Archive for April, 2004

Caine African Prize

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

The shortlist for the 2004 Caine Prize has been announced. The finalists are Doreen Baingana (Uganda) for “Hunger,” which appeared in The Sun; Brian Chikwava (Zimbabwe) for “Seventh Street Alchemy,” which was published in Writing Still: New Stories from Zimbabwe; Parselelelo Kantai (Kenya) for “The Story of Comrade Lemma and the Black Jerusalem Boys Band,” which appeared in Kwani?; Monica Arac de Nyeko (Uganda) for Strange Fruit,” which appeared online at AuthorMe; and Chika Unigwe (Nigeria) for “The Secret,” which was online at Open Wide. All the short-listed authors will receive a travel award, and the winner will take home $15,000. The Caine Prize has been dubbed “The African Booker.” Previous winners include Leila Aboulela (Sudan), Helon Habila (Nigeria), Binyavanga Wainaina (Kenya) and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya). I haven’t seen coverage of the shortlist anywhere on the major outlets, but if I come across anything, I’ll update here.

Thanks to Sefi for the link.

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Around the ‘Sphere

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

The lovely and talented Maud Newton has won first prize in the creative writing contest at the City College of New York. Of course, being the humble person that she is, she mentions way at the bottom of this entry about her return to NYC.

During the last couple of days, Carrie A. A. Frye (CAAF) guest-blogged at Maud’s site and had lots of interesting material, from poetry and polar exploration to Borges and Poe. Look for CAAF’s blog very soon.

God of the Machine has a fantastic parody of one of Terry’s recent posts, and Terry loves it.

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Andrea Barrett’s Ship Fever

Wednesday, April 28th, 2004

shipfever.jpg In Andrea Barrett’s Ship Fever men and women with a passion for science try to escape the confines of their gender or social position to practice what they love, and while they’re not always successful in doing so, the insights they come by illuminate the arguably greater mysteries of the human heart.
In “The Behavior of the Hawkweeds” a woman uses a letter written by Gregor Mendel about his experiments on peas and hawkweeds to woo a genetics professor, who in turns uses it to dazzle his students, but the story behind the letter often remains unappreciated, just as Mendel’s work was during his lifetime.
In “The Littoral Zone,” we witness a couple of scientists’ unexpected love affair while on a work retreat. Barrett is masterful in her exploration of the ways in which the couple seeks to justify leaving their families.

Nothing that was to come–not the days in court, nor the days they moved, nor the losses of jobs and homes–would ever seem so awful to them as that moment when they first saw their families standing there, unaware and hopeful. Deceitfully, treacherously, Ruby and Jonathan separated and walkled to the people awaiting them.

The collection consists of modern-day tales as well as stories about science in less enlightened times. In “Rare Bird,” set in Kent in 1762, a woman who is fascinated by aquatic anthropoids is rebuffed in her attempts to disprove a widely held theory about the “hibernation” of swallows.

Christopher is glaring at her. [Sarah Anne] knows what he’s thinking: in his new, middle-aged stodginess, assumed unnecessarily early and worn like a borrowed coat, he judges her harshly. She’s been forward in entering the conversation, unladylike in offering an opinion that contradicts some of her guests, indelicate in suggesting that she might pursue a flock of birds with a net.

Sarah Anne has much in common with the protagonist of “Birds With No Feet,” a naturalist who seems to be kept from making much of his finds around the world by his social station back home in pre-revolution America.
In nearly every story, Barrett weaves an impressive amount of scientific information, but the result is never forced or heavy or dull. She has a talent for mixing historical figures (Gregor Mendel, Carl Linnaeus) with fictitious scientists, and making the result not only plausible but entirely engaging. Perhaps the only false note in this otherwise dazzling collection is “The Marburg Sisters,” in which the point of view (going from one sister to the other to ther first-person plural) felt a bit contrived.
Still, Barrett has produced a remarkable collection, full of intelligence and grace. Ship Fever is one of the best collections I’ve read in a while.

