With Bret Easton Ellis seeming at long last to have gotten the message that no, he will have absolutely nothing to do with the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, no matter how often he creepily insists that James Deen would be perfect to star whilst staring, unblinking, into your own eyes (again, please do not Google James Deen if you’re unfamiliar with the name and at work or around children), another long-time chronicler of the beautiful and vacant has proven a source of unexpected ardour for the project: Film-maker Gus Van Sant, director of American arthouse classics like Gerry, My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy, is seemingly so eager to steer the book to the screen that he’s already filmed one of the sex scenes, entirely unsolicited and off his own back, if that phrasing isn’t too misleading given the circumstances.
Today, 23 April, is known across the world as the day when Harold Bloom traditionally lays a single red rose at the entrance to the Globe Theatre and sighs wistfully, i.e. the date of Shakespeare’s birth and death. As every literary murder truther knows, it is also the recorded date of Cervantes’ death, the very same year as Shakespeare’s (and you thought we had it rough when Princess Di and Mother Theresa died in the same week). In what is either a massively fortuitous coincidence or somehow deliberately planned to commemorate these events, 23 April is also the UNESCO-appointed international day of the book, upon which is celebrated World Book Night, the post-watershed equivalent to the more kid-oriented World Book Day.
If the internet has proven anything, it’s that if someone famous does something, normos (everyone who is non-famous) will also do it in a misjudged attempt to be famous. That, and the fact there’s no such thing as private messages. Both these lessons came to the fore last week in the aftermath of the London Book Fair, where the Bookseller Association announced the advent of the Books Are My Bag campaign (a high street campaign to make reading seem even cooler than it already is with branded merchandise), and Tom Tivnan from The Bookseller sent an incredibly acerbic email to a photographer that was subsequently forwarded to the inbox of pretty much everyone in the trade.
Having decided not to present an award after all in 2012 – with Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, David Foster Wallace’s posthumous The Pale King and Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams collectively seen as a spit in the face to the prestige of the entire organisation, the first time such steps were taken since 1977 (or maybe the board just failed to agree on a clear winner) – the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction resumed its regular business this week, deeming Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son as worthy of taking its place alongside work by prior winners Cormac McCarthy, Edith Wharton, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth and pretty much every other major American author of the past century.
In a stirring example of the reporters becoming the reported, or something, BookMachine’s very own Glorious Fearless Leader Laura Austin has found herself on the shortlist for this year’s Kim Scott Walwyn prize. Glorious Fearless Leader Laura Austin – seen here in this file photo lovingly framed by her BookMachine colleagues/loyal subjects – is nominated for her work on the BookMachine events that have taken place across the country over the past two years and are now spreading out internationally too, like so many troops marching in perfect synchronisation across the motherland at her command.
The shortlist has been revealed for the 2013 International Impac Dublin Literary Award, the annual prize based (as the name suggests) in Dublin but awarded to international authors and voted for by libraries in cities around the world. One of the most financially rewarding prizes on the awards circuit, the winning author will take home €100,000 if their novel is written in English, or €75,000 for international work, with the remaining €25,000 going to the work’s translator. The award is open to novels two years after their initial printing in English, meaning that all of this year’s entries first saw publication in 2011.
In fascinating news that may have been lost among word of death of a more recent vintage, the body of Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda has been exhumed in a bid to discover whether he died of prostate cancer – as is stated on his death certificate – or if he was, in fact, murdered in September 1973 by an agent of the dictator Augusto Pinochet. There now follows a pause, the better that you may aver that you are familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda.
The shortlist for one of the most coveted awards in science fiction was announced last week – the Arthur C. Clarke award for 2013 has an incredible line up of SF names, or, if you read The Guardian, is a great testament to male domination of the science fiction genre. Alison Flood’s opening sentence ‘reinforcing science fiction’s image as a boys club’ (sorry Angela Carter, Mira Grant, Connie Wilis, Margaret Atwood – seems your memberships are perhaps not as authentic as we all believed), leaves us little doubt that the following coverage will be everything other than informative.
Yesterday’s shattering news that Iain Banks has terminal cancer and, at this point, is expected to live for less than a year is difficult to write about for many reasons, not least of which is resisting the temptation to turn in some sort of living eulogy. The widely beloved author of, amongst many others, The Crow Road, The Wasp Factory, The Bridge and Complicity, and, as Iain M. Banks, the Culture series of science fiction novels, would also surely abhor any notion of soliciting prayers, or ‘sending positive thoughts’, or being subject to maudlin rending of garments, or any such thing. What follows, then, is a few muddled, scattered, still reeling reasons, from a fan, why we should put such thoughts aside and celebrate Banks while we still have him amongst us:
The nominees for this year’s Hugo Awards were announced this past weekend, and brought with them a record-breaking number of nods for author Seanan McGuire. The annual awards recognising the best in science-fiction and fantasy this year see McGuire up for four awards under both her own name and her pen name, Mira Grant, with two nominees in one of those categories. As McGuire noted on her own blog: ‘here are my firsts for this year: First woman to appear on the ballot four times in fiction categories alone. First person to appear on the ballot five times in a single year. First person to appear on the ballot with a purely self-published work.’ She added: ‘I have eaten nothing but ice cream today. I have cried a lot.’