Christopher G. Moore’s Blog

Asia Fiction is a chronicle of the Bangkok nightlife and the dark side to Expat Life in Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, and Vietnam

Australia-Asia Literary Award

The long-list for the 2008 Australia-Asia Literary Award has been selected from 111 entries. Those on the list include, Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year,  Janet Turner Hospital’s Orpheus Lost, Malouf’s The Complete Stories and Haruki Murakami’s novel After Dark,  Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Michelle de Krester’s The Lost Dog,  Rodney Hall’s Love without Hope and Alex Miller’s Landscape of Farewell are also on the list. From the authors and titles on this list, it seems that literary fiction is alive and well in Asia.

 

It is a pity that there is no such award for crime fiction. One of the judges Nury Vittachi is a well-established crime fiction writer. It is interesting that he’s been brought in to judge this contest.

 

 

In order to enter this competition you must either reside in Australia or Asia or set your work in Australia or an Asian country, and either write or have your book translated into English and have been published in the past year. In any event, if you have a literary novel set in Australia or Asia, you might want to think about having your publisher submit for this award in 2009. 

There are three judges – Melbourne literary critic Peter Craven, Pakistani-born author Kamila Shamsie and Hong Kong based founder of the Asia Literary Review Nury Vittachi.

 

Link: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24510371-5006789,00.html

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October 22, 2008 Posted by | Knowledge | , , , | Leave a comment

BARNEY ROSSETT AND PUBLISHING IN THE GOLDEN ERA

There was never any golden era in publishing. It’s always been tough. Let’s get that straight. But once upon a time long ago there were a few publishers who looked beyond the bottom line, who fought for authors, struggled to bring books to light when the authorities would have put the publisher in jail. Barney Rosset,* perhaps more than any other living person, represents the very best of this kind of publisher in America. He is a legend and in any other country would be given the designation of Living Artistic Treasure. But truly literary people are rarely so honored in America in 2008.We live in an era of the bottom line and MBAs with sharp pencils whose vision is the next quarterly earning report. Barney wasn’t that kind of publisher. He sought quality and settled for nothing less. If the book sold fine, if it didn’t that was fine, too.

In a recent interview of literary agent Nat Sobel in Poets and Writers, Sobel, who had worked from Barney at Grove Press as a sales rep, said:

“I’ll tell you about a moment in my life with Barney that had a major influence on the things that attract me as an agent, especially these last few years. At some point I noticed that on the upcoming list was a book of poetry, a fairly substantially sized book of poetry by a Mexican poet I had never heard of, and it was going to be in a bilingual edition, Spanish and English. I went to Barney and said, “You know, Barney, I don’t think I can sell this book. I’ve never heard of this guy.” Barney said to me, “I didn’t buy it because I thought you could sell it. I bought it because I liked it and because I thought it was important.” And the book was the first publication in English of the poetry of Octavio Paz. It’s sold hundreds of thousands of copies, it’s still in the Grove Press backlist, and it was a book he wanted to publish because he loved it. You couldn’t help loving a guy who had that philosophy.”

Barney fought legal battles in America against the censorship of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. When the heat got intense, Barney simply doubled up like a great poker player, and bet he would win. And win he did. That win is something no one in publishing should ever forget. He built Grove Press into the leading literary publishing house in America, with a backlist that includes Pinter, Miller, Paz, Stoppard, and Beckett. Barney’s love was fiction. Always has been. And film.

Nat Sobel’s interview paints a bleak picture for fiction writers. With 90% of the deal for non-fiction books, fiction, especially literary fiction, may have hit an evolutionary dead end in America. There are a few writers who still have an audience for literary works; but they’d likely fit in the first class section of Thai International flights from New York to Bangkok with seats left over crew members flying for free.

*I’ve known Barney and his wife Astrid for many years. Barney’s was an early supporter of my novels and I’ve had the privilege of being the Thailand correspondent for Evergreen Review.

 

 

April 22, 2008 Posted by | Knowledge | , , | Leave a comment

Death March on Bacon and Eggs

The Times Food Critic Giles Coren had an interesting piece on how the British kill themselves by eating an English breakfast. Have a look at the amusing attack on Coren following the article. All very British.

