5 MobyLives.com



a MobyLives guest column
by Anonymous

Editor's note: Recent news items in the MobyLives news digest about the website Foetry.com, and its accusations that certain literary prize competitions are corrupt, have generated some of the most heated mail this site has ever received. Remarkably, most of that mail—even the majority that applauded Foetry—was, by request, off the record.
     Seeking light amidst the heat, MobyLives has asked Foetry.com to explain itself, and in particular to address concerns about the anonymity of whomever is behind it. Foetry agreed . . . on the condition of anonymity. While MobyLives does not favor the use of anonymous sources, there are times when, because of threat to the source, they are justified. The proprietor of Foetry.com satisfied the proprietor of MobyLives that this was such a case.

28 March 2005 —According to Whitman, "The maker of poems settles justice, reality, immortality." How will the poets writing and publishing today be remembered?
     Foetry.com launched on April 1st of 2004 to expose the status quo in American poetry publication: many books published are winners of contests that are often large–scale fraud operations. Judges select their friends, students, and lovers from pools of manuscripts numbering in the hundreds or thousands, accompanied by an entry fee, usually around $20–$25. Some of the competitions are sponsored by university presses, such as the Iowa Poetry Prize and the University of Georgia Contemporary Poetry Series.
     As soon as Foetry.com was launched, the defenses began. "What if the manuscript really was the best one?" "This is how it's always been." "You should spend less time whining and more time writing." "You're just bitter that you didn't win."
     We hear the same arguments regularly and none are convincing. When is it ever acceptable to cheat? Have we really come to the point that universities sponsor "open" competitions that are funded by thousands of hopeful victims? When Jorie Graham, a Harvard professor, selects the manuscript of her own husband and colleague, Peter Sacks, out of hundreds of entries, why are people angry at us instead of them? Does academic integrity apply only to students and not to professors?
     When these poets publish their "winning" books, more awards, readings, and teaching posts follow. The judges bestow prizes to the writing they helped to shape, that they influenced, in contests subsidized by entrants on a crooked playing field. In an exchange on "Ambition and Greatness" in a recent issue of the journal Poetry, Daisy Fried says, " . . . when the only aim is getting an A+ in reproducing teachers' revolutions, it's unlikely to lead anywhere but mediocrity."
     Any judge can easily recognize the writing of poets they have taught, or work they know intimately, in a blind reading; removing the names from manuscripts is not enough. It's a poor excuse and every good reader knows that. Contests must prohibit entries from poets where a conflict of interest is a possibility. Screeners and judges must recuse themselves when writing is recognized as that of a personal associate.
     Foetry.com is under attack by two groups of people. One is the poets who have benefited from the unscrupulous behaviors we discuss, and their defensive friends. The second is made up of those who hope to advance their writing by defending illicit activities; after all, one day it may happen for them — if their poetry cannot stand on merit, perhaps it will be affirmed through connections at the right cocktail party or by sucking up this week at the Associated Writing Programs annual conference.
     In addition to our webpages that detail the illicit — some say illegal — selections of various contests, and the judges who made the choices, Foetry.com provides a discussion forum area. Most of the more than eight hundred members of the forum are anonymous, as are the site administrators. We are tired of the people who use that as a way to discredit what we are doing. Their hope is that people will forget the real issue if they say we are cowards, or that they have no way to defend themselves. The people complaining about anonymity are the ones who have something to hide. Do we refuse to read every article in the newspaper that quotes a source speaking on condition of anonymity?
     Lately, it has become clear why anonymity is important. Our forum includes stories of blacklisting by Brown University professors. A website called Whoisfoetry divulges the "true" identities of some of our site members and solicits tips for our outing. The University of Georgia released the name of the person who requested records of the judges and their selections on our behalf. Recently, through insinuation, another forum member has been victimized on a professor's personal website as retaliation for our work, though he was not involved; in fact, he had not even posted on our site. He has been victimized by foets on grant panels before and was recently threatened again.
     We are not afraid; our work is just beginning. Some presses have adopted the so–called Jorie Graham rule, a moniker created because the Macarthur genius and Pulitzer winner has chosen her students and lovers as "prizewinning poets" so many times. In general, the rule says no friends or former students of the judge are eligible, but even with that important guideline in place, some publishers are violating their own rules. The University of Georgia finally added a statement of Academic Integrity to the contest page, and soon after announced winners of the latest round. One, Susan Maxwell, is a current student in the PhD program at the University of Denver, where series editor for the George prize, Bin Ramke, teaches. Every party should be ashamed, from Georgia, which allowed that to happen again, to Bin Ramke, to Susan Maxwell, whose work is affirmed only through fraud.
     One of our Foetry Forum regulars, Vermeer expresses the frustrations of our visitors:

