Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hispanic Heritage Month
As an American with roots in Latin America, I find it hard not to look askance at alleged celebrations of heritage. After all, Latinos and Asians, Arabs and African-Americans for that matter, are part of society 12 months of the year.  We don't need 30 days of exclusive recognition to realize that we count, that we matter, we're part of the melting pot. It is perfectly obvious to us that America is all of us and we are it.  We know this. I mean, McDonald's serves burritos, empanadas are street food, you can get frozen dumplings and microwave lo mein at the supermarket,and macaroni and cheese, that soul food staple, is the favorite dish of every kid in America under the age of 8 regardless of ethnicity. A delicious falafel pita is never more than a block away (ok maybe a little further outside Manhattan).  What all Americans need, no matter where our roots are, is to develop an understanding and appreciation for the "other" whoever that other may be. Literature, music and the arts allow us to do that.

Conventional Idiocy: Why the New America is Sick of Old Politics by Rick Sanchez
Conventional Idiocy: Why the New America is Sick of Old PoliticsThe popular CNN host writes about the public's disaffection with the same-old, same-old  politics as usual. In his fast-paced talkative style, he shares what his viewers are telling him and warns politicians and the media to ignore it at their own peril.
Bloody Twistby Carolina Garcia-Aguilera
Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera (Chicana Matters)Lupe Solano is back, chicas! The intrepid Miami detective is back in her seventh mystery. This time she's investigating a high-paid call girl who's also a virgin, and the two dead guys she says she didn't kill.
Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera Bloody Twist By Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Geogina Guzman
The murder and rape of over 500 women in Juarz Mexico has never been properly investigated by authorities in Mexico or the U.S. The murders have been the subject of at least 1 feature film (starring Jennifer Lopez), a documentary and several books by journalists, and independent investigators,  none of whom could ingnite a proper investigation or a semblance of concern by authorities. Now, twos scholars from the Chicana studies Department at UCLA have put together a scholarly analysis of the killings and the situation that has made them possible, from a number of perspectives. Chilling but necessary.
Alone in the Crowd: An Inspector Espinosa Mystery (Inspector Espinosa Mysteries)
Alone in the Crowd: An Inspector Espinosa Mystery (Inspector Espinosa Mysteries)Ahhh Copacabana. The sun. The surf. The bikinis. The bodies?  This fantastic mystery series features the existensial Inspector Espisosa never fails to disappoint. Did the old lady fall or was she pushed in front of the bus? Why did she visit the precinct just hours before her death? Who's the creepy bank teller? What gives? All will be answered in a psychologically compelling, suspenseful whodunit.
The Devil's Highway: A True StoryThe Devil's Highway: A True Story  by Luis Alberto Urrea       This is one of the best feats of writing and journalism I've ever read, and should be required reading in every higschool. Urruea tells the story of a group of  men who decide to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. by walking through the desert, as many have before. This time though, something goes horribly wrong and the men are abandoned by their "coyote" guides and are left to make their way through the desert alone as best they can. Dying of thirst and heatstroke isn't pretty, and if you're willing to risk it, there must be a damn good reason, don't you think? Urrea weaves together his account from all the perspectives involved ; the men who cross, the border agents whose job is to deter and detain, and the Mexican consulate in Arizona, who must collect, identify and preserve the remains of those who don't make it.
A former Presidential Candidate in Colombia, Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped by FARC guerillas and endured six years in captivity in the jungle before a daring rescue freed her in 2002. This is the story of her captivity (which she spent in chains most of the time), numerous escape attempts, and of her enduring spirit.
Pirates of the Levant (Captain Alatriste, Book 6)Pirates of the Levant 
by Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Latino Reader: An American Literary Tradition from 1542 to the PresentYour swash has never been buckled like this. Perez-Reverte, the enormously talented Spanish writer of The Flanders Panel and The Queen of the South, unleashes the sixth Captain Alatriste adventure this month. Think Three Musketeers on the high seas, complete with pirates, swords capes and heart-pounding battles.
The Latino Reader
 Almost from the moment Columbus landed Latinos have been recording, interpreting and sharing impressions of life in the new world. This extraordinary collection includes Cabeza de Vaca's account of the new world, and memoirs, essays, fiction poetry and drama spanning  five centuries. An invaluable resource and historical treasure of Latino history in the United States.
Stephen King: Readers are too  Lazy to Read Short Stories

In a brief interview with publisher Simon and Schuster, Stephen King bemoans the fate of the American short story, blaming readers who, according to him, prefer American Idol to good fiction. King, who had called himself the literary equivalent of a Big Mac earlier in his career, has had just as many of his short stories/novellas translated into film as novels, starting with the legendary Creepshow.   Apt Pupil, Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption and  1408 are just a few of the films based on King's short stories.

Do you think King is right? What was the last short story or anthology you read?  What is your favorite story or anthology of all time? Post a comment.

  And try short stories campfire style for Halloween. Light up the jack-o-lanterns, set up the snacks light the fire and play an audiobook of scary tales like King's Sorry, Right Number and Other Stories. Then try and sleep.

Sorry, Right Number: And Other StoriesThe End of the Whole Mess: And Other StoriesIt Grows on You: And Other Stories
Digital Revolution Hits Writers in the Wallet.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the paradigm shift in the book publishing world, in which the emergence of Kindles, Nooks, Readers and computers is making the e-book the standard in book delivery. While digital downloads are good news for anyone with over-stuffed bookshelves and a tight budget (e-books rarely cost more than $15 while a new hardcover can cost from $25-$30), for writers it means that making a living with words is becoming less likely.
Frightened publishers are publishing less new authors, and when they do, advances are now much less than $15,000, when they used to be around $50,000 for a promising debut novel, reports the Journal.
"The bar is higher," says Jamie Raab, publisher of Lagardere SCA's Grand Central Publishing, which is buying less debut fiction than in prior years. Although launching debut titles is one of the most rewarding aspects of publishing, Raab says, "publishers are buying more selectively, agents are being more selective with choosing clients, and retailers are taking fewer titles."
E-book sales haven't reached the point where they can mean serious income for a writer, unless that writer is a brand name, like James Patterson, John Grisham or Stephen King. Literary writers, like John Pipkin, need to keep their day jobs. His first novel, Woodsburner  won several literary prizes and print sales of more than 10,000 copies, he has only sold 359 digital copies.

Pipkin, who has Ph.D in English Literature, says he cobbles together an income based in part on grants, fellowships and a partial advance he has received for his second book. "I've had to rethink my plans in terms of supporting my family full time as a writer," he says.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

PEN USA Announces 2010 Awards
Multiversal (Poets Out Loud)PEN USA, the West Coast center for the writers’organization International PEN, announced the winners of the 2010 Literary Awards. The prizes honor outstanding work by writers in 11 separate genres, including a new award for Graphic Literature. They will be presented at the 20th Annual Literary Awards
Festival, known as LitFest, on November 17, 2010.
The winners are:
Victor Lodato for Mathilda Savitch: A Novel
Amy Catanzano for Multiversal
Creative Nonfiction
Vicki Forman forThis Lovely Life
Research Nonfiction

Children’s/Young Adult Literature
Paul Fleischman for The Dunderheads
Mary Melton for Julius Shulman in 36 Exposures in Los Angeles Magazine
Fady Joudah for Mahmoud Darwish’s If I Were Another
Julie Hebert for Tree

Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner for Up in the Air
Peter Blake for House: “The Tyrant
The Graphic Literature Award
Matt Fraction for Outstanding Body of Work

Exceptional First Book Award
Inaugural Prize for South Asian Authors Announces Nominees

The long list of nominees for the first annual DSC Prize for South Asian Literature was announced today, reports Outlook . The prize will award $50,000 to "writers of any ethnicity writing about South Asia and its diasporas," says DSC, and must have been written in English or must have been translated into English.
A Disobedient Girl: A NovelThe longlist of fourteen includes Upamanyu Chatterjee for Way to Go, Ru Freeman for A Disobedient Girl: A Novel, HM Naqvi for Home Boy: A Novel and Jaspreet Singh for Chef: A Novel .
The fourteen nominees will be winnowed down to a shortlist of five, which will be announced at the end of October during the South Asian Literature Festival. The festival will take place October 15-25  in London and from October 26 to 31 in the rest of the UK.  The winner of the award will be announced in January 2011 at the Jaipur Literature Festival.  The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is open to any author in  any part of the world as long as the work is based on the South Asian region and its people.