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Wednesday, Sep 8, 2010
Historically, so-called women’s fiction is a bit of a mess. The Bronte sisters, studied in literature and MFA programs the world over, were forced to publish under male pseudonyms, while authors such as Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott, who enjoyed some success in their respective periods, were still condescended to.

When I was in high school, I read an essay about the importance of women writing in first person. I can’t recall the exact words, or even the anthology I read it in, but the gist of it was this: third person is considered more literary, and the attitude from which men write, because men wish to be hailed as literary. Women write in first person, not because they do not wish to be literary, but because to write ‘I’ and be recognized as a woman, is still a fresh and beautiful thing.


Recently, authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner took on the New York Times in a fairly public manner, decrying the paper as sexist for routinely skipping commercial reviews in favor of literary ones. Here’s what Jennifer Weiner had to say, from their interview with Jason Pinter, over at The Huffington Post (26 August 2010):


“I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book—in short, it’s something unworthy of a serious critic’s attention.”



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Friday, Aug 27, 2010

Random House has reached a deal with Andrew Wylie, controversial head of The Wylie Agency, concerning thirteen titles the book agent released in e-format exclusively for Amazon.com under the digital imprint,Odyssey Editions. Wylie shocked the publishing book world last month with his announcement that 20 books from the impressive stable of talent the agent has under contract were going to be distributed exclusively for Amazon’s Kindle. The move, immediately attacked by Random House, highlighted tensions over author royalties for e-books and ambiguities over digital content in contracts that were written prior to rise of electronic publishing. While Wylie, received support from the Author’s Guild, he heavily criticized by industry insiders and publishers who claimed that his actions violated existing agreements (See previous RE:Print post for more on the controversy).


Following the joint statement of the agreement, Wylie removed the disputed titles, which included Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Salman Rushdie’s Midnights Children, leaving Odyssey Editions with only seven remaining titles. According an article on The Wall Street Journal, Random House intends to the release the books in e-format next week.


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Thursday, Aug 12, 2010
As traditional print media is being slowly but irresistibly subsumed by electronic competitors, powerhouse agent Andrew Wylie argues that writers should get a larger cut of e-book sales. But is Wylie, in reality, seeking to destroy paper-based publishing houses?

Andrew Wylie, agent and head of the prestigious Wylie Agency, has been no stranger to controversy during his long career in the world of books. Lauded by some as a champion of writers and criticized by others as a “jackal” and “provocateur,” Wylie has developed a reputation that begs for comparisons with the character Ari Gold from HBO’s Entourage. Although dogged by charges of client stealing and other unethical practices, Wylie has come to represent over 700 hundred writers, including Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, Dave Eggers, and the estates of Jorge Luis Borges, John Updike, and Norman Mailer.   


Last month, Wylie caused an upheaval in the publishing world with his announcement that he had given the exclusive digital distribution rights for 20 books whose authors he represents to Amazon.com for release on their Kindle electronic reading device. The books, which will be released through a new company established by Wylie, Odyssey Editions, are reflective of his reputation as a advocate of writers who have made substantive impacts on the world of literature as opposed to just being commercially popular. Included in the list of newly available e-books, priced at just $9.99, are Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Invisible Man, and Updike’s Rabbit series. Although not a fan of the Kindle originally (Wylie once stated in an interview, “I have a Kindle. I used it for an hour and a half and put it in the closet.”), this move shows the Wylie is not the type to let his personal hangups get in the way of his larger objectives.


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Friday, May 14, 2010
A dispatch from the RT Booklovers' Convention

I was attending the RT Booklovers’ Convention in Columbus, Ohio hoping to report on one of the many e-book seminars for the PopMatters Re:Print blog. Somewhere along the way I ended up competing in a male modeling competition.


The Mr. Romance model contest, put on every year by RT Book Reviews magazine and Dorchester Publishing, is a fan favorite at the annual RT Booklovers’ Convention (one of the largest romance novel conventions in the United States). Every year, up to twelve hunks compete for the chance to be on the cover of a Dorchester romance novel.


Through a bizarre turn of events, I ended up trading in my “author” badge for a “Mr. Romance contestant” badge. It’s a long story that will be told another day, but suffice to say that my doughy writer’s body and pale complexion were definitely out-of-place amongst the musclebound and tanned male models who I was “competing” against for the title of Mr. Romance 2010.


The most surreal moment occurred on the final day of the convention when I found myself sitting at a table next to paranormal author Richelle Mead. We Mr. Romance competitors were signing beefcake pictures of ourselves; Richelle was signing books. She was on the shortlist of authors who I had wanted to meet at the convention. Now that I was seated three feet away from her, I couldn’t bring myself to ask her to sign a book for me—I was too embarrassed by the stack of topless photos that I was signing.


As a soon-to-be-published author (my first non-fiction book, Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, will be released by Harper Perennial next year), I never expected that my first signing would be of half-nude photos of myself!


Richelle Mead signing at the 2010 RT Booklovers\' Convention in Columbus, OH

Richelle Mead signing at the 2010 RT Booklovers\’ Convention in Columbus, OH



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Monday, May 10, 2010
Postmodern novelist and essayist Chuck Palahniuk is the literary equivalent of a shock jock.

Postmodern novelist and essayist Chuck Palahniuk is the literary equivalent of a shock jock (a title once puzzlingly bestowed upon me by Ishmael Reed after I dismissed in a Deconstruction Zone column an anthology he had edited), often proudly boasting to the press about the dozens and dozens of audience members who have fainted at the lurid and grotesque imagery he invokes in public readings from novels like Haunted.


The acclaimed author of Fight Club (1999) does not take criticism gladly; when Laura Miller of Salon.com penned a withering critique of Diary on 20 August 2003, reducing the author’s work to the “half-baked nihilism of a stoned high school student”, a hostile and impetuous Palahniuk wrote a letter to the editors of the online magazine inviting critic Miller to “just shut up” because, you know, he’s just so darn brilliant and until Miller can “create something that captivates people” she has no business expressing her open opinion about the merits of his work.


Well, let’s see Palahniuk bully his way out of this one …


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