Harry Mathews

This year's Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Mario Vargas Llosa's new novel, The Dream of the Celt, will be published in English in 2011.

Literary legend Harry Mathews is appearing tonight at Manhattan's 192 Books. Mathews founded the short-lived literary journal Locus Solus in the sixties with the New York School poets John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler, and in 1972 became the first American member of the influential French writing group the OULIPO (workshop for potential literature); he co-edited the OULIPO's definitive English language collection. This evening, Mathews will be reading from his forthcoming book of poems, The New Tourism, his first verse collection in almost twenty years. As Gerald Howard wrote in Bookforum in 2002, reading Mathews inspires a "mood of melancholy nostalgia for a period in American fiction when the big aesthetic questions of form and meaning were up for grabs and being worked on and out by a dazzling array of talents."

HTML Giant is starting an online Literary Magazine Club, where members will read a lit mag such as the New York Tyrant and discuss. As the club's founder Roxane Gay writes, "The plethora of literary magazines actively contributing to the literary conversation are ample evidence, for me, that we have not lost the battle to other forms of entertainment. We’re very much in the fight."

Sheila Heti's new book, How Should a Person Be?, is an ardent account of a young woman's unsentimental education as a writer in the Toronto art scene. Deftly blending discursive personal essays, a novel-like narrative, and transcripts of recorded conversations (and emails), Heti's tale is witty, bawdy, intimate, and hilarious—reading her work is like spending a day with your new best friend. Heti writes, "How do you build your soul? At a certain point, I know, you have to forget about your soul and just do the work you’re required to do. To go on and on about your soul is to miss the whole point of life. I could say that with more certainty if I knew the whole point of life." (The book hasn't been published in the US yet, but you can buy one from its Canadian publisher Anansai.)


Raymond Carver

If some sociologists regard intellectuals (you know, writers, ticket-takers at the roller-derby, etc.) as a sui generis group that transcends the otherwise surly bonds of class, Gerry Howard would disagree. In his essay in the current issue of Tin House, he reminds us how working-class scribes—Raymond Carver, Ken Kesey, Dorothy Allison—mined their blue-collar backgrounds to piercing, instructive effect, even as sophisticated critics, say, in Carver’s case, celebrated his fiction for begin deliciously “squalid.” Howard expands his case to address the current literary scene: “Working-class people who pay the punishing financial price that going to college extracts these days are unlikely to be attracted to publishing. . . . which means that voices from and on behalf of the working class have that much harder a time getting read, understood, and published."

Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, V. S. Naipaul will discuss his new book, The Masque of Africa. Writing in the latest Bookforum, Thomas Meaney notes: "Naipaul may be the last writer to believe in the author's ability to capture objective truth if he concentrates hard enough. This faith opposes every strain of contemporary thinking and yet, when fanatically applied, produces the impression that Naipaul misses nothing."

Why is there so little sex in current British literature? Perhaps the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction award has scared authors off the sultry subject. Recently, the Review amended the rules to allow non-fiction into the contest, with Tony Blair's new memoir, A Journey, joining Martin Amis, Jonathan Franzen, and Ian McEwan on this year's shortlist for egregiously bad erotic prose.

In The Guardian, an exasperated Germaine Greer points out some small factual inaccuracies in Booker prize nominated novels, and is especially vexed by Tom McCarthy's C, writing, "If abstruseness is your subject—and it's hard to find any other for C—you have to get it right. . . . If a fact-checker had come to his aid, C might have won the Booker after all."


Natasha Wimmer

According to the MobyLives blog, NPR has one rule about authors, which is known as the "dibs system": "No one can appear on more than one NPR show. Ever." Unless, that is, you're Michele Norris, author of The Grace of Silence, a new memoir about her family's racial history (and myths). Since that book appeared in stores, Morris has appeared on four different NPR shows, which might or might not have something to do with the fact that she is a co-host of NPR's All Things Considered. The coverage has been controversial enough that Alicia Shepard, NPR's ombudsman, has issued a report explaining the network's first-ever "fourfecta." In any case, publishers are probably annoyed because NPR is such eagerly sought coverage: It's well-known among book publicists that an author appearance on one of the network's shows usually results in more sales than most print reviews can deliver.

Amazon's new iPhone app allows you to scan book barcodes—when you're, say, in a bookstore—and to buy the book (for a discount) from Amazon immediately (before you've left the bookstore). But just when you marvel at how much technology is changing the publishing business, PW wonders if iBooks is a failure.

