Between The Covers: 16/10/2011

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

*The best way for an author to deal with Hollywood, Ernest Hemingway once said, was to stand at the Nevada border, throw your book over the fence to California, have them throw the money back, then run like hell.

Asked if he was happy about the 2001 movie of his masterpiece, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernières replied: "It would be impossible to be happy about your own baby having its ears put on backwards." Congratulations to Lionel Shriver, then, who seems not only to have survived the experience of having her book adapted into a film, but enjoyed it. "Stunning ... a brilliant adaptation of my novel," reads a quote from her on the poster for the movie of We Need To Talk About Kevin, which stars Tilda Swinton and is released on Friday. Is this a first?

*Plummeting sales of books by women commercial novelists are being blamed on the recession, according to The Bookseller. Sales of the most recent novels by authors including Marian Keyes, Jodi Picoult, Veronica Henry, Catherine Alliott, Louise Bagshawe, Dorothy Koomson, Maeve Binchy, Harriet Evans, Jill Mansell and Lesley Pearse are down by more than 20 per cent. Publishers are fearful that the recession and rising food prices are combining to dissuade women from buying books in supermarkets – where many of these novels make their sales. On the other hand, perhaps the tide is turning for this type of mass market chick lit. Much of it is well-written and covers thought-provoking issues, but increasingly it is so wrapped up in baby pink, glittery, patronising covers that no self-respecting grown-up woman could bear to be seen reading it. W H Smith recently bowed to pressure from customers to remove "women's fiction" (aka chick lit) labels from its stores. It would be a brave publisher who would follow suit and experiment with sensible covers for its women authors. But surely someone like Marian Keyes has enough brand awareness by now that readers would be able to find her books without them being lit up in neon pink?

*This year's Frankfurt book fair was more glamorous than some, with Rupert Everett there to discuss his new film about Oscar Wilde, the announcement of a new Asterix European tour, and Simon Singh's new deal with Bloomsbury. It was not unaffected by the Great Blackberry Crumble Debacle, however, as deals were held up when emails vanished into the ether.

*Commiserations to the residents of the London borough of Brent, who failed last week in their High Court challenge to halt the closure of six of their 12 libraries. It might not cheer them up much, but an enterprising initiative in the US is worth mentioning here for its success in showing libraries and librarians in a new light. The Men of the Stacks calendar for 2012 has just gone on sale, featuring 12 male librarians posing with and without books. All profits will go to the It Gets Better Project, which was created this year to show young LGBT people "the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years". The calendar costs $19.99 (£12.75) and can be shipped to the UK for an extra $2.55. And, judging by the thumbnail images at, it's the best the Dewey Decimal System has ever looked. "Different people and different associations will use different means to try to change ... perceptions," says its mission statement. "This is ours."