Pamuk Wins Nobel
Recently on trial for offending the concept of Turkishness, novelist Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel literature prize. Pamuk’s novels include the popular and critically acclaimed Snow and My Name is Red.

Finalist for the National Book Awards Announced
Here are the works and authors nominated for the National Book Awards: Fiction–Mark Danielewski’s Only Revolutions, Ken Kalfus’s A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document, and Jesse Walter’s The Zero; Nonfiction–Rajiv Chandraswekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone, Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, and Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present; Poetry—H.L. Hix’s Chromatic, Ben Lerner’s Angel of Yaw, Nathaniel Mackey’s Splay Anthem, and James McMichael’s Capacity.

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Great British Novels

October 8, 2006

Greatest Novels According to the Brits
Following in the footsteps of the New York Times, the Guardian asked 150 literary luminaries to vote for the best novel to come out of the British Commonwealth between 1980 and 2005. Here are the results in order: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee; Money by Martin Amis; Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess and Atonement by Ian McEwan both tying for third, Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald, Unconsoled by Kazuio Ishiguro, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and Amongst Women by John McGahern tying for eighth, and That They May Face the Rising Sun by John McGahern. The publication also lists several of the other nominees.

Why the Flurry about Frost’s Poem?
Jennifer Howard asks, “Why the hoopla about an unpublished Robert Frost poem?” In the past few weeks, bloggers and the media have made noise about the Virginia Quarterly Review publishing an unpublished Frost poem. The publication has an essay by Robert Stilling, who discovered the poem, and another by poet Glyn Maxwell. Howard notes that several scholars know the whereabouts of several unpublished Frost poems.

Google’s Literacy Project
Reuters reports that Google Inc. has a Web site dedicated to literacy. Google hopes that it will combat global illiteracy and bolster its own educational credentials. Meanwhile Google released the top 10 most viewed tests in English for a week in September. They include Diversity and Evolutionary Biology of Tropical Flowers by Peter K. Endress, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms, Measuring and Controlling Interest Rate and Credit Risk by Farnk J. Fabozzi, Steven Mann, and Moorad Choudhry, Ultimate Healing: The Power of Compassion by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, The Holy Qur’an as translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Peterson’s Study Abroad 2006 by Thomson Peterson, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound and Sense by Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson, and Build Your Own All-Terrain Robot by Brad Graham and Kathy McGowan.

Who Needs Poetry?
“It’s just what people need right now–a high dosage, intensive injection of lyricism, beauty, and passion.” So says
John Burnside, poet, writer, and chair of the Forward prize for poetry. That’s the lead of Greig Watson report for the BBC.

Then Jeff Gordinier writes for the poetryfoundation.org: “This poetry thing—it’s starting to worry me. The way some people talk about it, you’d think reading a poem every morning was like swallowing a capsule of cod liver oil: it sharpens your vision, expands your lungs, wards off the plague. It’s a psychic antitoxin. It reconnects you with the world around you. It’s good for you.”

Fitch Talks
Andrea Hoag interviews Janet Fitch about how she wrote White Oleander and her new novel Paint It Black.

Politics & Poetry
“Young poets today are casting aside the dreamy ‘hello trees, hello flowers’ bardic stereotype and choosing instead to tackle the hot political issues of the day–or so found the judges of the 2006 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award,” writes
Michelle Pauli.

Robertson Wins Forward
Robin Robertson won the Forward Prize for Poetry, making him the first poet to win both best collection and best first collection prize. He won the best first collection for A Painted Field in 1997. His collection Swithering won the more recent award. Swithering beat out Seamus Heaney’s District and Circle.

Be Immortalized
Irish writer Jason Johnson will auction off chances to become a character in his third novel at http://www.woundlikcer.com. Why is the 37-year-old holding the auction: For the money.

How-to Literature
In recent months, the book publishing industry, especially in England, has come out with a series of how-to literature books: How to Read a Novel by John Sutherland, How Novels Work by John Mullan, and Fifty Ways to Read a Poem by Ruth Padel.

Googling of Literature
During the past ten years, companies such as Yahoo and Google have altered the Internet environment, creating more access to more activities for the average computer user. With its book program along with the Gutenberg Project, the Open Content Alliance, and the Open Document Foundation, these two companies–along with many others–will dramatically alter how and what people read while providing wider access to original material for billions throughout the world.

Too Many Good Books?
“This fall, the largest number of new titles by brand-name authors in recent memory is hitting bookstores, adn the publishing world is asking itself an unusual question: Can there be too many good books?” That’s the start of Josh Getlin Los Angeles Times essay “Booked-up Publishers Could Be in a Bind.” More interestingly and not addressed is the question: Can there be too much good writing out there? Look at the number of new titles being published by literary imprints–small and large. Without an increase in the number of readers, aren’t we as writers and publishers just asking the same number of people to read more? Can the reader base expand?

How Did He Find that Poem?
Virigina Quarterly Review just published “War Thoughts at Home” by Robert Frost, which remained lost for decades. Graduate student Robert Stilling discovered it while doing research at the University of Virgina. Scott McLemee talks to Stilling about the discovery.