I know the poets I love (Neruda, Blas de Otero, Lorca, Angel Gonzalez, Brodsky, Bei Dao, Yannis Ritsos, Vasko Popa, Nāzim Hikmet) have always seemed heroic to me. They stood up to political regimes. They wrote when their lives were threatened. Lorca was dragged into an olive grove and assassinated. Ritsos and Hikmet were thrown in prison. But they continued to stand up against the oppressors, the thieves of liberty and freedom of expression. And they helped change the world to be a better place, they confronted the word and created art that transformed. And here in America the brave writers of the MFA programs and non–MFA programs can't get a little backbone and stand up and say enough is enough with these rigged contests and self dealing awards? Stop this pathetic self–dealing and stealing? STOP STEALING! It is utterly outrageous and pathetic. We can't do that?

     That is what we want. If the contests are to continue, if taxpayers are to support the National Endowment for the Arts, which funds many of the sham presses, then we insist that people stop stealing. We are watching.

This commentary was written by the editor of Foetry.com who wished to remain anonymous.

Link to this column.

©2005 Foetry.com

Previous column:
WHY I WRITE SHORT STORIES . . . It's getting as difficult to sell stories as it is to sell poetry or first novels. Why try? With his newest collection about to come out, Steve Almond offers some reasons.

Previous column:
THE DEATH OF FIRST FICTION . . . In a guest column, Ig Publishing's Robert Lasner describes the growing difficulty in publishing and promoting debut novels — and the growing need to keep publishing them.

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Friday 1 April 2005

Random House says it's making first move to tackle growing literacy problem . . . and, er, develop a new market . . .
"In a bid to foster a new generation of book buyers, Random House is investing in a private company that promotes literacy using a system that encourages children to read on their own and with their parents," reports a Reuters wire story. The world's biggest publisher announced it had "become a significant minority shareholder in Philadelphia–based American Reading Co.." ARC is a "reading firm" started by "former teacher" Jane Hilemna, and known for its 100 Book Challenge, a program that "requires students to read for at least 30 minutes each day at school and another 30 at home, and has been credited with boosting standardized test scores in various U.S. school districts." Richard Sarnoff, the president of Random House Ventures, says ARC is "pioneering a new distribution channel for trade books as enjoyable essentials in the lives of elementary and high school students across the country, many of whom now will go on to become frequent book customers." However, in a more in–depth report at The Book Standard, Rachel Deahl says Sarnoff stressed the deal is "not a vehicle for Random House titles in any form," and Deahl says "Under the current agreement, ARC will continue to be autonomous, with operations and book selection remaining in–house." Deahl also notes Random's deal with ARC "comes on the heels of a licensing partnership and investment deal Random House struck with a telecommunications company called VOCEL, which delivers content to wireless customers," all of which "seems to point to a concerted effort on the publisher's part to tap the youth market, for which cell phones are an extremely valuable commodity." Asked about the apparent connection, Sarnoff tells Deahl that "the generational issue is an important one for both Random House and the industry, and we think it's important to engage the future generation of readers.'"

Winfrey launching major online bookstore . . .
In a move sure to strike terror into the heart of other online booksellers, and represent a solid threat to Amazon.com and others, Oprah Winfrey, whose Oprah's Book Club has proven one of the most powerful book promotions ever, inevitably lifting its choices onto bestseller lists, has announced she is launching an online bookstore. According to a Library Journal report, Oprazon.com launches this spring.

Fonda says she was stupid, but not that stupid . . .
Beginning her book tour with a bang, Jane Fonda says sitting at an anti–aircraft gun during her 1972 visit to North Vietnam was "the largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine." However, Fonda also says she didn't regret other aspects of the trip, such as meeting American POWs or "making broadcasts on Radio Hanoi." In an interview with 60 Minutes in support of her new memoir, Jane Fonda: My Life So Far, Fonda says "Our government was lying to us and men were dying because of it, and I felt I had to do anything that I could to expose the lies and help end the war," according to an Associated Press wire story. The interview will air Sunday.

