Publishing this week…2

Art & Culture

Same sh*it, different day. You would never hear me say that, not about books and publishing. I saw you stifling that yawn, and you over there, yes I can hear your snoring. Anyway, if this all sounds familiar then that’s probably down to the fact that it is familiar. Book sales rise on a week-on-week basis but not year-on-year. Translation: kind of good news depending on how you look at it. Good news because selling books is what publishing is all about, not so good news because sales figures are down compared to last to last year (no, I don’t have access to figures as that would bring me dangerously close to being a proper journalist of some sort) which were already worse than the ones from the year before and the year before that and so on. See? Who said things don’t change.

Having read last week’s column (erm, you did read it right? right? Oh) you will surely remember that we covered lists in great detail. This week, I have cast my discerning eye on book awards. First of, I fluttered my eyelashes in the direction of David Guterson and his novel Ed King which earlier this week won the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award. The award “goes to the author who produces the worst description of a sex scene in a novel” with the general idea being “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.” Previous winners include AA Gill, Melvyn Bragg and Sebastian Faulks. Brilliant, though I can’t say the same for the winning book as I have not yet read it and never will.

An award I never let out of sight is the Guardian First Book Award. It has been running since 1999 (it started in 1965 as the Guardian Fiction Award) and as the name suggests is handed out to the best new literary talent from anywhere in the world, writing in all genres in either fiction or non-fiction. Last year’s winner was the beautiful Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper by Alexandra Harris which would, by the way, make a great Christmas present to any literary vulture out there. This year’s winner, announced last Thursday, is Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which I pronounced as my book of the year last week. What I love about this award is that it goes against the grain a little bit and helps you discover writer’s you wouldn’t come across any other way. The fact that it doesn’t discriminate between fiction and non-fiction is another reason why I prefer it to the Booker Prize.

Speaking about going against the grain and other pseudo-counter-cultural phrases R$N prides itself on, [the views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of The Ransom Note – Ed] two poets have this week withdrawn from the TS Eliot prize in protest at its sponsorship by an investment firm. What else could you expect from poets, the pillars of morality? The award, named after the legendary author of the epic poem that is The Wasteland, goes to “the best collection of new verse in English first published in the UK or the Republic of Ireland” in any given year. The award is £15k which is not to be scoffed at, so I take my hat off to these protestors. Funny, though, that TS Eliot used to work for Lloyds Bank.

Finally, a quick shout out to Amanda “yes-she-did-it no-she-didn’t” Knox who this week hired a top literary lawyer to land her a lucrative book deal. Not having granted any interviews since she was acquitted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, Knox the fox seems to have her eyes set on the big bucks of the book world. The lawyer, Robert Barnett has represented the literary interests of the US presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W Bush, as well as Tony Blair and Sarah Palin. Who said the book industry was on the brink, etc and so on. (This last line doesn’t make sense and isn’t funny unless you actually read last week’s column, in which case it still isn’t funny but at least kind of works in a far fetched sort of way with the starting paragraph, above.)
M. Mueller

Check Mr Mueller's wonderful Cultural Constellations blog right here