Readersforum's Blog

August 31, 2012

Announcing the Recipients of the 2012 PEN Literary Awards

We are pleased to announce the winners and runners-up of the 2012 PEN Awards, the most comprehensive literary awards program in the country. This year marks PEN’s 90th anniversary. For more than 50 of those years PEN’s Literary Awards program has honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature.

This year, PEN will present 18 awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes—including two awards offered for the first time ever: the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, founded by Barbara Kingsolver and first established in 2000, and the PEN/Steven Kroll Award for text in an illustrated picture book. With the help of its partners and supporters, PEN will confer nearly $175,000 in 2012 to some of the most gifted writers and translators working today.

Award winners and runners-up will be honored at the 2012 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, October 23, 2012, at CUNY Graduate Center’s Proshansky Auditorium in New York City.

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More Details Emerge on ABA/Kobo Partnership

By Judith Rosen

Yesterday’s announcement that the American Booksellers Association found an e-book solution with Kobo replacing Google raised a number of questions, including when the transition will take place. Neil Strandberg, ABA director of member technology, filled in more of the details, although he declined to give a specific date. “For months, we’ve pledged that our members will have the ability to sell e-books through our new partnership long in advance of the upcoming holiday season,” he said. “That remains the case.”
ABA had originally chosen Google, because it was the only option available. This time, according to Strandberg, the ABA spoke with dozens of possible partners. “We simply decided that at the moment, Kobo is offering our members the best means to compete in today’s rapidly changing digital environment,” he said.

Under the new arrangement, for the first time all ABA members—not just IndieCommerce stores—will have the option to sell Kobo content and share in the sales. No separate arrangement with Kobo is necessary.

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Best Bookstores on Tumblr

  By Jason Boog

Is your favorite bookstore on Tumblr? We are building a directory of all the bookstores on the social network.

Earlier this year, we opened a GalleyCat Tumblr page and published Tumblr Tips for Writers. Our bookstore list is not comprehensive–yet. Share your favorite Tumblr bookstore in the comments section and we will add it to our list.

If you are looking for more people to follow, check out our Best Indie Bookstores on Twitter list, our Best Literary Agents on Twitter directory, our Best Book Editors on Twitter list, our Best Book Publicity and Marketing Twitter Feeds directory, our Best eBook News on Twitter list, our Best Library People on Twitter directory, and our Women in Publishing Twitter List.

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Hersey’s “Hiroshima” and Hibakusha

Filed under: Today in Literature — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:16 am

       John Hersey         (1914 – 1993)

On this day in 1946 John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” was published in The New Yorker. The article took up almost all sixty-eight pages of text space, an unprecedented and unannounced step for the magazine, taken so “that everyone might well take time to consider.” When Hersey died in 1993, one obituary called “Hiroshima” the “most famous magazine article ever published.”

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August 30, 2012

Malcolm Browne obituary

Browne’s image of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, who set fire to himself in 1963, was published around the world. Photograph: Malcolm Browne/AP

Vietnam war reporter whose sceptical coverage influenced US public opinion.

By Godfrey Hodgson

Malcolm Browne, who has died aged 81, was one of those people who were in the right place, at the right time, and knew what to do. He was the Associated Press’s young bureau chief in Saigon on 11 June 1963.

That day, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Governor George Wallace struck an attitude, intending to make himself the hero of the segregationist south, by “standing in the schoolhouse door” to ban black students from the state university. In Washington, the US president John F Kennedy was coming to terms with the two crises that would transform American history and his administration: the civil rights revolution in the south, and the decision whether or not to send American troops to prop up the tottering US-supported regime in South Vietnam.

Ngo Dinh Diem, the Roman Catholic puppet president in Saigon, was reluctant to give democracy a chance. He was ineffectual in fighting the communist Vietcong guerrillas. With supreme folly, he picked a quarrel with the Buddhist majority in his half of Vietnam. In early May, two of his brothers, a provincial governor and an archbishop, had been involved in an incident when someone threw a grenade into a peaceful Buddhist demonstration and killed eight monks.

The Buddhists were no political innocents. On 11 June, a number of western journalists and photographers received a telephone call from Saigon’s main Buddhist pagoda: be outside the Cambodian embassy for a “very important” happening. Browne was the only one who went. At the appointed time, an elderly monk, Thich Quang Duc, appeared and sat on a pillow in the lotus position. Two of his disciples doused him with aviation fuel, and he set himself alight. Browne shot six or eight rolls of 35mm film.

Browne’s picture went around the world

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Victoria Barnsley: ‘We can’t think of ourselves as book publishers any more’

Victoria Barnsley of HarperCollins: ‘In some respects, publishing 12 years ago had more in common with publishing in the last century than now.’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Observer

HaperCollins’s chief executive is about to launch an e-atlas – and, she says, that’s not the only way the world is changing.

By Juliette Garside

As the trays of cheese and wine begin to circulate for this autumn’s book launch season, one of the UK’s biggest publishing houses will be pinning its hopes not on a hardback, but on an app designed for tablet computers.

