Another surprise prizewinner for the 2010 season: Howard Jacobson nabs the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question, just published today in the U.S.
Betting on the prize in the U.K. had to be closed early after they got a flood of bids on Tom McCarthy's C, but apparently Jacobson's novel exploring "what it means to be Jewish today in the UK" took the prize in a 3-2 vote. Andrew Motion, Chair judge of the committee, says that "The Finkler Question is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize" of 50,000 pounds (about $79,000).
Check back on Monday for an excerpt from the book—and a chance to win your own copy.
On Saturday I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at the Southern Festival of Books here in Nashville. The panel's topic was transgender characters in books for teens, and the panelists were Ellen Wittlinger, author of Parrotfish (2007), and Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Jumpstart the World (which goes on sale today!).
Ellen Wittlinger first became interested in the topic when her daughter (full disclosure: that's me!) became good friends with a transman: someone who was born with a female body, but always felt he was really male. Although the story in Parrotfish is not Toby's story, Wittlinger interviewed him extensively and drew heavily on his experiences to write the book, which tells the story of teenage Grady (formerly Angela) McNair, who comes out as transgender and begins to live as a boy.
Catherine Ryan Hyde spoke movingly of growing up with a transgender sibling as well as a current friend who is also transgender, and talked about the many different ways people express their own gender identities. In Jumpstart the World, Hyde includes not only a transgender character, Frank (with whom the narrator, a teenage girl, falls in love), but also one whose gender identity is more fluid. When asked if he is trans, Wilbur (a gentle, soft-spoken boy who wears impeccable makeup) replies: "Not really. . . . I mean, I don't want to have surgery. I don't need to be a girl. I'm just this."
Hyde also revealed that her original ending for the book was much bleaker, but she came to realize that it would be important for readers that the story end on a hopeful note. Still, she did not shy away from portraying some of the difficulties in the life of a transgender person, such as the fears that arise when Frank must go to the hospital.
The questions from the audience were insightful and the ensuing discussion was fascinating and thought-provoking. Both authors spoke passionately about their belief that writing books with transgender characters will help teens to have more compassion and understanding for people who may be different from them in some way, and maybe even to realize that they are not alone in their own struggles.
Have you ever read a book with a transgender character, or one whose gender identity was not so easily defined (like Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex)? Will you check out Parrotfish or Jumpstart the World?
In a recent blog post about his book trailer, Steven Johnson wrote: "I have to admit when the good folks at Riverhead mentioned that they were working on an animated video promoting Where Good Ideas Come From, I wasn't fully convinced it was going to be worth the effort."
I bet many authors have this same thought, particularly when the average book trailer on YouTube might have a couple hundred views. Occasionally a trailer will have a couple thousand views, but that is not the norm.
So imagine my surprise when I saw that the trailer for Where Good Ideas Come From has been viewed more than 261,000 times. (The print run for the book was 75,000.) You'll have to watch for yourself to see what the fuss is about.
BookPage reviewer Martin Brady writes that Johnson's book is about "the critical factors that are almost always present when human innovation occurs." According to Johnson, "Eureka" moments are overrated, and “environments that build walls around good ideas tend to be less innovative in the long run than more open-ended environments. . . . Good ideas may not want to be free, but they do want to connect, fuse, recombine.”
The popular trailer illustrates that process:
When do you get your best ideas? Will you check out this book? Do you like the trailer?
Also in BookPage: Read an interview with Johnson about his book Everything Bad is Good For You.
Most of you know that BookPage produces a bimonthly e-newsletter about kids and teen books. But did you know that in that newsletter we give away BIG prizes?
In tomorrow's edition of Reading Corner, we're giving away the complete works of Liz Kessler . . . signed! Kessler dropped by BookPage's office a few weeks ago when she was in town for school and bookstore visits. I interviewed her for our YouTube channel and asked the author to sign all of her books—which include four titles in the New York Times-bestselling Emily Windsnap series and three in the Philippa Fisher series.
Kessler's newest book, Philippa Fisher and the Fairy's Promise, comes out today. You can learn all about it in tomorrow's Reading Corner and of course enter to win the books. Good luck!
If you could interview any children's/teen author, who would it be?
My spring reading list keeps getting longer and longer . . . and I like it that way! One of the best short story collections of the decade, David Bezmozgis' Natasha "packs a devastating wallop as it describes what it means to be a foreigner," as BookPage reviewer Ian Schwartz put it in his glowing 2004 review. So we weren't too terribly surprised when the Latvian-born writer became one of the New Yorker's "Top 20 Under 40"
Bezmozgis' long-awaited first novel, The Free World (FSG), will be published on March 29. Set in the late 1970s, in the shadow of Brezhnev and the Cold War, the novels follows the Krasnansky family, who are trying to leave Russia but end up in Italy instead of Israel (the destination of choice for most emigrés) on their way to North America. Canadian publishing magazine The Quill & Quire reports that "according to Bezmozgis’s Canadian publisher, Iris Tupholme, the characters could be the parents and grandparents of the characters in Natasha." The New Yorker has an excerpt here.
