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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the things that constantly crops up when I talk to writers – and I talk to a lot of writers – is that most of them have a pretty vague idea of how the publishing business works.
That’s not all that surprising. Publishers and agents are not necessarily the most forthcoming of people and can seem rather remote and unapproachable. Indeed the publishing business as a whole can seem like an arcane world with its own rules and language and one which is perhaps not all that welcoming of outsiders.
And of course it is not that all that complex – it is not simple, but the basis of the business is pretty straightforward. Which is why I have started a YouTube channel at devoted to demystifying aspects of the publishing business – what agents do, what publishers do etc etc.
I’m hopeful it is something people will find useful and it rather amazes me how little there is out there that is like this – it surprises me that more of my colleagues haven’t done something similar. But that’s a good thing. This is a great opportunity to reach large numbers of people and my hope is that by doing so I will be able to help writers navigate the sometimes trick waters of their writing careers.
So please do take a look – I have just posted another clip, this time talking about what publishers do and will be building my clips up over the coming weeks. I really hope you find it useful. I’d welcome feedback and suggestions and can be reached either by the comments page on YouTube or by my twitter @pblofeld.
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.
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.
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.
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.