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Archives: February 2006

Bookstore Clerk Considers Fallaci Pathetic

Saturday’s LAT featured an essay by Catherine Seipp in which she passes on a story told to her by a friend about visiting San Francisco’s City Lights bookstore and asking if they had the English-language edition of Oriana Fallaci’s The Force of Reason, only to be told: “No, we don’t carry books by fascists.” (As one wag’s noted, the proper response to that would be, “Oh, good, so you’ve tossed out all of Ezra Pound’s poetry?”)

The article’s not without its offensive touches, like assuming that a man who works in a San Francisco bookstore is a “suspected homosexual” and that “by now we understand the Muslim world all too well,” but perhaps it does offer hints to the reaction Fallaci’s book, which continues the vehmenent critique of Islam that began with The Rage and the Pride, may receive when it’s published by Rizzoli in the near future. In the meantime, it certainly inspires Ed Brayton, the author of the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars, to reflect on the political and intellectual attacks on Fallaci and others: “The lack of protection for free speech on the part of our European allies has reached the point where it can no longer be dismissed as anamolous.”

The world according to Kate

It’s a special weekend edition here at Galleycat (thanks to out-of-town trips, wonky wireless and other errors of comedy) and what’s everyone talking about now? Why, Kate Braverman’s interview with the LA Times where…oh, let’s let our FishbowlLA brothers round up the choice quotes:

- “I’m not just another writer. I don’t think people understand my relationship with this city, and they don’t understand what I’ve achieved.”

- “There is not another woman writer in Southern California who sits between Bellow and Conrad next to Hemingway and Kafka. I have the most literary stature, certainly, of any woman in Southern California.”

- “I am in the canon. Those other people will never be in the canon.”

- “What has made my life in Los Angeles untenable, and made me have to leave Los Angeles, is that I am treated as a non-person in this city.”

- “I’m the best-kept secret in L.A.”

Not surprisingly, LA-based blogs are atwitter about the interview, as The Elegant Variation remarks on the “headline-grabbiness” of it and Pinky’s Paperhaus wonders “if a biographer wrote this, I could perhaps choke it down. But to put yourself between Bellow and Conrad? She’s back on the coke. Gotta be.” Of course, as L.A. Observed points out, maybe Kate’s so bitter because she’s really not a fan of the city that should give her respect (as outlined in a recent SF Chronicle interview.)

Ron reports that Braverman made similar comments during his recent conversation with her, which he decided didn’t fit the tenor of the item as published: “Frankly, I thought a writer whose debut remains in print 25 years after its original publication, and whose short stories are taught in creative writing programs, probably was entitled to feel a bit confident about herself, so I didn’t attach anywhere near as much significance to that line of discussion as the Times did. Actually, the one part of the profile that tickled me was how, while subtly undermining Braverman’s claims that she should be better known in Los Angeles, the Times neglected to mention her references to an LAT article telling the city she was dead. Because I was told the same story, and I can’t imagine Braverman wouldn’t have mentioned it to an actual Times reporter.”

Friday @ NY Comic-Con

I got to the first day of New York Comic-Con just in time to catch the “State of the Industry” panel, with top brass from the biggest players in the funny book world weighing in, and it turned out that while I was waiting for the discussion to start, I was sitting right next to Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada without even realizing until some fan came up and started giving him grief about the robot tentacles on Spider-Man’s new costume. Among the topics that came up during the panel was the role of bookstores in creating the current comics market. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the bookstores,” said Stuart Levy, CEO of TokyoPop, explaining that putting Japanese manga into shopping malls opened up a whole new audience. Quesada and DC Comics CEO Paul Levitz agreed; Quesada discussed how trade paperback compilations of popular series appeal to “casually addicted” fans who aren’t committed to a weekly trek to the comics shop, while Levitz pointed out that compilations also give what was once a disposable medium a sense of history as classic stories from every era are reprinted. “It encourages people to do work that will really stand and last,” he added. (I was able to ask Levitz very quickly after the panel about the impact the sale of Lagardere’s buying the Time Warner Book Group, and he said TWBG would continue to distribute DC’s books with no disruptions.)

The panel also included Michael Silberkleit, the publisher of Archie Comics, which will turn 65 at the end of the year and is still going strong, selling approximately 700,000 comics a month with some slightly different distribution patterns than Marvel or DC, including its presence at drugstores and supermarket checkout counters. “Parents grew up reading our books,” he said, “so they know it’s good, clean fun for their kids.” When the Q&A portion started, I asked Silberkleit what Archie was doing to leverage their characters into other media, the way Marvel and DC have in books, TV series, and movies, and he said that they’re talking to several studios about the possibility of a Betty & Veronica movie. “I’ve got to guess that everybody in this room would love to see what Betty and Veronica look like,” he quipped, at which point about 150 men cheered.

