Thursday, February 26, 2009

The controversial Kindle 2

For those who don’t know, the Kindle 2 offers a text-to-speech component that essentially “reads” text aloud in a robotic voice. Does that infringe upon audio book rights? That, it seems, is quite the divisive issue—including within our office.

It seems that both sides not only think they’re right but think the other folks are totally missing the point. Rather than watch us fight it out between ourselves, here are two takes, one from Neil Gaiman and a response from Jason Pinter.

Neil’s take.

Jason’s response.

What do you think?

Zombies v. Vampires

Our own THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH bears this out. We still love us some vampires, though.

-- Miriam

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An exciting new deal

Check out this new deal listing on Publisher’s Marketplace:

February 24, 2009

Non-fiction: Memoir

Jerry Orbach (Law and Order, Dirty Dancing) and wife Elaine Orbach's REMEMBER HOW I LOVE YOU, the story of their enduring love and a peek inside the life and heart of a beloved actor New Yorker through his words, notes, poems and reminisces to his friends and loved ones, to Michelle Howry at Touchstone Fireside, at auction, for publication in Fall 2009, by Alison Fargis at Stonesong Press (world).

As a member of a family that lovingly refers to the late actor as “the Orbach” when discussing important matters such as putting babies in corners, I’ll be excited to see how it turns out!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

King v. Meyer

Apparently Stephen King isn't the only one who finds Stephanie Meyer's writing to be amateurish.

Lauren Abramo on film adaptations

As most people are no doubt aware, Slumdog Millionaire, based on Vikas Swarup’s debut Q&A, won Best Picture at the Oscars, against nominees The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (based on the Fitzgerald short story) and The Reader (originally by Bernhard Schlink). And the adaptation of Richard Yates’s much beloved Revolutionary Road got a few nominations as well.

But many, including the New Yorker’s Willing Davidson recently in Slate, would argue that book-to-film adaptation is often a total disaster. Davidson points to Benjamin Button, The Reader, and Revolutionary Road as crap. Having not actually seen any of those, nor Slumdog, nor in fact any movies nominated for more than a single Oscar this year, I can’t really say that I agree or disagree on those specifically, but it did make me consider how I feel about film adaptation.

I’d say that, like many people, I’ve been more disappointed than pleasantly surprised or even satisfied by adaptations of books I’ve read. That said, one of my favorite movies actually is an adaptation of one of my favorite books. Admittedly, both are, I would argue, underappreciated—-Waking the Dead by Scott Smith (which Library Journal called “about as profound as a made-for-TV movie, and of similar literary merit”—-ouch!), adapted by director Keith Gordon into a film starring Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly (which the New York Times called “painfully earnest”). But forget the critics, because I love both of them, passionately. Every once in a while I break out my DVD and force it upon unsuspecting friends, who may be lying to me when they say they enjoyed it because they know I care too much. I’ve not been willing to force the book on anyone, because that would break my heart. Both the book and the movie make me feel a certain way--as a cynical aspiring idealist, I identify with the story’s themes and characters--and both leave me teary eyed. Alone though I may be in that sentiment, I still vote for that as a fine adaptation, because I find them both captivating and moving. (Honorable mention to the significantly better reviewed Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson and the film also starring Billy Crudup. Perhaps I just have a thing for Mr. Crudup?)

In case I disprove my point that it’s possible to do it right with my unpopular choice, I thought I’d poll some of the folks here to see if they could come up with some personal favorites that might be more universally beloved:

The Silence of the Lambs is a brilliant adaptation that not only captured the spirit of the book but elevated it. Little Children is an amazing movie based on a book I felt like I should have liked but didn’t. And Adaptation is a brilliant exercise in adaptation as non-adaptation as adaptation as mind-blower.


I loved the film adaptation of The Princess Bride. Granted, the screenplay was written by William Goldman, the same person who wrote the book, which is probably why it kept its unique tone and charm.


So my nominee is To Kill a Mockingbird. Although my love for the book (which I read repeatedly when I was a kid) far outweighs my fondness for the movie (which I've seen only once), Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch was remarkable; he inhabited and amplified that character, one who remains one of my all-time fictional heroes.


