Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Can Books Succeed Where Diplomacy has Failed? One Writer Hopes So
Azar Nafisi wrote Reading Lolita Teheran about her experiences leading a secret reading group for women in her native Iran. Nafisi wants to start a global reading group to encourage understanding and awareness about the importance of human rights, reports the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Nafisi hopes to fight the oppression she fled from by using literature to start a dialogue. "That is the one thing I have always dreamt of, to create this republic of imagination," she tells the Globe and Mail. She hopes that discussing works of literature from all over the world will spark recognition of similarities instead of igniting old differences.
The reading group will meet online, of course and the site will debut early in 2006. Despite the focus on literature, Nafisi makes clear this is a political move. "People think of activism in terms of going to the White House or becoming political every four years, but I think activism is also very actively and consciously supporting a culture of thought and imagination," she said.
Nafisi is a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and Reading Lolita in Teheran, an international bestseller, is banned in Iran.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Amy Tan, Unplugged
Tan achieved prominence with her first book, The Joy Luck Club in 1989. Now 53, famous and several trips up bestseller lists around the world, she talks to the Guardian about writing, mothers, daughters, loss and her peculiar brand of luck as her latest novel Saving Fish from Drowning, hits the shelves.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Pinter to Miss Nobel Ceremony
Harold Pinter, the British playwright who was awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, will be unable to attend the December 7 award ceremony due to poor health, reports the BBC.
Pinter, who is 75, has been treated for cancer and doctors have forbidden him to travel, the Nobel Committee announced.
Mr. Pinter has recorded a speech which will be played at the ceremony and publisher Stephen Page will accept the prize on his behalf.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Literature of National Tragedy
Forty-two years ago this month, the President of the United States was shot to death in broad daylight, in front of dozens of witnesses while motion picture and still photographers recorded the event. The assasination of John F. Kennedy remains unsolved, and a national disgrace.
The Warren Commission Report, the first and best known book regarding the assassination, was the result of a Congressional investigation into the events of November 1963 and served more to insult Americans than inform them. Very few believed the "lone gunman" and "magic bullet" theories proposed in the report.

Those who say there is no proof of a conspiracy are correct, and those who say the preponderance of evidence indicates that Oswald did not act alone also have a strong case. Those who want a decisive answer to the question of who killed John F. Kennedy 42 years ago will have to await new books -- and live with the disturbing thought that we still don't know. -- Jefferson Morley
Forty years after the fact, with the government still refusing to disclose crucial documents, books regarding the assasination are a never-ending industry. The Washington Post's Jefferson Morley surveys the JFK assasination scholarship to date and reviews the latest authors to enter the fray. Also read the transcript of his webchat with Post readers about the assassination and various theories and those who have written about it.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Great Literature Amid Illiteracy
An extraordinary piece by AP writer Emily Wagster Pettus exposes the south's dirty little secret: illiteracy.
The piece focuses on Mississippi, which has the nation's lowest literacy rate, yet an astonshing literary history. Quoting Mississipi authors past and present, Pettus tries to make sense of an entrenched malaise for which underfunding and racism are only partly responsible.
"This clash of literature and illiteracy is one of the great contradictions in a region filled with them. And it's particularly stark in Mississippi, where studies have found that 30 percent of adults can't read well enough to fill out a job application, the dropout rate is 40 percent and public schools rank near the bottom in nearly every category."
To try and combat the problem Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale has pledged $100 million to the Barksdale Reading Institute, to get children reading as early as preschool. Meanwhile, the housekeeper at the State Capitol, at age 59, still struggles to read fluently.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Library of Congress, Harvard Library Going Digital with Help from Google
The Library of Congress is launching an ambitious project called World Digital Library, "an online collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps, posters, stamps and other materials from its holdings and those of other national libraries that would be freely accessible for viewing by anyone, anywhere with Internet access," reports The Washington Post. Material in national libraries on five continents are to be included in the project, said James H. Billington, head of the Library of Congress. Google has pledged $3 million to the project. "To me, this is about preserving history and making it available to everyone," said Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
Meanwhile, in Cambridge, Harvard University's libraries are going digital in partnership with Google's Book Search project, The New York Times reported yesterday. Harvard has more than 90 libraries, the digitizing of even the first 40,000 volumes seems daunting, but Google may have developed a new scanning technology that will enable them to meet their proposed deadline of six years.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Literary Review of Canada Lists Top 100

