Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Next Harry Potter.

A Review By My Den.
For those who are still suffering from withdrawal symptoms, now that the saga of the boy wizard is truly over, take a dose of Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams.

First published in Britain in March 2005 as The Highfield Mole, about a young boy, Will Burrows, who discovers a secret underground world while searching for his missing father, the book was a result of the laying off of Roderick Gordon, an investment banker, in 2001. Instead of hunting for a new job, Gordon decided to write, first a screenplay and then a children's book, with his artist and actor friend, Brian Williams.

Unable to find a publisher, Gordon financed the self-publication of their book by selling his country cottage. The gamble paid off. Not only was the original print run of 2,500 copies quickly snapped up, the book also caught the eye of Barry Cunningham, the founder of publishing house - Chicken House. Cunningham was the man who, 10 years earlier, took a chance on an unknown writer named J.K. Rowling, the wildly successful author of the Harry Potter series.

Renaming the book Tunnels, the publisher re-released it in July this year. Heavily hyped as the next Harry Potter, the book sold more than 50,000 copies in Britain alone within the first month and is set to be translated into 27 languages for a worldwide release.

With the film rights to the planned five- or six-book series snapped up by Relativity Media, the duo have already completed the sequel, to be published next year and are currently working on the third book. Hmm...seems like some gambles do paid off in life.

*Related post :
- Life After Harry Potter.
- What is J.k.Rowling Working On Next?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Winner Of Man Booker Prize 2007.

A Review By My Den.
Irish author Anne Enright was declared the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize. The Booker Prize, now known as Man Booker Prize since it's sponsorship by investment company Man Group in 2002, is a prestigious literary award started in 1969. It is awarded to the best novel of the year by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland and is judged by a five-person panel of critics, writers and academics.

Out of a group of six shortlisted contenders, the 45-year old author pipped hot favorites like British writer Ian McEwan, New Zealander Lloyd Jones and my personal choice , Indian writer Indra Sinha, to clinch the award. Her 272-page tome, The Gathering, which chronicles the disintegration of an Irish family, netted her $52,500 pounds.

Besides the prize money, winning a prestigious literary award usually translates into increase worldwide sales for the award-winning novel with the attendant effect of readers and libraries looking into the author's previous works. According to Enright's publisher, winning the Man Booker Prize may quadruple sales, currently at 35,000 copies, of her award winning novel. Even being shortlisted for the award has an impact on book sales with Pakistani author, Mohsin Hamid, reportedly saying that rights to his novel have been sold in 20 countries as a result of his novel - The Reluctant Fundamentalist being among the contenders for the award.

Like some things in life, however, winning a prestigious literary award does not always guarantee continuing literary success. One example will be Briton P.H. Newby, the inaugural Booker Prize winner in 1969 with Something To Answer. He is now largely forgotten and his winning novel is out of print. Another would be Cologne-born writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala who is better known for her award-winning work on screenplays for Merchant Ivory Productions than her 1975 win for Heat And Dust.

While the Man Booker Prize has it's fair share of controversy, it can also lead to increase exposure for lesser-known authors and allow readers to explore works that are under-appreciated and this is a definite plus for both writers and readers. The rise in profiles, in recent years, of writers from the post-colonial world - India, Africa and Australia in particular, is another benefit of the Man Booker Prize. Prominent post-colonial authors like Salman Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul have helped to wrest the stranglehold on what makes good English writing away from the British and their literary focus can be decidely non-Western.

There are also indications that the organisers of the Man Booker Prize plan to make its shortlisted novels available online for free so as to shake off its stodgy image and reach out to a wider global audience.

*Related post : Man Booker Prize Contenders 2007.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The World's Most Published Author.

Is it humanly possible for an author to pen tens of thousands of books and trade reports in a single year? Professor Philip Parker who, with more than 250,000 publications to his name, surely qualifies him as the world's most published author.

A professor of management science and international strategy at world-renowned French business school, Insead, the 47-year old scholar had apparently developed, after 10 years of research, a method of programming computers to mimic human authoring behaviour. His "Automatic Method of Authoring and Marketing" has secured a United States patent in Sept 2007 and is also capable of authoring videos and software. And how did he churn out thousands of books a year? By using more than 80 computers running non-stop to "write" his books!

Through his publishing group Icon Group International, he uses his computers to publish health guides, economic forecasts, multi-lingual dictionaries, bilingual crossword puzzles and anagrams. His most famous work, created with the help of his computers, will be his online dictionary at with translations in more than 90 languages. His publications are sold mainly through Icon's website as well as popular online bookstores like and A short list of his works includes :

-The 2007 Import And Export Market For Seaweed And Algae In The US.
-The World Market For Non-Monetary Gold.
-The Official Patient's Sourcebook On Thyroid Cancer.
-Webster's Chinese Simplified To English Crossword Puzzles Level 1.

