Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

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Twain considers criticism

August 7, 2011

Mark TwainSunday Magazine brings us a 1911 episode in Mark Twain’s life: Dealing with bad reviews.

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Never take “No” for an answer

May 26, 2011

Let us all raise a glass:

Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times“Zounds, lad, no need to kill yourself now!” a phantom from the 19th century tells the central character in Dick Wimmer’s first novel, “Irish Wine,” reassuring the struggling artist that someday his paintings will hang in the Tate Gallery in London.

But while the fictional painter, Seamus Boyne, was dismayed because of a poorly received art exhibit and had parked his car on railroad tracks when he heard that ghostly voice, Mr. Wimmer was the epitome of persistence.

“He was never going to give up,” his son Ceo said. “Very driven.”

Mr. Wimmer, who after 25 years of submissions and more than 150 rejections finally got that book published — to very positive reviews — died on May 18 at his home in Agoura Hills, Calif., his son said. He was 74.

Saying that agents and publishers had spurned him 162 times, Mr. Wimmer laid claim to being the most-rejected published novelist in history. Finally, in 1989, “Irish Wine” was published by Mercury House.

(Via The New York Times; photo credit: Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times.)

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Whoops! HarperCollins apologizes for printing errors

October 4, 2010

Jonathan Franzen - photo by Greg PhillipsOne can only hope, each time we reach a new zenith, that this will be the moment when everything changed.

You know … hope.

Anyway, Julie Bosman reports:

In a case of “Freedom” meets “The Corrections,” Jonathan Franzen’s British publisher has apologized for a printing error that left dozens of spelling and punctuation mistakes in the first edition of his new novel.

About 8,000 copies of the edition containing errors were sold before the mistakes were discovered, said Susanna Frayn, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins, the British publisher. The company has rushed to reprint the book and has promised replacement copies to customers who purchased the flawed edition.

Two anecdotes from my own library: I have a 1987 hardcover edition of Clive Barker’s Weaveworld, published by Poseidon Press, that includes an erratum page (II.7.iv; pg. 300) restoring three and a half paragraphs of omitted text. And then there are the books of Steven Brust, one of my favorite authors in the history of literature. The second volume of the Khaavren Romances (Five Hundred Years After) includes in its afterword an amusing tale about how the fictional author of the story threw a tantrum in a tavern while on a book tour, railing against his publisher for having refused to correct a one-letter misprint, the difference between “not” and “now”. In the context of some cosmic joke, then, I found my eye drawn to a ludicrous number of typographical errors and omissions, including one bit in which the dialogue switches characters so that an emperor is answering to his general, to the point that it seemed very nearly deliberate.

I always wonder about the red and green lines—

(Real time digression: If I ever want to hear from my mother, all I need to do is start writing a blog post, and rest assured that she will call before I’m finished. Not that I’m complaining, but … well, yes, I do digress.)

—that we see in our word processors. Is this how editing goes these days? If there’s no red or green line, it passes muster? To the other, what counts as a spelling error between British and American English? Oh, hey, that’s right … we have some editors we can ask.

At any rate, Jonathan Franzen won the National Book Award in 2001 (The Corrections), and was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer. So, yeah, it probably is a bit embarrassing for HarperCollins to feel the need to come out and apologize for a sloppy printing. Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HC UK expressed her appreciation for Mr. Franzen’s “patience and utter professionalism over this”.

What else can he do? Or is there a Christian Bale-type temper tantrum waiting to pop up on a paparazzi site?

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Proofreading in the twenty-first century

May 2, 2010

Holy somethingApparently romance novelist Nora Roberts has entered the hospitality business. Tammy La Gorce reports, for The New York Times:

Until about a year ago the stereotypical Civil War buff — male, middle-aged, History channel addicted — might have had trouble selling his less-than-enthusiastic wife on a weekend getaway to this small town in western Maryland, best known for its proximity to Antietam National Battlefield, site of the bloodiest one-day battle in the Civil War, in 1862, with close to 23,000 casualties.

But the best-selling romance novelist Nora Roberts may have helped make those husbands’ selling job a lot easier. On Valentine’s Day of last year she opened Inn BoonsBoro, a 1790s-era, eight-room boutique hotel meant to cater to women’s romantic sides.

Rooms are named for famous literary couples, including Marguerite and Percy of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and Jane and Rochester from “Jane Eyre.” Each suite has its own signature scent. One of the imaginative package deals, called “Girl Trip,” includes certificates for facials at nearby South Mountain Day Spa. Ms. Roberts spent $3 million renovating the three-story inn.

“When we started, I said, ‘I want every room to be unique and beautiful,’” Ms. Roberts, 59, said. “But I also wanted a woman to come here and be comfortable spending time just hanging around. It should be welcoming — a place where she could put her feet up and not be afraid to touch things.” Despite the inn’s romantic, luxurious ambience, Ms. Roberts said her intent was not to detract from the town’s place in America’s history but to complement it. “What people should do when they come is relax and sample Boonsboro and all its history, especially Antietam,” she said. “You can’t walk through there without it grabbing your heart.”

There may be no better time to do so than in May.

