Between the Covers: what's really going on in the world of books

 

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The Independent Culture

David Mitchell was on fine form at his star-studded book launch last week - perhaps because this time, unlike last time, he wasn't late for his own party as a result of a volcano ash cloud. Mitchell pledged his authorial lifetime to his publisher, Sceptre, and thanked some fellow authors, many of whom had turned up: Kazuo Ishiguro (his friends call him "Ish"), Toby Litt, Jake Arnott ... even Mitchell's first publicist, Alexandra Heminsley - now an author too - came along. Mitchell also thanked his current publicist, who appears as a character in his new novel The Bone Clocks (left, and review page 18), and his thanks became increasingly profuse as his speech went on. His editor is a paragon of patience and genius; translators are "indirectly helping world peace".... And literary critics, apparently, are bastions of "objective wisdom". Well, that last bit is definitely true .…

Played in London (above), by Simon Inglis, has barely been published a week (English Heritage £25), but already it is responsible for the official listing by English Heritage of five new buildings. The book is "the culmination of eight years of research" and is described as "an encyclopaedia of sporting London". The buildings listed include a swimming pool in Bethnal Green, the Summer Pavilion at Beckenham Tennis Club, and a diving board at Purley Way Lido, Croydon (now in a garden centre). The buildings "help preserve the memories of glory, excitement, and innocent fun they have provided for so many", said heritage minister Ed Vaizey.

Ian McEwan put his literary career in the balance last week when he dared to criticise Amazon on Radio 4's Today programme. "I do worry about the preponderance of Amazon, and many publishers have been in direct conflict with it," he noted. "Giant monopolies are never good for any enterprise and of course I would like it to be paying its taxes like the rest of us." His new novel, The Children Act, is still for sale by the internet retailer, with the usual conditions and discount - unlike titles by Hachette authors, whose books were squeezed out by Amazon after their publisher criticised its tactics. So, has McEwan joined Donna Tartt on the short list of authors Amazon considers Too Big to Bully? If so, he really ought to start buying from proper bookshops that do pay their way.

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