Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré

18 October 2019

From The Guardian:

John le Carré’s novels contain flurries of physical activity – moodily described surveillance, dead-letter drops, the very occasional shooting – but the real action is always two people talking in a room. Even the most apparently innocuous dialogue may be coded and ambiguous, serving two opposed purposes simultaneously: one meaning for the secret grey listeners, who in le Carré’s world are always assumed to be paying attention, and another meaning altogether for the participants. It is dramatic chamber music, in which mere conversation provides all the suspense and slow-dawning revelation you could want at any scale.

His new novel contains several delicious set pieces of this kind, and each time one gets going there is the sense of a master enjoying himself hugely: the characters themselves seem to become cleverer and wittier as their puppeteer’s dialogic invention takes flight. It can sometimes seem, indeed, as though the rest of the book comprises merely the stuff that has to be efficiently moved into place, just so, in order that these charged conversations become possible.

The publicity for Agent Running in the Field has emphasised the fact that this is le Carré’s Brexit novel, and so it is, laced with fury at the senseless vandalism of Brexit and of Trump, and the way the one is driving Britain into the clammy embrace of the other. Cunningly, though, le Carré wrong-foots the reader to a degree by making the character who is a mouthpiece for this criticism a rather annoying, monomaniacal, friendless geek. This is the twentysomething Ed, who befriends our narrator at his badminton club and then, after their weekly games, discourses furiously on the state of the world.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The CBC – Canada’s National State Subsidized Broadcaster – Confronts in Court the Conservative Party and Copyright Law 10 Days Before the Federal Election: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

14 October 2019

From Excess Copyright:

Not for the first time, the CBC – Canada’s 83 year old, usually respected even if frequently controversial taxpayer subsidized broadcaster – has embarrassed itself badly on the copyright front. This time, however, it has outdone itself in terms of controversy by suing one of Canada’s two main political parties for copyright infringement just 11 days before a national election. It has taken, IMHO, an inexplicable and frankly unsupportable position seeking to prohibit the use of short excerpts from broadcast footage in the course of election campaigns. It will be recalled that in 2014, Jennifer McGuire, who is apparently still employed by the CBC in the same very senior position as General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News that she has held since May 2009, led the charge with a “consortium” to try to stop the use of such excerpts in political campaigns. The thought was even entertained by the government of the day led by Stephen Harper to pass legislation explicitly allowing for such usage by political parties, notwithstanding that I and others warned that that such legislation was not only unnecessary but could potentially and likely even be very counterproductive. I wrote about all of this almost five years ago just over a year before the last election, including how Rick Mercer demonstrated his sadly ironic apparent ignorance about copyright law. It’s déjà vu all over again, except that this time it’s much worse.

In any event, Ms. MaGuire is still in charge of the news network at CBC and is the apparent guiding mind behind what is likely to go down as one of the most misguided moments in the history of the CBC in terms of both journalism and the law and may well prove to be a defining moment in the increasingly possible demise of the CBC – especially if the Conservative Party of Canada wins the election, which this latest fiasco may ironically help to facilitate. Ms. McGuire is also CBC’s representative on the CDPP (Canadian Debate Production Partnership), which managed to present two French debates and only one English debate (go figure!).

The CBC has unaccountably and inexplicably sued the Conservative Party of Canada for a campaign video, visible above, that includes several short excerpts (only some of which are from the CBC) from various broadcasts, consisting of at most ten seconds in each case. Here is the remarkable Statement of Claim, which could serve as good teachable moment for any law school copyright or civil litigation class. Here’s a hint – why ask for an interim and interlocutory injunction where there is obvious doubt as to whether there is a even a serious issue to be tried just 10 days before the interim injunction would be moot anyway against activity that has already admittedly ceased, and where there is no credible evidence of irreparable harm arising from practices that are decades old?

. . . .

Michael Geist has succinctly parsed and measured the CBC’s possible claim in key quantitative and factual respects:

One of the clips features two short segments (total of ten seconds) of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall event. There are no CBC journalists involved, though the town hall aired on the CBC. Displaying ten seconds from a town hall that ran over an hour hardly qualifies as a significant portion of the work and again does not implicate CBC journalists or journalism.

The remaining three clips do include CBC journalists. One involves four seconds of Andrew Coyne speaking on the At Issue Panel on conflict issues. Rosemary Barton appears in the clip (as does Chantal Hebert) but says nothing. The clip should qualify as fair dealing, but it is difficult to see what the fuss is about given that Barton does not even speak in it. Another clip involves five seconds of John Paul Tasker appearing on Power and Politics discussing support to Loblaws for energy efficient refrigerators and the last one features five seconds of Rex Murphy talking about moving expenses. The clips are short and demonstrate that CBC journalists engage in legitimate critique of government policies and action. That isn’t bias, that is doing their job. Indeed, all these stories were widely covered in the media and there is nothing particularly controversial about what is said in the clips. (highlight added)

Link to the rest at Excess Copyright

Booker Prize Goes to Two: Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo

14 October 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

In what will be for some a controversial move, the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction has been given to both Canada’s Margaret Atwood and the UK’s Bernardine Evaristo at the annual ceremony at London’s Guildhall.

