Let’s face it, the usual lists of best-sellers and book reviews don’t offer much excitement. But there’s always a lot happening in the wild and wacky world of literature — if you know where to look.
— Yesterday the shortlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award was announced. Finalists include The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard and The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. The IMPAC award is the literary world’s most international of awards and carries one of the largest cash prizes (100,000 Euros). The finalists for the upcoming Man Booker and Orange Prizes are yet to be announced. The question is, does anyone really pay attention to these awards and what do they mean to the average reader?
— Those not up for a literary award just yet: rap sensation Nas, baseball star Jose Canseco, tabloid smarm-king Joey Buttafuoco. What do these three have in common? Why, they all aspire to be best-selling authors, of course. Canseco recently made the rounds promoting his new book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big. Nas has indicated his desire to become a novelist. And Buttafuoco? Well, everyone’s got a story to tell and apparently his fifteen minutes of fame will not die.
— Could you use that in a poem? In a push to rekindle interest in poetry, The Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, acting in tandem with The National Endowment for the Arts, is looking to the National Spelling Bee as a model for a possible national poetry recitation tournament. In contrast to the numerous poetry slams that seem to be popping up everywhere, students would be required to memorize and recite classic works from published poets, instead of performing their own works. Pilot programs are currently being organized in Chicago and Washington, DC with competitions set to begin next month.
— Hear no evil, smell no evil? Many of us dread being shushed by the ever-vigilant librarian, however we might also want to start checking our deodorant before hitting the stacks. We’ve all read some books that really stink, but smelly library patrons in San Luis Obispo, CA may be booted in accordance with a new county ordinance approved last month. In addition to bad b.o., library and bookmobile visitors may also be asked to leave “for fighting, eating, drinking, sleeping, playing games, and printing or viewing illegal materials on library computers.” It’s almost as if they want us to go there to read or something.
— Last Thursday the Association of American Publishers honored Lawrence Ferlinghetti with the Curtis Benjamin Award for Creative Publishing. The award is given to a “living publisher in the United States who has demonstrated exceptional creativity and innovation in publishing.” We can’t think of a more deserving recipient.
Those are just a few stories that caught my eye over the past few days. What’s the literary news in your part of the world?