Friday, February 29, 2008

OBITUARY: Lloyd Fernando (1926 - 2008)

Lloyd FernandoLloyd Fernando, the father of modern Malaysian Writing in English, passed away at Universiti Hospital, on February 28th, 2008, a little before 7pm. He was 82. He leaves a wife, Marie, and two daughters, Eva and Sunetra.

English professor, lawyer, editor, and author, Lloyd Fernando, was born in Kandy, Sri Lanka in 1926, moved to Singapore when he was 12 (where he worked briefly as a building labourer, a trishaw puller and an apprentice mechanic during the Japanese Occupation to supplement his family income), and then to Kuala Lumpur where he was the the head of the English Department at the University of Malaya for 12 years before his retirement in 1978. He then read law at the City University in London and was admitted as Barrister of Middle Temple and as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.

His works include:
Novels: Scorpion Orchid (1976) and Green is the Colour (1993).
Criticism: 'New Women' in Late Victorian Fiction (1976), Cultures in Conflict (1986)(Ed.)
Anthologies: Twenty-two Malaysian Short Stories (1968), Modern Malaysian Short Stories (1982), New Drama One (1972), New Drama Two (1972)

I knew Lloyd only briefly, having met him once or twice when he was a lawyer. (The book he published in 1968, Twenty-Two Malaysian Short Stories, was probably the first book of Malaysian writing in English I bought.) After that I didn't see him for several years. Then I was shocked to see him in a wheelchair as a result of a stroke. But he was not one to forget a face. Although he was incapacitated he stared at me as if he had seen me somewhere. But he was in no condition to hold a conversation. Slowly his faculties improved and he was able to speak a
little and even smile in recognition. (Sunetra confirmed that he could actually recognise people and understood what was being said.) To me he seemed to be getting better. So it was with total shock and utter disbelief that I received the news.

Our heartfelt condolence to the family from Silverfish Books. Lloyd, do rest in peace.
You have done your bit and you will never be forgotten. It will be for us to carry on. You made have that a little easier though.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Vote for the oddest book title

PygmyLoveQueenThe Bookseller magazine has announced the shortlist. You can vote for it here now. I have. The leader at the moment is If You Want Closure ... with 35% of the votes.

It is called the Diagram Prize and is for Oddest Book Title of the Year. (Results will be announced on the 28th of March.)

I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen

How to Write a How to Write Book
Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues
Cheese Problems Solved
If You want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs
People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood

Previous winners include: Drawing and Painting the Undead and Tiles of the Unexpected: A Study of Six Miles of Geometric Tile Patterns on the London Underground. Positively thrilling.

The Bookseller

Books ATM debuts in California

GoLibraryLynn Blumenstein writes in the LibraryJournal, about a self-service books ATM called the Library-a-Go-Go machine in California. It is to be installed by the Contra Costa County Library (CCCL) in a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) location, in April before the fare gate. The report says that CCCL is planning 'four stand-alone dispensing units around the county, part of a model program funded by the California State Library, Bay Area Library Consortium, and Baker & Taylor'.

The Library-a-Go-Go units are made by a Swedish company Distec (Go Library) and have been used in a Stockholm library. It connects to a library network, authenticates library cards, and records transactions. Each unit can hold 270-400 books depending on the book size.

Library Journal

Paris booksellers move out of the city

City of BooksThe picturesque little village on the Loire River, La Charite-sur-Loire, is now known as the 'city of books’\'. Unable to afford the sky rocketing rents of Paris, one of Europe's priciest cities, many of its booksellers have gone south in search of a less expensive location two hours from the capital.

The report says, when Christian Valleriaux, a specialist in rare books, became the first Parisian bookseller to move in 1992, having had enough of paying such high rents, most of his regular customers -- over 50 percent of his business -- followed him, but he also sells on the Internet or by catalogue.

Other book dealers in Paris soon followed suit. Today, the village of 5,000 has 12 specialty book stores focusing on old and rare books, original French typography, calligraphy and bookbinding.

Now known as 'the city of books', it has regular book sales held in the centre of the city on the third Sunday of every month. There's also an internationally known salon of old books in July and a book art fair in May.

In 1992, the city was completely dead. Now there are bustling cafes, art galleries, gourmet boutiques, wine shops and lots of book stores. It is now a tourist dive. And check out some of the names: "Le monde a l'envers" (The Backwards World), "La, ou dort le chat," (There Where the Cat Sleeps), and "Les palmiers sauvages" (The Wild Palms).


Narnia beats Harry Potter as favourite children's book

LionWithWardrobeSophie Borland writes in The Telegraph. In a poll of the best children's books of all time, Harry Potter was beaten by a host of traditional classics. The highest Harry Potter finished sixth behind The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Famous Five, Winnie the Pooh and The BFG.

The poll was conducted among 4,000 parents in the UK to select the top 50 children's books. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis, was first published in 1950, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle in 1960 and Enid Blyton's Famous Five series, first written in 1942. Roald Dahl was the favourite author with six of his books in the top 50.