Novels about Poets
Colum McCann, author of Zoli which is about a Romani poet, pics the top 10 novels about poets: Stone by John Williams, My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, The Wing of Things by Sean O’Reilly, Shadow Box by Antonia Logue, Winslow in Love by Kevin Canty, Snow by Orham Pamuk, The Dog Fighter by Marc Bokanowski, and Portrait of the Artist by James Joyce.

Pan Redux?
What gave Geraldine McCaughrean the nerve to write a sequel to Peter Pan? asks the Guardian.

The Politically Correct Becomes Incorrect?
Lionel Shrivere argues in The Australian that “fiction may be the last refuge of the outrageous, the last redoubt of Orwell’s thought crime. Moreover, even the freedom to be outrageous in fiction is under threat.” Her essay provokes thinking. In the West, we readily condemned nation’s for trying authors for violating “Turkishness.” She wonders if the attempt to embrace all people into a culture is not leading to a similar crime against the state of inclusion.

Two Poems by Cohen
The Guardian has published “The Cigarette Issue” and “Seisen is Dancing” by Leonard Cohen.

Hornby Tells ‘All’
In an essay entitled “The Complete Polysyllabic Spree,” Erica Wagener interviews Nick Hornby. He says: “When I started being review, I thought, ‘Oh god, I really want to know if my book’s any good or not.’ I don’t read any of them any more, but when you read two people side-by-side and one of them is saying you’re a moron and the other is saying you’re a genius, you think: Okay, so now I’m being asked to choose whcih of tehse people is the cleverer. Because I’d kind of like to know the right answer. And then after a while you just give up.”

Amis Lets It Rip–Yet Again
In the last month, Martin Amis released two works about radical Islam. Guardian writer Rachel Cooke flies from London to the Hamptons on Long Island to interview the author. He, like Hornby, stopped reading reviews: “You’re minding your own business. Then you see the strap-line on the [Lodon] Times: ‘Martin Amis is Shit.’ So it’s a drive-by shooting.”

Rushdie Interviewed
James Campbell of the Guardian interviews Salman Rushdie.

Award for Writers without Agents
The Sobol Literary Agency will award $100,000 to a writer of a complete novel and who is not represented by an agent. It’s a contest, and like most contests today, there’s an entry fee: $85. All entrants agree that the winner will sign Sobol as his/her agent. For more information, <www.sobolaward.com>.

Giller Prize Longlist
Fifteen Canadian authors have been listed as finalists in the annual Giller Prize: David Adams Richards for
The Friends of Meager Fortune, Caroline Adderson for Pleased to Meet You, Todd Babiak for The Garneau Block, Randy Boyagoda for Governor of the Northern Province, Douglas Coupland for jPod, Alan Cumyn for The Famished Lover, Rawi Huge for De Niro’s Game, Kenneth J. Harvey for Inside, Wayne Johnston for The Custodian of Paradise, Vincent Lam for Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, Annette Lapointe for Stolen, Pascale Quiviger for The Perfect Circle, Gaetan Soucy for The Immaculate Conception, Russell Wangersky for The Hour of Bad Decisions, and Carol Windley for Home Schooling.

Booker Shortlist
The Booker Shortlist has been announced: Sarah Walters for
The Night Watch, Kiran Desai for The Inheritance of Loss, Kate Grenville for The Secret River, M.J. Hyland for Carry Me Down, Hisham Matar for In the Country of Men, and Edward St. Aubyn for Mother’s Milk.

Interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Gary Shteyngart
The Book Critics Circle has a wonderful interview with Chimamanda Adichie, whose first novel—
Purple Hibiscus—earned her critical fame and a literary award. Her second, Half of a Yellow Sun, has been released. “Right now, I’m on page twenty-five of my new novel. This is a time of great terror and glee…” That’s what Gary Shteyngart has to say in his interview.

Mahfouz and Smilansky Dead
At the age of 94, Naguib Mahfouz died recently. He was the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature. The Associated Press noted: “Mahfouz’s novels depicted modern life in his beloved neighborhood of Islamic Cairo, a teeming district of millennium-old mosques and winding alleyways. He brought to life his city’s traditional families as they faced the 20th Century’s upheavals, including the change role of women.”
The Guardian also writes of the great novelist.

Variously described as a voice of conscience or national traitor, florid stylist or literary genius, the Israeli writer Yizhar Smilansky, known by his penname of S Yizhar, always evoked strong emotions in his native land,” writes Lawrence Joffe of the novelist, who recently died at the age of 89.

The Power of First Sentences
Consider next another famous first sentence: ‘Call me Ishmael.’Far from putting the reader on the track, however, Melville’s first line sets us on a very bumpy course. The hero narrator’s name is, it appears, not Ishmael (but you can call me that). As the notes of the student editions inform us, the nom de plume is freighted with allegorical significance – but who, under his biblical name of convenience, is this Ishmael?” That’s just one of the point’s John Sutherland makes about first lines of a novel.

Where’s the Novel?
“This summer,
Harper’s magazine has been serializing a novel…John Robert Lennon’s Happyland lends itself to publication in installments. But why it’s appearing in Harper’s, and not in book form, is one fo the more intriguing publishing stories of the season,” writes Rachel Donadio.