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)
Here’s the book news making the rounds online today:
- From NPR: Lily King, Roz Chast and Kate Samworth have all taken home the inaugural Kirkus Prize. The winners in the award’s three categories — fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature — were announced Thursday night at a ceremony in Austin, Texas. Each author received $50,000.
- How “curationism” influences our reading identities — over at Quill & Quire, David Balzer examines how the art world’s obsession with curationism came to influence our personal reading identities
- From NPR: We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, a proposed documentary about iconic author Joan Didion, is currently being funded through Kickstarter. Didion’s nephew Griffin Dunne is producing the film, which will piece together the author’s life and legacy through her memories, old footage, and interviews with over a dozen artists including Vanessa Redgrave and Patti Smith.
- Why do we love Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper? At the New Republic, Britt Peterson investigates our fascination with Victorian crime stories, and reviews three contemporary books on the subject. Peterson discusses how these books “to varying degrees…both indulge our own detective-fever, and seek to de-sensationalize the people who originally experienced it—sometimes a tricky juggling act.”
- From the Paris Review: Is transrealism “the first major literary movement of the twenty-first century”? “Transrealism argues for an approach to writing novels routed first and foremost in reality. It rejects artificial constructs like plot and archetypal characters in favor of real events and people, drawn directly from the author’s experience. But through this realist tapestry, the author threads a singular, impossibly fantastic idea, often one drawn from the playbook of science fiction, fantasy and horror … ”
A roundup of items being talked about today from the publishing world.
Tragedy & Words
* After the horrible events in Boston yesterday, the amazing Roxane Gay writes about being stunned into silence.
“I turned to words because in the wake of something terrible, my gratitude for reading and writing only amplifies, sharpens. Yesterday, today, for some time to come, I am many things. Mostly, I am grateful.”
* The 2013 Pulitzer Prize winners have been announced. Taking home honours in fiction, after no award was given in this category last year: Adam Johnson for The Orphan Master’s Son.
* The Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) revealed their short list today. It’s a mighty group of talented women.
London Book Fair 2013
* Popular author Neil Gaiman delivered the keynote address at the 5th annual Digital Minds Conference. He urged publishers to “make mistakes in an uncertain era.”
20 Under 40
* Granta has announced their 20 best young British novelists. NPR offers an interesting assessment.
For the Love of Reading
* 12 Canadian novelists will Bare it for Books in a 2014 calendar. The proceeds will be donated to PEN Canada. Comedian Trent McClellan and actor, Gordon Pinsent recently promoted the campaign. If you can support the fundraising efforts of Bare it for Books, visit their Indiegogo page to make a contribution. There are only 4 days left in this campaign.
A Poem for Boston
Dan Chiasson, writing for The New Yorker pays tribute to the city of Boston.