LitNews 5: Some Interesting News from the World of Books

Some interesting bits from the world of books:

While Western writers party in lavish conferences... "fiction writers and poets have always done the important work of challenging authority. For proof, just look at the rates at which authors are imprisoned and punished. [...] Literature has always been a way to confront society’s ills [...] And the poets and writers of the region have served as historians and journalists."

Tell it to publishers who care only about their bottom line: "Literature should reach out to people and it should not limit itself within the confines of literacy . It should make an impact on society, should transform history, and demolish hurdles that hinder the growth of society."

Rupert Murdoch's empire is concerned about morality. Ha. Ha. Money and morality. Ha. Ha. "Political correctness is now about to affect the behaviour of writers, with the American arm of HarperCollins introducing a "morality clause" that gives it the right to terminate a contract if "an author's conduct evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals or if such behaviour would materially damage the work's reputation or sales". Lucky for us readers that writers such as Lowry, Burroughs, et al, got published before Murdoch came to preach his "morality".


A Week of Literary Celebration: LitBash 11

March 3 is the International Day of Writers. Celebrate by reading. Not sure what book to chose? Start with the writers who were born or died in the following week...

Born this week:

Montaigne, France
"In my opinion, every rich man is a miser."

Oskar Kokoschka, Austria
"Open your eyes at last and see...now I will open the book of the world for you,there are no words in it, just pictures."

Sholom Aleichem, Ukraine
Fiddler on the Roof was based on his stories.

John Irving, USA
"Writing a novel is actually searching for victims. As I write I keep looking for casualties. The stories uncover the casualties."

Alan Sillitoe, UK
"Government wars aren't my wars; they've got nowt to do with me, because my own war's all that I'll ever be bothered about."

Cyrano de Bergerac, France

"I think the Moon is a world like this one, and the Earth is its moon."

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia
"In the end all books are written for your friends. The problem after writing One Hundred Years of Solitude was that now I no longer know whom of the millions of readers I am writing for; this upsets and inhibits me. It's like a million eyes are looking at you and you don't really know what they think."

Died this week:

Henry James, USA
"It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature."

D. H. Lawrence, UK

"Tragedy ought really to be a great kick at misery."

Philip K. Dick, USA
"Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night."

Pierre Benoit, France

"Marçais is a charming man and so distinguished! Charvet makes exclusive ties for him."

Marguerite Duras, France
"It's afterwards you realize that the feeling of happiness you had with a man didn't neccesarily prove that you loved him."

Amos Alcott, USA
"The richest minds need not large libraries."

Max Jacob, France
"When you get to the point where you cheat for the sake of beauty, you're an artist."

Henri Troyat, France
Author of over 100 books, many excellent biographies.

Louisa May Alcott, USA
"Women have been called queens for a long time, but the kingdom given them isn't worth ruling."

Ayn Rand, Russia
"I refuse to accept as guilt the fact of my own existence."


Know people by the books they read

"I ask myself repeatedly: Why do I keep all these books that only in some distant future may be of use to me, titles so far away from my usual interests, which I once read and have not re-opened their pages in years. Perhaps even never! But how to get rid of, for example, Call of the Wild, without destroying one of the bricks of childhood; and Zorba the Greek, which sealed with tears the end of my youth; Twenty-Fifth Hour, and so many others, expelled some years ago to the highest shelf, where it lays untouched and silent, with holy fidelity that we ascribe to ourselves.

It is often more difficult for me to get rid of a book than to acquire a new one. Tomes adhere to the shelves in this pact of necessity and oblivion, as if they were witnessing a moment in our lives, which we long consider gone. But while they are still there we consider them part of ourselves. I notice sometimes that people inscribe day, month, and year when they read a book, build a kind of secret calendar. Others write their name on the front page before they lend a book to someone, they write in their diary who borrowed it, and add the date. I saw stamped volumes, as in public libraries, or marked with a business card inserted discreetly between the pages. Nobody wants to lose a book. We prefer to lose a ring, a watch or an umbrella rather than a book that we may never even read again, but which retains in its title a lost emotion.