Hail & Farewell: Robert Creeley . . .
Robert Creeley, famed as one of the core poets of the influential Black Mountain Poets along with Charles Olson and Denise Levertov, died at age 78 Wednesday while at a writers' retreat in Texas run by the Lannan Foundation. His wife said the cause was "complications from lung disease," according to a New York Times obituary by Dinitia Smith. Smith notes that Creeley was influenced by jazz and visual art and, with others in the Black Mountain group, "tried to escape from what they considered the academic style of American poetry, with its European influences and strict rhyme and metric schemes." His "compressed," "direct" style did have its detractors, Smith notes: "There are two things to be said about Creeley's poems, the critic John Simon wrote. 'They are short; they are not short enough.'" Nonetheless his work was award the Bollingen Prize among numerous other honors, and he was a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

After elections, do the poet's words still hold? . . .
As a tie in with Zimbabwe's national election yesterday—which turned out peaceful, if seriously flawed—Brian Chikwava celebrates well–known Zimbabwe poet Dambudzo Marechera in a Guardian story. Marechera, who died at 35, is described as "on a sunny afternoon, one of Africa's first products of the post–modern condition; and on a damp morning, Africa's first intellectual aberration." Chikwava observes that Marechera saw African political corruption early and remained skeptical of the eerie nationalism of the anti–colonial struggle. At its apex, he wrote: "When politicians talk about culture, one had better pack one's rucksack and run, because it means the beginning of unofficial censorship."

Penguin waddles to the subcontinent . . .
Penguin is stepping up its publishing program in India, where it will publish four Hindi titles in April, the first non–English titles in its history, according to report from The Book Standard. Although India is still considered a "low price market," Penguin India's Thomas Abraham believes that "a phenomenal growth curve" is possible since "no single Indian publisher" has the same presence as Penguin. Penguin already has plans for Marathi and Malayalam titles and a translation of Arundhati Roy's An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire.

The other side of Thompson's death . . .
Despite his various addictions and even the fact that he was a suicide, Hunter S. Thompson has been widely lionized, by people from Johnny Depp to Jimmy Carter, and "the possible repercussions of such sentiments" have some people worried, says Michael Roberts. In a commentary for Denver alternative newsweekly Westword, he talks to some of those concerned, such as Brenda Gierczak of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado, who tells Roberts that it's "disconcerting how his suicide has been glorified." She notes celebrity suicides spawn others, and adds, "This is a serious issue in the mountain states. We have the seventh–highest suicide rate in the nation here, and that's huge — absolutely huge. It's something we need to work really hard to bring down." Roberts also surveys press coverage, particular local coaverage, and finds only one reporter, John Aguilar of the Rocky Mountain News, whose reports "leavened compliments with comments from 'a source close to the family,' who called Thompson 'a raging addict and an abusive man.'"

Quill's award too late . . .
Just days after it was announced that it had been nominated for a Libris Award as Small Press Publisher of the Year, the important Canadian literary press The Porcupine's Quill is drastically cutting its list and reducing staff, according to a report by Rebecca Caldwell in The Globe and Mail. A statement by co-founder Tim Inkster, outlines a bleak production schedule for the firm: "We do know that 2005 will be our last full season. We know that in 2006 we will cut staff and cut the list in half, that's for sure, and we know that when we do that our sales levels will drop and that will have a negative effect on our funding. We are hoping in 2007 to be able to fulfill our existing commitments . . . [but] whether we can stabilize the company at a much smaller level and continue beyond 2007 is at this point unclear." Right now, says Inkster, "Sales are dropping like a rock," and he points a finger squarely at giant retailer Indigo Books, Canada's biggest chain, which is returning more titles and having a weak selling season. The press was founded in 1974.

NOTE: Daily newspapers often change URLs when archiving, so some links won't work beyond the day they're first posted.

Thursday 31 March 2005

Happy birthday, Foetry . . .
During a live call–in segment of the nationwide NPR program The Connection, poet and Harvard prof Jorie Graham was asked why, as a judge for prestigious poetry prizes, she regularly awarded prizes to former students and, in one instance, her husband (and fellow Harvard prof) Peter Sacks. As Alex Beam notes in his Boston Globe column today, the call came from an "outrider" for Foetry.com, poet Donald Judson, but he was cut off by Connection host Dick Gordon, and Graham never answered the question. Beam notes "the case against Graham was textbook Foetry," and on the occasion of Foetry's one–year anniversary, he profiles the site and its tactics favorably—at least partly because the opposition wouldn't go on the record. "I invited four leading poets, including Graham, to discuss Foetry, and none of them got back to me," he explains. In the end, he asks, "How can one not approve of subversive behavior, especially when it is in such short supply? So how can one not savor the take–no–prisoners website Foetry.com, devoted to exposing coziness and corruption in the understandably undermonitored world of poetry?"

McEwan says ongoing harrasment by Department of Homeland Security has nothing to do with his politics . . .
Ian McEwan says his ongoing difficulty with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security "is becoming a little Kafkaesque," and his current visit to promote his just–released novel Saturday may be his last. ""I only got in this time by the skin of my teeth," he tells Mark Egan in this Reuters wire story, explaining that it took him nine months to obtain a visa to enter the country, and it was finally "granted just hours before his departure." As Egan reports, "McEwan's diplomatic woes began a year ago when U.S. officials turned him away from entering the country in error. But that error has remained on the books to haunt him still." Although he finds it "a matter of enormous irritation," the liberal McEwan says he doesn't think what's happening has anything to do with his politics. "All large bureaucracies throw up absurdities," he says.

