Today in books and publishing: Veteran Knopf editor Ashbel Green dies; meet the movers in Brooklyn's book scene; how Norwegian publishing works.
Japanese books aren't welcome in Beijing. China's dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands (or the Senkaku Islands, if you're talking with the Japanese) has become a rallying point on the mainland. Now, Japanese books have become a target of nationalist fervor. The Japan Times reports that Japanese books have been banned in Beijing. Chinese publishers were told by authorities to stop publishing books in Japanese, or that bear Japanese copyright. Details are fuzzy, but one Japanese publishing insider cites colleagues in China as saying, "Some Chinese publishers say small private publishers are banned and others say state-run publishers are banned." Coincidentally, Banned Books Week is just around the corner here in the U.S. [The Japan Times]
Charles Dickens' book collection was just for show, really. No one could accuse Charles Dickens of being poorly read, but it's curious that when it came to stocking his personal library, he chose fake books rather than real ones. His book displays in his London abode Tavistock House were filled with phony book spines, inscribed with fake titles of his own devising, like Five Minutes in China, Kant’s Ancient Humbugs and Drowsy’s Recollections of Nothing. The New York Public Library has recreated the colorful fake collection for its new exhibit, Charles Dickens: The Key to Character. [Flavorwire]
RIP Ashbel Green. An editor who worked on hundreds of books in his decades-long career at Alfred A. Knopf, has died at 84. Green was hired by Knopf in 1964, and retired in 2007. Along the way, he edited Gabriel García Márquez, Vaclav Havel, Walter Cronkite, and Joseph J. Ellis, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his Green-edited Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. He meticulously grilled writers on their writing and had a stickler's eye for punctuation, but he defended authors on the world stage. When Soviet authorities condemned his author Andrei D. Sakharov to internal exile in 1980, Green said they had a "savage disregard for human dignity and the rule of law." He also was responsible for championing George V. Higgins' The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which Elmore Leonard has described as the best crime novel of all time. Green is survived by his wife Elizabeth Osha. [The New York Times]
Norway's publishing model works in Norway. Why not in the U.S.? Galleycat drew our attention to Lee Konstantinou's interesting take on Norwegian publishing, and the generous support it receives from the government. Like many Scandinavian welfare states, Norway has robust programs in place for supporting the arts. They buy 1000 copies of every book published in the country, and dole out an annual $19,000 subsidy to all authors enrolled in the Author's Union. Konstantinou, a Princeton University faculty fellow, believes such a model "might make publishing slightly more humane, slightly more rational" in the U.S. It might, and promoting publishing is a noble venture. But transplanting a system that works in a country that's more educated than us, has higher taxes, and harbors less economic inequality might not produce the same results. Perhaps the money we'd spend trying to imitate the Norwegian publishing model would be better spent on addressing those baseline problems—education, literacy, and creating the kind of economy that gives workers enough money and free time to pursue reading actively. [Galleycat]
The cast of characters in Brooklyn book land. By now you're sick of all the belated trend-pieces about Brooklyn's bustling literary scene. But ask yourself: Do you actually know who's who in Brooklyn's bookscape? Well, let Brooklyn Magazine introduce you to who leads the pack in bibliophilic Brooklyn. Those interviewed include litblog founders like Jason Diamond of Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Randy Rosenthal and Laura Isaacson of The Coffin Factory and Halimah Marcus of Electric Literature; booksellers like Jenn Northington from Greenpoint's Word and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting from Fort Greene's Greenlight Bookstore; and reading organizers like Michael Lala of Fireside Follies. But get to know them quick, because Lala says, "In five, ten years, everyone in this feature will either be doing something completely different or will have dropped out of the game.... Movements are of the moment." [Brooklyn Magazine]