It is true that the size of a library is important. We show off books as though a great open brain; a miserable pretext and false modesty. I knew a professor of classical languages who specifically prolonged making coffee in the kitchen to allow a visitor sufficient time to admire the titles on the shelves. When he realized that the visitor had ample opportunity to study the collection he entered the room with a tray, smiling with satisfaction.

As readers we spy on our friends' libraries, if only for fun. Sometimes to find a book we want to read, but do not own, sometimes to find what the animal of our acquaintance has consumed.

We leave the friend sitting in the living room, and when we return we find him standing and sniffing among our books. But the moment comes where volumes exceed the invisible boundary that we designate for them, and pride turns into burden, because from now on the space will be a problem."

Carlos Maria Dominguez, The House of Paper [my quick / rough translation]

Spying on our friends' libraries? Stalin said that if you want to know the people around you, you ought to find out what they read. But how do you go about it in the age of e-books?


What does it mean to serve "your country"?

Too many people had written reminiscences lately of the Secret Service. Somebody mentioned the Official Secrets Act. Of course they turned on me, but I wasn't going to be cross-examined by that gang. So I spoke out.

I told them even if I'd known I wouldn't have stopped[...] I said you were working for something important, not for someone's notion of a global war that may never happen. That fool dressed up as a Colonel said something about "your country". I said, "What do you mean by his country? A flag someone invented two hundred years ago? The Bench of Bishops arguing about divorce and the House of Commons shouting Ya at each other across the floor? Or do you mean the T. U. C. and British Railways and the Co-op?"

They tried to interrupt and I said, "Oh, I forgot. There's something greater than one's country, isn't there? You taught us that with your League of Nations and your Atlantic Pact, NATO and UNO and SEATO. But they don't mean any more to most of us than all the other letters, U. S. A. and U. S. S. R. And we don't believe you any more when you say you want peace and justice and freedom. What kind of freedom? You want your careers."

A country is more a family than a Parliamentary system.

Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana.


A Week of Literary Celebration: LitBash 10

Meet some of the world’s most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries, an opportunity to read, and read, and re-read because "A sure sign of a good book is that you like it more the older you get."

Born this week:

Karel Capek, Czech

Coined the word "robot". "My dear Miss Glory, Robots are not people. They are mechanically more perfect than we are, they have an astounding intellectual capacity, but they have no soul."

Anais Nin, France
"The morning I got up to begin this book I coughed. Something was coming out of my throat: I have just spat out my heart."

James Lowell, USA
"Who speaks the truth stabs Falsehood to the heart."

Danilo Kis, Serbia
"Do not get involved with anyone, a writer is alone."

Carlo Goldoni, Italy
"Each day a day goes by."

Karl May, Germany
A very popular author of novels set in the American Wild West.

Anthony Burgess, UK
"I suppose the only real reason for travelling is to learn that all people are the same."

Victor Hugo, France
"A day will come when a cannon will be a museum-piece, as instruments of torture are today. And we will be amazed to think that these things once existed!"

John Steinbeck, USA
"The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty"

Died this week:

Mikhail Sholokhov, Russia
Author of "Quiet Flows the Don", and "Destiny of Man."

Stefan Zweig, Austria
"The organic fundamental error of humanism was that it desired to educate the common people (on whom it looked down) from its lofty stance instead of trying to understand them and to learn from them."

Alexey Nikolaevich Tolstoy, Russia
Author of historical novels.

Hans Hellmut Kirst, Germany
"All you have to do is anesthetize the masses by telling them they’re an elite, that they’ve got a mission, that they’re making history, that they’re fulfilling their destiny and fighting for a better world — and they swallow it like lambs — even when a guttersnipe says it."

James Wight, UK
"For years I used to bore my wife over lunch with stories about funny incidents. The words 'My book,' as in 'I'll put that in it one day,' became a sort of running joke. Eventually she said, 'Look, I don't want to offend you, but you've been saying that for 25 years. If you were going to write a book, you'd have done it. You're never going to do it now. Old vets of 50 don't write books.' So I purchased a lot of paper right then and started to write."

Lothar-Gunther Buchheim, Germany
Author of Das Boot.

