The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Book Bits: Hatchet Job of the Year, ‘Time’ for sale? Alaya Dawn Johnson, Haruf’s ‘Benediction,’ ‘Zero Hour’

BookBitsWhile I was going to journalism school, we considered book reviews to be journalism, a mix between the editorial and the editorial column, with a focus on the worlds of fiction and nonfiction. Like any good opinion piece, reviews had to start with facts, use a standard of some kind for considering those facts, and then leave the reader with an opinion or criticism.

Now, as magazines and newspapers seek new identities in a digital worlds, we’re stuck with reader reviews which, more often than not, are opinion only without the facts or standards of judgement. Some, however, are very good. Among the good, are those which find flaws in books without becoming nasty.

hatchetGoodness knows, acerbic book/art/theater/fashion reviewers are part of the tradition. There used to be a reviewer on a broadcast network who delighted in tearing movies apart. I got the feeling as I listened that his reviews were written from an “all about me” perspective. That is to say, he wasn’t writing “A Review of Film XYZ,” he was writing a review of “Learned Me Reacting to the film.” In short, he was showing off at the expense of authors, directors, screen writers and stars.

When you read about the Hatchet Job of the Year winner (item 0), you can decide whether the review is about Aftermath or about Camilla Long reading Aftermath

  1. timeNews: Time Inc. Reportedly on the Block, by Bill Mickey – “Speculation about Time Warner selling off its publishing unit Time Inc. has been a favorite pastime of media watchers for years now. Partly because of the thrill of imagining the country’s largest publisher being spun off and partly because of revenue and operating income challenges that have nagged the unit when compared to TW’s other groups. ” Folio
  2. News: Indie Bookstores Holding the Fort – “Despite increased crumbling of the big chains and ever more encroachment from electronic fronts, book sales numbers from 2012 indicate that independent bookstores continue to be the cornerstone of the industry. From Christian Science Monitor.” – January Magazine
  3. amazonlogoNews: Sale of Used E-books Getting Closer, by Judith Rosen – “At a time when many independent booksellers both here and abroad are beginning to gain traction selling Kobo e-books, other retailers are eyeing the secondary market for e-books and other digital content. Boston-based ReDigi, which opened a used digital music storefront in late 2011, may have gotten there first, but megaretailer Amazon isn’t far behind. ” Publishers Weekly
  4. flavorFeature: 25 Writers on the Importance of Libraries, by Alison Nastasi – “We gathered a few passionate statements from 20 writers that emphasize why libraries aren’t “sentimental” institutions. See what Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, Ray Bradbury, and other writers have to contribute to the conversation.” Flavorwire
  5. ADJohnsonInterview: Alaya Dawn Johnson (“The Summer Prince”) with Petra Mayer – “Alaya Dawn Johnson has written a number of novels for adults (including the delightful Zephyr Hollis series), and now she’s venturing onto the young adult shelves with The Summer Prince, a complex science-fiction narrative set in post-apocalyptic Brazil.” NPR
  6. How To: How to Get Out of the Slush Pile – “If you want to get out of the slush pile, one of the worst things you can do is write a lackluster first paragraph. Don’t make the mistake of thinking: the really fine writing starts on page three of my story, and I’m sure they’ll appreciate it when they get there.  By page three, I’m frustrated. If you want out of the slush pile, you must prove it from the first paragraph, from the first line.” Ploughshares
  7. Quotation: “People don’t just come to you because you posted your story somewhere. You have to work the system and coax people to come to you. That means lots of social media, maybe even a newsletter. You have to act as if the book has been published and you are seeking readers to buy.” – Hope Clark
  8. benedicitionReview: “Benediction” by Kent Haruf (Alfred A. Knopf, 2/26/2013), reviewed by Tucker Shaw – “Colorado author Kent Haruf has an extraordinary grasp of quiet. You’ll find proof in his masterful new novel, “Benediction,” a gentle but forceful rendering of protagonist “Dad” Lewis’ last days in the high plains town of Holt.”  The Denver Post
  9. Viewpoint: Make a Call, Take a Meeting – “Most business is done by email these days. And why not? It’s convenient and it’s non-intrusive — you can write or respond to emails on your own schedule. I’ve noticed that many of us have even become phone-averse and actively avoid the phone in favor of email. But I think something has been lost when we do our business primarily through written, electronic communication.” Rachelle Gardner
  10. zerohourTV Review: “Zero Hour, starring Anthony Edwards and Jacinda Barrett, ABC, reviewed by Tim Goodman – “Lots of twists and turns involving Nazis, Rosicrucians and clocks make this crazy ABC drama starring Anthony Edwards worth the ride. ” Hollywood Reporter
  11. News: Survey Underway on LGBT Reading Habits and Book Discovery, by Dennis Abrams – “The Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) and St. Cloud State University Collection Management Librarian Rachel Wexelbaum are conducting an international study on the book reading preferences of 21dt century LGBT people to determine what type of books LGBT people like to read and how and where do they find the book that they like to read.” Publishing Perspectives
  12. ghostmanReview: “Ghost Man,” by Roger Hobbs (Knopf, 02/12/2013), reviewed by Alden Mudge – “The enigmatic hero of Hobbs’ thriller has a distinctive voice, a passion for translating Latin and no fixed identity.” Book Page
  13. News: Hatchet Job of the Year goes to assault on Rachel Cusk, Alison Flood – “Camilla Long’s scathing review of Cusk’s memoir Aftermath draws most blood in contest for the best bad review.”  The Guardian See Also: The review itself for The Sunday Times
  14. Contests: Imaginary Friend Press Poetry Book Contest, prise, $250 plus publication and copies, deadline, March 15, 2013, entry fee $11, Imaginary Friend Press

“Book Bits” is compiled several times a week by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of contemporary fantasy adventures including “The Seeker” (coming in March)



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