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Comment from the book world in February 2010

February 2010

'Typing that sentence'

22 February 2010

'I think John Irving said in an interview something which nobody says about writing, which is that writing is sitting down and typing that sentence, and that sentence creates the next sentence and the character grows and the story grows from the physical act of typing what is going on in your head, so in a way my father gave me the example that you sit down in the morning, you keep office hours and you work...

The ending informs the novel throughout. So I have to know it because it seems to me that writing novels, which is very different from writing screenplays, is a continual fight against anarchy. You have to keep your mind very focused all the time on what it's about and you have to know your characters very well otherwise they do anything, and if they really can do anything, they can do anything! That's very alarming and that's what induces paralysis, whereas if you are clear about them and you know them very well, they will tell you what they are going to do and you will know what they should do. That's something I've learned over the years and it's jolly important.'

Deborah Moggach in Scriptwriter

Creative writing and the canon II

15 February 2010

Teaching 'helps in thinking about your own writing in a more formal theoretical way. Writers might think about point of view or structure or character, and often you have an instinctive understanding, but what it has helped me do is get a more theoretically well-founded idea...

It's very frightening for the students, they just don't know what they are going into at all. When I was starting in 1989 the potential routes one could take were reasonably clear. Now it's so much more complicated...

The idea of what constitutes literary value has changed or become less consensual. It's harder to establish what is good and what is not, and that is one of the things that forms the canon. Barnes, Amis, McEwan were the last people through the door, and then the door closed, and then the building fell down.'

Giles Foden, author of Turbulence, in the Bookseller

Finding writers for the agency through the web

8 February 2010

'Every agent has their own style. Ed Victor goes to a party and signs up someone. Luigi Bonomi goes and talks to a film company or football agent. But I like doing it this way (through his website) because it brings in interesting books, often ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I love the range and serendipity...

Publishers are taking longer to make decisions and are being more careful and more selective. But I'm amazed that they are buying as much as they are. It would be very easy for them to sit on their hands, spread the lists out a bit and see how everything looks in 2010.'

Andrew Lownie, whose website is, in the Bookseller

"Real reading" and the e-book

1 February 2010

'According to Amazon Kindle's vice-president, Ian Freed, the success of the Kindle signals the end of physical books: 'The only question is does it take three years, five years or 20 years?' I remain to be persuaded that e-readers are capable of matching the varied activities we engage in when reading. More is required to satisfy the dedicated reader than replicating the content and appearance of a printed book, or emulating the action of "turning pages" using a tap on a touch-sensitive screen.

My own reading habits, like those of the historical readers I study, involve changing patterns of physical contact with the book, moving through it in unpredictable and non-linear ways, alone and with others. I usually work with several books simultaneously, using their position on my desk to explain their part in the argument I am trying to follow.

So far I see little evidence that e-readers begin to engage with "real reading", the kind those surviving marginal annotations in much-studied books are testimony to. Reading, those annotations show, is an active and social activity. It interacts with reading matter in creatively constructive and useful ways. The output from a reading of this intense and systematic kind is larger than the book itself. It extends to other, related books, and conversations with other, similarly goal-orientated readers.

The electronic book offers me a convenient extra way to read while on the move. Given a good enough screen I am sure that I will use it, and I certainly like the idea of being able to buy and download difficult-to-locate texts at any time of the day or night. This may also be the device that will allow newspapers and magazines to survive as revenue-earning businesses. But I do not expect to stop using physical books. '

Lisa Jardine in A Point of View on BBC Radio Four