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Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

kurt-vonnegutKurt Vonnegut’s longtime publisher, Delacorte Press, has announced it will issue 14 never-before published short stories by the author, who died in 2007, in a new collection, Look at the Birdie, slated for publication in November 2009. . . .

Look at the Birdie will include original Vonnegut illustrations and a foreword by Sidney Offit, a longtime Vonnegut confidant and the current curator of the George Polk Awards in Journalism. Bantam Dell publisher and editor-in-chief Nita Taublib and editor Kerri Buckley put the collection together. Taublib said, ‘Considered independently, these are 14 exceptionally intricate short pieces by an author whose voice we miss immensely. Taken together, they give the reader a clear sense of Kurt Vonnegut’s development into one of the most beloved and original American writers of all time.'” (more @ Publishers Weekly)

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bannedbooks“‘American Psycho’ is Bret Easton Ellis’ story of a sadistic murderer. ‘Unfriendly Fire’ is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it’s ‘Unfriendly Fire’ that does not have a sales rank — which means it would not show up in Amazon’s bestseller lists, even if it sold more copies than the ‘Twilight’ series. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon’s search results.

“Amazon’s policy of removing ‘adult’ content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. . . .

“Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: ‘Running with Scissors’ by Augusten Burroughs, ‘Rubyfruit Jungle’ by Rita Mae Brown, ‘Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic’ by Alison Bechdel, ‘The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1’ by Michel Foucault, ‘Bastard Out of Carolina’ by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), ‘Little Birds: Erotica’ by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and ‘Becoming a Man’ by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award.

“Books that remain ranked include: ‘Naked’ by David Sedaris, ‘Tropic of Cancer’ by Henry Miller, ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis, ‘Wifey’ by Judy Blume, ‘The Kiss’ by Kathryn Harrison, the photobooks ‘Playboy: Helmut Newton’ and ‘Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds,’ ‘Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs, ‘Incest: From ‘A Journal of Love” by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (2007 Vintage International edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 Penguin Classics edition). . . .

“But as troubling as the unevenness of the policy of un-ranking and de-searching certain titles might be, it’s a bit beside the point. It’s the action itself that is troubling: making books harder to find, or keeping them off bestseller lists on the basis of their content can’t be a good idea.” (more @ LA Times)

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short-storiesIn Sunday’s New York Times, A.O. Scott writes in praise of the American short story (long my favorite literary form), challenging “the conventional wisdom in American letters . . . that size matters, that the big-game hunters and heavyweight fighters . . . go after the Great American Novel,” and posits this fascinating future for short fiction:

“The new, post-print literary media are certainly amenable to brevity. The blog post and the tweet may be ephemeral rather than lapidary, but the culture in which they thrive is fed by a craving for more narrative and a demand for pith. And just as the iPod has killed the album, so the Kindle might, in time, spur a revival of the short story. If you can buy a single song for a dollar, why wouldn’t you spend that much on a handy, compact package of character, incident and linguistic invention? Why wouldn’t you collect dozens, or hundreds, into a personal anthology, a playlist of humor, pathos, mystery and surprise?

“The death of the novel is yesterday’s news. The death of print may be tomorrow’s headline. But the great American short story is still being written, and awaits its readers.” (more @ NY Times)

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chabon“Thirty years ago the American Jewish fiction of Philip Roth and Saul Bellow was all about Yiddish insults, blonde shiksas, and getting away from the past. Today’s talented crop of young Jewish writers, such as Nathan Englander, Michael Chabon, and Dara Horn, are weaving tales bound in a newfound ethnic pride that has revitalized Jewish literature in America.” (cont’d @ Vanity Fair)

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housingworksOn Saturday, May 2nd, “The Millions.com” will lead their first annual “Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Bookstores.” The 11-stop itinerary begins in the East Village, continues through NoLita and SOHO, crosses the Brooklyn Bridge into DUMBO, and ends after 4 or so hours of walking and book-browsing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The complete, 11-stop  itinerary includes: 

Additional information on the event can be found here.

A full-size Google map of the tour, with walking directions, can be found here.

RelatedLiterary DUMBO: An Afternoon Walk Under the Bridges in Search of Books

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alhambra“One of Spain’s most enduring historical mysteries is close to being solved as experts decipher and translate more than 10,000 Arabic inscriptions adorning the walls of the Alhambra palace in Granada.

“The intricate Arabic inscriptions carved into the ceilings, columns and walls inside the imposing hill-top fortress have long fascinated visitors. They contain everything from snatches of poetry and verses from the Qur’an to clever aphorisms, pious wishes and boastful slogans.

“There are so many of them, however, that nobody has ever managed to study each and every one. Now a team of researchers armed with 3D laser scanners and digital imaging software is slowly working its way around the complex recording, transcribing and translating every inscription.

“‘There is probably no other place in the world where studying walls, columns and fountains is so similar to turning the pages of a book,’ said Juan Castilla, of Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), who heads the team.” (cont’d @ Guardian UK)

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sontag“Authorities in Sarajevo plan to name a city square after the late U.S. author and activist Susan Sontag, who, during the Bosnian war, staged Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot there. . . .

