I do love a good first. The first t-shirt day of the summer; the first beer on a night out; the first time you wear a new hoodie. Last week saw the announcement of the first digital-only literary list in the UK, Blackfriars from Little, Brown. The list promises to curate 9 to 12 titles a year from new or established authors, and is launching in June. Now there’s a first to get out of bed for.
Author and icon of the cool internet nerds movement Neil Gaiman has released a new, part-crowdsourced, online-only short story collection. The thirty-one pages of A Calendar of Tales contain twelve new stories, one for each month of the year, written over the past few weeks after Gaiman tweeted various questions related to the months and took inspiration from the responses garnered.
In the latest example of the strange, mystical power already exhibited by 2013 to draw maddeningly non-prolific artists out of hiding – following on from My Bloody Valentine’s twenty-two-years-later follow-up to Loveless, Terrence Malick’s second film in less than two years (his sixth in forty) and the promise of new work from Thomas Pynchon to come – author of The Secret History and The Little Friend Donna Tartt will release her third novel this October.
A HYPOTHETICAL CONVERSATION BETWEEN AHMET ZAPPA (PRODUCER, WRITER, SON OF FRANK) AND HIS AGENT:
Following a successful inaugural year that saw victory claimed by Caleb Klaces for his collection Bottled Air, Eyewear Publishing is accepting submissions for the sophomore edition of its Melita Hume Poetry Prize from this Wednesday (13/02). Named for the eponymous collector of books and compiler of poems, the prize awards £1,000 and a publishing deal with Eyewear to the best first full collection of poetry written in English by a poet born in 1978 or later (i.e. no older than 35).
Last week saw the launch of Bookish in the US – a new, and frankly bloody stunning book discovery/online retailer (or as I call them, a ‘social retailer’). They’ve got a brilliant pitch, a stunning site, and features the rest of us have been discussing for a while that we thought may never come to fruition. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. The golden egg, the holy grail, of online book discovery. An algorithm that recommends you books. Not ‘readers also bought’. Not ‘you might also like’. Something that says ‘what’s a book you have read and loved lately?’ and then picks you a bunch more based on what I can only assume is metadata more detailed than a fractal zoom on a mandelbrot set.
I hope you all brought spare underwear.
Defenders of lost causes, prepare to fortify the frontlines: Anyone who has previously had cause to deride ‘chick lit’ – whether out of genuine frustration with the genre’s shortcomings or simply out of the same kind of dismissive, unthinking misogyny implied by the term itself – will now be able to dress up their antipathy as sanctimonious concern for female readers, because science.
A study carried out by Melissa J. Kaminski and Robert G. Magee of Virginia Tech university entitled “Does this book make me look fat? The effect of protagonist body weight and body esteem on female readers’ body esteem” suggests that novels featuring characters who obsess over their weight lead to similar concerns in the women who read them. And if a fairly lightweight piece of fluff can do that, just imagine what might happen to those unfortunates looking for an easy read for the beach who end up suckered in by that new Bell Jar cover.
We’ve been tracking with interest the emergence of details on Stephen King’s long-anticipated/dreaded sequel to The Shining, which was revealed last year to go by the title Doctor Sleep, to be due for publication some time this year, to follow the present-day exploits of the now middle-aged Danny Torrance and, most importantly, to feature a prescient cat in some capacity. Now, King has given an interview to Entertainment Weekly that deals largely with the forthcoming book, and he’s saying all the right things about it.
More news of awards, yes, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the continued astonishing success in that field of Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, which this week followed its history-making Man Booker win with another notable first as Mantel took home the title of 2012 Book of the Year at the Costa Book Awards. Having already made its author the first woman in Booker history to win that prize twice, and earned her a second UK Author of the Year prize at the National Book Awards, the book is now the first ever to win both the Booker and the Costa (formerly the Whitbread). Mantel’s fellow nominees were Kathleen Jamie for The Overhaul, Sally Gardner for Maggot Moon, Francesca Segal for The Innocents and Mary and Bryan Talbot for Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes.
The Man Booker International Prize – the regular Man Booker’s bohemian older brother who spends most of his time gadding around the world, surfacing once every couple of years to say ‘oh yeah, here’s some authors you should really check out, because you probably haven’t heard of any of them’ before once again heading off in search of the perfect poncho – has revealed the finalists for its 2013 award.