When the Man Booker Prize announced last September that, as of the 2014 prize, the field of nominees would be expanded beyond the borders of the Commonwealth to any novelist worldwide writing in English and published in Britain, it promised to ‘celebrate and embrace authors […] whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai.’ In practice, the unveiling of the 13 titles that comprise the 2014 longlist suggests that what that really meant was ‘we can nominate Americans now too’.
As if a piddling thing like dying last year is any kind of obstacle to a man of his stature – new material is forthcoming from the mighty Elmore Leonard in 2015. Well, ‘new’ – Weidenfeld & Nicolson is set to publish a single volume containing 15 of Leonard’s previously unavailable short stories dating from his tenure as a copywriter at a Detroit ad agency in the 1950s, around the time he first started writing novels and before he was earning enough to support himself from that latter pursuit. HarperCollins holds the US rights to the volume.
Last week finally saw the release of an ebook edition of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, and this week brings with it the publication of Marja Mills’ biography of Lee, The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, charting Mills’ friendship with Lee and her sister Alice having moved next door to and spent time with them over a period of years. Penguin Press says of the book:
This year’s Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award has been presented to Young Skins, the debut collection of Irish writer Colin Barrett. 32 year old Barrett beat out fellow nominees A.L. Kennedy, Lorrie Moore, Laura van den Berg, Ben Marcus and fellow debutant Phil Klay to take the €25,000 award, reputedly the most lucrative short story prize in the world. His book was first published in Ireland in 2013 by Stinging Fly Press, with Jonathan Cape handling it in the UK this year and Grove Atlantic taking it to the United States in 2015. Its win was decided upon by judges Manuel Gonzales, Alison MacLeod and Matthew Sweeney.
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, J.K. Rowling yesterday posted a new, 1,500 word Harry Potter story on Pottermore, the series’ subscription-only web platform. “Dumbledore’s Army Reunites” is written as a newspaper article by the books’ resident tabloid hack Rita Skeeter, and finds Rowling’s teenage heroes now in their mid-30s and attending the Quidditch World Cup. Naturally, Rowling’s avid fans got a wee bit excited and, even though you might expect the site to brace itself for the inevitability that every one of its subscribers would instantly want to read the first new material in the series for seven years, Pottermore crashed soon after the story went live. The site is now fully operational again, however, so fans can read the story over and over as they wait in line at Universal Studios’ new Diagon Alley attraction, which coincidentally (ahem) also opened yesterday.
2015 marks 150 years since the initial publication of Lewis Carroll’s immortal Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and to mark the occasion Carroll’s publisher, Macmillan, is releasing new editions of both Carroll’s own work and contextual material for the books
along with a remastered 48th anniversary limited edition 12″ of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”.
Happy Independence Day – the American arm of World Book Night is no more, having failed to secure outside funding. The independent charity’s US events began in 2011, with volunteers distributing half a million free books on 23 April each year to mark the UNESCO International Day of the Book and the anniversary of the deaths of both Shakespeare and Cervantes, who died on the same day in 1616. The primary aim of the scheme was to share a love of literature with adults who don’t regularly read for pleasure or own books, and that will presumably continue with the next British event this coming April, which is as yet unaffected by these developments (as is World Book Day, its counterpart aimed at children and teenagers).
American Gods, one of the most fervently beloved titles in the bibliography of the fervently beloved Neil Gaiman, has been mooted as a prospective show for American gods (of TV) HBO for the past three years but has struggled through the development stages, the network asking Gaiman to rewrite his pilot script to bring it closer to the book amidst rumours either pegging it as picked up for a six season run or with its chances damaged by the massive success of fellow cult-book-to-small-screen-hit Game of Thrones. Gaiman eventually confirmed last November that the network was no longer involved.
Finally, however, fans can expect some progress on this front: HBO may no longer be interested in taking the project further, but it has instead been picked up by fellow premium cable network Starz, with Hannibal‘s Bryan Fuller appointed to write the pilot and Kings creator Michael Green showrunner. Gaiman will executive produce.
Following a similar act of philanthropy in the US last year, hyperbestseller James Patterson is set to donate £250,000 to independent booksellers across Britain and Ireland in a bid to ensure no children have to live lives without books. Patterson’s pledge coincides with the beginning of Independent Booksellers Week, which starts this coming Saturday. The awards scheme is open to any independent bookshop featuring a dedicated children’s section whose annual turnover is under £1 million. Grants will be awarded ranging from £250 to £5,000 (which, for the maths-impaired, means somewhere between 50 and 1,000 bookshops stand to benefit).
As part of history festival Previously… this past weekend, Professor Germaine Greer unveiled a flagstone in Edinburgh commemorating the life and work of Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross, the first woman to be published in Scotland. The memorial is inscribed with suitably recalcitrant lines from Melville’s Ane Godlie Dream, her groundbreaking debut work, a narrative poem first printed in 1603: ‘Though tyrants threat, though Lyons rage and rore / Defy them all, and feare not to win out.’ The flagstone lies, appropriately, in the city’s Makars’ Court in the Lawnmarket (‘makar’ being a Scots word meaning poet). Greer previously included Melville in her Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of 17th-Century Women’s Verse.