Thursday, July 31, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
If anyone's forgotten, it's an election year in the United States and publishers have been just a little bit reluctant to release much blockbuster fiction or nonfiction into the media vacuum this summer...until now!
Yes, vampire fans, Little, Brown Books for Children is delivering 2.5 million copies of Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn, the final installment of her bestselling "Twilight" quartet on Saturday at 12:01 a.m. Teenage girls across the nation -- and world, no doubt -- will get to learn if Bella and Edward the vampire finally tie-the-knot. (Can't stand to wait: here's a spoiler from Entertainment Weekly).
I've been told that a few grown men out there are even fans of the books -- though the one I tried to talk to, a private banker no less -- flatly refused to allow me to use his name or even mention his very existence. (Sorry Dude!)
Are their male Stephenie Meyer fans out there? If so, unmaskyourselves.
The MAN Booker Prize longlist was just announced -- and though they're calling it the "Man Booker Dozen" it includes 13 books, just like when you buy a baker's dozen of donuts.
Of the books on the list that I've read, I can honestly say that Joseph O'Neill's "Netherland" is the best novel I've read all year. "A Fraction of the Whole" by Steve Toltz was terrific, though sales here in the US were modest, despite the best efforts of his publisher.
Of the others, Tom Smith's "Child 44" was a very fine thriller, but more a genre book that the high-minded fiction one expects to get the nod from Booker committees. I found Rushdie's "The Enchantress of Florence" inpenetrable (and I'm a fan), but he seems to have a permanent slot reserved for him, perhaps as his having written the book voted the "Booker of Bookers."
Amitav Ghosh is reliably good, as is Sebastian Barry. I hope to read through the rest, just as soon as I finish the even longer long list for the Dylan Thomas Prize, which I'm helping to judge this year.
Looking back, the first Booker Prize winning novel that I remember selling well in the US was 1990s "Possession" by A.S. Byatt. I was working in a bookstore in Boston when it was published and the combination of its romantic plot and a pretty cover featuring "The Beguiling of Merlin" by Edward Burne-Jones convinced more than a few customers to opt for a copy. Since then, the Booker has had it's hits ("Life of Pi") and misses ("Vernon God Little"), and more than a few choices to which readers have seemed sadly indifferent.
I wonder, can more be done to reclaim some of the prestige among book buyers? Share your thoughts.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Whenever I travel abroad I always marvel at the number of American authors whose names I recognize when visiting bookstores, even when they’re published in Cyrillic, Thai, Setswana, whatever…Whether in Valletta, Bucharest or Jakarta there seem to be shelf upon shelf of USA originated material. On the other hand, visitors to the US from abroad nearly always remark at how few translated titles there seem to be on offer.
That's not to say that there's a dearth of information about world lit available stateside. One of the finest, yet lesser known sources of information comes out of remote Norman, Oklahoma – deep in Indian territory where most publishing folk are too fearful to tread lest they get scalped by the yokels, errr, locals. (I can say that, I live in Texas, where we have a long standing rivalry with our neighbors to the north).
It’s called, most fittingly, World Literature Today. Published six times per year, WLT is a journal fat with reviews of books from languages and countries that span the globe. Most are done by academics with a thorough knowledge of the language and literature out of which a book arises.
What’s more, World Literature Today sponsors the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. It is, to me, one of the best judged and juried prizes going -- and to many, an early indicator of likely candidates for the Nobel Prize.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the prize in 1972, a full decade before he was lauded in Stockholm. (Actually, 32 laureates, candidates or jurors in the past 39 years have been awarded Nobel Prizes following their involvement with the prize).
Take a look at the list of recent winners: Patricia Grace (New Zealand), Claribel Alegría (Nicaragua), Adam Zagajewski (Poland). Time to brush up on your Swedish ladies and gentlemen…