Last week, I spent eight blissful days in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the very tip of Cape Cod and home to many talented writers and artists. Thousands of fascinating people have traveled through P-town over the years, but my family always took particular delight in one of our most notable neighbors—Norman Mailer.
Mailer lived just a few houses down from my family and someone always had a “Mailer spotting” story to tell. But walking by the Mailer house this summer, you can’t help but notice that things are different. Of course the great literary legend is no longer with us (he died in November 2007), but his house has been transformed into The Norman Mailer Writers Colony.
Opening its doors this spring, The Norman Mailer Writers Colony is a non-profit organization established to honor Mailer and his commitment to Provincetown and its artistic community. Mailer’s gorgeous bay-front estate is now a meeting place and residence for “promising writers, educators, editors, scholars and distinguished writers” and offers fellowships and weeklong workshops. Mailer’s third floor study, where he wrote many of his major works since 1975, remains as he left it—with books, notes and research materials that he was using as he worked on his final projects.
In addition to a number of programs and workshops on site, the Colony has established a series of national writing awards open to all high school, college and university students, encouraging the passion, skill and commitment Mailer exhibited during his 60-year writing career. I can’t think of a better way to honor the great writer—and to celebrate our great town of Provincetown. For more information on this remarkable Writers Colony, visit: www.nmwcolony.org.
The words “famously reclusive” are paired with the name Cormac McCarthy like white on rice. Despite his televised interview with Oprah in 2007, McCarthy is still considered one of the least talkative, most private authors around. No book tours for this man! No website, no blog and definitely no Twitter. Nonetheless, this acclaimed writer generates plenty of press coverage, as we see in three recent developments:
NEWS ITEM #1: McCarthy has been chosen as the recipient of the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, to be presented at a ceremony Tuesday tonight in New York. Will McCarthy accept the award in person? A PEN spokesman didn’t respond to that question, so your guess is as good as ours. This is a career achievement award, and in describing the honoree’s body of work, PEN notes that “McCarthy’s fiction parallels his movement from the Southeast to the West.” McCarthy’s first four novels are set in Tennessee, where he grew up and attended Knoxville Catholic High School. (Through a classmate, we’ve seen charming school newspaper clippings from the late 1940s in which the author, then known as the more pedestrian “Charlie McCarthy,” showed scant signs of future greatness.) McCarthy later moved to Texas, and eventually to Santa Fe, where he currently makes his home.
NEWS ITEM #2: An archive of McCarthy’s papers opened to researchers today as part of the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos. Access is by appointment only, so forget about dropping by to thumb through the original manuscript of All the Pretty Horses.
NEWS ITEM #3: The film version of McCarthy’s devastating apocalyptic novel, The Road, now has a firm release date (October 16) and an official trailer. Only two and a half minutes long, but still extremely unsettling:
The morning after her big Edgar win, Meg Gardiner (The China Lake), describes herself as "dazed and excited and sleep-deprived." Check out her blog posts and photos from the ceremony here. Who knew the Edgar statuette was so adorable?
The Mystery Writers of America were celebrating in New York City last night! In addition to hosting their annual gala to honor the winners of the Edgar Allan Poe Awards (more simply known as “The Edgars”), the WMA were celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of their awards’ namesake—Edgar Allan Poe.
Here are some highlights from the 2009 awards for best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2008. For a complete list of results, and more information on The Edgars, click here.
Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
Read a BookPage interview with C.J. Box here.
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library – Obsidian Mysteries)
Check out BookPage’s review of another Gardiner book.
BEST FACT CRIME
American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum (Crown Publishers)
BEST YOUNG ADULT
Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton Children’s Books)
See our review of Paper Towns here.
BEST MOTION PICTURE SCREENPLAY
In Bruges, screenplay by Martin McDonagh (Focus Features)
Have you read any of the winning books? Who do you think was overlooked? Any predictions for the 2010 Edgar Awards?
Ursula Le Guin won the Nebula Award (her sixth by our count) for best novel at a ceremony Saturday night at UCLA. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America chose Le Guin's Powers, the third book in the Annals of the Western Shore series, for the top honor. Interestingly, the novel is aimed at young adult readers, as is another Nebula finalist, Cory Doctorow's Homeland Security thriller Little Brother. Can we take this as another indicator that some of the most imaginative fiction being published today is in the YA market?
The winner of the Andre Norton Award for young adult science fiction and fantasy went to Ysabeau S. Wilce for Flora's Dare, a wild romp of a book, which has one of the longest subtitles we've seen lately: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room). For a look at the woman behind this fantastical vision, check out Kelly Link's 2007 BookPage interview with Wilce or the author's entertaining (and somewhat bizarre) website.
In 2007, a young, handsome and totally unknown writer named Joshua Ferris rocked the publishing scene with his brilliant debut novel And Then We Came to the End. Writing in a first-person-plural narrative, Ferris satirized the American workplace by exploring a fictional Chicago advertising agency at the end of the 90s Internet boom. The book won the PEN/Hemingway Award, was named one of the New York Times Book Review’s “10 Best Books of the Year” and became a finalist for the National Book Award. Not bad for a 32-year-old who worked in—you guessed it—advertising before turning to writing.
In January 2010, Ferris will be back with The Unnamed—a novel that sounds as mysterious as its title. The novel focuses on Tim and Jane Farnsworth, a long-married couple who seem to have it all. But Tim has twice battled a bizarre, inexplicable illness, and when that illness returns, Tim’s behavior becomes so frightening that he and Jane are forced to leave their comfortable existence and battle against a series of terrifying new realities. Industry buzz says that while this book is absolutely a departure for Ferris, the new novel is well-worth the wait.
To read more about Ferris and his debut novel, check out his 2007 interview with BookPage.
If you're tempted to rush out and buy a copy of Jon Meacham's Pultizer Prize-winning biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, you might want to wait a few days. Random House announced this morning that it is moving up the paperback release date for American Lion from mid-June to the end of April. The paperback will have a first printing of 200,000; Random House reports that 500,000 copies of the hardcover edition are already in print.
Congratulations to Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for biography for American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Meacham told BookPage in an interview last fall that he saw many parallels between Jackson's age and our own. "It's somewhat depressing, actually, to be a journalist who writes history because you realize that everything has happened before," he said. Tennessee bragging rights: Meacham is a native of Chattanooga, and he wrote much of American Lion in his summer house in Sewanee, Tennessee (near his alma mater, the University of the South).
Other Pulitzer winners include Annette Gordon-Reed, who took the History prize for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (BookPage review here); Douglas A. Blackmon, who won in General Nonfiction for Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II; and W.S. Merwin, whose collection The Shadow of Sirius won the Poetry prize.
The somewhat surprising winner in Fiction (at least to us! see prognostication post below) is Elizabeth Strout for Olive Kitteridge. The Pulitzer citation describes the book as "a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating." A 2006 BookPage interview notes Strout's fascination with Maine and her keenly observed portraits of its people. Fiction finalists are The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (BookPage review) and All Souls by Christine Schutt (BookPage review). Book clubs, take note: Olive Kitteridge is already out in paperback, while The Plague of Doves comes out in paperback in May, and All Souls in June.