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 alt.sex.stories newsgroup and decided to peek in. "The first erotic story she read was so badly written she decided she could do better," reports SFgate.com. She eventually became known as "the queen of alt.sex.stories" 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.