Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Play again

Without looking let's assume that William Shakespeare totally rules when it comes to poetry and plays. I'm further guessing that Romeo and Juliet holds top position.

Rather than get in the required mention of Hamlet, Othello, As You Like It, Midsummer Night's Dream or you name it, let's look at the list that Time Out provide

Play Playwright
HamletWilliam Shakespeare
Long Day's Journey Into NightEugene O'Neill
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Edward Albee
Death of a SalesmanArthur Miller
Oedipus RexSophocles
Angels in AmericaTony Kushner
The Glass MenagerieTennessee Williams
Look Back in AngerJohn Osborne
A Raisin in the SunLorraine Hansberry
WoyzeckGeorg Büchner

Three on the list are unfamiliar to me and I did see it as UScentric at first blush but there are Polish, Irish, Russian when you go through the top 50. Really just as you're taught in any good literary class and unexceptional in the best way. Still it's a shame not to have an excuse this time to sneak in Waiting for Godot which is waiting just below the top ten.

Plays now start out on the written page if you don't count the original thought or impulse of the playwright or even earlier works that have influenced them. Collected plays appear in bookshops and libraries and the occasional home.
Unless there are postmodern deconstructing works that are unable to be performed - which, ironically, wouldn't surprise me - plays are written to be performed on stage or in the round.

It is getting a little far from the page to talk about radio plays, screenplays and teleplays. Nonetheless they have their origin in works written on parchment to be performed to live patrons. Not even the narrator has disappeared completely; is downright yappy in some shows.

It is quite fascinating to look at the origin of plays and how they innovated on features we now take for granted. It's also interesting to see how, much like storytelling in general, it exists in an oral tradition before it begins to be written down and codified.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Sighs says

There is varied opinion as to the most significant or well regarded novella and all one list did was point out that The Little Prince is one, necessitating a revision of that 'biggest selling novels' list to include Vardi Wala Gunda, written in Hindi by Ved Prakash Sharma and selling more than 80 million copies.

Scholars bicker over the length of some works, debating as to whether they should be short stories not novellas or novellas not novels. There are enough mentions of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge in the short story category and A Clockwork Orange in novellas to award some recognition. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson also leapt out at me; probably more because I remember reading it in the horror collection I had - often buying these at second-hand bookshops and reading them on the train.

Goodreads declare Animal Farm as triumphant among novellas. George Orwell is ever in vogue.

Leo Tolstoy, whose work War and Peace is always cited for its doorstop status, shows he was a  master of the novella also with The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Charles Dickens, master novelist, is likewise recognized for both short story The Signal Man and novella A Christmas Carol and for the collection of short pieces Sketches by Boz

Due to its size, and the fact that the top examples of the novella form are literary, there is no doubt that there are and will be endless dissertations on such classics as Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, The Stranger by Albert Camus, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.


If you're like me, you would look up other people's selections of great short story collections out of interest or for fun. It just so happens the short story is next.

When you just look up best short stories, Google gives you a row of short stories with the cover of the book each is in. Leading off is The Lottery and The Signal-Man is also prominent. Those blurred lines become more apparent when you see works classified elsewhere as novellas appearing again. Authors do legitimately reappear here though for the short stories they've written. Hemingway and Kafka. Edgar Allen Poe must have every one of those tales of mystery and imagination featured.
There are just the kind of stories you would expect like The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Rip van Winkle, then there's ones I keep seeing mentioned such as The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and there's ones I hopefully still have in a yellowing paperback stored in a box; The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin and The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs
I could rave about Guy de Maupassant or ponder at how To Build a Fire by Jack London is completely new to me when it is held in such high regard. Perhaps I've just forgotten the title.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor, The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry and The Dead James Joyce round out the list. I'm quite sure there would be other conversations about all the short stories we've read, all the quirky tales consumed.


Last in the totem is the novelette, not because it is next in size. It either lies between the short story and the novella or it is the same as a novella if perhaps more flippant. Hardly worth talking about one might say.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What can we conclude?

The children's author does have the advantage of a loyal and enthusiastic readership who are keen to gobble up the next installment. I think radio plays with their daily broadcast and cliffhangers are a thing of the past. Those who do read the paper are happy to see their Mandrake snipped into little pieces or keep collecting comic books as they're 'just getting into this story'. The Marvels and DCs were a mix of 'to be continued' and self-contained stories so they may have jokingly hyped all other aspects but fidelity to the story was still paramount.

