The $70 Million Vase

November 12, 2010

As reported by the New York Times:

The delicate, decorative 16-inch vase started at a not-inconsequential $800,000, but after a half-hour of unexpectedly spirited bidding, the gavel fell at $69.5 million. It was the highest price ever paid at auction for a Chinese antiquity. Adding in the 20 percent buyer’s premium levied by the auction house and Britain’s value-added tax, the total came to $85.9 million.

Auction insiders said the buyer was from mainland China and bid by telephone.

Of the sellers, the auction house, Bainbridge’s, said only that they were a brother and sister who had found the vase “in a dusty attic” when they were clearing out the family home in west London, near Heathrow Airport, after their parents died. The other Chinese knickknacks they found sold for as little as $65.

Is The Book More Important Than The Text?

November 12, 2010

The major Canadian literary prize, the Giller, has been won this year by Johanna Skibsrud’s “The Sentimentalists”. This book is published by a small boutique outfit called Gaspereau Press and is available only in a small edition typical of small presses (they specialize in runs of between 400 and 4,000 copies). The Giller would generally add tens of thousands to sales and a number of larger publishers have offered to print a large run. Gaspereau however has so far refused all offers, dismissing Random House et al. as people he wouldn’t want to do business with, and strongly defending tiny quality print runs.

That is one part of an interesting story. The other came in an interview that the publisher at Gaspereau had on CBC Radio this morning where it was noted that Gaspereau has made an e-Book version of “The Sentimentalists” available to anyone online. The publisher dismissed that as merely “the text,” comparing it slightingly with the “book” and being condescending to those who would be content merely “to consume the text” rather than hold the book in their hands.

I understand where he is coming from but I am sure he simply does not see how that diminishes the author, who in this scheme of things merely wrote “the text”, and puts the publisher/binder in the position of artistic genius above them. The book is mightier than the text. Hmmm, I don’t think so.

I’m not interested in reading rubbish no matter how beautifully the physical object is crafted; and I would be happy to read DeLillo and Dos Passos and Richard Brautigan on scrap pieces of paper rather than not read them at all.


No H8

November 12, 2010

Here is an excellent video by the No H8 anti-bullying campaign.

Having Cindy McCain directly criticize her own husband’s political position is just icing on the cake.