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January 31, 2013

Applegate, Klassen, Lake Win Newbery, Caldecott, Printz


By Diane Roback

Katherine Applegate has won the 2013 Newbery Medal for The One and Only Ivan (Harper), a novel narrated by a silverback gorilla that lives in an ill-run roadside attraction with other performing animals; the book was edited by Anne Hoppe. Jon Klassen has won the 2013 Randolph Caldecott Medal for This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick), in which a small fish gleefully steals a hat belonging to a larger fish and tries to get away with it; it was edited by Liz Bicknell. And Nick Lake has won the 2013 Michael L. Printz Award for In Darkness (Bloomsbury), in which a 15-year-old boy is trapped in the rubble of a hospital following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; it was edited by Sarah Odedina. The awards were announced this morning at the American Library Association’s midwinter conference in Seattle.

It was a first-time award for all three recipients. Applegate is the author of many books for children, including the bestselling Animorphs series, which she co-wrote with her husband, Michael Grant. This Is Not My Hat is a companion to Klassen’s 2011 picture book, I Want My Hat Back. And Nick Lake, who is an editor at HarperCollins in the U.K., is the author of the Blood Ninja series.

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Will Self: the joy of armchair anthropology

The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss in Amazonia in the 1930s.

The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss in Amazonia in the 1930s.

When enjoying the luxuries of a western city, I like nothing better than to read accounts of the !Kung bushmen and Ik tribe. Call it comfort savagery. My latest armchair travels are with Jared Diamond.

In Barry Lopez’s haunting, poetic book about the hyperborean realms, Arctic Dreams, there’s a magnificent story about an Inuit family who are washed out to the seas on a calved iceberg. Nothing is heard of them for about 30 years, until one day they rejoin the rest of their tribal group. The reason for their prolonged absence is this: it has taken them this long, on the deserted island where they fetched up, to hunt the seals, narwhals, whales and assorted other fauna, required to provide the skins, the baleen stretchers, the bone needles and the sinewy thread with which to construct a seagoing boat – as soon as it was done they headed home.There’s something about this tale that represents, for me, the quintessence of what I imagine to be the relationship between traditional hunter-gatherer peoples and their world. The Inuit family are simultaneously at the mercy of their environment, and its masters; their capacity to instinctively utilise every available resource is seamlessly united with high levels of forward planning, so that in a situation that would cost anyone not so attuned their lives, they instead go – literally as well as metaphorically – with the flow.

I probably reread Lopez’s book about every couple of years. Arctic Dreams is a more or less perfect example of a tendency in my reading towards what can only be described as “comfort savagery”. Lying abed, in the heart of a great, pulsing, auto-cannibalising conurbation, the supply chain of which girdles the earth like the monstrous tail of some effluent-belching comet, I find descriptions of how I myself might have lived before the great grainy surplus of the agricultural revolution curiously heartening. After all, what does any kind of reading provide for us if not the opportunity to exercise imaginative sympathy?

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Remembering Aaron Swartz: David Foster Wallace on the Meaning of Life

 Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

By Maria Popova

This past weekend, I attended the heartbreaking memorial for open-access activist Aaron Swartz, who for the past two years had been relentlessly and unscrupulously prosecuted for making academic journal articles freely available online and who had taken his own life a week prior. A speaker at the service read a piece by one of Aaron’s personal heroes, David Foster Wallace — an excerpt from Wallace’s famous Kenyon College commencement address, the only public talk he ever gave on his views of life, which was eventually adapted into a slim book titled This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life.

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Salinger’s Holden Stories

J. D. Salinger   (1919 - 2010)

J. D. Salinger
(1919 – 2010)

On this day in 1948, J. D. Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” was published in the New Yorker; in the same magazine, on the same day in 1953, Salinger’s “Teddy” also appeared. These are the first and last selections in Nine Stories (1953), Salinger’s only collection. “Bananafish” introduces Seymour Glass, one of the many that Salinger would cast in the Holden mold and predicament.

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January 30, 2013

Man Booker International prize 2013 reveals shortlist

HomeMarilynne Robinson heads multinational list that includes books in French, German, Hebrew and Kannada.

By Richard Lea

After withdrawals and walkouts at its last outing in 2011, the biennial Man Booker International prize is hoping calm will return with a globetrotting list of 10 finalists for the 2013 award, headed by the American novelist Marilynne Robinson.