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New LOC Resource

Wednesday, April 28th, 2004

The Library of Congress has a brand new resource for book lovers, Guide to Poetry & Literature Streaming Video. Compiled by Peter Armenti, it’s essentially a big database of video clips of poets, fiction writers, and critics. The clips are varied in nature: book readings, interviews, lectures. I’ve already spent quite some time browsing through, and it’s a site I’ll be coming back to for links.

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Adichie’s on the Shortlist!

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

Regular readers of Moorishgirl will know how much I enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s debut novel, Purple Hibiscus. The novel was recently picked for the Orange Prize longlist, and now it’s made it onto the shortlist. The Guardian has the scoop about Adichie (though, strangely, the article claims Adichie is the only Nigerian writer ever to make a shortlist like this. As Lit Saloon pointed out, Ben Okri won the Booker a few years ago.) Adichie is up against Margaret Atwood (Oryx and Crake) Shirley Hazzard (The Great Fire) Andrea Levy (Small Island) Gillian Slovo (Ice Road) and Rose Tremain (The Colour).

Related: The Moorishgirl review of the novel and an interview with Adichie.

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Arab Reading Culture

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

The Literary Saloon has a few links on Arab reading culture, both articles being rather depressing reads. I particularly liked Abeer Mishkhas’ point about how there always seems to be money for football but not for promoting books.

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Arab American Film Festival

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

Mizna has sent around a call for their second annual Arab film festival. Work must be submitted in VHS, DVD or MiniDV format by May 15. The festival will be held in September 2004.

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“Brother Tarantino”

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

“The Lizard,” an Iranian movie poking fun at the Islamic Republic’s clerics has become a huge box office hits, with tickets selling out days in advance.

In the film, thief Reza Marmoulak (Reza the Lizard) slips out of a prison hospital in his clerical disguise and takes up the life of a man of the cloth. As a preacher, his irreverent style — cracking suggestive jokes and referring to “brother (film-maker Quentin) Tarantino” during a sermon — has cinema audiences unaccustomed to open mockery of the clergy in stitches.

I hope this comes out here at some point, it’ll be a refreshing break from all the serious (fantastic, but dead serious) movies put out by Iranian filmmakers.

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Japanese Pop Novels

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

Hiroki Sakai, the publisher of English translations of Japanese novels, talks to the Daily Yomiuri about breaking into the American market.

From a small office facing New York’s Park Avenue South, the president of Vertical Inc. said his main aim was to win the attention of U.S. readers. Last year, the company published 10 books, including Koji Suzuki’s “Ring,” Kaoru Kurimoto’s “The Guin Saga,” Kaori Ekuni’s “Twinkle Twinkle” and Osamu Tezuka’s “Buddha.” The design of each book cover is eye-catching and loud, differing greatly from those of Japanese editions.

I suppose the publisher is trying to match expectations of manga-reading Americans by using the garish color covers. Still, I think this is pretty cool.

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Zoo, Who?

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

Scott Kaukonen, who earlier last week had written an editorial for the Missouri Review about his experience submitting his collection to Zoo Press, has won the Ohio State University Press Prize in Short Fiction. Ordination will come out next Spring. Congratulations, Scott.

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Atta Excerpt

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

Nigerian writer Sefi Atta, who earlier this year was short-listed for the storySouth Million Writers Award has a new story up over at Carve Magazine. An excerpt:

We lived in the two-story house my father designed in Shapati Town, his hometown. Our plot had no street number, the street had no telephone lines. My father had had a brick wall built so high that armed robbers would need pole vaults to catapult themselves into the grounds. He must have envisaged them trying despite the odds. On top of his wall were broken bottle pieces; jewels on the crest of his architectural crown. In our garden was his concession to my mother, now an empty swimming pool, shaded by her favorite jacaranda and flame-of-the-forest trees. The pool was four feet at its deepest. My father, God rest his soul, could not swim. He had nightmares of dying by drowning–not by the bullet. That, he never expected in the fortress that was our home.

