What's been, what's to come, what's inbetween...
First up, the articles:
A writer friend, Helen Fitzgerald, alerted me to this. It's from 2004, but it holds up today about the perils of being a midlist writer (although I think I would consider ever having had a $150,000 advance a mark of success, no matter what came after): http://www.salon.com/2004/03/22/midlist//. What's more worrying, than the drop in advances, is the lack of will to publish at all.
And yet, this year's Booker shortlist is a heartening counterpoint to that, with three indies among the authors listed: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/booker-prize-2012-hilary-mantel-in-the-running-to-become-first-british-writer-to-win-the-literary-prize-twice-8125426.html.
More and more independents are scooping up the more challenging stuff that major publishers' sales depts are rejecting, and it'll be interesting to see how this situation develops. It's cheering, too, to see one of nominees, from Salt publishing on the Booker shortlist, after they got their arts council grant removed three years ago: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/may/27/poetry-salt-publishing?INTCMP=SRCH. We need our indies, probably more than ever before.
The pressure to sell is even making the big guns resort to low tactics, as this story claimed. Pan Macmillan now stand accused of posting up fake reviews of their authors:
http://www.booktrade.info/index.php/showarticle/42879/nl, and a Waterstones bookseller is similarly accused of 'trolling' a self-published author with bad reviews on Amazon: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/sep/12/waterstones-bookseller-trolling-self-published-author. The 'sockpuppet' scandal uncovered by Jeremy Duns in the last few weeks isn't going to go away any time soon. It looks like it might just be casting its net even wider....
And finally, men and mothers - separately, though.
Here's Amanda Craig talking about how Maeve Binchy was childless and that meant there were certain situations she couldn't write about as well (but at least had more time to concentrate on writing). I'm slightly perturbed - to say the least - by the suggestion we have to experience first-hand what we write about, and that motherhood offers the pinnacle of emotional experience. But I would say that, wouldn't I, not being a mother myself. Guess I'll have to make do with being a daughter, sister, cousin, niece, etc etc: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/9446816/If-Maeve-Binchy-had-been-a-mother-....html
Second up, a look ahead to titles I'll be reviewing in the next few weeks. I'm excited about all of these:
Linden MacIntyre's Why Men Lie (Jonathan Cape);
Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary (Viking);
Thomas Keneally's The Daughters of Mars (Sceptre);
Judith Flanders' The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London (Atlantic) and Rosemary Ashton's Victorian Bloomsbury (Yale University Press).
If I get the chance, I'd like to read Kevin Powers' The Yellow Birds (Sceptre), Naomi Wolf's Vagina (stop tittering at the back), Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate) and Alison Moore's The Lighthouse (Salt), just for my own interest (please can I have a busman's holiday and read them by a pool? It's been a while....)