Film | American Hustle

American HustleBei der Verleihung der Golden Globes merkte die Moderatorin Tina Fey an, dass der Titel von American Hustle auch „Die Explosion in der Perücken-Fabrik“ hätte lauten können. Und tatsächlich spielen Frisuren eine tragende Rolle in dem Film von Regisseur David O. Russell – eine der ersten Szenen zeigt Betrüger Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) dabei, wie er zärtlich-penibel versucht, die doch schon sehr hohe Stirn mit künstlichem Haar zu verdecken. Kurz darauf wird das mit Kleber und Mengen von Haarspray zusammengehaltene Meisterwerk von seinem Gegenspieler, FBI-Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), in provokanter Geste zerzaust. Und so geht es auch im weiteren Film um Sein und Schein,  Betrug und Selbstbetrug, ums Ertappen und Ertappt werden – bis zu dem Punkt an dem keiner mehr so richtig weiß, wer auf wessen Seite steht. Continue reading

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The Bookshop Band

Bookshop Band ChroniclesTonight I saw the Bookshop Band play their wonderfully whimsical, literary songs at Looking Glass Books. It was one of those nights in which you can smell the promise of summer in the air, but the wind that tingles your skin and creeps underneath the little hairs on your bare arms (the optimistic gal that I am) reminds you that Edinburgh’s idea of June is nothing but a playful tease. Walking home through the Meadows tonight though, I was appeased by the tunes that spooked through my ear canal. With their folkloric, musical storytelling (all their songs are inspired by books) the three Bookshop bards from Bath revive the forgotten art of the broadside-ballad – in a beautiful, haunting, comic and contemporary way. Admittedly this impression might have been prompted also by the fantastic linocuts by band founder Ben that adorn the carefully crafted CD cases and website, but I just thought that both lyrics and the playful and rather unconventional use of instruments reminded me of ol’ time raconteurs, yarning adventure stories and telling of marvellous happenings. The water that was swooshing in random intervals through the industrial-style ceiling pipes also added to the atmosphere of a jam-session accompanied by lyrics that are both quite clever and yet have an air of being made up on the spot. The artistic cradle (so-to-say) of the singer/composer/instrumentalist trio fits in both appearance and name to this impression: Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights was the first bookshop to know also the delights of the musical renditions of some of the titles that were launched there. The concept proved both innovative (“Why has nobody come with this brilliant idea before?”, everyone in the audience seemed to quietly wonder Bookshop Band 1– or not-so-quietly in my case, but then again mine might be the only mind that this thought has never crossed) and successful, leading to the tour that brought Edinburgh the pleasure of hosting the band in two of the city’s nicest homes for all our papery friends, Edinburgh Books and Looking Glass. If you’re from St Boswells, Sheffield or any of the other towns the Bookshop Band hits on their UK summer tour do not miss out on hearing them live (also keep eyes and ears open during EIBF!)   – otherwise go to the song section of their website and be amazed! This, this and this here are my personal favourites. Psst, you can also buy their CDs, they make great gifts for book lovers of all kinds and ages (like me *hint)

Alison Baverstock on Self-Publishing

This is a post I wrote for my MSc programme’s blog at http://publishingdegree.co.uk/ on a talk given by Alison Baverstock a couple of weeks ago:

The Naked AuthorIn early February Alison Baverstock, publishing guru and author of several books on the trade, spoke at an event put on by the PublishED society at Edinburgh University. The key topics of her talk were the often unexpected opportunities that self-publishing holds not only for authors but also for the publishing business, creating job prospects that go beyond the traditional self-understanding of the industry.

Researching the field of self-publishing for the last four years at Kingston University, Baverstock wrote a book about her findings in 2011, titled The Naked Author: A Guide to Self-Publishing (Bloomsbury). Here, she looks not only at the ‘how-to’, the process and the steps that one needs to take to successfully bring a book to the market without the professional backing of a publishing house, but foremost addresses the ‘why’, the reasons behind the decision to take this path instead of a more conventional one. The universe of self-publishing does not, as often assumed, consist of only rejected works that passionate authors want to see realised even if every single publisher said “No”, but range from personal memories that were only ever intended to be read by a limited audience to works put out there to test if a market exists for a particular niche genre. In previous years, (originally) self-published ‘bestsellers’ have shown us again and again that the industry often misjudges what people want to read, or is rather slow to react to trends, opening that window of opportunity to individuals who go ahead without their support (the fantasy genre and soft porn à la Fifty Shades being prime examples). Another factor is that validation and satisfaction rates are immensely high with self-published works (a lot higher than with the ones published in a traditional manner), prompting publishing houses to reconsider their relationship with their authors. Indeed, cultural capital is created here, as the process allows for a greater number of authors to reach out to their readers, consequently influencing their reading behaviour and the perceived value of the book. Continue reading