Tennessee Williams, USA
"I think that moral earnestness is a good thing for any times, but particularly for these times."


A Week of Literary Celebration: LitBash 9

Meet some of the world’s most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries, an opportunity to read a book because "A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever."

Born this week:

Mikhail Prishvin, Russia
Author of the excellent The Chain of Kashchey, the book that took some 30 years to write.

Nikos Kazantzakis, Greece

"Two equally steep and bold paths may lead to the same peak."

Andre Breton, France

"Of all those arts in which the wise excel, Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well."

Pierre Boulle, France
Author of The Planet of the Apes. "Ape is of course the only rational creature, the only one possessing a mind as well as a body. The most materialistic of our scientists recognize the supernatural essence of the simian mind."

Died this week:

Benvenuto Cellini, Italy
"Let all the world witness how many different means Fortune employs when she wishes to destroy a man."

Moliere, France

"One must eat to live, and not live to eat."

Heinrich Heine, Germany
"Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people."

Ernst Junger, Germany

"I came to realize that one single human being, comprehended in his depth, who gives generously from the treasures of his heart, bestows on us more riches than Caesar or Alexander could ever conquer. Here is our kingdom, the best of monarchies, the best republic. Here is our garden, our happiness."

Balzac, France
"Equality may be a right, but no power on earth can convert it into fact."

Andre Gide, France
"The sole art that suits me is that which, rising from unrest, tends toward serenity."

Knut Hamsun, Norway
"In old age... we are like a batch of letters that someone has sent. We are no longer in the past, we have arrived."

LitNews 4: The disappearing book editors

Most readers and all writers know by now that the book publishing industry is changing. The way readers acquire and read books, and the way writers publish them, is only the surface, the most obvious indication of the changes. With the popularity of electronic book reading devices, readers and writers are forming a seldom before experienced, close and intimate relationship that can only be described as heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul. A reader now reads books that are the innermost creation of the writer, without the interference of the middlemen -- the disappearing literary agents and editors. Without spending much time of the former, let us rehash the contribution of the latter to a publication of a book.

Who were the editors and what did they do? Were they beneficial to writers' creativity? Are they missed by readers?

"For some years now – almost as long as people have been predicting the death of the book – there have been murmurs throughout publishing that books are simply not edited in the way they once were, either on the kind of grand scale that might see the reworking of plot, character or tone, or at the more detailed level that ensures the accuracy of, for example, minute historical or geographical facts. The time and effort afforded to books, it is suggested, has been squeezed by budgetary and staffing constraints, by the shift in contemporary publishing towards the large conglomerates, and by a greater emphasis on sales and marketing campaigns and on the efficient supply of products to a retail environment geared towards selling fewer books in larger quantities. In more broad-brush terms, the question is whether the image of the word-obsessed editor poring over a manuscript, red pen in hand, has given way to that of the whizz-bang entrepreneur attuned to the market's latest caprice, more at home with a tweet than a metaphor. [...]

The demands of a global marketplace, the advent of digitisation and the increased importance of sales, publicity and marketing have all contributed to changing the face of an industry that quietly congratulated itself on its genteel bohemianism. Writers, except for the most financially successful, must maintain the solitary intensity of their creative life while adapting to new realities; they are now often advised to add mastery of social media to the publication round of interviews, readings and festival appearances, and many take on a heavy load of teaching to supplement their earnings. Publishing in its popular incarnation – the legendary long lunches, the opportunistic punts on unheard-of but brilliant young writers, the smoke-filled parties and readings – is probably gone for good. Although you do wonder about the halcyon version of events: with all those long lunches, how did anyone get any editing done in the first place?" SOURCE


"An editor chooses manuscripts for publication that are brought to her attention by an agent who represents authors. This editor must then run the idea of the book past the marketing department who will tell her if they think they can sell it to Indigo or not. They will approve it as long as it’s not something completely insane like a book of short stories. The number of typographical errors in the manuscript at this point doesn’t affect anyone’s decision.