The editors of the Review listed not the 100 best books, but the 100 books that most impacted Canadian culture or most effectively reflected it, reports the Ottowa Citizen. Thus the list contains classics such as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and Howie Meeker's Hockey Basics (the sport is like a religion in Canada) alongside several governmental commission reports. The books are listed chronologically and span the 20th and 21st centuries.
Like many lists and rankings, glaring omissions are sometimes difficult to avoid. Michael Ondaatje, one of Canada's most respected authors, was accidentally left off the list, admitted Bronwyn Drainie, editor of the Review. "We ended up arguing quite passionately about whether it should be The English Patient or In The Skin of a Lion," she said. "We argued it back and forth so much that somehow, inadvertently, we argued him off the list!"
Get the list and give feedback here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Robert Louis Stevenson, Composer?
Nineteenth-century Scottish writer and traveler Robert Louis Stevenson is remembered as the author of such classics as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island and the The Master of Ballantrae. Instead of living in Edinburgh, London, Paris or New York, Stevenson gave up 19th-century "civilization" to live in Samoa with his wife Fanny until he died. In addition to books, Stevenson wrote numerous short stories and travel and literary articles. Now, a recent discovery uncovered a talent previously unknown to present-day students fans and aficionados of the author, reports the Edinburgh Evening News
Members of the Stevenson Society were presented with a recording of the author's only known musical composition, a piece called Aberlady Links. Members of the society were more impressed with the novelty of the gift than the quality of the music. "if he had tried to be a composer, he would have starved to death," said one member.
Take a look at the Stevenson online exhibition here, which includes, pictures, manuscripts and personal articles. Check out the Stevenson Society of America. Get free online Stevenson e-texts here.
The Stiletto Lit Wars
You've seen them -- you've probably even bought one. Those nice trade paperbacks with a playful pink or or pastel cover, and a stylish girl or pair of stilettos somewhere in the cover art. The story is usually about a woman juggling career drama and and dating/love drama while running around between crises in stilettos shopping for designer clothes she can't really afford. It's Chick-Lit and it's a phenomenon.
Just as quickly as chick-lit has become a phenomeon, it has also become a lightning rod for criticism and derision from the literary establishment, feminists and men.
In The Australian, chick-lit author Melanie La'Brooy writes a detailed defense of the genre that is earning millions world-wide.
La'Brooy's spririted and well-argued defense of the genre doesn't quite address the severest (and most accurate) criticisms: that the genre is basically re-packaged romance novels for the Sex and the City set and that in view of the strides feminism has made in the past 40 years, the success of these novels is kind of disturbing.
Another point La'Brooy missed is that there is a metamorphosis occuring within the genre. Simon and Shuster's Downtown Press, which publishes nothing but Chick-lit, is publishing some startlingly new-fangled Chick-Lit which is combining thriller and crime elements into the genre.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Forbes lists Literary Tastemakers
Who knew that the chronicle of capitalism even knew there was such a thing as culture?
In a fit of um...madness(?) Forbes Magazine, that bastion of business journalism, has elected 10 contemporary writers as "Tastemakers," meaning, according to the introduction, that the writers not only display hefty sales but have taken the contemporary novel to new unexpected heights (or depths). Well, knock me over with a 100-dollar bill.
But wait! Lest you think the pinstriped pundits at Forbes have gone completely bohemian, they explain this literary lark by observing that books are big business in the U.S. "In fact, in 2004, Americans spent an estimated $8.8 billion on adult trade books, $3.1 billion on juvenile trade books, and $2.9 billion on mass-market paperbacks," they rejoice. And, they go one breathlessly, "U.S. consumers will spend nearly 5% more on books in 2005 than they did in 2004."
The list, which includes, Zadie Smith, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Joan Didion, also crassly (and pointlessly) lists their sales figures for 2005 to date. Apparently the editors at Forbes need some kinds of numbers to pick their night-table reading by.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cops and Robbers, Pimps and Liars

Tequila Blue by Rolo Diez ($13.95 Trade paper Bitter Lemon Press) Translated by Nick Caistor

Political and moral corruption never had it so good.

To paraphrase the subtitle, it's hard being a cop. Betwen the graft, the fencing of stolen goods, and the pimping, there's collecting payoffs, intimidating witnesses and indiscriminate sex. Then there are the wives, mistresses and children to factor in. Detective Carlos Fernandez of the Mexico City Police is only one man, but he tries to get everything done.

This stylish and funny hard-boiled yarn is a rollicking satire that moves at whiplash speed, with characters as vivid as blood spatter at a crime scene.

Fernandez's whole life is about the next peso -- and keeping his boss happy. Then an American with connections to a porn ring turns up dead in a hotel room and things get really interesting. Making money and getting to the bottom of the porn killings use up almost all of Fernandez' talents for lying, corruption, murder and sex, but just when you think he's up against it, he sinks lower and slithers out of another tight spot. But somehow, you can't hate him. And as you catch your breath at the end of this one, you'll shake your head and wonder what he will do next. But you cringe and laugh just thinking about it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Filmmaker Uncovers the Truth about Rings vs. Narnia
They were Oxford professors, literary scholars and wrote multi-volume fantasy series that became legendary. C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, were also friends and bitter rivals, reports the Scotsman.
In researching an upcoming bio-documentary about C.S. Lewis, author of the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia, Scottish director Norman Stone uncovered the famed friendship between the two authors was marked by bitter disagreements about everything from their books to their spouses. The documentary will debut in December just before the film version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe hits theaters in the UK and the US Find out more about Lewis here.
Honey West Novels to be Reissued
Created in 1957 by husband and wife writing team Gloria and Forest Fickling, Honey West became the first hard-boiled dame detective in print. This Girl for Hire introduced this smart, long-legged investgator based in L.A. with a knack for catching bad guys and losing her clothes. Honey's career spanned eleven books and almost fifteen years, and included a short lived television series. Except for one or two of the titles, the books have been out of print for decades, until now. The Overlook Press will reissue the entire series, reports the Palm Beach Post.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Authors Guild Sues Google

When Google announced plans to put the contents of major libraries online, they neglected to ask for permission to put entire works online which are protected by U.S. copyright laws. reports on the ensuing lawsuit.
Google Print the hot new search service, doesn't actually offer up the entire text of novels, but does search the text. If you're looking for a quote or a reference, within a book, Google Print will offer up the quote on the scanned page of the book, and offers a peak at a sample chapter, but if it's the whole book you're looking for, there are links to publishers and leading you to purchase the book. It's hard to see how authors are loosing money here, but maybe I'm missing something.
After months of negotiations with the Authors' Guild, Google agreed to allow writers to "opt-out" of having their works appear on the service. The solution sounded about as sound as an Enron balance sheet to the Authors' Guild, which filed suit against Google yesterday in New York, seeking an injunction against further printing of books online. Let's hope a judge can negotiate the survival of a great idea without bilking thousands of hard working writers of their hard earned money.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Tragedy in the Gulf States
Like the rest of the world, we are deeply saddened and infuriated by the disaster in the New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Not only were these areas devastated by the relentless fury of Hurricane Katrina, they suffered dearly because of genocidal ineptitude by government agencies. Thankfully evacuations are almost complete, but the death toll will be in the thousands.
This disaster is an historic event which will have immediate economic and sociological impact throughout the country. We encourage you to give what you can to the Red Cross. You can give directly through your account with one-click here.
The culture, cuisine and music of the affected areas are gone indefinitely, but its literature lives on. Kate Chopin, William Faulkner, Tennesee Williams, Truman Capote, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Harper Lee, James Lee Burke and a host of other literary greats gave many of us an indelible picture of the American South Coast that will never be washed away.
Anne Rice, the contemporary writer most closely associated with New Orleans, wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times this weekend that Louisiana's first literary magazine, L'alubum Litteraire, was published in 1840 by French-speaking Black men. Read Rice's comments on New Orleans culture here. Peruse fiction set in New Orleans.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Literary Red Carpet
NBC has announced the launch of the annual Quills, an Oscar-type awards show dedicated to books where winners are chosen by the general public. The inaugural event, which promises an author-packed evening, will be broadcast on October 22 on NBC during prime time.
You can vote for nominees in categoreies such as best audiobook, general fiction, mystery/thriller, etc. until September 15.
The Boston Globe ruminates on whether the awards are relevant at all, since they seem to boost books and writers that are on the bestseller lists, ignoring lesser-known writers, but we say it's about time.
Malaysian British Writer took a Long Road to Printed Page
You may have heard of Tang Aw lately. His first book, The Harmony Silk Factory has just been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, the UK's most prestigious literary award. The beautifully rendered story of the mysterious and rakish Johnny Lim in 1940s Malaysia is being hailed by critics and readers alike, which is particularly satisfying for Aw, who spent five hard years writing it after leaving his family-approved career of law.
Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Aw was encouraged to read "on the assumption that you are going to go on and read lots of books that will make you interested in law or banking," he tells The Age of Australia.
After dutifully attending law school at Cambridge University, he tried to work odd jobs and write, but was struggling financially and artistically and decided to go be a lawyer. "I like the idea of law as an academic subject... The practice of law is something else completely; it's awful," says Aw.
Five years later he had socked away enough money to quit and write for a while but faced another considerable road block. He had no idea what he was doing. Aw enrolled in the creative writing program at the University of East Anglia, which boasts alums such as Ian McEwan and Kasuo Ishiguro. The program, where Aw started The Harmony Silk Factory, is not for the faint of heart (or the untalented, it seems). "It really is horrible," Aw says of his time in the program. "It's basically just workshops in which four people's work is discussed. That is handed out in advance and everyone has a week to tear it to pieces and that's what they do." Nevertheless, Aw is finally what always wanted to be.

