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?"

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