Stieg Larsson was having fun with the Millennium “trilogy”

October 22nd, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

It was a few years after everyone else had read the Millennium trilogy and halfway through the second book that I realised author Stieg Larsson was having us on. The books about Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are elaborate jokes.

If Wikipedia can be believed, Stieg Larsson had only considered publishing these manuscripts shortly before his death, when he was already deep into the fourth book of what is now, weirdly, marketed as a “trilogy”. The author’s otherwise puzzling hesitance to publish makes sense if you » Read the rest of this entry «

Revisiting genre giants Elmore Leonard and Henning Mankell

October 16th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

In the last two weeks, I revisited two of my favourite crime writers and learned a thing or two – not all of it positive.

Both of these authors have long reached the stage where their names dwarf the actual book titles on the covers. This, more than any printed claim, is the sure sign that an author is successful. So, kids, dreaming of publishing a book isn’t the ticket any more – » Read the rest of this entry «

How long must a book be to be a book?

October 9th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

Why are books that should be 60 pages long so often 600 pages long, asks author Sam Harris in a recent article. He did so only in passing while building another argument, but it’s a matter worth some consideration.

Harris’s answer is that publishers need the books longer, so they can sell them for more. The suggestion is that there is some practicality about book production that makes it economically attractive to have longer books. But what happens to this justification when you’re dealing with ebooks? And should works of art really be shoehorned into specific preset formats?

The latter question forms the premise of a little known  » Read the rest of this entry «

My life, fate and Vasily Grossman’s ‘Life and Fate’

September 20th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 1 comment § permalink

Vasily Grossman’s novel with the all-encompassing title Life and Fate is number 1 and 5 on the Guardian bestseller list this week, if I can believe the pop-up that appeared on my screen as I was web surfing. Apart from the oddity of the book appearing twice, what intrigues me is: why now? I’ve had the book on my shelf for 25 years.*

Back in the 1980s, I had a deep love of fat Russian books, along with a curious infatuation » Read the rest of this entry «

Reading ‘The Roots of Heaven’ and discovering… the roots of heaven

September 11th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

The book trade seems to be driven by the concept of the bestseller – that at a given time, a given book will connect with a wide audience. What interests me more is the phenomenon where a specific book connects with an individual in a way that perhaps no other book will. These are the moments when a book enters your life like divine intervention, where it speaks to you in a profound way.

It is even stranger when a book does so at a particular time, when that same book at another time did not. » Read the rest of this entry «

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