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.
A Writer Who Breaks the Molds
As a young Maylasian immigrant to the U.S. Gennita Low picked up a doctorate in philosopy but from then on has made a career of doing the unexpected. After working as a teacher and debt collector Low became a roofer in Orlando, Florida.
After attending a romance writer's convention to learn the ropes she published her first romantic suspense novel, Into Danger, which garnered her a two-book deal from Avon Books and won "Best Romantic Suspense" from the Romance writers of America.
Her second book, Facing Fear, was the first romance novel featuring an Asian heroine. And since her books feature espionage, military operations and lots of action, she is one of the only romance writers known to have a loyal following within the U.S. military. Low's fourth book, The Hunter will be out next month and she talks to the Orlando Sentinel about her career thus far.
Enjoying an Evening of Bad Books
I love this town! Just when you thought there was nothing new to do -- here it is -- Lit Lite! The New York Times reports on this new literary reading series at Elmo Restaurant in Chelsea. The books have to be bad, and some of the readers wear foam, sequins and fake eyelashes.
"Since the series began in February, more than 40 books have been skewered. A $5 cover charge is imposed and, because of the subject matter, heavy drinking is encouraged. Each session tackles a different subject, from sex to self help," reports Lola Ogunnaike.
Authors featured during this celebration of bad prose include Ethan Hawke, Oliver North and Harriet Beecher Stowe. And before you scour the shelves looking for your last bad read, even Lit Lite has standards. While Naomi' Campbell's Swan was deemed bad, it was ruled out of the reading for not being "gripping."

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Salesman as Cultural Icon
What do Death of a Salesman, The Iceman Cometh, Glengarry Glen Ross and Double Indemnity have in common? Salesmen. In a consumer culture, salesmen are the key. In this insightful piece, Robert Trussell of the Kansas City Star examines great American plays and novels that revolve around salesman and what they say about our culture at their time.
Dentist Pens International Bestseller
The Yacoubian Building, about the residents of a building in Egypt, quickly became a bestseller because of the issues it dealt with in a soap-like form. In fact, many are surprised the book was not banned there. "A tale of life in a downtown Cairo apartment building that delves into a mix of power, corruption, sex, exploitation, poverty and extremism managed to become one of the best-selling Arabic-language works of fiction in recent decades, receiving accolades for lucidly capturing the varied aspects of Egyptian life: straight, gay, rich, poor, powerful, powerless, reports Egypt today.
"I see literature as an expanse of freedom. Literature should examine the areas that people don't talk about, to show us things we could be feeling but not seeing," says the author, ALAA El Aswany.
A dentist for over 20 years, Aswany writes for three hours a day and has published several collections of short stories. The Yacoubian Building is his first novel and bestseller, and his first book published in the U.S.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Ruskin Bond, Squinting in the Spotlight
The acclaimed Indian poet and novelist Ruskin Bond, 71, came of age before the media dominated culture and created gods and goddesses called celebrities.
Bond, who is called the Indian Wordsworth, tells that the PR-driven media-saturated book launch parties and tours leave him with an inferiority complex. Bond's latest book Roads to Mussoorie has just been released.
Journalists unnerve him in particular, he joked. "They ask me obscure questions," he complained. "Someone told me I am a minimalist writer. Minimalist, what's that, I was wondering when he said I write simple and I said yes, I do,"
Bond's best known work is The Flight of the Pigeons.
Writers Havens
Writers are reclusive by necessity, which makes their homes particular subjects of curiosity. To see where a writer works and lives is to see what influences them, what moves them, what they need to produce their particular brand of genius. It was an irresistible subject for a book says JD McClatchy, author of American Writers at Home. McClatchy traveled all over the U.S. to capture the homes of 21 of America's foremost writers. From Hemingway's legendary Key West spread to Walt Whitman's tiny home, McClatchy hopes seeing and feeling the writers' environments will give readers new insight to some of their favorite authors. Just released in the UK, the author talks to The Scotsman about her experiences visiting the famous homes.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None to Open on London's West End in October
The world's bestselling novelist (2 billion books sold), Agatha Christie is also the author of the longest running stage play in history, The Moustrap, which has been playing in London for 53 years. Next fall an updated stage production of her book, And Then There Were None, will debut. The play will be rewritten and based on the original novel, not later plays or screen versions The plot revolves around ten strangers who are lured to an island estate and are then killed off one by one.
Christie’s grandson (and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd), Mathew Prichard, said: “If Agatha Christie is to be as popular in the 21st century as she was in the 20th, we have to be open-minded about interpreting stories in modern ways (much as Shakespeare is reinvented for successive generations).”
Steve Martin, the Author
He's come a long way since his wild and crazy appearances on Saturday Night Live, but he says he's always been a writer. He wrote the screenplays for his films The Jerk, Roxanne and L.A. Story. Later he has written pieces for the New Yorker and two novels, Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, both well received. In this wide ranging and interesting interview with AlterNet, Martin talks about writing, fame and criticism.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

