Today in books and publishing: Herman Melville has his day online; a Colombian prostitute hired by the Secret Service has a book deal; Amazon coming after our children; the Asian Literary Prize loses its Man.
Searching for Moby Dick. It's not quite as elaborate as their layered interactive on Winsor McCay's Little Nemo comic strips from a few days ago. But still, it's great to see Google celebrating the 161st publication anniversary of Herman Melville's Moby Dick in today's Doodle. The woodcut-like image depicts Captain Ahab wielding a sphere, leering at the great white whale in the distance. It's always a good time to appreciate literary classics, but Moby Dick has been in vogue lately. A project based in the UK called Moby Dick Big Read has been corralling famous people into recording chapters for free public listening. Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, and David Cameron have all participated so far. And next month, a bunch of bookish New Yorkers will reading the book from cover to cover, all in one marathon weekend. Who else is reading Moby Dick these days? None other than Barack Obama. [Google]
Book to tell inside story about that Secret Service sex scandal. One voice was notably missing in the fallout from the revelation that President Obama's Secret Service agents in were shacking up with prostitutes in Colombia—the voice of the prostitutes. Dania Londoño, one of the prostitutes these johns hired, has been writing a book about her involvement in the scandal. Room Service has been picked up by Colombian publishers, according to Semana magazine. It will tell Londoño’s story of growing up in a drug-trafficking household on San Andres Island, the abuse her boss inflicted on her as a salesperson in Cartagena, and her decision to become a prostitute in order to support a son. The Secret Serviceman in question was supposed to pay her $800 dollars to sleep with him, but he drunkenly passed out and "slept all night." The scandal broke when Londoño complained loudly in the hotel that he hadn't paid her the amount agreed upon. [Latin American Herald Tribune]
Amazon wants to hook kids on Kindles. They want to hook everyone on Kindles, really. That's why they're selling them at no profit. But the classroom is a particularly alluring (and captive) market, one that Amazon is trying to corner with its new Whispercast service. Unveiled yesterday, Whispercast allows administrators to centrally manage large numbers of Kindles, perfect for school administrators wanting to incorporate new technology in K-12 classrooms while preventing students from goofing off on Facebook. Amazon's VP of Kindle product management Jay Marine says, "We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to own a Kindle device. Any time we can make that easier, we do that. And we have a particular mission to increase reading, especially among kids." The iPad has been a strong competitor for the Kindle in classrooms, moving almost 1 million units in one year. Some educators are concerned about how e-readers may affect students' studying habits. Sure, they might help lighten students' backpack loads (a serious problem, actually), but cross referencing information from different textbooks on the Kindle sounds incredibly frustrating. "Imagine a student in a library with 10 books with book marks in each one," says Yankee Group consultant Carl Howe. "Try doing that with an e-reader. It's pretty hard and kind of a mess." [Reuters]
Man Group backs out of Asian Literary Prize. They waited until after Hilary Mantel's big win to announce this, but the Man Group has pulled funding from the nascent Asian Literary Prize. Started in 2007, the Man Asian Literary Prize was intended to shed light on contemporary Asian writers, just as the Man Booker does for Anglophone authors. But David Parker, director of the newly renamed Asian Literary Prize, has posted a letter online revealing that the award's financial backing has been pulled. "We look forward to the future with a new partner, confident that Asian fiction is now beginning to secure the global readership and recognition it deserves," Parker writes optimistically. Books by last year's winner Kyung-sook Shin are selling well, and Mo Yan's Nobel has drawn attention to Chinese fiction, so, "Clearly, Asian literature is on the march." Will anyone step up to rescue the awards, as private donors recently did for the Orange Prize? [Melville House]
Limns from limn... New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani just can't help it. She simply had to bring out "limn" again to describe Tom Wolfe's Back to Blood, even though she last invoked that strange verb just three weeks ago in her review of The Casual Vacancy. The offending sentence, this time around: "Once again, [Wolfe] limns a dog-eat-dog world in which people behave like animals, scratching and clawing their way up the greasy social pole." [The New York Times]