Monday, August 22, 2005

This Fall's Heaviest Read
SorJuanaAt 1360 pages and almost five pounds, Paul Anderson's Hunger's Brides can probably claim to be the biggest book of the season. Quite a feat for a first time novelist.
The story of a student who becomes obsessed with the legendary 17th-century poet and nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and her mysterious vow of silence (signed in blood) is called "an elaborately beautiful, intricately baroque game that has at its center this mystery about Sor Juana's silence," by the Canadian publisher, Random House, reports the New York Times.
The novel first clocked in at 1,000 pages, but the editor asked for more. "What was missing was something that I knew he already knew was missing," Anne Collins, his publisher, explained - the leap into what, from her childhood or whenever, haunted Sor Juana and eventually forced her into her vow of silence. "I told him, 'You can't not go there.' And that's how it got longer."
For more about Sor Juana's life and poetry, visit the Dartmouth College Sor Juana Project.
Before you turn a page of the hefty Hunger's Brides, visit the novel's website for advice on "safe reading positions."
Paris Unveils Book Vending Machines
Next time you're in Paris and crave a literary fix off-hours, get a book from Maxi-Livre.
The French publisher has debuted three new vending machines that sell books at several locations in Paris, reports the AP (via JS online).
Among the titles available are Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal(one of Bookchick's all-time favorites), The Odyssey and Alice in Wonderland. Each book sells for about $2.45.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Author to Auction Character Names for First Amendment Project
Sixteen writers, including Stephen King, John Grisham and Amy Tan, have agreed to name characters in their next novels after winning bidders in an Ebay fundraiser for The First Amendment Project, reports the Guardian.
Fans can choose which writer they want to bid on and the winning bidder's name will be given to a character in the next book.
Just which character is up for grabs. Stephen King says "potential bidders are told that the character to be given their name "can be male or female, but a buyer who wants to die must in this case be female" (his next novel, Cell is already in progress).
Peter Straub warns potential bidders "that the fictional person who winds up bearing his or her name may be of dubious moral character."
Bidding starts September 1, but you can view the auction page at eBay now.

Monday, August 15, 2005

First Edition Gatsby Discovered
A Pennsylvania bookseller discovered a first editon of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in a box of books that had been sitting in his store for over two months reports AP.
The volume has already garnered a $23,000 bid on ebay, before it was identified as a first edition. The first edition of the Jazz-age classic spells Jay Gatsby's name with a lowercase j on the dustjacket, a mistake which was corrected in later editions.
RIP Judith Rossner 1935-2005
The author of Looking for Mr. Goodbar, To the Precipice and Nine Months in the Life of an Old Maid, died August 9 at New York University Medical Center in Manhattan, reports The Guardian.
The Manhattan-born Rossner captured the essence of 70's hedonism and alienation in her bestselling Looking for Mr. Goodbar, a story which was based on a real murder case on the Upper West Side, which was later made into a film starring Diane Keaton and Richard Gere.
Rossner's novels plumbed the depths of the female psyche from young wife to gnarled old maid with equal parts of humor and psychological insight.
She is survived by her husband Stanley Leff and two children, Daniel and Jean, from her first marriage.
Read the New York Times obituary.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Writer Prefers Erotica to Tradition

When Mary Anne Mohanraj's parents emigrated to the U.S. from Sri Lanka in the 1970s, they believed their daughter would get a stellar education (preferably in science or medicine), and then settle down to a proper arranged marriage with a Tamil Sri Lankan and procreate. Unfortunately for them, the Internet changed all that.
During the early days of the net, browsing news groups one night, the convent-educatied Mohanraj saw the newsgroup and decided to peek in. "The first erotic story she read was so badly written she decided she could do better," reports She eventually became known as "the queen of" for her hot tales, which she wrote in between getting two degrees. Then she was tapped to edit to collections of erotica, Wet and Aqua Erotica (now in it's fifth printing).
Although her parents stopped speaking to her when they found out what she was writing online, they forgave her, but have given up all hope of an arranged marriage. This is good news, because Mohanraj is in a long-term open relationship.
Mohanraj's first collection of stories Bodies in Motion follows to families in Sri Lanka and the U.S. and is not erotic, but a multi-generational saga.
Read the fascinating interview/profile here.

