PEN Awards

October 13, 2006

PEN USA Announces Awards
PEN USA has announced its winners of its LIterary Awards competition: Fiction–Percival Everett’s Wounded, Creative Nonfiction–Michael Chorost’s Rebuilt: How becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human, Research Nonfiction–Adam Hochschild’s Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in teh Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, Poetry–Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet, Drama–Donald Freed’s Devil’s Advocate, Teleplay–Alex Tse’s Sucker Free City, and Geroge Clooney’s and Grant Heslov’s Good Night, and Good Luck. At the awards dinner in December, the association will give its lifetime achievement award to Jame Smiley.


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.

Desai Wins Booker
Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. The Indian-born writer has a strong family tie with the prize. Her mother, Anita Desai has been shortlisted three times since 1980 but has never won. Kiran, who also wrote Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, is the first woman since 2000 to win the prize. Her competition included Kate Grenvillle’s The Secret River, M.J. Hyland’s Carry Me Down, Hisham Matar’s In the Country of Men, Edward St. Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk, and Sarah Waters’s The Night Watch. Waters was the favorite of London’s bookies. You can read an extract of The Inheritance of Loss. You can also read an interview with Kiran in Critical Mass.

Novel in the Internet Age
Novelists Walter Kirn and Gary Shteyngart talk about the novel in the Internet Age. Kirn published a serialized novel in Slate. Kirn writes: “Can written narratives represent this world [the world of instant worldwide communication]? Can they convey what it feels like eot inhabit it.”

J.C. Oates Insensitive
That’s the claim from the College of New Jersey. The university was reacting to her short story that was published in the New Yorker. It was called Landfill, which is about a student forced down a trash chute and later found dead in a landfill.

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 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.

“The Ode Less Travelled”
In his review of Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled, David Orr takes on Robin Williams’ version of the English teacher John Keating in the movie Dead Poets Society, as well as Dr. J. Evans Pritchard. “As Samuel Johnson put it more than 250 years ago, anyone attempting to discuss ‘the minuter parts of literature’ usually ends up either ‘frighting us with rugged science, or amusing us with empty sound.'” Then Orr tells how Fry does neither.

The Bed Potato
Attempting never to leave his bed, Gary Shteyngart reviews the new translation of Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov. Goncharov’s hero lays in bed all day. On the third day, Shteyngart writes: “Today I will tackle Oblomov, the famous 19th-century Russian slacker novel.”

Interview with Philip Deaver
Nancy Zafris, the Kenyon Review’s fiction editor, conducts an intriguing interview with Philip Deaver, who wrote Silent Retreats, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Deaver talks about craft. Read him talking about the influences on his writing: “Have you ever read John Updike’s “A Constellation of Events,” a little story buried down in his Trust Me collecdtion? The last lines kill me. Then there’s the Morrisons’ accident in Dan Chon’s “Among the Missing.” And Ann Beattie’s second swing past her mother’s house in “Find and Replace,” and her delicious little story “Waiting,” when the dog lazily comes out onto the front porch. Alice Dark’s “In the Gloaming”–those who’ve read it will remember the father saying to the mother, ‘Tell me about my son.’ Tobias Wolff’s “Powder,” Richard Ford’s “Reunion,” Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” Carver’s “Cathedral” and “Errand.” I like these stories for the amazing moments they gave me. There are hundreds of others.” You also can read his story “Lowell and the Rolling Thunder.”

PR Interview Stephen King
In the fall issue of the Paris Review, Stephen King talks about fiction and his approaches: “I don’t think there’s anything that I’m not afraid of, on some level. But if you mean, What are we afraid of as humans? Chaos. the outsider. We’re afraid of change. We’re afraid of disruption, and that’s what I’m interested in. I mean: There are a lot of people whose writing I really love–one fo them is the American poet Philip Booth–who writes about ordinary life straight up, but I just can’t do that.”

Cohen Awards
The 2006 Cohen Awards for the best poem and short story in the previous year’s issues of Ploughshares were given to Laura Kasischke for story “If a Stranger Approaches You about Carrying a Foreign Object with You onto the Plane…” and R.T. Smith for his poem “Dar He.”

Penn Writers Conference

September 29, 2006

Penn Writers Conference
Penn Writers ConferenceSusan Stranahan will give the keynote address at the Twelfth Annual Writers Conference at Penn. The program offers two days of two-hour workshops and master classes. To sign up for the conference go to or call 215-898-6479 extension 3. SNR’s Joseph Conlin will conduct one of the workshops on Saturday, “Submitting to Literary Magazines.”