Publishing Week

Art & Culture

For all those people that regard the world of books as boring, comprised mostly of geeks and, um, boring: eat your words. This week, you see, was the week when publishing showed the world that it is far from dead, that its epitaph has not yet been written (by Amazon/Google), and that there is more than just a few literary stalwarts responsible for the feeble pulse keeping it alive. To recap, then, first Mario Vargas Llosa was announced as the winner of the Nobel literature prize, second Howard Jacobsen won the 2010 Man Booker Prize, but perhaps most importantly, there was the brouhaha involving Franzen (yes, again), generally coined ‘glassesgate’ or specsgate(oh, and the small matter of the first print run of his new book Freedom being pulped because Harper Collins sent the wrong file to the printers!).

So, lets start of with the most important news, then. Franzens glasses. Apparently a couple of inebriated art students (whose ever heard of that before?) pretending to work for a publisher managed to gatecrash his book event at the Serpentine’s Gallery in Londons Hyde Park, charged Franzen, one of them snatched his glasses and the other left a ran$om note demanding 100,000. Chaos ensued. The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green apparently put the glasses up for sale on ebay as soon as the news was reported on twitter, unconfirmed reports claimed that Franzen tweeted that he needed his glasses to read the ran$om note (should have gone to specsavers et cetera?), helicopters and police pursued the thiefs, who, meanwhile, had tried to escape by plunging themselves into the Serpentine and hiding behind a bush. It was also falsely reported that this website was in cohorts with the pranksters for being called ran$om note.* Publicity stunt? Who knows but I like what the indie bookshop in Wood Green did. Who gives a damn, right? Any publicity is good publicity and so on and so forth. Anyways, he got his glasses back and is apparently quite sick of our fair isle.

As if that wasnt bad/good enough (delete as appropriate) the British behemoth that is Harper Collins also managed to royally screw up his book launch by printing the wrong version of his book. No idea how that’s possible. I know that if I were to do that with one of my journals (average of 100 subscribers), they would have my head. I dread to think what happened to this individual. Probably somewhere at the bottom of the Serpentine. 80,000 copies are already in circulation and have been recalled. ‘Minor grammatical errors’ or something like that (according to HC, of course). Mr Franzen seemed to think they were anything but minor on Newsweek. I’m hoping everybody returns their copy, though. You hear? Return your copy for free and charge HC (they said so). That way I can keep mine and it will be worth millions. I’m due some luck. My latest disappointment? I had my money on Murakami winning the Nobel literature prize. Good odds they were, too. So, of course, he lost.

Vargas it is then. He is described by novelist William Boyd as a great South American novelist but one who combines that continent’s vibrant and malign profusion, its energy and crazy humour, with what might be termed a European intellectual rigour. The infamous book reviewer, Michiko Kukatani (who none other than Mr Franzen, incidentally, described as the stupidest person in New York), describes him as having a fascination with the human craving for freedom (be it political, social or creative) and the liberation conferred by art and imagination. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of his books (unlike Murakami, of course, which is why I wanted him to win so that I could actually say something worthwhile), but anyways, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter and The Feast of the Goat are now on my reading list.

And so it is that betting on my booker prize nomination was suspended ahead of Tuesdays announcement, due to suspicious betting patterns. Too many taking a punt on McCarthys, C. What are the chances that a book about patterns, connections, et cetera is subjected to these suspicious betting patterns? Publicity stunt? Who knows, right and so on and so forth. Nothing to do with me, though, I swear. But lordy lord. Who would have thought that The Finkler Question would win it, ey? I haven’t got much to say about this anymore to be honest and urge you instead to read this article from The New Statesman, which basically says that the booker is a pile of crap. I kind of agree. Probably because I never win! As Jacobsen himself said in his winning speech last night, Prizes are hellish if you dont win them. People I want to win don’t win. In fact, they actually lose. I feel like I have hit a brick wall. I feel like, I think, what characters in books and movies feel like just before they do something stupid to get themselves noticed. But not on a Taxi Driver, shoot-John-Lennon-kinda-way. More like stealing somebody’s glasses, or somebody’s pen or even notebook. Now theres an idea. But Im really a wuss so I’ll just think about it for now and continue writing these ran$om notes…who knows, maybe someday, somebody will pay up.

* Strictly speaking this isnt really true. As a matter of fact it is entirely made up.

Check Matthias Mueller’s excellent Cultural Constellations blog