• I once read a novel submission about the hunt for Osama bin Laden in which the plot hinged on OBL’s capture following the discovery of one of his shirts in a local laundrette; the shirt, you see, had his name-tag stitched into the collar. I passed, but I was reminded of the manuscript by recent events, and by this piece suggesting that in the age of ebooks, publishers should be less squeamish about bad writing and less dismissive of the slushpile. Are the floodgates about to open?
  • Everyone’s a critic… The Turkish government has launched a prosecution against an edition of The Soft Machine by William S. Burroughs on the grounds of ‘incompliance with moral norms’. What intrigued me most about the case, however, is that the prosecution also attacked the novel’s literary style, accusing it of ‘lacking unity in its subject matter’ and having ‘a fragmented narrative style’, matters that are not normally debated in a court of law. 
  • The Guardian reports on its favourite publishing howlers, including a misprint in a cookery book which suggested that a recipe for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto should include ‘salt and freshly ground black people‘, rather than pepper. This absurdly long list of corrections to a recent American title, Modernist Cuisine, is an eloquent reminder of why publishers need copyeditors. 
  • And finally… Richard Ford wrestles with the notion of writing as work; P.G. Wodehouse, on the other hand, didn’t agonise over the process too much: ‘I just sit at my typewriter and curse a bit.’ 

 

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