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Comment from the book world in May 2004

May 2004

On discovering new authors

31 May 2004

'Most publishers seem like wallpaper. Most of them today are either promoted bookkeepers or ambitious men and women who care only for power and couldn't care less what they actually publish. If publishers don't say much, it's probably because they don't have much to say...'

And on the thrill of discovering a new author: 'That's why you get up in the morning with a bounce in your feet. You've discovered a new author you think is marvelous. It's very sexy. It feels great. It's a triumph.'

The founder and publisher of the distinguished American publishing house Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Roger W Straus, who died last week, on publishing and what makes it special.

'A way to write myself in'

24 May 2004

'As a novelist, you have a mask. When I started, I wasn't sure how to write non-fiction - especially something so personal. The early process was horrible because the idea of writing something which I wasn't making up was so alien to me. But how much of myself of my father did I want to expose? My natural impulse was to stay out of it, so I started off by writing chronologically about my father's family and his life. It didn't work. The more I tried, the more I realised that I was involved with a book in which I would have to find a way to write myself in.'

Sue Miller in an interview with Sue Box in The Times about writing about her father's Alzheimer's

Writing for children II

17 May 2004

'You can't be self-indulgent, particularly if you are writing for teenagers. I took this book to a class of 14-year old boys, and the comments I got were very interesting. There are kids who are immediately hooked by writing anyway, and they are gone within the first page, so you're fine with them; but there's another group who put a book down relatively easily, so there has to be very strong action, suspense or intrigue to keep them reading...

The main lesson was that you couldn't indulge yourself. Everything in the book has to be pulling the story forward, and anything that is just there because it's quite fun to write has to go.'

N M Browne, author of Basilisk, quoted in the Bookseller

Is literary fiction better than genre fiction?

10 May 2004

'Genre fiction says: 'Forget the gas bill. Forget the office politics. Pretend you're a spy. Pretend you're a courtesan. Pretend you're the owner of a crumbling gothic mansion on this worryingly foggy promontory.' Literary fiction says: 'Bad luck. You're stuck with who you are, just as these people are stuck with who they are. But use your imagination and you'll see that even the most narrow, humdrum lives are infinite in scope if you examine them with enough care...'

'I don't mean that literary fiction is better than genre fiction, though I do prefer curling up with an author such as A.M. Homes rather than Helen Fielding. Nor do I mean that the distinction is a rigid one. On the contrary, some of the best novels - Jane Eyre, The Woman in White - have a foot in both camps. I mean only that novels can perform two functions and most perform only one.'

Mark Haddon, author of the prize-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in the Guardian

'An impossible race with the supermarket sector'

3 May 2004

'For all of us as consumers cheap books are attractive because it means we can afford to buy more of them, but they are less attractive if buying more books eventually becomes difficult because there are fewer bookshops to buy them from. Cheap books are suddenly less attractive if they jeopardise bookshops. So any news coverage that drives home the message that booksellers are underselling themselves with deep discounts, or struggling to win an impossible race with the supermarket sector, is to be welcomed.'

David Blow in Publishing News