Monday, August 01, 2005

In Praise of Horror
When Stephen King was presented with a National Book Award in 2003 (for "Distinguished Contribution to American Letters), the literati balked. Sure, he's practically the bestselling American writer of all time, and his books have been made into films that became, like the books they were based on, cultural touchstones. But a horror writer? The literary establishment considers horror the literary equivalent of a corndog.
But it's time to give horror literature (yes, literature) the respect it deserves, or so says Victoria Brownworth in the Baltimore Sun. "Horror still hovers outside the margins of what is accepted as serious literature, yet horror is immensely serious, dealing with the most elemental of human struggles, the fight against evil," she writes. In another hundred years, Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire, The Witching Hour), Stephen King (The Dead Zone, Carrie), Tannanrive Due (The Good House, The Between) and Koji Suzuki (Dark Water, The Ring) will be taught as classic literature much like Frankenstein and Dracula are today, because these writers (and many others) use horror to look at other cultural ills and issues in society, writes Brownworth.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

University of Nottingham Unveils DH Lawrence Collection Online
The University of Nottingham has put a wealth of material from its collection of D.H. Lawrence papers online, including letters, photos, manuscripts, newspaper clippings and "secondary sources," reports the Guardian.
Lawrence, author of Lady Chatterley's Lover, and Sons and Lovers, was born in Nottinghamshire and briefly attended the University of Nottingham.
See the D.H. Lawrence Collection Online.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

G √ľnter Grass in Gdansk
The Gdansk-born writer visits his home town and talks to writers he has influenced. Grass is known mainly as the author of
The Tin Drum, a powerful tale about living under the Nazi regime.
In his work, Grass has made the city of Gdansk/Danzig, which was fought over by Germans and Poles for decades, a central theme, reports Deutsche Welle magazine.
" the last chapter of my novel "The Flounder," I describe the insurgency in the Polish port cities, especially Gdansk, where the militia shot at the workers. That becomes part of the plot. At that time, I was the only writer who wrote about that. Polish writers couldn't write about it. The censors wouldn't have allowed it. I was a sort of surrogate writer for Polish literature. So, my relationship to Poland has been there for decades. And it is continuing."
Grass was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers are Online
The University of Texas at Austin purchased all papers, notes, and material relating to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's reporting of the Watergate story, and UT has launched an online exhibit of some of the material.
You can see the notes Woodward took at the arraignment of the five burglars in the Watergate break-in, notes taken during interviews with key figures in the scandal, and read newsstories from the Washington Post. Also available is the outline for All the President's Men the book which pulled the quagmire of corruption together, and see Woodward's notes to Robert Redford about the screenplay.
Just in case you forgot, the anonymous source that served to guide much of "Woodstein's" reporting, Deep Throat, came out from under 30 years of anonymity last month in Vanity Fair. Woodward's book about his relationship with his anonymous source, Mark Felt, The Secret Man, was released last week.
Turkish Novelist Shafak is World Citizen
Elif Shafak was born in Paris, raised in Spain, Turkey and Germany, and now works in Tuscon (as a professor) and Istanbul (as a writer).
"I don't stop being Turkish when I'm in the USA, and I'm also an American when I'm in Istanbul. I don't want to have to decide. Especially not between East and West. These are completely illusionary concepts. I love things that are multicultural, multilingual. I like to be able to combine things that are remote from each other." she tells the German Magazine Sign and
Shafak's latest work, The Saint of Incipient Insanities is set in the U.S.
A Writer on a Mission of Dissent
Duong Thu Huong, 58, the first Vietnamese writer translated into English, discusses her need to speak out against the current regime with The New York Times. No Man's Land is the latest in a series of novels in which Huong examines the effect of "a brutal and ignoble regime" on the Vietnamese people, manipulated by the government and still living in the shadow of the war.
Huong's book are banned in Vietnam and she has been imprisoned and branded "a dissident whore," but she persists in speaking out against the leadership, especially when she is abroad promoting her books. Acclaimed in Europe and America, Huong was offered asylum by the French government when she first visited there a few years ago. Huong declined, saying she had to return to Vietnam. "I return to do one thing: to spit in the face of the regime."

Saturday, July 09, 2005

How Stella Got Played
You may have heard that Terry McMillan, 53, bestselling author of Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back,is divorcing the young stud she wrote about in that book. Turns out he's gay.
"It was devastating to discover that a relationship I had publicized to the world as life-affirming and built on mutual love was actually based on deceit," she said in court papers. "I was humiliated," states McMillan in court papers.
There is a pre-nup, although the husband, Jonathan Plummer, 30, has asked the court to set it aside and McMillan has been ordered to pay $2000 a month in spousal support.
In a column earlier this week, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post poses a question many readers have. How do you spend 10 years with a man, six of them married, and not know he is gay?
Robinson speculates part of it is due to the "down-low" phenomenon which has gained increased attention in recent years, in which gay black men marry and have families but secretly have sex with men.
"In 10 years with this guy she didn't have a clue? In the bathroom cabinet, no stock of overly metrosexual hair products? No hint when the business he got her to finance turned out to be a dog-grooming salon? Terry McMillan, such a keen observer of love and war between the sexes, and nothing ever showed up on her "gaydar?" asks Robinson.
Down-low or no, we wish Ms. McMillan the best in this difficult time, and may there be many straight hunky guys in her future.
As for the Down Low, it is not limited to African-American men, as a new study by the Centers for Disease Control discovered (duh).
French Nobel Novelist Dies
Claude Simon, the best known of the nouveau roman (new novel) writers in France, characterized by stream of consciousness prose, interior monologues, and lack of punctuation, died last week in Paris, reports Agence France-Presse. He was 91.
In 1985 Simon was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. "Claude Simon's narrative art may appear as a representation of something that lives within us whether we will or not, whether we understand it or not, whether we believe it or not - something hopeful, in spite of all cruelty and absurdity which for that matter seem to characterize our condition and which is so perceptively, penetratingly and abundantly reproduced in his novels," announced the academy.
Simon's best known novel, and the one he called a turning point in his career, is Le Vent (The Wind).