“I’ll tell you what’s holding us back from finally getting rid of the fried English breakfast for ever: lack of education. You never see a person with a degree eating a fry-up, do you? Certainly not someone with a 2:1 or better in a humanities subject from a university founded before the invention of the iPod. That’s because they are smart enough to know better.”

Coren’s conclusion:

“Churchill himself might as well be playing Elgar in his Union Jack underpants as we read that: “A good English breakfast never lets you down.” No, it kills you. That’s what an English breakfast does.”

April 21, 2008 Posted by | Knowledge | , , | Leave a comment

COPYRIGHT PROTECTION: THE BIG GRAB BY AUTHOR’S HEIRS

Copyright law is complex. That is a sentence that few would wish to contradict. The current lawsuit involving Harry Potter author and a fan writing an lexicon of Harry Potter terms is a good example of the struggle between those wishing to expand copyright protection against those who wish to see limits placed on authors’ rights.

As a general rule, a copyright extends for the length of the author’s life and expires 70 years after his or her death. The difficulty arises because each country has its own copyright laws and they are not always consistent. Further, the length of copyright duration has been increasing over time. The time expansion is no surprise in the United States where large vested corporate industry (e.g., Disney) have successfully lobbied to extend the length of copyright to the current 70-year period.

I came across a blog which addressed the issue of Zane Grey’s heirs who apparently sought to expand protection after the expiration of the copyright period by taking out a trademark on the name “Zane Grey” on the assumption (so it seems) the trademarked name would equip them with a legal basis to stop anyone from publishing Zane Grey’s books that fell into the public domain.

The public domain is that wide-open space where anyone can tread without fear of paying a toll. Once a copyright ends, the book, article, or other written expression is said to fall in the public domain. No one publishing Charles Dickens needs to track down his heirs and pay a royalty for publishing and profiting from a new edition of Great Expectations. Zane Grey’s books are about to fall into public domain (if indeed some of them may already have done so).

In most cases, an author’s heirs may have inherited rights to the copyrighted work of the deceased author, but in the vast majority of cases those rights are like Monopoly Money. The rights have no more value than monopoly money and can’t be used to purchase anything in the real world. The commercial value of the overwhelming majority of books will have succumbed to market forces long before the author’s death. The author is often at the graveside of his or her book. It’s called a remainder bin. Many bookshops have them. Think of the remainder bin as the publisher’s funeral for books that have died (in fact there are many reason why books are remaindered and doesn’t necessarily mean it has become extinct but most of the time that is a safe bet). Thus most author’s have ample time during their lifetime to mourn the commercial death of their work. They live to see their little Nell entombed. It is only the rare author whose work will have commercial value after his or her death. Zane Grey is one such author.

His heirs now wish to continue the payments from publishers. No one can blame them for trying. Who wouldn’t like receiving a nice cheque for a publisher every six months for a substantial sum? Time to call in some creative lawyers to see if they can keep the milk train running. One of these bright bulbs must have said, “Let’s trademark the author’s name. That will give us the stick to beat back publishers who bring out new editions of the work.”

So why doesn’t the trade marking of Zane Grey’s name work the magic of extending legal protection to the underlining rights to his books?

After reading about this case on a RichardsWheeler’s blog I asked my friend Professor David Vaver, one of the world’s foremost legal authorities on intellectual property (and the recently retired Oxford IT professor) about the Zane Grey case. He’s replied at length. Here is Professor Vaver’s first reply. You can go to RichardsWheeler’s blog to find additional (and enlightening) material on this subject from Professor Vaver.

“This is an old wheeze and it doesn’t work. I do not say that the heirs may not try to use it in the way you describe, but the greatest expectations of the heirs of Charles Dickens could not stop your publishing Great Expectations as “by Charles Dickens” even if they have somehow managed to get the CD name registered (wrongly) for books by CD. Britain’s highest court said in 2003 that, for example, you can (if that is your thing) label a genuine record of songs by Bon Jovi as “by Bon Jovi” because it truly describes the performer of the contents, even if Bon Jovi is registered as a mark. A trade mark owner can stop only the use of the mark to refer to the trade origin of the goods – i.e., if you use “Zane Grey” without the mark owner’s authority to refer to the trade origin of books in the same way as one uses Penguin or Random House to refer to the trade source of books that emanate from those houses. See R v Johnstone, especially at paras. 35 ff. (www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/2003/28.html).”

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Knowledge | | Leave a comment