Then the editor gives the author notes on how the manuscript could be improved. These notes will not be spelling or punctuation corrections. They will be ideas about the structure and characterization in a novel. In a book of non-fiction they will be criticism and debate of the ideas being advanced. This is called substantive editing.

After the book is rewritten – possibly more than once – to the satisfaction of the editor, then it is given to a second editor, often a freelancer, who goes through all the persnickety punctuation stuff. This is called copy-editing.

So what do substantive editors mean when they say that a book is “ready” for publication, like doctors announcing that a tumour is gone? What might they mean when they say it has been “cleaned up” or any of the other metaphors they might use, metaphors that might give you the impression that there is some universally accepted check-list for their profession? They won’t tell you, because there isn’t one.

What they should be saying is “when I like it.” And this why I would never counsel any author to hire a freelance editor before a publisher has looked at it. There are no standards to follow here: Editors have quirky and personal tastes. They might want a book to be shorter, or they might want it to be longer. They might want more description or less description." SOURCE

Hmm, "editors' quirky and personal tastes"... It begs a question: Whose tastes should a book vie for, the editors', or the readers'?

George Bernard Shaw: "I object to publishers: the one service they have done me is to teach me to do without them. They combine commercial rascality with artistic touchiness and pettishness, without being either good business men or fine judges of literature. All that is necessary in the production of a book is an author and a bookseller, without the intermediate parasite."


Using Sex in Espionage

As we hear more and more about Chinese spy agencies utilizing sex in espionage it is worth reminding what it actually means to Honeytrap someone:

"If one paid attention only to the fictional James Bond, little besides love would be involved in recruitment. The reality is different, although the details will vary with countries, cultures, legality of the physical contact, and other aspects of a specific situation. US intelligence services, for example, are concerned when their own personnel could be subject to sexual blackmail. This applied to any homosexual relationship until the mid-1990s, and also applied to heterosexual relationships with most foreign nationals. See honeypots in espionage fiction for fictional examples. In some cases, especially when the national was a citizen of a friendly nation, the relationship needed to be reported. Failure to do so, even with a friendly nation, could result in dismissal.

One former CIA officer said that while sexual entrapment wasn't generally a good tool to recruit a foreign official, it was sometimes employed successfully to solve short-term problems. Seduction is a classic technique; "swallow" was the KGB tradecraft term for women, and "raven" the term for men, trained to seduce intelligence targets.

During the Cold War, the KGB (and allied services, including the East German Stasi under Markus Wolf, and the Cuban Intelligence Directorate (formerly known as Dirección General de Inteligencia or DGI)) frequently sought to entrap CIA officers. The KGB believed that Americans were sex-obsessed materialists, and that U.S. spies could easily be entrapped by sexual lures. The best-known incident, however, was of Clayton Lonetree, a Marine guard supervisor at the Moscow embassy, who was seduced by a "swallow" who was a translator at the Embassy of the United States in Moscow. Once the seduction took place, she put him in touch with a KGB handler. The espionage continued after his transfer to Vienna, although he eventually turned himself in.

The Soviets used sex not only for direct recruitment, but as a contingency where an American officer might need to be compromised in the future. The CIA itself made limited use of sexual recruitment against foreign intelligence services. "Coercive recruitment generally didn't work. We found that offers of money and freedom worked better." If the Agency found a Soviet intelligence officer had a girlfriend, they would try to recruit the girlfriend as an access agent. Once the CIA personnel had access to the Soviet officer, they might attempt to double him.

Examples of people trapped by sexual means include:

    * Clayton J. Lonetree, a US Marine Sergeant embassy guard in Moscow, was entrapped by a female Soviet officer in 1987. He was then blackmailed into handing over documents when he was assigned to Vienna. Lonetree is the first US Marine to be convicted of spying against the United States.
    * Roy Rhodes, a US Army NCO serving at the US embassy in Moscow, had a one-night stand (or was made to believe he had) with a Soviet agent while drunk. He was later told the agent was pregnant, and that unless he co-operated with the Soviet authorities, this would be revealed to his wife.
    * Irvin Scarbeck, a US diplomat, was entrapped by a female Polish officer in 1961, and photographed in a compromising position. He was blackmailed into providing secrets.
    * Sharon Scranage, a CIA employee described by one source as a "shy, naive, country girl", was allegedly seduced by Ghanaian intelligence agent Michael Soussoudis. She later gave him information on CIA operations in Ghana, which was later shared with Soviet-bloc countries.
    * Mordechai Vanunu, who had disclosed Israeli nuclear secrets, began an affair with an American Mossad agent, Cheryl Bentov, operating under the name "Cindy" and masquerading as an American tourist, on September 30, 1986. She persuaded him to fly to Rome, Italy, with her on a holiday. Once in Rome, Mossad agents drugged him and smuggled him to Israel on a freighter.
    * John Vassall, a British civil servant who was guided by the KGB into having sex with multiple male partners while drunk. The KGB then used photographs of this to blackmail Vassall into providing them with secret information.
    * Bernard Boursicot, a French diplomat, was entrapped by Shi Pei Pu, who was working for the Chinese government. Shi Pei Pu, a male Chinese opera singer, successfully masqueraded as a woman and told Boursicot he was carrying Boursicot's child. The situation was fictionalized into the play M. Butterfly.
    * Katrina Leung, indicted as a double agent working for both China and the FBI, seduced her FBI handler, James J. Smith, and was able to obtain FBI information of use to China through him. She also had an affair with another FBI officer, William Cleveland.
    * In 2006, the British Defence Attaché in Islamabad Pakistan, was recalled home, when it emerged that he had been involved in a relationship with a Pakistani woman, who was an intelligence agent. While the British Government deny that secrets were lost, others sources say that several Western operatives and operations within Pakistan were compromised.
    * In May 2007 a female officer serving in Sweden's Kosovo force was suspected of having leaked classified information to her Serbian lover who turned out to be a spy.
    * Won Jeong-hwa, who was arrested by South Korea in 2008 and charged with spying for North Korea, is accused of using this method to obtain information from an army officer." SOURCE


LitNews you may have missed (3)

Books are thriving... in India: "Penguin Group chairman and chief executive and Pearson India chairman John  Makinson stated emphatically, “Books matter more in India than anywhere else in the world. Unlike China, where most books sold are on self improvement, books on social issues are read more in India, apart from books on improving English.”

Leaving the West, where Amazon and Kindle have threatened book stores, publishers are rushing to India from all over the world because the upward mobility of the middle classes is producing a large number of literates who like to read, Anita Desai added.

“India matters more than any award or listing on the best-sellers list because it is only in India that books are sold at traffic signals,” said Patrick French, author of ‘An Intimate Biography of 1.2 Billion People-India’."

Male writers outnumber women: "The truth is, these numbers don’t lie. But that is just the beginning of this story. What, then, are they really telling us? We know women write. We know women read. It’s time to begin asking why the 2010 numbers don’t reflect those facts with any equity. Many have already begun speculating; more articles and groups are pointing out what our findings suggest: the numbers of articles and reviews simply don’t reflect how many women are actually writing."

More on this: "In the UK, the LRB reviewed 68 books by women and 195 by men in 2010, with men taking up 74% of the attention, and 78% of the reviews written by men. Seventy-five per cent of the books reviewed in the TLS were written by men (1,036 compared to 330) with 72% of its reviewers men.

Meanwhile Granta magazine, which does not review but includes original contributions, featured the work of 26 female and 49 male writers in 2010, with men making up 65% of the total.

In the US, The New York Review of Books shows a stronger bias. Among authors reviewed, 83% are men (306 compared to 59 women and 306 men), and the same statistic is true of reviewers (200 men, 39 women). The New York Times Book Review fares better, with only 60% of reviewers men (438 compared to 295 women). Of the authors with books reviewed, 65% were by men (524 compared to 283 by women)."

Do not overlook literary haunts next time you visit Mexico City
: "Few visitors to this city may know that in the 1950s writer William Burroughs lived here on Calle Orizaba in Colonia Roma.

This was where Jack Kerouac came to visit and wrote “Mexico City Blues” before his famous book “On the Road” became his generation’s literary sensation.

