Dog-Eared and Dispatched: November 30, 2014
It’s been a slow news week in the book world, as most publishers and retailers have turned their attention to Black Friday and the holiday sales season. We do have some news for you about some interesting marketing endeavors, as well as sad news about the “Queen of Crime,” and the state of libraries. Haul out that last slice of pumpkin pie, grab a warming beverage, and read on…
In yet another publisher venture to find alternative markets for its books, HarperCollins is partnering with JetBlue to make a changing selection of titles from its catalog available as excerpts free through JetBlue’s onboard wifi system (aka “Fly-fi”). As the exclusive books content partner” of the airline, HarperCollins will presumably hope to benefit from the extra marketing their titles will receive in promotional materials. As the press release notes: “Books from these HarperCollins authors will be available to customers as e-samplers via JetBlue’s Fly-Fi Hub, which is currently accessible on 35% of their fleet. Basic Wi-Fi is now available to customers for free, and higher-speed premium Wi-Fi is available for a fee. All HarperCollins-related content will be accessible for free via the Fly-Fi Hub.” It is, however, unclear how the passengers/readers will benefit, since they can download excerpts from any publisher they want (for free) through wifi service, and there no other promotions involved. It rather looks like the marketing and sales teams should have sat down together and talked it through a little more, but that’s obviously more difficult for larger companies. [Galleycat, HarperCollins]
Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.
– Mark Strand, the first stanza of “The End”
The poet Mark Strand died at his daughter’s home on Saturday, November 29, 2014. You can read an interview with Strand from The Paris Review (cf.). He will be missed.
I don’t make a distinction between the so-called serious or literary novel and the crime novel. I suppose one could say mainstream novel. But I didn’t hesitate long before I decided to try to write a detective story, because I so much enjoyed reading them myself. And I thought I could probably do it successfully, and the detective story being a popular genre, it would have a better chance of being accepted for publication. I didn’t want to use the traumatic experiences of my own life in an autobiographical book, which would have been another option for a first attempt. But there were two other reasons. First, I like structured fiction, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I like a novel to have narrative drive, pace, resolution, which a detective novel has. Second, I was setting out at last on the path of becoming a writer, which I had longed for all my life, and I thought writing a detective story would be a wonderful apprenticeship for a “serious” novelist, because a detective story is very easy to write badly but difficult to write well. There is so much you have to fit into eighty or ninety-thousand words—not just creating a puzzle, but an atmosphere, a setting, characters . . . Then when the first one worked, I continued, and I came to believe that it is perfectly possible to remain within the constraints and conventions of the genre and be a serious writer, saying something true about men and women and their relationships and the society in which they live.
– P. D. James from an interview in the Paris Review
The novelist P. D. James passed away on November 27, 2014. There is, of course, the an obituary in the New York Times. In her honor, you might consider tucking yourself up in a cozy corner with a tidy mystery – especially if the weather is frightful. [Paris Review, The Guardian, The NY Times]
In case you didn’t watch Ursula Le Guin’s speech last week, here’s a reminder: books are important and they stand for more than a “literary culture” or a “book culture” – they represent all culture. As easy as it is to get distracted by concerns about marketing plans, corporate squabbles, and quarterly reports, the reach of books is far larger. Some of the most important work done for and by books happens through public libraries, a woefully underfunded and overstressed public good. As the head librarian at Ferguson library – which has remained open when schools have not – notes: “What we’re doing is just what libraries do […] We’re in a particularly dramatic situation, but we’re doing the same thing everyone does. And that’s because our libraries are awesome. We’re all about the community, and our doors are wide open to every human being in Ferguson.” The Ferguson library has received more than $175,000 in donations since Monday, which is less than half what was raised by campaigns to cover Ofc. Wilson’s legal fees in August. I’ll leave you to think about that. [National Book Award, Reddit AMA, Library Journal, LA Times]
- Edan Lepucki, beneficiary of the “Colbert bump” for her debut novel California, has sold her second novel to Crown.
- Barnes and Noble is hoping that you will make it a book Christmas, by bringing on a hundred notable authors to sign copies of their latest books for the holiday gift-buying season.
- Some recommendations on the most telling campus novels (my vote goes to Pnin, with Lucky Jim a very pale second).