09 December 2010

Suspicion Breeds Confidence

... and these are link sausages of very suspicious origin indeed.

  • According to the NYT — which, in this context, means it's based on highly questionable assumptions about sales figures based on an undisclosed survey method — romance, not speculative fiction, is leading the charge to e-books. The most interesting thing about the article, though, is its emphasis on covers... and the shame they cause some readers, a problem not restricted to romance (remember the "adult cover" editions of the Harry Potter books in England?). This is a great big hint concerning the conventional wisdom about cover design that nobody in the New York commercial publishing enclaves is going to get, let alone use to change self-destructive behavior: That the conventional wisdom regarding the relationship between cover design and sales needs to be reexamined based on verifiable, replicable evidence.
  • Meanwhile, the NYT also provides a perspective on the American attitude toward translated fiction, which is really no better or worse than anyone else's... at least in commercial publishing. Translation simply isn't easy, especially with linguistically-tied metaphors — how else to explain the common, English-language misunderstandings of, say, Death in Venice? The problem commercially, though, appears to be that works in translation require a champion with the power to drive sales. Although that's helpful for every book, it seems an absolute prerequisite — compare the experiences of Laura Esquivel and Jose Saramago... or Mario Vargas Llosa.
  • Which is more likely (or frightening): Living with wolves... or with Sarah Palin "snuff films"? Hey, I know: Let's combine them, with equal firepower! Since the wolves can't actually operate semiautomatic rifles, I think that means taking away all non-natural weaponry.
  • Meanwhile, China is getting ever-more hysterical in its anti-Nobel rhetoric, while forgetting that there are more than a few precedents that did not provoke similarly childish reactions from their own governments, such as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and Archibishop Desmond Tutu. Sounds to me like the bully is afraid...
  • Helen Mirren tells all about Hollywood. Nothing surprising there...
  • There's quite a bit of controversy right now about the WikiLeaks founder's arrest for some sort of sex crime. On the one hand, it's virtually impossible to avoid suspicion of the timing (and probably fact) of the exercise of prosecutorial discretion; after all, not every sex crime (of any nature) gets prosecuted at all, let alone referred to Interpol. On the other hand — crediting arguendo the complaints — it's also virtually impossible to defend the underlying alleged behavior. This is, perhaps, an excellent example of the Ezra Pound problem: How does one deal with the character flaws of someone who is better known for an unrelated social and public good (in the economic sense of "good", not the normative one)? There really isn't a very good answer... and bringing it into the even-murkier world of sexual politics and expectations guarantees that "truth" is not objectively verifiable in any event.