None of his titles, so far, is close to topping any bestseller lists but with the amount of works that he is churning out, the earnings are apparently more than enough to keep his research and publishing operations running. Perhaps the world's most published and MOST OBSCURE author?

It was also with great relief to learn that his invention will not create the next J.K. Rowling or Agatha Christie as the program is highly unsuitable for churning out novels. The technology works best only with works that resemble mathematical formulae in nature which involve a lot of repetitive tasks. Suitable examples would be books on Sudoku or Haiku - traditional Japanese poetry which consists of three fixed parts of five, seven and five syllables and economic reports, which are aptly suitable.

Hmm...poetry "written" by computers. Wonder what fans of Japanese Haiku would say?

*Related post : Robert Ludlum And The Business Of Ghost Writing.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day - Global Warming And The Decimation Of Arctic's Polar Bears.

Taking a break from my usual posts about books, writing and the literary world, today's post celebrates Blog Action Day, a day where thousands of bloggers around the world come together and write about a common theme - our environment.

With global warming and environmental issues increasingly affecting our lives throughout the world coupled with the inertia and apparent lack of governmental efforts in tackling what is probably the greatest single issue facing humanity in recent years and in years to come, Blog Action Day is an ideal way for citizens around the world to come together, raise awareness of common issues and have their voices and opinions heard. The following is my contribution on the plight of the polar bears and the impact of global warming on their habitats, an article that i had submitted to an article directory recently.

Global Warming And The Decimation Of Arctic's Polar Bears.
Even under moderate projections for shrinking sea ice caused by global warming, leading scientists have warned that two-thirds of the world's polar bears will disappear by 2050. Current polar bear population is estimated to be about 22,000.

By mid-century, due to global warming, the bears will be largely relegated to the Arctic archipelago of Canada and spots off the northern Greenland coast where sea ice persists even in warm summers. This shrinking of their habitat will reduce the polar bear population drastically and eventually result in their total disappearance from the Arctic continent.

An analysis by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that sea ice coverage of the Arctic Ocean will decline by more than 40 per cent before the summer of 2050. "Sea ice conditions would have to be substantially better than even the most conservative computer simulations of warming and it's effects on sea ice," a spokesman said.

Alarmingly, the analysis also concluded that the decimation of the polar bears is largely unavoidable, at least for decades, no matter what the level of greenhouse gases emissions is. In other words, even in the unlikely event that all the major economies agree to rapid and drastic reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases, the floating Arctic ice cap will continue to shrink at a rapid pace for the next 50 years, wiping out much of the polar bears' habitat.

In the United States, the Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering listing the bears as a threatened and endangered species. While this will have no impact on the rapid shrinking of the polar bears' habitats, it will prevent further decimation of the bears through hunting and poaching.

With domino-like effects down the line, it is worth emphasizing that the decimation of Arctic's polar bears, due to the rapid shrinking of their habitats, applies also to the other denizens of the Arctic continent like sea lions and walruses and the impact on the food chain due to the vast shrinking in numbers of the top predator in the Arctic, will result in massive imbalances in the ecosystem.

*Sources :
-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
-United States Fish and Wildlife Service

*Related Articles :
-Read all about indiscriminate dumping and it's impact on our ocean's marine life at The Right Blue.
-How To Make Your Home Environmental Friendly.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blogging, Society And What It Means To Me.

Being relatively new to blogging, it's popularity across the world have both surprised and intrigued me. What started out many years ago as online diaries have now morphed into blogs of all types and forms, ranging from hobbies, technology, news to socio-political blogs. Enterprising individuals have also used blogs as a means of developing alternative sources of income and many companies have employed blogs to market their products and services and relate to their customers.

Serving as a platform for people to voice their opinions, the phenomenon of blogging has seen stratospheric growth since it's advent. Four years ago, Technorati tracked about 8 million online diaries but today, it is tracking over 90 million blogs and estimates show that the total number of blogs doubles every six months! Just what is it about blogging that makes it so popular?

At it's most basic level, blogging is a technology that is drastically lowering the cost of publishing and makes available, the opportunity for every one's opinions, views and interests to be heard and shared. Largely driven by interest and passion and not commercial activity, it's personal nature coupled with the ease which one can publish their thoughts, has resulted in increased interconnectedness with the world. As an outlet for expression and the ability to shared, connect and gain knowledge with a worldwide audience, blogging is priceless and fulfills an important part of our human need for communication and the longing to belong.

Blogging also has a tremendous impact on traditional media and how journalism functions in our society. It has been viewed as a threat to mainstream media as it primarily takes away central control of content and distribution. It's relevance, speed and nimble nature was aptly demonstrated in the recent uprising in Burma where bloggers, and not the mainstream media, were the first to disseminate information to the world about their plight.

