Monday, April 16, 2007

Man Booker International Prize

Sources: various

15 of the world's most acclaimed authors, from 10 countries, have been short listed for the prestigious International Man Booker prize. Out of these only four of them do not write in English. They will be vying for the £60,000 trophy which is awarded every two years for a body of work rather than an individual
piece of fiction.

The 15 authors are: Chinua Achebe, Margaret Atwood, John Banville, Peter Carey, Don DeLillo, Carlos Fuentes, Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan, Harry Mulisch, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Amos Oz, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie and Michel Tournier. Lessing, aged 87, is the oldest and McEwan, 58, the youngest.

The judges are: Professor Elaine Showalter, academic and author; Nadine Gordimer, writer and novelist; and writer and academic, Colm Tóibin.

Ismail Kadaré won the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in 2005

Man Booker website:

Wackiest book titles

Associated Press report:

And the winner for 2007 isss ...The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification.

Written by Julian Montague, the book offers a guide to identify varieties types of lost shopping carts, from those that are simply discarded to those that are elaborately vandalized.

Stray Shopping Carts received one third of the more than 5,500 votes cast by members of the public on the website of The Bookseller.

The runner-up was Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan by Robert Chenciner, Gabib Ismailov, Magomedkhan Magomedkhanov and Alex Binnie (Bennett & Bloom).

Other finalists: How Green Were the Nazis? by Franz-Josef Bruggemeier, Mark Cioc and Thomas Zeller (Ohio University Press) a study of the environmental policies of the Third Reich; Di Mascio's Delicious Ice Cream: Di Mascio of Coventry: an Ice Cream Company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans by Roger De Boer, Harvey Francis Pitcher, and Alan Wilkinson (Past Masters); Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium (Kluwer); and Better Never To Have Been: the Harm of Coming Into Existence by David Benatar (Clarendon Press).

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IMPAC shortlist 2007

From Guardian Unlimited

This year's IMPAC 138-strong long list has been pared to a shortlist of eight - all men.

Julian Barnes (Arthur and George), Sebastian Barry (A Long Long Way), JM Coetzee (Slow Man), Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Peter Hobbs (The Short Day Dying), Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), Per Petterson (Out Stealing Horses), Salman Rushdie (Shalimar the Clown) are still in the running for the prize which, at €100,000 (£68,000), is the world's richest. Interestingly, Per Peterson is the only writer whose work is not originally in English.

Nadine Gordimer, Margaret Atwood, Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Banville, Ian McEwan and Haruki Murakami are amongst those who did not get past the first stage.

This year's panel of judges includes writers Hanan al-Shaykh and Almeda Faria, poet Gerlad Dawe and critic Carmen Callil. The chair of judges is Eugene Sullivan, a former US court of appeals chief judge. The winner will be announced on June 14 2007.

Last year's winner was The Master by Colm Toibin; previouswinners include Orhan Pamuk (My Name is Red), Tahar Ben Jelloun (ThisBlinding Absence of Light) and Michel Houellebecq (Atomised).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Garcia Marquez turns 80

From the BBC and Associated Press

Colombia is celebrating the 80th birthday of Nobel Prize winner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with cities across the country holding events, and Spain is holding a marathon reading of the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude led by Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la and 80 politicians, writers and actors from the Spanish-speaking world.

The Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, in its fourth congress in the colonial Caribbean port of Cartegena in Colombia, has released a special commemorative edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude to honour 'Gabo'.

Some quotes:

"I only know that from the time I was 17 until this morning I've done nothing more than wake up early every day, sit in front of a set of keys to fill a blank page or a blank screen with the sole mission of writing a story never before told that will make life happy for a reader who doesn't exist ..." (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

"I believe he's the most important writer of fiction in any language since William Faulkner died ..." (Former US President, Bill Clinton, who read the book in 1972 when he was in Law school.)

"Only time will tell if he's as important to Spanish literature as Cervantes ... we may have to wait 500 years to find out." (Gerald Martin, a University of Pittsburgh professor who is working on a biography of Garcia Marquez.)

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Borders to exit UK

From the Guardian Unlimited

The US book-chain, Borders, has made a shocking announcement that it is set to pull out of the UK and revamp its US book-chain, setting off fears of a tsunami through the industry. Is this the beginning of the end of the mega bookstore
as we know it? It is beginning to look like the Gunfight at O K Corral: who will be the last man standing?

Borders is also reducing store numbers in the US and ending its alliance with Borders is America's second-largest books retailer after Barnes & Noble, has recently reported a quarterly loss of US$73.6m. UK sales over the quarter were flat.