Best movie made from a crappy book: The Bridges of Madison County. I loved Accidental Tourist-—lovely understated acting. Mystic River--great film, great book.


I think Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a perfect example. The book and the movie are so different – yet classically fabulous.

-Intern Bridget

The film version of A Scanner Darkly perfectly visualizes the paranoia and uncertainty of the plot of the novel by superimposing shifting animation over the actors. It’s a creative interpretation of the novel as well as excellent eye candy.

-Intern Helen

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Background Hum

For fans of his writing, the Ian McEwan profile in the Feb 23rd New Yorker, “The Background Hum,” is something of a belated Valentine.
The author of the piece, Daniel Zalewski, had the altogether enviable assignment of tagging along with McEwan in assorted pleasant settings: rambling with McEwan through fields of wildflowers (likely sharing a cup of the “very good wine” with which it is reportedly McEwan’s habit to hike); celebrating the writer’s 60th birthday at the London Zoo with Martin Amis, Michael Frayn, Kazuo Ishiguro, Julian Barnes, and 200 or so others of McEwan’s closest literary confreres; and asking all manner of serious, insightful, prying questions about the author’s approach to writing, personal history, and almost “scandalous” popularity.

I was particularly interested to note that in the interview

“McEwan twice cited Henry James’ dictum that the ‘only obligation of the novel is that it be interesting. ’ Later McEwan declared that he finds “most novels incredibly boring. It’s amazing how the form endures. Not being boring is quite a challenge.”

Although I can’t imagine that his birthday guests--many of whom are novelists--much appreciated the sentiment, his is a good point, of which his success seems illustrative. McEwan is an astute, observant, idea-driven writer, but he is also a shameless supporter of un-boring, dramatic plotlines. I‘m not among those who believe that a literary page-turner is an oxymoron, and it was pleasure to read an article in which the old-fashioned virtue of storytelling acquired so elegant a champion.


Google settlement

We've been getting a lot of queries lately about how to get paid in the google settlement. This link might be helpful to those of you who think you might be owed money.

Publishing terms

Are you ever confused by all the publishing acronyms and special terms that get thrown around? Editorial Anonymous has a great series called "Definitions for the Perplexed" that will help explain.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Editors Weigh In

Interesting Q&A in Poets & Writers by Jofie Ferrari-Adler. Editors Lee Boudreaux, Eric Chinski, Alexis Gargagliano, and Richard Nash (who used to be a performance artist!) weigh in on the state of things. (Thanks go to Pub Lunch for the link!)


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Proust Lite: Part Deux

This time, Jim McCarthy takes a crack at the Proust questionnaire.

* What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?


* What is your idea of earthly happiness?

A banana chocolate chip muffin, a liter of Diet Coke, a good book, and the time to take a nap.

* Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?

Milkman in SONG OF SOLOMON. John Ames in GILEAD. The perhaps anti-heroic Madame Bovary. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. And Billy Pilgrim. Poo-tee-weet.

* Who are your favorite characters in history?

Serial killers and egomaniacs are always interesting (and sometimes are one and the same). Elizabeth Bathory. Pope Joan. The Son of Sam. William Randolph Hearst.

* Your favorite painter?

Van Gogh (trite but true).

* Your favorite musician?

Ella Fitzgerald’s voice transcends time.

* Who would you have liked to be?

Andy Warhol. Other than that part where he got shot.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vintage Potter

This puts an interesting old spin on a new classic.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Love in the Time of Recession

Here's one category that's thriving in the U.K. I suspect the psychology's the same on this side of the Atlantic.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

She's just being Britney

I'm not saying I won't read it, or that it's a bad business move. But...

What are the chances it's as un-revealing and ultimately uninteresting as that MTV documentary she did a month or two back?

And should there be a minimum age to write a memoir?


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

XML and you

I'm fascinated by XML, and I was really pleased to find this video via the Harper Studio blog that explains what it is and why it's important very simply.  (Please turn off your speakers, though.  The music is horrible.)