Salon's Laura Miller gives an award to the book awards: The Booker Prize, she says, is the best.

“If the intensity of the Roth of old, the ‘major’ Roth, has died down, has anything new come in its place?” J.M. Coetzee covers Philip Roth’s latest novel, Nemesis, for the New York Review of Books. (An issue highlight: Geoffrey O'Brien's review of Duke Ellington's America.)

In the excellent new edition of FSG's Work in Progress, President Obama reflects on Nelson Mandela, Edith Grossman and Natasha Wimmer (who are known for their English versions of Don Quixote and Roberto Bolano, respectively) talk about translating Nobel Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and Richard Howard and Marion Duvert discuss Roland Barthes.


Xiaoda Xiao

Bookforum and London Review of Books contributor Alex Abramovich edited the Very Short List back when it was owned by InterActiveCorp (and did an excellent job), but was let go when Barry Diller sold the site to the New York Observer in June 2009. Now, more than a year later, it seems that the VSL just can't quit Abramovich: the NYO has just hired the writer to edit the website once again.

The rumors that Stieg "Dragon Tatoo" Larsson wrote a fourth novel are apparently true. His family has "confirmed the existence of another manuscript."

The National Book Award finalists have been announced, and the most interesting aspect of the list is what it doesn't include (if you need a hint, we're referring to an author whose initials are J.F.). There are, as always, some good choices, including Nicole Krauss's Great House and Patti Smith's Just Kids. The selection that we're most excited about is Monica Youn's Ignatz, a poetry collection that considers passion through the lens of the classic comic strip Krazy Kat.

Bret Easton Ellis—the man who celebrated J.D. Salinger's death and called Infinite Jest unreadable—feels so "trapped" on his Imperial Bedrooms tour that he envies the rescued Chilean miners.

Making a plot cohere, researching ant colonies, finding time for family and friends, paying the bills—being a novelist is hard work. The Awl inaugurates Publishing School, its promising new column about writing, with four testimonials from novelists-in-progress.

The independent press Two Dollar Radio is about to start giving away two chapters of Xiaoda Xiao’s memoir-in-stories, The Visiting Suit: Stories from My Prison Life, in Chinese. "By making Xiao’s work downloadable for free in Chinese, his tale will be made available to members of the population still affected by the extreme policies and daily hardships that Xiao describes who are only receiving and exposed to heavily censored news and stories." For those who don't speak Chinese, the book will be available in English later this month.


Howard Jacobson

Surprise 2010 Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson on comic novels: "Comedy breaks every trance—that's its function. Comedy is nothing if not critical. From the very beginning the comic novel set out to argue with everything and to set us arguing with one another."

A profile of Ethiopian author Dinaw Mengestu and his highly anticipated second novel, How to Read the Air, which will be published this week.

Future sociologists will undoubtedly ask of our era: "What was the Hipster?" Luckily, n+1 is tackling the query on multiple fronts, with a new book and two panel discussion: one last year in New York, and one on Monday at UCLA. In LA, Gavin McInnes delivered his remarks sans shirt, and was aggravated by fellow panelist Tao Lin, who mumbled many of his answers. (McInnes: "I can't tell what you're saying!" Lin: "That's my trademark.") Emily Gould seemed less flummoxed by an aloof Lin during his recent appearance on Gould's literary chat and cooking show, "Cooking the Books," but watching the pair make small talk and a salad still makes us squirm.

Tonight at Bluestockings Books journalist Rebecca Traister will read from her feminist chronicle of the 2008 presidential election, Big Girls Don't Cry. In a recent interview, Traister says of Hillary Clinton: "I thought her continuing to fight was awesome and hilarious. I thought it was completely redefining how we view women and our expectations for them in public and political life."

Lee Rourke and Matthew Hooton share The Guardian's Not The Booker prize.


Howard Jacobson has won the 2010 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Finkler Question. In 2007, Gideon Lewis-Kraus wrote in Bookforum: "Jacobson is funnier, sentence for sentence, than early Roth and Joseph Heller put together. All comparisons aside, however, the simple point is that Jacobson deserves to be read, and read widely, on his own terms."

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is writing a memoir about the years he spent in hiding beginning in 1989, when the Ayatollah Khomeini decreed that Rushdie should be killed for the "blasphemy" in his novel The Satanic Verses. Rushdie says of the memoir, "So far I feel that I'm right—I'm not getting churned up and upset, I'm just writing it and I'm feeling quite pleased."

