Today in publishing and literature: England's largest bookstore chain is changing its logo and correctly placed apostrophe in preparation for the e-book onslaught, England's nastiest book critics honored with a large container of shrimp, and Mark Twain's solid rules for everyday writing.
Book Riot has a frequent contributor we know only as Jeff, which is a bit of disappointment, because he's written a reasonable, non-snarky post arguing that J.K. Rowling should be considered for the next Nobel Laureate. For some reason, we wanted this reasonable blogger to have his real last name out there. Ah, well: maybe next time. Jeff's argument is rooted in last week's discovery that JRR Tolkien was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1965, only to be quickly dismissed by the committee for norproducing work that "measured up to storytelling of the highest quality.” Jeff notes that Alfred Nobel said he wanted the literature prize to go to someone who "produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction." You can think if plenty of different "ideal directions" for literature to go, but for Jeff, the one that "jumps to mind for me is reading itself."He continues: "Reading is an end in itself and therefore writing that inspires people to read does indeed work in 'an ideal direction.'" She's live the prize's ideals with her success. [Book Riot]
England's book critics are getting their own literary award to honor the "artful demolitions" they dropped on deserving texts over the past year. There's no money on the line, but the organizers at the culture blog The Omnivore, say they hope it will allow critics to revel in each other's "culture and wit." We've yet to meet a writer who would pass up the chance to revel in something of his own doing, and this year's finalists got off some gems. Writing in The New York Times about Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending, Geoff Dyer was devastating and brief, writing: "It isn't terrible ... it's just so average." Our other favorite comes from Adam-Mars-Jones in his Observer review of Michael Cunningham's novel Nightfall, in which he casually observes, "Nothing makes a novel seem more vulnerable, more naked, than an armour-plating of literary references." The winner will be chosen by judges Sam Leith, Suzi Feay, DJ Johnson and Rachel Taylor, with a "year's supply of potted shrimp" going to the winner of the first annual "hatchet job of the year award," which we're going to go out a limb and say will stick with people over the next 12 months. [The Guardian]
Waterstone's, England's largest chain bookstore, will be known as Waterstones starting today. According to a press release issued by the company, the apostrophe was dropped to provide a "truer" (and by extension, more incorrect) picture of the company going forward. Typophiles will also want to note the change to the company's short-lived lowercase 'w' logo, which has been replaced by a solid, upstanding uppercase 'W'. Explained managing director James Daunt: “Waterstones is an iconic brand deserving a capital W, and a font that reflects authority and confidence—Baskerville [font] does just that.” He added that dropping the apostrophe, rather than confusing people leaving the chain's grammar open tio questions, the move will "in a digital world of URLs and email addresses, a more versatile and practical spelling" and project "an altogether truer picture of our business today which, while created by one, is now built on the continued contribution of thousands of individual booksellers.” In other words, they've kowtowing to the e-book lobby. [The Bookseller]
Mark Twain was a man with a lot of ideas going through his head. In 1895, one of them was how James Fenimoore Cooper violated 18 of the 19 "rules governing literary art in the doman of romantic fiction" in his novel The Deerslayer. Twain tries setting them all down on paper, and most of them are good tips if you're writing a piece of James Fenimoore Cooper fan fiction, but will probably be of limited help to other writers. Starting at point 12, the "rules" blend into general literary rules of the road.
- Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
- Use the right word, not its second cousin.
- Eschew surplusage.
- Not omit necessary details.
- Avoid slovenliness of form.
- Use good grammar.
- Employ a simple and straightforward style.
Tilda Swinton -- the Tilda Swinton, who thought she could outsmart Michael Clayton -- has written a terrific introduction for a new anniversary edition of Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando. She played the gender-switching title character in a well-received 1992 film adaptation for Sally Porter, but she's less interested in noting all the ways the character is a tough one to portray on stage and screen. Instead, she aaggressively pursues the argument that Woolf -- a writer known to inspire a few groans when copies of To the Lighthouse are handed out in 11th grade English classes -- has written a loose and timeless coming-of-age story that's as good as any ever put to print. "There was a period...when Orlando felt far from trifling, like maybe the most solid thing any writer could offer a teenage reader," Swinton recalls. "It gave reliable faith in everything being true all at once: boy and girl, bloodline and blood pulse, England and everywhere else, solitude and society, literature and living, the quick and the slow, the quick and the dead, now and then, a trick of the light." [The Telegraph]