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Good enough for Proust...

Over the coming weeks, we're going to offer a peek into the collective psyche of an agency. Be afraid. Agents and authors of DGLM will answer a short version of the famous Proust questionnaire (Proust Lite, if you will). To kick us off:

Miriam Goderich
  • What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Being stuck in an elevator, train, airplane or any other closed space for any length of time without a book.

  • What is your idea of earthly happiness?

Aside from staring at my kid? Lounging on a beach with a cold drink, a salty snack, a book I can’t put down and nowhere I have to be anytime soon.

  • Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?

Lawrence Durrell’s Justine, Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin, Elizabeth Bennett, William Styron’s Sophie, William Faulkner’s Quentin, E. Annie Proulx’s Quoyle, and so many others…

  • Who are your favorite characters in history?

Benjamin Disraeli, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Benjamin Franklin, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz...

  • Your favorite painter?


  • Your favorite musician?

Bach, Liszt, Frank Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Elvis Costello, Pink, Brandi Carlile (see the problem here?)

  • Who would you have liked to be?
I would've liked to have qualities of certain people (Billie Holiday's signing voice, Virginia Woolf's way with words, Humphrey Bogart's cool, Coco Chanel's fashion sense, etc.) but not all their baggage.

Losing the backlist

Yesterday, for the umpteenth time in the last couple of weeks an editor rejected a very good proposal of ours saying sorry, it's just not big enough. And I thought, if editors and publishers keep trying to build front lists with "big" books at the expense of their backlists, then when this publishing economic downturn is over, there will be no backlist in the pipeline. And that will be disastrous for those publishers who seem to have forgotten that the backlist is the bread and butter of our business.

Over the past 20 plus years since I have been an agent, we at Dystel & Goderich have built a very strong backlist and it is in times like these that we depend upon those books to get us through.

It is so unfortunate that some of the smartest people in our business seem to have forgotten this valuable lesson.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Chasya Milgrom sees the new Kindle

Well, the wait is over. This morning, after months of buzzing and anticipation, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the new Kindle 2.0 at the Morgan Library & Museum here in New York. Techno bloggers the country over got their answer as to what the new Kindle will feature. (There is now a feature called Whispersync. I’m not entirely sure what the point of it is, but I’ll admit I like the sound of it.)

My own feelings about ebooks in general are mixed. We here use Sony readers to read manuscripts (and sometimes books). Rather than schlepping hundreds and hundreds of pages around in tote bags like in the old days (ok, it was just last year), we have a slim lightweight contraption no bigger than a half sheet of paper and no thicker than a Hershey bar. This is insanely and remarkably convenient for those in the publishing industry, but I’ve been wondering how many readers will happily spend a couple of hundred dollars on a similar device. As it turns out…a lot. The Kindle has done well, selling 500,000 units in the past year. The Kindle 2.0 is expected to do $1.2 billion dollars in sales.

All this has me a bit perplexed. You see, for me, when it comes to reading published books, I can’t help reaching for the real thing. I love to flip through the pages and scan the book; to hold it in my hands. The feel of it is part of the experience. I like to watch as the pages go by. I was talking to a friend and he agreed. He also made the interesting point that especially with mysteries and thrillers, part of the excitement of the book comes from seeing the page count get lower and lower because you know you’re nearing the end and the answer is finally coming. It all makes for a broader experience.

From the looks of it, ebooks are only going to become more popular, especially now that selections are getting larger and larger. Books that are published are now automatically published simultaneously in ebook form. We’ve all heard detractors forecasting the death of the printed book before. As for me, I hope that never happens, because despite the ease of carrying hundreds of pages in the palm of my hand, nothing feels as good as the weight of a book.

Then again, as long as people are reading, I'm certainly not complaining!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Language as virtual reality

Some of us bookworms already knew this, but interesting stuff nonetheless.

-- Miriam


Knowing that our books are inspiring readers makes it all worth it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

His life will soon resemble one of his novels

Oh, Stephen King.  I both admire and fear for you.  Be sure to read the comments!
- Michael