UbuWeb, the great online archive of avant-garde poetry, film, music, and performance has been hacked and is closed "until further notice."

Now that Hugo Lindgren has been named the editor of the New York Times Magazine, what should he do with it? First item on the agenda: Hiring his former colleague from New York magazine, Lauren Kern, to be the Magazine's deputy editor.

A copy of Professor Marcus Boon's new book, In Praise of Copying, is available as a free download under the Creative Commons License. Boon writes, "this isn’t especially intended as a utopian gesture towards a world in which everything is free. It’s recognition of the way in which copies of texts circulate today, a circulation in which the physical object known as the book that is for sale in the marketplace has an important but hardly exclusive role."


Tom McCarthy: odds-on favorite for the Man Booker prize.

Imprisoned 2010 Nobel Peace Prize-winning author Liu Xiaobo has been unable to talk to journalists since the award was announced on Friday, and his wife, Liu Xia, is now under house arrest. During a short visit, Liu told his wife that he was dedicating the prize to victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Chinese authorities have called the Nobel a "blasphemy," imposed a blackout on news of the prize, and broken up a banquet celebrating the victory.

The Frankfurt Book Fair ended on Sunday, with novelist David Grossman taking home the fest's Peace prize. Grossman will be appearing tonight with Paul Auster at the 92nd Street Y.

Today is the last day to vote for The Guardian's Not The Booker prize. Meanwhile, the Man Booker prize will be announced tomorrow, and odds-makers are predicting that Tom McCarthy's novel C will win, with one major British betting agency, Ladbrokes, calling off bets on McCarthy's book after a surge of money was placed on the novel last week.

Don Delillo reads a CIA memo outlining the agency's detention, interrogation, and rendition procedures. Delillo, a writer long obsessed with secrets and state power, delivers the memo in an unsettling deadpan, leaving the Delilloesque word redacted ringing in your ears.

A modest proposal: Revive the publishing industry by pulping books.


Liu Xiaobo

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to imprisoned Chinese author and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. The PEN American Center has been campaigning for Xiaobo to win the prize (and for his release); last December, authors E. L. Doctorow, Don DeLillo, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Edward Albee, A.M. Homes, and Honor Moore gathered on the New York Public Library's steps to rally on his behalf.

More on 2010 Nobel Prize in literature winner Mario Vargas Llosa: the author's first press conference after winning the Nobel; Granta editor John Freeman on why Vargas Llosa was a "phenomenal choice" for the prize; the London Review of Books' compilation of Vargas Llosa reviews; the Paris Review's 1990 interview with the Peruvian author; and from The Guardian, a list of five of his essential novels, and a fanciful telling of why Vargas Llosa slugged Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

In the summer of 2009, authors Justin Taylor and Eva Talmadge asked for submissions on the blog HTML Giant for pictures of literary tattoos. They've collected about 150 of their favorites in a new book, The Word Made Flesh, and recently sat down with Poets & Writers to discuss the project. The book includes five pictures from Shelly Jackson's "Skin," a short story that's being published one tattoo at a time, each word inked onto volunteers from around the world.

This weekend, Comic Con invades New York City, with comic book conventions, events, and exhibitions throughout the metropolis.


Mario Vargas Llosa

Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa has won the Nobel Prize in literature, becoming the first South American writer to win the 1.5 million dollar prize since Gabriel Garcia Marquez won it in 1982. Perhaps the shared glory will end the longstanding feud between the two authors, which climaxed the day Vargas Llosa decked Garcia Marquez in a movie theater, leaving him with a black eye.

OR books co-publisher John Oakes describes the imprint's unique business model at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Tonight, NYU is hosting a memorial celebration for David Markson, the experimental novelist (and David Foster Wallace fave) who passed away this summer. Writers Ann Beattie, Art Spiegelman, Pete Hamill, and Chris Sorrentino (among others), as well as Markson's daughter, Johanna, will read from his work and tell stories of his life, and Kate Valk, a member of the art-theater troupe The Wooster Group, will read from Markson's 1988 novel Wittgenstein's Mistress.

Inspired by the New Yorker's "20 under 40" list of novelists, the New Haven Review has compiled a collection of some great young non-fiction authors, including Bookforum contributors such as Rachel Aviv, Joshua Cohen, and Gideon Lewis-Kraus.

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