Beat poet Alan Ginsberg, famous for writing “Howl,” defined what that generation was looking for. Actually, you could say the Beat Generation arose from Mexico City.

Actually, this section of Mexico City has been important to literati, moviemakers and the intelligentsia since before the turn of the 20th century."

The folly of judging literature: "To any reasonable man or woman, the Nobel Prize in Literature seems rather innocuous.  But the Nobel Prize in Literature is not the truth.  The Nobel Prize in Literature is not fair to all concerned.  The Nobel Prize in Literature will not build goodwill nor better friendships.  The Nobel Prize in Literature is not beneficial to all concerned.  And therefore, the Nobel Prize in Literature fails the Four Way Test and cannot be considered an ethical institution.

Let me explain in more detail.  First and foremost, the Nobel Prize in Literature is not the truth.  When the Swedish Academy chooses an author to be a Nobel Laureate, they are effectively saying that this author has attained literary greatness. They are attempting to objectively rank a subjective art.  Unlike other literary awards such as the National Book Award, the Man-Booker Prize, or the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded for a body of work rather than a specific book.  Thus, it represents the world's most important instrument in codifying literary greatness.

This is why it is not the truth.  It is impossible to objectively rank literature, and any institution that purports to do so is, to an extent, lying."

Junk Food literature? "Until Michael Pollan exposed the fact that high fructose corn syrup was ubiquitous in processed food (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), most Americans had no idea that this dietary manipulation was one of the leading causes of the alarming rise in type 2 diabetes. After reading the Sunday Times Book Review of June 27th, I have concluded that a similar conspiracy exists between publishers, publicists and editors of book reviews and it is being perpetrated on people who consider themselves serious readers. ... We are a nation of people who used to pride ourselves on our energy, our inventiveness and our intellectual curiosity. We are becoming more and more sluggish, more dependent on passive entertainment than stretching our own minds. Reading books about self-defeating losers is the equivalent of eating TV dinners instead of a gourmet meal."

Redefining book length: "Seeing those time estimates will change our perceptions of reading as an activity, for better and worse. I already have an improved and altered sense for the time I spend reading, and I do sometimes avoid pieces because of the word count exceeds my day’s quota. Smart book publishers will help readers get over the attention anxiety by providing time estimates for each chapter (“You can read this book in ten easy installments of 17 minutes each!”) –- something that is available as an easy plug-in for blogs and others forms of online publishing. Or maybe our device will tell us how much time is left in a chapter as a replacement to our old method of paging ahead to find the chapter’s end.

This shift from page count to word count will be another casualty of the physical book that will be lamented. Purists will see this as another horrible concession, wishing we returned to an age when books were shown proper respect. “We are going to start saying, ‘This is a four hour, seventeen minute book?’ That’s absurd!”

But what if this shift is a way for books to better fit into our a world where we measure in smaller and smaller slices of time? The book hasn’t changed, only the way we relate to it has. And what if instead of choosing another 47 minute episode of Mad Men from iTunes, that reluctant reader picks up a book, knowing she can finish five more chapters before going to bed? That seems like a good trade-off."

Don't judge a person by the books they read: "I pray that no F.B.I. agent, criminal profiler or (worst of all) news pundit ever gets a look at my bookshelves. There, alongside Swift, Plato, Lewis Carroll and Marx, you’d find the Marquis de Sade, Mickey Spillane, Hitler and Ann Coulter. Books are acquired for all kinds of reasons, including curiosity, irony, guilty pleasure and the desire to understand the enemy (not to mention free review copies), but you try telling that to a G-man. It seems perfectly obvious to me that owning a copy of “Mein Kampf” doesn’t mean you’re a Nazi, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?"

A week of literary celebration: LitBash 8

Meet some of the world’s most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries, an opportunity to read a book! Read and immerse yourself in the fascinating world of books or, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said: "The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books."

Born this week:

Charles Dickens, Great Britain
"Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."

Laura Wilder, USA
"Today our way of living and our schools are much different. It has been many years since I beat eggs with a fork, or cleaned a kerosene lamp; many things have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven't changed; they can never change… Great improvements in living have been made because every American has been free to pursue his happiness, and so as long as Americans are free they will continue to make our country even more wonderful."

