Monthly Archives: September 2010

A Bedtime Story

Once upon a time there was an author named Christopher Pike. This author decided to write a novel, The Secret of Ka. It was not his first novel; indeed, he had been a New York Times bestselling author.

This novel was, surprisingly, not put out by the notorious vanity house, Publish America but by Harcourt Children’s Books, a large and well-known publishing house. The reason, boys and girls, that this is a surprise is because the author who presumably made it through a damn good editorial process, turns out to have made up everything. Not just the storyline and not just the characters, but the customs, the country’s capital, the country’s geography, in fact everything that should be fact.

Some of the Amazon reviewers are Turkish and took offense at the portrayal of their country. This reviewer in particular was outraged.  

The author soon found the reviewer’s revew and began to exress his unhappiness. But not under his own name.  Apparently choosing  the name Michael Brite, he began to argue with the reviewer in public.  He accused her of threatening violence. The stakes began to rise. For the author.

I’ve written about authors going bananas over reviews, even Amazon ones that are not technically reviews but reader commentaries. That doesn’t make them less valid than professional reviews, just different. But regardless of whether it is an Amazon review or a professional one no author should ever—and I mean ever—take public umbrage with the reader’s or reviewer’s opinion. Editors, agents, publicists, and other trade professionals are damned careful to tell authors that. For this reason: attacking someone because you don’t like what she said about your book is nothing short of stupid. It is also counterproductive. You think reviewers don’t learn about things like this? Think again. You, the raving–and-ranting author not only don’t do yourself any favors by striking out, you don’t do your house any either because when it comes time to notify reviewers about your next book they are at the mercy of those reviewers’ memories.

If you even get a contract for a next book, that is.

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Issue of September 26, 2010

This week we have a nice variety of pieces for you no matter where your interests may lie. Plus, you have the chance to score some beautiful handmade bookmarks from the subject of our On Marking Books column. Have a wonderful week!

Bookmarks are becoming not only an important collectibles niche, but the subject of quite a few contests and special events. One of the latter is the Bookmarks series put on by the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England. Original handmade bookmarks are entered, and then given away—and beginning this year, BiblioBuffet will be one of the distributors of these fabulous artists’ work in Bookmarks VIII: Escaping the Library System.

Ah, childhood and the love of sports. What happens when a young sports fan grows up and become the reporter and develops, along with his sports love, a fascination with the culture in which it operates? Pete Croatto talks to author Michael Weinreb about the evolution of the modern athlete and sports writing in Turning Childhood Memories into Formidable Reporting: A Q&A with Michael Weinreb.

What does food writing—blogging, cookbooks, reviews, memoirs, etc—actually involve? Gillian Polack explores that issue in her review of a new “how-to” book about just that subject, and finds, given her own professional background, it both good and lacking in Writing About Food.

When America entered World War II it immediately asked its citizens to become part of the war effort in many ways. One way was through industry—the making of war items demanded large numbers of workers, particularly women and particularly in the aircraft industry. David Mitchell takes a look at a new book that charts not just the war effort but the changes in society that those efforts wrought in Birth of a Nation.

Along with much else, book festivals are suffering economic woes. When the Los Angeles Times announced the move of its festival this week, the news took Lauren Roberts by surprise—and left her regretting that she will likely  no longer be able to attend. See why in The Book Festival and Me.

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In a recent editor’s letter, I mentioned that we would be adding a PayPal button to our site to enable our readers who wished to donate to do so easily. That button went up a few days ago. Alas, it apparently specifies an amount of $25, which was not my intention. Therefore, I have asked our web developer to remove it. I hope it will be gone by this evening. I want to apologize to anyone who was offended or who thought we were being greedy. It was not intentional.

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Adding to the BiblioBuffet Family

Among the things BiblioBuffet’s offers its readers are pages filled with links we have personally approved. You’ll find them over on the right side of our home page’s Table of Contents under “Books & More Books.” In the last couple of weeks we added two pages to this area: Art of the Book and Copyright & Plagiarism. These are the first of the new additions, with more to come soon.