Atwood is being honored for The Testaments (Chatto & Windus), the seequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, part of the Gilead body of material that has given Atwood’s career explosive new life with the success of the Hulu television adaptation and that series’ new content.

Atwood now is the fourth author to win the Booker twice. Her The Blind Assassin won in 2000.

. . . .

Bernadine Evaristo is being honored for Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton). Evaristo is the first black woman to win a Booker.

Girl, Woman, Other is Evaristo’s eighth work of fiction. She also is a writer of essays, drama and content for BBC radio.

Despite the consternation and/or glee of this “joint prize,” to use the foundation’s favorite term for it, this is not the first time the judges have gone literarily rogue and insisted on a split prize. Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton won in 1974 and Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth won in 1992.

In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. In an era in which rules don’t seem to matter in many high places, that 1993 regulation now has been cast aside.

Booker Foundation literary director Gaby Wood is quoted tonight by the Booker’s press people, saying, “Over an agonizing five hours, the 2019 Booker Prize judges discussed all of the much-loved books on their shortlist, and found it impossible to single out one winner.

“They were not so much divided as unwilling to jettison any more when they finally got down to two, and asked if they might split the prize between them.

“On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them. They left the judging room happy and proud, their twin winners gesturing towards the six they would have wanted, had it been possible to split the prize any further.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says rules are for the little people. The ones who live in Omaha or Burnley.


To be a writer was the most dangerous profession

13 October 2019

From The Guardian:

Jung Chang was born in China in 1952 and came to Britain in 1978. She is the author of Wild SwansMao: The Unknown Story (with her husband, the historian Jon Halliday) and Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 15m copies outside mainland China, where they are banned. Her latest, Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China, charts the lives of the Soong sisters, who were among the most significant political figures of early 20th-century China.

Your new book explores the dynamic between three women in a family, as did Wild Swans
Wild Swans shows how life was different for each of the women – my grandmother, my mother, me. This book is also about very different lives, but because of political beliefs not generations. Big Sister [Soong Ai-ling] and Little Sister [Soong Mei-ling] were passionately anti-communist, whereas Red Sister [Soong Ching-ling] supported Mao. To start with, I didn’t want to write about the sisters; they were like fairytale [characters]. But while I was doing research, I realised how extraordinary they were, with all their mental agonies, moral dilemmas and heartbreaks.

Did you aim to show how the political is personal?
Yes – the sisters’ personal lives were more intimately connected with politics even than in Wild Swans. These women were right at the centre of Chinese politics – Ching‑ling was married to the father of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen. Two of the three sisters miscarried and could never conceive again. Their miscarriages were a direct result of Chinese politics. Of the three sisters, there is just one descendant, living in Texas, who is the son of Ai-ling’s youngest son [Ling C Kung] and Hollywood star Debra Paget, who was Elvis’s lead lady in Love Me Tender.

The book is dedicated to your mother…
My mother inspired me to write Wild Swans and she’s been so supportive of all my work. She lived under Chiang Kai-shek – she was a student activist, fighting his regime – and through Mao’s rule. She’s 88 now and living in China.

Do you visit her?
Not often, because since the publication of my biography of Mao [in 2005] I’ve lost the freedom to travel in China. I’m allowed to go back 15 days a year to see my mother.

How does that feel?
I feel very bad. She’s just come out of hospital. I wish I could just jump on a plane and go and see her. Fortunately, we can Skype. My mother is extraordinary. I still draw strength from her capacity to make me feel that everything is OK, that I should just be myself. She can take anything: glory, danger, hardship.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

An Intimate History of the British Empire

9 October 2019

From The New Yorker:

After Carl Carby arrived in England from Jamaica, in 1943, he wore starched shirts, polished dress shoes, and neatly knotted ties. He was from the colonies, but his mannerisms evinced a restrained, British sensibility. Like most early immigrants from the Caribbean, he was expected to provide a service: his entrance to England was predicated on his employment as a bomber pilot in the Royal Air Force, which recruited around six thousand people from England’s “black colonies” to fight in the Second World War. At a dance in Worcester, he met Iris Leaworthy, a young, white Welsh woman who worked as a civil servant in the Air Ministry, and the two bonded over the surprising similarities of their upbringings. Both had grown up in poverty. As schoolchildren, each donned a starched uniform and, on Empire Day, a holiday designed to instill in children a feeling of belonging to a great nation, waved the Union Jack. When England went to war, both of them enthusiastically offered their service. The pair soon married, and had a daughter named Hazel. To her, Carl spoke little of Jamaica. “It was as if he had been born an airman in the Royal Air Force,” Hazel Carby writes in “Imperial Intimacies,” her new book of political history, which came out last month.