–From “The Lawless” by Sefi Atta.

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Unanswerable Questions

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

The Denver Post tries to answer the question: How does one determine which books will have staying power?

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The Y

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

Newsday has a long feature on the 92nd Street Y, describing the venue and its place in the literary ethos.

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Remainders

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

An interview with John Irving, and a profile of Edith Wharton.

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Perils of Being Famous

Monday, April 26th, 2004

Jen Weiner talks about being mistaken for Lauren Weisberger.

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Maalouf’s Latest

Monday, April 26th, 2004

The Literary Saloon has several links about Amin Maalouf’s new book, Origines. I’m not sure when/if the book will come out in the States.

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Sex and the Umma

Monday, April 26th, 2004

“Who are you?” Maryam asks the man between her legs.
“Tabari,” he says, looking up, his black beard glistening from where he has been.

“Tabari who?”

“Tabari the Great Islamic Historian,” he says. He slides back under. Maryam remembers something that troubles her.

“Wait aren’t you the guy who wrote all those horrible things against women? I heard of you in the mosque halaqa. You’re an asshole.” It’s too bad, she thinks. He is doing such a oh such a good job otherwise.

“Aw baby, I’m just misunderstood,” Tabari whimpers.

Mohja Kahf’s column on Sex and the Umma is definitely worth a look.
Link via Kitabkhana, who is relieved to find a woman writer who’s not always riffing on the “oppressed, depressed, repressed” theme.

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The Shocked, Awed, and Liberated

Monday, April 26th, 2004

Turbanhead is providing a mirror site for pictures from the Iraq war. These were taken by a U.S. soldier and linked to by many other sites, including Metafilter. Warning: Graphic images.

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We Leave the Jokes to T.Muffle

Monday, April 26th, 2004

And on the bleachers of a baseball field across the street from the Hugo House, Adams speaks with Sarah-Katherine Lewis, a self-described sex worker who writes an online journal. She reads an essay she has written about kissing. Lewis, 32, says she hopes to make enough money to earn a living as a writer by the time she’s too old to be a sex worker.

NPR’s Noah Adams talks to starving writers from Seattle.

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Jones Profile

Monday, April 26th, 2004

There’s a nice write-up about Edward P. Jones and The Known World in The Salt Lake Tribune, similar in tone to others that have popped up about the author, and which uniformly seem to portray him as a writer’s writer.

The book was a finalist for the National Book Award, was named a notable book by the American Library Association, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and recently capped it all off by winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Lots of writers will say they don’t really care whether their work is reviewed (yeah, right) or whether they make a lot of money (yeah, right). Jones, though, really makes you believe in the pure and unadulterated allure of writing, in all its solitary grace and torment.

More about Jones here.

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Horse Lit

Monday, April 26th, 2004

Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit has spawned a whole bunch of new books ons horce racing. The Louisville Courier-Journal has a review of several of them, including Funny Cide: How a Horse, a Trainer, a Jockey and a Bunch of High School Buddies Took on the Sheiks and Blue Bloods … and Won which received a first printing of 250,000 and which the reviewer doesn’t deem worth the trouble.

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The Scoop on JCO

Monday, April 26th, 2004

Ed has the exclusive on Joyce Carol Oates’ publishing schedule.

April: I Am No One You Know
May: You Are No One I Know
June: Love: A Rape Story After A Love Story
July: Brunette: A Novel
September: We Are No One Anyone Knows
October: My Quill Can’t Stop
November: Because the Heart Always Patters Twice
December: You Must Remember This Book

That leaves a full three months free, Ed!

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Keret Online

Friday, April 23rd, 2004

Nextbook has posted some excellent clips of Israeli author Etgar Keret reading from one of his short stories, and excerpts from an interview with This American Life‘s Ira Glass.

