Readersforum's Blog

June 27, 2013

Baileys new sponsor for Women’s Prize for Fiction

baileysbottle| By Charlotte Williams

Baileys has become the new sponsor for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, with the cream liqueur brand entering into a three-year partnership with the prize.

The £30,000 prize will be known as the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction from 2014.

Kate Mosse, chair of the Women’s Prize for Fiction board, said a full programme of new activity with Baileys and joint plans for the prize will be revealed in the autumn.

She said: “We were delighted by the range of interest-and enjoyed meeting brands in various sectors-but in the end, the Women’s Prize for Fiction board felt Baileys was the ideal choice as our new partners.

“We were impressed not only by the scale of their [Baileys’] ambition, but also their passion for celebrating outstanding fiction by women and willingness to help in bringing the prize to ever wider audiences.”

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O’Donnell wins Commonwealth Book Prize

Lisa O'Donnell

Lisa O’Donnell

|By Charlotte Williams

The Commonwealth Book Prize has been won by UK debut author Lisa O’Donnell, while the Short Story Prize has been awarded to two joint winners.

The prizes-£10,000 for the Book Prize, and £2,500 to each of the Short Story Prize winners-were presented at the Hay Festival this evening [31st May] by author John le Carre.

O’Donnell’s The Death of Bees, published by Random House, was praised by Godfrey Smith, the prize’s chair, for being “effortlessly fresh and original; it is fiction that provokes and shocks; it is innovative in its narrative style and told in a natural convincing voice”.

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Boys to Men

Nouns in Book Titles1 | By Philip Stone

Earlier this week I began a light-hearted look at the most common nouns that appear in the titles of bestselling novels—but my research turned into something a little more unsettling.

While I can reveal that “secret”, “day”, “time”, and “house” are among the nouns that have become your biggest bankers, it saddens me to report that, where novels are concerned at least, men are “men” but women are “girls”.

Fact One: Of the top 1,000 bestselling adult novels of 2013 with titles that contain male gender terms (and by this I mean specifically “man” or “men” and “boy” or “boys”) 93% contain “man” or “men” with just 7% containing “boy(s)”. Whereas, of the bestselling novels with titles that contain female gender terms, we see just 19% containing the adult “woman”/”women” but an overwhelming 81% containing “girl(s)”.

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South Africa: Clash of the Booker titans

SatanicWith freedom of expression under threat in South Africa again, Anton Harber recalls an electric confrontation between two Booker prize winners, JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer, about the censorship of a third – Salman Rushdie.

It started on a Thursday midday, when the organiser of the Weekly Mail Book Week put the phone down, walked across the newsroom and interrupted me and my co-editor. “I think we might have a problem,” she said. It was October 1988 and the “problem” was Salman Rushdie, due to arrive a week later to headline the event. “He says his book has been banned in India, he is getting death threats,” she said. “I asked him what he wrote about and he said, ‘I ripped into the Qur’an’.”

Ours was a small, anti-apartheid newspaper, the Weekly Mail. Gail Berhmann was an artist who was organising our annual literary event, with Rushdie billed as this year’s star guest.

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The reader on Robben Island

nilanjana_s_royBy Nilanjana S Roy

The prison rules on Robben Island allowed the incarcerated to study, with some caveats. Their most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, meant to continue reading, no matter how small his cell.

The Robben Island library was limited, though prisoners could ask for books to study. Mr Mandela wrote in his autobiography, “We had access to many unremembered mysteries and detective novels and all the works of Daphne du Maurier, but little more.”

Political books were off limits, especially if they had “red” or “war” in the title. South Africa’s censors, more literal than literary, would not allow “Little Red Riding Hood” or The War of the Worlds into the prison library.

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Joyce, Fitzgerald, Jumping

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

By Steve King

On this day in 1928 Sylvia Beach hosted a dinner party in order that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who “worshipped James Joyce, but was afraid to approach him,” might do so. Out of nervousness or champagne, Fitzgerald greeted his hero by dropping down on one knee, kissing his hand, and declaring, “How does it feel to be a great genius, Sir? I am so excited at seeing you, Sir, that I could weep.”