As Carby recounts, upon the completion of his service, Carl, who was then twenty-three, applied to the Welfare Department of the Colonial Office for an award to attend further-education courses in economics and accounting. For Carl, getting vocational training was akin to securing a life with his family. As an interracial couple, he and Iris had found it difficult to find a landlord willing to house them; they would need to buy their own home. Carl’s application was granted, but with a stipulation: like all colonial recruits, he was asked to declare his intent to return to his colony by “the first available ship” after his course of training—a pledge, the Welfare Department assured him, that would be “watched with interest in the Colonial Office.” Under the threat of deportation, he took a job as an accounts clerk at an engraving firm. His salary was meagre, and the only home that he and Iris could afford was one that had suffered extensive bomb damage.

. . . .

As a child, for example, she witnessed the disintegration of her parents’ marriage, which was punctuated by arguments in the family’s kitchen. The room—painted a neat blue and white, with a two-tub washing machine and a stove tucked between the sink and countertop—was Iris’s domain. Carl enjoyed cooking Jamaican food––curries, banana fritters, fried rice––but Iris refused to eat it.

. . . .

Carby recalls this story, and her parents’ eventual divorce, from memory. Initially, she thinks of it as an account of marital incompatibility. But, in the course of her research, she finds government records—recriminations in depositions, police reports from domestic disputes, and an on-the-record account of the attempted suicide—that show how her parents’ domestic difficulties were exacerbated by interactions with the state. After Iris married Carl, she was forced to leave her position in the Air Ministry, which put financial strain on the family. The Colonial Office provided Carl with a small allowance, which included an allotment for his wife, but it was too little to survive on, and the pair bickered over how to spend it. Iris resented that Carl sent a portion of the money to his family in Jamaica, and eventually she petitioned the Colonial Office to pay her share directly to her. “An acid rain fell on their interracial parade, replacing affection with bitter resentment,” Carby writes.

. . . .

That her parents’ romantic narrative convenes with a national one is not incidental: each of the stories in “Imperial Intimacies” shows how an individual life is shaped by external forces. This project is reflected in the book’s title and in its epigraph, a quote from the cultural and political theorist Stuart Hall, who wrote, “Identity is not only a story, a narrative which we tell ourselves about ourselves, it is stories which change with historical circumstance. . . . Far from only coming from the still small point of truth inside us, identities actually come from outside.” Carby was Hall’s student, and his words reverberate throughout the book. Carby assembles a sprawling account of how imperialism––a web of social relations, labor markets, and trade networks—conditions private feeling. The resulting narrative is something like an affective history of the British Empire.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

The Future of Textbooks

8 October 2019

From The Bookseller:

Pearson’s chief strategy officer Jonathan Chocqueel-Mangan will give insights into the publisher’s new digital-first textbook policy at FutureBook Live 2019, The Bookseller’s publishing conference. Chocqueel-Mangan will be speaking as part of the conference’s learning stream, which this year will explore key topics including the future of textbooks, publishers’ responses to Open Access mandates, and how UK school classrooms are adopting new learning technologies.

In the textbooks session, Outsell v.p. and lead analyst Kate Worlock, Blackwell’s c.e.o. David Prescott and Lucy Mills, head of publishing (education) in English, Humanities and Languages at Cambridge University Press, will join Chocqueel-Mangan to debate the future shape of textbook teaching and learning across the range of schools and higher education publishing, including international schools. Meanwhile in a session titled “Leading from the Front: how publishers can shape the Open Access debate”, Springer Nature’s chief publishing officer Steven Inchcoombe will discuss his view of how publishers must become “active drivers”, rather than just “passive enablers” of OA.

. . . .

Benedicte Page, deputy editor of The Bookseller, said: “The academic and education fields are facing seismic change, and publishers must make major choices as they look to help their businesses survive and thrive. The FutureBook Live learning stream will pick out some of the central strategic issues facing the industry, and bring together a range of individuals offering innovation, new enterprise and leadership in the field.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

– Hey .

8 October 2019

PG received the following text message this morning (punctuation and spacing as in the original):

–  Hey . We believe you have it to be among the best authors of this era

The text came from a phone number PG didn’t recognize and included a link he did not click.

It will come as no surprise that, should anyone ask PG whether she/he/they/should click on this link to get their writing career off to a great start or for any other purpose, PG would advise against doing so.

While he’s sharing warnings, PG has recently seen more than a few really terrible/strange publishing contracts coming from overseas “publishers” which have somehow connected with US or British authors. These contracts don’t arrive via text message and include no strange links to click, but one might not be surprised to find that, as with random tweets, such contracts are also a bad idea to engage with.

Projected Ebook Revenue – World-Wide

5 October 2019
Comments Off on Projected Ebook Revenue – World-Wide

From Statista:

  • Revenue in the eBooks segment amounts to US$13,669m in 2019.
  • Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2019-2023) of 2.7%, resulting in a market volume of US$15,231m by 2023.
  • User penetration is 12.9% in 2019 and is expected to hit 14.5% by 2023.
  • The average revenue per user (ARPU) currently amounts to US$14.38.
  • In global comparison, most revenue is generated in United States (US$5,487m in 2019).

Link to the rest at Statista

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