One-Minute Book Reviews

October 6, 2009

2009 Nobel Prize in Literature Winner To Be Announced on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 6 a.m. Eastern Time (US), 11 a.m. GMT and 1 p.m. CET — Live Webcast and Interview

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The winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced in a live Webcast from the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, Sweden, on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 6 a.m. Eastern (US) Time or 11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 1 p.m. Central European Time (CET). You can watch the live Webcast and learn more about the award on the news page of the Nobel Prize site. An interview with Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, will follow the announcement.

September 20, 2009

Another Installment of ‘Backscratching in Our Time’ Coming Friday

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:23 am
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On Friday I’ll have another post in my “Backscratching in Our Time” series, which calls attention to authors who praise each other’s books. In the meantime, I found an interesting comment on this sort of logrolling on the site for literary agent Nathan Bransford.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted wrote a lively guest post for Bransford about dust-jacket blurbs that dealt in part with the question: Whom should you ask for these? She advised against putting an all-points-bulletin on your Web site* seeking people who might like to compare you to Lord Byron or Joan Didion, then added:

“I’ve also seen novices offer publicly, ‘Hey, if anyone wants to blurb my book, I’ll blurb theirs!’ Again, please don’t do this. It’s unprofessional in so many ways. For starters, there’s already an unpleasant impression in some circles that blurbing is a corrupt process involving log-rolling and political back-scratching and every other awful name you can think up for it. Don’t help perpetuate that negative perception. Further, let’s say Ian McEwan or Nora Roberts – or why not both? – are the sort of authors you’re going after. No offense, but do you really think it’s going to influence their decision, the promise that you’ll gladly blurb them in return?”

If you’re wondering why it’s unprofessional, the simplest answer is: It’s a conflict of interest — or the appearance of one — and as such could damage your credibility and that of the other party to the horse-trading.

*I agree with this only under some circumstances, but Baratz-Logsted made a good case for her view.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

July 31, 2009

Backscratching in Our Time – Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovich

The latest in an occasional series of posts on authors who praise each other’s books

Janet Evanovich on Nora Roberts’s new Tribute:
“Nora Roberts is amazing.”

Nora Roberts on Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money:
“Stephanie Plum is destined to join ranks with Kinsey Millhone and Carlotta Carlyle. Janet Evanovich has crafted a heroine for today, tough, vulnerable, resourceful, and impulsive.”

You’ll find other examples of logrolling in the Backscratching in Our Time category on this site.

The fascinating question here is: Why did Tribute need a blurb? Roberts was the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame and has more than 250 million copies of her books in print.  Danielle Steel started publishing earlier and may have the edge in copies sold, but she isn’t a traditional romance novelist. If you take Steel out of the equation, Roberts may be the bestselling romance novelist in America. She is also one of the bestselling of all time.  Is the blurb from Evanovich likely to make a difference when Roberts  has spent hundreds of weeks on  New York Times bestseller lists and her sales figures have been over the moon for years? Does somebody think that in the Great Recession, even Roberts needs all the help she can get?

July 30, 2009

More Authors Who Blurb Each Other’s Books – Tomorrow in ‘Backscratching in Our Time’

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“Backscratching in Our Time” keeps alive the spirit of “Logrolling in Our Time” in the old Spy magazine, which called attention to authors who blurbed each other’s books. If you know of writers who should be included, you can nominate them by using the e-mail address on the “Contact” page. Another example of logrolling will appear tomorrow, and earlier posts are saved in the “Backscratching in Our Time” category on this site.

July 17, 2009

Should Writers Be Loyal to Their Publishers? Is ‘Loyalty’ a Virtue? (Quote of the Day / Diana Athill)

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:30 pm
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Scott Turow recently jilted Farrar, Straus & Giroux, his longtime publisher, for Grand Central Publishing, for the sequel to Presumed Innocent due out in 2010. Turow is one of many authors who have cut editorial ties in a grim economy, and some people say writers are becoming “less loyal” to their publishers. Is that a bad thing? Is loyalty a virtue?

Diana Athill, the English writer and former editor for the firm of André Deutsch, says in her elegant new memoir, Somewhere Towards the End:

“Loyalty is not a favorite virtue of mine, perhaps because André Deutsch used so often to abuse the word, angrily accusing any writer who wanted to leave our list of ‘disloyalty.’ There is, of course, no reason why a writer should be loyal to a firm which has supposed that it will be able to make money by publishing his work. Gratitude and affection can certainly develop when a firm makes a good job of it, but no bond of loyalty is established. In cases where such a bond exists – loyalty to family, for example, or to a political party – it can be foolishness if betrayed by its objects. If your brother turns out to be a murderer or your party changes its policies, standing by him or it through thick or thin seems to me mindless. Loyalty unearned is simply the husk of a notion developed to benefit the bosses in a feudal system.”

