Archive for March, 2013

☞ What is the purpose of having literary prizes? They help writers to write better? Maybe they broadly act as as incentives, but whether this factor has a clear relationship to better writing, is a moot point. However, from the consumers’ perspective, as Boyd Tonkin argues, it might serve the function of attracting their attention to the works that have been selected. Of course, there is a commercial motive underlying this. But if this helps to enhance the rewards to some of the better writers, it does have a worthy side effect, and who would want to quarrel with this?

“Do we need another major award for fiction? From a personal point of view, the question has become a little rhetorical. Along with more than a hundred others, I have signed up as a member of the “academy” that every year will nominate books for the new Folio Prize.

With £40,000 for the winner and sponsorship in place from the Folio Society, the competition will consider fiction in English from all over the globe (no US exclusions, as with the Man Booker). Annual panels of judges will be picked by lot from among “academicians”. Unlike the cardinals gathered in conclave in Rome, the chosen arbiters will have the right to refuse to serve. So far as I know, the victor in a papal ballot can’t say – sorry folks, but the diary’s looking a bit full for the next 30 years.

For a while I doubted that the Folio Prize – driven forward by publisher-turned-agent Andrew Kidd – would come to fruition. After all, the Man Booker grandees had reacted to one proximate cause of its foundation: the aggressively populist, anti-literary approach of the panel chaired by Stella Rimington in 2011. They made sure that the subsequent judging teams had at their head writer-critics who would ensure a serious selection of books: last year Peter Stothard, this year Robert Macfarlane.

Sure enough, the 2012 Man Booker shortlist repaired the damage by playing a diverse and thoughtful hand. Selfishly, I was gratified to see on it Tan Twan Eng‘s exquisitely smart and subtle novel of art, war and memory The Garden of Evening Mists, published by tiny Myrmidon Books in Newcastle and first reviewed on Britain in these pages. And I’m even more delighted to learn that the Malaysian novelist has, this week, won the continent-wide Man Asian Literary Prize in Hong Kong.”

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Tan Twan Eng wins Man Asian prize

❝I was annoyed — I wanted to meet young, dashing men. But I never got the chance. Henry stuck to me.❞

Carolyn Kellogg, “Henry Miller’s last wife, Hoki Tokuda, remembers him, um, fondly?”

For Paolo Coelho’s more
sympathetic account
of their relationship:


Posted: March 14, 2013 in Link



Posted: March 14, 2013 in Link



☞ Whatever brand storytelling is, it is clear that it is more than just a minimalist approach to storytelling, where narratives are merely defined in terms of a stringing of events. The more traditional conception of narrative, with interesting plots, characters and even heroes, is at work here. The approach in brand storytelling is also qualitative, where value judgments are passed on what makes a good or effective narrative: not every story would do the job. This article looks at the hero. One difference from the traditional hero however, is that the hero of a brand story may not necessarily be anthropomorphic, but could very well be the brand itself. Thematically, the brand story should also involve a big idea which promises to improve the lot of everyone who makes use of the brand.

“At the center of every brand story is a hero. The hero could be an idea, a person, or a thing– to be effective at brand storytelling, it’s critical to know what attributes define the inner character of the hero. The hero, of course, is the brand itself. Like any good story that teaches and informs us about a higher ideal, brand storytelling is about the higher purpose of why the hero exists and why we should care.

The notion of brand storytelling is one that is growing in popularity among marketers these days. Yet so much “storytelling” continues to be nothing more than outbound messaging and selling. That’s no surprise because it’s the job of every marketer to message and sell. If you’re not selling something, then you’re not marketing right?

For this reason it’s in the marketer’s self interest to “message” out directly, rather than engage people in the ideas and lessons they care about.

Improving our condition

Every enduring story is based on a transcendent idea bigger than the story itself. The elements of any story – characters, plot, and environment – can clarify, focus, and influence the idea’s expression, but it’s always the big idea that drives the brand story.

The hero of the story is the character who possesses the big idea. And the heart of that idea “teaches us to improve our condition”.  And it’s our “condition” we care most about! Creating value is about improving the condition of people’s lives.  From the dawn of language, stories have taught humans how to improve the conditions of life.

To break through the clutter of messaging bombarding the mind, every brand must represent a single idea that improves the condition of the customer. Our hero the brand has committed to embarking on that journey. Through the hero’s example we are more in touch with what makes us all the better for it.”

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☞ Does visual storytelling have the same rules as other forms of storytelling? Or do different rules apply? Or could it be that some of the rules that we associate with it also apply to other forms of communication, and are not restricted to storytelling per se, whether visual or otherwise? I choose the following article not because it provides easy answers to the above questions, but because it highlights the concern that there might be different rules for visual storytelling, or that some people believe that some of the general observances of storytelling do not apply to it. What is needed here is a clearer spelling out of what these rules, principles or inclinations actually are, especially when they do, as in this case, touch on questions of ethics.

“Did you see Businessweek’s recent cover illustration on the housing bubble rebound? Did it strike you as offensive, racist, misleading and factually incorrect as it did me?

Businessweek is rightfully being pilloried over the illustration, which feels more like a 19th-century minstrel cartoon than it does a cover for a leading and mainstream 21st-century business magazine.

But the more I looked at the situation and thought about the artwork, the more I realized that in the midst of this move towards more visual storytelling in media, business and culture at large, there seem to be few rules and standards in place for telling visual stories appropriately and accurately.

Infographics, video, stock photography, presentations and charts — you can’t visit a web page or turn a magazine page without being fed visual content that has replaced the written word. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but this shift brings with it more story formats that lack traditional checks and safeguards. And that’s why the Businessweek cover is so troubling.”

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