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More on Zoo Press Flap

Friday, April 23rd, 2004

I’ve only just now noticed the Missouri Review‘s Scott Kaukonen’s comments on Zoo Press’ cancellation of its award. He addresses a point that hasn’t yet been commented on by others, namely publisher Neil Azevedo’s statement that “the experiment did not unfold the way we had hoped, as, I guess is the nature of experiments.” Says Kaukonen:

I did not give my money and my manuscript to Zoo Press so that it could be used in an experiment. I assumed, as I believe any writer who enters such a contest, especially from a reputable source, has the right to assume, that the contest will adhere to the guidelines that it has set forth, advertised, and published. I also assume that the people running the contest have ensured that they will be able to fulfill their obligations, that, in this situation, they’ll be able to absorb whatever costs the contest may incur. If money is lost in that first year or if expectations are not met, then there would be no Second Annual Zoo Press Short Fiction Contest. But to abandon the First Annual Zoo Press Short Fiction Contest after accepting entry fees and manuscripts and then announcing that those fees will not be refunded is, quite frankly, unethical.

The contest entrants and the rest of the lit blogosphere are still awaiting reaction from Azevedo.
(Thanks to Katrina for the link. )

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Conspiracy Theory

Friday, April 23rd, 2004

In an opinion piece for the Mercury News, Daniel Sneider asks why the White House is focusing so much attention on Bob Woodward’s latest book, Plan of Attack. The revelations in the book (see Slate’s condensed read for a few) aren’t flattering. Sneider offers this theory:

What the White House likes — and why Bush in fact collaborated with Woodward — is that the book portrays Bush as the man in charge, as a resolute and decisive leader. It continues the portrait Woodward drew in a previous tome, “Bush at War,” about the response to Sept. 11. In this election year, Woodward’s book, despite some damaging revelations, is almost a campaign biography.

I fear he may have a point. While Bush’s approval ratings are slipping, recent allegations don’t seem to have the effect on his numbers that one mighte expect.

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California Literary Mags

Friday, April 23rd, 2004

You can listen to SF Chronicle book critic David Kipen reviewing new California literary journals for NPR: Swink, Black Clock, and Los Angeles Review.

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Read This And Weep

Thursday, April 22nd, 2004

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is a household name in most parts of the world. His new novel, Eleven Minutes, was a global best seller last year — everywhere but in the United States. According to Coelho’s publishers, his books have sold 50 million copies in 150 countries — sales figures comparable to those of John Grisham and J.K. Rowling.
But the Coelho phenomenon seems to stop at the shores of the American literary market, which remains stubbornly indifferent to foreign best sellers.

NPR catches up with Coelho here. I wasn’t sure if he was being facetious when he said,

” Madonna spoke about the book, and President Clinton was photographed reading [it],” Coehlo says. “I think it’s a matter of time.”

As if.
Related: Malaysian writers are told to put their work online to try to reach a wider audience.

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Place Your Bets

Thursday, April 22nd, 2004

The shortlist for the international IMPAC Dublin Award, one of the world’s largest prizes, was announced four weeks ago. According to this article, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex was nominated by the largest number of libraries, so he seems like the popular choice. The jury is comprised of Anita Desai, Knut Odegard, Eugene R. Sullivan and Shirley Geok-Lin Lim.

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A9 Review

Thursday, April 22nd, 2004

Amazon’s new search engine, A9.com, is reviewed here. One feature I hadn’t noticed before was the ability to keep track of your searches and to save notes you made. Very nifty.

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Would You Like A Mocha With That?

Thursday, April 22nd, 2004

A library in Maryland has started to offer coffee drinks to its patrons as part of a pilot program.

The library staff will monitor for spills, and if damage occurs, it will restrict the drinks and food to the lobby area. Cafe employees are responsible for cleaning up messes under the county contract.
“A lot of people are concerned about the books having coffee spilled on them, but a lot of time when books are checked out, we don’t know where they go,” Ortega said. “They go in bathrooms, for crying out loud.”

Fair enough, but while the cafe owners will make money, I’m not sure the library will necessarily get more patrons. With recent budget cuts, libraries can’t afford to buy new books. So when the choice is between the local library and the B&N…

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