June 25, 2009

Backscratching in Our Time – Stephen McCauley and Elinor Lipman

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:33 pm
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The latest in an occasional series of posts on authors who praise each other’s books

Stephen McCauley on Elinor Lipman’s The Family Man:

“Elinor Lipman’s patented blend of wit, whimsy, and love for her characters makes every sentence of The Family Man shine. The book is a delightful Manhattan romp that offers 300 pages of pure reading pleasure.”

Elinor Lipman on Stephen McCauley’s Alternatives to Sex:
Alternatives to Sex is my favorite of Stephen McCauley’s wonderful novels. This is genius at work, but genius of the best, most readable kind: witty, lovable, and so amazingly smart about love in many forms — about friendship, about marriage, about real estate.”

The “Backscratching in Our Time” archives have other examples of well-known authors who blurb each other’s books. Do you you know of writers should be included in this series? If so, you can nominate them by sending an e-message to the address on the “Contact” page for this site.

March 11, 2009

James Frey writes like this should he get a Delete Key Award on Monday Terry McMillan wrote like this too but she was only a finalist has Frey surpassed her?

There’s usually at least one Delete Key Awards finalist that reads like an entry in a Bad Hemingway Parody contest. This year that spot on the shortlist goes to this passage from James Frey’s Los Angeles novel, Bright Shiny Morning:

“He said she would have a better life the sun shining every day more free time less stress she said she would feel like she had wasted a decade trying to get to the major leagues only to demote herself once she got into them.”

Should Frey’s effort be among the winners named on Monday?

Consider this: Terry McMillan made the 2007 shortlist for the passage below. But she didnt win, because the competition from Mitch Albom and Danielle Steel was just too tough even for this jawbreaker from her The Interruption of Everything:

“We tried you on your cell but you didn’t pick up so we got a little worried since we didn’t know where your appointment was and we tried calling Leon at work but his assistant said he left early to pick up his son at the airport and against our better judgment we tried your house and Hail Mary Full of Grace answered and after she deposed us, I asked if she knew your doctor’s number and she said she had to think for a few minutes and while she was thinking I started thinking who else we could call and that’s when I remembered your GYN’s name was a hotel: Hilton!”

Should Frey win — even though McMillan didn’t — given that Bright Shiny Morning isn’t up against a novel written third-grade reading level (Albom’s For One More Day) or brimming with stereotypes of Jews (Steel’s Toxic Bachelors)? If you would like to try to tamper with the jury, you have until Saturday.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

February 25, 2009

Questions and Answers About the 2009 Delete Key Awards for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:33 am
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UPDATE: The finalists for Fourth Annual Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 25. Please nominate your candidates by Feb. 15, 2010.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for the Third Annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books tomorrow, Feb. 26. The first book to make the shortlist will be named at about 10 a.m. Eastern Time with other titles released throughout the day. The full list of finalists will be posted by 5 p.m.

Here are some questions and answers about the awards:

Why do we need the Delete Key Awards?
When you go bed with a book, you should be able to respect yourself in the morning. Unfortunately, too many publishers don’t realize this.

Who is eligible for a Delete Key Award?
Any book for children or adults published in hardcover or paperback in the U.S. in 2008, including reprints and books in translation.

Why are the awards for “the worst writing in books” instead of “the worst books”?
The overall quality of a book involves subjective issues such as taste and judgment. The Delete Key Awards recognize more clear-cut sins. They call attention to such things as clichés, bad grammar or writing at a statistically verifiable third-grade level. The listing for each finalist will give an example of the bad writing in the book and comment on what’s wrong with it.

What kind of bad writing qualifies for an award?
Anything that would make an intelligent reader cringe. The sins that may qualify a passage in a book for a Delete Key Award include clichés, bad grammar, dumbing down, psychobabble, stereotypes, mispunctuation, stilted dialogue, unintentionally comic sex scenes, and overall tastelessness (the “that’s just sick” factor).

This is the third year Delete Key Awards have been given. What’s new in 2009?

First, visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews are choosing one of the finalists through a poll posted on Feb. 21 oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/. The poll remains open until 5 p.m. Eastern Time Feb. 25. Second, for the first time a special posthumous Delete Key Award will be given out before the shortlist appears.

Who are some past winners of the Delete Key Awards? Where can I read the bad writing that won them their awars?
The 2007 winners were Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors, grand prize; Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, first runner-up; and Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, second runner-up, all of whose winning passages were posted on March 15, 2007. The 2008 winners were Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, grand prize; Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon, first runner-up; and Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, second runner-up, all of whose winning passages were posted on March 14, 2008.
How do you select the finalists?

At the end of each review on One-Minute Book Reviews, you’ll find the best and worst lines in the book. The finalists usually come from the “worst” lines. But all of the selected examples of bad writing are typical of what you’ll find in the book that made the shortlist. No author became a finalist because of one or two bad lines.

