Yes, that Murakami. The programme for this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival was unveiled yesterday, and while the presence of noted hat-wearing wolf-lover George R. R. Martin grabbed the spotlight in the mainstream press, the real coup is in the festival’s attainment of an elusive giant of world literature: Haruki Murakami.
If you’re an eccentric, philanthropic tycoon who is really into grisly fantasy and just wants what’s best for wolves, then 1) congratulations, because you sound like you’re terrific 2) your ship has come in. Game of Thrones overlord George R. R. Martin is spearheading a campaign on Kickstarter-style celebrity charity prize draw site Prizeo on behalf of New Mexico’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and the Food Depot of Santa Fe.
This year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has gone to Eimear McBride for her debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. The book has already won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award and the Goldsmiths Prize, is nominated for the Desmond Elliott Prize and has been shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize. McBride took the Baileys over presumed favourite Donna Tartt’s third novel, The Goldfinch, as well as similarly big names Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jhumpa Lahiri and fellow first-time novelists Hannah Kent and Audrey Magee (not to mention the longlisted Margaret Atwood, Rachel Kushner and Eleanor Catton). The book’s triumph is a major coup for its original publisher, the small Norwich independent Galley Beggar Press, for which it was a launch title (it was subsequently picked up for paperback by Faber & Faber).
Accepting the award, McBride said: ‘I hope it will serve as an incentive to publishers everywhere to take a look at difficult books and think again. We are all writers but we are all readers first. There is a contract between publishers and readers which must be honoured, readers can not be underestimated.’ It took McBride nine years to find a publisher willing to take on her innovatively-styled manuscript, having written the novel a decade ago, aged 27.
Former MD of Penguin Helen Fraser, head of a judging panel comprised of Mary Beard, Caitlin Moran, Denise Mina and Sophie Raworth, told The Guardian: ‘Very early on Eimear stood out from the crowd. We all put ourselves into purdah to re-read the shortlisted books but it was only when we started cautiously exchanging emails in the past week that we realised what a strong contender it was. It took us one hour to get the shortlist down to two books, and the remaining three hours to decide between them – but this is a truly worthy winner.’
If you read Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy and thought to yourself ‘[sigh], I wish that was me being made to fight to the death in a hellish futuristic dystopia with massive inequality between the haves and have nots’, then good news, you weirdo – you may soon be able to live out all your most cherished teenage deathmatch dreams in a Hunger Games theme park. Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate – the studio behind the film adaptations of Collins’ novels – tells the Hollywood Reporter that his company has joined forces with hellish futuristic dystopianly-named theme park creators Thinkwell Group to begin work on ‘line extensions of The Hunger Games and all of our other brands’ (so fingers crossed, Crank 2: High Voltage cultists).
Feltheimer says ‘As a first step, we’ve already designed a state-of-the-art travelling museum involving costumes, props and other elements of the Hunger Games world that will begin touring the U.S. next summer’ (weapons, what he means by ‘other elements’ is the weapons that its teenage protagonists use to brutally murder each other at their tyrannical government’s behest). The Hollywood Reporter says Lionsgate ‘is also eyeing theme park attractions and other location-based entertainment opportunities’, the latter of which phrased in such a way to serve as a reminder that Lionsgate is also the studio behind Hostel.
Feltheimer first floated the prospect of a Hunger Games theme park last year ahead of the release of the cinema release of Catching Fire, based on the second of Collins’ novels. The idea of some sort of real-world tourist trap based on the blockbuster films based on the YA books is almost certainly inspired by the assorted Harry Potter attractions that have sprung up in the wake of that franchise’s end. The crucial difference, however, is that at least the Harry Potter books have some whimsy and childhood innocence before their descent into death and betrayal, giving theme park designers plenty of delightful material to work with, whereas death and betrayal is more or less Collins’ stock-in-trade from the get-go, making the devising of a fun day out for all the family that bit more challenging. Maybe brush up on your archery skills before booking flights.
