Today in publishing and literature: the Newbery Medal isn't what it used to be, Johnny Depp's first meeting with Hunter Thompson included plenty of firepower, and a heavy-duty new biography of New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael.
- Call it the literary version of throwing in a few obscenities to make sure a movie secures a PG-13. The newest editions of the Neil Gaiman novel The Graveyard Book, which won the 2009 Newbery Medal for excellence in children's literature, eschew the hardcover's inky blue color design for blacks and grays, and leaves off the iconic Newbery medallion entirely. William Morrow associate paperbacks publisher Jennifer Hart explains: “We know Neil’s adult fan base will come to this book so we are just giving them a package that will appeal to them." This is reasonable, and it's not the first time a publisher has put out an adult-friendly edition of a kids' book for adults, but it does suggest the Newbery Medal -- "an honor that, for nearly a century, has been one of the few surefire ways for a book to see a hefty boost in sales," according to Publishers Weekly -- has lost some of its cache. Potential buyers of the adult edition of the Gaiman book aren't guaranteed of knowing the medallion is for excellence in a book written for young people. Or maybe, medals and literary prize geegaws in general are unappealing to readers, as Laura Miller argued in her Salon essay earlier this month about how the National Book Awards became "the literary equivalent of spinach." [Publishers Weekly]
- Canadian Ebook company Kobo is following Amazon's lead and planning to create its very own publishing house to work with authors and acquire texts directly. The scope of the program and the authors they expect to lure won't be at the same level as Amazon Publishing, but Kobo is well-financed and its back-catalogue contains close to 2.3 million texts. Together with Amazon, said Writers' Union of Canada head Greg Hollingshead in a CBC interview, "They're clearly a major threat to publishers." [CBC]
- Author Brian Kellow's Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark is a sprawling, detailed account of the long-time New Yorker film critics passions, battles, and influence against the back drop of the New Hollywood era of the 1960s and 1970s. Some of it might be inside baseball, but Kellow wisely includes great chunks of original Kael reviews in his book. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter film critic Todd McCarthy, he says he would have liked to include even more of Kael's chatty, opinionated voice, but found himself holding back. Says Kellow: "I felt Pauline sitting over my shoulder, telling me, 'don't bore them.'" Which is why Ebooks -- especially biographies and historical texts -- should have some kind of deleted scenes feature. [The Hollywood Reporter]
- Just in time for the The Rum Diary, Johnny Depp writes for Newsweek about his first meeting with Hunter Thompson in 1994. Naturally, "a large-ish, three-foot cattle prod and a Taser gun," hallucinogens, a 12-gauge nickel-plate shotgun, and homemade bombs made out of propane tanks all factor prominently into the first encounter. [Newsweek]