ReaderWriterVille

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Category: book industry

August is Women in Translation Month

There are many, many book prizes out there, and I follow an awful lot of them. It is heartening to see the variety of work that is being published, but it also means that I am constantly aware of how many books I’m never going to get to.

I became aware of Women in Translation Month and the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation last year. Unlike just about every other award, the prize administrators put out a Google Doc of all the eligible entries, which you can find here (dreaded PDF format). A shortlist will be announced in a few weeks and the winner will be announced in November. Of the 92 entries I’ve read a grand total of 6:

I do have a number of them on the TBR as well, and while I doubt I’ll read them this month, I’ll read and then post reviews here on the blog as I work my way through my list. On the TBR:

  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
  • Katalin Street
  • Love in the New Millenium
  • The Remainder
  • Tokyo Ueno Station

And I’ve read other books by authors listed here, notably Samantha Schweblin and Leila Slimani.

I like this prize because it combines two categories that I try to read in: literature written by women and translated literature, and I always find books I’ve never heard of but which sound up my alley.

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There was a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday. We were watching the local CBS news when it broke and the station kept going through the evening. Three people were killed, two children and a young man. The reaction that speaks for all of us came from someone running away, who asked: “This is actually crazy. How do you shoot at the garlic festival? Like who you got beef with at the garlic festival?”

Gilroy is a smallish town on US 101, about 20 miles south of San Jose. Bay Area people know it well because you drive through or past it a lot. And it is famous for garlic. You can smell the garlic all around, and if you’re taking CA 152 to get over the hills to I-5, you switch from the smell of processing to the smell of plants. But it’s still garlic. Until the bypass was built in the 1970s, the freeway ended at the town’s outskirts and you had to drive through downtown Gilroy, which on a summer weekend could take you a full hour. The garlic festival started in 1979 and features every imaginable and unimaginable way to incorporate garlic into foodstuffs. It’s an institution and we all love to make fun of it in an affectionate way. A lot of people probably don’t realize that it is a major charity fundraiser as well:

Melone approached Christopher as well as his friend Val Filice to chat about putting on the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The trio decided to make it happen and in the summer of 1979 on farm land near Bloomfield Road, the first festival was launched. Organizers projected a first-year attendance of 5,000. They were shocked when 15,000 garlic lovers showed up. Admissions volunteers were forced to reuse tickets to accommodate the unexpected masses. Soon after that first year’s overwhelming success, organizers realized that there was a need to create the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association to put on the event every year.

Nearly four decades later, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is regarded as “the preeminent food festival in America” and even has international fame, with more than 3 million people attending over the years. Each year, about 4,000 volunteers from about 125 nonprofits in Gilroy, San Martin, Morgan Hill and Hollister participate in putting it on. More than $10.6 million for worthy causes has been raised throughout the festival’s history.

“We raise the money, cover expenses, and then that pot of money goes to charity,” Reynolds said.

The shooter was a local person whose family has deep roots in the area. Which makes it even more unfathomable to me. But then all of these are unfathomable in the end, at least in terms of logic.


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The Booker 2019 Longlist

This year’s Booker Prize longlist was announced today. I recognized every book on the list, which is a first for me. Booker completists are going to find it difficult to read every book if they’re not tied into the publishing industry (at a minimum through Netgalley) and even then, I doubt anyone that isn’t Very Important to Promotion is getting the Atwood before its very prominent launch in September. The list of 13, from a total of 151 submitted or called in:

  • Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
  • Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)
  • Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)
  • Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
  • Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)
  • John Lanchester (UK), The Wall (Faber & Faber)
  • Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)
  • Max Porter (UK), Lanny (Faber & Faber)
  • Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)
  • Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
  • Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)

Of the thirteen, ten have already been published in the UK and the other three will be released between 29 August and 9 September (the Levy, Rushdie, and Atwood respectively). If you’re in the US and don’t want to pay import prices and/or wait for Book Depository/Blackwell to send you the print copies, I’ve found seven available either in ebook or hardback form.

I have five books in hand and have read a sixth (Lanny, reviewed here). The other four UK-published books are all available via KoboUK, so I’ll work my way through the five I have and then pick up the others as I go along. As in previous years, I’ll post my thoughts about the books here.

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WTF are you doing to Harlequin and Carina, HarperCollins?

[Updated below.]

I don’t follow romanceland news as assiduously as I used to, let alone participate in it, but I am still very interested in publishing as an industry and cultural force. So it was with both bemusement and horror that I took in the information that Joanne Grant and Angela James, the Editorial Directors of Harlequin Series and Carina respectively, had been informed that their positions were being eliminated and their last day at the company would be July 19. Neither executive appears to have received much advance notice, and of course the annual RWA conference, where both would have been working and have already planned for, is next week. This kind of corporate behavior is up there with investment firms and professional sports teams, two entities whose personnel policies no business should want to emulate.

While most of the romance chatter has been in reaction to Angela James’s removal, it’s a Very Big Deal for all of Harlequin and Carina. Some people speculated that it signals the end of Carina, but I don’t think so. In the Absolute Write forum thread for Carina, Sonya Heaney points out that HC did something similar in Australia:

The director of Harlequin Australia’s digital-first imprint left last year, and when no replacement was appointed – and then the imprint’s website disappeared – people were pretty sure it would fold. However, now Harlequin Australia has taken over the line fully, and the same editors and publishers for HQ and Mira are dealing with the digital-first authors.

HC hasn’t put out a statement yet that I’ve seen, and I haven’t been able to find any trade stories (e.g. Publisher’s Weekly) as of this writing, but Anna Zabo posted an excerpt from the email that went out to (some but not all) Harlequin and Carina authors. For obvious reasons people are concentrating on the removals of Grant and James, but I found the first two paragraphs of the excerpt equally interesting:

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More social media trimming

Warning: navel-gazing ahead.

I thought about deleting my Goodreads account today. GR is the last social media platform I participate in, and I’ve been active there for the last couple of years. I returned to it when I started reading a lot of literary fiction again; I swore off the romance and related genre discussions quite a while ago, but the lit fic reviewers and groups didn’t seem to have the same kinds of recurring kerfuffles (NARRATOR: they do, just not as often). But they have their own idiosyncracies, like focusing to an obsessive degree not just on group reads of awards longlists and shortlists, but also choosing to spend lots of time and energy debating the worthiness of the books on those lists.

At first I found these discussions informative and mildly amusing. Having been buried in the romance genre for more than a decade, I hadn’t really paid attention to the proliferation of prizes in the lit fic world. But my goodness, they have not just multiplied but become much more prominent in terms of promotion through newspapers, magazines, and blogs. (#notallmedia, of course; the LRB, TLS, and NYRB don’t seem to care much about which books win prizes, but they’re in the minority.)

What isn’t different is the extent to which GR readers and reviewers depend on ARCs for their reading. Just as much as genre bloggers and reviewers, they try for Netgalley and Edelweiss, as well as obtaining ARCs directly from publishers. And there are a lot of small publishers in lit fic who are increasingly important to the health of the book industry in terms of innovation, creativity, and as incubators for new or new-to-English authors. This creates an intimacy between publishers and readers which is more similar to the relationship between authors and readers in romance than I’m comfortable with. One of the reasons I stopped reviewing romance novels and requesting ARCs was that I wanted to increase the distance between the author and/or publisher and me and decrease the distance between the book and me. I still don’t take ARCs, but when I review and discuss books at GR I know that authors and editors may be listening in. Which is absolutely their right, but it makes me think twice about what I post.

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