Here are the top ten books:

1 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis

2 The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
3 Famous Five series, Enid Blyton
4 Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
5 The BFG, Roald Dahl
6 Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, JK Rowling
7 The Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
8 The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
9 Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
10 The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson

The Telegraph

Read the full list here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Big Fat Indian Advance

PakashMehrotraIn a story called Words Worth Millions, Sheela Reddy writes in the Outlook India, "Something funny is going on in the famously tight-fisted circle of Indian publishers. For the past few months, they have been punting dizzily on manuscripts by untried Indian authors, coughing up millions of rupees in advance royalties."

She also says that literary agents accustomed to heading west towards UK and the US with their clients' manuscripts are now heading back.

Two books that have recently attracted attention for the advance they have received are Palash Mehrotra's The Butterfly Generation and Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger.

The Butterfly Generation: A Personal Journey Into the Passions and Follies of India's Technicolor Youth is described as non-fiction: part memoir and part travelogue, and is said to be a book about two Indias -- the socialist and the global "and the urban young today." Palash Mehrotra is a 32-year-old former schoolmaster. He has been paid an advance of Rs 800,000.00 (a little over USD20,000) for a book proposal after a bidding war between Rupa, Penguin and HarperCollins. He has now started to write the book.

AravindAdigaThe White Tiger is fiction, "A slim novel about India’s globalisation in the form of a letter from a village-born driver to China's premier" has received an advance of Rs 1400,000 (over USD35,000).

One year ago all Indian publishers could hope for was to grab Indian rights for their own Indian writers at Frankfurt or London Book Fairs like 'beggars' for 'next to nothing.' What a difference a year makes.

Others are:

  • Tarun Tejpal - The Story Of My Assassins - US$56,000 (Rs 2200000)

  • Dev Anand - Romancing With Life - US$38,000 (Rs 1500000)

  • Nandan Nilekani - Imagining India - US$35,000 (Rs 1400000)

  • Amitav Ghosh - Sea Of Poppies Trilogy - US$110,000 (Rs 4400000)

  • Shrabani Basu - Victoria & Abdul - US$16,000 (Rs 630000)

Outlook India & SajaForums

Pirating your own book

CoelhoAndreas Tzortzis writes in the Newsweek Web Exclusive:

"The Brazilian author has sold more than 100 million books, which include 14 short story collections and the novel The Alchemist. He has been a fan of the Internet since the early 1990s. He spends at least three hours a day online, writing e-mails back and forth with his readers ... Coelho's online activities also include a somewhat nefarious one: he likes to promote pirated copies of his own books."

He has "since 2005 ... been directing his readers to an online site where they can download his books, in languages from German to Japanese, for free."

The author is quoted: "I always thought that when, at the beginning of your career, you strive to be read, you can't change your mind later and become greedy about it."

He also says, "Publishers have a tendency to try to protect the content. It's a lost battle."

One school says, piracy promotes the sale of actual books. So he could simply be as extremely shrewd marketer. Or, he could be trying to start a new religion.

His publisher claims to know "nothing about Coelho's online activities."



NEWS: Another Online Literary TV Program

Motoko Rich writes in the New York Times that "... Daniel Menaker, who left his post as executive editor-in-chief of the Random House Publishing Group in June, is moving online in March to be the host of a new Web-based book show."

The online show will be called Titlepage and, reportedly, will feature a discussion between Mr Menaker and four authors. The first episode is scheduled to be online at on the 3rd of March. It is obviously easier to post videos online than to get a television show.

Only a fortnight ago there was a report of Borders starting their own online television channel at the content for which is now available at which is owned by Simply Media. (See below.)

New York Times

Edinburgh Festival a terror target?

Shan Ross writes in The Scotsman, "One of Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officers has warned it is only a matter of time before Edinburgh is subjected to a devastating attack."

Police in Scotland's capital say that Edinburgh International Festival, which attracted 380,000 visitors last year, was an "extremely attractive" target for terrorists.

If they have any specific information, the report does not say.

The Scotsman

Revenge of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys!

James Hall of The Telegraph reports that France has ordered Amazon to pay 1,000 Euros a day to French Booksellers Association, Syndicat de la Librairie Francaise (SLF) "... after it defied a Paris court ruling banning it from delivering books for free in France."

A 1981 French anti-discount law, called the Lang Law, has set the maximum discount a book retailer can offer his customer at 5%. A Paris court has ruled that the free delivery service offered by violated this law because effectively this amounted to more than a five percent discount.

The report says that "... Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder, has decided to defy the French courts in an attempt to change what he sees as a restrictive practice … (and) has urged French customers to sign a petition to force a change to the law ..."

Yes, that’s the way to do it. Big retailers should gang up, undercut all these nuisance struggling small indies and drive them out of the market and throw all their employees out of jobs, so the French can learn what it is like to have a subprime crisis of their own.

The Telegraph

Paying Kids to Read

Iain Sullivan writes for the Associated Press: "Agustin Jimenez, Socialist mayor of the central agricultural town of Noblejas, is recommending the town's children be given a euro for every hour they spend reading in the local library."

Noblejas is described as "an economically strong town of some 4,000 inhabitants". But the dropout rate is 80 percent. A recent study by the European Commission showed that 31% of Spain's students were dropping out of school early. As for reading they were also the worst in Europe with 21% of 15-year-olds having difficulties, compared 19.8% average in the rest of Europe.

Obviously, the reactions are mixed. I would go for the Euros! What about you?

Associated Press