In truth, the Nora Roberts angle is just a boon. (Who doesn’t enjoy promoting bourgeois romantic tourism?) Rather, I was drawn to the article when I noticed a typographical error in my NYT RSS feed. Surely enough, it’s right there, in the caption below the picture:

The state of proofreading in the twenty-first century

I know. It’s petty. But one thing I can honestly say is that my affection toward words actually printed on paper holds steady as electronic publications effectively but falsely assert time and again that the only good proofreader is apparently a computer.

And, yes, I know, it infects printed books, too. But just let me have my petty thrill. Reality suffers when we rely too greatly on electronica. No red line? No green line? Must be okay, then. Right? Right? No need to actually read what you’re proofreading; it’s the twenty-first century for Dog’s sakes!

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(Can anyone promise perfection? No, but we’ll certainly try. The Southern California Writers’ Conference includes many fine proofreaders and editors among its talented contributors. Don’t miss the Eighth Annual Los Angeles Conference slated for Newport Beach, September 24-26, 2010. And now is a great time to save $75 on your conference registration by signing up before June 1! So come on out and meet some really great people who are also really good at what they do. They’re merciless, though, and will actually tell you when you’re spelling words wrongly.)

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Green reading

May 2, 2010

Jenny Mörtsell, via New York TimesEarlier this month, in the New York Times, Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris asked the important question for readers who can’t settle their minds until they have an answer: Am I being green by saving trees and using an e-reader?

And the answer apparently seems to be, “No.”

So, how many volumes do you need to read on your e-reader to break even?

With respect to fossil fuels, water use and mineral consumption, the impact of one e-reader payback equals roughly 40 to 50 books. When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between.

All in all, the most ecologically virtuous way to read a book starts by walking to your local library.

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Illustration by Jenny Mörtsell for The New York Times.

(Also, something goes here about Newport Beach in September, and a $75 discount through June 1.)

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Book to the Future?

May 2, 2010

From the New York Times’ Paper Cuts: A Blog About Books:

Ander Monson’s ‘Vanishing Point’: The Future of the Book
By JENNIFER B. MCDONALD

The writers participating in The London Review of Books’s panel on Saturday speculated about the future of reading and writing, but they had a slightly harder time trying to imagine how the Book of the Future might change the reading experience. John Lanchester predicted that if a book were to interact with the Web, it would most likely resemble a video game.

But maybe the Book of the Future, as long as the future includes print, will look something like Ander Monson’s book of essays, “Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir” (reviewed for us by David Shields on April 18).

>>read more

–msg

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Inspiration and other notes

April 14, 2010

Seed Cathedral, via DezeenIn case you need something to help you pass the time on a Wednesday afternoon:

And now, just because it hides the stitches (boring story), a picture of me with a beard:

BD in b/w

And I wasn't even drunk ... when I fell, at least.

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Inspiration/Digression: Artistic considerations

March 29, 2010

Chinua Achebe (photo by Michael Prince)And how about some interesting (or not) artistic distractions?

And now, a young guitarist makes musician Tanita Tikaram jealous:

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Inspiration/Digression: Cool Sciency Stuff

March 28, 2010

A Deinosuchus lunges at an Albertosaurus in an artist's conception. (Raul D. Martin)Cool sciency stuff for stories

And now, for hopefully obvious reasons:

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Tear it off

December 22, 2009

So, hey, like, just for kicks: Joe Queenan with a primer on wrecking your books:

… I simply could never get physically comfortable with the book. The problem was the packaging. My copy, which I’d picked up at a rummage sale, was a traditional Bantam Classic, but the cover was a doctored photo from the 1993 Walt Disney film version of the novel. It was typically nauseating Disney iconography, depicting a promiscuously cute little Huck, played by a very young Elijah Wood, and a surprisingly dapper Jim (Courtney B. Vance) sashaying through the woods into a gorgeous synthetic sunset. Tucked inside were pictures of Huck sucking on a corncob pipe, dickering with the Duke and the Dauphin, posing as an English valet. Every time I picked up the book, my eyes were lured back to those fulsome photos of Sugarplum Huck. I do not know what Huck looked like as Twain imagined him, any more than I know how F. Scott Fitzgerald envisioned Jay Gatsby. But Gatsby cannot look like Robert Redford, and the most memorable character in American fiction cannot look like the diabolically cuddly Elijah Wood. Cannot, cannot, cannot.

Illustration by Leanne ShaptonI ditched the Bantam edition of “Huck Finn” and when I returned home fished out a second copy I owned. But the experience was exactly the same. The cover of the Signet Classic was a drawing of a ruddy-cheeked scamp, buck teeth prominent, clutching an apple, with a perky little newsboy tam cocked at a saucy Depression-era angle. Here Huck bore an alarming similarity to both Jerry Mathers of “Leave It to Beaver” and Britney Spears. Revolting. So once again my efforts to polish off this peerless classic were stymied. I could never get more than a few pages into the book before the illustration on the cover made me sick.

Or, as the caption reads:

What to do about an ugly cover: 1. Brown bag it; 2. Reverse it; 3. Try spandex; 4. Use house paint; 5. Duct tape it; 6. Tear it off

Ah, the Sunday Book Review.

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