Monday, 29 August 2011

When every Edinburgh show gets five stars, rating-system inflation has won

'The star rating system that is now ubiquitous across all cultural criticism began on the Edinburgh fringe. With the Scotsman running hundreds of reviews throughout August, it had to find a way to make certain shows stand out amid the newsprint. Star ratings did the job very nicely. But are all stars equal, and do they mean anything at all outside the three weeks of the fringe?'

New Economics Rewrite Book Business

The economics of the book business are changing so rapidly the industry barely looks like it did just six months ago.
The era of the book superstores, with their big windows and welcoming tables stacked high with books, has gone into decline. Many of the country's most enthusiastic readers have already switched to less-costly digital books. Amazon customers now buy more Kindle titles than hardcovers and paperbacks.

What We Do to Books

'There has always been a lot of discussion about the effect that reading books has on us. Far less attention has been paid to the effect that we (the readers) have on them (the books). I don’t mean on the reputations or royalties of the authors who wrote the books but on the actual physical objects themselves.' - Geoff Dyer

Revaluing the Book: An Interview with Richard Nash

Richard Nash / Internet Archive

Richard Nash, former head of Soft Skull Press, insists that book publishing needs to return to the simple task of connecting readers and writers. He has created a social-networking platform called Cursor, which allows writers to form literary communities and post their manuscripts for members to read and react to. Nash also helms Red Lemonade, Cursor’s first imprint, which publishes work selected from its site. Matt Runkle spoke to Nash recently about publishing as manufacturing, the closing of Borders, and the tribalism of literary communities.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

New York City | Literary Guide

"It is impractical to attempt to offer a comprehensive literary tour of New York City. I can, however, provide a comprehensive tour of my own literary New York—which means it is completely self-absorbed and subjective. See? I am a writer."


My darling poetic friend has fallen in love with a singer who lives in New York, she is visiting him AGAIN right now, so I sent her this link. I am also putting it here for when I visit her there... marriage currently extremely likely.

The book launch letdown

"Meanwhile, we may want to discuss the fact that book launches are always fairly horrible, even setting illness aside. And this isn't just my opinion – I have checked with other writers and creative sorts, including actors – whom you would think were simply gagging for engagement with the wider public – and the feedback has been comfortingly similar. It seems that for many of us, representing our work in the wider world always feels both disappointingly anti-climactic and weird. At a certain level you're aware that, even if you could call yourself an artist at other times, you are currently much more of a pimp. And, given that you're halfway pimping yourself… well, your job description gets rapidly less appetising."

No Place Like Home

"At the risk of stating the obvious: isn’t it strange, I mean, this thing about being a human being breathing and thinking and sensing and dwelling always, always, in a place?"

CAN reading fiction make you a better person?

Back From the Dead: The State of Book Reviewing

"Five years ago, when Twitter was just another start-up and the iPad was a gleam in Steve Jobs’s eye, the state of print book reviews in this country was undergoing a spectacular and noisy collapse. Newspapers that were failing financially killed off their stand-alone print book sections, or folded them into the entertainment, ideas, or culture sections. They fired staff book editors and critics and cut freelance budgets. Hundreds of newspapers shut down altogether. Many magazines stopped covering books, and the literary quarterlies, for decades the champions of poetry and literary fiction published by independent presses, faced funding challenges as well."

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Unbalancing Act: How literary periodicals flail to correct gender inequity

If I were a man, and cared to know the world I lived in, I almost think it would make me a shade uneasy — the weight of that long silence of one half of the world.” — Elizabeth Robins, 1907
Recently Good Magazine published an article with a simple solution to inequity on conference panels. What if white men refused invitations to panels that don’t properly represent the diversity of their industries? The idea was so basic, yet I had never even considered it. Usually when I see five men on a magazine, marketing, tech or publishing panel, I criticize the organizers: “You couldn’t find a single woman?” I ask. It never occurred to me to question the participants.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Is Studio a film magazine fit for women?

