Yes, it's that time of year again: they named the winners of the Sacred Defense Book of the Year awards in Iran:
This is the 12th edition of the event, which is annually held by the Foundation for the Preservation and Publication of Sacred Defense Works and Values (FPPSDWV) to honor writers of books on the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, which is known as the Sacred Defense in Iran.
As MNA report, Sacred Defense literati honored -- but what's really notable is how many Sacred defense literati were not honoured.
Here a rundown in the various categories:
Poetry Section: No work merited the first prize
Childrenís Poetry Section: No works deserved the first and third prizes
Verbal Memory Section: No work was awarded the second prize
Fiction Section: No entry was given the first prize in this section.
Fictionalized Biography Section: No work was able to win the first and second prizes
War and Biography Section: No second or third prize was awarded.
Literary Research Section: No work was deemed worthy of the first, Second or third prizes in this section.
Military Research Section: No first or second prize was given.
Art Section: No work was able to win first, second or third prize in the Drama Section as well as in the Illustration and Photo Section.
Best Cover Design: No work deserved the first or third prize.
At least they have standards
Another argument for fewer categories
Children's war poetry ? What the hell are they thinking ?
At The Millions there's a call for Pocket Paperbacks and Digital Editions, and we can only nod in vigorous agreement: "What better time than now to bring back the pocket paperback ?" -- though actually we've always been convinced it's always been a good time to bring back the good old true (i.e. mass-market and similar sized) paperback (and do away with the abomination that is the trade paperback format).
(We don't mention this that much since we tend to start foaming at the mouth with loathing at the trade paperback size whenever the subject comes up .....)
At BBC Newsnight Stephen Smith writes about Nabokov's final literary striptease, re-hashing the whole The Original of Laura-publicity stunt with Dmitri Nabokov who faced that 'difficult' choice between burning it in or cashing in on it.
"My father told me what his most important books were.
He named Laura as one of them.
One doesn't name a book one intends to destroy."
They've announced the Whitbread Costa Book Awards shortlists, with its odd categories -- this year even they are confused by them on the official site, as they've conflated two of the categories and apparently think they're presenting a: 'Costa Children's Biography Award' (yeah, they'll probably get that sorted out pretty soon).
across the worldís second biggest economy, bookstores from Hiroshima to Hokkaido are preparing for what they expect to be the publishing phenomenon of the year: Das Kapital -- the manga version.
The comic, which goes on sale early next month, plays into a growing fascination among Japanís hard-working labour force with socialist literature and joins a collection of increasingly fierce literary critiques of the global capitalist system.
Next Tuesday, 25 November at 18:30, at the austrian cultural forum in New York, local barkeep M.A.Orthofer will be in conversation with Austrian author Wolf Haas.
(The official acf site prevents direct linking to their calendar, and the available event information is ... limited, but if you'd like to attend note that admission is free but reservations are necessary; Call (212) 319 5300 ext.222 or email email@example.com )
Best known for his series of Brenner-mysteries -- two of which have been made into films that will also be screened at the acf on 26 November and 5 December -- , Haas is also the author of Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren (coming relatively soon in translation !).
They also already have an interview with him in transforum, but we should probably be able to cover a bit more ground next Tuesday.
Yale University Press is celebrating its centennial, and at the Yale Daily News Snigdha Sur reports on the three panel discussions on "Why Books Still Matter" they held last week as part of the celebrations, in In tech age, a case for books.
Another profile of The New York Review of Books and head man Robert Silvers, as Matt Harvey finds that 'Skepticism lives on as New York Review of Books ages but thrives' in Brawls and books in The Villager.
Among the observations of interest:
That Chabon -- at 45 -- is one of the NYRBís youngest writers is a sensitive subject for Silvers.
"I donít separate the world into people in their 20s and their 40s," he said with polite annoyance.
But when I asked him whether young writers are having a difficult time developing a unique voice in the age of the Internet he smiled and remarked, "Aha ! Thatís something you may know more about than I do."
After giving it some more thought, he added, "In all these 45 years writers always have emerged with a special voice, a special perception of their own."
The clear implication was that this was bound to happen again.
Why didn't anyone tell us ?!?
More importantly: why hasn't anyone sent us a copy ?!??!?