Rivka, the creator of TokyoPop’s Steady Beat, immediately raised an insightful question about how Marvel and DC can reach out to more women readers (since the readership of Archie and TokyoPop already skews heavily towards the female). The short answer from Quesada and Levitz included branching out beyond the superhero genre, though Quesada cautioned that as a publicly traded company, Marvel had to make any such innovations at a very deliberate pace to reassure investors it wasn’t abandoning its core mission. (Another part of the answer came later that day, when Marvel announced a deal with YA fantasy author Tamora Pierce.) Here’s a shot of the panel lineup: from left to right, it’s Bill Schanes (Diamond Comic Distributors), Silberkleit, Levitz, Levy, and Quesada.
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As to these other shots, at left we have writer/artist Colleen Doran holding up a Danish flag which other comics creators were going to be autographing all weekend to be auctioned off by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to show solidarity with the cartoonists persecuted by radical Islamists. Then there’s Jennifer Patton and Margaret H. Baker, who were promoting the world premiere of Monarch of the Moon, a spoof of ’40s serials produced by Dark Horse Comics’ film division and premiering Friday night. Below them is a larger-than-life Batman made out of Legos, and at right is Avery Misuraca, at the con shooting a pilot for a pop-culture news show called Gotham@Nite, hamming it up with Guano, the star of Nickolodeon’s Kappa Mikey.

This Never Would’ve Happened in William Shawn’s Day

Our friends at FishbowlNY tell us that Malcolm Gladwell has a blog, which he says will be “a very valuable supplement to my books and the writing I do for the New Yorker.”

Rich, Glamorous, and a Man of Letters to Boot

Last month, Sarah spotted an article in WSJ about Tom Perkins, legendary venture capitalist turned novelist (with some encouragement from his ex-wife, Danielle Steel). This morning, the NYT business section catches up with a short profile of their own, which underscores just how much Perkins takes the “struggling” out of “struggling writer”:

“Mr. Perkins puts his net worth in the ‘mega millions’ but somewhere less than a billion, though still enough to finance his hobbies. It has been enough to build his latest sailing yacht, which is 88 meters long, and such boats typically cost a million dollars a meter.”

Do you think he ever has literary lunches with Melanie Craft? And if so, wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall of that restaurant?

10 Days Left to Register!

Just a reminder that on Monday, March 6th, I’ll be hosting a mediabistro.com seminar on biography writing at The Studio Theater at Theater Row from 7-10 p.m. (that includes the roundtable discussion, the Q&A, and some drinking and schmoozing afterwards). Scheduled to appear so far, from left to right, are Robert Edelstein (Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of NASCAR Legend Curtis Turner), Marshall Fine (Accidental Genius: How John Cassavetes Invented the Independent Film), and Jean Nathan (The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright).

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Fantasy Trilogy to Conclude Online

Back in December, I told you about Diane Duane’s exploration of POD as a way to give fans the long-awaited conclusion to a fantasy trilogy that Warner couldn’t bring itself to publish after crunching the numbers on volumes one and two. Well, BoingBoing reports, she’s going ahead with a slightly modified version of the idea. First she’ll serialize the novel online, as long as enough people keep paying for each chapter, and when the whole thing’s done, she’ll publish trade paper editions through Lulu.com.

Freywatch Back to Square One

Page Six is breathlessly reporting the cancellation of James Frey’s two-book deal with Riverhead, complete with confirmation from “Frey’s rep.” (His Riverhead publicist for My Friend Leonard? His personal publicist?) They’re also noting that, despite all his woes, “none of the negativity has had much impact on sales of the book, which recently hit the 3 million mark.” That’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual gleeful bean-counting of each week’s dropping figures. I haven’t sat down with the Bookscan figures, but frankly I’d be curious to see whether or not the extended publicity might have actually stemmed the inevitable decline in sales that comes a couple months after your Book Club date with Oprah has come and gone.

NYT: October’s News Today!

Check out that Lawrence Van Gelder squib in today’s arts section about Flann O’Brien getting a boost from Lost when a copy of The Third Policeman appeared on screen in an October episode. “Within two days of the broadcast,” Van Gelder informs us, “10,000 copies were sold.” As it turns out, that’s pretty much what The Book Standard predicted would happen when they wrote about this shortly after the episode aired…and even that was after the September article anticipating the boom.

Preiss Imprints Shut Down Overnight

Seven months after the death of Byron Preiss, a report on the Science Fiction Writers of America website indicates that his two most prominent publishing houses, Ibooks and Byron Preiss Visual Publications, have suddenly filed for bankruptcy and were emptying out their offices last night. No further explanations accompanied the report, save for a promise that a press release would eventually be released; the science-fiction industry journal Locus also had no details beyond the basic announcement.

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