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Ed McBain/Evan Hunter Deat at 78
As Ed McBain he wrote the 87th Precinct crime novels, and as Evan Hunter he wrote books including The Blackboard Jungle (1954) Last Summer (1968), which were both made into films, and Candyland (2000). The author died yesterday at his Connecticut home of throat cancer, reports the New York Times.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Writer Who Won't Quit His Day Job
Rick Mofina, an award-winning crime writer is doing well. His last book sold half a million copies in his native Canada and the U.S. His latest book, The Dying Hour is his sixth book and launches a series. But the bespectacled Mofina, a former reporter, continues to toil away at his day job as a media advisor to federal bureaucrats in Ottowa.
"I'm just a regular guy," he told CJAD online. "I take the bus to work. I work in the basement like a lot of guys in the suburbs. I'm just doing something I like to do."
A New Author's Magical Mystery Tour
Just who is Salvador Plascencia? According to those who have read his debut novel, The People of Paper, the 28 year-old novelist is the heir apparent to Italo Calvino, Jorje Luis Borges and Garcia Marquez all rolled into one. He's also been called "a once in a generation talent," reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
Plascencia, whose novel was rejected by all the big publishers, has written a fantastical, magical and picaresque first novel that despite being called "confusing" by editors who rejected it, shows some serious writing chops. Not bad for a kid who didn't speak English until he was eight years old.
Readers, Lend me Your Ears
More and more people are reading the hottest titles on audiotape or disc, reports the Buffalo News.
In this multi-tasking, overscheduled society, those who don't have the time to sit down for a relaxing read are increasingly turning to audio books. In 2003 audio books were an $800 million dollar business, and it keeps growing, reports the News.
Listening to books while driving, cooking, knitting or performing a slew of other tasks is increasingly popular. The downside of course is when the reader doesn't do justice to the story. Check out these audio bestsellers
Stephen King and John Irving in New Hampshire
Two of the most prolific and successful writers in America, John Irving (The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules) and Stephen King (The Stand, Carrie) make regular appearances to raise money for causes close to their hearts. The two met at a fundraiser in the 1980's for writer Andre Debus Sr., who had been injured in an accident and had no health insurance. In Manchester, NH this weekend the two writers did readings for a school committed to diversity by providing scholarships to a third of its students.
During an interview following the event, both King and Irving talk about causes close to their hearts -- and King describes the birth of Wavedancer, his foundation which provides health coverage for artists, which he started when his close friend and the orginal reader of his books on tape Frank Muller, had a catastrophic motorcycle accident and had no insurance to cover his care.
"There are all kinds of artists: there are writers, actors, and performance artists who don't have any kind of a safety net or anything, so we founded Wavedancer Foundation to help. Wavedancer is the name of Frank's sailboat," King tells the Manchester Journal.
The two writers also talk about their writing process, losing manuscripts and riff on reviewers.
To donate to the Wavedancer Foundation, click here.
The Wavedancer Benefit CD, a recording of the first benefit for the foundation, was recorded at New York City's Town Hall and features readings by King, Irving, Peter Straub and Frank Conroy. Buy it here.
King's next book, out this fall is a hard-boiled crime novel The Colorado Kid for Hard Case Crime. Irving's Until I Find You comes out next week.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Western Writers Get Spurs
That's a good thing. The Western Writers of America give out awards each year to writing which best evokes the American West. In addition to best novel and short story, Spurs are awarded for drama and documentary scripts as well as poetry. See complete list.
Can Americans Handle Faulkner?
The Orange County (CA) Register poses this embarrassingly valid question.
Oprah Winfrey threw down the gauntlet and caused jaws to drop all over America when she unveiled her book club's read for the summer: A triumvirate of William Faulkner, including As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury and Light in August. The three novels are now the hottest-selling boxed set since Harry Potter, causing speculation about how many of the sold volumes will actually be read.
Faulkner, a highschool dropout, went on to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1949 and is called a tough read. Fellow Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez named William Faulkner as his favorite American writer, and the father of existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre once said "For young people in France, Faulkner is a god." And how about your average American?
"It's an indication of our appallingly low expectations of contemporary readers to imagine they're too hard. It shows how far we've sunk into our Barcaloungers," says one professor.
"If I were cynical I would say that the ideas are fairly commonplace for the world of Oprah. Dysfunctional families, incest, alcoholism, mental retardation. You could say that Dr. Phil would be the perfect reader of Faulkner," says one professor.
When he accepted his Nobel Prize Faulkner explained his work thus:
"I believe that man will not merely endure: He will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things."
>>> <<< North Korea Opens Door to Writers from South Korea
In an unprecedented move, the North Korean Choson Writers' Alliance has accepted a proposal from the South Korean National Writers Association for a joint conference next month, reports
Since 1945, when Korea was divided, North Korea has been one of the most closed off totalitarian regimes in the world.
The conference will take place in Pyongyang, North Korea and will include more than 200 writers.
Bagdhad's Bestsellers
In between car bombs and kidnappings, some Iraqis find time to visit a local bookstore reports the International Herald Tribune.
In the Dar al-Bayan book store, there are two kinds of readers: Those born before Saddam Hussein seized power and those born after. For Iraqis who grew up before the Ba'ath Party took power, "a time of cultural renaissance in Iraq" books on history tend to be the most popular. Asked who are Iraq's most popular contemporary novelists, a writer replies "the dead ones."
Children of the dictatorship, so to speak, born and raised under Hussein's iron grip, a time when most books were banned and many writers fled or were arrested and tortured, religious books are most popular. Some of the older generation worry about the younger, who were raised in a cultural drought. "They can read, they can write, but they can't understand. That's good for dictatorship and dangerous for democracy."

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Cool Boy Genius
Called one of the best writers of his generation, thirty-something Hari Kunzru pulled in an unheard of $1.8 million advance for his first two books. The money was well placed. Both The Impressionist and Transmission are elegant, humorous satirical novels that have been awarded numerous prizes.
Half British and half Indian, the native Londoner worked as an editor at various magazines before the big advance that changed everything. "There was a general holding of breath as [my friends] waited to see if I was going to go all Puff Daddy. I had to be quite strict with my arseholery," Kunzru tells The Financial Times

