Mr. Big: The Man Who Buys For Waterstone’s

Scott Pack buys books for Waterstone’s, which means he has a lot of power over what people in the UK will read. He is “keen to suggest, of course, that he does not have anything like the power that publishers and authors ascribe to him, that he is simply one more filter for the ridiculous volume of books that are published. All he does really, he says, is decide which books Waterstone’s will promote, which ones will make it on to the coveted tables that greet customers as they walk into the shops. He thinks it fair enough that publishers should fork out to have their books included in these promotions and, stubbornly, does not see how this policy might favour the big corporate publishers who can afford to pay over the odds.”

French Fiction On The Decline

Has the quality of French writing declined? “This month, 633 titles will be published in French, in a ritual known as la rentrée littéraire, a publishing blitz that the reading public finds increasingly bewildering. This year’s list is double the length of that six years ago, and many titles end up unsold in the stockroom. Some hard questions are now being raised. How many of these novels are really worth reading? And why are so few of these authors known outside France? Even francophiles in the English-speaking world find it hard to list many contemporary French novelists.”

LA County Museum To Sell Off Major Art

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is selling off 42 works, including paintings by Amedeo Modigliani, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Max Beckmann, sculptures by Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore, and works on paper by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Edgar Degas. “The idea, said LACMA Deputy Director Nancy Thomas, is to prune redundant and unrepresentative items and spend the income on works that will fill in gaps — especially modern works that could shine when the museum expands, reorganizes and rehangs its collection in 2007.”

Pollack Does Gehry

Using a mini-DVD camera Sydney Pollack has made a documentary of architect Frank Gehry. “After many offers from various Canadian, American and British filmmakers, Frank Gehry’s decision to ask Sydney Pollack to consider directing such a documentary occurred when he realized that the filmmaker had taken the best photos of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. At first, Pollack didn’t want the job. ‘I didn’t feel literate as a documentarian. I certainly didn’t feel literate architecturally — this would be a really dumb thing for me to do’.”

Radio-Canada Axes News Show, Sees Ratings Spike

Quebec’s “Radio-Canada this week ended one of the longest traditions in network television by replacing its suppertime newscast with a light-hearted talk show hosted by a popular blond starlet and Chatty Cathy of Quebec’s celebrity circuit. On the one hand, who can blame the network? Radio-Canada’s news broadcasts had been getting hammered for years by the private competition. Replacing the news with Véro, the variety hour hosted by Véronique Cloutier, appears to have been a brilliant move. In its first week, Véro drew almost twice as many viewers…”

Lennon‘s Short & Winding Road Dead-Ends

To the surprise of absolutely no one in the New York theatre scene, Lennon, the biographical musical focused on the enigmatic Beatle, is closing only a few weeks into its run. The production had been plagued by problems from the start, and a media report shortly before opening night suggested that the producers and cast were at their wits’ end in dealing with Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono.

Access Problems In Denver

Denver’s new opera house isn’t getting rave reviews from disabled concertgoers. “The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition was invited to tour the opera house and found that lifts designed to carry people in wheelchairs to the lower orchestra level were slow and difficult to navigate. Also, lower-level seating near the orchestra is on a slope instead of being level for wheelchairs.” Opera House execs say that they will work with the coalition to address the problems, but some observers say that the problems needed to be corrected in the design phase, and may not be tweakable.

Stolen Rembrandt, Renoir Both Safe And Sound

Hours after police in Denmark recovered a $40 million Rembrandt stolen five years ago from Sweden’s National Museum, it was revealed that the other major work stolen from the museum in that infamous raid, Renoir’s portrait entitled A Young Parisienne, had been recovered months ago by American authorities. The Renoir recovery was kept quiet so as not to jeopardize the ongoing investigation into the whereabouts of the Rembrandt. Four men are in custody and will likely be charged in the crime.

Awaiting A Operatic Triumph In T.O.

Toronto is a year away from the opening of its new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and William Littler says that the long wait for a true opera venue in Canada’s largest city may turn out to be worth it in the end, especially if the center properly reflects its main inspiration, Munich’s spectacular Nationaltheater, home of the Bavarian State Opera.

American “Man of Letters” Dies At 99

“Stanley Burnshaw, a consummate man of letters who was not only a poet, critic, translator, editor, publisher and novelist, but also skilled at setting type by hand, died yesterday on Martha’s Vineyard. He was 99… Burnshaw roamed the peaks of the literary world, famously dueling with Wallace Stevens over poetry and politics; publishing and editing work by his friend Robert Frost; writing a biography of Frost; and publishing important books by Lionel Trilling.”