Harry Potter and the Relentless Exploitation of Children . . .
Continuing the months–early publicity blitz, Scholastic, Inc., the American publisher of the Harry Potter books, has announced that the first printing of the newest edition, Harry Potter and the Half–Blood Prince, will be 10.8 million copies. As an Associated Press wire story notes, "The previous record holder was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which came out in 2003 with a first run of 8.5 million." But as the story also notes, the book already has significant pre–orders, and has topped the Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com lists since its announcement in December. Meanwhile, don't expect the publicity blitz to let up any time soon: "Scholastic also announced Wednesday a range of marketing gimmicks, including a Harry Potter crossword puzzle in The New York Times in July, promotional spots on the Times Square billboard, Google ads and video commercials on domestic flights of Continental Airlines and American Airlines."

Plot to lower slush piles seems to be working . . .
A string of recent articles are telling tales of the wonders of self–publishing and print–on–demand services. In The Independent, a report by Nicholas Pyke tells the tale of Patricia Ferguson, a well–known author whose It So Happens was rejected by every major publisher in the UK. However, Solidus, a print–on–demand imprint, however, showed interest and published the book, which got several good reviews and is now an Orange Prize contender. As Pyke notes, one reviewer of the book observed that "The trouble with publishing is that with the accountants running things, everything is dominated by how much you last novel sold." In a related Independent story, Dominic Prince reports on a book called The Pocket Book of Patriotism, which was turned down by six London publishers, only to sell 167,000 copies. And in a Miami Herald article by Sue Corbett, a more charming trend of self–publishing teenagers is identified. 13–year–old Carolina Mayo published a novel she wrote over the summer. Lucky Christopher Paolini, a home–schooled Montanan, self published his novel, Eragon, at eighteen and now has a $500,000 advance from Knopf for his next two books. Eragon sold one million copies and spent 26 straight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Careful what you propose for . . .
"Whereas fiction is occasionally sold on the strength of a chapter or two as in the case of Zadie Smith's White Teeth, the booming non–fiction market requires something more," observes Carl Wilkinson in a commentary for The Observer. "You have to produce an extensive proposal that not only conveys your enthusiasm for the project, but second guesses a whole range of complex questions a publisher may have about your idea. The proposal needs to outline everything you know about your chosen subject and then speak with equal confidence of all the things you will find out . . . . It needs to be written in such a way as to tickle both the artistic sensibilities of a publisher's editorial team and the marketing nous of the backroom money men who will stump up the advance." Of course, that leaves one problem: "Having whipped the publishing team into a frenzy of enthusiasm with lots of wonderful promises, you can find yourself spending the next couple of years trying to fulfil all those promises, tracking down all those interviewees and finding out all that elusive dynamite material."

Creative nonfiction: We're not sure what it is, but you can earn a little less for it when you publish it in a journal . . .
The current issue of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction is actually a book, called In Fact, being published by W.W. Norton and containing highlights from the journal's ten–year run. In a description of the volume posted on the journal's website, "creative nonfiction" is described as both an "emergent genre" and "as old as American Letters." The description of In Fact goes on to say that "creative nonfiction leaps genres." ("Creative nonfiction" is described elsewhere on the site as "Dramatic, true stories using scenes, dialogue, close, detailed descriptions and other techniques usually employed by poets and fiction writers about important subjects.") Meanwhile, The Baltimore Review announced earlier this year that it too is accepting submissions of "creative nonfiction"—for a contest in the form. According to its announcement, the prize is $250 and publication.

Ya'acov misses something crucial . . .
In Jerusalem, 38–year–old Ya'acov Oksankrug was arrested for "allegedly stealing thousands of prayer books and paperbacks Bibles and then selling them at rock–bottom prices," according to a Jerusalem Post report by Etgar Lefkvits. "Oksankrug is suspected of making off with piles of Holy Books dropped off at the store–fronts of Jerusalem Judaica bookstores in early–morning deliveries, and then reselling the NIS 100 books for as little as NIS 12 each to synagogues and yeshivot across the country."

NOTE: Daily newspapers often change URLs when archiving, so some links won't work beyond the day they're first posted.

Wednesday 30 March 2005

Resistance is futile, Part I . . .
Is the Ottakar's bookselling chain, one of England's biggest and most popular, so troubled that it may be ripe for a takeover? A Guardian story by Mark Tran notes the company has announced a significant drop in sales, which resulted in a significant drop in shares. Meanwhile, it has also undergone a shake–up in its upper–level management. Says Tran, " Analysts say the difficulties of the bookshop make it a potential takeover target should Barnes & Noble look to enter the UK or should Borders be looking to expand on the high street."