Shots fired in the ongoing dispute between Amazon and Hachette in the US over profit margins on ebooks: so little faith does the online retail behemoth appear to have in resolving the situation quickly that, in a post on its Kindle forum earlier this week, it recommended that anyone in urgent need of a Hachette title ‘purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors.’ That’s Amazon – the company so keen to retain your business that it hopes to integrate drone technology to make its deliveries more efficient and might use your browsing history to send you items that you didn’t even order but probably want – turning away your business rather than accepting Hachette’s terms. In this ‘mum and dad are going through some things’ scenario, dad just rented a flat on the other side of town.
Conservative education secretary Michael Gove has had numerous works by American authors removed from the English literature GCSE syllabus, expressing a wish that students instead study work by predominantly British writers, and much of that dating from before the 20th century. If you’re in need of an illustrative example, chosen completely at random, that means that while the American Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is now most likely off limits, there may still be a chance that school pupils will be allowed to read the English George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Less than a month after its shortlist was revealed, the 2014 Orwell Prize for political writing has gone to Labour MP Alan Johnson for his memoir This Boy. The former home secretary’s account of his early childhood took the £3,000 prize, only days after winning the £10,000 Ondaatje Prize. In a head-to-head battle of ideologies, Johnson’s book beat Charles Moore’s Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography, as well as Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman, Frank Dikötter’s The Tragedy of Liberation, James Fergusson’s The World’s Most Dangerous Place and David Goodhart’s The British Dream.
In news whose tolerability likely correlates directly to your own patience for its chief proponent, American restaurant chain Chipotle has begun printing specially commissioned short pieces of prose on its bags and cups at the suggestion of Jonathan Safran Foer, the divisive author of Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Eating Animals. The texts are designed to be read in two minutes or so, and come from a range of big-name contributors, including Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Sarah Silverman, Malcolm Gladwell and Judd Apatow.
Continuing a big week for industry prizes, this year’s Kim Scott Walwyn Prize has been awarded to Anne Perry, editor with Hodder & Stoughton. The award is presented annually to women who have worked in publishing in the UK for up to seven years, celebrating both their achievements to date and their promise for the future. Perry joined Hodder & Stoughton as an assistant editor in 2012, and was promoted to editor less than a year later. She is also co-founder of The Kitschies – awards for fantasy and speculative fiction in the UK – with her husband, Jared Shurin. Perry wins £1,000 and a two-day course at the Publishing Training Centre.
Perry’s initial duties at Hodder & Stoughton focused on science fiction and fantasy, fostering links online with fans of the genres, commissioning new works of genre fiction and working on backlist and digital titles. Oliver Johnson, associate publisher with the company, describes her as ‘one of the most talented and innovative young editors in the business’.
Co-chairs of the prize advisory committee and judging panel Denise Johnstone-Burt and Catherine Clarke say Perry was ‘the stand-out candidate from a superb shortlist. The judges marvelled at the speed, imagination and determination with which she has championed genre fiction in this country. Anne not only publishes excellent science fiction and fantasy, she also writes it brilliantly. She actively seeks out new readers and has set up the Kitschies Awards, already widely recognised for the quality that it rewards in her chosen field. She is the acme of today’s multi-talented and multi-tasking publisher – a fearless pathfinder who has set a standard to which we should all aspire.’
Also nominated were Waterstones’ Melissa Cox, Penguin Random House’s Lynsey Dalladay, The Poetry Translation Centre’s Sarah Hasketh and Janklow & Nesbit’s Hellie Ogden. Perry is the second American émigré to win the prize in a row, with last year’s award going to Miriam Robinson for her work as Foyles head of marketing, on a shortlist that also featured BookMachine’s own Laura Austin.
The Bookseller Industry Awards took place last night in London, with a crowded field of winners led by Blackwell’s, named Book Retailer of the Year, and Little, Brown, who took home the evening’s biggest prize, Publisher of the Year. The latter was Little, Brown’s second win in the category since 2010, bestowed for a banner year that saw it publish hugely successful titles including Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and J.K. Rowling’s pseudonymous Robert Galbraith novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling. Blackwell’s, meanwhile, was cited for its work integrating digital and physical book sales from its development hub in Shoreditch, amongst other innovations.