We were tremendously impressed by Dag Solstad's Shyness and Dignity yet only learn now -- via Melissa McClements' review in the Financial Times -- that, at least in the UK, there's a new Solstad out, Novel 11, Book 18 from Harvill Secker (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk).
Novel 11, Book 18 is an uncompromising and controversial book. Preoccupied by his usual existentialist themes, Solstad takes the idea of man controlling his own destiny to a bizarre extreme.
It might be a profound exploration of philosophical ideas but as a novel itís an emotionless and unsettling read.
"Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa considers "great traumas" like the current financial crisis "very stimulating" for literature, and therefore predicts the beginning of a "good period" for literary creativity."
He was recently in the Congo, "to gather documentation for his next novel, which he has given the provisional title of El Sueño del Celta (The Dream of the Celt)" -- a work: "inspired by the life of Irish nationalist politician Roger Casement".
And: "For the writer, the U.S. president-elect, Democrat Barack Obama, is "the first intellectual" to enter the White House in the history of the country."
(Admittedly, recent White House residents have been decidedly anti-intellectual, none more so than the lame dud still running the country, but surely some have qualified as intellectual over the centuries.)
Well, we're waiting to be stimulated ......
We've mentioned that Sherry Jones' controversial The Jewel of Medina doesn't sound like a particularly good book, and the first reactions certainly seemed to support that notion.
Now Glenn Altschuler reviews it in The Jerusalem Post and also finds A jewel it's not.
The novel isn't worth the attention it's getting.
As reliable, historically, as Disney's Aladdin and the King of Thieves, The Jewel of Medina is a "chick lit" feminist tract, painted in purple prose.
It's an outrage that publication of this book -- or any book -- was held hostage to threats of violence.
But as a work of historical fiction The Jewel of Medina is a non-precious stone that ought to be allowed to sink without a trace.
They've announced the winner of the 2008
Man 'Asian' Literary Prize, and it is Ilustrado, by Filipino author Miguel Syjuco.
(As we've mentioned every time we mention this award: given that it does not tolerate entries from a vast number of countries that you and we and every geographer would consider Asian, including all the Arabic-speaking nations, Iran, and the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union, it is outrageous and unacceptable that this prize claims to be "Asian".)
While we support the general idea behind this prize -- to provide a leg up for Asian authors (well, authors from those parts of Asia they deign to consider ...) -- we have to wonder once again about the winner.
Ilustrado actually sounds like a fun book and we look forward to seeing it in print -- as the Crispin Salvador Wikipedia-page suggests, Syjuco is onto something -- but this is also an author who has been through the Columbia University MFA programme, and who lives in Montreal.
We're all for the breaking down of literary borders, bla bla bla, but can't help but notice how many of the authors sold to us as of X nationality live in country Y -- which, something like eight times out of ten, turns out to be the US or UK (and the ninth time out of ten, as here: Canada); nine times out of ten they also conveniently write in English.
We understand that this is the way the industry works, and that writers obviously choose the easiest route to publishing acceptance -- obviously you increase your chances of getting any sort of publishing deal if you go through the US MFA-mill rather than, say, staying in Manila and write in Tagalog ... -- but we'd love to see some more fostering of local literary scenes, and not just that transnational one.
2666 is getting all the attention, but as we've mentioned (and reviewed),
Roberto Bolaño's The Romantic Dogs now offers the first good dose of his poetry in English.
Not much mention or coverage yet, but at the Poetry Foundation's Online Journal Ben Ehrenreich (who also, sort of, reviewed2666, in The Los Angeles Times) gets a nice amount of space to write about 'Roberto BolaŮoís legions of fictional poets and his own heartbroken insurrectionary poems', in "Appearing and Disappearing Like True Poetry".
Like his fictional double, Bolaño left Mexico in 1977, vagabonding about Europe for years, ultimately settling down in Spain.
But the poems in Romantic Dogs remain obsessed with what he left behind.
Theyíre thick with melancholy and residual awe, as if life had ended at 24.
They've announced the two major French literary prizes, the Goncourt and Renaudot, and, as Richard Lea reports in The Guardian, Immigrants take France's top literary honours.
Syngué sabour by Atiq Rahimi took the prix Goncourt -- the second time in three years that an author who previously wrote in another language (Dari, in Rahimi's case) takes the prize with his first novel written in French.