Art of the Book is one of our most extensive to date. For those who love the beauty of the printed book here is where you will find links and descriptions of both blogs, websites, and even videos that involve the art in the book:  illustration, illumination, printing, typography. From an old video series on YouTube comes two short videos, one on the printing of a book, one on printing as a career. (There is also a video of the making of a modern book.) Typography fans are going to find many rich resources here, ranging from professional to silly. General Book Arts and Book Sculptures offers the opporunity to see books through eyes that aren’t necessarily reading them, and especially with the latter, are almost unbelievably beautiful. Then the Book & Cover Design section lists plenty of variety for those who simply adore all the aspectsof creating a book.

Copyright and Plagiarism came out of our personal experience with the subject. More than once we have had material stolen; fortunately, those who took it responded to our notifications. But it still left a bad taste.

I’d like to think that most of the time theft of intellectual property is unintentional. Without a full understanding of copyright law or the limits of fair use, it is easy to violate the copyright of another’s property. The good news is that the blogs and websites listed here have been vetted by us and found to be among the best on the web. Several focus on specialized areas, but most offer excellent explanations for anyone who works in the creative arts or wants to reference creative works. It is also highly recommended for teachers and students who are looking for straightforward information about the subject. But none of what is written is legal advice because as most of the linked places note, what they offer is legal information. It’s an important distinction.

We hope you find these pages helpful. As always, if you have any suggestions for new pages or for links to add to any of our pages or if you even want to tell us you enjoy them, please e-mail me. After all, you, our readers, are the reason we are here.

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Issue of September 19, 2010

It’s hard to believe it’s past the midway point of September, isn’t it? It is for me. I am already dreaming of turkey and cranberry sauce, and no doubt retail merchants are thinking beyond that to dollar signs. For most of the country, trees are turning color, the wind is kicking up, rain or snow is returning, and our reading desires are moving into a different realm. Perhaps you prefer to sink into literary classics when it’s colder, or maybe you want to feel the weight of history or have a horror novel invade your mind. But if you are feeling a little undecided, you might find that our columnists have some good suggestions too—along with a couple of provocative essays. Whatever your preference, we encourage you to follow it. And to enjoy this week’s issue.

She loves being a bi-coastal person, but Lindsay Champion misses her New York. A recent discovery of specialized publisher whose books “take readers off the beaten path and provide an imaginative entrée” into various cities, published a series of books on her first love. Lindsay found three that spoke to her passion for her favorite city, which she shares in Writing New York.

Were some prestigious American universities and academicians part and parcel of the spread of the Nazi propaganda machine and persecution of Germany’s Jews in the U.S. in the 1930s? Lev Raphael reviews a book that documents the truth of this appalling, formerly hidden history and interviews its author in Ivory Tower, Nazi Flag.

The best personal essays originate deep inside the writer yet touch on issues that stand on a common ground. Nicki Leone, a longtime bookseller, explains why she feels strongly that books more of interest to certain groups of readers than to the general public do best for both authors and booksellers in their own specialized sections of bookstores in Rainbow Days.

Freedom is on many lips these days because this is the book  according to the Holy Grail of review sources, the New York Times, and even Oprah. Such accolades tend to make other authors envious. None of it, though, is Mr. Franzen’s fault even though, says Lauren Baratz-Logsted, other writers, particularly women, do deserve some of that attention in Franzen, The Times and Chicks—Oh, My! (And don’t forget; you have the opportunity to win a copy of Lauren’s new YA novel, The Education of Bet.)

With the weather alternating between summer and autumn, Lauren Roberts’s reading inclinations are also alternating—between her current books and a hefty load of magazines that recently arrived courtesy of a Freecycle member. Which to choose? And why? She muses on that in First It’s Fall, Then It’s Summer.

