Today in books and publishing: Morrissey springs into action at the Strand; publishers hound authors who took the money and ran; libraries and publishers can't agree on e-books.
Morrissey comes to the aid of fallen book shopper. Oh Morrissey, we could never hate you for long. Despite your tone-deaf vegetarian rants, ill-advised nationalist imagery, and that hatchet job you did on the Ramones way back when, you've won us over today. This story about you helping a women who took a nasty fall at New York City's iconic bookstore The Strand is just too charming. Of course it's nice that you helped out someone in need, gathering her scattered belongings and offering to fetch a glass of water. But what makes this story great is how, even on a casual Sunday trip to the bookstore, you so perfectly fit that dour, introspective Morrissey image. A witness says you were "there alone," and that you "seemed very shaken up and flustered by the incident and left the store soon afterwards without buying anything." If only everyday were like this past Sunday, we'd never have to be cross with you. [Queerty]
Publishers sue authors over advances for unwritten books. Book deal advances are supposed to be retainers, but sometimes they're more like a gamble. Most authors end up delivering books to the publishers who've paid them an advance, but a few don't, opting to take the advance money and skip out on that whole book writing part. The Penguin Group is sick of being swindled, so they're taking several writers to court, demanding they repay advances they didn't make good on. The Big Six publisher's complaint lodged with the New York State Supreme Court singles out Prozac Nation author Elizabeth Wurtzel (whom Penguin paid $100,000 for a proposed teenage depression self-help book), blogger Ana Marie Cox (the recipient of $325,000 for a funny take on today's political activists), New Yorker staff writer Rebecca Mead (who got $50,000 for a collection of her journalism), and Conrad Tillard (who became $85,000 richer when he signed a deal to write a memoir of his "epic journey from the Ivy League to the Nation of Islam"). Penguin is even going after Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat, who never finished a book, which garnered a $40,000 advance, about meeting his wife in a concentration camp. The publisher isn't seeking to recoup the full amounts, but wants the authors to return about a third of the advances. [The Smoking Gun]
Libraries and publishers can't agree on e-books lending model. In the last few days, the spat between libraries and publishers over e-book lending has gotten downright nasty. Earlier this week, the American Library Association's president Maureen Sullivan released an open letter to publishers Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin, saying their refusal to give library patrons access to e-books serves to "deepen the digital divide." "To deny these library users access to ebooks that are available to others—and which libraries are eager to purchase on their behalf—is discriminatory," she writes, demanding, "Simon & Schuster must sell to libraries. Macmillan must implement its proposed pilot. Penguin must accelerate and expand its pilots beyond two urban New York libraries." The publishers are lobbing a press release back through the Association of American Publishers. Their open letter argues that digital platforms have brought on new barriers to book lending, and that they're trying to hammer out a workable e-book lending moedl. "At a time when individual publishing houses are more actively engaged than ever in exploring viable solutions to e-lending, we are disappointed that the new leadership at ALA chose this path, with this particular timing, to criticize those efforts," the AAP writes. Tomorrow, the ALA and AAP leadership will meet to discuss their differences. [Publishers Weekly]
Times Literary Supplement editor takes the pulse of book criticism. Peter Stothard ... sorry ... Sir Peter Stothard thinks that the proliferation of book critics, on blogs and elsewhere, hasn't improved our discussion of literature all that much. All the headlines scream that Stothard believes bloggers are "killing literary criticism" or "harming literature," which isn't quite what he's saying. The quality of opinion, rather than the outlet writers use to express it, is what he's really concerned about. "It is wonderful that there are so many blogs and websites devoted to books, but to be a critic is to be importantly different than those sharing their own taste," he says. "Not everyone's opinion is worth the same." There's no reason print must be the sole domain of "confident criticism, based on argument and telling people whether the book is any good," or that bloggers aren't capable of it. Stothard is a blogger himself, so we doubt he's saying the entire platform is debased. Stothard has edited the Times Literary Supplement for nearly a decade, and just wrapped up reading 145 books as this year's Man Booker Prize chairman of judges. [The Independent]
Rowling plans to write for kids next. What with the embargo-busting reviews of J.K. Rowling's new book for adults, if The Casual Vacancy ends up being a disappointment, at least Rowling fans will have a new children's story, and maybe—just maybe—a Potter-related book to look forward to. [The Bookseller]
Books are the new black. From cursive-patterned tights to book-shaped clutches, literary chic is in this season according to the New York Daily News' Wathira Nganga. [New York Daily News]