Friday, April 27, 2007

Expert tracker

I'm indebted to Peter Kirkpatrick, president of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature for finding this little gem on the HarperCollins website. Kirkpatrick was writing a piece for the excellent Australian Author on the changing fortunes of Australian literature when he thought he might search for Katherine Susannah Prichard's backlist online. Only one KSP book, Coonardo, remains in print but Kirkpatrick was most excited to see an invitation on the website to sign up for HC's AuthorTracker service. 'Want to receive notice of Katherine Pritchard's [sic]new books, tour dates, and promotions? Sign up now!' encouraged the website blurb. An author tour from KSP would truly be an event for the headlines given she died in 1969.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chain reaction

With the Australian Book Industry Awards almost upon us, there has been much debate about the Chain Bookseller of the Year award. What constitutes a chain bookseller exactly? Last year, Melbourne's five-store independent group Readings scooped the award to the surprise of many and the bemusement of owner Mark Rubbo, whose business is usually a front-runner for Independent Bookseller of the Year. Clearly, it wasn't going to happen twice. The definition of 'chain' has now been changed to exclude Readings and other regional chains, and to ensure the award goes to one of those large national book retailers for which it was created in the first place. No doubt one of Borders, Angus & Robertson, Collins, Book City or Dymocks will be 'thrilled and surprised' when they win this year's award.

Dickens theme park

Satire died, according to Tom Lehrer, the day Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This is probably so, as the opening of the world's first Charles Dickens theme park at the end of this month could only happen in a post-satire world. That's right, dear reader, the author of Great Expectations and Bleak House now has his own theme park - Dickens World - in Kent, England. Cobbled streets, gas lamps, costumed actors and quaint Victorian shops have been combined with water rides, a children's play area called Fagin's Den, a 'Dickensian' shopping mall and a 'haunted' Scrooge's house to produce what the venue's website describes as 'A New Themed Entertainment Visitor Attraction Based Upon the Life, Times, Books and Characters of Charles Dickens, Our Most Famous and Enduring Author'. There's no mention of whether this $150 million monstrosity will have something as quaint and old-fashioned as Dickens' novels for sale. Will Australia be next? Bryce World can only be a developer's long lunch away from conception.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Crime and publishing

Time was when a nice little book deal could be relied on to bring comfort to a criminal or n'er-do-well in their retirement. No more. Now they can't be seen to profit from their misdemeanours, which rather puts a dampener on chequebook publishing and journalism and (dare I mention something so unfashionable) perhaps even freedom of speech. Not only does it mean we've probably seen the last of publishing phenomena like Chopper Read, but I hear the courts are now trying to get their hands on the $350,000 Pan Macmillan has paid to Schapelle Corby (but not, thankfully, the profit Pan Mac itself has made out of her book). My guess is the cash has already left the country, but they could always try checking the baggage at Sydney airport just in case.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Five Mile Press bjorn again

Introduced as a man dedicated to the principle of never using a piece of artwork only once, Five Mile Press's outgoing owner David Horgan was looking pretty pleased with himself last Friday night, according to my sources. Having sold off the company to Swedish giant Bonnier, his pockets are stuffed with kronor, and consequently he treated staff and friends to a big bash overlooking Melbourne's scenic Albert Park Lake. Aptly, Horgan was presented with a limited edition book about himself as he laid down the 'subtle' changes that will be implemented by the firm's new Swedish owners. As you can see from the attached photo, hair is now to be compulsorily blonde, all future company cars are to be Volvos, office furniture will be delivered flat-packed from Ikea, pickled herrings will be served in the staff lunchrooms, and the FMP boardroom is to be converted into a sauna so that meetings can be conducted either 'naked or wrapped in a fluffy white towel.' Also in keeping with a great Swedish tradition, there were a large number of sore heads the next morning, by all reports.