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Today in publishing and literature: HarperCollins shelled out "close to $4 million) for the former exchange student's jailhouse diaries, a Toronto library thinks it has a lost piece of correspondence from Jorge Luis Borges, and the origins of a very specific Cormac McCarthy word choice.

HarperCollins has landed Amanda Knox's memoir for "close to $4 million," according to sources briefed on the deal. The book was expected to sell for seven figures, but the price spiked as more publishers entered the bidding this week. In addition to HarperCollins, a source notes that "seven publishers had submitted bids, including Crown, part of Random House; St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan; Atria, part of Simon & Schuster; and Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group USA." A representative for HarperCollins says the book is scheduled for release in early 2013. [The New York Times]

A librarian in Toronto claims to have found a handwritten note from Jorge Luis Borges in her library's copy of Plato's Republic. "Handwritten in Spanish, the card appears to carry his signature and a cartoon doodle." It's dated June 1978, and is a thank you note for a reception that was given in his honor, plus his wish for "the very best success with your library and its marvellous collection of books." The trouble is, there's no record of the Agincourt branch holding a reception for Borges. In fact, he only came to Canada twice in his lifetime, visiting Toronto in 1968 and Ottawa in 1983. And while there's no record of a 1978 visit, the hadwriting is a match, and there's always the possibility he sent the letter to someone who visited Toronto and left the card behind. Plus, as Toronto historian David Wencer quite reasonably notes: "Why would anybody bother to forge such an item?” It is a very strange thing to forge and then plant.” [Toronto Star, photo via Agincourt District Libraries]  

Cormac McCarthy -- the real one -- had no qualms about noting the "the salitter drying from the earth" in The Road. But what does "salitter" mean? It doesn't pop up in modern dictionaries. Barry Webber, who writes an environmental end-of-times blog called The First Morning, tried tracking the phrase down, and found "Salliter seems only to have occurred, used in this way, in the writings of Jakob Boehme, a 17th century German Christian mystic." For Boehme, "What is in Paradise is made of the celestial Salitter...[it] is clear, resplendent. The forces of the celestial Salitter give rise to celestial fruits flowers, and vegetation.” Salitter, then, is man's ability to conceive of a world worth living in, or maybe just "the essence of God," as Kelly suggests. Depending on how you see McCarthy, finding the word and deploying it in perfect context is either proof of his genius and limitless ambition, or it's a faux-esoteric flourish. [The First Morning via Galleycat]

Amanda Knox is not the only memoirist securing a book deal for HarperCollins this week. Collins has also signed the Reverend Desmond Tutu to write a book "about forgiveness." His daughter Mpho Tutu will co-write with him. We'll try to get more details on the sale price, title, and scheduled release as soon as they leak out from behind The Bookseller's paywall. [The Bookseller]

 

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