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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008 2:01 pm
Quickly: A Lawsuit, a Snub, an Accusation, and a Protest
Posted by: Keir Graff

Lots of people waking up on the wrong side of the bed this week.

Here in the U.S., Martin Luther King’s children are fighting over Barbara Reynolds’ in-progress biography of their father (“Dr. King’s Children Battling Over Book,” by Robbie Brown, The New York Times):

“It’s sad and pathetic to see the three of them behaving in this self-destructive way,” said David J. Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Dr. King. “Unfortunately all of the children seem to regard their father’s legacy as first and foremost an income maximization opportunity for themselves.”

In Germany, famous literary critic (it’s not an oxymoron over there, apparently) Marcel Reich-Ranicki ridiculed a lifetime achievement award he was he was supposed to accept–on live TV (“Literary critic rejects rubbish TV award on air,” by Jess Smee, The Guardian):

“I don’t belong here among all this rubbish,” the 88-year-old critic and author said from the stage of the annual German Television Awards gala in Cologne. “I have been given many literature prizes in my life, but I don’t belong in this line-up. If the prize was linked with money, I would have given the cash back too.”

(Careful readers will note that Reich-Ranicki actually did take the award home with him because, he said, he is ”a polite person.”)

And, in France, Milan Kundera denounced a report that his denunciation of a U.S.-recruited spy led to that man’s forced labor in uranium mines (“The unbearable betrayal of Milan Kundera,” by Boyd Tonkin, The Independent). The report, which comes from the respected Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, alleges that the incident took place in 1950, before the TK author had discovered The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Oh, those youthful indiscretions. I imagine now that he would like to direct the public’s attention to The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

The reclusive Kundera, now 79, categorically denied the accusation yesterday, accusing the institute and media of “the assassination of an author”. He said: “I am totally astonished by something that I did not expect, about which I knew nothing only yesterday, and that did not happen. I did not know the man at all.”

Also, British writers are angry. And with very good reason (“Writers pen protests at terror bill,” by Jamie Doward, The Guardian):

Pullman, the author of the trilogy His Dark Materials, uses his essay to launch a sarcastic diatribe against the government. ‘We don’t know how lucky we are to live in a nation where police officers have all of six weeks to discover why they’ve locked us up,’ Pullman writes. ‘Ask them after 41 days why a prisoner is still behind bars and they can honestly and innocently say, “No idea, mate.” But give them that extra day, and they’ll crack it.’

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