Why are you picking on struggling authors?
First, “struggling authors” is a cliché. Strike it from your vocabulary. Second, I’m not picking on those people. Most of the Delete Key Awards finalists are rich. Those who aren’t rich are generally influential or representative of a strong trend in publishing.

When will you announce the winners of the Delete Key Awards?
Visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews will be able to comment on the finalists for two weeks, and the winners will be named on March 16. The winners are usually named on the Ides of March because Julius Caesar was assassinated then, and at least in spots, these books assassinate the English language. But March 15 falls on Sunday this year, so the awards are being announced on March 16.

Why are you announcing the finalists one at a time instead of all at once?
It will provide more entertainment for people who are bored at work. And there are so many bad writers published in the U.S., my site might crash if they all rushed over at once to see if I’d recognized their contributions to literature.

Why are you qualified to pick the winner of the Delete Key Awards?
One-Minute Book Reviews doesn’t accept free books or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, literary agents or authors whose books may be reviewed on the site. So the reviews aren’t affected by the marketing considerations that sometimes affect the decisions of others.

I also received more than 400 books a week during my 11 years as the book editor of the Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper. These included Knitting With Dog Hair, which is still in print. Critics laughed when the book was published. But Knitting With Dog Hair looks like Madame Bovary compared with some Delete Key Awards fianlsits.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. It was created by Janice Harayda, a novelist and award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor and critic for the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle.

Thanks so much for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 2, 2009

How Great Books Got Their Titles — When ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ Was ‘Angry Raisins’ — André Bernard’s ‘Now All We Need Is a Title’

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F. Scott Fitzgerald took his editor's advice, but many authors didn't.

Alfred A. Knopf urged Dashiell Hammett to change the title of The Maltese Falcon because he thought “falcon” might be hard for people to pronounce. The staff at Harper Brothers protested when Eugene O’Neill handed in Mourning Becomes Electra, a trilogy that later helped him win the Nobel Prize, because they believed the reference to Agamemnon’s daughter was too obscure. And the editor Max Perkins talked F. Scott Fitzgerald into calling his greatest novel The Great Gatsby instead of Trimalchio in West Egg (or at West Egg), perhaps fearing that few would recognize the name of a character in Petronius’s Satyricon.

Stories like these abound André Bernard’s ‘Now All We Need Is a Title: Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way (Norton, 127 pp., $11, paperback), an engaging collection of anecdotes and commentary about how well-known books got their titles. A former Book-of-the-Month Club editor who worked in publishing for 25 years, Bernard covers more than 100 books that range from classics to late 20th-century bestsellers like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mysteries, each of which has a letter (“A” Is for Alibi, “B” is for Burglar) in title.

Many of the stories in Now All We Need Is a Title involve misguided efforts by editors to overrule authors. But Bernard shows that translators, book clubs and others can also do damage. John Steinbeck loved the title of The Grapes of Wrath, inspired by a line in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” He didn’t live to see the translation published in Japan, where his widow, Elaine, found the book being sold as Angry Raisins.

This is the first in a series of posts that will appear this week on some of my favorite books.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

November 18, 2008

Where Have All the Quotation Marks in Novels Gone? (Quote of the Day / Lionel Shriver)

Have you noticed something missing from the novels you’ve read lately? Such as all the quotation marks? The novelist Lionel Shriver recently had a provocative essay in the Wall Street Journal on the perils of a white-hot literary fad popularized by Cormac McCarthy: dropping quotations marks from lines of dialogue. Shriver writes:

“Some rogue must have issued a memo, ‘Psst! Cool writers don’t use quotes in dialogue anymore’ to authors as disparate as Junot Díaz, James Frey, Evan S. Connell, J. M. Coetzee, Ward Just, Kent Haruf, Nadine Gordimer, José Saramago, Dale Peck, James Salter, Louis Begley and William Vollman. To the degree that this device contributes to the broader popular perception that ‘literature’ is pretentious, faddish, vague, eventless, effortful, and suffocatingly interior, quotation marks may not be quite as tiny as they appear on the page.

“By putting the onus on the reader to determine which lines are spoken and which not, the quoteless fad feeds the widespread conviction that popular fiction is fun while literature is arduous. Surely what should distinguish literature isn’t that it’s hard but that it’s good.”

Some writers argue that that including quotation marks is intrusive that and omitting them reduces clutter in fiction. But if you aggressively exclude the marks, can’t that be intrusive in its own way? Shriver shows that it can by quoting passages by well-known novelists in which missing quotations result in confusing, misleading or labored prose. Read her essay here (and send a link to this one to any creative writing teachers or students you know): online.wsj.com/article/SB122489468502968839.html?mod=googlenews_wsj.

Apart from the writers on Shriver’s list, others who have omitted quotation marks include Henry Shukman in his well-received 2008 novel, The Lost City. What books have you read that use the device? How well did it work? I’d love to know if you’ve found examples in any of finalists for the 2008 National Book Awards www.nationalbook.org, the winners of which will be announced tomorrow night.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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