With readers across the world increasingly doubting the authority of their countries' mainstream media, blogging with it's personal touch and imbued with the character of it's author, just seems more in tune with readers' sensibilities than the opinionated newspapers with their agendas and affiliations. Readers are aware that behind major newspapers are writers and editors who are not necessarily more trustworthy than a lone blogger who has earned readers' respect.

The biggest impact blogging has on society was to take over the means of production and distribution of content. Readers would not be able to read this and countless other articles if not for blogging. Prior to the advent of blogging, writers had only one route to readers - they needed an editor and a publisher. Blogging bypasses this ritual and the inherent distortions that this route created - with editors looking for a certain angle to the stories and publisher pushing their agendas, and results in content that is largely unbiased and relevant.

Furthermore, the exposure of well-regarded blogs can rivaled the audiences of traditional news and opinion magazines. Coupled with the availability of print-on-demand technology, there is also no longer any need for established writers to go to newspapers and magazines to get their articles published as they can easily convert them into a pdf file and even charge for it's download.

The advent of blogging reminded me of the immense societal changes that took place more than 500 hundred years ago with the development of the Gutenberg press and the publication of broadsheets. The launched of the printing press transformed the way communication and information flowed in society at that time.

After nine months of this wonderful blogging journey, I can no longer envision a world without blogging as it's interactive element has enriched me tremendously and allowed me to gain valuable insights into the many issues in our society and the varied cultures, lives and people of our world.

*Related posts :
- Internet and it's impact on reading and thinking.
- Blog Action Day
- Bloggers Unit In Acts of Kindness

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Internet And It's Impact On Reading And Thinking.

Have you ever had this...disconcerting feeling that the amount of time one spent online is affecting the way we read, write, assimilate knowledge and maybe, even think? Do you find yourself with a tendency to skim while reading a book or an article in the newspaper as if you are impatient to go..somewhere? How about a general sense of discomfort that your ability to probe and analyze information has somehow been diminished and that it requires further mental effort to force yourself to think deeper and not accept at face value, an article you have read online, when this process used to be automatic.

It was with these thoughts in mind that led me to Maryanne Wolf, a cognitive neuroscientist and professor at Tufts University, whose book "Proust And The Squid : The Story And Science Of The Reading Brain" provided fascinating insights on the impact of digital media, especially the Internet, on reading, thinking and the cognitive development of children.

Proust And The Squid : The Story And Science Of The Reading Brain.
Wolf believes that the the reading brain, formed over the past 5,000 years since the acquisition of reading, is been endangered - an unforeseen consequences of the transition to a digital age that is affecting every aspect of our lives including the intellectual development of children.

Citing Socrates, Wolf explained that the philosopher found himself at a similar crossroads, when writing emerged as an alternative to oral communication. Socrates was against the acquisition of literacy and the core of his arguments rested on his fears that young people would mistake the absorption and understanding of written information for the cultivation of true knowledge. He believed that the seeming permanence of the printed word would delude the young into thinking they had accessed the heart of knowledge rather than simply decoded it. To Socrates, only the arduous process of probing, analyzing and ultimately internalizing knowledge would enable the young to develop a lifelong approach to thinking that would lead them ultimately to wisdom and virtue.

In the digital world, Socrates' concerns for the young have new relevance. "How many children today are becoming Socrates' nightmare, mere decoders of information who have neither the time nor the motivation to think beneath or beyond their googled universes? Will they become so accustomed to immediate access to escalating on-screen information that they will fail to probe beyond the information given to the deeper layers of insight, imagination and knowledge that have led us to this stage of human thought?" she asked.

As a neuroscientist and scholar of reading, Wolf was particularly concerned with the plight of the reading brain as it encounters this technologically-rich society. "We know that no human being was born to read and we can do so only because of our brain's capacity to rearrange itself to learn something new. Neuroimaging of novice readers allows us to observe how a new neural circuitry is fashioned from some of its original structures. In the expert reading brain, the first milliseconds of decoding have become virtually automatic within that circuit. It is this automaticity that allows us the precious milliseconds we need to go beyond the decoded text to think new thoughts of our own - the heart of the reading process." she wrote.

More importantly, Wolf believes that children need to have both time to think and the motivation to think for themselves and to develop an expert reading brain before the digital mode dominates their reading. "The immediacy and volume of information should not be confused with true knowledge and it would be a shame if the very intellect that produced the digital revolution could be destroyed by it," she said.

While the Internet has it's obvious benefits, Wolf's book provided valuable insights on the impact of the World Wide Web on reading habits and thinking processes. Her assertions that children's exposure to the Web should be limited and instead, be expose widely to traditional sources of information like books, magazines and newspapers so as to allow for the development of an expert reading brain and not impede the development of the mind's ability to think, probe and analyze information, is worth considering.

*Related post : Blogging, Society And What It Means To Me