Book Cover Event / Charlie Fletcher

isbn9780340997338-detailDo you judge an event by its name? Hopefully not, as yesterday’s panel on book cover design at Blackwell’s was quite a bit more interesting than the over-used allusion to “judging-a-book-by-its-cover”, under which it was titled, might suggest. Centred around Charlie Fletcher’s latest book, Far Rockaway (R.G.R.T – Real Girls Rescue Themselves – review coming soon) the panel consisted of the author himself, Anne McNeil of Hodder, as well as host Janet Smyth from the Edinburgh Book Festival. And as the paperback cover was designed in collaboration with the Edinburgh College of Art, the programme director for illustration, Jonathan Gibbs, and winning student Astrid Jaeckel were present as well.

I have to admit that I didn’t really know much or was consciously aware of cover design before I started my Publishing course – yes, of course, there were books I liked because they looked ‘pretty’ and ones that I wouldn’t pick up because they showed a cheesy, glossy image of a delicate woman in the arms of a half-naked muscleman. But since thinking about cover design from both an artistic and commercial standpoint I am intrigued by the ideas and choices made by illustrators, designers, art directors and all these creative people in the book business. At the talk yesterday, Anne McNeil said that the challenge that every cover artist faces is to “encapsulate a complex narrative in a very simple way – almost deceptively simple”. The cover is the interface between the author and the consumer, and it has only something like six seconds (the average time the eyes of the customer lingers on any one single title when visiting a bookshop) to draw you into the narrative journey that its author promises. Continue reading

Paul Boldt and German Expressionism

As you have probably already seen in the “About” section above, the title and tagline of this blog originates from the poem LITERATURCAFÉ written by Paul Boldt and firstly published in the magazine Die Aktion in 1914. Boldt is one of my absolute favourite poets, writing in a time that is characterised by enormous cultural upheaval and social change, and has brought about many great artistic manifestations (may it be in literature, painting, or the moving picture): German expressionism. His poetry is colourful, sensual and alive, yet simultaneously evokes the terrifying abyss of the conditio humana; it presents us both with the anxiety and glamour of a vibrant Berlin in the early 20th century.

Last year I wrote a paper that compared Boldt’s work to that of the great “celebrities” of English-language modernism – Woolf, Joyce, Eliot – and while there are (of course!) substantial differences between those four writers, I found that their rendition of urban experience was at times strikingly similar. Here comes an edited abstract:

Paris, London, Dublin, Berlin – the European city of the young twentieth century held a compelling fascination for modernist writers. Fluctuating between the image of the horrid moloch on the one hand, and the blooming cultural centre on the other, its buzzing streets presented a synaesthetic potpourri of noises, smells and human beings, forming what artists and intellectuals alike elusively called “the crowd”. As a key site of literary modernism, the cityscape not only provided a visually, linguistically, and intellectually exciting perception on (public) life, for this it had known to do since the onset of urbanisation, but now allowed the artist a different position “within the changing cultural milieu of the metropolis” (Williams 44), resulting in the innovative and rich mix of styles we know from writers like Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot or James Joyce. Continue reading

Verena Roßbacher – Verlangen nach Drachen

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On December 22 of last year I was almost out of the door, heavily loaded with my large trekking rucksack and all kinds of Christmassy bits and bobs, when I got a lovely little surprise in the mail: A one-year subscription to Edit, a Leipzig-based literary journal dedicated to share and support young German literature (how fitting, you might think, as this is the raison d’être of my virtual ventures). I was even more excited when I read a short story by Verena Roßbacher, whom I had completely forgotten about, albeit smitten by her debut novel when I read it back in 2009. In the original hardback edition, I haste to add, and I usually don’t forget about those rare but cherished moments of sumptuousness when buying a hardcover fresh from the press. This piece of both material and intellectual magnificence is called VERLANGEN NACH DRACHEN / Desire for Dragons and was published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch (although I believe the paperback is btb). Here is a translation of the blurb: Continue reading