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Evanovich, Author and Industry
Every June for eleven years the eagerly awaited next book in the Stephanie Plum mystery series is released. Every year they debut at number 1 on the bestseller lists, and this is no accident, reports The New York Times. Author Janet Evanovich spends as much time marketing her humorous mysteries based in Trenton, as she does writing them.
Edinburgh Book Festival to Feature Variety of Asian Writers
Among the 500 authors appearing at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival, the world's largest book fair, are a large contingent from south Asia, reports Asians in Salman Rushdie will make his first appearance at the festival in 20 years.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Writer in China Sues Government for Right to Publish
China's economic openess has given way to tougher, draconian censorship rules (it is, after all, still a communist country), which have toughened under President Hu Jintao.
When Wang Yi, a self-published author and law professor had copies of his books confiscated by the government, Yi filed suit, demanding his books be returned and his right to publish be maintained, reports the International Herald Tribune.
"The chances of victory aren't high, but even if the courts let us present our case, let us play the game; that will be a victory, because then we can speak out against this censorship in the public arena," said Yi.
The Literature of a National Pastime
Why do so many writers write about baseball? That was the question under discussion at a panel sponsored by PEN/New England at Fenway Park's .406 club.
Writers Stephen King, John Updike, Roger Angell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Lewis, Leslie Epstein and Dennis Lehane talked about why the sport is such a compelling subject for writers and readers.
"The bottom line? Baseball in literature is the triumph of imagination over technology." The Lowell Sun reports.
Note: Don't miss Bookblog's interview with Cecil Harris, author of Call the Yankees My Daddy in which he reminisces about his transition from boyhood fan to covering the team as a reporter. coming in July.
Poets' Caped Crusader, Unmasked
Who's the most feared man in American letters? Not an editor or judge of any literary competition, not a writer or reviewer. It's Alan Cordle, a mild-mannered librarian at Portland Community College, reports the Los Angeles Times.
For a year, Cordle has been the anonymous force behind, a site devoted to exposing fraudulent poetry competitions across the country. By requesting documents through the freedom of information act, Cordle has proven what many insiders know but don't discuss. Awards, the only way for poets to advance their careers and stay afloat, often go to students, friends and lovers of judges.

It's cheating. It's criminal. If this was anything other than poetry, the Department of Justice would be all over it. --Alan Cordle

Major poets, some with Pulitzer Prizes and MacArthur Fellowships on their resumes, call him an "attack dog," an "assassin," a "hangman" and, worst, a "brat with a major rage disorder." His supporters regard him a whistle-blower, champion and crusader. All agree that, for good or bad, Cordle has shaken up the establishment," reports the Times.
" Foetry 'confirms what anyone involved in poetry over the past 30 years has known for a long, long time,' says Neal Bowers, poet and Distinguished Professor of English at Iowa State University. Poetry contests are "rigged"."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Deep Throat Makes Book and Film Deal
Mark Felt, the nonagenarian who last week admitted to being Deep Throat, the anonymous source of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during their reporting of the Watergate scandal, has been paid almost $1 million dollars for a book and film deal, reports The New York Times.
Universal Pictures and the publisher Public Affairs snapped up the rights.
The book, to be released next fall, will be based on Mr. Felt's recollections combined with writing by attorney John O'Connor, the family friend who wrote the Vanity Fair article "outing" Mr. Felt. The film will be based on the book. How sharp Mr. Felt's recollections will be at age 91 and said to be suffering from alzheimer's disease, is not clear.
Woodward and Bernstein will release their own book about their relationship with Mr. Felt, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throatto be released in July.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Sun, Surf, Music and Books?
Jamaica's Calabash Literary Festival is heavy on the reggae, reports The Globe and Mail.
"In the Caribbean, the most important form of storytelling is music," said Colin Channer, director of the Festival. "Music is the literary medium that dominates."
Not that anyone forgets the point of the event. Jamaicans, Americans, Brits and Canadians sang along and danced to the reggae but also bought books and packed readings by writers like Amiri Baraka, Russell Banks and Andrea Levy.
Baraka opened the three-day festival with a reading of Somebody Blew Up America, his poem about 9/11 that got him ousted from his position as New Jersey's Poet Laureate.
Two British Writers Snub the Queen
Winners of the UK Commonwealth Writers Prize are invited for an audience with Queen Elizabeth. Caryl Phillips, a native of Leeds, won the prize for best novel for A Distant Shore. When the invitation arrived from Buckingham Palace, he refused it. Repeatedly. Then the winner of the prize for best debut novel, Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) was invited and he also refused. Why?
"I'm trying to interrogate British history and mythologies [in my work] and duplicities, and one of the enduring myths is the royal family, which is white and Christian and 'pure-blooded', and on which the sun never sets," Phillips says. A Distant Shore examines the relationship between the British and its immigrants.
"A key theme of The Curious Incident, [in which an autistic boy unravels a murder mystery] says Mark Haddon, is the idea "that no human being is inherently inferior to any other. I felt it would have been hypocritical to meet with someone whose job involves being inherently superior to everyone else."
Read more of their comments in the Guardian

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hilarity Required: Scottoline on Tour
If a Tastykake hits you in the head the next time you're at your favorite bookstore, Lisa Scottoline is in the house. On tour touting her 12th suspense novel, Devil's Corner, the bestselling Philadelphia writer starts by tossing out her favorite snack food to fans and may or may not break into song, reports The Cleveland Plain Dealer. She gives away tote bags, refers fans with manuscripts to her agent, and talks about the real cases that have inspired her legal thrillers.
"I love what I do," she says. She's also come a long way from the days when no one showed up to her book signings, and loves to interact with fans to show her appreciation.
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Japanese Novelist Claims Literary Roots in America
Despite healthy sales, Japan's literary establishment looks down it's nose at Haruki Murakami, citing his baldly direct prose, which contradicts the accepted writing style. "There was a notion in Japan that novelists write in a certain style. I totally ignored it and created a new style. Therefore, in Japan, there was resistance. I was much criticized," he tells the New York Times Book Review. Another wedge between Murakami and his literary compatriots are his cultural references, which are mostly American. His latest novel, Kafka on the Shore, boasts characters called Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders. Murakami spent his formative years studying English and reading American novelists exclusively, because he considered Japanese literature "boring." Murakami is heading to Cambridge to become writer-in-residence at Harvard for a year, and hopes to gain some recognition from the country that has inspired him. A film based on one of his short stories, "Tony Takitani" opens July 29.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Manhattan, by the Book
A Literary Map of Manhattan, a new interactive feature from the New York Times online, features a map of Manhattan with clickable sites mentioned in books. Clicking on the book icons gives you pictures of the street or building in the book, or of the author, with accompanying quote. The authors who made it on the map (there are some glaring exceptions) by popular vote, according to the article explaining the process. The more people recommended a particular book the higher it got on the list, because the map has a limited number of slots. Interesting browsing.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

