over the move, because this means that Elsevier can dictate the terms of usage and access on what was said to be an open resource. A report in The Bookseller has details about the purchase and why this could be bad:

Many expressed sceptism over whether Mendeley will remain open since Elsevier gained a reputation for being against open access to research as it supported the failed anti-piracy legislation Stop Online Piracy Act.

And why did Amazon buy Goodreads? To get, it is said, into the heads of a small segment of "super readers", those who read a dozen or more books in a year. Not Malaysians in general, then. Forbes outlines the benefits Amazon can expect to reap from the purchase.



Seems Thai publishers are spreading their wings, but may have problems with publishing requirements in other countries.

Some foreign publishers also have special needs, she said, mentioning a request from publishers in Muslim-majority Malaysia for illustrators to adjust certain drawings.

"So the illustrators had to remove pigs and references to pork from drawings in certain books plus any related text. They were also asked to depict character wearing only clothes which are in line with Islamic dress codes," [Chonrungsee Chalermchaikit, vice-president of the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (Pubat)] explained.

While certain sensibilities should be respected, that respect should be reciprocal. Telling foreign publishers that their culture may raise hackles in your own country is kind of, well, bad to say the least.



In the Washington Post, an editor's dilemma when proofing copy:




I knowww. The things editors do when fact-checking.



Amazon reverses refusal to handle Cornish text in children's book. Will Google flip on 'ogooglebar'?

While Cornish-speakers and language activists worldwide were happy with the U-turn, not everyone feels Amazon was totally wrong, wrong, wrong. Somebody pointed out that it was merely business. "For one thing, only 500 people cited Cornish as their primary language in the 2011 census. Is it so shocking Amazon wasn’t all that interested in publishing the Cornish title?"

Monday, 8 April 2013

News: Restaurant Criticism, Cultural Boycott, And Court Battle

The restaurant critic's "perverse secret agenda" is not about getting free food, it seems, but to map "uncharted territories for the benefit of the hungry." So, no point in blogging about a place that's been reviewed n+1 times, then.

Premised around Pete Wells's takedown of a Guy Fieri restaurant, the piece also includes a look at the person The Awl says was the first restaurant reviewer who, bien sûr, happens to be French.



Iain Banks on why he's supporting a cultural boycott of Israel. Paragraph is split for easier reading:

The particular tragedy of Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people is that nobody seems to have learned anything. Israel itself was brought into being partly as a belated and guilty attempt by the world community to help compensate for its complicity in, or at least its inability to prevent, the catastrophic crime of the Holocaust.

Of all people, the Jewish people ought to know how it feels to be persecuted en masse, to be punished collectively and to be treated as less than human. For the Israeli state and the collective of often unlikely bedfellows who support it so unquestioningly throughout the world to pursue and support the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people – forced so brutally off their land in 1948 and still under attack today – to be so blind to the idea that injustice is injustice, regardless not just on whom it is visited, but by whom as well, is one of the defining iniquities of our age, and powerfully implies a shamingly low upper limit on the extent of our species' moral intelligence.



This came in this afternoon, with several minor errors (which should be corrected already):

ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and its director Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid have been given the nod by the Federal Court here today to challenge the constitutionality of a Selangor state religious enactment which restrict[s] freedom of expression.

Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria[,] presiding a five-member panel[,] unanimously granted leave to the publishing company and Mohd Ezra who have filed a petition seeking the Federal Court to declare invalid Section 16 of the Syariah Criminal Enactment 1995.

..."It would be an interesting case to hear," said the Chief Justice...

Yes, it's about that book.

On a related note, someone sheds some light on censorship in Malaysia.


Other stuff:

  • A call from 'God' and the travails of writing a New York Times book review. One important lesson: Don't junk your galley proofs until the review is published. To be safe, wait for a week after publication (my rule of thumb).
  • Ten terms for various parts of a book, in case one needs to dissect a copy. I've been looking for #7 (head-piece/vignette) for ages.
  • Andrew Zimmern and Tony Bourdain chat about fatherhood, creative freedom, etc - and Winnie the Pooh (warning: spoiler ahead for those who haven't read it).
  • Among this selection of ten very expensive typos includes a US$80 million hyphen, an extra letter that costs US$1.4 milion, and a boo-boo that cost a Japanese security firm US$340 million (Itai!). Who says typos aren't important?
  • Book promotion strategies that (allegedly) worked for these people. Best (and often-ignored) advice: "Writing a good book."
  • Writers' letters may reveal certain things about them, but do you want to know?
  • Seven myths and three truths about book editing might help improve the overall quality of books.
  • How editors can be more 'conversational' on Twitter. But should editors be more social, given the nature of their work? And do editors want to be more social?
  • Another 'next indie success story' fizzles out - or does it?
  • Can't move from journalism to fiction and creative non-fiction? Here's some advice.

Friday, 5 April 2013

See You At The Movies - Maybe

For a while I've only heard of Roger Ebert (1942-2013); I'm no movie fan so I thought little of giving what he wrote a pass.

Then he comes up with a treatise on how to cook stuff in a rice pot, a teaser of which I'd stumbled upon while drifting aimlessly across the Web.

The eloquence. The use of words. The inner me hung its head in shame as he extemporised the many things that a rice pot and a few utensils can do for "you, student in your dorm room. You, solitary writer, artist, musician, potter, plumber, builder, hermit. You, parents with kids. You, night watchman. You, obsessed computer programmer or weary web-worker." He could've added, "You, lazy-ass wannabe journo/reviewer."

The power of that inspiring, mouth-watering piece on the rice pot is amplified when I heard that he'd written it after he lost his lower jaw and couldn't eat any more. It was the closest I had come to tearing up over a stranger's plight (though it didn't seem so) and he kicks the knife in by sucking it up, cancer and all, and continue to do his work.

"Yes, sir," Inner-Me mumbled, scuffing its heels on the ground. "Yes ... yes ... Yes, sir. Yes, I understand, sir. 'Get off my lazy ass and grab a rice cooker'? Right away, sir."

I've never read anything substantial from him since. Nor did I grab that pot, despite the temptation. For the nth time, I've seen someone else do something I want to and can do but can't because of age, experience, cred, platform, lack of a Pulitzer, etc.

For the nth minus 1 time, I wished I'd begun writing in earnest when I was, say, 20 instead of 32; I could have 'made it' by now - or next year the latest.

I could vent and rave like nobody's business and people would take me seriously. They'd send me places, and I'd write it up so that people would go there in droves, lemming-like, even if they had to sell their kidneys for airfare.

But this is Malaysia, where you won't be noticed unless you write about politics. And one year in real journalism revealed my lack of a stomach for the kind of things a journo has to do to feed himself. Also, why-lah are the powers that be sooo sensitive?

So I cut my teeth reviewing books and eating places, and the occasional movie or music album. No way I can offend anyone when writing things that won't be read.

...Right, I did offend some people. Not discussing that here, though.

At some point, I buried my dreams of a Pulitzer and the like, and just write and write and write. But not enough, I feel. I've so many things left unsaid. Never mind writing - I'd just stop living if I'd ended up like Ebert in his final years. On top of it all, I'll never be 'good' or 'qualified' enough to criticise or call out certain things.

One glimmer of hope came in John Scalzi's obit of Ebert where he pointed out (emphasis mine):

...as passionate as he was about film, he wasn’t precious about it. Ebert loved film, but what I think he loved most of all was the fact that it entertained him so. He loved being entertained, and he loved telling people, in language which was direct and to the point (he worked for the Sun-Times, the blue collar paper in town) what about the films was so entertaining. What he taught me about film criticism is that film criticism isn’t about showing off what you know about film, it was about sharing what made you love film.

I don't know if I'll ever see you at the movies, Mr Ebert (I'm Asian, we don't do the first-name thingy with our elders), but "sharing what made you love [whatever]"? That I can do. And I'll continue to do it until I 'get there', where I can, among other things, slice and dice like a conscientious, knowledgeable pro.

Though I wasn't with you on your journey, I'd love to see you off. Hope you don't mind.

And thank you, sir, for everything.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Masterclass In Session: Modelling With Amber

A series of Masterclass books was planned for release by MPH Publishing. Essentially, how-to guides from homegrown experts in their respective fields. For the first book in the series, we have this.

MPH Masterclass Series: Amber Chia
Among the first responses were, "Love the hair." But of course.

In this country, her name is synonymous with the term "supermodel".

"I did not know a thing about modelling when I started out as a teenager. I wish there was a school or a guidebook that I could have referred to back then," says Amber Chia. "I managed to set up a modelling academy a few years back and now, I'm so happy that I can also produce a guidebook to help aspiring models."

And here's the guidebook: Amber Chia's Guide to a Successful Modelling Career, the first book in the new MPH Masterclass Series.

Full of advice for young women keen on pursuing a modelling career in Malaysia and beyond, this guide covers such topics as self-assessment, modelling platforms, building one's professional attitude and personal branding, avoiding scams, other employment opportunities, and much more.

Amber also shares her own journey, from her childhood in Tawau, Sabah when she daydreamed about a modelling career to winning the Guess international ambassadorship, an event that put her on the path to where she is today. Helping readers follow that journey are a selection of photographs from her photoshoots, events and ads.

It is mainly aimed at helping aspiring models get a leg up when embarking on their career on the catwalk, and beyond - the kind that the author wished she'd had when she was starting out.

Much of the tips and advice she gives: what (and what not) to wear, how to build a portfolio, how to socialise and get your name out, steer clear of dodgy agencies and gigs, be nice to everyone (because, as Tyra Banks once said, "We don't like mean girls"), and so on are all common sense.

Amber Chia's Guide to a Successful Modelling Career
Amber Chia
MPH Group Publishing (April 2013)
146 pages
Non-fiction
ISBN: 978-967-415-107-2

RM35.90 | Buy from MPHOnline.com
Too bad common sense seems unrecognisable these days unless it's pointed out to you, featured on 'inspirational' posters, and posted on Facebook - or compiled into guides like this one.

We hope the masses will be thrilled with this new arrival at all major bookstores - including ours - after its launch on Wednesday, 03 April 2013.

Print versions are going for RM35.90 a copy, while e-book versions will soon be available from MPH Digital.

If one is still not sure how to go about being a catwalk superstar after finishing the book, there's always the Amber Chia Academy.

Monday, 1 April 2013

News: Meet The Gardener, And Goodreads Gets Amazoned

Aren't we all still chuffed over Tan Twan Eng's Man Asia win? Meet the man himself at Kinokuniya, KLCC on Saturday, 06 April at 7:30pm where he'll be signing copies of his winner, The Garden of Evening Mists.


Garden of Evening Mists, MyrmidonGarden of Evening Mists, CanongateGarden of Evening Mists, Weinstein
Take your pick from several publishers, 'cause you can't have too many


I suppose if you already have a copy lying around you can get that signed, too.

What else?

  • ZOMG the jungle of a company known as Amazon has swallowed Goodreads. Cyberspace echoed with the dismay of legions, some of whom have announced their intent to sign off Goodreads for good. Others say nothing will change, while a few were like, "Oh, and this is surprising how?"

    There's talk that this so-called independent book readers' social network will end up sending everyone to Amazon to buy recommended reads because, well, GR people are real readers and less likely to indulge in sockpuppetry and all that. You think?
  • "Most contemporary literary fiction is terrible." Too bad the author doesn't elaborate any further than 'because too many people are doing it, and doing it wrong'.
  • William Shakespeare, one-percenter? Okay, that was a bad attempt at rhyming - and not to say that all one-percenters are tax dodgers, which was what was allegedly uncovered about ol' Bill. It's also said he'd hoarded grain for the lean times but made a profit by selling some at jacked-up prices.
  • Whoops: Unattributed, borrowed passages found in Jane Goodall's Seeds of Hope, some of which were from Wikipedia. It's like Michel Houellebecq and The Map and the Territory all over again.
  • Amish fiction? Hmm. Amish romance? SNRK. I mean, come on. "Bonnet-rippers"? I suppose the sight of tumbling locks freed from some flimsy headgear has a certain kind of appeal for some....
  • When writers flog themselves, what do they sound like?

    Anne Enright berates herself for punctuation tics ("I am tormented by my need for commas"). Richard Ford is unable to "describe how people look". Tessa Hadley admits to repeating images. Neil Jordan says he has written "a thousand beginnings" but few become finished projects. Ruth Padel convicts herself of "too-muchness", writing too much and overdoing imagery.

    There. Don't they sound more like you and me already?