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November 21, 2013

‘Good Lord Bird’ Is Surprise Winner for National Book Award in Fiction

Good Lord BirdBy JULIE BOSMAN

James McBride won the National Book Award on Wednesday night for “The Good Lord Bird,” an irreverent, sharp-eyed novel narrated by an escaped slave. It was published by Riverhead Books, part of Penguin Random House.

Taking the stage with a stunned expression, Mr. McBride, who was considered an underdog in speculation before the awards, said he had not bothered to write a speech.

Mr. McBride wrote the book amid personal tragedies, he said, naming the deaths of his mother and his niece, and the unraveling of his marriage.

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Selfie is Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year

Ubiquitous noun for social media self-portraits faces down newly discovered cute mammal the olinguito in annual contest

Selfie – “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website” – has been named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries editors, after the frequency of its usage increased by 17,000% over the past 12 months.

Editorial director Judy Pearsall said: “Using the Oxford Dictionaries language research programme, which collects around 150m words of current English in use each month, we can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of selfie in 2013, and this helped to cement its selection.”

The word can be traced back to a post on an Australian online forum in 2002.

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Javier Marias, The Art of Fiction No. 190

179Interviewed by Sarah Fay

A waiter at a restaurant in Madrid gasped when I mentioned that I was in town to interview Javier Marías. “You know him?” he asked, as if I’d named a president or a movie star. “Sometimes we see him walking down the street.”

Although Marías is not yet well known to readers in the United States, in Europe he is a literary and intellectual sensation—the author of eleven novels, two books of short stories, a collection of biographical essays, and a column on politics, literature, film, sports, and social issues for the Madrid newspaper El Pais’s weekly magazine. He is also one of Spain’s leading translators from English. His own books have been published in more than thirty languages and have sold over five million copies worldwide, and he is often mentioned in the European press as a contender for the Nobel Prize. Critics and admiring colleagues (J. M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie, and the late W. G. Sebald) have praised the way he pits Spanish black humor against English grandiloquence to produce novels that are simultaneously fast-paced and meticulous, speculative and clinical, stylish and classical.

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Voltaire, Candide

Voltaire    (1694 - 1778)

Voltaire
(1694 – 1778)

By Steve King

On this day in 1694 Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet) was born. Few could have predicted his Age-defining stature, but apparently the young Voltaire showed every sign of becoming, as biographer Theodore Besterman puts it, “one of those over-life-size personages who seem perpetually to attract equally extraordinary events.” He would be applauded and attacked for most of his life, and it is hard to find a portrait of him in which he is not smiling.

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November 19, 2013

William Weaver obituary

RoseRenowned translator best known for rendering the robust Italian prose of Eco’s The Name of the Rose into nuanced English
By Ian Thomson
William Weaver, who has died aged 90, was the greatest of all Italian translators. Before him, the professional translator was considered little better than a superior sort of typist. Weaver helped to bring the art of translation out of obscurity and give it a literary credence and recognition. His versions of Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco are models of exactitude and seamless craft. Half jokingly, Eco said that Weaver’s translation of his metaphysical whodunnit The Name of the Rose (1980) was “much better than the original”. The novel sold more than 10m copies worldwide. Not since Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude had there been such a consensual success on the book market. Weaver made a fortune from the translation and was able to build an extension to his Tuscan villa from the proceeds (the “Eco chamber” he called it).

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He who laughs last

CalvinBy Darrel Bristow-Bovey

One of the more agreeable aspects of ageing is that your list of heroes changes. When I was 16 top of the list was Jim Morrison. Now it’s Bill Watterson.

Watterson published the first Calvin and Hobbes exactly 28 years ago, on November 18 1985. Newspaper comic strips have always been a mysterious medium to me. Surely no one after 1936 has ever actually laughed at one: they’re just a place to rest your eyes a moment before it’s back to the grind of news and schmucks with opinions.

The Wizard of Id is about as funny as dropping a bottle on your bare foot; Andy Capp makes me cry a little inside; and I genuinely can’t fathom how anyone can get up each day and draw another Dagwood column without developing the funless kind of drug problem.

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Rhyme War: Shadwell vs. Dryden

Thomas Shadwell

Thomas Shadwell

by Steve King

On this day in 1692 the British poet and playwright Thomas Shadwell died. Shadwell wrote eighteen plays and became poet laureate but, as the Columbia History of English Literature puts it, “he enjoyed a popularity in his own day which is not easily explicable in ours.” This is utter kindness compared to contemporary John Dryden, who enthroned Shadwell as “The King of Dullness.”

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November 18, 2013

14 Ways to Tick off a Writer

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 3:10 pm

angry-man-200x300by Rebecca Makkai
“I love throwing rocks at tigers in the zoo,” you say, “but now that the weather’s cold, I need an indoor activity.” Look no further. Writers are fun and easy to annoy. Minimum effort, maximum rage. Try these 14 simple tricks, and you might never need to pay for the Large Cat House again.1) Go on Amazon and give the book one star because “the plastic wrapping was slightly ripped when it arrived from the seller.”

2) Ask what the new book’s about. After the writer answers, say, “Oh, that sounds exactly like that T. C. Boyle book that came out last year. Have you read that? You have to read it! Yours sounds exactly like it!”

3) When interviewing an author on the radio, make sure to give the wrong title for her book. Just wrong enough to show you care. Is her book called Please Call Home? You might call it Please Come Home or The Homecoming or Home is Calling. Sit back and watch while the author figures out how to correct you on air. Good times!

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Doris Lessing, Author Who Swept Aside Convention, Is Dead at 94

By HELEN T. VERONGOS

dorisDoris Lessing, the uninhibited and outspoken novelist who won the 2007 Nobel Prize for a lifetime of writing that shattered convention, both social and artistic, died on Sunday at her home in London. She was 94.

Her death was confirmed by her publisher, HarperCollins.

Ms. Lessing produced dozens of novels, short stories, essays and poems, drawing on a childhood in the Central African bush, the teachings of Eastern mystics and involvement with grass-roots Communist groups. She embarked on dizzying and, at times, stultifying literary experiments.

But it was her breakthrough novel, “The Golden Notebook,” a structurally inventive and loosely autobiographical tale, that remained her best-known work. The 1962 book was daring in its day for its frank exploration of the inner lives of women who, unencumbered by marriage, were free to raise children, or not, and pursue work and their sex lives as they chose. The book dealt openly with topics like menstruation and orgasm, as well as with the mechanics of emotional breakdown.

Her editor at HarperCollins, Nicholas Pearson, said on Sunday that “The Golden Notebook” had been a handbook for a whole generation.

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Twain, Smiley, Frogs

Mark Twain    (1835 - 1910)

Mark Twain
(1835 – 1910)

by Steve King

On this day in 1865 Mark Twain published “Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog.” Although the story was an old chestnut, one which Twain first heard from fellow prospectors around a mining camp stove, it gave him first fame, the centerpiece for his first book, and the yarn-spinner persona that Twain would mine for his entire career.

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