- Kobo has launched the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, to celebrate Canadian debut authors. The annual award offers three categories of competition: Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction (beginning with Mystery, with a different genre showcased each year), and Non-Fiction. Prizewinners will each receive $10,000, and promotional, marketing, and communications support, as well as access to Kobo experts for publishing advice. Three outstanding judges (who will also provide mentorship to the three winners) will help launch the inaugural awards: Miriam Toews will serve as the judge of the literary fiction category, Charlotte Gray will judge non-fiction, and Ian Hamilton will judge genre fiction.
- Jennifer Lopez’s (apparently) terrible new movie The Boy Next Door has inspired a misguided quest for first editions of the Iliad. “Lopez plays a divorced English literature high school teacher who has a one-night stand with her younger neighbour played by Ryan Guzman. In one scene, Guzman’s character gives Lopez a copy of The Iliad, which is described as a ‘first edition’ and apparently found for ‘a buck at a garage sale.’ ” Problems: no one knows for certain when the Iliad was even written. It was passed down by oral tradition first. It’s at least three thousand years old. It wasn’t composed in English for first publication in a handsome hardcover.
- The 2015 #TwitterFiction Festival will take place May 11-15. The festival is presented by the Association of American Publishers and Penguin Random House, and is about “embracing, exploring, and developing the art of storytelling on Twitter.” This year, featured participating authors include Margaret Atwood, Celeste Ng, Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), and Eric Jerome Dickey, among others.
- The Economist featured a piece on the new era of “authorpreneurship,” in which no one can simply write: “Authors are becoming more like pop stars, who used to make most of their money selling albums but who now use their recordings as promotional tools, earning a living mainly from concerts. The trouble with many budding writers is that they are not cut out for this new world. They are often introverts, preferring solitude to salesmanship.”
So, there are some of the bigger stories that made news in the book world this week. I hope your week has been a good one, and that you have had some time to read. If you are reading something great, I would love to know about it, so please leave a comment. (I could truly chat about books forever. Heh!)
Baldo, by Hector D. Cantu and Carlos Castellanos
Welcome to Friday the 13th! I hope your week has been a good one, and that this weekend will offer a chance for some excellent reading time.
Here’s the bookish news happenings of the past week:
- Author Stephen Marche, who has read Shakespeare’s Hamlet and P. G. Wodehouse’s novel The Inimitable Jeeves one hundred times each, describes the experience and virtues of what he calls “centrireading” at the Guardian.
- The recent news that Jon Stewart will step down as host of The Daily Show has certainly upset his viewers, but the announcement could also be bad news for the book industry. At the Washington Post, Ron Charles notes that “in an increasingly fractured market, The Daily Show has been a singular platform for authors to promote their books.”
- The eight finalists for the 2015 Folio Prize for fiction have been announced. Included, my favourite read of 2014: Miriam Toews’s All My Puny Sorrows! Sponsored by the London-based Folio Society, the annual award recognizes “the best English-language fiction from around the world, regardless of form, genre, or the author’s country of origin.” The complete shortlist can be found on the Folio Prize website, and the winner of the £40,000 award will be announced March 23rd.
- ‘I have never met a writer who wishes to be described as a female writer, gay writer, black writer, Asian writer or African writer’ … Aminatta Forna writes in the Guardian about her frustration at the book world’s obsession with labels and identity.
- And, finally: Valentine’s Day. A letter from Johnny Cash to his wife June topped a recent poll for the “greatest love letter ever written.” The Guardian provides an alternative list of author love letters. Zelda Fitzgerald, for example, felt particularly swoony after talking to F. Scott Fitzgerald on the phone in 1930: “I walked on those telephone wires for two hours after holding your love like a parasol to balance me.” And, on the topic of love letters, here’s a modern guide to writing the perfect love letter, which includes some helpful rules about metaphor use: “No financial metaphors, particularly employing the conceit of what an excellent investment your lover is.”
So this week’s news has me wondering a few things:
- Which book (or books) have you read the most? How many times have you read them, and what was it about the book(s) that had you returning again and again?
