Monday, 15 July 2013

News: Noms De Plume, Stalkers, Critics, And Cynics

Seems last week's been a week for revealing secrets. Sales of mystery novel The Cuckoo's Calling surged by 150,000 per cent after news emerged that the author, Robert Galbraith, was actually JK Rowling.

Not sure if this is good news for Rowling, seeing is that:

Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience ... It has been wonderful to publish without hype and expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.

While Scott Pack unpacks the news, Kate Mills of Orion Publishing admits she and perhaps several other publishers passed on Galbraith/Rowling's mystery novel.

The Telegraph seems to be chortling at the editors' inability to spot the book as a winner - and figure out that Rowling was the actual author. Like editors are supposed to be clairvoyant and all that.

Meanwhile, online persona Ruth Bourdain seems to have outed himself due to the pressure in maintaining the charade. The mastermind behind the popular Ruth Reichl/Anythony Bourdain mashup was "mild-mannered" freelance writer and Food Section blogger Josh Friedland.

Both Rowling and Friedland intend to continue writing under their noms de plume. But will it be the same, now that the illusions have been shattered? And will there be pressure to perform now?

Sandra Botham, some lady in the UK, was convicted for tossing ink at crime writer Val McDermid over a perceived insult where she'd assumed that a "Michelin Man-like" character called Sandra in McDermid's that book she read in 1985 was herself.

"This is a work of pure fiction. All resemblances to real characters, living or dead, events and locations are purely coincidental." Was this disclaimer missing from the book or did Botham have a bad day over two decades long?

And here are some more incidents of author stalking "that could be out of a Stephen King novel" for further reading. Also: a peek into the "murky world" of literary libel.


  • Goodreads asks its members what made them put down a book. Here are the results, in infographic form. Few surprises in the findings.
  • Mob mag: Japan's largest yakuza group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, published a magazine.
  • "Being cynical isn't necessarily a bad thing ... It's at the heart of great satire and, perhaps more importantly, leads us to question what is wrong with the world – and strive to make it better." Julian Baggini, in the Guardian, on why cynicism still matters.
  • Guilty! Apple said to have 'led a conspiracy' to fix e-book prices with several big-name publishers. Here's how Apple apparently did it. While some may celebrate the court decision (hooray for consumers!), someone over at Forbes thinks it might lead to lower-quality e-books - and a dominant Amazon that can set its own rules and prices in the absence of any major competition.
  • A Malaysian High Court grants stay application by ZI Publications over a raid and confiscation of Irshad Manji's book by religious authorities on its premises. If the JAWI raid on Borders was ruled illegal because the book wasn't yet banned by the Home Ministry, the same might be said of the raid on ZI.
  • "Beans for the kids", "a glass of wine", and "little carps" are not what you think they are. Hint: they're all euphemisms for "duit kopi".
  • Writing heals, it seems.
  • "A five-star restaurant is like pornography: You'll know it when you see it, and it will likely bring you great pleasure." If this is how roving restaurant critic Hanna Raskin intends to help Yelp, good luck to everybody.
  • Why do we read about bad deeds? A professor introduces Freud's "idea of sublimation" and suggests that "...authors write -- and, for that matter, readers read -- about acts of violence, cruelty, dishonesty, or aggression precisely so that they don't actually commit them in real life." Imagine that, even as some conservatives argue that reading about bad deeds encourages them.
  • Should you boycott an author's works in protest of his personal views? HuffPost's senior books editor says it's pointless. Where Orson Scott Card is concerned, apparently yes.
  • Clive James's acerbic review of Dan Brown's Inferno. Brown's an esay target for this kind of critique, and it's something I'd do if I had the patience, knowledge and an additional 30 years' experience in writing.
  • As competition wanes, Amazon cuts back on discounts.
  • The New York Times is shutting down its food blog, Diner's Journal. Is this the beginning - or the middle - of the end of blogs?

By the way, MPH's digital publishing division has a Facebook page up. IT CAN HAZ LIKES? THNX. I've been allowed to post stuff on the page, though I don't see myself contributing often because of my anti-social tendencies.


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