Are You Sitting Down? More Importantly, Are You Prepared to Yawn?

If you are an author hoping to inject a forced significance into the characters within your oeuvre, then J.K. Rowling is your role model. There is no doubt in my mind that this was designed not so much as a gambit for the fan fiction enthusiasts, but as a sexual orientation to launch a thousand grad student essays. Now that we know that Dumbledore is gay — and we must assume this to be true because the author says so! — one wonders why insinuations weren’t there in the text all along. After all, if Rowling “always saw Dumbledore as gay,” would this not have provided an extra subtext to the Harry Potter universe for Rowling to play around with? Or is this merely a retroactive attempt to move a few more units?

I’m wondering if other YA authors will follow in Rowling’s footsteps. Will Daniel Handler declare Klaus Baudelaire a BDSM enthusiast? The time has come for more startling announcements. Because as jaw-dropping bombs released to the public go, Dumbledore’s secret life is terribly anticlimactic.

Bloomsbury Needs Magic

The Sunday Herald opines that UK publisher Bloomsbury isn’t doing so hot without Harry Potter. Anticipated profits from 2006 have crashed “from £20 million to about £5m.” The possible news seems to have influenced stock prices, with shares falling to a three-year low of 190p. And these results could have serious ramifications upon immediate Bloomsbury business. Is Bloomsbury relatively helpless without Potter?

It certainly hasn’t been slim pickins or an apocalyptic ride to the ground for Rowling. The Herald suggests that J.K. Rowling “is tipped to become the first billionaire writer as a result of film and other deals.”

Harry Potter 7: It’s Not Easy Being Green

For those interested, the new Harry Potter book will be 784 pages. The first print run is set at a mind-boggling 12 million. The paper used will contain “a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer waste fiber.” While this eco-friendly output is good, as Chelsea Green’s Margo Baldwin observed last year, many small publishers have been putting out books with a higher PCW fiber count. And I can’t help but wonder whether any of these 12 million copies will be remaindered. And if they do not sell, will they be pulped? And is this mass pulping really beneficial for the environment?

Harry Potter and the Order of the TSA?

The BBC reports that J.K. Rowling was stopped at an airport because she would not part from her manuscript. Airport security wanted to check in her manuscript. Rowling relented and was eventually allowed on board the plane back to the UK with her notes bound with rubber bands.

It’s good to know that the TSA are using their energies to go after the real terrorists: bestselling authors who carry such dangerous items as manuscripts. Let us consider first that the paper is flammable. And it is just possible that an al-Qaeda operative, one who has spent several years in the mountains perfecting his throwing skills, might steal one page of the MS and fold it into a paper airplane. The paper airplane, carefully targeted at a flight attendant’s eyes, would subsequently blind the attendant, creating distress among the plane’s staff, and causing the pilot to unlock the cabin door to investigate this ruckus. The plane would then be successfully overtaken by the operatives.

One can never be too careful in this age of terror. I am grateful that the TSA has left no stone unturned, save for the rubber bands, which might put out a flight attendant’s eye just as adeptly as a paper airplane.

Slow News Day

J.K. Rowling has made her first visit to the U.S. in six years. It is rumored that she may visit again sometime in the next six years. But for now, let us avoid conjecture. The facts are this: Ms. Rowling ordered a ticket (or perhaps somebody else did). She boarded a plane. She may have had an in-flight meal. Let us hope it was a good one. Upon arriving in New York, she disembarked from the plane, went through customs, and found herself on the mainland, where she proudly announced to all interested parties that she was, in fact, in the United States again.

“It’s been six years,” said Rowling at a press conference. “I hope to come here again.”

Other British authors rumored to visit the States in the near future: Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, David Mitchell and Sarah Waters. It is believed that the majority of these authors will set foot in the United States within the next six years — perhaps earlier.

But, for now, we can celebrate J.K. Rowling’s feet touching American soil and mine this amazing event for news because the publishing industry is operating on summer hours and Richard Ford has yet to be unmuzzled.

The Not So Magnificent Seven

J.K. Rowling: “For 2006 will be the year when I write the final book in the Harry Potter series….I have been fine-tuning the fine-tuned plan of seven during the past few weeks so that I can really set to work in January. Reading through the plan is like contemplating the map of an unknown country in which I will soon find myself.”

Translation: “Holy shit! The cash cow’s running out. Will they even take me seriously as a writers once Harry Potter’s done? Did they take me seriously? Better make sure I’m set for life. Note to self: call Herb my investment banker. Keep the red phone humming and the hype machine on overdrive.”