Alongside celebrity autobiographies from Victoria Pendleton and Cheryl Cole, and John Major’s history of music hall, HarperCollins will be unveiling a digital reinvention of the Collins World Atlas. “It’s the culmination of years of work, and it’s going to be really ground-breaking,” says Victoria Barnsley, UK and international chief executive of the book publishing arm of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

The app presents a collection of globes suspended in space. One shows a satellite view; others are themed by population, energy or telecommunications. A few swipes, and the world lights up according to which areas have mobile coverage, or consume most oil. The information is, of course, always up to date.

“We can’t think of ourselves as book publishers any longer. We have to see ourselves as, you know,” Barnsley hesitates to use the cliché, “multimedia content producers.”

Her flower-scented Hammersmith office, with its plush upholstery and charcoal-grey walls so dark the eyes have to adjust, is a world away from the warehouses across town on east London’s Silicon Roundabout, where most new digital products are being produced.

But HarperCollins appears to have wholeheartedly embraced the e-book revolution that followed the arrival of Amazon’s Kindle reader in the UK in 2009. Barnsley predicts that within 18 months, over half of revenues from her fiction titles will be digital: they already are in America.

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Gary Shteyngart is not a whore

The novelist gets teased for being such a promiscuous blurber. He’s really a master performance artist

Gary Shteyngart threatened to retire from blurbing in the New York Times Book Review this week, and thousands of writers cried, “No!”

After all, the blurb game is hard for novelists — and Shteyngart is easy. He’s the rare combination of a best-selling literary writer, and a generous enough person to spend time reading and praising other authors’ work. An entire genius Tumblr feed — shteyngartblurbs.tumblr.com — is dedicated to collecting his “promiscuous praise.”

“My blurbing standards are very high,” Shteyngart told A.J. Jacobs, another writer who can’t say no when asked for a blurb. “I look for the following: Two covers, one spine, at least 40 pages, ISBN number, title, author’s name. Once those conditions are satisfied, I blurb. And I blurb hard. I’ve blurbed about a hundred novels in the past 10 years, nearly every one that landed on my desk.

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Can self-publishing buy respect?

(Credit: iStockphoto/stokato)

Authors can now buy themselves rave reviews. Now that’s lazy — and counter to the true indie spirit

By Erin Keane

There was much pearl clutching after the Internet aired abecedarian mystery novelist Sue (“A Is for Alibi”) Grafton’s thoughts on self-publishing. Short version: She thinks it’s for lazies. Who you calling lazy? The digital swarm opined and I agreed, to some extent, with the outraged chorus. Who wouldn’t want to be on the side of the self-publishers, those scrappy DIY-ers who, like their punk forefathers and -mothers, step outside of a system that can’t or won’t serve them? Get in the van!

Then the New York Times examined a now-shuttered book review-for-hire service aimed at self-publishers, run by an Oklahoma businessman who realized that a large pool of underemployed writers willing to work for peanuts plus an equally large pool of unknown authors desperate to stand out equals profit. If only he had figured out a way to exploit the hopes of the adjunct professoriate, he could have hit the cynicism trifecta. Authors who wanted to artificially inflate their book’s popularity could buy satisfied reader reviews, circumventing the tedious business of building relationships with readers, librarians and booksellers like those squares in traditional publishing insist you must.

The service itself isn’t all that shocking. It’s not like you can’t purchase reviews from legit outlets like ForeWord and Kirkus, although they do sell review services aimed at self-publishers. Their packages are a bit more expensive, but you get what you pay for. One decent, well-reasoned Kirkus review by an experienced book reviewer, even in its “Indie” ghetto, could be worth 20 breathless shills on Amazon, where product reviews have become a kind of meme-based performance art.

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Cleopatra, Shakespeare, Mehitabel

William Shakespeare

On this day in 30 BC Cleopatra committed suicide. Death by self-inflicted asp was no whim: Cleopatra’s search for a painless exit caused more than one unfortunate to be experimentally force-fed this or that drug or snake. The dress-rehearsing done, came the final act: “Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have / Immortal longings in me. . . .”

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August 29, 2012

Christopher Hitchens: an impossible act to follow

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:50 pm

Christopher Hitchens, the influential writer who died last year, approached the end with his customary wit and charisma intact – and his wife always by his side. Carol Blue recalls their final months together.

Onstage, my husband was an impossible act to follow.

If you ever saw him at the podium, you may not share Richard Dawkins’s assessment that “he was the greatest orator of our time”, but you will know what I mean – or at least you won’t think, “She would say that, she’s his wife.”

Offstage, my husband was an impossible act to follow.

At home at one of the raucous, joyous, impromptu eight-hour dinners we often found ourselves hosting, where the table was so crammed with ambassadors, hacks, political dissidents, college students and children that elbows were colliding and it was hard to find the space to put down a glass of wine, my husband would rise to give a toast that could go on for a stirring, spellbinding, hysterically funny 20 minutes of poetry and limerick reciting, a call to arms for a cause, and jokes. “How good it is to be us,” he would say in his perfect voice.

My husband is an impossible act to follow.

And yet, now I must follow him. I have been forced to have the last word.

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