Friday, October 29, 2004

Edinburgh Named International City of Literature
After a brief but intense campaign, Edinburgh, Scotland has been named the first International City of Literature by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Scotland hosts annual theater and book festivals and will now further celebrate its literary roots to attract literary tourism and scholars. Other cities will compete for the title after a period to be determined.
Auction of Oscar Wilde Material Brings in $1.5 Million
An auction that included hand-written text of Oscar Wilde's masterpiece The Picture of Dorian Gray and copy a of the never-published The Wilde Myth by Lord Alfred Douglas, Wilde's former lover, was "the finest collection of Oscar Wilde material remaining in private hands," said Sotheby's of London which handled the sale. The auction also included other books, letters an photographs belonging to the author. Wilde's relationship with Lord Douglas led to a scandal that ended in Wilde being tried and convicted of public indecency. He served two years in prison and then moved to Paris, where he died at the age of 46.
Wales Launches Literary Prize
The new Dylan Thomas Literary Prize will award 60,000 pounds (that's $110,000) to outstanding works in English from anywhere in the world by an author under 30. The launch of the prize was announced in Swansea, Wales, Dylan Thomas' home turf and New York City, his adopted home, yesterday. Catherine Zeta-Jones, also a native of Swansea will be promoting the prize. "This is a fantastic initiative and one I am proud to be a part of." The prize will be award every other year, alternating with Wales' Artes Mundi Arts Prize. Dylan Thomas, bad-boy poet was an intriguing combination of poetic sensitivity and hard-drinking thug. The White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village is still known today as the place where Thomas came to blows in brawls with several of his contemporaries. Check out his offical website from Swansea, and for a more literary perspective, check this out.
Whiting Awards Announced
The Whiting Writers' Awards, given to "emerging writers of exceptional talent and promise" were announced yesterday. The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation has awarded approximately ten $35,000 awards per year to writers, poets, playwrights and non-fiction writers for twenty years. This year's winners include Daniel Alarco´n, author of the forthcoming short-story collection War by Candlelight, Victor LaValle, author of The Ecstatic, and Allison Glock for her memoir, Beauty Before Comfort.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hannibal Lector Returns
A new novel featuring the spooky serial cannibal/killer will be released next fall, reports AP. Thomas Harris's previous books about the charming killer, Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, were bestsellers and adapted to the big screen. The upcoming book will be titled Behind the Mask and will focus on how Hannibal became the monster he is. "Millions of readers in 25 languages have wondered how Dr. Lector developed his particular appetite for evil. This novel will satisfy their curiosity," said Irwyn Applebaum, publisher of Bantam Dell Publishing Group, which is releasing the book. It'll be just the thing to go with some fava beans and a nice chianti. Oh and a note to Bantam Dell: Update Harris's website!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

James Ellroy on the Record
The darkest of the hard-boiled crime writers, James Ellroy, author of the blockbuster L.A. Confidential, has a past that would make a couple of good films. At age 10 his mother was murdered and crime was never solved. Ellroy wrote a book about the crime and it's effect on him called My Dark Places complete with crime scene photos. After his father's death when he was a teenager, he spent years living on L.A. streets, hand-to-mouth, thieving, drinking and drugging, until his late 20's when he joined A.A. and started writing. His first book was published when he was thirty. He is now promoting his latest book Destination Morgue! L.A. Tales, a collection of crime stories with inter-connected characters. Because he has been so open about his life, Ellroy tells the Sacramento Bee, "people think I'm crazy." Well no, but perhaps a tad disturbed? "I'm a completely disciplined, clean-living professional. Yeah. You can't write books like these with this kind of meticulousness without living a wholesome life devoted to diligence." There is no one like Ellroy for a brutal and uncompromising look at crime and those who fight it.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Spotlight on Conspicuous Consumption
Sophie Kinsella became a houshold name with her Shopaholic novels, featuring the fictional Rebecca Bloomwood, for whom spending money is like breathing. The howlingly funny novels have been translated into 15 languages and have been optioned by Disney for a film. In this interview Kinsella (whose real name is Madeleine Wickham) admits to being a little like her character, but the book is about extremes. Kinsella toiled in obscurity until now. It's still new enough that she's thrilled when she sees someone reading one of her novels. "It's just the most spine-tingling thing. It's just extraordinary," she says. Want to know what all the fuss is about? Visit the website.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Behind the Scenes at Book Awards
The Nobel and Man Booker literature prizes have been announced, and now the U.S. awaits the announcement of the winners of the National Book Awards. The surprise nonminees in non-fiction include The 9/11 Commission Report; in fiction all five nominees are women from New York. "Maybe it should be called the Municipal Book Awards," said novelist Thomas McGuane. How are the winners chosen? It's not pretty. The New Yorker talks to a few past committee members for the dirt on America's top book honor after the Pulitzer Prize.
Garcia Marquez sells 1000 Books an Hour
After rushing Gabriel Garcia Marquez's latest, Memorias de mis putas tristes into stores in Latin America to stop bootleggers, sales in Colombia were frenzied, reports Radio Caracol, and bookstores stayed open until 10 p.m. to meet the demand.
Garcia Marquez's Latest is Bootlegged
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's latest novel, Memoria de mis putas tristes, (Memories of My Melancholy Whores) is his first in ten years. Anticipation was so strong that bootleg copies were being sold on the streets of Bogota, Colombia (his hometown) weeks before it's official release date. Alfred A. Knopf, the publisher, had to move up the publication date to this week. The book will go on sale in the U.S. "very soon," in the original Spanish, (it's up on with the English translation to follow on dates to be determined. Garcia Marquez, who lives in Mexico, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. His most well-known work is One Hundred Years of Solitude.
J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly
Jonathan Yardley revisits (and re-reads) a classic of American fiction and regrets it. "Rereading "The Catcher in the Rye" after all those years was almost literally a painful experience: The combination of Salinger's execrable prose and Caulfield's jejune narcissism produced effects comparable to mainlining castor oil." An intelligent, witty and accurate reassessment of a novel inexplicably conferred with "classic" status.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

