Saturday, November 27, 2004

Chile Honors 100 Writers and Poets
South African writers Nadine Gordimer and Wally Serote were among the 100 awarded with the Pablo Neruda International Presidential Medal of Honor by the government of Chile on Thursday. The award was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda, and was awarded to 100 poets and writers from all over the world "who have significantly contributed to culture, literature and the arts," said Ambassador Claudio Herrera.

Friday, November 26, 2004

New Book on Abuse in Catholic Church
Jason Berry, the freelance journalist who 20 years ago broke the story of pedophilia in the Catholic Church with a report on abuses by a priest in Louisianna, is himself Catholic. After his first investigation into accusations against Father Gilbert Gauthe, "I began to see the outlines of a truly vast coverup, I kept wanting to understand it, I wanted to understand why it happened," Berry said. His ensuing investigation resulted in his first book Lead Us Not into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children. Berry's latest book, Vows of Silence : The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II traces the culture of lies and deception in the church through the
experiences of two very different priests: Father Tom Doyle, whose career as a Vatican diplomat was derailed when he became a whistle-blower and advocate for victims of of abuse by priests, and Father Marcial Maciel an accused pedophile, alleged drug user and founder of the militaristic Catholic order, Legion of Christ. Maciel enjoys a high degree of favor from and access to Pope John Paul II and charges of sexual abuse brought against him in the Vatican courts were blocked. The book features interviews with Father Doyle and with former Legionnaires.
Short Story Collection to Benefit African AIDS Crisis
South African writer Nadine Gordimer has solicited short stories from well-known writers around the world, including Margaret Atwood, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Woody Allen, G√ľnter Grass and Arthur Miller for the collection Telling Tales, the proceeds of which will go to the Treatment Action Campaign which fights AIDS in Africa. The book will be officially launched tomorrow with an announcement by Kofi Annan, General Secretary of the Unitied Nations. Gordimer will be present at a reading of selected stories from the book in New York on Wednesday night (Dec. 1) at Symphony Space. Nadine Gordimer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

It's a Book Thing
A beautiful thing is happening in Baltimore. For four years, Russell Wattenberg has run A Book Thing, a store that gives away books for free. All books in the store are donated. Every weekend the store throws open its doors and gives away about 20,000 books to students, teachers, kids, homeless readers -- anyone who wants a free book. Unfortunately, the store is now in danger of losing it's basement space because of a rent hike and is looking for donations. Read the story.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Nobel Politics and Free Speech
A hilarious account of a Toronto writer's trip to a local bookstore seeking titles by this year's Nobel Prizewinner, Elfriede Jelinek. To his astonishment, the clerk has some definite opinions about literature's Nobel laureates: “I used to have a list up here somewhere,” the clerk continues, “of the Nobel Prize winners going way back. I checked them off. Commie, Commie, Commie. Now what was the name of the winner this year?” Listening to the clerk's diatribe, the writer asks himself: "Was this a small, independent bookstore in downtown Toronto, or a Christian bookstore in Kansas?" And no, the store had no Jelinek titles.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Passion in Print
On the eve of Britain's annual Bad Sex Award for the worst sex scenes in fiction (for which Tom Wolfe seems to be front-runner), the Guardian examines the history of sex in literature from D.H. Lawrence, to John Updike, Philip Roth and Doris Lessing to finally Zadie Smith. The way it is depicted and used has developed from straight lust and romance, to ugly realism and disappointment, to dispassion. Hmmm...obviously nobody at the Guardian reads Jackie Collins.
National Book Award Winners Announced
There was no question a New Yorker would win this year's prize for fiction -- all five nominees were female New Yorkers. Lily Tuck won for historical epic The News from Paraguay, based on the life of Ella Lynch, mistress of the Paraguayan leader Francisco Solano Lopez. The non-fiction prize went to Kevin Boyle for Arc of Justice : A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age; the winner in poetry was Jean Valentine for Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems. The annual Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters was awarded to children's author Judy Blume, whom the American Library Association has named the nation's most censored author due to her frank depictions of pubescent growing pains.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Talking to the National Book Award Finalists
The five finalists are all New Yorkers who have steadily produced exceptional work in relative obscurity. While they may not be household words, the nominees (all women) know each other and are familiar with each other's work.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Land of the Free?
Attorney and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, but you can't read any of her writings about her work as the first female president of the city court of Tehran, Iran, or read about her tireless work for the rights of women and children, for which she has been imprisoned several times. The U.S. government won't let you. What's the difference between a religious dictatorship and a constitutional democracy? Uh, not much. Because of U.S. political sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan, books from those countries cannot be published in the U.S. The fact that such an injunction is a violation of the U.S. Constitution seems not to matter. No stranger to court battles, Ms. Ebadi has just filed suit in New York Federal Court. Go, girl.
Nobel Winner Receives Czech Literary Award
Elfriede Jelinek, surprise winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has won the $10,000 Franz Kafka award for Literature, awarded by the Czech Republic, reports the AP. The reclusive Jelinek will not travel to Sweden for the Nobel ceremony, or to Prague for the Kafka award.
"For the first time, the prize is being awarded to a woman, an outstanding personality of Austrian literature and theater who became known for her criticism of all expressions of xenophobia," said Prague's Mayor Pavel Bem, who presented the award.