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Week’s Highlights: Inventing Myth

PUBLISHED: September 30, 2009

Conversational Reading’s Scott Esposito comments on a Spanish-language article by Horacio Castellanos Moya that argues against the supposed “Bolaño’s myth.” Chad Post (who led me to the C.R. post) comments here; Post, like Esposito, defends the great writer’s American publishers, while agreeing with some of Castellanos Moya’s main ponts. As you may recall, many reviews of Bolaño’s work, particularly The Savage Detectives and 2666, have focused on Bolaño’s now heavily contested outlaw image: political rebel and refugee, possible heroin user, imprisoned in Chile, long-locked rambling poet, etc. There’s also the false perception of him as having suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the U.S., whereas while he came late to fiction writing (and wrote fiendishly before his early death at 50), he had been, in his own truncated lifetime, lauded by his peers as perhaps the greatest living Spanish-language writer (or at least the greatest to emerge over the last two decades, no?).

The Daily Beast made a deal with Perseus Books Group to publish titles quickly. The books will be generally short—~40,000 words—and will be brought to market more quickly than in traditional publishing, which may help to capitalize on particularly timely topics or, say, a Daily Beast article that catches fire in the blogosphere. There will also be an emphasis on e-books. It seems like a prudent maneuver—certainly the way some publishers would like to go—but I worry that real editing, that essential process which has already suffered at many houses, will continue to suffer. On this blog, we’ve recently pointed out a few instances where books were poorly fact-checked (if at all), and that seems like just the feature that a sprint-to-the-marketplace publisher may scrimp on.

M.A. Orthofer writes about a German publisher denied entry to the U.S., apparently for his support of the Black Panthers 40 years ago. But he hasn’t been given any reason why his visa was revoked without notification six years ago.

There’s a beautiful new building for Poets House in Lower Manhattan. Two highlights: they have a free lease through 2069, and Bill Murray is a fan and (financial) supporter.

The convoluted Google books settlement seems to be falling apart. It’s far too much to summarize here, but the Publishers Marketplace newsletter has had some useful information. My favorite source for keeping up—or attempting to, for as I said, it’s quite a complicated case with new interested parties surfacing each week, issuing various complaints and claims—is the blog Moby Lives, from Melville House Publishing. Check out some recent updates here, here, and here.

A recent NYT exploration of Basque Country briefly refers to fiction writer Bernardo Atxaga, whose work, particularly Obabakoak and The Accordionist’s Son, is highly recommended.

In the Sept. 28 New Yorker, George Packer has a long and excellent profile of Richard Holbrooke, focusing on his formative years in Vietnam and his current work as a special advisor (envoy, really) on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Apparently when Packer was traveling with Holbrooke during the summer, the longtime diplomat was reading Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, one of this year’s best reviewed fiction titles. (I reviewed it for Bookslut and also liked it very much.) In the article, after an electricity crisis causes riots in Pakistan, Holbrooke quotes a passage from the book’s first story, which concerns an electrician. He calls the book “beautiful” and says that he’s given a copy to President Obama. No word yet whether the president has read the book or if we’ll see a batch of articles about this, as we did when Obama mentioned that he was reading Netherland.

On the Bat Segundo Show, Ed Champion interviewed Nicholas Meyer, man behind several Star Trek movies and, recently, author of The View from the Bridge.

From the Authors@Google program, check out Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose unbridled exuberance for science and the mysteries of the universe is always, wonderfully on display.

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