Jennifer Weiner announced on Friday (via her Twitter) that she is going to Hollywood. Here's more from Deadline.com, which summarized the four shows which received "official pilot orders" by ABC Family:
“The Great State of Georgia” is an ABC Studios’ half-hour, multi-cam comedy series about an exuberant plus-sized performer from the south and her science geek best friend who try to make headway in New York City. Pilot writers are Jennifer Weiner (author of the best-selling novels Good in Bed, and In Her Shoes and Jeff Greenstein (“Desperate Housewives”)
As we all know, there aren't a whole lot of plus-sized heroines in prime time—especially since ABC just canceled the TV show "Huge," based on the novel by Sasha Paley. But Weiner can write plus-sized character better than anyone (i.e. their only concerns aren't losing weight), so I have high hopes for "The Great State of Georgia," not least of all because Jeff Greenstein is involved. (His credits include "Friends" and "Will & Grace".)
Do any of you watch TV as much as you read? Will you keep your fingers crossed that ABC Family orders a full season of episodes?
Related Content: Read reviews of Weiner's books on our website.
It is a gorgeous weekend at the Southern Festival of Books, and I couldn’t be more excited. I went for a few hours yesterday afternoon and had sightings of Ron Rash, Tasha Alexander, Andrew Grant—and Audrey Niffenegger!
A few BookPage staffers made the trip from our office to downtown Nashville to hear Niffenegger’s reading, and I have to admit that I felt like a total fangirl. The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my all-time favorite novels, and though our staff was divided over Her Fearful Symmetry, I am firmly in the “like” camp.
Niffenegger was speaking about her graphic novel The Night Bookmobile, released September 1 from Abrams. Though I missed the actual reading portion of the session, I learned a few things in the Q&A that will be of interest to readers:
The author is thinking about opening a bookstore in Chicago called Artists Books. She’d stock all the books that “wouldn’t be in normal bookstores.” Niffenegger has never seen The Time Traveler’s Wife movie. The author’s next novel, Chinchilla Girl in Exile (see this blog post for more information), is about “how people treat you if you’re different.” When Neil Gaiman was working on The Graveyard Book he took Niffenegger’s tour at Highgate Cemetery.
I think of Niffenegger as a total rock star author, but she was nice as could be during the signing—and when I cornered her for a picture.
What author would make you feel like a groupie?
Stay tuned for more news from the Southern Festival of Books. . .
What posts have you enjoyed this week? A few of my favorites include...
Mockingjay (Review in Haiku)
Posted on The Literate Housewife Review
The Literate Housewife reviews Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay in the form of a haiku! Here's a preview:
Peeta, Gale, oh you
Cardboard stereotypes of
Who you had once been.
Any blog readers want to start commenting in verse?
Edgar Allan Poe & The Animated Tell-Tale Heart
Posted by Dan Colman on Open Culture
On the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's death, Open Culture highlights the 1953 animated adaptation of Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart." The film—about a madman who believes he is sane—is preserved in the United States National Film Registry. Warning: Only watch if you don't mind getting chills.
10 Granta-Anointed Spanish-Language Writers You Should Know
Posted by Chelsea Bauch on Flavorwire
Literary magazine Granta recently released a list of the Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists. Both Granta and Granta en Español include fiction from the writers, although the pieces are different.
Chelsea Bauch on Flavorwire profiles ten of the authors, writing, "Here’s a chance to familiarize yourself with a selection of these emerging writers before they’re as ubiquitous as Borges and Bolaño." Definitely worth a read.
After editing five crime anthologies, Rosemary Herbert joins the mystery-writing ranks with her first novel, Front Page Teaser (Down East Books).
Describe your book in one sentence.
Set in Boston, and following the adventures of a gutsy, underdog, tabloid newspaper reporter on the trail of a missing mom, Front Page Teaser: A Liz Higgins Mystery is not just a fast-paced puzzler, but a love song to the news reporting life.
What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
“Think tabloid.” My first editor at the Boston Herald told me this with a wink, because she did not mean to suggest that I write as if I were reporting for the National Enquirer. What she did mean was to cut to the chase, keep the pace lively, write with attitude and verve, and especially to get to the heart of the matter. When I was young, my creative writing teacher, Mr. Alfred Haulenbeek, told me to believe in myself and to “grow in the appreciation of fine language.” Put these pieces of advice together and you have a winning combination.
How would you earn a living if you weren't a writer?
As a librarian. I have worked as a reference librarian at Harvard University and as a children’s librarian in Maine. In fact, subplot in Front Page Teaser is drawn from my library experience. When my reporter-sleuth Liz Higgins asks librarians to reveal the reading habits of a missing woman, the librarians stand as bastions protecting the privacy of library patron circulation records. I added this to my book as a tribute to librarians and librarianship.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
Being nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for The Oxford Companion to Crime & Mystery Writing. I served as editor-in-chief for this volume.
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one fictional character, who would you want it to be?
Nancy Drew. I’m sure she would get us out of the desert island “scrape” with pluck and aplomb. Meanwhile, we could trade some clever sleuthing clues.
What are you reading now?
Tony Hillerman’s Landscapes (Harper) by his daughter, Anne Hillerman, with photographs by Don Strel. Because Tony Hillerman is not here to celebrate the recent paperback publication of our book A New Omnibus of Crime (Oxford University Press), I have been missing him. Anne’s book makes me feel closer to Tony and his work.
Best known for her work as a novelist, Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones, The Almost Moon) is switching things up a bit. Europa Editions is launching a new imprint called Tonga, and Sebold will be at the helm. According to Publishers Weekly, “Tonga will release dark, literary books, and Sebold herself is doing the acquiring.”
Since "dark" and "literary" are terms often used to describe Sebold's own work, we figure she'll know how to recognize it when she sees it.
Tonga’s first publication (slated for fall 2011) will be Alexander Maksik’s debut novel, You Deserve Nothing. Set in an international high school in Paris, it follows a teacher and two of his students.