Resistance is futile, Part II . . .
One of Australia's biggest bookselling chains, Collins Booksellers, "is in deep financial trouble" and "has stopped ordering books and publishers are refusing to supply the privately owned company because its unpaid bills are mounting," reports Michael Bachelard in a report for The Australian. The company "has struggled to cope with the new realities in the book trade," says Bachelard," especially competition from "aggressive overseas companies such as Borders and Amazon." A company spokesman would not comment on rumors that the chain is for sale. But one "influential publisher" tells Bachelard that would be a "disaster for the industry," because Collins "was one of the few companies that stocked 'real books' published by small and medium–sized Australian publishers."

Cheney spawn to explain how she lives wih self . . .
Less than a week after announcing that Mary Matalin would head a new, conservative imprint at Simon & Schuster, the imprint has announced a name and an acquisition: the imprint will be called Threshold, and its first title will be the memoir of Mary Cheney, the daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney. As Elizabeth LeSure reports in an Associated Press wire story, "Cheney, a top aide during her father's campaigns in 2000 and 2004, has drawn much political attention because she is openly gay." How much Cheney was given in the deal was not announced.

There are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade . . .
They've become, over the last six months, one of those bothersome things New York's subway riders have learned to put up with: proselytizers for the Church of Scientology, "stationed at red–clothed tables in Times Square and several other subway hubs," where, "In addition to using their 'e–meters' to compute the electrical resistance caused by traumatic thoughts, the Scientologists offered, for a 'suggested donation' of $8, copies of their textbook, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health." Except, as Andy Newman observes in a New York Times report, "when a reporter presenting himself as a stressed-out New Yorker took the test and suggested a donation of considerably less than $8 for the book, the tester, a young man in a striped tie, balked. 'It's a fixed donation,' the man said. 'The money is just to recover the cost of producing the books.'" But Newman gets an estimate from a "major paperback–book printer" of a per–copy cost of only $1.58. Meanwhile, yesterday, "Plainclothes detectives determined that the books were being sold, not given in exchange for donations, in violation of New York City Transit rules against unlicensed vending," and they ejected the Scientologists from the Times Square station. Says a Scientology spokesman, "Even if the guy doesn't buy a book, we've gotten him to take a look at his life and see what's troubling him. That's a service in itself. We've had guys sit down who are thinking of committing suicide. I've had people who killed other people. Just by doing the stress test they realize, 'Hey, this is something I need to handle.' "

Wizard exhaustion leads to spies . . .
In Britain, "publishers and bookstores have decided the spy thriller is the ideal way to capture elusive teenaged boy readers, with a new generation of secret agents for children," reports Louise Jury in a story for The Independent. She says booksellers are excited about several forthcoming books in the genre, including "the first of five planned adventures with a junior James Bond sanctioned by the estate of Ian Fleming"; Jimmy Coates: Killer, a book about a boy spy written by "a young Cambridge philosophy student, Joseph Craig"; and the newest in a popular spy series by Anthony Horowitz. Says W.H. Smith children's fiction buyer for Rachel Airey, "Everyone has worked the magic wizard thing to death and now they have started to say, 'What else can we do?'" Plus, she says, "There's a huge amount of pink girly stuff in the market so this is quite refreshing."

Schtick leads to book . . .
April will see the release of The Big Book of Jewish Conspiracies by David Deutch and Joshua Newman, both editors at the New York based Heeb Magazine. The book, according to a review by Izzy Grinspan in the Village Voice, claims that Jews "are behind most of the major events in history, especially the catastrophic ones." She goes on to say that "The jokes aim for the Lower East Side but land a little too far upstate." Heeb, founded in 2002, calls itself "The New Jew Review" and boasts of subscription base of about 3,000.

Princeton Press names new director . . .
The vacancy left by Walter Lippincott, who plans to retire from his post as director of Princeton University Press, will be filled by Peter J. Dougherty, a PUP economics editor, according to an official press release. Doughtery, who is known as the editor of Robert J. Shiller's bestseller Irrational Exuberance, is a 13–year PUP veteran; Doughtery is also the author of Who's Afraid of Adam Smith? (published not by PUP but John Wiley & Sons). Lippincott has previously outlined Princeton's plans to scale back its trade titles and strengthen its publishing of professional titles in business and economics.

No nunga–nungas left behind . . .
At the Big Sky High School in Missoula, Montana, school officials have embraced Reading Counts, an "independent reading management program" devised by children's publisher Scholastic that is, according to the company's website, "aligned with" George Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative. As Rob Chaney explains in a story for The Missoulian, "Students pick one book a quarter to read on their own and take a 10–question quiz to confirm their effort." Students pick what they want to read from a list provided by the program, or they can add their own titles to the list. So far, Chaney reports, "the Harry Potter books still rule the reading list at Big Sky High School. But aside from J.K. Rowling's teen wizard epic, Missoula students are showing a wide range of literary interests." Among other books that have made the list: Angus, Thongs and Full–Frontal Snogging, Knocked Out By My Nunga–Nungas, On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God, and Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare.

NOTE: Daily newspapers often change URLs when archiving, so some links won't work beyond the day they're first posted.

Tuesday 29 March 2005

Court throws the book at jurors for reading the Book in jury room . . .
The Colorado Supreme Court yesterday "threw out the death penalty in a rape–and–murder case" because jurors read the Bible during deliberations, giving special attention to "verses such as 'eye for eye, tooth for tooth," reports an Associated Press wire story by Steven K. Paulson. Jurors had convicted Robert Harlan to death for raping and murdering Rhonda Maloney, but in a 3–2 vote, the Colorado justices changed the sentence to life without parole. Their decision explained that "at least one juror in this case could have been influenced by these authoritative passages to vote for the death penalty when he or she may otherwise have voted for a life sentence." Prosecutors are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thous shalt not write about Big Pharma from the inside . . .
Eli Lilly & Co. admitted yesterday that it had fired an employee for writing a book about his time at Pfizer Inc., his former employer, according to an Associated Press wire story by Theresa Agovino. The book, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy, tells of high pay and low expectations at Pfizer and, according to Eli Lilly & Co., "advocated actions that were in violation of Lilly's policies." Among such actions, "In the book, for example, Reidy admits he exaggerated how often he visited doctors. He also says in the book that he ordered extra food when he visited physicians' offices so he could take the leftovers home for dinner."

Winner of one of poetry's biggest prizes busted for selling drugs in a school zone . . .
A young poet who won "the nation's largest undergraduate literary prize last year"—the $56,169 Sophie Kerr Prize—"has been charged with possession of marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms with intent to sell them near a school." Angela Haley, 22, and her boyfriend were arrested after police entered their apartment and "found drugs, scales and more than $5,000 in cash," says Tom Pelton in a Baltimore Sun report. Police say they've been receiving tips that Haley was selling drugs since 2003, when she was still a student at Washington College. In a Sun profile last year Haley told the newspaper "she planned to use the money to pursue a master's degree in fine arts."

Hint: He didn't get into plastics . . .
Never–realized plans for a sequel to the classic 1967 movie The Graduate have "become part of Hollywood mythology," notes David Smith, but a sequel to the novel the movie was based upon (which was also called The Graduate), has finally been written by author Charles Webb. But "the agonising wait is not over for devotees yet," Smith says in a story for The Observer. Webb says that he will not allow the just–completed book, Home School, to be published until after his death. The reason, Webb says, is that the story is "a runaway, underground, counter–culture kind of thing," and he is fearful of the way it would be translated to film if he wasn't a consultant on the project. However, his contract for The Graduate stipulated that "As soon as any sequel is published it is their property and I have no legal recourse." Webb has tried renegotiate with the current rights owner, French media giant Canal Plus, "but was rebuffed," says Smith, and so he "now intends to leave the novel to his sons in his will." Says Webb, "I'd rather not be around to see it if not even minimal control is possible."

Now it can be told: Blog or Webzine? . . .
Bookslut founder and editor Jessa Crispin is interviewed briefly in the "Pop Quiz" feature at Mediabistro.com. She talks about reviewing, her new webzine dedicated to food, Saucy, and the differences between a blog and a webzine: "I'm not much of a fan of blogs, unless they're strictly news gathering. I like magazine formats with lots of different voices covering lots of different angles." And how can you judge whether a blog is any good or not? "Blogging doesn't really get anyone anything, so if a blogger is out for personal gain, the blog will stop being updated pretty quickly."

Review of reviews of reviews is not good, but reviewers of reviews hope blogs will review review of reviews of reviews and give them a better review . . .
Books and various other "objects of culture" are "becoming ever more distant" on the Internet, says Sarah Boxer, as "reviews of reviews" are taking over cultural blogs. In a New York Times report, Boxer focuses on the way the trend has taken over numerous liteary blogs: She gives favorable mention to Ed Champion and his Return of the Reluctant website for the way it "bears down on The New York Times Book Review and its editor, Sam Tanenhaus" for, "among other things, the number of pages devoted to fiction versus nonfiction and the number of women assigned to review nonfiction." However, she continues, "Most book–review reviews are summary, to say the least. Their main purpose, it seems, is to get noticed and linked to by more popular blogs. This, for example, was Golden Rule Jones's assessment of The Chicago Tribune's book coverage on Sunday: 'What I liked: Good numbers; timely, worthwhile selections. What I didn't like: Reviews are a little skimpy.'"