“Sontag’s insistence on staging the existential play in the besieged city drew attention to the country’s civil war. The Washington Post dubbed Sontag’s production ‘Waiting for Clinton.’

“‘Beckett’s play, written over 40 years ago, seems written for, and about, Sarajevo,’ noted Sontag at the time.

“The writer died in 2004 at age 71 from leukemia.” (more @ CBC News)

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“He is the 82-year old giant of Latin American literature who pioneered the school of magical realism and inspired a generation of novelists. But Gabriel García Márquez has barely written a word since his last novel, Memoirs of My Melancholy Whores, came out to distinctly mixed reviews five years ago.

“Now fans of the Colombian author are facing the prospect that, after a career spanning half a century, Garcia Marquez has finally laid down his pen for good.

“His agent, Carmen Balcells, told the Chilean newspaper La Tercera: ‘I don’t think that García Márquez will write anything else.'” (more @ Guardian UK)

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pizzatheactionPuns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion. Most resemble mathematical formulas: clever, perhaps, but hardly occasion for knee-slapping. The worst smack of tawdriness, even indecency, which is why puns, like off-color jokes, are often followed by apologies. Odds are that a restaurant with a punning name — Snacks Fifth Avenue, General Custard’s Last Stand — hasn’t acquired its first Michelin star.” (more @ NY Times)

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amherst250logoAs part of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Amherst, Massachusetts, home to the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst College, Hampshire College and the University of Masachusetts, a number of literary events are scheduled for the month of April. Events include a “Children’s Literary Scavenger Hunt,” an “Emerging Young Writers Event,” and “A Reading by Poet, Essayist, Editor and Translator: Martin Espada,” to name a few.

A complete schedule of events in the “Amherst Lit Series” can be found here.

Additional information “About Amherst 250” can be found here.

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walker_percyA previously unknown short story by Walker Percy, whose first novel, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1962, will be published in the April, 2009 issue of The Hopkins Review, a literary quarterly produced by Johns Hopkins University Press.

“‘A Detective Story’ is a breezy tale of William Pinckney, a Mississippi businessman who goes out for a pack of cigarettes and never comes home. The yarn is narrated by Jamie Rodgers, a long-time friend of Pinckney’s. At the request of Pinckney’s wife, and to appease his own curiosity, Rodgers sets out on a quest – to Memphis, Atlanta and other places — to find the vanished man.” (more @ NPR)

It is unclear when Percy wrote “A Detective Story.” Logan Browning, a lecturer at Rice University, thinks Percy may have written the piece in the late 1950s before he wrote The Moviegoer.

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bookfairArguably the most important annual book fair in the United States will be held this coming weekend, April 3-5, at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Avenue, at 67th Street) in New York City. General information (hours, entrance fees, etc) about the 49th annual event, organized by Sanford L. Smith and Associates and sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America can be found here.

The list of international exhibitors can be found here.

The annual New York fair is well worth the admission price even for those uninterested in writing large checks – as an exhibition of incunabula, rare and unusual books, periodicals and literary ephemera, the New York event is unrivaled in the United States, and probably the rest of the world as well.

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“Short, lucid writing is needed in these uncertain times, according to the Booker prize-winning Nigerian author Ben Okri, who is releasing a new poem line by line on Twitter. . . .

“‘I sing a new freedom,’ Okri Twittered yesterday, following it up today with the second line of the poem, ‘Freedom with discipline’, today. The poem was written to mark the release of Okri’s new book, Tales of Freedom, in April. The book brings together short stories and poetry in what Okri’s publisher described as ‘a fascinating new form, using writing and image pared down to their essentials, where haiku and story meet’. The entire poem will be posted on Okri’s Facebook and MySpace pages once it is completed.” (more @ The Guardian)

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hemingwayhopkinsAnthony Hopkins will play Ernest Hemingway in an indie titled Hemingway & Fuentes, to be produced and directed by Andy Garcia. . . .

“Garcia, who also co-wrote the script with Hemingway’s niece, author Hilary Hemingway, will costar in the film as well, playing the real life fishing-boat captain Gregorio Fuentes, who befriended Papa Hemingway in the last decade of the alpha-male writer’s life. Fuentes was said to be the model for one of Hemingway’s most enduring literary creations: the grizzled fisherman Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952.” (more @ Entertainment Weekly; via Books, Inq.)

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“Sana Krasikov is the 2009 recipient of the $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for emerging writers of Jewish literature. Krasikov wins the Prize for her debut short story collection, One More Year (Spiegel & Grau) . . . 

“The Sami Rohr Prize is the largest monetary prize of its kind in the Jewish literary world, and one of the largest literary prizes worldwide. In 2006, in celebration of Sami Rohr’s 80th birthday, his children and grandchildren inaugurated the Sami Rohr Prize to honor his lifelong love of Jewish literature. The Prize considers fiction and non-fiction in alternating years.” (more @ Jewish Book Council)

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“On the eve of national strikes, the French have found a new way to show their dislike of [President] Nicolas Sarkozy: by reading a 17th century tale of thwarted love that the president has said he hates.