American Wins Orange Prize
Lionel (born Margaret Ann) Shriver won the Orange Prize for the stunning We Need to Talk About Kevin, which deals with a mother's search for the reason her son becomes a murderer. The novel deals with many taboos for women: ambivalence about motherhood, dislike of one's own child and whether killers are born or made. The story unfolds in a series of letters from the mother to Kevin's father, from whom she is separated, in the aftermath of the killings. There are also a couple of unexpected twists. Shriver talks about writing "Kevin" here.
The £30,000 Orange Prize is awarded annually to outstanding fiction by women.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Writers Choose Books They'd Like to See at the Multiplex
USA Today asked six of today's hottest authors which books they'd like to see on film. Among the contenders: The Confessions of Max Tivoli and the 17th-Century bodice-ripper Clarissa : Or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson.
First Man Booker International Prize Won by Albanian
Ismail Kadaré beat an international contingent of literary heavy-hitters that included Gabriel García Márquez, Günter Grass, Philip Roth, Muriel Spark, Doris Lessing and Ian McEwan to win the first Man Booker International Prize for Literature.
Kadaré's work was censored for decades in his native Albania, and was published elsewhere in Europe by smuggling his work to France in the 1980's reports The Independent. His books are now sold in 40 countries. Kadaré has lived in France since 1990.
"I am a writer from the Balkan Fringe, a part of Europe which has long been notorious exclusively for news of human wickedness - armed conflicts, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, and so on.
My firm hope is that European and world opinion may henceforth realise that this region, to which my country, Albania, belongs, can also give rise to other kinds of news and be the home of other kinds of achievement, in the field of the arts, literature and civilisation," said Kadaré.
This is the first annual Man Booker International Prize, which honors a writer's body of work. The writer may be from any country as long as his or her work is available in English. The £ 60,000 prize will be awarded at a ceremony in London in August.
For more information on Albanian writers translated into English, go here. Check out or buy Kadaré's especially relevant The Palace of Dreams; check out more of his books here.
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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sherlock Holmes Lives
Four new books resurrect Sir Conan Doyle's pipe-smoking, cocaine addicted, brilliant detective, reports Reuters (via ABC News).
The Italian Secretary, by Caleb Carr, was commissioned by the Conan Doyle estate; A Slight Trick of the Mind, by Mitch Cullin, is set after the first atomic bomb attack, and Michael Chabon's The Final Solution is set in the UK during WWII. Laurie King's new book, Locked Rooms is the latest in her series of Mary Russell novels, in which Holmes is the husband and co-investigator.
How Literary Couples Survive
Four of the hottest writers of the moment are actually two married couples: American Nicole Krauss and Jonathan Safron Foer, and Brits Nick Laird and Zadie Smith. How do reclusive, neurotic and intense people keep the romance alive? Well, they don't use the Franzen method. "Jonathan Franzen's gruelling writing regime - to which his ex-wife Valerie Cornell subjected herself for years - has assumed an almost apocryphal quality. Working in a tiny flat only 20ft apart from each other, they wrote for eight hours a day and then read for five hours in the evening, existing on a starvation diet of rice, beans and giant packs of chicken thighs. They ate out only once a year - on their wedding anniversary." They split up and Cornell stopped writing altogether, reports the Guardian.
Most other successful literary couples have hit upon somewhat of a formula. It helps if you write in different genres (novelist and biographer, say) and if you spend your working hours as far apart as possible. One husband works in such isolation that his wife was tied up by burglars and he didn't hear a thing.
Admired and Hated, French Novelist Michel Houellebecq isn't Talking
Regarded as Europe's "literary bad boy" whose work has been called both beautiful and repugnant, Michel Houllebecq takes on sex, greed, religion in all their incarnations and takes no prisoners.
In this profile, Reyhan Hamaranci of the San Francisco Chronicle talks to the laconic author of The Elementary Particles and Platform, and analyzes reaction to his work.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Get Shook Up for to Write
John Burdett, author of the acclaimed Bankok 8 and Bankok Tattoo, has just one piece of advice for young writers who hit a wall: "Shun security...Get disoriented. Maybe your agonizing writing block isn't agonizing enough. Your enemy is comfort," says Burdett in The Washington Post's The Writing Life column.
Living in Thailand while he worked on Bankok 8, Burdett says he wrote three drafts of the book, all bad. It was at that point that a bar girl he had befriended invited him to her family home in central Thailand for Songkran, a religous water festival. Living in a hut in relentless heat and humidity, getting water from a well and witnessing a partygoer's injury, lit the fuse for what finally, became the finished book.
How Well Read is Your Man?
Britain's prestigous Orange Prize, which recognizes outstanding fiction by women, will be announced on June 7, but chances are few if any men will read the book, or any book by a woman.
Citing a study conducted by Queen Mary College in London, The Observer examines the result the men almost exclusively prefer books written by men while women will read both male and female authors.
"In the survey, men were asked to name the 'most important' book by a woman written in the last two years. Brick Lane by Monica Ali and Carol Shields's Unless were frequently among the replies, but many men admitted defeat and confessed they had no idea. At least one who suggested Brick Lane admitted he had not read it. "

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Dickens Project a California Gem
The top center for study of the work of victorian writer Charles Dickens is at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Unique among university research and study projects, The Dickens Project includes graduate students, professors and members of the public in its multi-campus programs. Students and faculty from 16 other American and foreign universities also participate, reports UC Santa Cruz Currents online.
In addition to on-going research projects and conferences all over the world, the cornerstone of the project is Dickens Universe, a yearly weeklong event that brings Dickins' work to life. Scholars and fans to study one of Dickens' novels during the gathering. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the program and will be devoted to the novel Little Dorritt. Stanford University is publishing Hard Times in serial form with weekly chapters available for download or by mail. Sign up here.
The festival runs from July 31 to August 6.
Holy Quatrains, Batman!
Scottish poet Valerie Gillies yesterday became Edinburgh's new Poet Laureate and decided the first official poem she will write will be about...skateboarding?
"There are all sorts of things coming up that I'd like to write about," she said. "They are apparently going to open up a skateboard park, so it would be great fun if the Makar wrote a skateboard poem. I have to go and interview some skateboarders."
Poet Laureates are usually national appointments, such as Edinburgh's Poet Laureate position is more than honorary. The poet must produce at least three poems at 1000 pounds per, as well as work for literary organizations in the city and write verse for other special occasions as well, and on themes they deem important for the city.