Robinson, who was shortlisted for the 2011 award, is one of only three authors writing in English on a shortlist for the £60,000 prize. The rest of the field brings together novelists from around the world and includes writing translated from French, German, Hebrew and Kannada. She is also one of just three women on the list, along with the American writer Lydia Davis and the French novelist Marie NDiaye. Two of the authors, China’s Yan Lianke and Russia’s Vladimir Sorokin, have been censored in their home countries.

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Book Collecting 101

CasinoBy Richard Davies

A champion of the physical book, Richard Davies from offers advice to anyone thinking about collecting rare books.

It might just be me, but I believe far fewer ‘Physical Books are Dead’ articles are being published these days. Just as well because book collecting is alive and well, and co-existing happily alongside digital media. Avid readers are still becoming book collectors. Beautiful, rare and interesting editions are still being bought and sold.

The first question for any potential book collector to answer is ‘What should I collect?’ The answer is simple – collect the books you love. I always advise collecting for love rather than financial gain. It could be an author or a literary group, every possible edition of a single title, a genre or a sub-genre, an era or a publisher, first editions, signed copies or books illustrated by a particular artist.

Can you make money from collecting rare books? Yes, but like the stock market, the value of books can decrease as well as increase. Can you build a collection of valuable books? Again yes, but, again like the stock market, it takes knowledge and research to strike gold. Are books a good long-term investment? It depends – can you identify books that will gain value over a couple of decades?

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Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies wins Costa prize after unanimous vote

BodiesJenni Murray, chair of judges, says Mantel novel ‘stood more than head and shoulders … on stilts, above the rest’

By Mark Brown

The unstoppable Hilary Mantel has added another award to her astonishing haul of major literary prizes when judges at a ceremony in London unanimously named Bring up the Bodies the 2012 Costa book of the year.

Mantel became the first novelist to win both the Man Booker and the Costa prize when a nine-strong judging panel took less than an hour to decide that her thrilling, gripping and bloody second instalment of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy was a clear winner.

It was perhaps the least surprising result in the prize’s history. The chair of judges, Dame Jenni Murray, said: “One book simply stood head and shoulders, more than head and shoulders … on stilts, above the rest. We had a really good discussion, like being at a high-powered book club, and I said, ‘OK, let’s have a vote on Bring up the Bodies’ and every hand went up.”


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Piracy is yesterday’s worry for today’s ‘artisan authors’

Starship EnterpriseFile sharing and self-publishing are becoming the norm for a generation of writers looking beyond a moribund publishing eco-system.

By Damien Walter

The community of SF writers has reason to dislike digital copying, or “piracy” as it’s commonly labelled in the tabloid press. Genre writers exist, by and large, in the publishing mid-list, where mediocre sales might seem most easily eroded by the spectre of illegitimate downloads. SF, fantasy and horror are also the literature of choice for the culture of geeks most likely to share their favourite authors’ works on torrent sites. Not surprising, then, that many professional genre writers and editors respond to the growing reality of copying with the absolutist position that piracy is theft, and should be punished as such under the law.

But SF writers are far from united in that position. Novelist, blogger and digital rights activist Cory Doctorow is well known for providing free digital copies of all his books as a marketing strategy, arguing that in a digital economy, obscurity is a far greater threat than piracy. Charlie Stross blogged such an effective argument against digital rights management on ebooks that it influenced at least one publishing imprint to drop DRM on its novels. And interviewed on the subject in 2011, Neil Gaiman, ever the gentleman, kindly points out that if you are a writer courting fans, screaming “THIEF!” at them and threatening legal action for copying might be … counterproductive.

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Rolling Stones’ and Mike Skinner’s memoirs nominated by NME

MusicNominees have been announced for the best book category at this year’s NME’s Awards ceremony, with the Rolling Stones, Mike Skinner and Tim Burgess’ books on the list.

The awards ceremony will take place on the 27th February

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Pound, Politics, Poetry

Ezra Pound   (1885 - 1972)

Ezra Pound
(1885 – 1972)

On this day in 1933 Ezra Pound met with Benito Mussolini. This was a brief, one-time talk, but it would bring out the worst in Pound’s personality and lead to personal disaster. It would also inspire some of the best of modern poetry — the Bollingen Prize-winning Pisan Cantos, written while Pound was in detention, charged with treason.

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