“Mr Sarkozy, a man often ridiculed in France for preferring fitness to literature, has frequently expressed his disdain for ‘La Princesse de Cleves (The Princess of Cleves), a novel by Madame de La Fayette which was published in 1678 and is taught in most French classrooms.

“Now, French readers have adopted the book as a symbol of dissent: as Mr Sarkozy’s popularity falls, sales of the book are rising.

“At the Paris book fair this week, publishers reported selling all available copies of the novel, while badges emblazoned with the slogan ‘I am reading La Princesse de Cleves’ were a must-have item that sold out within hours. . . .

“Public readings of the work have proliferated at universities like the Sorbonne in Paris, hit by protests over government reform plans, and at theatres.” (more @ Daily Telegraph UK)

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bookerprize“The Man Booker International Prize was announced in June 2004 and recognises one writer for his or her achievement in fiction. Worth £60,000 to the winner, the prize is awarded once every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. In addition, there is a separate prize for translation and, if applicable, the winner can choose a translator of his or her work into English to receive a prize of £15,000. . . .

“The Man Booker International Prize differs from the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction in that it highlights one writer’s continued creativity, development and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.  Both prizes strive to recognise and reward the finest fiction.”

The 14 authors on the 2009 contenders list are:

Previous winners of the prize are Ismail Kadare of Albania and Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. (more @ Man Booker Prizes)

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richard-fordIn the current issue of Bookforum, novelist Richard Ford considers whether Frank Bascombe, the narrator of his award-winning trilogy of novels, is “a stand-in for the rest of us”:

“Over the last twenty years, goodwilled readers have occasionally asked me if Frank Bascombe, the yearning, sometimes vexatious, narrator of my three novels The SportswriterIndependence Day, and Lay of the Land—if Frank Bascombe was intended to be an American ‘everyman.’ By this I think these readers mean: Is Frank at least partly an emblem? Poised there in the final clattering quadrant of the last century, beset with dilemmas and joys, equipped with his suburban New Jersey skill set and ethical outlook—do Frank’s fears, dedications, devilings, and amusements stand somewhat for our own?

“Naturally, I’m flattered to hear such a question, since it might mean the questioner has read at least one of these books and tried to make use of it. And I can certainly imagine that a millennial standard-bearer might be worth having; a sort of generalizable, meditative, desktop embodiment of our otherwise unapplauded selves—one who’s not so accurately drawn as to cause discomfort, but still recognizable enough to make us feel a bit more visible to ourselves, possibly recertify us as persuasive characters in our own daily dramas.

“But the truth is that Frank Bascombe as ‘everyman’ was never my intention. Not only would I have no idea how to go about writing such a full-service literary incarnation, but I’m also sure I’d find the whole business to be not much fun in the doing. And I still want to enjoy what I’m doing.” (more @ Bookforum)

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“More than 9,000 books are missing from the British Library, including Renaissance treatises on theology and alchemy, a medieval text on astronomy, first editions of 19th- and 20th-century novels, and a luxury edition of Mein Kampf produced in 1939 to celebrate Hitler’s 50th birthday.

“The library believes almost all have not been stolen but rather mislaid among its 650km of shelves and 150m items – although some have not been seen in well over half a century. . . .

“The library records all of these items as ‘mislaid’ rather than gone for ever, still less stolen. Despite well-publicised recent cases – such as that of Edward Forbes Smiley III, convicted in the US three years ago of stealing more than 100 maps from institutions including the British Library, and Farhad Hakimzadeh, an Iranian collector jailed in January for cutting maps, illustrations and pages from priceless volumes in the British Library and other collections – the library is convinced that almost all the missing texts are still somewhere within its walls.” (more @ The Guardian)

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bolanoawardThe awards keep rolling in for the late Roberto Bolaño and 2666:

“On Thursday, March 12, 2009, at a crowded ceremony at the New School in New York, the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of its book awards, covering books published in 2008. . . .

“Roberto Bolaño’s monumental 2666 (Farrar, Straus), a tale of love and violence set within the framework of the fictional town of Santa Teresa, Mexico, that’s widely regarded as the late author’s masterpiece, won the fiction award. Fiction committee chair Marcela Valdes called the work ‘a virtuoso accomplishment that ranks with Moby-Dick and Blood Meridian as one of the trenchant and kaleidoscopic examinations of evil in fiction.'”

Other winners included:

  • Poetry (co-winners): August Kleinzahler, Sleeping It Off in Rapid CityJuan Felipe Herrera, Half the World in Light
  • CriticismSeth LererChildren’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter
  • BiographyPatrick French, The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul
  • AutobiographyAriel Sabar, My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq
  • NonfictionDexter Filkins, The Forever War.

(more @ National Book Critics Circle)

RelatedMas Bolano: Part VI of “2666” Discovered in Author’s Papers

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