Plan to immortalize self as "greatest publisher ever" hits snag . . .
In a new autobiography released this month in Britain, Tom Maschler, former chairman of the prestigious literary house Jonathan Cape, recounts his years as one of Britian's most successful publishers. The book, Publisher, which features an author photo that shows Maschler wearing a tee&3150;shirt that says "The World's Greatest Publisher," is being hailed as a major literary event. Maschler co–founded the Booker Prize, published Joseph Heller's Catch 22, Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complain, and Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape> He was the publisher of Doris Lessing, John Fowles, Arnold Wesker, Roald Dahl, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and Martin Amis, and brought Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Thomas Pynchon, Tom Wolfe, and Kurt Vonnegut to British readers." In an interview with the Independent's John Walsh, Maschler modestly simplifies his career in publishing by saying that "You can only go wrong in publishing by paying too much money for a book because it isn't as good, or as sellable, as you thought." Meanwhile, however, the book has been met with mixed reviews. In a review for The Telegraph, Claudia FitzHerbert notes that "Maschler has an unfailing eye for the untelling detail," while a Sunday Times review by John Carey, notes Maschler's ponderous style, citing his observation that the Frankfurt Book Fair, get this, "takes place in Frankfurt, so that if I wish to attend, I am obliged to go to Germany."

NOTE: Daily newspapers often change URLs when archiving, so some links won't work beyond the day they're first posted.

Monday 28 March 2005

Amazon's newest data gathering methods "cross the line," say experts . . .
Privacy experts are becoming increasingly alarmed that Amazon.com "is getting dangerously close to becoming Big Brother with your credit card number," reports Allison Linn in an Associated Press wire story that ran in numerous newspapers yesterday. (In The New York Post, for example, it ran under the headline "Amazon.com: Lil' Helper or Big Brother?"). Linn notes that "For years, Amazon has collected detailed information about what its customers buy, considered buying, browsed for but never bought, recommended to others or even wished someone would buy them." But now, many privacy advocates feel Amazon has "crossed the line," says Linn. Two new developments have them particularly concerned: Amazon has "launched a Web search engine, called A9, that can remember everything you've ever searched for," and its development of a website called 43 Things, which seeks to set up social networking communities made up of "people with similar goals, such as getting out of debt." Critic Karen Coyle of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility "worries that the technology would be used to gather information on children, perhaps violating a federal law that limits the gathering of information on kids under 13." Others observe that people would never allow such information gathering in real–world retailing. Jason Catlett of Junkbusters says simply, "People need legal rights to see the profiles that are built about them and to change or delete what they want."

Librarian arrested for using Amazon as his fence . . .
The case began to unfold when a college president purchased a used copy of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons from Amazon.com and discovered that it had a library stamp with a due date of December 26. Authorities in Oregon have subsequently arrested Charles Wayne Gray, 60, a part–time employee of the Clackamas County Library and the Tigard Public Library, and charged him with the theft of "more than 1,000 library books, CDs and videotapes" from the libraries he worked for and selling them on Amazon. As Emily Tsao reports in a story for The Oregonian, police found 700 library books and CDs in Gray's home, and he is believed to have made "at least $10,000" via Internet sales over the last six months. According to authorities, "Gray would check out books, then tap into the library computer system and record them as returned. As the operation grew, Gray used a second name, 'Lock Brown,' to help cover his trail. Gray would also scan the Internet to find out what items were in demand and then go to the library to check them out." Library officials, meanwhile, have told Greenville College president Jim Mannoia to keep the purloined copy of Charlotte Simmons with their compliments for helping them uncover the scheme. Tsao also notes that Gray had been featured in a 2003 Oregonian story about unemployement— Gray was profiled because he "donned a clown suit and handed out business cards in downtown Portland with the hopes of getting a job."

Sudden rise of interest in books on Nazism in Germany alarms some Germans . . . and pleases others . . .
Book publications in Germany show the country is undergoing "a huge revival of interest in the Nazi era" and social commentators are worried. As Kate Connolly reports in a story for The Daily Telegraph, "New titles about Hitler are flooding the bookshops to satisfy the hunger . . . . From Hitler's Berlin to Death in the Bunker, from private diaries to coffee–table books with shocking and previously unseen pictures of bombed–out German cities, the craving for new material is enormous." Adds Linn, "The books are, on one level, a parable of Nazi domination of everyday life under Hitler. But their grip on today's publishing industry sometimes seems just as tight." Nor is the obsession gripping the book industry alone: Linn notes that polls show rising sympathy for Nazi viewpoints, and historians believe "the frequency with which Hitler's image appears in the media is harmful." She cites Die Seit columnist Jens Jessen lament that, "Television, cinema and illustrated magazines are bringing the forms of brown–uniformed soldiers or SS officers into our living rooms with an intensity that's never been known before . . . . the heroes of the crimes against humanity are laughing in our faces."