Cuba Hosts Hot Literary Contest
The annual La llama doble (the double flame) contest is underway in Las Tunas, Cuba, reports The competition looks for the best erotic literature in the country, and has been won in the past by Cuban literary heavy hitters like Alberto Garrido and Senel Paz, who wrote the film Strawberry and Chocolate. The competition also sponsers conferences, readings and lauch parties of erotic literature.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Shakespeare celebrated by Yemeni Universities
The Yemen Observer reports on the National Seminar on Shakespeare, a colloquium at Sana'a University attended by professors and researchers from around the country.
Dr. Damonar Thakur, head of the University's English Department, said in a speech that students today can learn as much from Shakespeare's life as from his work. “Students of today should to take him as an example. He did not sit around dreaming but he put dreams into practice. Shakespeare went to seek work and became a set design assistant in a theater at the beginning of his literary life," because he could not afford to complete his education. Dr. Thakur encouraged students to perservere no matter what. "We should fight to make names for ourselves even through the most difficult of circumstances,”
Russo's Empire Falls to Premiere on HBO
Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls, had a rare experience for a writer whose work is being translated to film. Not only was he able to write the screenplay himself, the film will convey the mood, story and intent of the book in a quality production with a star-studded cast, thanks to HBO.
The Washington Times' Christian Toto talks to Russo about making the film and how HBO's standards for quality filmmaking have become one of the best places for literary works to come to life.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Edinburgh Draws Literary Map
Just in time for the Booker Prize ceremony next month, The city of Edinburgh has issued a map of the city's literary landmarks for visitors.
Named the World City of Literature by UNESCO last year, Edinburgh has been busy creating new ways to showcase it's literary past and present. Home base to writers such as J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) Ian Rankin (Inspector Rebus series), Val McDermid (A Place of Execution, Tony Hill series) and Alexander McCall Smith (Mma. Ramotswe series), Edinburgh has a lot to work with.
Sites on the literary map include The Oxford Bar where Inspector Rebus relaxes with a pint, Princes Street where Trainspotting's opening scenes take place, as well as the homes of Sir Walter Scott and poet Robert Burns' publishers, reports The Scotsman.
Politician's Reading Program
Frates Seeligson, Sr. is a fifth-generation Texan and a former Texas State Representative, who has been following a rigorous reading program for thirty years.
He is reading his way chronologically through American and world history, while also enjoying books on other topics and a big dose of fiction.
"I try to average four books a month," he tells the San Antonio Current. "So at the end of six months, I've read 24 books."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Japan's Nobel Laureate Concerned about War
During an appearance in Seoul, Korea, Japanese writer and Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oescolded the Japanese government for moving toward a military build-up by revising article nine of their constitution, reports the Korea Times.
Article nine in the Japanese constitution "stipulates Japan's renunciation of the use or threat of the use of military force as a means of settling international disputes," reports the Korea Times.
At a conference preceeding the Seoul International Forum for Literature, which starts tomorrow, the 70 year-old Oe , who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1994, said ``We actually run the Japanese Self-Defense Force and administer budgets for it. Indeed, we have already dispatched troops to Iraq. I am deeply worried about the situation, as I think you also would be.''
Oe is known as the chronicler of post-war Japanese society and psyche. His best known works are A Private Matter and The Silent Cry

Friday, May 20, 2005

Brit Hit in Moscow
Adam Thirlwell's 2003 hit Politics has finally been translated into Russian, and will be released in the country which inspired many of its themes. The 26 year-old author talks to the Moscow Times about fame, politics, Russians and his next book, which will be set in Cairo.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Allende Channels Zorro
Isabel Allende's latest book may seem like a bit of a stretch if not a detour for the author of The House of the Spirits and Eva luna. Zorro, yes that Zorro, was released this month.
Two years ago a group of men knocked on her door and told her they held the rights to the Zorro brand and asked her to write a novel about the mysterious masked latino's "back story," Allende told the Guardian.
After protesting that she was a "serious writer" she re-read the old stories and was hooked. "And so I fell in love again with Zorro," she says, "because I had been in love with him when I was a child. He's the father of Batman and Superman. He's the father of all the action heroes with the double personality. Most of those guys have magic tricks. Zorro has only his own skills."
Allende recounts her experience writing this unexpected novel, and of her life in California after living in Chile and Venezuela.
"Her account of Zorro's beginnings as a mestizo child in a California of missionaries and Indians is masterly, a page-turning, bodice-ripping tale of improbable duels, unlikely adventures and dastardly foes set against the grand currents of 18th-century," writes Dan Glaister.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Paretsky Uncensored
During an appearance at the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival in her native Kansas, Sara Paretsky, author of the V.I. Warshawski novels, spoke about many things, but her writing wasn't one of them, reports the Dowagiac News.
"I don't know how I do what I do," she said. "I've never had any technical training as a writer. I'm afraid that if I tinker with the mechanism too much by thinking about it or talking about it, it will go away and leave me as mysteriously as it came."
Paretsky talked about leaving Kasas for New York but failing to get her foot in the door at that literary holy grail, The New Yorker. She moved to Chicago and became a secretary and completed her first novel while she was in her 30s.
"I wrote from an early age, but I knew like all fields, literature belonged to men. History and biography we studied in school told us of the deeds of men. We learned to speak of the aspirations of mankind and of man's inhumanity to man. His inhumanity to woman not being worth recording," Paretsky said."
Paretsky also had strong words about what she sees going on in her home state today.
"In the minds of writers like Ann Coulter and the views of the dominant voices setting public policy today and the speech of talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh," Paretsky said, "we are seeing a strong push to return to the days of my youth. Indeed, when I see Congress ready to pass a bill allowing pharmacists to withhold contraceptives from women or read abstinence-only materials that tell girls 'never act too smart because nature and God intend girls to be subordinate to boys,' or when people like Tom DeLay lay social ills on women working outside the home. Tom DeLay said - you can read it in the Congressional Record, where I did - Columbine was due to two things, women working outside the home and the teaching of evolution. He said our young people could not tell the difference between apes and humans - although I have never yet seen an ape with a semi-automatic pistol," she said.