At 80, the Prolific Elmore Leonard is Still Way Cool
The author of books like Get Shorty, Be Cool, Rum Punch and Out of Sight is known for his clever plots, endearing bad guys and crackling dialogue (Tarantino learned from him). Now, Elmore Leonard's latest, The Hot Kid, set in the 1920's world of gangsters and bootleggers is being called his best novel ever. After 40 novels and winning of that holiest of holies, the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, Leonard remains unaffected and unpretentious. "The first part moves along O.K., and then I have to think about the second part, because the second part keeps it going," he said. "And then you've got to get to some new things, say around page 250. There is always those surprises near the end," he tells The New York Times.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Georgia's 25 Must-Reads
Finally, a story out of Georgia that isn't about that psycho bride! The Georgia Center for the Book has released a list of 25 books that Georgians should read, reports the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
The list was compiled by public vote and an advisory committee, and includes books that are about Georgia or by authors who live there.
"We strongly believe that readers will find not only some familiar classics but works of fiction and nonfiction that stand out for the quality of their writing and the importance of their subject matter," says William Starr, executive director of the Georgia Center for the Book, the state affiliate of the Library of Congress.
The writer's on this year's list include Tina McElroy Ansa, Amy Blackmarr, Valerie Boyd, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Paul Hemphill, Kent Anderson Leslie, Judson Mitcham, Michael Thurmond and Philip Lee Williams, and some of the authors will appear at events around the state to promote the list. Get the list.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Queen of the Moral Dilemma: Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult's novels are about issues with a capital I -- her latest, Vanishing Acts, is about a search and rescue worker who discovers that she herself was abducted 30 years ago; My Sister's Keeper deals with a young girl who was conceived to provide bone-marrow to her older sister. After 13 years of invasive procedures, the girl hires a lawyer to gain control over her own body.
As Picoult kicks off a tour in New Zealand (she has more readers there than in the U.S.) she talks about her need to write about complex and frightening issues, her children and her fans.
Kerouac Letter to Brando at Auction
Part of the Marlo Brando estate being auctioned by Christie's in New York on June 30 is a letter from beat poet Jack Kerouac asking Brando to co-star with him in the film version of his book On the Road, reports the Baltimore Sun.
"I'm praying that you'll buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it," Kerouac wrote, saying he wanted to "establish myself and my mother a trust fund for life, so I can really go roaming round the world" and "be free to write what comes out of my head & free to feed my buddies when they're hungry & not worry about my mother."
The film never happened. The letter is expected to bring in $5,000 to $7,000.
Anne Rice's Next is About Another Kind of Eternal Life
Anne Rice's upcoming book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, is no vampire chronicle. Christ the Lord will tell the story of Jesus' early life in his own words. AP reports that a letter from Rice, known mainly for Interview with a Vampire and its sequels, will accompany advance review copies of her latest, due out in November from Random House. Rice, who was raised as a devout Catholic writes, in part: "I have attempted something transformative which we writers dare to call a miracle in the imperfect human idiom we possess. It's to bring Him here in the form a story, and that story is Christ The Lord."

Monday, May 09, 2005

First Annual George Washington Prize
Ron Chernow, author of the biography Alexander Hamilton has been awarded the nation's newest and most lucrative book prize, the George Washington Book Prize. At $50,000 the award is bigger than the Pulitzer and the National Book Award combined.
The prize is awarded to the best non-fiction book about the revolutionary era.
In Search of Two Georges
A "literary pilgrim" travels to France and England to re-trace the footsteps of two of the most revolutionary female writers of the 19th century; George Sand (nee Amandine Aurore Lucile Dudevant) and George Eliot (nee Mary Ann Evans), for the Los Angeles Times.
Sand was a cigar-smoking cross-dresser whose lovers included Guy de Maupassant and Frederic Chopin. Eliot was the repressed child of a widowed father who left home to live with a married man.
An East Village Stroll with Nicole Krauss
Novelist Nicole Krauss made an impact with her acclaimed first novel Man Walks into a Room. On the eve of the release of her second novel, The History of Love, she talks to New York Magazine about the book, her childhood (Westbury, Long Island), reading writer's biographies (irrelevant). Krauss refuses to talk about her much lauded husband, the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), or to address similarities in both their latest novels, which early viewers have remarked upon, including a mix of old and young narrators and a blue vase that appears in both books. “These comparisons are laughable,” says Krauss, insisting the couple didn’t read each other’s proofs until the very end. “People find what they’re looking for,” she says.
Writing As Performance Art
The Queens art gallery Flux Factory has made the writing process a living art exhibition - NOVEL - by "imprisoning" three writers (who applied for the privilege) each in their own architectually designed living/work space for 30 days at the end of which they must have written a novel or 75,000 words. "We're exploring what it is to be a writer," exhibit curator Morgan Meis, told the New York Post.
The only contact with outside world the writers have is with the gallery visitors who arrive to watch them at work, and during the readings of their ongoing work every Saturday night until their June 4 release. "On the one hand it's an intense, solitary and personal experience," said Meis. "On the other, it's always a public expression in which the writers reveal more about themselves than they intend."
The writers will dine together every night and enjoy the cuisine of "a revolving cast of chefs," says the Flux Factory website. Each writer collaborated on the design of his or her space, but the exhibit "takes the isolation of the writer to a rather extreme conclusion in order to investigate what will be produced under those conditions."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Streep Makes Pact with the 'Devil'
Meryl Streep will star in the film version of Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada, reports The Book Standard. The thinly disguised tell-all of the horrors of working for uber-editor Anna Wintour at Vogue was on bestseller lists for weeks. No word yet on who wll play the beleaguered assistant.