"New magazine Studio is the first film publication aimed specifically at women. It's high time, says Pamela Hutchinson - but shame about the focus on beauty and chick flicks..."

Britain's First Women's Film Magazine Scheduled to Launch 12 August 2011

The Old Book Reviews and the New Book Reviews

"Tom Lutz, who recently launched Los Angeles Review of Books (ambitiously described as “the first major, full-service book review to launch in the 21st century”) has written a small manifesto on the occasion of adopting Susan Salter Reynolds and Richard Rayner, two orphan book reviewers from the Los Angeles Times. "
"Anyway, leaving Mr. Lutz to his manifesting, the LARB will not be the only “full-service” book review to launch in the 21st century. The BookBeast Section of The Daily Beast, The Daily’s book section and HuffPo Books might not be exactly the same as the old model, but they still cover books. Web sites like The Millions and BookSlut augment traditional books coverage with interviews and essays. More readers than ever can access books coverage from the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books and Bookforum (as well as The New Republic and The Nation), and make friends on GoodReads or write Harry Potter fan fiction or whatever it is that people like to read about books."

"There’s also a book site due to launch in October that is backed by Simon & Schuster, Penguin and the Hachette Book Group (which owns Little, Brown and others). It’s called Bookish and it has been described variously as the Pandora, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Pitchfork and Netflix of books. Despite being backed by three of the big six publishers, the site is claiming editorial independence, though to what extent that will be true remains to be seen, as it seems one will be able to buy books on it as well."

Should authors be critics, too?

"Interesting piece on Salon (from last month - I've only just noticed on account of being on holiday. So this is really for those of you who missed it because you were on holiday, too) on whether novelists ought to double as literary critics or not. It's a well-worn argument, frustratingly circular argument, which goes something like this:

1) Novelists are well-qualified for the job of reviewing, just as scientists are well-qualified to peer review the work of their colleagues.
2) But can we expect an unbiased reaction from people fighting for space in the same (rapidly narrowing) field? You don't, after all, get directors reviewing other directors' plays.
3) Would it not be better to employ dedicated book critics, at one remove from the publishing world?
4) Yes, probably. But the difference is that, in literature, the skills involved in creating and critiquing are the same. Furthermore, with book sections closing on both sides of the Atlantic, who can afford to employ a full-time book critic these days? And who could afford to live as one?
5) In that case, are we not better off asking novelists - who are, after all, well-qualified - to review novels?
6) Repeat, inconclusively."

Judge and jury

Should novelists double as book critics? Suddenly one prominent reviewer -- and author -- isn't so sure

"When a critic writes a novel, it's like one of those movies where the cop crosses the line and gets tossed in jail along with the people he put there," he said. "There's no question, writing fiction has changed the way I review."
"Being a novelist demands arrogance," he added. "To be a good critic, you have to be humble."

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Future Tense

"We’re losing the expertise of seasoned book reviewers and squeezing out a generation of new ones, writes the Los Angeles Review of Books."

The rise of longform ebook journalism

Here's another one to add to the Guardian Shorts mix, as predicted, more and more publishers are embracing the 10,000 word ebook for longform journalism:

Monday, 8 August 2011

I made a website

Look. The all new website for The Raconteur is here:

Gwen Davies' Western Mail Insider column

Two blogs of interest from NWR... one relating to the Writers Chain India, where WAI are hopefully funding me to go this November, ... the other relates to the short story and my Kindle novella 'Arrivals'

Reading India, Translating Wales

Since spring, under WLE-LAF auspices, I’ve met writers at Ultracomida from Russia, Bulgaria, Slovakia and, most recently, from India. Those of us lucky enough to be there last month, where Reading India - Translating Wales took place, are still talking about it. The seven-strong team of Welsh-language and Indian poets had clearly bonded during their mid June translation residency at Ty Newydd. Multi-award winning writer and translator K Satchidanandan joked that the trip from Kerala was ‘worth it’ just to see Eurig Salisbury’s buoyant hair! The production values, as well as the poetic ones, were high. Part of the British Council-supported India Wales Writers Chain, which launched last year at Hay Festival Kerala (where poets Gillian Clarke, Menna Elfyn and Paul Henry were also present), the Aber event delivered a tremendous sense of an unbreakable chain. This was achieved through an inclusive and incantatory choreography of their performance: a presentation of work in Welsh, Manipuri, English, Bengali and Malayalam.

The Kindle Single and Masters of Ecstasy

"Novellas per se sell even worse than story collections. But just as capitalism abhors a vacuum, so Amazon created the Single Kindle: a marketplace for digital texts (including nonfiction and essays) of between 10,000 and 30,000 words. Parthian, ever quick off the mark, have brought out SK versions of the lead novellas from longer print editions: Aled Islwyn’s Muscles Came Easy (42 pages, £2.39) and Susie Willd’s Arrivals as well as highlights from classic Library of Wales authors Hilda Vaughan and Arthur Macken's 'The Great God Pan'. Hopefully Seren will give Glenda Beagan's similarly titled ‘The Great Master of Ecstasy’ the same e-treatment."

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Guardian Shorts ebooks are here

Here begins the  revolution. Guardian Shorts 'curated and packaged for a quick portable read'

What are Guardian Shorts?

Guardian Shorts is a new series of ebooks from the Guardian, providing detailed guides to topical news stories, public policy, sports and cultural events. The ebooks will demonstrate the best of Guardian journalism, with timelines, data and comment, curated and packaged for a quick, portable read.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Arts Criticism links round up

As I am doing the WAI Critics Development Scheme for the next 6 months, there will probably be some posts full of links relating to that on this blog for a little while. Here is the first:

"a reviewer is entitled to be spiteful as long as she is honest". How rude should theatre critics be? Michael Billington's response to that Lynn Barber case. More on this here:

In Wales I think a lot of what Patrick McGuinness says in this Wales Home Article from January 2010 is still very relevant:

Especially: 'the ordinary reader who relies on mainstream Welsh media is being short-changed. It’s not a question of just sticking a few arts events in a ‘listings’ section, it’s about developing a reviewing culture that doesn’t assume – patronisingly – that ‘ordinary people’ can’t or don’t want to discuss arts or books or music, or discover the literary and artistic heritage of the place they live in. The arts coverage in most English regional papers or TV and radio stations is superior – more literate, more open-minded and more perceptive – than what we have in English in Wales.'

Arty Bollox? So how do you write a good art review then? 

Well it is 12 years since Brian Ashbee ranted about Art Bollocks in Art Review. Still in 2011 Emma Gelliot has some ideas in her blog on art in Wales. She quotes a variety of other interesting/ funny comment from TALK REVIEW: A Beginner's Guide to Art Bollocks to David Berridge talking about the future of art criticism on AXIS. Cheers Emma. 

AXIS have other rants on criticism too: 'Can anyone do the job of art critic? Should writers think twice about giving bad reviews, potentially damaging an artist's career? And who are they written for anyway? We welcome back Josie Faure Walker to The Rant.'  Josie links to Jonathan Jones' 2009 Guardian article 'Art criticism is not a democracy' in which he states:

The reason so much average or absolutely awful art gets promoted is that no one seems to understand what criticism is; if nothing is properly criticised, mediocrity triumphs. A critic is basically an arrogant bastard who says "this is good, this is bad" without necessarily being able to explain why. At least, not instantly. The truth is, we feel this stuff in our bones. And we're innately convinced we're right.'

'Critics are born, not made. I don't know why I became convinced that I had more to say about art than other people, and an opinion that mattered more than most. But I did decide that – and persuaded others to listen.'

For Axis news on art in Wales visit:


Critical condition:

I have recently discovered, which has some top contributors writing for it:

Should Radio drama be more realistic?

How many National Theatres does one nation need? NTW and NTS in discussions at Edinburgh festival:

Edinburgh festival: Critic's Choice:

Alexis Petridis on how to write the perfect pop review:

and other Welsh Arts News:

Seren Books gets global recognition for Booker longlisting:

The Welsh Music Prize has arrived:

Joe Dunthorne's 2nd novel Wild Abandon gets a good review:

I am performing poems at Birkenstock on Sunday

Today and tonight, we're having a mini-festival to celebrate the artistic achievements of women*. We're starting at 4pm with an open mic sesh for any women or women-identifying people to come and play. Dain't matter if you're playing a cello or a kazoo, if you're performing poetry or reading a short story because WE WANT YOU!

We'll be exhibiting women's art throughout Gwdihw, some of which has been commissioned especially for this event. It's going to be splendid :)

There'll be lots of music and some superb performance poetry by some award-winning published authors.

So far we've got:

Miss Maud's Folly - gypsy folktale jazz
Esther - folk-soul
Little Eris - electro/lo-fi
Cosmo - Anarchist cheeky-boy-punk
Miacca - folk-reggae

Performing poets:
Mab Jones
Susie Wild
Rhian Edwards

Exhibiting artists:
Rachel Coral
Lucy Baker
Elen Mai-Wyn Jones
Naomi Calvert

Please come along... it's free entry but we're going to pass a hat around on the day/night and all the pennies will be going toward Cardiff Feminist Network so that they can keeping doing their amazing work.

We look forward to seeing each and every one of you :)

* and our token man-feminist friend and legend, Cosmo.

Facebook event page:

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Western Mail | WM | Life | 2 August: Summer Reads

What are you reading this summer?

Here are my Summer Read recommendations from the WM article today (page 3)...

Ah summer, long hots days on the beach or by the pool, little to occupy your thoughts but daydreams and good books. Heaven. Unfortunately I seem to spend more of my time in far-less-glamorous wellies standing in muddy fields performing on the festival circuit for my summer holidays these days. As such my first summer read comes from a place very close to home and is packed full of rock'n'roll. Tiffany Murray's Diamond Star Halo came out last year, but has just been released in perfectly portable paperback (and Kindle) form.

It is a magical book charting the lives and loves of Halo and her eccentric family as they grow up on Rock Farm, a residential recording studio in the borderland of Wales that attracts star visitors from across the globe. The inspiration for the setting is not difficult to ascertain, Murray grew up in the infamous Rockfield Studios, established in the 1960s and inspiring the likes of Freddie Mercury, who wrote some of “Bohemian Rhapsody” there. Diamond Star Halo begins in 1977, when Halo is five years old, and Tequila, a band of American brothers, are in residence. When they depart, they leave a baby boy, Fred, "part seal-pup, part bloody Heathcliff" who demands all of Halo's heart. This is a sparkling, witty, novel that draws you into the delightfully strange world of the farm across the decades and then makes you ever so sad to leave it; exactly what I want from a summer read and, indeed, from the best of holidays.

Returning to the summers of my teenage years, I would recommend an old favourite of mine Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) as a quick yet classic read full of sunshine and shadows, lust and loss of innocence. Published in 1954 when the French writer Françoise Sagan was just 18, it was an overnight success. This seductive coming-of-age novella tells the story of 17-year-old Cécile and her unsuccessful love life as she summers with her father and his mistress in a villa on the French Riviera. To continue the musical thread, it also happens to be the book that inspired Simon and Garfunkel's song 'Sound of Silence'.

Susie Wild is the author of the award-winning short story collection The Art of Contraception (Parthian, 2010) and the Kindle ebook novella Arrivals (Parthian, May 2011), She also has some poems in the recent Nu2: Memorable Firsts anthology (Parthian, July 2011).