- Which book to film adaptation is your favourite? Which one is your least favourite?
- Which novel would you recommend as a gift for Valentine’s Day? Why?
Please share your responses with me in the comments area, below. I would love to hear what you have to say about these questions (or any of the items in the news today).
Thank you so much for visiting my site, and taking a moment to read today’s news.
- Today is National Handwriting Day (check out the sharing on Twitter) , so write a letter to a friend, copy your favourite literature passage, and read this handwritten list of Joan Didion’s favorite books.
- The architect who bought Ray Bradbury’s Los Angeles house demolished it earlier this month, thus unleashing a furor from Bradbury fans. “It’s really been a bummer,” the architect said, adding in his defense that the home was exceptionally bland. “I could make no connection between the extraordinary nature of the writer and the incredible un-extraordinariness of the house.” Yesterday he hatched a new plan to honor the space: a wall.
- South Dakota Historical Society Press can’t print copies fast enough of Pioneer Girl, the annotated edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 1930 autobiography. The book was released in hardcover format last November, with a 15,000-copy print run; less than three months later, Pioneer Girl is in its third print run – of 45,000 copies.
- The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao has been declared the best novel of the 21st century, so far. Junot Díaz’s mix of ‘history, comics, sci-fi, and magic realism’ tops BBC Culture poll of US critics on the best fiction since 2000. The full list:
1. Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
2. Edward P Jones, The Known World (2003)
3. Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
4. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)
5. Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections (2001)
6. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)
7. Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)
8. Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2012)
9. Ian McEwan, Atonement (2001)
10. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)
11. Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)
12. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)
The runners-up were:
13. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
14. WG Sebald, Austerlitz
15. Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
16. Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty
17. Cormac McCarthy, The Road
18. Zadie Smith, NW
19. Roberto Bolaño, 2666
20. Shirley Hazzard, The Great Fire
So, I have two questions for you today:
- Which book would you choose as the best novel of the 21st century, so far?
- What are you reading this weekend?
Bookish news making the rounds this week:
- “And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting…” in our minds after all this time! Edgar Allan Poe’s famed poem “The Raven” has been around almost one hundred seventy years, and has since been embedded (parodied, filmed, read, acted) in our culture. What is it about Poe that keeps readers fascinated, and many academics furious? Jerome McGann, distinguished professor and critic at the University of Virginia, has published The Poet Edgar Allan Poe: Alien Angel (Harvard University Press), which investigates the persistent tension between Poe’s popular admiration and academic scorn. (Washington Post)
- Certain universities refuse to grant degrees to students with outstanding library fines. After the Office of Fair Trading in the United Kingdom declared it unlawful to keep students from graduating over non-academic debts, the University of Sheffield has removed library fines entirely. (BBC News)
- Bizarre, uncanny, and beautiful. Over at the Atlantic, fiction writer and editor of The Weirdanthology Jeff VanderMeer considers the universal elements found in “weird tales.” Works by Jamaica Kincaid, Helen Oyeyemi, and Haruki Murakami are among those that VanderMeer suggests take on a “luminous quality.” “Just as in real life, things don’t always quite add up, the narrative isn’t quite what we expected, and in that space we discover some of the most powerful evocations of what it means to be human or inhuman.”
- Remember when J.K. Rowling promised new Harry Potter materials on Pottermore for Halloween? Well, today she delivered. For those without a membership to Rowling’s website, NBC’s Today show has republished Rowling’s profile of Dolores Umbridge — a villain whose desire to control is, according to Rowling’s accompanying essay, “every bit as reprehensible as Lord Voldemort’s unvarnished espousal of evil.” And like many villains, this character has roots in reality: an old, “spiteful” teacher of Rowling’s with a “taste for twee accessories.” (NPR)
- To raise money for Freedom from Torture, seventeen authors—including Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Ken Follett, Hanif Kureishi, Will Self, Alan Hollinghurst, and Zadie Smith—are offering the rights to name characters in their new novels. (They call this an “Immortality Auction,” which implies that all the authors involved expect to have healthy readerships in the coming eons.) (Paris Review)