The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

BOOK BITS: ‘Black Beauty,’ Plagiarism, Donna Small, Larry McMurtry’s ‘Custer,’ Book stories for the election

I don’t agree with Edan Lepucki’s viewpoint (item 7) that literary fiction is a genre. To my way of thinking, literary fiction is traditional fiction, the kind of fiction we grew up on before novels started getting whittled down to novella-lengths and forced into marketing categories. Dare I say, literary fiction is what’s left after publishers and booksellers have sliced and diced readers and books into every possible pigeonhole, slot and category they can possibly imagine? We are, I think, so scared of making our own decisions about what we read these days, that we cannot pick up a book without knowing how it’s been tagged, labeled, categorized and genrefied. Nonetheless, Lepucki presents an interesting list of ways to figure out whether you’ve picked up literary fiction or something else.

Here are your links for Monday, November 5, 2012:

  1. News: The Bestselling Self-Published Kindle Books of 2012 – “Seventeen e-books with self-publishing origins are in Amazon’s Kindle top 100 overall for 2012 through November 1. And while these titles come from a wider variety of authors versus 2011’s top 100 overall, the total number actually had a slight decrease from the same period in 2011, which saw 20 e-books with self-publishing origins land in the top 100.” Publishers Weekly
  2. News: “The Racketeer” jumps to top spot on U.S. bestseller list – John Grisham’s new book took the number one sport on the bestseller list last week. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” dropped into second place. Reuters
  3. Feature: How ‘Black Beauty’ Changed The Way We See Horses, by Michele Norris – “NPR’s Backseat Book Club is back! And we begin this round of reading adventures with a cherished classic: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Generations of children and adults have loved this book. With vivid detail and simple, yet lyrical prose, Black Beauty describes both the cruelty and kindness that an ebony-colored horse experiences through his lifetime — from the open pastures in the English countryside to the cobblestone grit of 19th-century England.” NPR
  4. How To: Sampling, Borrowing, Homage, and Plagiarism (Writing Essentials), by Beth Hill – “I once assumed that everyone who made it through junior high (middle school) understood what plagiarism was and also understood that you don’t do it. Ever. Not at all. Not one sentence.” The Editor’s Blog
  5. Interview: Donna Small (“Just Between Friends”) with Pat Bertram – “The most difficult part about writing the book was finding the time! I work full time and have two children so finding a quiet hour or so to get something down on paper can be tricky. I’ve stopped searching for those large blocks of time and find that if I can write a sentence or two down, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something.” Pat Bertram Introduces
  6. Wolfe – Wikipedia Photo

    Essay: The Right Wolfe, by Andrew Ferguson – “Though young in spirit, I am old enough to remember when Thomas Wolfe seemed secure in the pantheon of 20th-century American writers, the equal, nearly, of Faulkner and Fitzgerald and Hemingway. He is gone from the pantheon today, and I doubt that Tom Wolfe gets asked about his kinship to Thomas Wolfe anymore. The obscurity of Thomas is an odd but impressive testament to the magnitude of Tom’s fame and, more important, the vastness of his literary achievement over a career spanning a half-century.” Commentary