Borders moved into the UK in 1998, when it bought the Books etc chain. It has 42 Borders superstores in the UK and Ireland and 30 Books etc and Borders Express stores.

More blood on the tracks: 'Earlier this month HMV said it was planning to close up to 30 of its Waterstone's book shops, as part of an overhaul to restore the fortunes of the struggling business.'

What is happening is perhaps inevitable. Mega bookstores have been trying todefy gravity long enough with their steep discounts (up to 50%) of their best sellers. When Walmart or Tesco does that, they are merely extending the conceptof loss leaders. Their shoppers will still need to buy milk and eggs and soap

powder and ... while Harry Potter and Dan Brown readers read only that, and nothing in between. When bookstores start treating their inventory like commodities, they become no different from rice and sugar merchants and they should know it is trouble ... sorry, this is their turf.

Should we worry? Perhaps not. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as they say. Maybe booksellers will eventually get back to doing what they do best: selling books ... good books.

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Ern Malley: the musical


Ernest Lalor "Ern" Malley (April 14, 1918 - July 23, 1943) is one of the best-known names in the history of Australian poetry. Malley was born in Liverpool in 1918 and migrated to Australia as a child with his parents and his older sister, Ethel. His father died in 1920, and after his mother died in 1933, Malley lived alone in Sydney while working as an insurance salesman.

After his death in May 1943 at the age of 25 from "Graves' Disease," his sister Ethel, found a pile of unpublished poems among his belongings, sent them to Max Harris, a 22-year-old avant garde poet and critic in Adelaide, who in 1940 had started a modernist magazine called Angry Penguins. Harris read the poems and thought that he had just discovered a poet in the same class as W. H. Auden or Dylan Thomas.

But there was a small catch. Ern Malley's collection of 17 poems under the title The Darkening Ecliptic was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by poets James McAuley and Harold Stewart on the pretentious, overbearing Max Harris.

Ern Malley never existed.

McAuley and Stewart lifted words and phrases from the Concise Oxford Dictionary, a Collected Shakespeare and a Dictionary of Quotations, opening the books at random, choosing words and phrase haphazardly, weaving them into nonsensical sentences, misquoting them, making false allusions, and deliberately perpetrating bad verse and awkward rhymes.

Australia of 1943 loved this joke. Ern Malley was on the front pages for weeks. Harris was humiliated, and Angry Penguins soon folded. (Ern Mally was also the subject of Peter Carey's novel: My Life as a Fake.

And now for the musical.

At the University of Melbourne, composers at the Faculty of Music have been taking the poems and creating musical works. Their latest project is Ern Malley. 11 songs have been composed for voice and piano, some for baritone and some for soprano, all new.

And, since, it was a hoax and written by two people who didn't want to be acknowledged, there is no copyright issue involved.

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Arabian Idol

From Guardian Unlimited

They have no over-the-hill 'stars' paid to act as obnoxious judges, nor fourth rate actor-waiters hired to sing badly and make fools of themselves. (Explain to me, why is that entertainment?) But, apparently, they do have a beautiful and leggy female presenter, the over-designed sets, a sweeping walkway, giant video screens, a revolving stage bathed in lilac lights and electronic key pads to vote for your favourite performer.

This is Pop Idol, Abu Dhabi-style. Organised as part of the The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (March 31 - April 7), The Millions' Poet contest is part of a wider cultural initiative by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan that includes museum projects, book prizes and incentives for publishers to relocate to Abu Dhabi.

Contestants are from all the Arab nations and they recite their own poetry, composed in a traditional Bedouin style called Nabati that dates back to the fourth century. The judges are respected academics and poets. And there are no personalised slurs. Nor is there gushing and fawning. The prize is one million dirham (or just under RM1.2m or US$335,000.00).

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There is no money in writing

From The Independent in a story called Pulped Fiction.

First of all, I am not sure this is even news. According to the report the average author in the UK earns about GBP16,000 (a little over RM108,000) a year, a third less than the national average wage. Enough if one was living in Malaysia I guess. But if the superstars are removed from the sums, the actual figure comes closer to GBP4000 (RM 27,000) a year, hardly enough to live in KL. In Britain this is reckoned to be insufficient for stale bread for breakfast and a tarpaulin for shelter.

Of course, there are the lucky few who make it and distort the images. Fewer authors are signed up unless they're famous (empty headed footballers and models fall into this category), advances are getting less, those who sell only moderately well are dropped, ending a lot of writing careers early.

The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) says, "The top 10 per cent of authors earn more than half the total income …"

So write if you must but don't give up your day job.

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