Anarchist Convention is a huge f@#!ing success . . .
This year's tenth annual Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair—which took place Saturday in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park—was the most successful ever, "thanks to shared enemies like the Bush Administration and the Patriot Act," reports Justin M. Norton in an Associated Press wire story. Reports Norton, "What originally was a few radicals getting together to talk politics has become the focus of an entire weekend of dissident cultural events, from punk rock concerts to soccer games." He says the event has come to rival Montreal's annual Festival of Anarcy in May as perhaps the largest such event in North America. Says one participant, "The Bush era has been good for anarchist consumerism." In a story for The San Francisco Chronicle, Rona Marech says "the F–word was especially popular at the fair: 'You don't have to f— people over to survive' and 'F— all boy bands' were among the slogans on the ubiquitous T—shirts, pins and patches. Hungry radicals — who arrived from all over the country — were salivating as they wandered among CDs and books, from Woody Guthrie's Struggle and Malcolm X's speeches to The Enemy Is Middle Class and No Gods No Masters." Attendee Kent Kruger tells Marech that the event "really makes me feel good, because most of the time, I'm sitting out there and it's darn scary. This is refreshing to me."

Where the herd is . . .
Are bestseller lists good for the book business or bad? In her newest column, Cleveland Plain Dealer book editor Karen Long observes that "Some folk regard best–seller lists as quirky cultural thermometers. Others write them off as a sign of the Apocalypse." She considers comments on the topic made by Sam Tanenhaus and Dennis Loy Johnson at the recent National Book Critics Circle gathering in New York. Long also observes that, no matter what the bestseller lists say, "a reader confined to best sellers would be impoverished, just as marooned as a listener stuck permanently on a Top–40 play list. It can be fun to see where the herd grazes, but the nourishment is bound to be thin."

Return of the heretic . . .
The current issue of The Chicago Review, entitled American Heretic, features a 250–page section dedicated to the life and work of the late Black Mountain poet Edward Dorn. The editors of the Chicago Review, who have been at work on the issue since Dorn's death in 1999, note that their intention is not to reintroduce the poet, but rather to "confirm Dorn's location on the map," to demonstrate "the kind of care and interest that persists for Dorn's work." The issue includes late poems by Dorn, selections from his letters, a transcript of a 1977 poetry workshop he organized, and critical reviews about the new material. Dorn, whose work was first widely circulated in Donald Allen's classic 1960 anthology New American Poetry, is the author of more than twenty books of poetry, including The North Atlantic Turbine and the Gunslinger series.

Havel quits smoking, starts writing . . .
Two years after stepping down as president of Czechoslavkia, and in apparent recovery of respiratory problems brought on by years of chain–smoking, Vaclav Havel is planning to resume his literary career, according to a BBC News wire story. Havel "is preparing to take a two month break in Washington to study at the US Library of Congress," says the report, as he begins work on three projects: an autobiography, a play based on King Lear, and "a book of conversations with friends, including former Polish dissident and journalist Adam Michnik and British historian Timothy Garton Ash." Havel has cancelled the Washington trip twice due to health problems, but an aide says he is "feeling well, in good health."

NOTE: Daily newspapers often change URLs when archiving, so some links won't work beyond the day they're first posted.

Visit the mothership:


by Martin Venezky

(Princeton Architectural Press, $40)

Layer upon layer of old type, spirographs, fragmented animal photos and found objects combine in this hardcover to form maps of the designer's inner life. Each page is a carefully thought–out, non–stop sensory overload. Author/designer Martin Venezky has included some of his commercial work (he has designed for clients such as Open Magazine and Reebok) and also original art made for the book.


This week's fiction:

"Crank Call"
by Thomas J. Hubschman
(from Me Three)

"Brain Spiders"
(from Prose aX)

This week's poetry:

"Not Pee Wee"
(from Grain)

(from Briar Cliff Review)

Special edition:

First posted in October, 2001, Alicia Ostriker's anthology of poetry that she turned to after the 9/11 attacks — including the work of Stephen Dunn, C.P. Cavafy, Marianne Moore, and others — is far and away the most popular link ever posted on MobyLives. Find out why.

All material not otherwise attributed ©1998–2005 Dennis Loy Johnson.