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How They Write: Lindsay Champion

One of the joys of being in an editorial seat is watching an article come together. That means reading what the writer initially sends and then going through the revision process with Nicki Leone, Managing Editor. Some pieces take only one pass, others have taken several turns.

Since I am rarely involved in the editorial process until the end I have the opportunity to watch the collaborative development of the pieces. It’s a fabulous learning experience. Nicki tends to, as Lindsay notes below, ask a lot of questions and those questions are invariably insightful. They push the writers to explore areas where a reviewer needs to go or to dig deeper into their own insights to find out why they have written what they have. The process of creating a BiblioBuffet book review is different for each reviewer, but what they have in common is that they have been encouraged to think about the book in ways that stretch their minds and their critical faculties.

I read every book for review with a notebook and pen beside me. I dog-ear any quotations or passages that really inspire me and jot down page numbers of any passages that confuse me. Sometimes, when I go back to these pages, they will make more sense after having finished the book. If they don’t, I will usually mention these issues in my review. If possible, I’ll try to finish the book a day or two before I write the review so I have a chance to reflect on my reading.

Armed with a list of powerful quotations and passages, I sit down at my laptop and write the review. I type very quickly and have a stream-of-consciousness writing style, so I let my fingers fly and try not to think too much during the first draft. Generally, I can write the first draft in one sitting, but if I get stuck I’ll take a break for a few minutes and come back to it. Often, if I can’t think of a specific word I’d like to use, I’ll enter in a few question marks and come back to it in the second draft. I let the first draft sit for a few hours, then I reread it. During my first set of edits, I may rearrange a few paragraphs and mark any clumsy or confusing sentences. Then I’ll read the entire review aloud to my boyfriend, who is a fantastic editor and does a great job pointing out confusing statements and finding simpler ways to write them. Finally, I read the review one last time to check for any typos I may have missed, and pass the article along to Nicki.

Nicki does an excellent job asking questions about the review. It’s great to hear what someone who has not read the book would wonder when reading the review. She also does a wonderful job of tightening up my introductions and conclusions. When I can’t think of a solid button to use for the last sentence, Nicki usually has the perfect idea.

Sometimes I’ll send the article to Nicki in a frenzy, completely stuck and hating what I’ve written. She’s a great sounding board when I’m so frustrated I can’t look at the review anymore. She suggests spot-on solutions for the problem, even if I can only vaguely identify the article as “seeming off.” Usually we’re able to get the review completed with another edit or two, and when we both feel good about it, it’s ready to go up on the website.

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Issue of September 12, 2010

Welcome to our new issue of BiblioBuffet! We are sorry to have missed you last week but our involuntary absence at least gave you another week to enjoy the last one. And we know you are not going to be disappointed this week!

Brutality in wartime is inevitable. It is part-and-parcel of every history of war. But when the book is a memoir, the brutality becomes deeply personal. In his review of a new memoir about an Allied POW who worked on the infamous Burma-Siam railway, David Mitchell finds not just brutality but a surprising kindness and a powerful will to survive in An Island of Compassion in a Sea of Hatred.

The joy of science comes through two new books—one from the superstar  of “the new crop of those amazing science communicators,” the other a fascinating look at the Pythagorean theorem. As Gillian Polack notes in On Human Beings and Their Science, an “understanding of the world around us is increasingly important” and “short books with cool cover art, written by ultra-cool authors with impeccable academic credentials . . . give a lot more than TV specials.”

Many sports memoirs tend to be not much more than enlarged press conferences but one recent memoir by a former tennis star has proven to be so honest and compelling that it “shatters the memoir template and dances on the pieces,” says Pete Croatto, in  Portrait of the Athlete as Human Being.

Do you enjoy reading BiblioBuffet? We hope so, and we believe so because our website numbers and our Facebook fans tell us so. And we thank you for that. We also want to ask you to help us if you can, and Lauren Roberts tells you why in It’s All in the Honesty.

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