Friday, 24 April 2015

Book Marks: Amir's Spine, Rahnaward Zaryab's Memories

The authors and their stories that will be appearing in the upcoming Fixi Novo Cyberpunk anthology have been announced. I believe the release date is around June 2015. Cor, several of the titles sound borderline Fifty Shades.

Speaking of Fixi, here's what the founder wrote for the 2015 London Book Fair. He doesn't hold back, right from the beginning:

I was mooching around Instagram recently and found that the hashtag for my company #BukuFixi was used on more than 14,000 posts. I was shocked–shocked!–to find this was just 4,000 fewer than #PenguinBooks and certainly more than, say #RandomHouse, which had 10,000. But we’re a small Malaysian company without even an office.

And here he is, providing an overview of the Malay fiction market, which... dominated by the romance genre and 50,000 in sales is considered a bestseller. Among the blockbusters of the past decade are My Husband Is a Religious Teacher, My Husband Is Mr Perfect 10, My Husband Is the Sweetest and My Husband Is a Limited Edition.

Notice that he changed a few things for the benefit of a non-Malay-speaking audience. So humble, so helpful.

RIP Tsuen-hsuin "T.H." Tsien, considered the most influential Chinese librarian in America.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Mr. Tsien, former curator of the Far Eastern Library of the University of Chicago, is also credited with training generations of students for East Asian libraries around the nation. Former students of his went on to head the East Asian libraries at Harvard and Princeton, as well as become senior members of the Library of Congress.

The author of several books and more than 100 articles, he retired in 1978 and was the curator emeritus of the East Asian Collection of the Joseph Regenstein Library and professor emeritus of Far Eastern Languages and Civilizations (now East Asian Languages and Civilizations) at the University of Chicago.

An Afghan novelist "locks himself up for weeks at a time, lost in bottles of smuggled vodka and old memories of Kabul, a capital city long transformed by war and money."


...after he became the standard-bearer for Afghan literature, Mr. [Rahnaward] Zaryab was forced to watch as Kabul, the muse he idealized as a city of music and chivalry in most of his 17 books, fell into rubble and chaos.

...Little of a readership culture remains these days, even in Kabul. Bookshops are saturated with bootleg copies of Iranian books. Local authors make no money from publishing their work. In return for a manuscript, Mr. Zaryab gets a number of copies from the publisher to distribute to friends.

The estate of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels is suing publisher (Penguin?) Random House...

...over the book Goebbels, by Peter Longerich, professor of modern German history at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Longerich, an authority on the Holocaust and Nazi era Germany, drew extensively on Goebbels' diaries in his biography, which was published in Germany in 2010.

...Rainer Dresen, general counsel of Random House Germany, told the Guardian that an important principle was at stake. "We are convinced that no money should go to a war criminal," he said.

Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On The Train, talks about the book and her new-found fame.

Well, obviously my name is known now, but I don’t think people generally tend to recognize authors very much. People like J.K. Rowling maybe, Gillian Flynn might be recognized, but I reckon she could walk by me on the street and I wouldn't know who she was. So I'm not sure it’s that kind of fame. I suppose when I realized it was doing really well in the States, that was terrifying because of the number of people you’re talking about because it's such a big place, you’re suddenly talking millions. That's probably the moment when I thought, "Oh God, this is sort of scary now."

The Gillian Flynn mention is interesting, since Hawkins's book has been called "the new Gone Girl".

Never knew there were several levels in how one reads a book. That blog post also cited American philosopher, educator and author Mortimer Adler and his book, How to Read a Book (of course), which identified four levels of reading: elementary, inspectional, analytical and syntopical.

If you're reading for entertainment or information, you're going to read a lot differently (and likely different material) than reading to increase understanding. While many people are proficient in reading for information and entertainment, few improve their ability to read for knowledge.

Before we can improve our reading skills, we need to understand the differences in the reading levels. They are thought of as levels because you can’t move to a higher level without a firm understanding of the previous one — they are cumulative.

Good to know, but can be hard to apply.

Philip Gwyn Jones says there's a "civil war" going on in the book industry for readers' attention.

Economically it will be the reader who is the prize, the territory to be captured, the Alsace-Lorraine or the Poland of the civil war. Winning the reader’s attention – and the natural monopolies of Google and Facebook will be far better at this than the publishers – then chopping that attention into tiny little morsels for never-ending re-sale and re-cycling seems, in a way that might even be beyond the imaginings of a Borges or a Ballard, likely to be the humming machinery at the heart of the 21-century book business.

Publishers are at risk of becoming culturally irrelevant, a study claims. Meanwhile, in the US, it's said that there's a war (that word again) on diversity in reading material.

The Arab Spring's best legacy: Egyptians are now reading once-banned books.

But the really controversial titles have come from the country's crop of small, independent publishers. Freed from the shackles of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak's rule when he was ousted in 2011, the Sefsafa publishing house rushed out a host of daring material, including Basma Abdel Aziz's The Temptation of Absolute Power, whose critique of the system might have landed her in jail some years before.

Another publisher, Madarat Research and Publication, seized upon the power vacuum following Mubarak's toppling to print and distributed a nuanced take on the political theory of Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Even the conservative Dar al-Shorouk, Egypt's largest privately owned publisher, produced a few critical takes on the previously untouchable former president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Marketing tools and strategies for indie writers were being pitched in the London Book Fair. Meanwhile, Gen-X authors in India talk about the trials of telling and selling their tales in the age of social media (try not to get distracted by the "Don't Miss" sidebar).

I've stopped following and commenting on the whole indie or self-publishing phenomenon, mainly because other people are, and I think independent and self-publishers have proven their point. The business model works - but only if you work at it.


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