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June 26, 2013

American Classic: Philipp Meyer

Filed under: Interviews — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:35 am

amerBy Ruby Cutolo

Philipp Meyer is not answering his doorbell. Standing in front of his apartment building, balancing the cup of coffee I said I’d bring him, a cell phone (oddly not working), and the rest of the interview detritus, I panic. Do I have the wrong day? The wrong time? Is he gone? He had said he was leaving town soon and that there was an excellent chance I wouldn’t be able to interview him about The Son, his epic American multigenerational second novel, out this June from Ecco. I’m leaning against the counter of the bodega next door when Meyer arrives. His buzzer, he explains, is broken. He’s clean-cut, handsome, and completely calm.

The confidence of his writing replicates his confidence in person. Meyer is focused, serious, completely aware, present, but also he laughs easily and smiles often. His personal history is compelling. “I have an extremely high risk tolerance,” he tells me. This is evident from his back story; Meyer is living proof that taking risks can indeed pay off.

If luck is a factor in success, Meyer’s luck seems to have come from effort, extreme discipline, and a total belief in himself and his work. “Now that I’ve rewritten it [The Son], it’s perfect,” he says. He also describes his first book, American Rust (Spiegel & Grau, 2009), as “perfect,” but he’s humble and gracious when he clarifies this statement: “I would never write in that style again, so it was perfect in the sense that it was within the aesthetic that I was working in according to my abilities at that moment—that was the best thing I could create.”

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Burn Your Letters?

burn-letters-290By Roxana Robinson

Why is it that, when an author says very explicitly that she does not want her work published, we publish it? Willa Cather’s letters have been restricted since her death, in 1947. She may be spinning in her grave now that a fat volume of those letters has been published. But she’s not the first person whose wishes have been disregarded: it happens to lots of writers, sooner or later.

Ernest Hemingway’s estate decided to publish posthumously his late work “The Garden of Eden,” which Hemingway himself had (wisely) never published. Georgia O’Keeffe’s letters to her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, were unavailable, even to scholars, for twenty-five years after her death. Now they’re online, accessible to anyone with a laptop and fifteen minutes.

Maybe the only way a writer can prevent this is to do what Somerset Maugham did: he burned his letters in the fireplace, making a roaring pyre as his horrified secretary stood by. His secretary hid some of the letters, trying to save them, but Maugham caught him. Those, too, he said, and the secretary had to put them into the flames with the rest. Those Maugham letters were never published and they never ever will be.

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I Am Legend author Richard Matheson was himself a real legend

LegendThe man behind the best ever vampire novel was a major inspiration to innumerable stars of SF and horror.

By Alison Flood

I am meant to be writing a blog about how I Am Legend, by the late, immensely great, Richard Matheson, is the king of vampire novels. But after finding my old copy on the shelf downstairs, I’ve become somewhat distracted, and would really rather just get on with reading it.

The image Matheson provides, at the start of the novel, of Robert Neville alone in Los Angeles, is one of the most chilling, the most believable, in post-apocalyptic fiction. Shifting from practical and unemotional, to lonely and furious, Neville sits in his barricaded living room, trying to ignore the cries of the vampires, “their snarling and fighting among themselves”, coming from the other side of the walls. Later, “he went from house to house and used up all his stakes. He had forty-seven stakes”. So deadpan. So unnerving.

Then there are Matheson’s vampires – written in 1954, and so much scarier, so much more interesting and memorable and believable, than the hordes of pallid high–school students who keep springing up today.

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5 best books by Nelson Mandela

longBy Casey Lee

In the “Speech from the Dock” Nelson Mandela stated, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Mandela’s life can only be described as exceptional: as an anti-apartheid revolutionary, South African president from 1994 to 1999, and 1993 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Let us take a moment to appreciate – through his books – Nelson Mandela, and everything he has stood for and achieved.


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