Sinclair Lewis, USA
"Every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile. In protest, I declined election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters some years ago, and now I must decline the Pulitzer Prize."

Jules Verne, France
"To describe my despair would be impossible. No words could tell it. I was buried alive, with the prospect before me of dying of hunger and thirst."

John Coetzee, South Africa
"I am looking for such a place in order to settle there, perhaps only till things improve, perhaps forever. I am not so foolish, however, as to imagine that I can rely on maps and roads to guide me."

Bertolt Brecht, Germany
"Mixing one's wines may be a mistake, but old and new wisdom mix admirably."

Charles Montesquieu, France
"Not to be loved is a misfortune, but it is an insult to be loved no longer."

Georges Simenon, France
"Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."

Died this week:

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Ireland
"There is no dealing with great sorrow as if it were under the control of our wills. It is a terrible phenomenon, whose laws we must study, and to whose conditions we must submit, if we would mitigate it."

Iris Murdoch, Great Britain
"The chief requirement of the good life... is to live without any image of oneself."

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russia
"If you want to be respected by others the great thing is to respect yourself."

Halldor Laxness, Iceland
"A man is not independent unless he has the courage to stand alone."

Alexandr Pushkin, Russia
"Upon the brink of the wild stream
He stood, and dreamt a mighty dream."

Edgar Wallace, Great Britain
"What is a highbrow? He is a man who has found something more interesting than women."

Alex Haley, USA
"In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good, and praise it."

Arthur Miller, USA
"I regard the theater as a serious business, one that makes or should make man more human, which is to say, less alone."

Sylvia Plath, USA

"What a man is is an arrow into the future and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off from."

Peter Benchley, USA
Author of Jaws.

Julio Cortazar, Argentina

"The snail lives the way I like to live; he carries his own home with him."


Judge a person by the book they read?

"Books are the new snobbery, according to a survey today. Social competitiveness about which titles we read has become one of the new mass forces of the era and only middle-aged people are relatively free of it.

Driven partly by pressure from incessant literary prize shortlists, more than one in three consumers in London and the south-east admit having bought a book "solely to look intelligent", the YouGov survey says.

It finds one in every eight young people confessing to choosing a book "simply to be seen with the latest shortlisted title". This herd instinct dwindles to affect only one in 20 over-50 year-olds." SOURCE


"One in three Londoners surveyed by research organisation YouGov admit having bought a book "solely to look intelligent". Younger people were most likely to succumb to the urge to buy literary prize-winners simply to be seen to own them. Once middle age hits, a certain "who cares" attitude comes to the fore, the survey found. By 50, most people are fine with perching their polyester-clad butts on the bus stop bench and reading Dan Brown.

Hard as it is to admit to such snobbery, I challenge any book-lover not to sneak a peek at any book they spot being read in public, and then judge - yes, judge - the reader on that basis. Recently, there was a young woman in the gym reading a slim tome in French. I practically fell off the stationary bicycle trying to peer at the jacket, to no avail - she could have been reading Mills & Boon. But I was impressed. Hey, it's French.

Why the snobbery? Why can't you enjoy Harry Potter and War and Peace?" SOURCE


Western World's publishing industry fails readers

Orhan Pamuk says "that being a writer from the non-Western world, posed a series of problems such as the question of human experience being marginalised only because it was not written in the language of the Western world.

"My essential concern is with non-Western writers who do not write in English. They don't find true representation. Most of the writers at a festival like Jaipur are in English. This is because may be English is the official language here. But for those writing in other languages, their work is rarely translated and never read. So much of human experience is marginalised. This is a major deficiency," Pamuk said.

"When I write about love, the critics in the US and Britain say that this Turkish writer writes very interesting things about Turkish love. Why can't love be general? I am always resentful and angry of this attempt to narrow me and my capacity to experience this humanity. When non-Western authors express this humanity through their work their humanity is reduced to their nation's humanity," he said." SOURCE

While this may seem like the concerns of a very select group of foreign writers who see their works published in the English language, it should worry all readers.