  7. Lists: Literary Fiction is a Genre, by Edan Lepucki – “What, you ask, are some attributes of this genre? Read on, my friend, read on.” The Millions
  8. Review: “Custer,” by Larry McMurtry, reviewed by Chuck Haga – “Larry McMurtry calls his “Custer” a “short life,” as opposed to a full-fledged biography or history, the advantage of the short form being that “plain speaking is usually required” from the author.” Star-Tribune
  9. Feature: The Real Dead Poets Society: How America Buries Its Famous Writers, by Alexis Hauk – “Writers’ graves can be surprising places to visit. Unlike the luminaries housed at more elegant cemeteries, like Pere Lachaise in Paris (Victor Hugo, Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Richard Wright), many literary stars lie for eternity in simpler, plainer spots around this country, with traditions around how to commemorate them as widely varied as the genres they comprise.” – The Atlantic
  10. Quotation: “Not only is your story worth telling, but it can be told in words so painstakingly eloquent that it becomes a song.” – Gloria Naylor
  11. Review: “Red Country” by Joe Abercrombie, reviewed by Liviu Suciu and Mihir Wanchoo – “Overall, Red Country is not quite at the level of the author’s signature works to date, Before They Are Hanged and Best Served Cold, but by escaping from the self-imposed shackles of its western sub-genre, it is better than the limited The Heroes and consequently a top 25 of mine for 2012, with its scope almost matching the superb writing and characters that Joe Abercrombie never failed so far to produce.” Fantasy Book Critic
  12. How To: Melissa Foster: How She Did It—And How You Can, Too, by Melissa Foster – “How can you reach the masses? There are several strategies when it comes to book marketing; I am a firm believer in long-term, constant exposure leading the path. If readers are not aware that your book exists, they cannot purchase it. The following suggestions, if implemented properly, will help your book find its wings.” Kirkus Reviews
  13. Interview: Julie Klam (“Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without”) with Brad Listi via podcast – “Monologue topics: salvaging the novel, creative breakthroughs, self-immolation, public freakouts involving nudity, unnecessary trips to Israel, bleak episodes of crushing creative stasis, Board.” Other People
  14. Viewpoint: Book publishers have long been playing into Amazon’s hands, by John Naughton – “The proposed merger of Penguin and Random House might be too late for a publishing industry seemingly set on self-destruction” The Guardian
  15. Lists: 6 Book Stories That’ll Cast The Election In New Light – “With only days until Nov. 6, and plenty of election ennui going around, NPR Books dug into the archives for new ways to look at the election story. Here you’ll find accounts of past campaigns gone wrong, an examination of the science and art of prediction and an idea of what happens when the pre-presidential storyline gets a dose of sci fi, fantasy and puberty, respectively.” NPR
  16. New Title: Cedar Hollow,” by  Patty Hayner Franklin, Bill Franklin, Eric Thomas Johnson, Melinda Clayton, Samuel Joseph Franklin, Frankie Johnson, W. Michael Franklin and Tracy R. Franklin – “While Cedar Hollow is the fictional town in Melinda Clayton’s novels (“Appalachian Justice,” “Return to Crutcher Mountain” “Entangled Thorns”), the Franklin Family is lovingly real as are the flavor, ambiance and wonders in this book.” Malcolm’s Round Table
  17. How To: Answers to Reader Questions About Hyphens, by Mark Nichol – “Questions about hyphens come up often in correspondence from Daily Writing Tips readers. I’ve answered a few of the queries here.” Daily Writing Tips
  18. Essay: Jacques Barzun—and Others, by Michael Dirda – “The eminent scholar was among the last representatives of a grand literary tradition” The American Scholar
  19. News: Bookstores After Sandy: powerHouse Arena Rebuilds – “No New York bookstore suffered as much damage from Hurricane Sandy as powerHouse Arena in Dumbo: two days after 14 feet of water flooded the store, CEO of powerHouse Books and Arena Daniel Power estimated damages at $50,000. ” Publishers Weekly
  20. Obituary: Richard N. Current, “a Civil War historian whose award-winning scholarship helped demythologize Abraham Lincoln and raise Lincoln studies to a professional level of scholarly inquiry,” died on October 26, the New York Times reported. He was 100. Shelf Awareness

“Book Bits” is compiled by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of contemporary fantasy novels, including “The Sun Singer”

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6 thoughts on “BOOK BITS: ‘Black Beauty,’ Plagiarism, Donna Small, Larry McMurtry’s ‘Custer,’ Book stories for the election

  1. melindaclayton on said:

    Thanks for the mention, Malcolm. 🙂 I’m curious – have you read “Custer” by Larry McMurtry? The boys and I are just finishing up “Boone’s Lick,” as our breakfast book and really enjoying it. I’m a McMurtry fan.

  2. I’ve read a lot of McMurtry’s books, but not this one. In fact, I didn’t know he was working on a biography until I happened to see the review. I liked “Boones Lick,” though my favorite will probably always be “Lonesome Dove.”

  3. Malcolm, I love your introduction and your description of certain books as “traditional fiction.” I’ve never liked literary fiction (the way the book industry defines it, not the way you define it) — too often the way the story is written gets in the way of the story itself — but I love traditional fiction. It’s what I grew up with and what I call “all the rest.” In the library of my youth, there were sections for various genres, and then there was all the rest, but “traditional fiction” is a perfect description for the novels I write. May I steal your term?

    Thank you for mentioning Donna Small’s interview.

  4. Pingback: The Kind of Fiction I Grew Up On « Bertram's Blog

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