Today in books and publishing: 1Q84 author wants everyone to simmer down; a reading list for inmates; John Travolta didn't libel author; Apple owes Chinese encyclopedia.
Haruki Murakami wants Japanese and Chinese nationalists to calm down. The Japanese novelist is best known for his dreamlike plots and everyman protagonists, but Haruki Murakami has a definite political streak too. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle contained a long section on Japanese atrocities in World War II, and Underground criticized the the media's portrayal of a 1995 terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway. Now, Murakami has decided to speak up about the escalating dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. In an op-ed for the Asahi Shimbun, he compares the nationalism on both sides to intoxication, writing:
When a territorial issue ceases to be a practical matter and enters the realm of 'national emotions', it creates a dangerous situation with no exit. It is like cheap liquor. Cheap liquor gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical. It makes you speak loudly and act rudely... But after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning. We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap liquor and fan this kind of rampage.
Teaching literature in prison. Getting to determine what students have to read must be quite the power trip. Quinnipiac University Prof. Joseph H. Cooper teaches college-level literature in Connecticut and New York state prisons, and admits that when he selected books for his class, "vanity and literary pretensions were my starting points and prompted me to assemble (initially) a list of pretty highfalutin' works." Works that were considered but didn't make the cut include Truman Capote's In Cold Blood , Vladimir Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading, Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, and Albert Camus' The Stranger. Cooper ultimately had his inmate students read Stephen King's The Green Mile, Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's account of Soviet gulag life, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a book they strongly identified with. "They claimed to know from hoarding food and sick-outs, from checking emotions and summoning restraint; from endurance and mental toughness," writes Cooper. [The Christian Science Monitor]
John Travolta not guilty of libeling an author. John Travolta hasn't been having a great year, what with all those masseuses alleging he assaulted them and the ensuing mainstream speculation about his sexuality. But he has one less thing to worry about now that a judge has cleared him of libel charges pressed by author Robert Randolph. In You'll Never Spa In This Town Again, Randolph alleges that Travolta approached men, including himself, for sex in spas throughout L.A. in the 1990s. Randolph took Travolta to court over a publicly leaked letter the actor's attorney wrote claiming that Randolph was brain damaged and spent time in a mental institution. The Los Angeles Superior Court judge found Travolta and his lawyer innocent of libel because the letter was written as part of a legitimate dispute over the book. Travolta's lawyer in the case, Todd Eagan, said the trial concluded with "a fair and just result." [New York Daily News]
Apple must pony up for Chinese encyclopedia piracy. The Encyclopedia of China Publishing House has won its lawsuit against Apple. Apps hosted by the App Store contained pirated digital copies of the Chinese encyclopedia. Apple claimed it wasn't responsible, and that the real culprits were those who developed the third party apps. But a Chinese court found that Apple was guilty of approving and distributing them. We don't think Apple will be too fazed by the decision, though. They only have to pay $82,600 in damages, roughly equivalent to what CEO Tim Cook spends on plain black button-ups in a year. [AppleInsider]
Prologue Books plans to harness the backlist. We've written a lot about the untapped goldmine of backlist titles, and now a new publisher plans to harness it. F+W Media's Prologue Books plans to re-release 400 old crime, science fiction, fantasy and western books by the end of the year. It will be interesting to see if they turn a large profit. [Antique Trader]
Chabon. Michael Chabon. In his interview with The New York Times Book Review, the Telegraph Avenue author says he's digging Ian Fleming's James Bond novels lately. Moonraker is currently on his night stand and Diamonds Are Forever sits near the top of his to-read pile. [The New York Times]
Some authors still don't see literary culture's gender disparities. The debate about female underrepresentation in mainstream literary reviews has cropped up again, this time over some pretty ignorant things Jeffrey Eugenides said in his recent Salon interview. Everyone who's been following this conversation will know the issues by now. Hopefully we all understand that, regardless of outliers like Jodi Picoult, major book reviews continue to spill more ink over male authors and that this disparity matters. NPR's Linda Holmes sums it up nicely, writing, "You don't have to believe anyone is out to get women writers in order to think it's important to ask the question of what the factors are that bring us to that point and to suggest that it's not a great place to be." [NPR]