(Jonathan Littell took the 2006 prize for The Kindly Ones (see our review-overview), after his English debut, Bad Voltage; we understand ARCs of
The Kindly Ones are coming into circulation and very much look forward to having a look.)
Syngué sabour apparently won rather handily, beating out La beauté du monde by Michel Le Bris seven votes to three in only the second round of voting (it took a lot longer last year).
Get your copy of Syngué sabour at Amazon.fr, or see the P.O.L. publicity page; for more on the prize, see the prix Goncourt page at Prix-litteraires.net; the Académie Goncourt site is pretty useless.
Le roi de Kahel by Tierno Monénembo won the prix Renaudot; get your copy at Amazon.fr, and see the prix Renaudot page at Prix-litteraires.net.
Rahimi's Dari fiction has been translated into English, though we don't have any under review at this time; we do have Tierno Monénembo's The Oldest Orphan under review.
They've announced the longlist for the 2009 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
-- a weird and wildly uneven assortment of 146 titles, by authors from 41 countries.
Disappointingly, a mere 29 are translated titles (from 18 languages).
As usual, we have a fair number of the longlisted titles under review:
Roberto Bolaño's 2666 hits American bookstores today; see our review, as well as our mention yesterday.
Review coverage continues apace; keep up with it on our review-page, but note also that in Time Lev Grossman judges it to be The Best Book of 2008.
Interestingly, however, The New Yorker quickly dismisses it, offering nothing more than a 'Briefly Noted' mention -- this despite the fact that James Wood is now on board there, and recall that he penned The New York Times Book Reviewreview of Bolaño's The Savage Detectives, writing that it was a: "marvelous, sad, finally sustaining novel".
Too bad, it would have been interesting to learn what he makes of 2666 in a longer piece.
We may still learn that elsewhere, but The New Yorker is one of very few print outlets that could have devoted appropriate space to the book and now they obviously won't.
Space -- i.e. how much reviewers can devote to the book -- is of some interest and concern with regards to 2666.
As already (very early in the game, with less than a dozen reviews out) noted at Conversational Reading
After Kirsch's love letter, I'm beginning to get a little disappointed in the coverage, as these reviews seem altogether too credulous.
There are plenty of sky-high, arcing statements about redefining the form of the long novel, etc., etc., but I'm seeing little critical engagement beyond a few generalized insights that sound quite similar from review to review.
Perhaps these reviewers believe that they can back up these broad statements they're making, but I do not see much evidence forthcoming from them.
Of course, part of this is a space issue.
So I don't know if this is purely a space issue or what, but it's disturbing that this book is being treated with a very hands-off approach, especially after The Savage Detectives met with virtually universal adulation.
In my opinion, now that Bolano's wave is higher than ever, there is an immense onus on critics to be absolutely clear in their critique of future books from him.
Since 2666 is about as hyped as any book will be this year, and such much of the hype is coming from people who are well-respected, there is an especially large responsibility to justify your praise or criticism of it.
Our review comes in at just over 2800 words, a length we only reach about half a dozen times a year (out of ca. 200+ reviews), yet here that was barely enough to scratch the surface.
(The last time we hit that many words was for Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a review in which we said close to everything that need be said about the book in question.)
But how far can one dig, especially in an initial reaction (and, after all, in coverage that is meant to be informative (i.e. give potential book-buyers a sense of whether or not this might be something for them) rather than solely critical-analytical) ?
But part of the fun of this book seems to us to be in how it will sink in -- far more so, we imagine, than The Savage Detectives (or the near-perfect literary exercise that is Nazi Literature in the Americas, which people really don't seem to know what to do with).
As we mentioned yesterday, it seems obvious that this book will be part of the literary conversation for a while to come -- something actually discussed (if people get around to reading it, and not just carrying it around for show) in a way that The Savage Detectives never could.
(As we've also noted, we're far more taken and impressed by 2666 than The Savage Detectives, and we wonder whether part of the discussion will see two factions form, one favouring each of these books .....)
The hype is a problem, though we actually find the personal baggage -- the focus on Bolaño (and the fact that he done died) rather than the book -- far more irritating.
Still, we think we can bear this flood of rather superficial coverage and wait for the book to grab hold of enough readers for a true dialogue and critical engagement to emerge.
It is certainly a title we can well imagine re-engaging with -- repeatedly.