UK Booker Prize to Alan Hollinghurst
Britain's most prestigious literary prize was awarded to Alan Hollinghurst for The Line of Beauty, the first "gay novel" to be so recognized. Set in London in the 1980's, the story is told in three parts, Hollinghurst told the BBC. "The first part is a romance, the second one is more farcical and grotesque and the third one is more tragic in nature."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Two New Books on Ghandi Spark Outrage
Mohandas K. Ghandi vanquished British rule in India through strength without violence. Since his assasination in 1948 he has been an icon of peace and resistance in India and throughout the world. Two books recently published in India have caused controversy because their claims may tarnish Ghandi's reputation. Mira & the Mahatma examines Ghandi's relationship with Madeleine Slade, a wealthy Englishwoman who became one of his followers. The book is based on Ghandi's correspondence with her and suggests that he was "disturbed" by his feelings for her. Among other things, the author is being accused of cheap sensationalism.
Ghandi's Prisoner? Written by his own great-granddaughter, examines his relationship with his family, especially his son, whom he prevented from becoming a doctor, insisting he become a farmer.
Deconstructing Bestsellers
You'd think a "bestseller" would be a bestseller everywhere, but that's not the case. Several publications that publish bestseller lists get their sales figures from different sources, who collect the data in different ways, each slightly skewed in accuracy. Sean Rocha investigates why a book that's a bestseller in Los Angeles might not even make the list in New York, and how sales of books on each list may vary widely. Click the headline.
An Interview with Nora Roberts
The author of 150 books talks about writing, romance, cooking and her latest title, Northern Lights.
Litquake crowd crawls from bars to bookstores
San Francisco's Litquake literary festival ended with literary pubcrawl in the Mission District featuring readings and discussions at area bars, clubs and sex shops -- prose and alcohol flowed and a good time was had by all

Friday, October 15, 2004

Bernice Rubens, Welsh Novelist, Dies
Bernice Rubens, Booker Prize winner, 76, was the author of 25 books. "I am concerned with the communication, or non-communication as is more often the case, between people and families." Her most well-known works are Elected Member, for which she won the Booker Prize in 1970, Madame Sousatzka, which was made into a film starring Shirley Mclaine and the harrowing A Solitary Grief.
V.S. Naipaul Says the Novel is Dead
Carribbean-born Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, 72, forecast the death of the novel as an art form and said his latest novel, Magic Seeds (released here November 16) will most likely be his last. Naipaul says he can't imagine novels withstanding competition from film, and high-speed communications much longer. "For a book, you need to read and think for almost a week. No one has that kind of time anymore." During an appearance in New Dehli, Naipaul, whose masterpiece A House for Mr. Biswas brought him to prominence, said, "I'm really now quite old...books require quite a lot of energy, This book took about a year to write which I think is a long time considering that I don't do anything else."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Producers ask Fans to Pay for Film of Book
UK-based Festival Films has produced 18 movies based on books by the prolific author Catherine Cookson, who died in 1998. Some of those films were broadcast on public television in the U.S. as part of the Masterpiece Theater program. The production company can't get British networks interested in the script for the latest Cookson story, Katie Mulholland, so they are asking Cookson fans to pay 16 pounds up front until they raise enough money to produce the film which will go straight to video and out to the fans who ponyed up the moolah. Talk about creative financing.
On the Other Hand...
Newly Nobel-ed Elfriede Jelinek was chosen for consistenly challenging the political and sexual status quo in her work, writes Jeff Guinn of the Star-Telegram. The one thing Jelinek has in common with other Nobel Literature winners is that she has devoted her art to challenging and skewering the political status quo. Jelinek used recurring themes of sexual subjugation to mirror political oppression.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

9/11 Commission Report is Finalist for National Book Award
The report of the investigation into the 9/11 attacks is a finalist for a National Book Award, reports AP. The prizes are awarded in the areas of fiction, non-fiction and young people's literature. The Nation's most prestigious literary award, given by the National Book Foundation, has never been awarded to a government document. The 9/11 Commission Report has sold over 1 million copies and has received postitive reviews for it's fast-paced readability, in contrast to most government reports. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on November 17.
Nobel Lit Winner Writes Bad Porn, Not Literature
Literati the world over are wondering what the Nobel Prize Committee was smoking when they chose the reclusive Austrian Elfriede Jelinek as the winner of the Literature prize. It's not that she was unknown, as many gifted writers work in obscurity; it's that most of her work resembles bad bondage porn, reveling in female torture and subjugation, in a style that is pedestrian and uninspired. Manuela Hoelterhoff of sounds off.
The Smell of Fiction
Vendela Vida sniffs out authors whose depictions of smells, aromas, and odors permeate their fiction. Olfactory prose is lately the work of European writers, but she finds some Americans who have stepped into the fray.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Who is Elfriede Jelinek?
The Austrian-born winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature is the object of international curiosity after being one of the few women to have received the honor. Unfortunately, the prize seems to be causing the author of The Piano Teacher (which was filmed in 2001 starring Isabel Huppert)more stress than joy. The 58-year-old Jelinek, who lives in Vienna with her mother, refuses to attend the awards ceremony in Sweden, due to a "social phobia." Read the Nobel Committee's analysis of Jelinek's work.
It doesn’t suit me as a person to be put on public display. I feel threatened by it. I’m not in a mental shape to withstand such ceremonies.