Afternoon Headlines

  • The illustrious Mark Sarvas has served up spectacular coverage of the L.A. Times Book Festival. He even makes a noble attempt to understand Steve Almond. We also wish Mr. Sarvas the best wishes on his new reign as a teacher.
  • A new novel penned by the late Park Tae-won has been found. The new book’s called Flag of Motherland and is the first novel Park wrote before crossing the border during the Korean War.
  • Arianna Huffington has launched a group blog. Alarmingly, Michael Medved is involved.
  • Why publicist Shawn Le thought we’d be interested in this thing is a mystery. But we can’t resist exposing yet another reason why James Patterson should be avoided at all costs. We thought at first that it was an obscene joke, but Patterson has devised a blog for his new book, Maximum Ride. This dreadful tie-in can be accessed through James Patterson’s official site. The novel involves genetically engineered killing machines hunting creatures who are 98% human, 2% bird. A sample entry reads: “It?s finally starting to look like spring and the flying is great! It?s still a little chilly but there?s no better skyline to glide over then New York! Angel, Gassy, nudge and even Fang is in a good mood! We all want to fly, unfortunately all the regular people are looking up and enjoying the sun – not good for 6 winged kids trying to keep a low profile.”
  • Steve Stern doesn’t get any respect, and he’s been turning out literary fiction for 25 years.
  • Apparently, the twelve men who have walked the moon are “an unusually dull lot.”
  • Ever since she appeared in The Incredibles, Sarah Vowell now has to contend with little girls coming up to her at book signings. At least she hasn’t been showered with spare security blankets.
  • The casting of Harry Potter’s girlfriend has unleashed a good deal of racism on the Internet.
  • Two public libraries in the UK reopened with new buildings. Guess what? The number of book loans went up.

AM Roundup

Who Wants to Be a Literary Billionaire?

J.K. Rowling joins the billionaires club. Unfortunately, since writing the Harry Potter series has largely involved the act of one, there has been nobody for Rowling to downsize. So Rowling, in an effort to turn the maximum profit from her stories, has made it a habit of regularly firing and rehiring herself for 17 cents an hour, only to resell her labor for the greatest price.

The Daily News has more on the Jayson Blair tell-all: “Zuza [my girlfriend] took pictures of me prancing around the newsroom wearing a Persian head wrap that covered my face, Kermit the Frog on my shoulders and a giant fake fur coat. I did a full tour de newsroom in this ?peculiar uniform. It is hard to know what I was feeling, other than it was exhilarating to shock everyone. Perhaps I was crying out for attention.” Crying out for attention? Nah, Jayce, sounds like you were trying to recall some obscure Polynesiasn ceremony that involved Kermit the Frog. But anyone trying to invent horrible euphemisms like “tour de newsroom” needed to be stopped.

Hemingway’s favorite daiquiri bar, the Floridita, is being recreated in London. The original Floridita created a double-strength daiquiri bar for Papa. And it was not far from the original bar that Hemingway began work on For Whom the Bell Tolls. The London managers, however, have planned to throw out all soused writers from the new place. Unless, of course, they demonstrate that they can pay their tab.

The Guardian confirms that Richard and Judy are the Oprah of the UK. Literary champions are hoping to replace Richard with Punch, just to “spice things up.”

Rynn Berry is obsessed with Hitler’s diet, believing that Hilter wasn’t the vegetarian everyone claims him to be.

Brian Greene: The Bill Bryson of physics?

Doctors, Lytton & More

British practitioners are tired of writing doctor’s notes. Apparently, there’s a rampant epidemic of comparative note shopping. This collection of notes, however, suggests that the aspiring malingerer might be better off forging their own. One note reads: “Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.” Indeed. Unfortunately, doctor’s notes don’t make for compelling drama. That didn’t stop these guys from trying.

Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians has been a hoot, filled with some great reductio ad absurdum arguments: “Now, two propositions were accepted by both parties — that all infants are born in original sin, and their original sin is washed away by baptism. But how could both these propositions be true, argued Mr. Gorham, if it was also true that faith and repentance were necessary before baptism could come into operation at all? How could an infant in arms be said to be in a state of faith and repentance? How, therefore, could its original sin be washed away by baptism? And yet, as everyone agreed, washed away it was. The only solution of the difficulty lay in the doctrine of prevenient grace, and Mr. Gorham maintained that unless God performed an act of prevenient grace by which the infant was endowed with faith and repentance, no act of baptism could be effectual; though to whom, and under what conditions, prevenient grace was given, Mr. Gorham confessed himself unable to decide.”

What’s interesting is that a sizable chunk of Strachey’s papers can be found at the University of Texas at Austin. Who knew that such a pioneering iconoclast would end up where Bush II once presided as governor?

The Guardian has a list of 2003’s overlooked books. Plus, Crimson Petal author Michael Faber isn’t smitten with Motherless Brooklyn and Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry is given a second look.

And, in a Maryland elementary school, comics are being used to get kids reading. Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (excerpts can be found here), is cited in the article as one of the inspirations. Among some of Trelease’s conclusions: He attributes the popularity of Harry Potter to a desire for plot-driven page turners. He sees human beings as pleasure-centric and believes that because of the greater likelihood of finding rare words in children’s books, reading narrows the word gap from the 10,000 words or so we use in conversation and the broader vocabulary that we don’t.