Books of the same series share this last split between stories that carry over and books that contain the same set of characters but in different adventures.

Harry Potter is more or less contained but, by not being reliant on a single author, Nancy Drew can continue; her adventures started in 1930.

With series we must also take into account the difference between over 300 installments of the Berenstain Bears selling 260 million copies to just seven Harry Potter books and eight supplements at the top selling 500 million copies and five Robert Langdon books by Dan Brown in equal seventh place shifting 200 million copies.

Also bear in mind (not a Berenstain bear though) the Langdon books began their publishing history in 2000. Fifty Shades is even more recent, there are but three books in the series published between 2011-2015 and they've collectively sold 150 million copies, putting them in the company of Little Critter (over 200 installments) and Peter Rabbit (6 installments)

Children's books feature heavily in the all-time bestseller series list. Jeff Kinney's twelve installments of Diary of a Wimpy Kid have sold 194 million copies and then there's the Baby-Sitter's Club which is aimed at girls age 11-13. Three hundred and thirty five installments since 1986 ensure that there is a steady supply of Ann M. Martins and Baby-Sitter's Club readers. 172 million of them.
Though if you did want to dwell on the statistical aspects of these calculations, this series, along with the others, has to divide total sales by number of installments and then consider that it is most likely the same readers that bought the first Geronimo Stilton in 2000 who are buying the latest one now, or at least there's significant overlap. This doesn't matter to the publisher, the author, the agent, or the reader when the profit margins are so high and when it's an easier launch than one for a book by a new author on an unfamiliar or not immediately appealing topic or in a less readily accessible genre.

At least, it doesn't matter unless someone on that chain is a bit cutthroat and wants a blueprint for the future in case things change. What is the appealing aspect of this series by Elisabetta Dami? How can it be distilled, tweaked, co-opted?

In a rare case of back adaptation, over three hundred Star Wars books have been written by various authors since 1977 and they've collectively sold some 160 million copies.

And, though it's heading further out into wild theorising, it's possible that Perry Mason's cases were documented in the forty years where other media were just coming on line. There are now so many cases to crack on cable. There again, it remains a popular genre in paperback and hardcover.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Superior series sear themselves

When it comes to series, it's instructive to see most popular by genre but these are the biggest sellers

Title Author
Harry Potter J. K. Rowling
Goosebumps R. L. Stine
Perry Mason Erle Stanley Gardner
Berenstain Bears Stan and Jan Berenstain
Choose Your Own Adventure various authors
Sweet Valley High Francine Pascal and ghostwriters
Noddy Enid Blyton
Nancy Drew various authors as Carolyn Keene
The Railway Series Rev. W. Awdry, Christopher Awdry
San-Antonio Frédéric Dard

Image result for jk rowling rl stineImage result for jk rowling rl stine

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Where can I find a literary agent?

For a poet this question is more pertinent than to other bloggers who confine their writing to online fora. I have entered a few competitions since I stopped work but I haven't propelled my skills into the worlds of enterprise and commerce, despite my efforts.

That aside, I wanted to know the most successful literary agents. And then on the same Writing Tip Oasis I found a list of top Australian literary agencies so I'll be bookmarking that.
The Directory of Literary Agents wisely make their determination on the best by looking at the categories in which they excel. While a longer list suggests that there are inclusions and rankings that help tell the story, not available to the frustrated author who sticks to the top ten:
If I was tasked with compiling a list from scratch, I would look at things like the advance paid to an author. From a publisher's perspective, one might be kindly disposed to a proposal from Carlo Collodi's agent since Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino has sold more than 80 million copies.

This is not to downplay the fact that some literary agents are also going to be a better suit to someone writing about welders and others to the author of a book whose plot revolves around the hay shortages during the drought.
We might look to a literary agent who has connections to this publisher who like to feature claypans in their books and that's what you can write well on.
I suspect though that it would be easier to use the broad categories; picking Mr Gottlieb for his expertise in promoting books in the popular 'fiction: thriller' category.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

pre cursor

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Book early

You know how Wikipedia can be updated just like that because of its multiple contributors, well they've sideswiped two or three of my posts by now putting the Napoleon Hill classic in tenth spot. It wasn't there before, not by a long chalk. Biggest non-fiction, yes.

Let's move on. It's a lesson in the mutability of online text.

It appears there's this whopping big oral tradition before bound parchment and that's what all those epics were about, along with the free borrowing from earlier tales. The earliest extant books make for a fascinating read.
There were quite the ramifications when they discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls