Donna Tartt’s third novel, The Goldfinch, has won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Pulitzer – one of the most prestigious prizes in American cultural life, awarded annually (for the most part) by Columbia University – is undoubtedly the most high-profile recognition Tartt’s novel has had since its October release. The $10,000 award joins the book’s placement in several publications’ 2013 year-end lists, its nomination for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (where it was beaten by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah) and its being shortlisted for the yet-to-be-announced Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Tartt’s previous novel, 2002′s The Little Friend, was the recipient of the WH Smith Literary Award in 2003, was also nominated for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize (then known as the Orange Prize for Fiction) and took home the Chris Ward Prize for Best Book I Read That Year That I Didn’t Have to Read for School (‘NOT A CASH PRIZE’ scrawled in black ink over the notification of victory). Continue Reading →
The Guardian has teamed with publisher Legend Times to launch a monthly prize that aims to find the best from amongst the vast swathes of self-published novels. Open to work either written in or translated into English of 40,000 words or longer, and having been self-published after 31 December 2011, each month a panel of readers (currently standing at 20, but ready to be broadened as demand requires) will whittle down submissions into a shortlist of ten titles, which will then be read by a panel of ‘expert judges’, with the winner’s prize a review in The Guardian, either online or in print, and the prestige of being named The Guardian Legend Self-Published Book of the Month. Authors can only submit one entry per month, and cannot submit the same title twice. The final submission date for the first month is 18 April. Continue Reading →
The Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction yesterday revealed its 2014 shortlist, exactly one month after the longlist was initially published. Those 20 titles have been pared down to work from six authors, whose number includes a previous winner, one previously shortlisted and three debuting novelists. Continue Reading →
Though initially thought by some to be an April Fool’s prank, due to its appearance on YouTube on 1 April, a repost by Canongate’s YouTube account earlier today confirms that Russell Brand’s video announcing his plans to rewrite a series of fairy tales for children is, in fact, for real, and the first instalment of Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales will be with us by the end of the year. The two minute video finds Brand reading extracts from his retelling of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” and waxing philosophical about the power of fairy tales to shape children’s outlook on the world, striking a tone midway between Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and a Richard Kelly film. Continue Reading →
On the heels of the announcement that Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside would be taking over from Andrew Weatherall as its artist in residence, Faber Social is continuing to delight a certain kind of music nerd (<—–this one) with the news that it is set to release an official two-volume biography of krautrock OGs Can, with the first instalment due in the spring of 2016. That initial volume will be a standard history of the group written by former editor of The Wire Rob Young, featuring interviews with the band’s members. It will be followed by what’s being called a ‘symposium’ volume, a collection of essays curated in part by band member Irmin Schmidt and written by a selection of the many who have been influenced by Can over the past 40 years, including the aforementioned Weatherall, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Daniel Miller, founder of Mute Records, which has reissued Can’s discography. Continue Reading →
Last March, Faber Social – Faber and Faber’s publishing and events arm – appointed storied producer and DJ Andrew Weatherall as its inaugural artist in residence. Now Weatherall’s tenure is almost over and his successor has been named: this coming weekend, his position will be filled by Scritti Politti frontman Green Gartside. The torch will officially be passed on Saturday (29 March) at Weatherall’s last event for Faber, Andrew Weatherall’s Social, a day of interviews with and live performances from musicians who have some connection to Faber, including Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne, Irmin Schmidt of Can and Gartside himself, performing alongside Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. Continue Reading →
Anger is growing over Conservative Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to prevent prisoners from receiving books sent to prisons by family and friends. Under rules introduced by the Ministry of Justice last November, inmates are now forbidden to receive any kind of small parcel from outside prison walls other than in exceptional circumstances, such as the shipment of medication. Prisoners are still allowed to buy books with their weekly wages and check books out of the prison library, although given that the cost of even a paperback book would require most of that weekly wage, and the continuing strain put on libraries by local authority budgets, that may reasonably be seen as small comfort. Continue Reading →
Back in December, a couple of weeks before Christmas, news emerged that Jason Segel would star as the late David Foster Wallace – the revered American author of Infinite Jest, Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, amongst others – in a kind-of-biopic based on Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace, David Lipsky’s account of the five days he spent interviewing Wallace on the 1996 press junket for Infinite Jest. Jesse Eisenberg would co-star as Lipsky, and the film would be directed by James Ponsoldt, most recently responsible for The Spectacular Now. Continue Reading →
In an editorial published yesterday, The Independent on Sunday’s literary editor Katy Guest outlined the manifold problems – artistic, societal and commercial – inherent in publishing children’s books aimed explicitly at one gender over another. You know the kind of thing: How to be a Glittery Pink Fairy Who Also Cooks and Is a Great Mother, or 100 Great Stories About Footballing Soldiers With Blue Wallpaper. Having reeled off the many exasperating qualities of instilling that kind of binary divide from a young age and concluded that ‘What we are doing by pigeon-holing children is badly letting them down’, Guest then expressed her happiness at being in a position to be able to do something about it:
I promise now that the newspaper and this website will not be reviewing any book which is explicitly aimed at just girls, or just boys. Nor will The Independent’s books section. And nor will the children’s books blog at Independent.co.uk. Any Girls’ Book of Boring Princesses that crosses my desk will go straight into the recycling pile along with every Great Big Book of Snot for Boys. If you are a publisher with enough faith in your new book that you think it will appeal to all children, we’ll be very happy to hear from you. But the next Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen will not come in glittery pink covers. So we’d thank you not to send us such books at all.
Today in ‘yeah, that sounds about right’: Stephin Merritt, the synth-pop Sondheim frontman of The Magnetic Fields, The Gothic Archies, Future Bible Heroes and The 6ths, is releasing a book of poetry later this year. In keeping with much of Merritt’s discography, the book will rest upon an appropriately high concept hook: 101 Two-Letter Words is a collection of four-line poems consisting exclusively of two-letter words deemed permissible for play in a game of Scrabble. It should come as absolutely no surprise that the man responsible for such lyrics as ‘Reno Dakota / I’m no Nino Rota / I don’t know the score’, ‘A pretty girl is like a violent crime / If you do it wrong you could do time / But if you do it right it is sublime’ and ‘I want to be an artist’s model / An odalisque au naturel’ is into word games. Continue Reading →
Independent Glasgow publisher Cargo has announced several changes to its board, effective immediately. Mark Buckland, who founded the company in 2009, has stepped down from the role of Managing Director he has held for the past five years, with editors-in-chief Helen Sedgwick and Gill Tasker now filling the MD position jointly. Buckland remains involved with the company as Director of Special Projects, and Murray Buchanan – Cargo’s director and a previous executive at the Virgin Group – is now Chairman. Continue Reading →
Fans of American indie stalwarts The Mountain Goats already know that frontman John Darnielle is one of that country’s finest lyricists, unfolding songs that more often play like short stories with poetic economy and an empathetic eye over the course of 14 albums since the mid-1990s. It should come as no surprise then, but a pleasant revelation all the same, to discover that Darnielle has written a novel, entitled Wolf in White Van, which will be published in October by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the USA and Harper Collins in Canada. Continue Reading →
In news we would have covered last week were we not recovering from dental surgery and as such too hopped up on goofballs to string together a coherent sentence, the line-up has been announced and tickets are now on sale for the ninth year of Aye Write!, Glasgow’s annual springtime literary festival, which this year runs 4-12 April. As usual, the programme offers an eclectic mix of well-regarded local talent and popular authors from further afield, participating variously in straightforward interviews, politically-engaged debates and workshops.
Most immediately attention-grabbing amongst proceedings is Remembering Iain Banks, an evening of readings and reminiscences commemorating the beloved late author of The Crow Road and The Bridge featuring Ken Macleod, Ron Butlin and others, which will include the first public airing of some of Banks’ hitherto unpublished poetry. Other widely popular Scots in attendance throughout the festival include Alasdair Gray, launching his autobiographical Of Me and Others, national Makar Liz Lochhead granting An Audience With herself, Denise Mina, Sophie Hannah and Alex Gray discussing the longevity of serialised crime fiction, Ewan Morrison presenting a glimpse into the process of adapting his novel Swung into a film, William McIlvanney casting an eye over his long career, James Robertson talking Robert the Bruce and, very excitingly, the great Tom Leonard and Tam Dean Burn presenting Leonard’s new Scots translation of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage.
From further afield, amongst many others, come infamous music biz lifer Jazz Summers and his autobiography, Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange author Joanne M Harris, erstwhile Pub Landlord Al Murray as himself, and House of Leaves author Mark Z. Danielewski, who joins Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet, to discuss the cutting edge of the novel.
Also running throughout the festival is a strand of events entitled The Books That Made Me, which sees well-kent faces from diverse occupations recount the literary influences that have shaped their lives: politician Tam Dalyell, TV presenter Gail Porter, former half of Arab Strap, inaugural Scottish Album of the Year winner and essential follow on Twitter Aidan Moffat, Booker winner A S Byatt, sculptor Alexander Stoddart, theologian Richard Holloway and comedian Frankie Boyle are all participating.
Anyone who can’t wait for the festival proper to start and has little people to keep entertained at the weekend should know that Wee Write!, the grown-up festival’s child-oriented precursor, takes place this coming Saturday, 8 March, with events including storytelling from Debi Gliori, a celebration of 25 years of David McKee’s Elmer books and a further celebration of 50 years of Roald Dahl’s immortal Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
When Iain Banks died of cancer last June at the cruelly young age of 59, it was widely assumed that The Quarry – the novel whose first reviews started to appear on the day of his death – would be his last published work. This past weekend, however, on what would have been Banks’ 60th birthday, his long-time publisher Little, Brown announced that it will publish a book of Banks’ poetry – much of it never before published, much less collected – in February of 2015. The book will also feature work by Banks’ close friend Ken MacLeod – himself an author – who will serve as the collection’s editor. MacLeod says ‘I’m delighted that Little, Brown is going to publish Iain’s poems, which he wrote over many years. They show a wise and witty mind at work, rational and humane and in love with the world.’ No different from the rest of Banks’ corpus, then. Continue Reading →
Since you’ve probably heard already about JK Rowling’s second novel as Robert Galbraith, allow us instead to draw your attention to a more long-awaited book whose forthcoming publication will prove just as exciting as Rowling’s to a certain crowd (albeit probably a significantly smaller crowd). Samuel Fuller – reporter, Purple Heart recipient, pulp novelist and, most famously, writer and director of such bracingly tough films as Shock Corridor, Pickup on South Street, The Naked Kiss and The Big Red One – died in 1997 aged 85, having quit America for France after the release of his 1982 film White Dog and last directed a film full stop in 1990. Fuller wrote novels throughout his life, from his time as a journalist pre-World War II through to the posthumous publication of his autobiography, A Third Face, in 2002. He was capital letters A Fascinating Man. Now, the Hard Case Crime imprint (published through Titan Books) has announced that it is to release Fuller’s “lost” novel, 1993′s Brainquake, on September 9th. This is capital letters Exciting. Continue Reading →
By now you’ve probably encountered self-published author Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings report – which debuted online yesterday – in some form or another, whether through a direct link or via alarmist headlines such as io9′s ‘This chart ought to make the publishing industry very nervous‘. Superficially, at least, the latter might not seem like excessive hyperbole: extrapolating from his own Amazon sales reports, coupled with the expertise of ‘an author with advanced coding skills who [has] created a software program that can crawl online bestseller lists and grab mountains of data’, Howey reports back some startling figures. Most attention-grabbing: for the top 2,500 genre bestsellers on Amazon (mystery, thriller, suspense, sci-fi, fantasy, romance), 86% of sales are digital. For the top 100, that figure rises to 92%. Self-published genre e-books garner only 24% of total daily earnings, but take 47% of the daily revenue to authors. As for daily unit sales: 39% self-published versus 34% from the Big Five combined. Conclusion: the self-publishing revolution is well underway.
Countering that is author and Guardian columnist Damien Walter, who rightfully points out that Howey’s figures are by no means authoritative (although given that Amazon and the Big Five are in no rush to publish their own detailed sales figures, they might be the best we have). Though Walter concords with Howey that figures like those cited above are astonishing to consider, particularly when contrasted with pre-Kindle sales figures for self-published books, he parts ways with Howey’s interpretation of those figures: where Howey sees an appetite being met for genre fiction amongst mass audiences by self-published authors, Walter instead suggests that the success of those genres has more to do with how abundant and easily accessible e-books are – whether by tablet, phone, computer, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, whatever – and how much of a marketing hook genre can be for people who previously might not have been regular readers, and are now impulse buyers browsing Amazon.
Walter also invokes author Chuck Wendig’s wonderfully-named concept of ‘the Shit Volcano’ of self-publishing: a boom period before the dust settles on the new technology where regularly putting out poorly-written genre knock-offs to take advantage of inexperienced readers can make people a healthy living. Calling the belief that this period will become status quo ‘very naive’, he concludes: ‘As the ebook market matures, it will have to steadily rise in quality or collapse. If the Author Earnings report data isn’t all solid fact, the need for quality certainly is.’ Whichever side you ultimately come down on (and, if you’re regularly reading this site, I think I can take a pretty solid stab at guessing which), Howey’s report and Walter’s analysis are both worth reading and musing over.
It’s been a long time coming – we first reported on it back in 2011, when it was tentatively called The Literature Prize and being mooted as a reaction to a Booker shortlist sniffily dismissed as ‘readable’ – but the Folio Prize is finally due to make its debut award next month, and so has released its inaugural shortlist. Described at its launch near enough this time last year as a companion rather than rival to the Booker, in the manner of the FA Cup and the Premiership (which The Independent memorably pointed out was ‘a football metaphor’), the prize draws its nominees from the suggestions of an ‘Academy’ of writers and critics, and is open to work written in the English language from anywhere in the world, with the winner receiving a cheque for £40,000.
The majority of the nominees for this first year of the prize are, perhaps predictably, American, with five coming from the USA, two from the UK and one from Canada (and yes, this is the reason the Booker is expanding its reach beyond the Commonwealth for the first time this year). Most notable amongst the American nominees is A Naked Singularity, Sergio De La Pava’s debut novel, grappling with America’s War on Drugs, initially self-published online and building word of mouth to become one of the most buzzed about and, ultimately, acclaimed novels of 2013. His fellow citizen nominees are Rachel Kushner’s similarly ecstatically received The Flamethrowers, a chronicle of artistic life in 1970s New York and Italy; Tenth of December, the latest collection of short stories by widely adored master of the form George Saunders; previous National Book Award finalist Kent Haruf’s Benediction; and Schroeder, the third novel by Amity Gaige.
Rounding out the shortlist are Last Friends, the final book in 85 year-old English author Jane Gardam’s “Old Filth” trilogy; Anglo-Irish Eimear McBride’s debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing; and the Canadian Anne Carson’s combination of drama, prose and poetry, Red Doc. Rather hearteningly, that means there are five female nominees to three male, which is certainly a fine benchmark to set in a world of literary prizes that too often still seem like a boys club. The winner is announced on 10 March.
Residents of Nakatonbetsu, a town of 1,900 people on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, have expressed anger with Haruki Murakami – one of the most influential Japanese writers of his generation, and one of few to have broken through to western audiences – over what they see as a smear on their reputation in one of his novellas.
In Murakami’s Drive My Car – Men Without Women (another Beatles reference from the author of Norwegian Wood), published in the magazine Bungeishunju’s December issue, a character observes a young citizen of Nakatonbetsu throw a cigarette from the window of a car, and thinks to himself ‘Probably this is something everyone in Nakatonbetsu commonly does.’ Neither of these characters are Murakami. Both of them are fictional. RTs are not endorsements.
Having seemingly failed to grasp the concept that Murakami is capable of creating characters whose views do not necessarily reflect his own, because he is a writer of fiction and that’s his job, the town assembly of Nakatonbetsu is now looking for answers from Murakami’s publishers as to why their home has been slurred in such a fashion, with head of the assembly’s secretariat Shuichi Takai telling the AFP: ‘In early spring, the town people gather of their own will in a clean-up operation to collect litter on roads. We also work hard to prevent wildfires as 90 per cent of our town is covered with mountain forests. It is never a town where people litter with cigarettes everyday. We want to know why the name of a real town had to be used like that.’
Nobody as yet appears to have pointed out to the assembly that the person who throws the cigarette from the car window doesn’t exist, so that instance of littering never actually happened and is therefore an unsound basis upon which anyone might form an opinion of the real-world town and its residents, or that to sincerely believe that a writer means every sentiment every one of his or her characters have ever expressed is most likely a sign of madness.
Murakami remains one of Japan’s most popular writers at home and abroad, with his 2013 novel Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage selling a million copies in Japan by the end of its first week of publication and its English translation eagerly awaited in the west.
It may feel like Stephen King is never far from these pages, but there’s a simple reason for that: Stephen King is never far from releasing another book, and Stephen King’s books are never far from massive sales figures. Having released two novels in 2013 – the pulpy crime fiction of Joyland and the long-awaited sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep – along with the Kindle single non-fiction essay Guns and the book for his years-in-the-making musical collaboration with John Mellencamp, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, King is set for a relatively more sedate 2014, with only two novels announced for publication (so far).
The first, Mr. Mercedes, is due for release by Scribner in June, and is being billed as King’s first hard-boiled detective novel. It’s been known about for quite some time, with King saying in interviews as early as last May that it was just about finished. More mysterious has been the second, Revival, which King has only really mentioned in passing. Now, some details have emerged: Revival will chase Mr. Mercedes by a mere five months, with Scribner once again publishing and looking at a November release. It will be a typically hefty tome, running 520 pages to Mr. Mercedes’ 496.
The official synopsis reads like a game of Stephen King bingo, encompassing small town New England, a mid-20th century setting, religious fanatics and drifters:
In a small New England town more than half a century ago, a boy is playing with his new toy soldiers in the dirt in front of his house when a shadow falls over him. He looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Jamie learns later, who with his beautiful wife will transform the church and the town. The men and boys are a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls, with the Reverend Jacobs — including Jamie’s sisters and mother. Then tragedy strikes, and this charismatic preacher curses God and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from age 13, he plays in bands across the country, running from his own family tragedies, losing one job after another when his addictions get the better of him. Decades later, sober and living a decent life, he and Reverend Charles Jacobs meet again in a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and the many terrifying meanings of Revival are revealed.
King imbues this spectacularly rich and dark novel with everything he knows about music, addiction, and religious fanaticism and every nightmare we ever had about death. This is a masterpiece from King in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.
As part of its spring programming marking the centenary of the birth of the poet Dylan Thomas, BBC Radio 3 is set to air a new production of The Beach of Falesa, Thomas’s previously unproduced screenplay adapting the 1892 Robert Louis Stevenson short story of the same name. The radio play will receive its world premiere on Sunday 4 May, with the following day seeing one Thomas poem read every hour on the same station, including archival recordings of Thomas himself. The poet, of course, has historically strong associations with BBC Radio, most notably his radio play Under Milk Wood, first broadcast with Richard Burton amongst the cast on the BBC Third Programme in January 1954, two months after Thomas, in the words of Nick Cave, died drunk in St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Though never produced, Thomas’ adaptation of “The Beach of Falesá” did see publication as a novella in 1963, a decade after his death. Burton and Christopher Isherwood are reputed to have worked on bringing it to the screen, to no avail, and both Thomas’ script and Stevenson’s short story remain unfilmed (though another attempt was made by Alan Sharp, the Scottish screenwriter of Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand and Arthur Penn’s Night Moves). Written shortly after Stevenson moved to Samoa, “The Beach of Falesá” marks a shift in his corpus from romanticism to harsh realism, exploring the exploitation of islanders by European colonisers and the ramifications of inter-racial relationships under those circumstances.
The same day as the Beach of Falesa broadcast, Radio 3 will also air a documentary by poet Gwyneth Lewis about the voice that runs through Thomas’ work, drawing from the wealth of recordings made by Thomas in his lifetime.