Between The Covers: 16/01/2011

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books


Thanks to The Bookseller's First Edition news service for the always illuminating "accelerators" chart.

This shows which books have been around for ages but have put on a sudden sales spurt. This week, inexplicably, it was Paul McKenna's book and CD combo I Can Make You Thin (Bantam Press, £14.99), soon to be followed by his I Can Make You Happy (£10.99). It looks as if James Caan has chosen the right time to publish Get The Job You Really Want (Viking, £12.99), then. Time to get cracking on the seminal work How To Become a Best-Selling Author, ready for publication in January 2012.

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If there is relief to be had in 12,500 people complaining to the BBC about the baby-stealing cot-death plot of EastEnders, it is that at least these people are inside watching TV instead of going to the theatre. Imagine if they saw Euripides' Medea, in which a woman punishes her husband's affair with a princess by murdering all his children, or Titus Andronicus, which has a man avenge his daughter's rapists by grinding their bones and feeding them to their mother in a pie. On the other hand, let's not give the EastEnders scriptwriters ideas ...

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However, it's going to be a good year for literature on the BBC: last week it announced that a three-part adaptation of Dickens's Great Expectations is due next Christmas and that Emma, by Jane Austen, will also be adapted for the autumn. Add to that documentaries on Milton and Donne and a poetry series by Owen Sheers, and book worms might be safe to get back into the telly.

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A postscript to the splutter-fest surrounding the recent launch by an American publisher of an edition Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain which has the word "nigger" replaced some 200 times with the word "slave" – a publication guaranteed to enrage white middle-class intellectuals who don't know whether to be more upset about the word or about censoring it. In the absence of a verdict from God personally, Between the Covers is obliged to concur with the US Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, who admits to being "disturbed" by the word in the book, but objects to efforts to censor it. In which case, thanks to the E-Books blog, which points out a 2009 edition of Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the Narcissus re-titled The N-Word of the Narcissus. In order "to remove this offence to modern sensibilities", every occurrence of the dread word in the text has also been changed.

Next up: Othello: The Bloke from Venice, and The Taming of the Independent Modern Woman, by William Shakespeare.

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